Designing Apps for Children and Families

 

The use of technology as a tool for enriching families' lives continues to grow, and parents are looking for safe, high-quality content to share with their children. You may be designing your apps specifically for children or your app may just attract their attention. Google Play wants to help you make sure your app is safe for all users, including families.

The word "children" can mean different things in different locales and in different contexts. It is important that you consult with your legal counsel to help determine what obligations and/or age-based restrictions may apply to your app. You know best how your app works so we are relying on you to help us make sure apps on Google Play are safe for families.

Apps designed specifically for children must participate in the Designed for Families program. If your app targets both children and older audiences, you may still participate in the Designed for Families program. All apps that opt in to the Designed for Families program will be eligible to be rated for the Teacher Approved program, but we cannot guarantee that your app will be included in the Teacher Approved program. If you decide not to participate in the Designed for Families program, you still must comply with the Google Play Families Policy requirements below, as well as all other Google Play Developer Program Policies and the Developer Distribution Agreement.

COLLAPSE ALL EXPAND ALL

 

Play Console Requirements

Target Audience and Content

In the Target Audience and Content section of the Google Play Console you must indicate the target audience for your app, prior to publishing, by selecting from the list of age groups provided. Regardless of what you identify in the Google Play Console, if you choose to include imagery and terminology in your app that could be considered targeting children, this may impact Google Play's assessment of your declared target audience. Google Play reserves the right to conduct its own review of the app information that you provide to determine whether the target audience that you disclose is accurate.

If you select a target audience that only includes adults, but Google determines that this is inaccurate because your app is targeting both children and adults, you will have the option to make clear to users that your app is not targeting children by agreeing to carry a warning label.

You should only select more than one age group for your app's target audience if you have designed your app for and ensured that your app is appropriate for users within the selected age group(s). For example, apps designed for babies, toddlers, and preschool children should only have the age group "Ages 5 & Under" selected as the age group target for those apps. If your app is designed for a specific level of school, choose the age group that best represents that school level. You should only select age groups that include both adults and children if you truly have designed your app for all ages.

Updates to Target Audience and Content Section

You can always update your app's information in the Target Audience and Content section in the Google Play Console. An app update is required before this information will be reflected on the Google Play store. However, any changes you make in this section of the Google Play Console may be reviewed for policy compliance even before an app update is submitted.

We strongly recommend that you let your existing users know if you change the target age group for your app or start using ads or in-app purchases, either by using the "What's New" section of your app's store listing page or through in-app notifications.

Misrepresentation in Play Console

Misrepresentation of any information about your app in the Play Console, including in the Target Audience and Content section, may result in removal or suspension of your app, so it is important to provide accurate information.

 

Families Policy Requirements

If one of the target audiences for your app is children, you must comply with the following requirements. Failure to satisfy these requirements may result in app removal or suspension.

