Advertising shooters in children’s apps – how can this happen?

The promise sounds good and reassuring: on the special page of the App Store explains Apple, will be “professional curated”. For the “many great apps that appear week after week,” it’s a full-time job to keep track. So Apple has “a team of experts who give you unique insights.” The same is officially guaranteed by Google for the Google Play Store. But promises and reality can sometimes be significantly different.

The LEAD reader Marcel M. (name changed) also learned this: In the Apple Store, he downloaded the children’s app “Smart Bus Driving School Testing” from the developer Abdul Dahab Sheik for his 9-year-old son. First, free of charge, then a little later, the ad-free version via in-app purchase unlock. The app is marked as “from 4 years” in the App Store.

“Basically, I sit next to new games and take the iPad when advertising comes,” explains the father. In this case, that was more than appropriate: “The game featured ads that let 4-year-olds watch a head shoot in a shooter game. I’ve seen other wargame ads in game apps that do not bother 4-year-olds are but the headshot was the Oberhammer. “


Age wise smart bus driving
The app “Smart Bus Driving School Testing” is featured on the App Store “4 years upwards” (Photo: App Store)

Similar processes register parents again and again in apps. These are rare cases, but they happen. The obvious idea: contact the support and make the faux pas aware. Reader Marcel M. did just that.

Apple responded immediately, but hooked in the second part of the mail response also once: “Furthermore, I would like to ask you, because possibly the contact with the developer was sought and if you want to try this once, so we get an opinion? can contact the respective developer is explained here. ”

Also interesting: Smartphones, Social Media & Co: benefits and dangers for children

A path that is not a solution for many parents. Not even for Marcel M.: “Apple was not very helpful, I got the money back, but I did not want to give any information and how it basically works and who does not control it.”

So LEAD explains how the shooter image came into the children’s app.

How apps are checked after submission

Although there are now millions of apps in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, the two biggest players are taking their apps into the stores very seriously. No app gets into the App Store without it being checked. In addition, there is a review department in both groups with thousands of employees, the day-by-day and around-the-clock submitted apps examine.

Not only on age classification, but also on issues such as nudity or political propaganda. Only when the respective reviewer has dealt intensively with the app and has checked on the basis of a detailed catalog, the app store guidelines, all contents and the design specifications, the reviewer raises or lowers the thumb. If nothing is objected, the developer is then informed that he can unlock his app through the respective developer portal for the store. Or he will be asked to change the app as it does not conform to certain guidelines.

Kids Smartphone I Phone
Smartphone Addiction Increases Among Children and Adolescents (Photo:

Several years ago, such review processes could drag on for another two to three weeks. Meanwhile, both companies, Apple and Google, have expanded their potential so much that the review process often only takes 24 to 48 hours. The speed does not say anything about the detailed review process. Testing is even more intense than a few years ago.

LEAD has asked Apple and Google why children’s apps with violent scenes in advertising can still slip through. Apple did not want to comment on the explicit case. A Google spokesperson told LEAD: “The ads that appear in an app must be appropriate for the intended audience of the app, even if the content itself does not meet our guidelines.”

Both corporations have set guidelines for advertising ads: they are found here on Google, they can even be found in two areas at Apple: concerns children category and advertising policies in apps.

Intent of the developer or just a mistake?

The formulations of the two companies are similar. Google clearly states:

“Advertising in apps that participate in the Designed for Families program must not be misleading in content and may not be designed to mislead children into inadvertent clicks.”

A crucial passage that adheres to the legal requirements and in the end takes the developers into legal duty. Because Apple and Google is, even if that is not openly communicated, of course, that can not be permanently controlled app content. Especially not those who always show new advertising. From this point of view, in the case of the criticized app “Smart Bus Driving School Testing”, everything indicates that the developer is to blame for the shooter advertising.

The background: If a developer builds advertising into his app, whether in the children’s category or in another category, he loads these banner ads from an ad server, which is usually advertising offered by Google. There, the developer must set an age rating for the ads according to legal requirements.

It is unclear whether the developer of the “Smart Bus Driving School Testing” app intentionally or unintentionally set no age limit on the promotional clips, and if there is no intent, the developer may at any time return to the server that serves the ad and display ads on the website Based on the age rating of his app that Apple and Google have made order ads.

Where parents can file a complaint

Generally Applies to both Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store: An App may be removed from the Store at any time by Apple or Google due to the inappropriate display of policies in accordance with the Policy.

For this to happen, LEAD reader Markus M. chose the right path, namely to contact the support. At Apple, this is possible at The Google Play Store has descriptions of inappropriate content reporting here.

If a user report has been received with a corresponding complaint, the companies check the app. Insofar abuse would be punished. In the described app Apple has apparently intervened promptly. After the readership, LEAD has regularly opened and reviewed the app for several days. The shooter advertising is no longer appearing.

Smartphone in front of head
Smartphone in front of head: In children there is a danger of addiction (Photo:

More tips for child-friendly apps

Whether the developer was counted is not officially confirmed. However, in this case, intent could be assumed, because in the app advertising was sometimes displayed, although the advertisement had been deactivated by paid in-app purchase.

How can parents better recognize such supposed black sheep in the future? In addition to switching on the parental control (in each case in the settings of the operating systems iOS and Android), it often helps to question quite simply whether the name of the app does not already provide a suspicious hint. Let’s be honest: “Smart bus driving school testing” does not necessarily sound reputable.

Terrifying test results

Regardless of title of an app, parents can also get valuable tips for usable and age-appropriate children’s apps on reputable portals. A very good point of contact is here LOOK AT!– The Media Guide is an initiative of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, the TV stations Das Erste and ZDF and the TV program program TV Spielfilm. The site exists since 2003. It provides parents with valuable tips and recommendations on the areas of games, apps, smartphones, tablets, social media, media times and streaming.

This is even more important because the portal came to the frightening result in 2018 when testing 100 games apps for children:

“Almost all of the supposedly kid-friendly programs are problematic, with 99 out of 100 gaming apps being critical to their handling of child, data and consumer protection, and over 60 percent even showing such serious deficiencies as very risky in at least one test category to become.”

Also interesting: These are the best offers for kids on the net

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