These hot and hazy days seem to bring out the devices. In the afternoon, my worn out child plops himself in front of the fan, grabs his tablet and starts trolling for new games. Before downloading a new app, he has to ask me to enter a pincode. Most of the time, I have heard of the app and I can make a quick decision but sometimes he comes up with some stumpers. Before downloading the mystery app, we look up the rating and reviews.
I have to admit I have always found GooglePlay ratings confusing. What is “medium maturity”? The term itself is vague and after reading the description, it still is not easy to determine exactly what age group this geared toward. With GooglePlay, Apple and video games all having different ratings systems, it is not easy to figure out if “Medium Maturity” is like 17+ or “T”?
I was glad to hear that GooglePlay has adopted the ESRB rating system. This change is part of an effort to standardize ratings worldwide. Keeping up with a child’s digital world is enough of a challenge without having to decode different rating systems. So, the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) is working to streamline the process for assigning age and content ratings for video games and mobile. The goal is that all digital consumers, especially parents, will be able to see well established, credible and locally relevant ratings for these products, regardless of the device.
Now on GooglePlay, parents can find the same ESRB ratings elements:
- Rating categories for age appropriateness;
- Content descriptors indicating content that may have triggered a particular rating and/or may be of interest or concern. ESRB currently uses close to 30 different content descriptors for depictions involving violence, suggestive themes, language, gambling and controlled substances, among others.
- Interactive Elements provide information describing certain features that can be found in digitally delivered games and apps, which may include the sharing of personal information or the user’s location, if the game or app enables the purchase of digital goods, and/or if users can interact.
Parents can also use these ratings to set the parental controls for each device. By changing the content restrictions, parents can block a child from downloading apps above a certain age rating. Once set, these controls only apply to that particular device. This is true even if everyone shares a GooglePlay account. If a child has their own tablet or smartphone, parents need to change the GooglePlay settings on their device.
When deciding whether to let a child download or not download an app, parents cannot beat the one two punch of the ESRB rating and the CommonSenseMedia review. I check these two sites so often, that when my kids come to me to ask to download an app they already have the ESRB rating and CommonSenseMedia review in hand. In case you missed my post on choosing apps, here are few more tips for evaluating apps.