Parents are constantly on the lookout for ways to protect their children from inappropriate content on the internet, often implementing such measures as monitoring film and television ratings and monitoring app and game appropriateness. It’s a tireless job that parents complete daily. However, not all publishers adhere to the strict rating regulations that parents rely on to keep these influences off of their children’s screens.
According to a recent study on Google Play applications and games by Wired UK, statistics show that sex, violence, blood, and gore can find their way onto children’s phones without the parent’s knowledge.
Find My Kids understands the importance of child safety, as well as a parent’s peace of mind. Because we understand how important these safety measures are, we developed a service that gives parents the ability to monitor the use if their child’s phone. In April 2019, Find My Kids led our own study, where we reviewed app data from over 40,000 British and American children. The statistics were obtained over a two week period (April 1st-18th) using the Find My Kids service*.
Top 10 Apps in the US and the UK
Most of the apps that children use can be divided into four categories: entertainment, social networking, games, and others (including your device’s default apps). Of these apps, about 30% of total usage is spent on entertainment apps. Social networking apps and messengers make up for 27.15%, games is close behind with 26.78%, and other apps make up only 15.92% of overall usage.
Below is a table that puts the most popular apps into these four categories.
|YouTube||Roblox (game 7+)||Callings|
|PUBG MOBILE (game 16+)||Find My Kids|
|Snapchat||Messenger Facebook||Homescapes (game 3+)|
|TikTok||Viber||Brawl Stars (game 7+)|
|Discord||Gacha Life (game 3+)|
|Imo Instant Messaging||Avakin Life (game 16+)|
(4,85 min in the US, 2,36 min in the UK)
|Eightball Pool (game 3+)|
A few of these popular apps claim to be suitable for children, but there can be content that our children can see that companies like Google Play have no way of regulating. Let’s take a closer look at those questionable apps, as well as a few other applications that may be more suitable for your family.
YouTube is probably the most popular global app available for free download. Even though it’s rated for teens, YouTube has done a good job weeding out the inappropriate content and making it safe for children. From properly rating videos to blocking inappropriate content for those who are not of age, YouTube is a trusted app by parents.
With the recent, stricter guidelines, even comments are monitored, and with the world watching, inappropriate content (videos and comments) tend to be reported quickly. While not every obscene comment or video is reported for inappropriateness, a little monitoring on your part will help keep things clean for your children. In all, YouTube is a safe app for children as long as parents monitor the content and their children’s Android or iOS devices.
Read these parent reviews here.
Rated T for teens, Instagram is far from a kid-friendly app. Even though they loosely monitor the posting of sexual or explicit photos and videos, they cannot regulate comments or messages. Luckily, you must verify your age before you can create an account (you must be 13 years or older). You also need to log in before you can view certain images and videos.
We suggest that you talk to your children about what they do and see on Instagram. It would also be wise to sign out of Instagram on your devices if you often let your children play on them.
Similar to Instagram, Snapchat is also rated for teens and has an age restriction of 12 years old and younger. When creating an account, you are asked to enter your birthdate, and this verifies your age. If the birthdate proves that the child is under 13 years old, they are redirected to SnapKidz, a child-friendly version of the app.
Regardless of the age restriction, developers and regulators fail to see that 13 year olds are still children. The number may be in the teens, but one can argue that the mind of a 13 year old is still typically very immature and deeply impressionable. Given the often very adult content posted by many Snapchat users, the odds that our children will come across something inappropriate is very high.
Snapchat has guidelines that prohibit against the use of sexually explicit in snaps, but again, private messages aren’t monitored or regulated and our children can still connect with any Snapchat user. You can change a few settings to make your child’s profile more secure, but you should still pay attention to how they use the app.
Tik Tok has become a popular app for younger children. Even though there is a age limit of 13 years old, somehow, many younger children find their way onto the app. It isn’t difficult to bypass the age restriction, you simply need to put in a different birth year.
Their guidelines explicitly warn against the posting or sharing of sexual content and should they become aware of any content being shared to or with minors, they will involve the authorities. While this is somewhat of a relief, these offenses must be made aware TO the developers. So unless the offensive person or content is reported, there is nothing to keep our children from being affected by it beforehand.
