Apple Launches Kids App Store Amid Privacy, Safety Rules

In a sign that no one is too young to use high-tech mobile devices — or too young to receive an iTunes gift card — Apple has introduced a Kids App Store to better cater to the children who have adopted iPhone and iPads. The Kids App Store was debuted alongside the launch of the much-anticipated iOS 7.

The Kids App Store is a new section within the Apple App Store that features apps designed for and appealing specifically to kids, which are separated into three age ranges, according to Sarah Perez of Tech Crunch.

Earlier this summer, Apple revealed the new Kids section at its Worldwide Developers Conference when the company introduced the revamped iOS 7 mobile operating system. Apple also made a number of other changes to App Store.

The Kids App Store comes at a time when Apple has begun to allow children under 13 to sign up for and hold iTunes user accounts, as long as they’re funneled through an “approved educational institution.” TechCrunch earlier reported that Apple will face a lot more scrutiny now that it’s making mobile apps available directly to younger children.

Developers are required to follow the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requirements for apps aimed at the under-13 set. Under the act, developers cannot ask for personal info from kids, expect for “the purpose of complying with applicable children’s privacy statutes”. The act does not allow apps to share personal information without parental consent.

The apps in the kids section are required to have clear privacy policies and these apps cannot use ads that ask kids to complete an in-app activity. Apps must ask for parents’ permission before they link outside the app to the web or other software for the purpose of commerce. In this section, there will be no more spammy pop-ups, or tricks and nags to get kids to buy.

It was not a serious issue for many reputable kids’ app developers to gain compliance with the new policies.

“The changes were minor,” said Mindshapes Joint CEO Chris Michaels, whose company has three applications in the Kids category upon launch. “We have included a privacy policy within the app, per Apple’s requirements. We had already implemented other features for compliance, notably parent gating on any transactional or outbound link-based content, earlier in 2013,” he said.

With the launch of Kids App Store, the companies are seeing a positive impact on sales. Alan Shusterman, CEO at Duck Duck Moose, and Sara DeWitt, vice president, PBS KIDS Digital, said that they are seeing an increase in downloads and expect that trend to continue. According to Toca Boca, there haven’t been major spikes yet, but over time they expect the category to continuously get a visible spot in Apple’s store, leading to more sales for developers in the long run.

“Apple is clearly doing the right things and trying to stamp out some of the abuse that has happened in this sector with unscrupulous app developers tricking kids into making in-app purchases,” said Gregg Spiridellis, co-founder at StoryBots, noting also that his company only had to make minor tweaks to become compliant with the new policies.