Smartphone Apps Getting Age-Based Rating System
November 30, 2011

Smartphone Apps Getting Age-Based Rating System

Mobile applications and games for smartphones and tablets will soon carry the same age-based ratings used by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) since 1994.

The app ratings will include symbols like "E" for "Everyone" and "T" for "Teen" or suitable for ages 13 and up.

ESRB President Patricia Vance said that the ratings also include descriptors detailing whether an app shares personal information or user-generated content.

“Our rating system for computer and video games has been in use since 1994 and has continuously evolved to meet the needs of the highly dynamic industry it serves," Vance said in a press release. "Over the last several years, there has been a veritable explosion in the number and variety of devices and platforms on which to consume interactive entertainment, and mobile devices are a key driver of that growth

CTIA's Vice President for Wireless Internet Development David Diggs said the Wireless Association saw the need for improved guidelines as smartphones and the apps used on them have evolved.

"When developers submit their applications to a participating storefront they will be able to complete a detailed yet quick multiple choice questionnaire that is designed to assess an application´s content and context with respect to its age-appropriateness," CTIA said in a press release.

"This includes violence or sexual content, language, substances, etc., as well as other elements such as a minimum age requirement, the exchange of user-generated content, the sharing of a user´s location with other users of the application and the sharing of user-provided personal information with third parties."

Once developers complete the questionnaire, their applications will be rated within seconds.  Then, each app will be issued a certificate and a unique identifying code that may be subsequently submitted to other storefronts.

CTIA said that ESRB will be routinely testing the most popular applications, as well as monitoring consumer complaints.

“I applaud CTIA and ESRB on this consumer-friendly initiative. It´s a win-win when industry takes proactive, responsible steps to protect children from inappropriate content,” U.S. Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) said in a press release.

Stephen Balkam, CEO of Family Online Safety Institute, said the organization was hopeful for the new app rating system, and said a family with open communication was the best way to "stay on top of emerging trends and experience the great things the Internet has to offer."

“In our increasingly digital world, kids can walk around with the Internet in their pockets," Balkam said in a press release. "We applaud CTIA and ESRB for developing an easily accessible rating system that enables families to make the best decisions about the content their kids access on mobile devices."

Companies like AT&T, Microsoft, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless are the founding members of the rating system.


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