Unreliable ratings on mobile apps
An increasing number of parents express concerns regarding inappropriate content on mobile phone apps.
by Rune H. Rasmussen
Smartphones and tablet computers have proven to be very popular among children, who love to tap away on the simple, intuitive user interface of the gadgets. However, according to the Washington Post, there is a rising concern among parents who have experienced that the age and maturity ratings on mobile apps are unreliable.
While the classification systems for film and game ratings have proven to be trustworthy and accurate, the age and maturity recommendations for mobile apps are often inconsistent and confusing.
Android: Unclear rating system
When it comes to mobile apps, developers provide ratings for their own products. This causes a problem, especially in the open Android market, as the system relies on the honesty of developers to accurately rate their apps. As well as this, the guidelines for how to assign ratings are often unclear.
Apps that are available through Google’s Android Market have to be labelled according to a rating system that consists of four levels: Everyone, Low Maturity, Medium Maturity or High Maturity. Still, it takes some figuring to understand the difference between the levels, and there is no specific age recommendation connected to the different levels. As a result of this, it is easy for parents to misunderstand a rating; there is no way of knowing that drugs and sex are permitted for ‘medium maturity’ just by looking at the label.
For this reason, Kids and Media recommends that parents familiarise themselves with the Android Market Rating System
Android: How to change filter settings
In the Android Market, it is possible to filter apps by ratings, in order to exclude apps that are inappropriate for children:
Take the following steps to filter apps:
- Launch the Android Market
- Press Menu > Settings
- Tap “Allow apps rated” and make your decision
- Tap the Lock icon to enter a numeric pin required to change settings in the future (optional)
Note that the Android Market has no way of excluding offensive apps from rogue developers, and, even if you apply filter settings and follow the rating system, it is possible that children may come across mature content.
Apple: Inaccurate ratings
Apple’s age rating system is slightly easier to understand, as it is based on specific ages (4, 9, 12, 17). There is also a description of the content that is deemed inappropriate for children younger than the age limit. Still, there are several games that have ratings which have been questioned by parents.
iStunt 2 (iPhone, iPod touch and iPad)
This snowboarding game is rated 4+ even though it contains a frightening circular saws that dismembers players.
Resident Evil (iPhone, iPod touch and iPad)
Players kill blood-thirsty zombies and monsters. The game is rated 9+, while the video game console version is rated 18 (although the app version is far less violent).
There have also been complaints that violent and sexual ads pop up in some apps aimed at children.
Parents need to be cautious
There is yet to be established clear rules to control the massive app industry, which, at times, leaves the impression that they are in the middle of a no holds barred race to find the next goldmine. Granted, there are several excellent app developers that make great apps for children and adults alike; however, the lack of consistent and well-defined rules make it very important for parents to take the proper precautions in order to ensure that children aren’t exposed to inappropriate content when using smartphones and tablet computers.
Read more: Advice on children and smartphones
Inappropriate content making its way to mobile apps
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