Uproar ensued in the UK last week when a particularly concerned mother and her young child had an unpleasant experience with an app featured on the Google Play Store, sparking outrage on social media platforms all over the web. The app in question was downloaded by her child (under the mother’s supervision) under the pretence that it had been developed for ages three years and up. The mother could hear unsettling dialogue from the room where her child was using the app, and ran in to inspect.
Call Blaze & the Monster Machines: A Rip-Off by RALF DEV1
The app is called “Call Blaze & the Monster Machines”, and has been developed by a user calling himself ‘Ralf Dev1’ and at first glance comes across as a friendly game whereby beloved characters from a children’s show on Nickelodeon would come to life by giving the user a fake phone call. Unfortunately, the devious developers purposefully neglected to mention that the phone call came complete with some rather detailed and disturbing death-threats in the monologue; and while many of the apps users are asking parents to look at the funny side of the endeavour, in reality, the situation has been more than a little unsettling for parents of young children (the very same children that the app is marketed to). Since the event, the app has been removed from the Play Store (having never even made it to the Apple Store in the first place), but the threat of exposing the developer’s material is still very real. Having looked at the developer’s profile on the Play Store, there are numerous similarly designed ones that are themed by all manner of beloved children’s characters. So we here at Applord feel that now is a good time to remind parents of a few crucial things with regards to their children downloading apps:
The Google Play and Apple App Stores
The Apple App Store uses stringent measures to test content before it is published, and use actual human labour to do so; significantly lessening the chance of undesirable apps leaking through. The Google Play Store, on the other hand, uses an electronic system and is not as thorough, meaning that this kind of content is a real danger to parents. It is because of this that the app in question didn’t even make it to iOS while Android users were exposed to it. Still, deviant developers can be sneaky, and with the right efforts, can get their content published anyway.
Parenting in the Digital Age
This brings up some serious concerns for parents. While we don’t necessarily want to engage in helicopter parenting, special care is needed to ensure that your children are not being exposed to unfavourable material. You need to take a closer look than the app review in the store. Before letting your children whittle their hours away on an app, you should test it out first to ensure that it is appropriate for their age group. Many children have access to mobile devices these days and are in danger of exposure to these apps, so you need to know exactly what they are playing, regardless of its ratings and reviews.
How to Spot a Dodgy App
During my research on this topic, one of the first things to strike me about the ‘Call Blaze and the Monster Machines’ app, is the shear amount of advertising it features. For sure, there is no reason why a free app can’t have advertising on it, but this app bombards you with popups every single time a button is touched. The second thing to take note of is the number of fairly generic reviews on the app’s store page. The stark difference between terrible ratings and amazing ones is evident, while the good reviews look like they have been copied and pasted across multiple platforms by the same users. These are tell-tale signs of a dodgy app, and you as a parent need to be made aware of them, so that you can spot dodgy content on an app before your kids do.
A Note to Developers
Developers themselves need to remember that they have a responsibility to their users. While such pranks are often fine on adults, on children they can have long-lasting and traumatic effects. As developers, strict guidelines and best practices that give their users the most enjoyable (and honest) experience possible should be adhered to. And where developers see malpractice (or are encouraged to engage in it) they should take a stand to protect the integrity of the industry.