On February 16 2023, the ICO released guidance for game designers to help them better understand how the Children’s Code applies to them. Digital services have been expected to comply with the Children’s Code, formally titled “the Age Appropriate Design Code”, since September 2021. The ICO’s “top tips for games designers” is part of a series of sector-specific resources published since the Code’s implementation.
The ICO recommends that games companies:
- Identify if players are under 18, try to work out their actual age, and discourage false declarations of age. For example, by preventing users from changing their date of birth for a fixed cool-down period.
- Ensure games are not detrimental to children’s health and well-being. One way to achieve this is to include “checkpoints” or prompts that encourage players to take breaks. The ICO also suggests controlling and monitoring product placement, advertising and sponsorship arrangements within community servers.
- Display child-friendly transparency information in an age appropriate way. Use engaging communication styles such as “mission-style storylines” or graphics in bite-sized chunks.
- Turn off behavioural profiling in the default settings for children. Allow children to activate profiling only when they understand how their personal data will be used, and after speaking with a trusted adult.
- Avoid “nudge techniques” that could push children into bad privacy choices – in particular take care when marketing time-limited offers and social media competitions.
Game companies should take note of the above and consider if any change is needed to the way they design, market and monetise their products.