ESRB_app_1a Tornado

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.



Celebrate Internet Safety Month with a Good Book

pibooksIt is June and June is my January. This is when I look back over the past year and make plans for the next. I always kick off summer with a list of new projects. On my list this year, along with organizing photos, is revisiting our family phone contract. With my youngest starting middle school, we will be looking at a new phone and a new contract.

It is fitting that June is Internet Safety Month. NCSA and ConnectSafely are working together to offer tips and strategies for helping families managing technology use. “June is a great time to appreciate the warm weather and to consider how the season impacts our online lives. The Internet greatly enhances our summer experiences as we use technology to plan, enrich and share our activities,” said Michael Kaiser, NCSA’s executive director. “With some smart practices, you can help protect yourself, your family and the extended online community while using the Internet with greater confidence.”

Thankfully, they are a lot of great websites and books to help parents boost their digital parenting confidence. A few weeks ago, I published a list of some of my favorite websites. This week, I have put together a list of digital parenting books. This list is from my Pinterest board. Most of these I have read and a few are on my to read list. These books are full of tips and strategies for all ages. Celebrate Internet Safety Month by adding one of these to your summer reading list. (If you know of a great book I missed, send me the link and I will add it.)

Happy Internet Safety Month!

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6 Essential Tips to help Tweens live a Healthy Digital Life

picture youthMy eldest is keeping a close count on how many school days are left. Today is day 40. Last night, I had my final middle school parent ed talk for this year. It has been a tremendous year for KidsPrivacy. I published my first book, expanded my blog readership and visited many middle and elementary schools. As I drove home, I kept thinking about next year. While it is exciting to think about new posts, talks and workshops, I still have 40 days left. Before I close out this year, I wanted share a few more tips from my book, Talking Digital, for middle school parents. Here are my 6 essential tips to help your tween live a healthy digital life. Continue reading

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

Friday Rewind – Articles on Twitter, LinkedIn, Phone Contracts & Digital Parenting

rewindOn Pinterest, I have a list of books for parents on managing their family’s technology use. I finally tackled my own stack of books and added many new titles to this board. For families with younger children, I found an excellent book on managing screen time and media. Beside the book recommendation, I have some other interesting links for parents and teens. 

Continue reading