Kids today navigate tablets and smart phones as easily as Legos. They see new apps they want and beg us to download them. Or, they earn their own money to pay for the apps, downloading apps with or without parent involvement.
Today the Star Tribune ran an article Frustrated parents say app ratings fall short. Not all apps are rated appropriately, and parents argue that some apps shouldn’t be on the market at all. I was quoted towards the end of the article about my experiences downloading apps and how it can be confusing.
So how do we know which apps are appropriate? Both iTunes and Google have rating systems for apps. Just like TV, movies and video games do – but unfortunately each of them have different rating systems. Even if there are issues with the rating systems, it’s a good idea to check out the rating before you download an app. I also try to preview/play the app before turning it over to my kids just to be sure.
If you haven’t noticed the ratings before, take a look the next time you download an app. You’ll see the official content rating listed. So you know what you are looking for, here are rating descriptions for both iTunes and Google Play.
iTunes App Store Ratings from iTunes:
- 4+ – Applications in this category contain no objectionable material.
- 9+ – Applications in this category may contain mild or infrequent occurrences of cartoon, fantasy or realistic violence, and infrequent or mild mature, suggestive, or horror-themed content which may not be suitable for children under the age of 9.
- 12+ – Applications in this category may also contain infrequent mild language, frequent or intense cartoon, fantasy or realistic violence, and mild or infrequent mature or suggestive themes, and simulated gambling which may not be suitable for children under the age of 12.
- 17+ – Applications in this category may also contain frequent and intense offensive language; frequent and intense cartoon, fantasy or realistic violence; and frequent and intense mature, horror, and suggestive themes; plus sexual content, nudity, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs which may not be suitable for children under the age of 17.
Google Play App Ratings from Google:
- Everyone – Applications in this category should not collect user’s location data or contain objectionable material. Applications should not share user content or include social features.
- Low maturity – Applications in this category may include instances of mild cartoon or fantasy violence or other potentially offensive content. Applications may collect user location data for the purpose of providing location specific information or otherwise improving the user experience, but should not share the data with other users. Applications may include some social features but should not focus on allowing users to find and communicate with each other.
- Medium maturity – Applications in this category may include sexual references; intense fantasy or realistic violence; profanity or crude humor; references to drug, alcohol and tobacco use; social features and simulated gambling. Applications may collect user location data for the purpose of sharing or publishing with the user’s consent.
- High maturity – Applications in this category may focus on or include frequent instances of sexual and suggestive content; graphic violence; social features; simulated gambling; and strong alcohol, tobacco and drug references. Applications may collect user location data for the purpose of sharing or publishing with the user’s consent.
Even better than knowing how the app ratings work is actively setting app filters on your (or your children’s) devices. Here’s how -
Setting app filters on your devices:
For iTunes App Store:
- Go to settings, click “general”
- Select Restrictions and select Enable
- Select a 4 digit PIN and save it to access restrictions in the future
- Reenter the 4 digit PIN
- Select limitations you wish, for apps, music, TV, movies. Under apps you can choose by rating.
On Google Play:
- Open Google Play.
- Press Menu and touch Settings.
- Touch ‘Content filtering’ and choose your desired setting.
- To lock the settings, touch ‘Set or Change PIN
- Enter a PIN code, and touch OK
- Re-enter your PIN to confirm
Parents, what do you think? Do you look at app ratings before you download? How do you decide if an app is appropriate for your children?
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