When the iPad was first released three years ago, no one could have foreseen that as well as being a must-have for business and leisure, Apple’s tablet would also become a children’s plaything.
So, it’s perhaps hardly surprising that some unscrupulous developers have taken advantage of the fact youngsters are downloading, and using, apps for the iPad and iPhone.
One parent told of how his sons racked up a huge £3,200 bill playing a virtual farm game, where buying food for the animals cost £70 a time. And another found himself with a £4,000 bill after his daughter played on games including Campus Life and My Horse.
They’re just two cases of many. But now Apple has announced measures to tackle the issue with new rules coming into force before the technology behemoth introduces a kids’ category on its app store.
Apple is cracking down on app developers, with tough new rules setting out what can and can’t be included in software aimed at youngsters.
The move comes after Apple was forced to refund parents thousands of pounds following in-app purchases made by their children.
The new rules will enforce four key points for developers who wish to make and sell apps for Apple devices.
- They can’t include behavioural advertising – where a user’s activity is monitored within the app to tailor advertising most likely to appeal
- Any ads presented within the app must be appropriate for children of that age group
- And, apps for under 13s must include parental permission requirements, or a parental gate, before a user can link out of the app to engage in any commerce or in-app purchase.
The Apple regulations come ahead of a report on children’s apps which is expected to be released by the UK’s Office of Fair Trading this autumn – with many predicting criticism will be made of in-app charges in games aimed at children.
The new children’s category, which was announced by Apple back in June at its annual World Wide Developers’ Conference, will set out apps by age bracket. There will be sections for the under 5s, 6-8 year olds, and 9-11 year olds.
As well as providing peace of mind for parents worried about their children making accidental in-app purchases, it will also help them to find apps suitable for their little ones.
At the moment, they are scattered between various categories, including education, games and entertainment. But Apple is busy recruiting a new App store kids and education editor to make sure everything is in the right place and easy to find.
The new sections should certainly prove popular with the big developers, with Disney, the BBC and Nickelodeon just some of the huge names fighting it out for a share of the kids’ app market.
And, it’s certainly a market worth fighting for – research by the communications watchdog Ofcom found that 91 per cent of parents who owned a tablet either allowed their children to use it too, or had bought them one of their own. Now, it will hopefully be less financially risky to allow your youngster to access and play Apple apps.