How are kids’ app developers communicating to parents?

App makers have a lot on their mind these days. Since July 1st they have been submitting updates to comply with new Children’s Online Privacy Protection regulations. Just last week, they were informed about Apple’s new review guidelines.

One of the guidelines mentioned the need for parental precautions before linking outside of the app (i.e., before clicking a link to services beyond the app). Some developers have solved this by having link-free apps. Others want to communicate product information to parents, such as “more apps” or “share” features. So how do they do this, and what will be acceptable to Parents, Kids, Apple, and the Regulators?

The answers may be a work in process, but here are some examples I’ve seen from our community of family-friendly developers.

1) Real Fun Learning has parents solve multiple equations to enter the parent section.


77Sparx asks if you are an adult, and verifies with a math equation.


JumpApp labels the parent section, and will only open it if the user presses & holds (not just taps)


Anlock Apps also does a press & hold feature

iOS Simulator Screen shot Sep 3, 2013 12.14.59 AM

Avokiddo labels “for parents” and also has the press & hold feature.


Justin’s World has a toddler app with a really prominent parental gate, as shown here:


Curious Hat’s new InfiniScroll app has a “press and hold” that comes up when a grown-up section of the app is tapped:


This gate technique from Electric Eggplant just got accepted (date Sept. 9) into the age 9-11 kids category on the app store:

Screenshot 2013.09.08 00.38.58

This “timed” implementation from Get Shiny Things looks like an interesting idea!


From Bethany at Lunapip, the password function got approved as a gate in her app (details in comments of post). Congrats Bethany!


Here is Brent’s solution from Pretendasaurus


Now I’ve heard some backlash that these methods won’t necessarily stop a savvy child from accessing the parent services. But to me, these seem like good faith ideas at designating different content for different audiences, which is a constant challenge in the apps for kids marketplace. If you have more examples (or updates about what’s working and what’s not), please let me know so I can update the post.

UPDATE March 26th, 2014: Apple provides some guidelines of their own:


36 thoughts on “How are kids’ app developers communicating to parents?”

  1. toca boca and nosy crow have baby gates that include a plain text link for parents on the homepage, then display a dialog giving a randomized instruction to swipe x fingers in y direction. the randomization helps ensure kids can’t just observe and copy.

  2. Thank you Kathryn. Yes, I’ve heard that Toca is using the swipe multiple fingers method. Adding the randomization is an interesting twist.

  3. This is great stuff! We all know kids can be sneaky, and mine were early readers and math pros (!) so most of those options wouldn’t work for them.

    That said, doing our best as app developers to sequester grown-up content is the right thing and it’s exciting and helpful to share what we’re all coming up with that’s minimally intrusive but also secure.


  4. I agree Layla, part of working through the changes and challenges is to share information about how we’re trying to solve the problem. Thanks for weighing in.

  5. Update as of August 29th: We are hearing from developers in our forums that apps ARE being rejected if they don’t have gates. So, it’s the real deal.

  6. All of these parental gate features seem to be for younger kids. What would a good gate be for apps targeted for 9-11 year olds that can read and do math, and know how to do fancy swipe gestures on command?

  7. Hi @David, I think that question is relevant, and probably puts us into experimentation and innovation territory. I have not heard of anything definitive yet. But my hunch is that it’s a best effort from the developer to segment content, and it’s near impossible to be full proof.

  8. Hi,

    We have decided to just remove all ways out of the app and I stead replace them with a popup explaining why they are not being taking direct. For instance “Review this app” will display a popup explaining how to make a review but won’t take them direct to the app store.

    Not sure if this will be fine with Apple though.

    I have restrictions setup on my iPad, so my children can’t buy IAP and can’t delete apps, this is behind a passcode. Wouldn’t it be great if apple let us access that same passcode, then we could all just prompt for that.


  9. I have an update waiting for review (Children’s Reward Board).

    I have decided to use a passcode system. Parents can optionally set a passcode for access to a setup screen. If a passcode is set, the setup screen displays a link to the app website and also asks the user if they would like to rate the app (after so many days of use).

    If there is no passcode, then the website link and rating popup do not show.

    I thought this would be a good way to communicate with the adult without the risk of young users being taken outside the app.

  10. Thank you so much — best blog I’ve seen on understanding what Apple means by “parental gate.” Are the examples posted here ones that have made it through review since the review guidelines have changed? Also, I agree with another poster that it would be great to be able to access the existing passcode a parent has set to unlock the ability to make IAPs — does anyone know if there is an API to access this?

  11. @Dave, yes, it would be great if there were an overarching device solution to these issues. But meanwhile I like your idea about a notification that educates the user about how to leave a review. This gives them context but doesn’t automatically exit them from the app.

    @Bethany, I like the innovative idea. I’ve only seen that once before in an app. Can you please follow up and let us know if the app goes through with that solution? If so, I can add a screenshot to the site referencing your work.

    @Susannah, from what I understand, the mathematical formulas are making it through. However, just a text prompt about leaving the app isn’t a “gate”, so that didn’t make it through. I am not aware of an API for passcodes but the question might get some response on FB developer group if you’d like to ask there (write me for an invitation to

    Lorraine @momswithapps

  12. @Lorraine yes I will let you know if the update is approved and provide a screenshot too

    @Susannah I don’t think there is an API to access the device passcode. In older ios versions I read that you could detect if there was a passcode but that is gone now.

  13. It’s pretty obvious that these gates are a pretty weak mechanism to stop children from doing anything they really want to. The real solution is for Apple to enable developers to wrap screens and functionality behind the device passcode. This would be a true lock, consistent between apps and would be trusted by parents.

