New Parental Controls In Google Play An Overview
If you are a parent, you are without a doubt familiar with the challenges of making sure that your child accesses appropriate content on whatever device they are using, whether it be your phone, a tablet or some other Android device. Up until now, Google Play has been a bit of a free-for-all, with third party walled garden type of apps functioning as a way to provide a safe app environment. If you ever wondered why Google has not done more to alleviate this issue, you are not alone.
Fortunately, Google has made an effort lately to become more family friendly. Late last month, Google launched the previously announced family-friendly section of Google Play. I think I may have posted a tweet or two about it but not much more. I wanted to let this new interface launch in earnest before I sunk my teeth into it.
So here we are, a couple of weeks later. I have finally taken a little stroll through the Googles family friendly section of Google Play and Id like to share an overview of what I have seen and some of my thoughts on what I have seen.
Family Friendly Everywhere
Ok so Google was not kidding when they said that it would be easier to find family friendly material in Google Play. Since the launch in May, each section of Google Play has a very specific family friendly section. If you select the Apps section, you will see apps like you did before. However, at the top, there is a family button you can click which will take you to a section that contains family friendly apps. Go to the Games section and you will see something similar: a section of games intended just for family. Movies and books work the same way. Let us take a closer look at the family friendly games section.
Once you click into the games section, you will see the typical overall categories (top paid, top free etc.) but you will also find family specific categorization. For example, there are sections for different age groups: 5 and under, ages 6-8 and ages 9 and up. If you are looking for games related to a specific character, such as Thomas & Friends, there is a link to a category that will show you everything available in Google Play related to that character, from apps and games to movies and books.
The regular app categories, such as action & adventure and so on, have also been modified to fit the family friendly focus. Within the family section, the game sub-categories are:
- Action & Adventure
- Brain games
- Music & Video
- Pretend Play
All of these categories then list the top paid and free etc. games.
You will also find that Google Play now also shows ratings for all apps. The family friendly apps I have looked at so far tends to be rated E for Everyone, clearly another way of showing you what kind of app you can expect should you, for example, be browsing outside of the family section. You can also look for the family friendly green star, seen to the right.
A family friendly section is of course fabulous but as we parents know, kids like to explore and will if left to their own devices invariably find their way into content we as parents do not want them to explore. Fortunately for us, Google has thought of this as well (to some extent) and has setup a Parent Guide that helps us parents with some of these things.
One of the first things mentioned in this guide relate to app purchases. If you are a regular app purchaser, you already know that you can require a password every time an app is purchased. Google has expanded this a bit with in-app purchases in order to prevent these from happening when you have not given your permission:
For apps and games that are labeled for ages 0-12 on the star badge, a password is required for in-app purchases, even if you dont usually require one.
You can also configure parental controls around content downloads. Determine what maturity level that will be allowed to be downloaded and your kids will not be able to download content that is not allowed. Basically, it goes like this:
Apps, Games, Movies, and TV: Choose the highest maturity level of content you want to allow for download or purchase.
Music and Books: Choose whether you want to restrict downloads or purchases of explicit content.
An important exception with this: if you restrict it for your kids, you also restrict the content you can download yourself. However, this restriction is not account specific, just device specific. So, you can have a tablet for your kids that is locked down using the same Google account as your phone or tablet. That way you dont end up having to pay for apps multiple times.
There are some other exceptions to these parental controls and filters you need to be aware of.
First of all, the family friendly app listings will tell you whether there are in-app ads or not but you can never really be sure that the ads in these apps really are appropriate.
Second, even though there are download filters that will block your child from downloading a mature app or game, search listings will still display these item across the board, from apps, games to books and movies. You just cannot download them. Again, something to be aware of.
This is by no means a complete review of the family friendly face of Google Play. It is merely what I have found so far. What I will say at this point is that the family friendly focus is a nice step in the right direction. Creating a place to find family friendly apps, games, books etc. is great and goes a long way towards finding appropriate content for our little ones. Being able to restrict what can be downloaded and stopping unwanted purchases of in-app content most certainly also helps. I will certainly be implementing these restrictions on several of my devices that my kids use.
What are your thoughts on the new family friendly face of Google Play? Good, bad, indifferent? Let us know!