EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) - Technology is everywhere these days whether it's at work, at home at at school, and parents agree it's making their job tougher raising kids based on family values.
The smartphone and tablet surge is a multi-billion dollar industry. While the high tech tools have their benefits helping kids and teens with homework and productivity, there are some problems that those little toys can bring to the table. Specifically, they really know their way around the App Store on most phones. Some parents admittedly have no idea how to work some of the phones or tablets on the market, and actually rely on their young ones for help. Yet, there are some things out there that NewsSource 16 uncovered that could raise a few eyebrows.
Take the game "Top Girl" for example. The goal of the game is to dress hot - hot enough for the best clothes and the best modeling gig - all to go to the bar, grab a hot guy and take him home. If the character isn't 'hot enough,' the player gets 'sent home.'
Parents we explained the game to were outraged hearing that a game with this intent is rated for kids 12 and up.
"That's disgusting I don't want my children around that," said Kimberly Berger from Eugene.
Berger has kids ages four, five and twelve and said her profession is watching over children during the day. She has seen first-hand the effects technology can have on kids, and for that reason she is not allowing her kids cell phones until they are older.
"It does affect children in a social aspect. Even at the age of 3 and 4 it causes them to become more aggressive," she said.
The game 'Top Girl' could be sending the wrong message to young girls, specifically that it takes looks to reel in a guy or that being a good person is based on superficiality rather than the values taught within one's family.
Licensed Professional Counselor Jamie Guyn agreed, telling NewsSource 16 reporter Angela Brauer about the difference in teaching women strong self esteem.
"No where in any of the organizations or the books about raising girls self confidence does it say that you should learn to be addicted to shopping, or partying or flirt with hot guys," she said.
Guyn, who works with families and parents, has made several presentations to parents across the Eugene school district about technology and the addictive nature it has on teens. She says more now than ever, parents need to be the ones in control.
"A hundred years ago parents had 100% over what their kids saw, heard and experienced. Since 1912, we've had less and less and less so we have to kind of fight against that and make sure we stand our ground," Guyn explained.
While there are parental controls on most smartphones, certain settings of parental controls don't limit kids from downloading games like Top Girl since it's rated for kids ages 12 and up. It's up to the parent to decide whether they're going to block in-app purchases, all app downloads, or just block those rated for older ages than their child.
The game Top Girl adds to frustration of some parents, provoking the child to play the game. When one isn't playing the app, it sends out naughty notifications.
"People who design these apps are trying to make money. And they understand very well they are addicting" Guyn explained. "It is adding to the addictive nature of it. Your child might be happily doing homework and they get an e-mail 'oh your girlfriend looks cuter than you do better come back' or something, that's like, a pusher."
Take another game we found, called Clear Vision, also into perspective. Rated for kids nine and up, the game's character (already dubbed 'Tyler') starts out as a store employee who becomes unhappy with his job, quits and turns into a violent gunman.
"I don't think that's appropriate at all," said Kristin Sayles from Klamath Falls.
Sayles, who has two boys ages 16 and 19, told NewsSource 16 her and her husband were weary about games they purchased at a young age. Since they've gotten older, they have allowed a bit more, but she says they continue to check the younger boy's phone.
While that same game has a more explicit version for ages 17 and up, the intent is still the same.
"It could promote violence and be - not good," said Kyle Rumrey.
Rumrey, who has a four year old son named Louis, actually gave up his own IPhone out of lack of discipline.
"To think that I can't be discipline enough to control myself with the IPhone its hard to imagine that kids can be as well," he explained. "If you're not discipline enough to know how to control yourself they can do a lot of damage."
"To me, that's the thing you want to give to a 21-year old not a 12-year old or even a 9-year old," said Berger, shaking her head.
Thousands of people have downloaded these apps, disapproving or not. Other questionable games including those that have gambling (slots are rated for kids four and up) and shooting games.
"And what about this game, Fatify," asked reporter Angela Brauer.
For those who aren't familiar, the game Fatify allows a smartphone user to take a picture of one's self or a friend and morph the face to appear fat. Similar to Apple's Photo Booth, this app allows the user to 'jiggle' the fat with a tap of the screen.
"I think it's just one more example of the message from our culture that thin is good and fat is bad and fat is bad for health wise but this is not about that. This is about making fun of people. I think the danger of Fatify is the danger of it being used to be mean," said Guyn.
Another game out there, recently released, is an app called the 'Ugly Meter,' similar to Fatify but instead measuring how ugly one is.
"Regardless of whether its 10 years old or four years old it is inappropriate and needs to be monitored by parents and i think some parents are failing in that situation.," said Berger.
Parents should know that there are in fact official ratings for apps released by Apple. The rating, however, is placed so far down at the bottom of the screen, it takes some effort to notice.
"When I look at stuff, I haven't paid attention to the ratings to even know they're there," admitted Sayles, a smartphone owner.
Apple spoke briefly about their ratings policy, unwilling to be recorded for a phone interview. They said that essentially anyone can make an app, as long as they are a member of a certain software piece, and the app they develop and program can hit the ground running if it looks or sounds popular.
The way it works is that a developer submits an app through Itunes Connect. It is there that they are asked a series of questions - surrounding things like language, sexual content and violence - that they have to measure how much of each is in the game. There are three options to choose from, including "None," "Infrequent-Mild," and "Frequent-Moderate."
Depending on how much of each is measured, it is possible for the app to be blocked from ITunes altogether. However, if it passes through, Apple's review team matches the measurements to the game to confirm and it is released.
However, tech gurus have complained often in the past that there are a lot of gray areas with the process.
For Android users, the ratings are based on maturity rather than an age. The software recently switched over to 'Google Play.' With this, Android users find the rating in the middle to bottom end of the screen ("low maturity, moderate, etc.).
While technology continues to become more complicated for some and more futuristic for others, parenting will need to keep up with the drastically changing times. It's for that reason that Guyn stresses balance in parenting.
"Figure out what your values are and what you want your children to be learning," she said. "Apps that are violent or teach values that are against our family values I think can be dangerous."
Guyn said parents should set up guidelines for how many hours kids and teens can be on, what they can view, do and when they can text message. She suggests clear guidelines and clear expectations are followed through with clear consequences if rules are not followed.
"They won't be happy about it. But that's part of being a parent," she said.
She said it means no matter how angry or annoyed teens become, knowing about these apps and actually playing them to understand them. In addition, remember that kids look to parents as role models and that giving up a smartphone or tablet as a distraction can be just as detrimental as buying that child their own device.
One parenting resource can be found here.