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Google outlines Play store overhaul to protect kids

Google is about to overhaul the way its Play store apps are rated.

Later this week, the search engine giant will switch to a classification system run by a third-party review body, as detailed in a report by the BBC.

Currently, the Android store uses low/medium/high ratings for classifying the maturity of an app.

Google wants to take a more serious stance on ratings however, as more young people are using smartphones and tablets than ever before.

At present, developers self-certify their own apps. This could allow some developers to give lower ratings for apps in an effort to broaden their potential user-base.

The new system, however, will take an approach similar to that of rating boxed video games, describing suitability based on age.

The body in charge of rating apps is called the International Age Rating Coalition, and was founded just two years ago.

The coalition is made up of five regional bodies – including Europe’s PEGI – each of which will rank material like violence, reference to drugs, and nudity based on specific areas.

Related: Best Android Apps 2015

Developers will first have to fill in a questionnaire about the content of their apps, and how the software functions.

The bodies will then share this information. Some apps will be automatically reviewed, while more popular titles will go through a manual check.

The volume of apps in a storefront like Google Play is just enormous,” said Dirk Bosmans, comms manager at PEGI. “We can’t follow the same [hands-on] approach that we do for boxed games, but we don’t have to make the process as robust as there’s no physical product here.”

He continued: “If a physical product is mis-rated that’s a logical nightmare as you have to pull the boxes back from the shops and reprint them. With apps you can just say, ‘That age seven rating should have been a 12,’ and with a snap of the finger, reprogramme it.”

Of course, children will still be able to download content regardless of the age guidelines, which potentially renders the entire system ineffective.

Until Google enforces an age-verification scheme, there’s no real way of preventing children from accessing inappropriate content.

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