ESRB makes it easier to evaluate apps on the go

When packing for vacation, my kids throw their clothes and swimsuit in a bag then load up their devices with new apps for the long car ride. I check out all their apps by reading the description and looking at the age rating. Even after looking things over, I am often surprised by my kids playing an app and seeing a chat window pop up or questionable content.

This summer, I started looking up apps on the ESRB (Entertainment Software Review Board) website. Most parents know the ESRB from their ratings on video games. Almost all video games sold at a retail store display an ESRB rating. Now, the ESRB, with the CTIA-the Wireless Association, has expanded its rating system to include mobile apps.

What I like about the ESRB rating is the detailed information. The rating summary contains examples and quotes of why the game or app received a certain rating. Parents can also find information under “Other” if it allows online interactions such as sharing personal information, collecting location, or sharing pictures, texts, art etc. For me, these online interactions are just as important as content. With more information, parents can make a better decision if the app is appropriate for their kid.

When out and about, parents can use the ESRB’s free mobile app. This app allows parents to look up ratings for games on their phone. The app is available on iTunes or GooglePlay. When kids want to download a game while waiting for a flight or on a long trip, parents can quickly type in the name and check out the rating before kids download.

So far, six mobile companies, AT&T, Microsoft, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless, will adopt the ESRB rating system in their storefronts. Parents will not see the ESRB ratings on iTunes or GooglePlay. These stores have their own separate rating system. The ESRB rates many of the same apps, so parents can still look them up on the ESRB website or with their mobile app.

The ESRB website has more than just ratings. Their family discussion guide contains some questions to ask kids about games or parents can use the questions as a guide for evaluating games. They also have information on how to set parental controls on video game consoles and other devices. With over 1 billion apps being downloaded a month, parents should definitely add this website to their list of favorite sites.