NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Ever worry about whether a particular smartphone app is appropriate for your children? Soon there will be an easy way to find out.
CTIA - The Wireless Association has partnered with the Entertainment Software Rating Board to launch a new rating system for apps offered on smartphones and tablets. These ratings will use the same icons the ESRB uses with computer and video games, which have six classifications including content that’s fit for early childhood, teens or adults only.
Going forward, mobile app developers will be asked to fill out a brief questionnaire to assess the amount of violence, questionable language and sexual content that shows up on the app in order to determine an age-appropriate rating. According to a CTIA spokeswoman, each app store will determine whether to make these questionnaires mandatory for developers to get their apps approved.
So far, all four major wireless carriers have signed on to implement the ratings for their own online marketplaces and so has Microsoft. However, the two companies with the largest app stores – Apple and Google – have yet to agree to the new rating system. In Google’s case, this is mainly because the Android marketplace already has its own app-rating system that lets developers determine the appropriate age restrictions for their offerings.
“We've put a lot of effort into Android Market's rating system, which now works well globally,” says Christopher Katsaros, a spokesman for Google’s Android division. “So while we support other systems, we think it's best for Android users and developers to stick with Android's existing ratings which are well known and understood.”
Apple, on the other hand, doesn’t have an official rating system, though its app store is known to restrict submissions that are deemed too sexually explicit or controversial. The company did not immediately respond to MainStreet’s request for comment.
One potential downside of asking developers to go through the rating procedure is that it could add one more obstacle to the app submission process, but the CTIA and ESRB have decided to streamline the process so as not to discourage any developers from using the rating.
“Each rated app is issued a certificate and a unique identifying code that may be subsequently submitted to other storefronts during their respective onboarding processes, avoiding the need for developers to repeat the rating process,” the CTIA explained in its announcement. “This means consistent ratings across participating storefronts and a convenient, cost-free process for app developers.”
Still, it’s unclear how effective the ratings will be in accurately determining the appropriate age for each app since they are based on the developer’s own assessment rather than any kind of independent review. Then again, given the hundreds of thousands of apps that are out there now, your kids would probably be all grown up by the time an independent panel could review them all.