  1. App content: Your app's content that is accessible to children must be appropriate for children.
  2. App functionality: Your app must not merely provide a webview of a website or have a primary purpose of driving affiliate traffic to a website, regardless of ownership of the website. 
    • We are constantly exploring ways to enable new experiences for kids app developers. If you are interested in joining our Trusted Web App pilot for education apps, please submit your interest here.
  3. Play Console answers: You must accurately answer the questions in the Play Console regarding your app and update those answers to accurately reflect any changes to your app. This includes but is not limited to, accurately disclosing your app’s interactive elements on the Content Rating Questionnaire, such as:
    • Your app's users can interact or exchange information;
    • Your app shares user-provided information with third parties; and
    • Your app shares the user’s physical location with other users.
  4. Ads: If your app displays ads to children or to users of unknown age, you must:
    • only use Google Play certified ad SDKs to display ads to those users;
    • ensure ads displayed to those users do not involve interest-based advertising (advertising targeted at individual users who have certain characteristics based on their online browsing behavior) or remarketing (advertising targeted at individual users based on previous interaction with an app or website); 
    • ensure ads displayed to those users present content that is appropriate for children;
    • ensure ads displayed to those users follow the Families ad format requirements; and
    • ensure compliance with all applicable legal regulations and industry standards relating to advertising to children.
  5. Data practices: You must disclose the collection of any personal and sensitive information from children in your app, including through APIs and SDKs called or used in your app. Sensitive information from children includes, but is not limited to, authentication information, microphone and camera sensor data, device data, Android ID, and ad usage data. You must also ensure that your app follows the data practices below:
    • You must not transmit Android advertising identifier (AAID), SIM Serial, Build Serial, BSSID, MAC, SSID, IMEI, and/or IMSI from children or users of unknown age.
    • Device phone number must not be requested from TelephonyManager of the Android API.
    • Apps that solely target children may not request, collect, use, or transmit location.
    • Apps must use the Companion Device Manager (CDM) when requesting Bluetooth, unless your app is only targeting device Operating System (OS) versions that are not compatible with CDM.
  6. APIs and SDKs: You must ensure that your app properly implements any APIs and SDKs.
    • Apps that solely target children must not contain any APIs or SDKs that are not approved for use in child-directed services. This includes, Google Sign-In (or any other Google API Service that accesses data associated with a Google Account), Google Play Games Services, and any other API Service using OAuth technology for authentication and authorization.
    • Apps that target both children and older audiences must not implement APIs or SDKs that are not approved for use in child-directed services unless they are used behind a neutral age screen or implemented in a way that does not result in the collection of data from children. Apps that target both children and older audiences must not require users to sign-in or access app content through an API or SDK that is not approved for use in child-directed services. 
  7. Augmented Reality (AR): If your app uses Augmented Reality, you must include a safety warning immediately upon launch of the AR section. The warning should contain the following:
    • An appropriate message about the importance of parental supervision.
    • A reminder to be aware of physical hazards in the real world (e.g., be aware of your surroundings).
    • Your app must not require the usage of a device that is advised not to be used by children. (e.g., Daydream, Oculus).
  8. Legal compliance: You must ensure that your app, including any APIs or SDKs that your app calls or uses, is compliant with the U.S. Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA)E.U. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and any other applicable laws or regulations.
Examples of common violations
  • Apps that promote play for children in their store-listing but the app content is only appropriate for adults.
  • Apps that implement APIs with terms of service that prohibit their use in child-directed apps.
  • Apps that glamorize the use of alcohol, tobacco or controlled substances.
  • Apps that include real or simulated gambling.
  • Apps that include violence, gore, or shocking content not appropriate for children.
  • Apps that provide dating services or offer sexual or marital advice.
  • Apps that contain links to websites that present content that violates Google Play’s Developer Program policies.
  • Apps that show mature ads (e.g., violent content, sexual content, gambling content) to children. Please see the Families Ads and Monetization policies for more information on Google Play’s policies on advertising, in-app purchase, and commercial content for children. 

 

Designed for Families Program

Apps designed specifically for children must participate in the Designed for Families program. If your app is designed for everyone, including children and families, you too can apply to participate in the program.

Before being accepted into the program your app must meet all of the Families Policy requirements and Designed for Families eligibility requirements, in addition to those outlined in the Google Play Developer Program Policies and Developer Distribution Agreement.

For more information on the process for submitting your app for inclusion in the program, click here.

Program Eligibility

All apps participating in the Designed for Families program must have both app and ad content that are relevant and appropriate for children (apps must be rated ESRB Everyone or Everyone 10+, or equivalent) and must only use Google Play certified ad SDKs. Apps accepted into the Designed for Families program must remain compliant with all program requirements. Google Play may reject, remove, or suspend any app determined to be inappropriate for the Designed for Families program. 

Examples of common violations
  • Apps that are rated ESRB Everyone but contain ads for gambling content
  • Apps for parents or care-givers (e.g., breastfeeding tracker, developmental guide)
  • Parent guides or device management apps that are only intended for use by parents or care-givers

Categories

If you are accepted to participate in the Designed for Families program, you can choose a second Families-specific category that describes your app. Here are the categories available for apps participating in the Designed for Families program:

Action & Adventure: Action-oriented apps/games, including everything from simplistic racing games to fairy tale adventures, to other apps and games that are designed to generate excitement.

Brain Games: Games that make the user think, including puzzles, matching games, quizzes, and other games that challenge the memory, intelligence or logic.

Creativity: Apps and games that encourage creativity, including drawing apps, painting apps, coding apps, and other apps and games where you can build and make things.

Education: Apps and games designed with input from learning experts (e.g., educators, learning specialists, researchers) to promote learning, including academic, social-emotional, physical, and creative learning, as well as learning related to basic life skills, critical thinking, and problem solving.

Music and Video: Apps and games with a musical or video component, including everything from instrument simulation apps to apps that provide video and musical audio content.

Pretend Play: Apps and games where the user can pretend to take on a role, for example, pretending to be a chef, care-giver, prince/princess, firefighter, police person or fictional character.

 

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