Google Play app store goes family-friendly with ‘family star’


Google wants to make it easier for parents to find apps, games and other digital content for Android smartphones and tablets designed specifically for their kids without worrying about them stumbling onto inappropriate content.

Google introduced its new “Family Star” for the Google Play app store.CNET/James Martin

The search giant announced today during its Google I/O developer conference updates to its Google Play app store that will curate smartphone and tablet applications specifically designed for children. Visitors to the home page of Google Play, where applications and games for its Androidsmartphones and tablets can be downloaded, will see a “family star” button that will take them directly to the section of the store where family-friendly apps reside.

Parents will find a star on family friendly content and will be able to browse the Play store searching for apps, movies, books, games and other digital content based on age. The family star will signify to parents that the content can be trusted and has been vetted for quality. Google will also let parents know which content will include advertising. Google plans to roll out the update globally to the Google Play store over the next several weeks.

Google’s plans to update Google Play to attract families is part of its broader strategy to personalize the experience on its Google Play app store. It also underscores not only how influential Google has become in making software but the company’s growing role in who it reaches as well. With over a million apps in the Play Store which can reach as many as a billion people, the choices Google makes can dramatically change how people use a smartphone or tablet.

Google had signaled its plans to make the Play store a more family friendly destination in April when it launched a new program for application developers called the “Designed for Families” program. Under this new program, Google outlined requirements for app developers to create applications that will be tailored for parents and their young children. Apps that meet the requirements will be labeled “family-friendly” and will appear alongside similar apps that are appropriate for children, giving parents assurance that their children will not be accessing inappropriate content.

To earn the family friendly designation, app makers must go through a review process. That includes receiving a rating of “Everyone” or “Everyone 10+” from the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which evaluates computer and video games. Those apps must also comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which provides safeguards for children younger than 13, a Google spokesman said.

Parents with children 12 years and younger make up a third of all users in the Google Play store.CNET/James Martin

The idea of the app developer program and the curation of family-friendly content in the Play store is to give parents a one-stop shop to find suitable, trusted, high-quality apps and games for children. The company said that a third of its users are parents of children 12 years old or younger. Google already offers child-friendly apps from places like PBS Kids and Crayola, but these apps have been mixed in with other apps that may not offer the same kind of quality or assurance of appropriateness that parents seek. This makes it difficult for parents to find apps that they want their children to use.

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