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Google Play is still struggling with inappropriate children's games

Google Play is still struggling with inappropriate children's games

April 8, 2019 | By Alissa McAloon

Wired has shared a look at the many inappropriate and sometimes grotesque games aimed at children on Google Play, offering a look at why the storefront seems to be struggling to address those mismanaged games.

It’s not a new issue by any means, but is still one that is prevalent on Google Play despite that awareness. Last year, for instance, a US-based child advocacy group published a letter urging the FTC to investigate Google for inappropriate, either through images or data collection practices, games being aimed at children on Google Play.

Wired found and submitted 36 games with content inappropriate for their assigned ratings and 16 with “dubious content and permissions” to Google for review. Between submission and the story’s publication, 16 games had been removed or re-released with changed ratings and permissions on the Google Play Store. 

The full story has a couple of examples of these, like a graphic first-person shooter initially listed as appropriate for three-year-old or a handful of gambling games that are rated PEGI 3 on Google Play but 12+ on iOS. 

Wired chalks the issue up to a lack of human oversight. Ratings on Google Play are based on a questionnaire filled out by the developer and, in the UK, displays a PEGI age rating for that category. That questionnaire is managed by the International Age Rating Coalition but, as noted by a spokesperson speaking to Wired, “given the high volume of published games and apps, participating rating authorities are not able to monitor every single release.”

Even when some games are reviewed for content, PEGI’s ratings guidelines don’t have classifications to address some of the more bizarre content aimed at kids, with the example given of cosmetic surgery simulators. 

“Our position is that if there is no explicit violence or even implicit violence in these games, there's nothing to give them a higher age rating,” PEGI director of operations Dirk Bosmans told Wired.

The full story has a lengthy but comprehensive look at how this kind of content ends up finding a home on Google Play, as well as a look at the other inappropriate games it tracked and reported down ahead of the story. 

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