    For our app, we considered all options and decided that a math problem was the best deterrent for little ones. Being able to read and swipe 3 fingers or hold for 4 seconds was too much of a fun ‘touch’ exercise. Our testing showed that they wanted to see the result of those actions vs doing a hard-looking math problem written horizontally. We are currently putting finishing touches, iOS 7 fixes and this parent gate in our highly anticipated ‘pretend play’ app.

    Thanks for the great blog and guidance for parents+devs.

  14. @Bethany – congrats! I’m getting your screenshot up on the post.

    @Brent – thanks for weighing in and keep us posted on status. I agree it’s a tricky subject because not all solutions can cover all scenarios, but it feels like the developers are making progress, and communication between one another is helping.

  15. Nice blog. I submitted my app yesterday that’s for five and under with a toggle / switch that also says, “Child Lock”. I positioned one of those units nearby each button I have that is a parental feature.

    Has anyone heard of that kind getting passed?

  16. Hi @Ron. No, I have not seen this type of implementation yet. I would really appreciate it if you let me know how it goes and submit a screenshot for the blog if it gets through. Thanks! –Lorraine

  17. Hi
    Sudokid lite parental gate mechanism have been accepted.
    It is an add operation with a 10 secs timer.
    If you want you can get the screeenshoot or test it directy from the app. It is a free app.
    Thank for you blog it helps me a lot

  18. Thanks, Lorraine. This is one of the most helpful posts I’ve seen to date on the definition of parental gate. My question is, does this only apply to apps in the kids category? What if an app was targeted at schools and was in the Education category? Would you still need parental gates since technically anyone including kids at home can download the app. Do Apple’s guidelines for Kids Apps apply to all apps targeted at kids or just those you upload to the kids category. (Guidelines 24.1 – 24.4). I’ve tried really hard to find an answer to this and don’t know who to reach out to. Appreciate any insights.

  19. These are good questions and I’m sorry I do not know the answers, myself, but there is a person at Apple in kids category and I will email you what information I do have. –Lorraine

  20. Hi, my app just got rejected because it has facebook and twitter links on the menu screen. Now I have decided to remove them but I am concerned about the popup message asking user to rate the app which will redirect and open the appstore. in the Resolution Center they didn’t mention it, I think may be they didn’t noticed it because it appears after using the app for 6 to 10 times. please guide me if this requires a gate too otherwise I will have to wait one more week to see if apple reject it or approve it 🙂

  21. Official answers on this need to come from Apple reviewers, but a common sense approach I would encourage is that if the feature is intended for adults, it should be in the adult section of the app. That is my opinion only but I cannot confirm if developers actually got rejected yet for rate pop ups. Good luck with your next submission. Let us know how it turns out. –Lorraine

  22. Hi,

    Seems to me that points 24.2 and 24.3 in the guidelines seem to contradict each other. Even if you restrict it to kids only adverts we cannot stop the kids then clicking on links from the ads out in to the wide world?

    Has anyone got through the review process with kids only ads? – Have you had to do anything special other than restrict the adverts that are served as normal?


  23. Hi Tim,

    The way I read those two guidelines together is that if the ad is a link, it needs to be behind a gate. But no I do not have direct experience with getting an ad-based app through the process.


  24. There is no substitute for a 4 digit PIN and the ability to hide all external links via settings and lock the app into student mode. The parental gate that Apple have demanded is useless and the apps are not curated at all for quality and are diluting the main education category. All in all, I feel it is a failure for Apple.

  25. For one of our app which is made with cocos2d-iphone. we made a popup menu as a parental gate which randomly ask the user to tap and hold a particular shape for 3 seconds, and if the shape is correct the popup will show external links. Our app has been APPROVED by Apple and it is available at App Store. We are sharing our code of popup menu which can be used as a parental gate for apps which are made for children. download the code from this link

  26. Great post!

    To me the above examples are a good deterrent. Most of the time kids do not want to accidentally be dumped out of an app or game via an external link.

    Having even a simple addition problem makes kids think – oh, this is that boring parents section. The exception is when there is “pay to play” in-app purchases, which I hate to see in kids apps.

    As a reviewer, I wouldn’t have an issue with any of the implementations above.

  27. We have two apps that use different parental gates. We have a math flash card app called Mooggi Math Flash Cards that uses math equations to allow click to external links. When the user touches an external link we use the standard UIAlertView that asks to answer the equation. A correct answer redirects to the link. An incorrect answer plays a “negative” sound. You can see more about it at:

    We also have a counting game called Numbers Pizza but this uses a custom alert. Since the game is about building pizzas by dragging and counting pizza toppings, we display 4 random toppings in the alert and ask the user to touch them in a particular order. You can see more about it at:

    Both methods were approved by Apple. There really is no need to use an external class or code. It can be a simple UIAlertView.

  28. Thank you, very very much, for this post! We found it very useful when designing Fashion Getaway, so we thought we’d share our methods.

    We’ve just had our app approved, and launched Fashion Getaway on the App Store – even though we’re not on the Kids category, we are aware that a part of our audience might be young, so we took a lot of precautions.

    We used the ‘equation’ method example shown above, as part of our parental gate. We have also hidden all Facebook/Twitter links inside our options panel. All external links are shown a Parental Gate window in order to prevent leaving the app. Any attempt to purchase IAP is also shown a Parental Gate window.

    Our app also has an age screening panel upon the game’s first launch. We show (contextual, non-behavioural) ads in our app, but only to users with Parental Gate off /older than 13 .

    Maria Sifnioti
    Associate Producer / Total Eclipse games

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