Written by Rifki Orzech
Google made the news following the swift removal of a rogue app, aimed at children, from the Play Store. The app called Blaze and the Monster Machines was pulled after alarmed parents alerted Google about the chilling voiceover. It started off friendly enough and then took a frightening turn: “You look afraid, is it this knife in my hands? Making you a little nervous? This knife is going to improve your look when it’s sticking right out of you.”
Google released a statement: “We have a set of policies designed to provide a great experience for users and developers and we act quickly to remove apps from Google Play that violate those policies.”
Two points complicate this situation:
- There is increasing pressure on platforms providing applications to ensure complete safety, or as much as they possibly can, for junior users. As of now, they are considered publishers and don’t take responsibility for what gets approved and posted to store. It is incumbent on the parent to check and have the right settings enabled.
- Blaze and the Monster Machines was an unofficial release and not connected to the Nicklelodeon show of the same name. The original Blaze focuses on science, technology, engineering and maths. Is it any wonder kids were allowed to download it?
While Apple and Microsoft do have features that only allow app installation after a parent’s approval, it’s merely a chance to glance at the age rating before giving a thumbs up or down. If the app had gone through rigorous checks or stricter algorithms at the point of distribution, then young children would not have been subjected to this sinister script.
As Point 2 above, brand names are familiar and give us a sense of security. If someone uses a similar name to one we already trust, it’s a no-brainer, we might glance at the recommended age but we’ll allow the child to go ahead and download it.
This is especially worrying as the next download could be one that shows just that bit more. And we know that a child who inadvertently views violence or pornography will find it very difficult to ignore what they have seen. The experience may be traumatic enough to seek counselling. While keeping children safe should be as simple as saying: keep away from anything inappropriate and “stranger danger,” when Trojan horses are knocking at our digital door and neither the parent nor the platform are prepared for pitfalls then we need another strategy. We must be equipped to do our homework.
Regular communication and future legislation are crucial, but we know things can get through. This is where you need organizations to help you vet what’s out there.
This matches our own mission statement nicely; Jewish Interactive continues to embrace advances to ensure quality Jewish education is available for all Jewish children wherever they are. This means creating and curating world-class quality materials to guarantee a standard aligned with Jewish educational values.
You want quality safe tech that’s educational. So do we.
Rifki Orzech is an olah, a mother of three and a content writer with five years’ experience. She is passionate about women learning Torah and has completed the Susi Bradfield Educational Leadership Programme for Jewish women at the London School of Jewish Studies.