As smartphone ownership surges, we’re seeing a drastic rise in the usage of mobile apps, many of which are marketed towards impressionable young viewers. One such application is Episode – Choose Your Story, a free game with 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.
Based on 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 a lot more games geared towards these age groups, which many stick to a “choose your story” format.
The stories are split into episodes and the user, or “reader”, can interact with storylines as well as create their particular. Readers can decide on a list of responses to influence things such as a character’s appearance, dialogue and reaction to events.
While most storylines give attention to romance and high school relationships, many have raised alarm bells in parents. Numerous parents have voiced concerns on Common Sense Media, a respected source of entertainment recommendations for families.
What your son or daughter engages with internet – Episode features numerous storylines about sexual discrimination, underage sex and pregnancy. Many of these glorify adultery and therefore are potentially promoting reckless decision making, pettiness and unkind acts. On inspection, there are numerous difficulties with the app.
First, storylines could be written by anyone, even those aged 13-17. Even though there are many than 12 million creators, there is little content regulation, even when 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 history had not been removed, as well as the author did little to handle the backlash.
Another concerning aspect of the game is the fact that in lots of situations, users must pay money to create morally correct decisions, yet reckless choices are free. This reinforces inappropriate reactions to events. This is also where players can unwittingly spend huge quantities of money.
Find out more: The app trap: how children spend thousands online
What about parental guidance ratings?
In the Common Sense Media website, parents have given Episode a parental advisory rating of 14 , whereas kids have rated it suitable for ages 13 .
Around the Apple App Store, the video game is rated 12 and also on Google Play it’s rated “Mature”.
Nevertheless, players of Episode are frequently impressionable older children and teens. A 12 rating offers little guidance to parents, and ratings overall don’t seem to deter children from playing.
This 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 are enticed by the excitement they feature.
Research shows several areas of the brain make adolescents more sensitive to the rewards of peer relationships than adults. This motivates teens to focus on their peers in decision-making situations which involve risky behaviour.