February 14, 2019

STATEMENT: Child Advocates Call for Accurate App Ratings Due to Online Grooming, Sexploitation

Tech Currently Self-Rates Their Own Apps, Has No Accountability 

Washington, DC – The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, along with other child advocates such as Chris McKenna from Protect Young Eyes and Melissa McKay, is calling out the current system for app ratings because it is misleading, inconsistent across platforms, and does not appropriately warn parents of the potential dangers found in apps.

Parents are empowered with rating information to keep kids out of R rated films, but when it comes to apps, parents are left in the dark about the kind of content their children are accessing,” said Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. “Apps in Apple and Google app stores are not held to any kind of third-party accountability to adhere to a consistent rating system.”

“As a result, social media apps like Instagram (rated 12+), Snapchat (12+) and Facebook (rated 12+) are hot spots for bullying, the grooming and selling of children into sex-trafficking, self-harm content, pornography, and sextortion. Recent articles point to accounts glorifying animal, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide. In fact just today a man was sentenced to prison for using Facebook to facilitate sex trafficking of a 15-year-old.”

“Further, Netflix (rated 4+) has numerous shows with graphic depictions of sexual acts and assault with minimal parental controls.”

It’s our societal duty to protect kids online, and that starts with properly warning parents about the risks associated with certain apps and giving parents more parental controls options,” Hawkins continued. “It’s time to create some equivalent to the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), populated with child advocacy groups, to independently rate the ages for apps in app stores, with clear categorization and description of specific risks. Let’s also ask Apple and Google to provide intuitive parental controls that give parents more control over when apps are used (school and bedtime) and the types and quantities of content our young people have access to. Let’s empower parents to make the best decisions for their families.”

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