by Larry Magid
Android developers today received an email from Google informing them that the company is “introducing a new age-based rating system for apps and games consistent with industry best practices.”
Developers will be required to complete a content rating questionnaire based on official ratings from the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC). The questionnaire provides them an immediate rating from various territories around the world so that parents can make content decisions based on familiar rating systems, depending on where they live. The rating systems include the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) for the U.S., the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI), Australian Classification Board and others.
The new rating system will replace the current Google Play rating scale with a local rating. Areas that aren’t covered by the IARC system will be “assigned an age-based generic rating,” according to Google.
Developers are required to complete the content rating questionnaire for new apps, existing apps and again after any app update with new content or features that could affect their rating.
Tim Lordan, executive director of the Internet Education Foundation called the rating system “a great development that is scalable and allows for International customization.”
Apple has its own rating system for iOS content based on age ratings of 4+, 9+, 12+ and 17+.
Several months ago, Google started reviewing apps before they were allowed to be published in the Google Play store and, today, the company announced that it’s rolling out “improvements to the way we handle publishing status. Developers now have more insight into why apps are rejected or suspended, and they can easily fix and resubmit their apps for minor policy violations.”
Advice for parents
Rating systems can be a guide for parents but they’re not necessarily definitive. Parents should review any apps their kids are using to determine whether they are suitable for your child. Additional information may be available from Common Sense Media and other rating sources that provide reviews in addition to age-based ratings. It can also be helpful for parents to read the reviews in the Google Play and iTunes stores, to use a search engine to see what others are saying and to discuss children’s apps with other parents and your kids themselves. Ratings, filters and parental control tools can be helpful, but they are never a substitute for people involved with your child’s digital life. Periodically talk with your kids about the apps, social media services and sites they use but make it a conversation, not a lecture. Ask your kids what they use and how they protect their privacy and security while evaluating whether you feel that the content in the app is suitable for your child.
Disclosure: Larry Magid is CEO of ConnectSafely.org, a non-profit Internet safety organization that receives contributions from Google and other companies.