As smartphone ownership surges, we’re seeing a drastic surge in the use of mobile apps, many of which are marketed towards impressionable young viewers. One such app is Episode – Select Your Story, a free game using more than 50 million downloads and five million weekly users. Episode is coming under scrutiny by parents and users, many as young as 10, for its inappropriate themes. Such apps are far-reaching, and parenting their use can be tricky.
According to a US report published this year, which surveyed 1,677 kids, 41% of tweens (aged 8-12) and 84% of teens (aged 13-18) owned a Episode Choose Your Story Hack. There’s a lot more games targeted at these age brackets, in which many follow a “choose your story” format.
The stories are split into episodes as well as the user, or “reader”, can communicate with storylines and also create their particular. Readers can choose from a list of responses to influence things such as a character’s appearance, dialogue and response to events.
While most storylines concentrate on romance and school relationships, many have raised alarm bells in parents. Numerous parents have voiced concerns on Sound Judgment Media, a respected way to obtain entertainment tips for families.
What your son or daughter engages with online – Episode features numerous storylines about sexual discrimination, underage sex and pregnancy. Many of these glorify adultery and are potentially promoting reckless decision making, pettiness and unkind acts. On inspection, there are several issues with the app.
First, storylines could be authored by anyone, even those aged 13-17. And while there are many than 12 million creators, there is little content regulation, even though the Episode community expresses concern.
One story regarding sexual consent raised uproar with users, who have been concerned on the poor moral message of the young female character being “blind drunk” and not consenting to some sexual liaison with an older male character.
Yet, the tale had not been removed, and the author did little to address the backlash.
Another concerning part of the game is the fact that in many situations, users need to pay money to make morally correct decisions, yet reckless options are free. This reinforces inappropriate reactions to events. This is where players can unwittingly spend huge levels of money.
Find out more: The app trap: how children spend thousands online
How about parental guidance ratings?
In the Sound Judgment Media website, parents have given Episode a parental advisory rating of 14 , whereas kids have rated it appropriate for ages 13 .
On the Apple App Store, the video game is rated 12 and also on Google Play it’s rated “Mature”.
Nevertheless, players of Episode are often impressionable teenagers and teens. A 12 rating offers little guidance to parents, and ratings overall don’t manage to deter children from playing.
This is hardly surprising. At this point of development, peer relationships rrqyha highly rewarding. Many players are brought to apps like Episode by siblings or friends, and they are enticed by the excitement they feature.
Research shows several regions of the brain make adolescents more responsive to the rewards of peer relationships than adults. This motivates teens to concentrate on their peers in decision-making situations which involve risky behaviour.