Building safer apps
When building apps for kids, safety should always be top of mind. Developers can help kids stay safe by carefully considering each and every feature that goes into their app.
The majority of your users will be kids, parents, teachers, and caregivers who use your app as you intended. But there may also be bad actors, and you need to be prepared.
Does your app let users chat with each other? Bad actors often exploit chat functionality, even in apps for kids. Bad actors can use chat to trick kids into making purchases or downloading other apps with malware.
More worryingly, they may use chat for predatory purposes. They can use the app to initiate inappropriate conversations with kids, or even use a child’s username to reach them outside of the app. Once they have established a relationship and a means of communicating with a child, these bad actors may extort them into sending inappropriate images of themselves, groom them for sexual exploitation, or lure them into meeting in person.
Ways to reduce in-app chat risks for kids
- Disable image sharing for your chat function.
- Allow only pre-approved chats that kids can select from, like pre-approved phrases and sticker/emoji communications.
- Moderate the content of group chats.
- Identify and flag potentially problematic chat for manual review by your moderators.
- Allow users to report inappropriate contact and/or block users.
- Make strict parental controls available so parents can monitor their kids’ chats. Explore tips for talking to kids about online safety from Family Online Safety Institute.
- Let parents approve and manage connections their child makes, block and remove users, and review messages sent to and from their child.
User-generated content (UGC)
If your app allows comments, reviews, or other content to be uploaded by users, then your app allows UGC. Allowing UGC increases the risk profile of your app. Bad actors may use comments to bully, post offensive or inappropriate photos, or inappropriately share contact information.
Ways to reduce UGC risks for kids
- Moderate all content for appropriateness before it’s posted.
- Post clear community guidelines explaining what is and isn’t allowed, and then strictly enforce these guidelines.
- Allow users to report inappropriate posts.
- Make parental controls available so parents can monitor what their kids post and what their kids can see posted.
Promote safe and positive online behavior
Direct parents to lock a Home app
With parental controls, parents can lock any Home app that's installed on their child's Android tablet. This prevents the child from changing the Home app without a parent's permission.
Note: Parental controls are available only on devices that supervised Google Account users are logged in to. Otherwise, you can't lock the launcher and this intent doesn't work.
Follow these steps to direct parents to lock an installed Home app:
- Deep link into parental controls on the tablet. From there, the user signs in as a parent to change the default Home app.
- From your app, intent into the parental controls view.
- Add an extra to the intent with
“extra_fragment”: “device_settings”. This directs the user to the Home app page.