CLEVELAND, Ohio — Some parents are expressing concerns about a smartphone app that lets young girls immerse themselves into a virtual dating world.
“Oh my heavens,” exclaimed Dianna Amoline, from Brunswick, when FOX 8 News showed her the popular smartphone application, Top Girl. Girls as young as 12 years old are being sold a virtual life of shopping, socializing and sex.
According to the app, players start by dressing-up a character with clothing, shoes, even accessories, before doing modeling jobs, working and finding a boyfriend at a club. The game gets more complex as it progresses, but the online character can be denied access to virtual bars if she isn’t hot enough.
“That’s horrible, that is absolutely appalling to me,” said Amoline, who has an 11-year-old daughter. “First of all, people who create these games should be very ashamed of themselves! And second of all, I really hope parents don’t get these kinds of things for their kids. I mean, we’re introducing our kids to adult worlds way, way too young.”
Top Girl is sold in app stores, rated “12-plus” for alcohol, tobacco or drug use. Your character goes on dates at the movies or out to dinner with a virtual boyfriend. But it doesn’t stop when you’re offline. Text messages are automatically sent to kids. One stated, “only your lips can satisfy my sweet tooth, come give me a kiss.”
“I was shocked to see such explicit images and messaging, very adult like–really catered toward an older, more mature individual, not at all appropriate for a young girl,” said Dr. Margaret Stager, the Director of Adolescent Medicine at MetroHealth Medical Center. “That’s the exact opposite of what we’re trying to teach our girls, that their self-esteem is about who they are as people, not about as objects of desire.”
According to Dr. Stager, parents need to control access to the internet and be aware of what’s happening while their kids are online or texting.
Elisha Clark, from Garfield Heights, has four children. “I do let my son go online — my 10-year-old — to play games on Nickelodeon or something like that, but yes, I watch ‘em. I don’t play that online!”
FOX 8 News reached out several times to CrowdStar, the California-based company that makes Top Girl, but they did not to respond.
“If we don’t take a stand for our kids, these guys aren’t because they want to make money,” said Dianna Amoline.
This article was provided by reporter Mark Zinni with our news-gathering partner WJW in Cleveland, Ohio.