Apps for children on Apple App Store

Apple makes a lot of extra demands in connection with the development of iOS apps that are targeted towards children. If Apple’s rules are not kept then you’ll most likely not get your app through Apples review process, since they have a lot of focus on apps for children.

At Toughlogic we have a lot of experience with development of apps for children. Both through our work for Fætter BR (Danish toy retailer) and our own produced children’s app Boogis Mask Maker.

This blog post goes through some of the most common pitfalls in the development of apps for children, and the specific rules for children’s apps.  Some of this should also be implemented in the designface and it’s therefore a good idea to know about the rules before the app development is started. 

Advertisement for the children’s app Boogis Mask Maker. A costume app for children where the kids can draw their own masks and thereafter print them out.

 

Guidelines for apps for children

Apples overall guidelines in connection with the development of apps for children can be found here: https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/#kids-category og https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/#kids.

There are primarily three areas of focus one must take into account. We will go though them each underneath.
 

  • Parental gates
  • Gathering of userdata
  • Presentation of ads 

Parental gates

In connection with apps for children Apple do not allow direct links to other content on the net, to app store, or directly to other apps. This is implemented to secure that children are not sent to other websites or apps that are not appropriate for children. All of this is secured by what Apple is calling Parental Gates.

In the same way as direct links are not allowed so are all In-App Purchases and they are protected with Parental Gates so that a children is not using all of moms money in the app. When Apple introduced App Store there were no rules for children’s apps, which let to many angry parents. For example the game Smurts’ Village, which created a shit storm for Apple.

Apple has a really god guide with examples on Parental Gates in there development-documentation (https://developer.apple.com/app-store/parental-gates/), which should be read by all aspiring children’s app developers. I would recommend the methods that functions without access to keyboards since this gives a cleaner and simpler UI. Se for example the two pictures below that shows how Touchlogic has implemented Parental Gates in the to children’s apps BR costumes app and Boogis Mask Maker. 

Apple App Store children’s app parental gate example 1. In BR costumes parents have to hold down a specific figure for a second. 
Apple App Store children’s app parental gate example 2. In Boogis Mask Maker parent have to with to fingers swipe either up, down, right or left selected at random.

Parental Gates from respectively BR costumes and Boogis Mask Maker. In BR costumes parents have to hold down a specific figure for a second. In Boogis Mask Maker parent have to with to fingers swipe either up, down, right or left selected at random.

 

Collection of user data. 

In connection with collection of user data and use of the app, there are a lot stricter rules when you are developing apps for children. Specifically in connection to Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which Apple takes very seriously (and therefore you should to). 

Briefly told, you are not allowed to collect sensitive information like adresses, users age and similarly, and from this information present targeted ads. This could for example be if you want to present some ads for children in the age between 4 to 6 years-old and other ads for children in the age between 7 to 9 years-old. This seems like a good idea but its not allowed by Apple.

 

Presentation of ads

Additionally you are also not allowed to use users behaviour in apps to present targeted ads. So, if you for example have an app for children with three minigames, then you are not allowed to present adds in connection to which of the three games are being played most. 

Ads should additionally of cause be appropriate for children.

All of these demands are something you’ll have to implement at the ads- analyse-systems that you choose to integrate, and it should also abide by the rules given by Apple. In many of these systems, like Google Analytics and Firebase there are some specific fields that have to be checked so that these programs are collecting less information than is possible. 

Advertising Features - enable demographics and interest reports

Example of one of the fields that has to be enabled in Google Analytics if it’s used in apps for children. 

Privacy Policy

Another pitfall that is easy to fall into is that you should in contrary to other appshave a privacy policy. This privacy policy should normally be hosted on an extern website or similarly. It can be beneficial to look at what other developers have done and be inspired by their approach.

 

Businessmodel

If you are developing you own app for children then it has to be beneficial to do so. As with other apps there are advantages and disadvantages by using deferent ways of making money.

 

Paid app

Personally I thing that that the best business model which is targeted towards children are a paid app, seen from a moral perspective. To make this profitable it demands that you invest a lot in marketing and that you get a high rating on various app lists, so that your app is found by potential new buyers. This is therefore rarely the best way to make money on an app unless you have a large customer group that can easily be reached out to.

 

In-App Purchases (IAPs)

Depending on how it’s implemented a free app with In-App Purchases can be a really good possibility. I do have to warn against having a paid app that also have IAPs since this can easily scare users away. In connection to In-App Purchases, my experience is that it’s not wise to give to much away in the app since that reduces the incentive to buy something. Especially when it comes to apps for children there is a fine balance where users should not feel that the app is useless if they do not buy IAPs. 

 

Ads

If the app is financed through ads then make sure that the ads support ads for children so that ads for grownups are not shown to children. Worst would be if Apple gets an ad with Objectionable Content under there review process and your app is turned down because of that. This could delay the process considerably if the implementation of advertisements have to be replaced. 

 

Summary

As we wrote in the beginning of this post, the three most important things that you should be aware of when it comes to developing apps for children:
 

  • Parental gates
  • Gathering of userdata
  • Presentation of ads
     

If you read Apples rules for developing apps for children and makes sure that Apple’s rules are complied with in the app, within the above three ares, then you’ll be covered and are ready to develop apps for children.

 

Af Andreas Juul Hirszhorn

Lead iOS udvikler hos Touchlogic