I’m not sure that I can answer the question in the title of this blog. My two year old might still be practicing his colors and shapes but he can spot an Angry Bird from a mile away and I’m pretty sure that my ten year old uses more apps than books on his e-book reader. Apps seem to be an easy way to keep your kids occupied while you’re out and about but based on a new FTC report, we may want to exercise a bit more care.
According to “Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade”, many mobile apps include interactive features such as connecting to social media or sending information from the mobile device to ad networks, analytics companies, or other third parties without disclosing these practices to parents. Some of the information shared may include things like device ID, geolocation and phone number. Interesting statistics from the report include:
- Fifty-eight percent of the apps reviewed contained advertising within the app, while only 15 percent disclosed the presence of advertising prior to download.
- Twenty-two percent of the apps contained links to social networking services, while only nine percent disclosed that fact.
- Seventeen percent of the apps reviewed allow kids to make purchases for virtual goods within the app, with prices ranging from 99 cents to $29.99. Although both stores provided certain indicators when an app contained in-app purchasing capabilities, these indicators were not always prominent and, even if noticed, could be difficult for many parents to understand.
Makes you think twice about handing that phone over to your kid while you’re in line at the supermarket doesn’t it? Go ahead and hand it over but before you do, follow these 6 tips from the FTC:
- Try out the apps your kid wants to use so you’re comfortable with the content and the features.
- Use the device and app settings to restrict a kid’s ability to download apps, make purchases within an app or access additional material.
- Consider turning off your wi-fi and carrier connections using “airplane mode” to disable any interactive features, prevent inadvertent taps and block access to material that you think is inappropriate or just don’t want.
- Look for statements about whether the app or anything within the app collects kids’ personal information — and whether they limit sharing, using or retaining the information. If you can’t find those assurances, choose another app.
- Check on whether the app connects to social media, gaming platforms or other services that enable sharing photos, video or personal information, or chatting with other players. Then determine whether you can block or limit those connections.
- Talk to your kids about the restrictions you set for downloading, purchasing and using apps; tell them what information you’re comfortable sharing through mobile devices, and why.