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Group to rate apps for online safety

In an article published earlier this week, I wrote about how a lack of clear regulatory control has left the rapidly growing field of Web applications looking more the Wild West. Now, Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that focuses on children and media issues, wants to help parents navigate that rough-and-tumble world by offering ratings of Internet applications for devices including the iPhone.

The group's move comes amid a decision by Apple to remove 5,000 racy apps from its iTunes store after receiving complaints from parents and others. But not every company is self-policing its offerings the same way as Apple, making it harder for parents who want to keep their kids safe from inappropriate online content.

That's where Common Sense's new scorecard comes in. The group says it will start rating applications for the iPhone, iPod and the coming iPad in the same way it has evaluated the age-appropriateness of movies and video games for years. Eventually, those ratings will expand to cover Android apps for mobile phones as well as applications for Facebook.

But Common Sense says that its efforts at becoming a guide for the app-verse require help from regulators and companies.

“Apple is serious about it in a way other corporate guys are not,” said Common Sense founder Jim Steyer during a visit to The Post. “But they and everyone else think they can do it themselves, which is only part of the solution.”

Steyer said that Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission are working on guidelines and education to help schools and parents navigate the Web for their children.

On Thursday night, Common Sense honored FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski at an awards ceremony for leaders in childrens’ safety in media at the Kennedy Center. The other honorees included filmmaker George Lucas, Harvard professor Howard Gardner and Nichole Pinkard, founder of the Chicacgo-based Digital Youth Network.

By Cecilia Kang  |  February 26, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Apple , Kids Online  
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