The Australian Council on Children and the Media has a section on its website that reviews apps. The “Know Before You Load App Reviews” aim to help parents “find age-appropriate and enjoyable apps for your children” and on its face it doesn’t do too bad a job.
I’m always wince a bit when I see app reviews for kids. The people who are willing to spend the time and effort involved in creating lists like this are often far more up-tight, conservative and un-savvy than I would like. But the ACCM reviews have left me pleasantly surprised.
The reviews are quite in-depth and have clearly been developed after actually playing with the apps, rather than just looking at them. There seems to be a fair degree of consistency between reviewers both in terms of style and approach – although there are some inconsistencies, for example Plants v Zombies 2 gets a more concerning rating than the original version for no obvious reason. Most of the reviews are done by “qualified child development professionals” and that shows in the quality of the information. There are some submitted by members of the public and those don’t seem nearly as good – for example, the submitted review of Snapchat is clearly from an adult user’s viewpoint and slides over the way teenagers are actually using this app and the possible attendant problems.
One of the reviews main focuses is gambling. ACCM is very concerned about exposing kids to gambling, either real or simulated, and so the reviews are very clear about that aspect of the apps. They also make the opportunities for in-app purchases very explicit, which is useful.
There’s quite a depth of reviews on the site; although, almost intrinsically, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the flood of available apps in the various stores. What makes the ACCM listings particularly useful, though, is that they cover apps more likely to be attractive to an Australian audience – the various footy team apps for example.
I wasn’t so keen on some of the suggested age-levels, but that’s always going to be a matter of parental judgement – different families have very different ideas about what’s suitable at what age – so I’m not sure a generic app review site can ever win on age-recommendations.
While nothing is ever going to substitute for parents actually trying out the apps their kids are using, overall this seems like a really good resource if you are remotely concerned about the apps your kids are looking at.
The Know Before You Load App Reviews can be found here.