Kids Mode on Tablets and Smartphones

If you have a young child, as I have, you might have encountered situations where you wish your smartphone or tablet had a Kids Mode. Somehow this simple-to-build feature is totally absent. Some of the consequences, as I’ve experienced, include:

  • in the middle of a game play, the child is presented with a popup dialog asking to purchase an extra game option. Obviously the kid has no idea, this is a frustrating interruption.
  • your kid, trying to get on with a game session, would randomly accept whatever is being asked, thus spending your money with sometimes terrible consequences
  • while playing a game, a gesture may be accidentally triggered, taking the kid away from the game they were playing. Another frustrating experience.
  • a notification may randomly just pop up, typically from another app, which clearly isn’t relevant in the context.

Had the tablet and smartphone makers considered this need, they would have built in simple features that game developers (or any app maker targeting a young audience) could implement. Here is a very simple example of how that could work technically.

A simple object model
A simple object model

With this in place, the system would provide an API to game developers so that they can read in the settings and take them into account. Additionally, the game developer may add game-specific control, a limit that (would be deemed acceptable) parents could set when they install the game for the first time. If the defined cap is reached, the app or the system would require a password for changing the limit, and even that could be made optional and silent, to ensure the child enjoys an unfettered experience.

Such a super simple feature would save lots of frustrations. In fact, I think someday this could become regulated if lots of people start complaining about the situation.

I read in the rumour mills that Apple was planning to introduce a Kids section to their App Store. It made me wonder, why stop half way? why not build a pervasive model that can help  even more? These companies could get even an intern to build such a feature in no time, and eagerly encourage developers to adopt it. Clearly, if someone made a good app they won’t need any sneaky way of making more money by trapping young people (the way it feels right now if nothing is done to manage it). I thought about this issue earlier, but now I had an excuse to blog about it.


  1. Hi,

    Well, you are not exactly right saying phones in general. My Windows Phone 8 device does have kids mode. It is a feature called ” Kid’s corner” and it is completely separated from my own environment. I can also control what is available (white list). Enabling it is super easy – just slide.

    I’m not sure that there is similar feature in Windows 8 though.

    1. …and if I’ve read more than the first sentence, I would understand that you talk about something completely different. Sorry and please, ignore my previous comment

      1. It’s true that I didn’t test Windows Phone 8 much. That’s harder for me, I don’t have a device and the inability to get an emulator to run it on Parallels stopped my efforts there. I feel that Kids Mode should provide a fuller experience than just age check.

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