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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”?

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ESRB celebrates 20 years of Rating Games

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Gaming has come a long way in 20 years. In the early 90s, the picture of a gamer was usually a male in the early 20s sitting alone in front of computer screen for hours. Today, 59% of Americans play video games. Most of them are not playing alone. Gaming is becoming a social activity with people playing online with friends and families. While playing games is a great way for families to connect, it can also be a source of conflict. Many of the most popular games such as Halo or Call of Duty are not for kids. Sometimes, trying to find a game that works for the entire family is a challenge. Thankfully, the ESRB is there to help families make the right choice.

esrb rating mobileThe ESRB, Entertainment Software Review Board, is a non-profit, self-regulatory body that assigns ratings for video games and apps so parents can make informed choices. They began rating games back in 1994. Over the last 20 years, ESRB ratings have appeared on nearly every computer or video game sold at retail in North America.

The ESRB is more than just ratings. On their website and mobile app, parents can read reviews and find out the reasons behind the rating. In our house, I turn to the ESRB and Common Sense Media, when I have questions about a game. What I love is before my kids ask to play a game they check these sites as well.

Over the last few years, I have talked with Dona Fraser,Vice President of ESRB Privacy Certified, several times about protecting kids privacy while playing games as well as how to choose the best games for your family. She always has lots of great advice for parents. To celebrate ESRB’s 20th Anniversary, I have pinned some articles about games and kids.

Finally, the ESRB asked me to be a ESRB Parent Ambassador. I am excited to be a part of an amazing group of parent bloggers. Below is the list of the Ambassdors. (Thank you techsavvymama  for the list!) Please check out their blogs for more information on choosing and playing games safely.


Monica Vila, The Online Mom

Mary Heston, Mrs. Video Games

Leticia Barr, Tech Savvy Mamas

Sarah Kimmel, Tech 4 Mommies

Tina Case, Parent Grapevine

Ana Picazo, Bongga Mom

Eric & Camila, Geek Junior

Anne Livingston, Kids Privacy

Caryn Bailey, Rockin’ Mama

Beth Blecherman, TechMamas

Kimberly Kauer, Silicon Valley Mamas

Kris Cain, Little Tech Girl

Lori Cunningham, Well Connected Mom

Kathleen Bailey, Gaggle of Gamers

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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.