- Chrome Browser
According to StatCounter, Chrome makes up 63.16% of the global market share for internet browsers. So, it’s safe to say that a majority of our children use Chrome when surfing the web. As with any web browser, the entire internet is accessible with a click of a button, and with an incognito option on almost all browsers, the sites that are visited cannot be tracked by you.
Allowing our children to access the internet is a big step in the trust department. However, there are certain precautions you can take before handing the mouse over.
This article lays it all out for you and keep in mind that you are in control. Place as many restrictions as you deem necessary and talk to your children about proper browsing behavior before heading to Google Play.
Pinterest is an app for creative minds and inspirational ideas. Usually used by people who are looking for ideas and cool new finds, Pinterest is a relatively safe place for children.
It is rare to come across something inappropriate unintentionally on Pinterest. In order to use Pinterest, you need to input your interests. Once you’ve established the things you’re into, they will compile a feed of posts and images that is specific to your likes.
With it being this heavily customized, it is very unlikely that your feed will show you anything you haven’t asked to see. We suggest creating an account with your child and watching them choose their interests. As long as they don’t select anything you deem inappropriate, they should safe.
We all know about Facebook and the extremely explicit content that we and our children can come across. The popular social network is known to be a breeding ground for cyberbullying, sexual content, violence, and terrorist rhetoric, and with the addition of Facebook Live, it has been very difficult for regulators to control the content that is posted and shared.
Facebook is not recommended for children under the age of 13. We as parents must watch our children closely. Pay attention to who they private message, which communities they become apart of, and the kinds of posts they like and comment on.
Viber is a free instant messaging and voice app that allows people to text or call each other for free. While the app itself is relatively safe, you need to watch who your children come in contact with. That’s where the problem lies. These conversations are private and anything can be shared within them. Talk to your children about their actions and conversations. It’s important to draw clear guidelines with them so they know what is safe and what isn’t.
In recent years, Twitter has become a place of hate speech, violent rhetoric, and extremist talk. In our opinion, it is not safe for children or teens. There are ways to avoid this kind of content by properly choosing who to follow. Also restricted for children under 17, it would be wise to keep an eye on your teen’s activities anyways.
- PUBG Mobile
PlayerUnknown’s Battleground (PUBG) is an extremely popular, open world shooting game that let’s players from around the world search a large map for various (and realistic looking) weapons. Violence being the only inappropriate issue with this game, many parents find it suitable for their children. However, it is important to note that, according to the Find My Kids study, children in the UK spend a little more than 180 minutes a day playing this game, while children in the US spend an average of 53 minutes per day.
Even though it’s appropriately rated T for teens, younger children can still download and access the game. The biggest issue with this is the players. Mostly adults, the players often chat and speak using inappropriate language. While this cannot be regulated, you do have the option to turn off these communication settings.
Read the parent’s guide to this game here.
- Avakin Life
Avakin Life is a virtually simulated world where teens and adults can “meet” and live virtual lives (have relationships, marry, have sex, etc.). While this is all pretend and online, many people have come across players who ask to take the “fun” offline and into real life.
A breeding ground for predators, this game is no place for children, nor adults for that matter. It’s been reported that some players have been under the impression that they were playing with teens, only to realize after meeting them in person that they were speaking to an adult.
This game is rated mature (17+), but parents reported that their children still play.
BEWARE OF THIS GAME. KEEP YOUR CHILDREN AWAY AT ALL COSTS.
Read a few of these parent’s reviews to get a better understand of the game and its issues.
Roblox is another online virtual open world game that brings users from all around the world together in one place. But unlike Avakin Life, Roblox is rated for everyone ages 10+. This does mean, however, that children can meet and converse with adults without your knowledge.
Roblox has many security options for parents to customize before giving their children access. This includes disabling chatting, allowing age visibility, and enabling an account restriction that will allow your child to see games that are in his or her age range.
While Roblox is relatively safe, there are a few issues (predators, bullying, etc.) that kids can encounter. The amount of time they spend in the virtual world is also worthy to note. Averaging nearly 178 minutes per day, children in the UK are spending quite a bit of time playing this game. But this is nothing compared to children in the US, who spend around 203 minutes per day playing Roblox. Read this ultimate guide to learn how to keep your children safe.
- Brawl Stars
Brawl Stars is another open world shooting game that rewards players for finding weapons and killing their opponents. Played by gamers worldwide, Brawl Stars has a large following and a high number of players at any given moment.
