Apple has updated its App Store Review Guidelines (via MacRumors) in anticipation of launching iOS 7, and the new rules feature a number of changes focused on kids. For the first time with iOS 7, Apple will allow children under 13 to sign up for and hold iTunes user accounts, so long as they’re funneled through an “approved educational institution.”
The 13-and-under rule is about Apple furthering its educational goals. iOS 7 has built in Mobile Device Management features aimed at educators, and it is increasing its efforts to get iPads and other devices in schools, as evidenced by the $30 million contract it announced recently with the L.A. Unified School District, through which it will provide iPads to students in all of its area schools.
Making apps available directly to younger kids will mean Apple faces a lot more scrutiny, both formally and informally. The new guidelines address both, including a couple of items that address Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requirements, and adding a whole new section about apps aimed specifically at the under-13 set.
The COPPA considerations include a rule that says developers can ask for date of birth “only for the purpose of complying with applicable children’s privacy statues,” i.e., not for gathering information on kids, and if they do, have to offer up something for the user depending on their age. So if an app is imposing an age gate, it can’t just shut down should the user be under 13 – it has to offer up an alternate and appropriate form of content or entertainment. There’s also a new rule stating simply that if an app can collect or share personal information, it has to comply with all applicable regulation.
Of course, age gates can be bypassed and parental permissions faked, but at least Apple is putting measures in place to make sure that developers can’t easily take advantage of a highly suggestible new audience. The emphasis for the new under-13 accounts really is on education, since Apple stands to gain a lot from achieving widespread purchase in schools, so it will likely do all it can to keep favour with parents and teachers.