Google makes Android more family-friendly with new features for parents

Android App Screen

Google has launched new features for its Google Play store to make it easier for parents to find Android apps, games and videos for children.

They include a “Family” filter for the store’s apps, games and movies & TV sections; the ability to browse apps by age range plus a new system of “star badges” to display age ratings; and dedicated pages on the store for popular kids’ brands.

“Parents can now find family destinations across the Play store, with new features for browsing by age and interests,” explained Google Play product manager Eunice Kim in a blog post.

“We’re also providing more useful information about apps and content on Google Play and improved tools so you can decide what’s right for your family.”

The introduction of the star badge system follows Google’s announcement in March that it was rolling out a new age-rating system for Android apps and games, alongside a new review process for apps before they went live on Google Play.

Google will also now tell parents if a family app includes advertising within its listing on the store – adding to the existing notification about in-app purchases – and is updating its parental controls to enable people to restrict downloads, purchases and streams of content that isn’t suitable for children.

Among the brands getting their own pages on Google Play are Peppa Pig, Star Wars, Frozen, SpongeBob SquarePants, Sesame Street’s Elmo, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Thomas & Friends.

“Lego, Barbie and other kids and family brands are some of the most popular searches on Google Play,” wrote Kim, adding that each page will include recommendations for apps, ebooks and movies.

Google’s moves follow Apple’s launch of a “Kids” category in its App Store in 2013, as part of that company’s iOS 7 software update for iPhones and iPads. Apple’s system also separates children’s apps by age rating, and highlights collections from specific brands and developers.

Google’s latest announcements are part of a wider drive by the company around children and parents using its software and services, sparking controversy along the way.

In February, the company launched its YouTube Kids app in the US, promising a feed of child-friendly videos without comments or a requirement to log in to the service, describing it as “a friendlier version of YouTube for families”.

YouTube Kids has since come under fire in the US from watchdog groups, initially because of the advertising that appears within the app – and claims of possible product placement within some popular YouTube channel for children – and more recently after videos including alcohol and swearing slipped through its filter.

Four of the top five YouTube channels in March this year were aimed at children, with YouTube providing funding for a new show from child-friendly Minecraft gamer Stampy in April as the first step in a drive to secure more exclusives in this area.

Outside YouTube, Google also acquired children’s apps developer Launchpad Toys in February. The company was responsible for the Toontastic series of creative storytelling apps, as well as a video-creation app for children called TeleStory.

Google also recently filed a patent for an “anthropomorphic device” – illustrated in its filing by a toy rabbit and a teddy bear – capable of detecting movements and voice commands, and controlling nearby devices in the home.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Friday 29th May 2015 07.18 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010