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GooglePlay makes it easier to evaluate apps

ESRB_app_1a TornadoThese 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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What Parents need to know about YouNow

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YouNow is part of the new live streaming trend. The best way to describe YouNow is Live TV with audience participation. Instead of passively watching a video, teens can watch their favorite performer or classmate broadcast live and message them questions or comments. The person responds to them immediately during the live broadcast. YouNow has over 100 million sessions a month. Scrolling through these live broadcasts, I saw many young faces.

Teens appear to dominate YouNow. While teens make up the majority of performers, anyone can watch the live broadcasts without registering. Simply, go to YouNow and click around to watch trending people and topics. It is only if someone wants to take part in the chat or broadcast themselves live do they need to sign up. Teens must sign up through their existing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Google+ account. Once they sign up, they create their public profile and start broadcasting.

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Celebrate Earth Day with these 5 Apps

earthHappy Earth Day! Today, April 22, is Earth Day’s 45th anniversary. For 45 years, people have come together to help our planet by supporting environmental programs, cleaning up their neighborhoods or living a more sustainable lifestyle. This year, I have 5 earth-friendly apps to celebrate Earth Day. Download these apps today to discover how to transform a water bottle into a piece of art, learn more about the environment or make healthier food choices. Continue reading

Does your favorite app make the grade?

pg angry birdsMoms with Apps asked parents what they considered the most important quality when choosing an app for their child. The number one quality “extremely important” to parents was does the app protect their child’s personal information. Protecting personal information ranked above both educational and age appropriate. How can you tell if the app your child wants protects their information?

It is not easy. In 2012, the FTC investigated mobile apps aimed at kids. After reviewing hundreds of apps for kids the FTC found little, if any, information about the data collection and sharing practices of these apps. In fact, one of the recommendations the FTC made was for companies to provide this information through simple and short disclosures or icons that are easy to find and understand. The website, PrivacyGrade, is trying to do just that.

pg instagramPrivacyGrade launched in November. Here, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have analyzed over 100,000 apps and assigned each a privacy grade. An app receives a grade from A to D depending on how well it discloses its privacy practices. Like an online report card, parents can look up why an app received a “D” or “A” grade.

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Friday Rewind: Tips for managing media, apps and privacy

rewindThis week, I found 3 excellent articles filled with tips for parents on how to talk with kids and teens about media, apps and privacy.

Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image from Common Sense Media examines the role of media and technology in the development of kids’ and teens’ body image attitudes and behaviors. More than just discussing the problem, Common Sense Media offers ideas on how families can support positive images.

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CoPilot Family post in medium shares their 3-pronged method for guiding a child’s tech use. Their method clearly illustrates the importance of adopting a holistic approach when it comes to online safety.

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Finally, Family Online Safety Institute’s article on teen privacy suggests 6 ways parents can help teens protect their privacy online.

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