I don't usually post stuff about technology, or about my family, but I needed to get this off my chest and maybe forewarn a few parents. I'm not a huge fan of tablets. I have my Nokia Lumia Windows smartphone that I adore, and a slow but serviceable notepad computer. Right now we have an old and not altogether working main computer for the household, although that beats the totally dead one we've had since July. But back in August last year my eldest was approaching 11 and secondary school. We decided to get her a tablet to do her research and homework on, something she could use. After discussion we decided on the upcoming new release of the Google Nexus 7 over a Kindle Fire, simply because as an author who has done some self publishing I'm very aware of what an all-consuming monster Amazon is becoming. Buying a device totally tied to their store made me slightly twitchy (and yes, I have a basic Kindle. My works are mostly digital so I need an ereader. Hubs has a Kobo and I don't like that either).
From day one, I've hated the Nexus. I'm not very tech savvy. I can work my way round my computer and smartphone well enough, but my philosophy with tech is mostly to push buttons until something works. Not so easy with the tablet. To start with, you had to sign in with a Google account to even get started. Foolishly I used a secondary gmail account I'd set up to handle a blog hop last year. What I didn't know was once you'd signed in with that, you couldn't change it later. Even when I'd set up eldest with her own gmail account. Sigh. The constant pop ups from the Google Play store are a PITA. Doesn't bother eldest too much as she automatically hits close or skip, but I found it rather disturbing to see "Wanna chat with Hot Chicks?" popping up when I went on there, despite the content settings apparently on "suitable for all". O.o
We had odd problems with it freezing, not charging, or apps suddenly quitting. Since those last were free I figured you couldn't expect perfection. Then we had a weekend where it wouldn't charge at all unless I sat and held the charger cable in place. I was all set to return it...except it magically went back to working by Sunday evening.
But Tuesday morning I went on it to browse Facebook, before signing out to play a couple of quick rounds of Tetris Blitz. I'd played one game before the inevitable autoplay video popped up. And I was horrified. I recognized the opening. I'd seen it a few late nights on TV, and I'm talking about ones shown after 11pm. This was a graphic video about sexual assault and rape, and it was playing on my 11yo's tablet. Worse, it gave no option to skip, and even when I tried to close it, it wouldn't. The entire thing played out, about a woman being forced to have sex by her abusive partner.
Now, sexual assault is an important issue, but this is so NOT appropriate as an unavoidable autoplay on a device popular with even very young kids, and during a game that I'd let my 5yo play! This should not have been on there. And while you might say that I should have somehow had more control over this, I think it's wrong. My smartphone came with a content lock on it already. Why the hell doesn't this tablet?
I've already said I'm not tech savvy. They say there's no excuse for ignorance, and I damn well could have done more research. But how many other non-savvy parents might hand this over to their kids? Surely all these kind of things should come with a child lock on that is down to adults to remove for themselves, like I did with my smartphone? My kids are growing up where nearly everyone has a phone that can surf the 'net, where tablets and computers are everywhere. They are way more likely to spend time with technology.
You can bet I've done my research now. I've downloaded a parental control app, disabled downloads, and put locks on anything that might result in my child being exposed to that video again, or others like it. I've complained to Google. I will never recommend this device to anyone. And when it dies, I will never buy another. Yes, I might have been able to prevent that video getting on her tablet if I'd looked into it sooner. I'm not perfect. But I still think Google should send these out with content locks already installed.
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