As mobile phone ownership surges, we’re seeing a drastic rise in using mobile apps, a few of which are marketed towards impressionable young audiences. One such application is Episode – Select Your Story, a free game with over 50 million downloads and five million weekly users. Episode is coming under analysis by parents and users, many as young as 10, for the inappropriate themes. Such apps are far-reaching, and parenting their use can be tricky.

According to a US report published this season, 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 progressively more games directed at these age groups, which many adhere to a “choose your story” format.

The stories are separated into episodes as well as the user, or “reader”, can interact with storylines as well as create their own. Readers can decide on a summary of responses to influence stuff like a character’s appearance, dialogue and response to events.

While most storylines give attention to romance and school relationships, many have raised alarm bells in parents. Numerous parents have voiced concerns on Good Sense Media, a prominent way to obtain entertainment recommendations for families.

What your kids engages with internet – Episode features numerous storylines about sexual discrimination, underage sex and pregnancy. Most of these glorify adultery and therefore are potentially promoting reckless decision making, pettiness and unkind acts. On inspection, there are many problems with the app.

First, storylines can be written by anyone, even those aged 13-17. And while there are other than 12 million creators, there is little content regulation, even if the Episode community expresses concern.

One story regarding sexual consent raised uproar with users, who had been concerned at the poor moral message of any young female character being “blind drunk” rather than consenting to some sexual liaison with an older male character.

Yet, the story had not been removed, and also the author did little to handle the backlash.

Another concerning part of the game is the fact in lots of situations, users need to pay money to create morally correct decisions, yet reckless choices are free. This reinforces inappropriate reactions to events. This is where players can unwittingly spend huge levels of money.

Continue reading: The app trap: how children spend thousands online

Have you thought 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 game is rated 12 and on Google Play it’s rated “Mature”.

Having said that, 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 really is hardly surprising. At this stage of development, peer relationships rrqyha highly rewarding. Many players are exposed to apps like Episode by siblings or friends, and they are enticed from the excitement they provide.

Research shows several areas of your brain make adolescents more sensitive to the rewards of peer relationships than adults. This motivates teens to pay attention to their peers in decision-making situations which involve risky behaviour.

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