If you haven’t heard, Google Glass is a wearable computer with a glasses-mounted display. Glass displays information in a smartphone-type, hands-free format allowing users to interact with the Internet using natural language commands.
Glass will run on Android 4.0.4 and higher. It can send and receive data, so apps can be interactive.
Google’s mission is to produce a mass-market ubiquitous computer. And as you might guess, the pornography industry is well-funded and an Android pornography app developer announced recently the potential release of an app for Google Glass.
Today, Google issued a statement: “We don’t allow Glassware content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material. Google has a zero-tolerance policy against child pornography. If we become aware of content with child pornography, we will report it to the appropriate authorities and delete the Google Accounts of those involved with the distribution.”
In this particular case, parents can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that hard-core images are not going to be tolerated on Google Glass. However, parents should still monitor the apps that kids use, given the proliferation of apps that are mature or that promote activities that are potentially harmful or illegal, such as sending/receiving sext messages.
Mobile App Ratings
The iTunes Store and Google Play have implemented rating systems for apps available for download. However, ratings are inconsistent, vague, and effectively put inappropriate apps on your child’s smartphone or tablet.
The problem is that apps are not rated by Google or by Apple; app developers rate their own apps. And app developers range from legitimate software companies to smart kids in junior high. Thus, Android and iOS mobile apps can be rated inaccurately and inconsistently.
Google and Apple list their ratings systems on their web sites. In summary, Apple has four categories for rating apps: 1) 4+, 2) 9+, 3) 12+ and 4) 17+. Google Play uses four rating categories: 1) Everyone, 2) Low Maturity, 3) Medium Maturity, and 4) High Maturity.
Apple’s rating method might make more sense because we are accustomed to movie ratings such as PG and PG-13. But are Apple and Android ratings similar? Not necessarily.
A “Medium” Android app may include profanity, crude humor, sexually-suggestive material, fantasy violence, references to alcohol and drugs, and hate speech. An iPhone app with a “12+” rating can contain realistic violence, mild mature or suggestive themes, mild profanity, and simulated gambling.
Does this make you comfortable allowing a 10-year-old with an iPod Touch to download anything she wants from the iTunes store?
What Can Parents Do?
Each parent must determine what an “appropriate” app is for a child. But don’t entirely rely on app rating systems without checking out the apps first.
1. Establish rules, such as not letting a child freely download apps without parental review/approval.
2. Review the apps your child wants. Read what other users say.
3. If your child has an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad, use the parental controls tools that Apple provides to disable in-app purchases, to stop apps from being downloaded, and also turn on the rating system for movies, music, and videos.
4. For Android devices, use an app manager to block or allow apps.
5. For the Kindle, check out the built-in parental controls features provided.
Device manufacturers such as Google, Apple, and Amazon have shown some interest in providing parental controls features. That’s good news.
Net Nanny for Android provides app management for Android devices. Parents can determine which apps to allow or block on a child’s phone or tablet. For step-by-step instruction on how to enable the built-in parental controls features of the iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, click here.
As always, parents need to be aware of the pitfalls of mobile app ratings and how to use parental controls. But more importantly, parents should maintain an open dialogue with kids about their use of technology. Better to be safe than sorry.