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Are App Age Ratings Irrelevant?

Words by
Jackie Baucom

APR 19, 2024

Are App Age Ratings Irrelevant?

As parents, it’s natural to be concerned about the content our children are exposed to. With the multitude of apps available on platforms like App Store and Google Play Store, it can be challenging to determine which ones are appropriate for your child’s age.

Understanding App Age Ratings

Both the App Store and Google Play Store employ age rating systems to provide guidance to parents regarding the suitability of apps and games for different age groups. These content ratings typically range from “Everyone” to “Adults Only,” with descriptions indicating the app content that may be encountered, such as violence, language, or sexual content.

While these age ratings can be a helpful tool for parents, they’re not always foolproof. One of the main reasons for this is the reliance on user generated content. 

App developers are the ones responsible for assigning age ratings to their own apps. While many take this responsibility seriously, others may not. This can result in inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the ratings assigned to apps, making it challenging for parents to make informed decisions.

handle with care different age ratings for apps

Within these stores, many apps include videos or photos so users can quickly learn about the app before downloading it. Some of these previews themselves contain mature content not suitable for children. Users can also leave reviews for all to see, which may contain explicit words.

The Challenge of User-Generated Content

User-generated content (UGC) poses a significant challenge to the efficacy of app age ratings. In many cases, apps and games feature content that evolves over time based on user interactions. This can include chat features, access to external content, or user-generated levels (e.g. Roblox).

While the initial age rating assigned to the app may be appropriate, the UGC can introduce elements that are not suitable for all ages.

girl taking a selfie

App developers may also update their apps with new features or content without revising the age rating accordingly. This means that an app that was once suitable for a younger audience may become inappropriate due to updates or changes made by the developer.

Parental Guidance

Given the limitations of app age ratings, it’s essential for parents to take an active role in monitoring and managing their children’s app usage. Most smartphones and tablets offer built-in parental controls that allow parents to restrict access to certain apps based on age ratings or other criteria.

These controls can help parents ensure that their children are only accessing content that is appropriate for their age and maturity level. Parents can take advantage of features such as in-app purchase restrictions, and screen time limits to further manage their child’s digital experience.

Tips for Parents

  1. Research Apps Before Downloading: Take the time to read reviews and research apps before allowing your child to download them. Look for information about the app’s content and age appropriateness and be aware of the most common app risks for kids and teens
  2. Use Parental Controls: Take advantage of built-in parental controls on your devices to manage your child’s app usage and access to content.
  3. Have Open Conversations: Talk to your children about the apps they’re using and the content they encounter online. Encourage them to come to you with any questions or concerns.
  4. Stay Informed: Stay up-to-date on the latest trends in app development and digital safety. Websites and organizations dedicated to child online safety, such as Gabb, can provide valuable resources and information.

Kid Safe App Store

Gabb’s app store is different. Every app available to download has been extensively reviewed by our team. Adult apps are not available at all, so kids won’t be exposed to graphic previews or reviews. 

Additionally, a list of the apps available for Gabb Phone 3 Pro can be found on the Gabb App Guide, with detailed information on each one’s content. Parents and kids can also use the form on the guide to request any apps not currently available. Our team then reviews it, and if it passes our safety standards, it will be made available on our app store.

While app age ratings can provide some guidance, they shouldn’t be relied upon as the sole factor in determining whether an app or game is suitable for your child. 

We can help our kids have a safe and positive digital experience by educating and preparing them. Don’t forget to review their current apps once in a while to check if there have been any updates that may affect the app’s content. 

What are your thoughts on app ratings? Do you trust them? Let us know in the comments.

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