Parents warned: Smash Dude app one of many unsuitable apps available to children
PARENTS are being warned to get tech-smart to keep a close eye on smartphone apps that look child-friendly but are actually anything but.
There are mounting concerns that many apps available to kids are far more adult-like than they appear, potentially leaving youngsters exposed to graphic imagery or left with huge bills.
Susan McLean, of CyberSafetySolutions says the age ratings applied to apps in the App Store are just a guide.
“Parents do need to do their due diligence as well,” said the former Victorian police officer who has worked in the area of cyber safety since 1994.
“They need to get their head out of the sand and understand what this is all about.
“The days of saying ‘it’s too difficult, I don’t understand and I don’t get it’ are long gone.”
Scroll down to see five apps you shouldn’t let your kids near
One worrying example is Smash Dude, a popular game rated as suitable for 12 years and older which has you interacting with a wooden human-like figure that’s chained to a wall.
The object of the game is to torment the chained “Dude” with your choice of weapon, including lightning bolts, machine guns, fire, and nail guns.
More than 3 million people have downloaded the game.
The makers Firezoo call it ”hilarious interactive stress relief” but some reviewers on the iOS app store have described it differently.
“Reminded a bit too much of the slavery of black people, not happy,” said one reviewer.
“Nice way of teaching kids violence and torture. Start ’em off young eh! Great idea,” said another.
Aside from the content, Smash Dude is a free game that comes with in-app purchases to buy more weapons.
Last month the UK Office of Fair Trading announced an inquiry into whether children were being exploited into buying extra content for free app and web games, following the lead of Australia where the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council is currently undertaking a similar review.
A recent survey by Microsoft in Britain found nearly a third of parents said their children had made in-app purchases without their permission, which equated to about $A47.4m) a month in unauthorised app purchases by children.
Apple is now counting down to 50 billion apps downloaded since the App Store was launched in July 2008.
The system of selling apps through the smart device has been copied across the industry although the University of Canberra’s Centre for Internet Safety has called for Google and other app marketplaces to also copy the lead of Apple in more aggressively checking apps against standard criteria of privacy and security features.
In its submission to the CCAAC inquiry into app purchases, Choice said apps were “sometimes marketed at children who have little understanding that they are spending actual money”.
Consumer groups urge parents to use the parental controls on their devices to control what their children watch.
On an iPhone or iPad, you can find the parental controls in Settings, General and then Restrictions.
You can set restrictions before handing the device to your children, such as only letting them watch G-rated shows, not being able to delete or purchase apps or make in-app purchases and only use apps that are rated as suitable for 4 years and older.
Five apps you probably don’t want your kids to use:
- Smash Dude: Yeah, he’s cute but that doesn’t make torturing him any more suitable for young kids. As for Santa Dude, which dresses him up as the Christmas character, it’s a world away from the message of “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”.
- Kik Messenger: This app store says you must be 17 years and older to download the app but it is popular with high school students because it lets you exchange free messages across platforms (such as from an iPhone to an Android phone). There have been many reports from concerned parent groups of sexual predators targeting youths on Kik. Those concerns are understandable when you look at the reviews for the app on Google Play which read like dating ads.
- Snapchat: Sure, sending photos that delete after 10 seconds can be fun but there are concerns that young people will be increasingly tempted to send inappropriate photos of themselves knowing the evidence will disappear.
- Puff! (Premium) Blowing Skirt: This app, and many more like it, turn blowing a young woman’s skirt up in the breeze to reveal her underwear into a game.
- Instagram: Like many technologies, the problem is not with the system but the way it can be used. Instagram is rated as suitable for 12 and over and is popular with teenagers for sharing photos. Parents may want to look at their children’s privacy accounts and monitor which contacts they have.
WW~thoughts: Cease allowing your children access to a PC, digital phone, gaming device, laptop, tablet, or anything else in cyberspace not listed, until you’ve done a thorough check of the material they will be viewing. Eventually, I had to do this exact same thing with my 5-year old grandson. Now, I watch movies and play video games before he’s allowed access to them. Case in point, he loves X-Men, but when the most recent film, The Wolverine, was released I watched it first. Needless to say, it was not a movie for young children.