It’s cartoony style and unrealistic weaponry makes this a safer bet for children. There is also no blood or gore on screen. The biggest issue is the overall violence. The whole purpose of the game is murder, even if it is animated.
We feel that this game is relatively safe, but suggest you discuss the use of violence with your children. Also, keep an eye on how long your children play this game. On average, children in the UK spend around 239 minutes per day playing Brawl Stars, while children in the US children take the cake with as much as 346 minutes per day.
Scan over this review to help you decide on its appropriateness.
Violent Video Games
It’s no secret that video games have become more and more violent in recent decades. Unfortunately, our children have become desensitized as a result. Games like Mortal Kombat have been a major concern for parents since its inception in 1992. Now, we are dealing with violent shooting games like Call of Duty and PUBG. With the rise of mass shootings and especially shootings committed by teens and children, we must wonder if these video games are partly to be blamed.
According to the article from Wired, Google Play has a slew of games that are filled with guns and violence that are available for Android devices. What’s worse is that these games are geared toward children. These apps and games have somehow managed to receive a low rating stating that it is safe for children. You can read the full article here.
Even though the concern for violent video games affecting our children is very present, it may not be real. It’s no surprise that we become desensitized as a result of the continuous viewing if certain images, but critics say they do not necessarily lead a change in our behavior.
A few years back, the American Psychological Association Task Force completed a study on whether or not violent video games are linked to violent behavior in children. The concluded that “The research demonstrates a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behavior, aggressive cognitions and aggressive affect, and decreases in prosocial behavior, empathy and sensitivity to aggression.” The report continues on to say “No single risk factor consistently leads a person to act aggressively or violently. Rather, it is the accumulation of risk factors that tends to lead to aggressive or violent behavior. The research reviewed here demonstrates that violent video game use is one such risk factor.”
According to a study by Craig A. Anderson and Brad J. Bushman in Psychological Science, middle school kids who played mature rated games were more likely to act aggressively than students who played appropriate games. To be specific, 60% of boys who played M-rated games were engaged in violent behavior in school as opposed to 39% of boys who play age-appropriate games. As well as 40% of girls playing inappropriate games versus 14%.
Keep in mind that if we want our children to grow and mature the right way, it will take our continuous efforts. We as parents must decide what is suitable and what isn’t. It is our teachings, not just a video game, that trumps what they see on screen that will ultimately decide how they turn out.
Tips For Parents
As parents, we need to become more creative in the ways we choose to protect our children.
- We recommend using the Find My Kids app in order to know which games and apps your child uses. Find My Kids will also help you determine how much time they spend on messengers and social networks. You’ll be able to see if they are using these apps at night or in class, and you’ll also be able to determine whether or not their games are violent or dangerous in any way. All of this information can be monitored with Find My Kids, and with this information, you can create restrictrictions that’ll keep your children safe.
- Talk to your children about what is appropriate and what isn’t. Having these discussions is important, and will give your children the ability to make these decisions on their own.
- Always review ratings guidelines and settings before allowing your child to play. Knowing what to expect from an app and check for factors that will help you decide what’s suitable for your children.
- If you’re unsure about an app, do a bit of research. CommonSense.com has reviewed plenty of apps from a parent’s perspective. Search the app in their database to get details.
Video games are often packaged as harmless entertainment for kids. When we let our children play these games, it’s because they were meant to be a fun activity. However, children are always learning and picking up information and behavior from their surroundings. When we as parents give the okay for them to play violent video games, we’re validating the message that the video game itself is communicating to the kids; that violence is fun and cool. Children often practise what they see. Exposing them to violent video games too often may have a negative effect on their behavior. We become what we consistently consume, and it is fully possible that a child who constantly consumes violence and aggression may eventually embody these lessons in their behavior. The content we expose our kids to shapes their belief system. We need to be careful about what kind of content we allow our kids to consume, as it may inadvertently shape their world view.
— Betty Kiiru,
Find My Kids
The Find My Kids app is a family friendly app that puts control back into your hands. As a way to keep a close eye on things, Find My Kids allows you to monitor each app your child uses, when they use it, and for how long. You can also use this app to track your child’s movements and always know where they are.
The Find My Kids app is compatible with most devices, including smartwatches, and it can all be easily monitored from your device. With the number of non-child-friendly apps that find their way onto our children’s devices, apps like Find My Kids are a must have.