As kids spend more and more time on apps, the need for age gates has become more prevalent than ever before. Age gates are standard on the Internet to prevent minors from viewing inappropriate content. However, in mobile apps, the requirement for content screening by age is less of a requirement as Apple and Google block most inappropriate content categories altogether, and content such as violence is flagged with visible age warnings.
So why have Google and Apple made age gates a requirement for apps that have mixed audiences, including users who are minors? The reason is that all apps containing ads use networks that collect, track, and share user data, which is illegal if the user is a minor.
Mobile gaming apps are now the largest gaming category when measured by users or revenue. Kids are playing these apps by the hundreds of millions as they are easily accessible and usually free to download. One of the most common techniques used by app developers to monetize an app is to include advertising placements. As apps were created for everyone, it’s most common that no age gate is present, and therefore most users are subject to data tracking to enable ad targeting by the networks. However, with the introduction of an age gate, the users can be segmented into minors and adults, where the segment of minors is served advertising only from approved kid-safe companies such as Kidoz that are built free of all data collection, sharing and tracking.
The goal is to protect digital minors from their data being shared, saved, profiled, and commercialized. Canadian regulations call for all children under the age of 12 (under 13 in Quebec) to be protected from data tracking and profiling. In the States, COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) requires that you do not use data tracking or targeting when handling underage users (under 13). Even further, a new bill passed in California is moving the age of a digital minor to 18, which sets the new threshold for legal data sharing. Many believe the adoption of the California bill into law in 2024 will have a widespread impact on the tech industry as companies will be required to make foundational changes to their systems or be at risk for significant fines. Meta was fined USD 400M this year for GDPR violations in relation to improper handling of children’s data on Instagram.
The responsibility of in-app kid-safe advertising falls to the platform providers, app developers, advertising networks, and advertisers. Each actor in this value chain of data safety must play their part to keep kids secure and data private while gaming. The platform owners, Apple and Google, set the policies that, if followed, ensure safe and compliant advertising for all app users who are minors.
The platforms have made it clear that app developers must follow different rules depending on the type of users their app is intended for. Apps designed for kids must use only kid-safe ad networks. Apps that want to monetize their adult and child traffic differently or are designed for adults but still appeal to kids are deemed “mixed audience” and must use an age gate to segment their traffic. Responsible app developers follow these platform policies.
It is also the responsibility of the ad networks who choose to serve ads to children that their technology is built completely safe to prevent any data sharing, storing, or tracking. These ad networks are trusted by the world’s leading entertainment and toy advertisers who wish to reach children and must ensure their systems are safe. Finally, the advertisers targeting children with their campaigns must limit themselves to only kid-safe advertising platforms; otherwise, they support platforms that allow children but don’t invest in the safeguards to protect their data.
Age gating helps create a safer place for minors when playing with their favourite apps. Data security gives parents peace of mind to know their children can view safe advertising in their games and not be profiled or tracked to other locations. At Kidoz, we created a safe way to deliver and execute advertising for our partners with zero data sharing or targeting. This helps us to stay compliant with global regulations and provide kid-safe ads to mobile devices.