Checklist for parents: 6 things to pay attention to before downloading the kids’ app

Adults are likely aware of the dangers of the apps they collect and sell your databut the kids don’t. Raising a child in the digital age can be incredibly frustrating, and as a parent it’s up to you to keep your kids safe online. But protecting your child’s privacy may seem like an impossible task when you realize that kids’ apps also have unhealthy appetite for their data.

TheToyZone, UK toy review site, conducted a survey in january, they investigated popular kids’ apps and found which of them were the most privacy-invasive. The group’s research found that money management apps (such as Greenlight Kids & Teen Banking, Till, and RoosterMoney) are the most data hungry, collecting an average of 10 types of data per app. Greenlight turned out to be the most invasive application, collecting 22 types of data.

Despite the fact that they are intended for a younger audience, there are often applications for children collect sensitive data such as the location of the device, contact information, health information, browsing history, search history, financial information, and contacts. This data is extremely valuable to advertisers and, even if anonymized, can be used to create a detailed and specific profile of your child. This can be especially dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands, for example in the event of a breach. Country specific laws, such as Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act in the US, they may place restrictions on how companies can advertise themselves to children online, but with parental consent, a children’s app may collect user data for free.

It’s important to understand that not only your children’s data is at stake, but yours as well. That’s why it’s so important to know what apps your kids want to use before you download them and agree to any permissions or terms. Here are six things you should do before downloading the app for your child to protect everyone’s privacy.

Check what permissions the application is asking for

Apps love asking for permissions because they want to collect as much data as possible, especially if they rely heavily on ad revenue. Some permissions are necessary for the normal functioning of the application; For example, the Pokémon Go app will need access to location data in order to function properly. However, there is no reason why a gaming app like Snake vs. Block, an old school skill game in which you guide your snake through numbered blocks, needs to know your baby’s location.

To check what permissions an Android app is requesting, just search for the app in the Google Play Store and tap About this app and then Application permissions. Look out for potentially intrusive permissions like accessing your device’s camera, microphone, contacts, location, and browsing history. If any permissions seem too intrusive and unnecessary for the normal functioning of the app, you may find an alternative. However, if you download the app, you can always turn off any irrelevant permissions in the settings.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see app permissions in the Apple App Store before downloading any iOS apps, unless the developer mentions them in their privacy policy. After downloading the iOS app, you can check the permissions by tapping Settings and scrolling down to the app. From there, you can customize and disable app access on your child’s device.

Investigate the application and its developer

Here are five important questions to consider when searching for the app you want to download for your child:

1. What is the app’s rating on the App Store or Google Play Store?

2. What do user reviews say?

3. How many people have downloaded it?

4. Does the company behind the app have a history of suspicious data or known practices? data breaches?

5. Does the app have a history of delivering content that may not be suitable for children?

Most of this information can be found in the app’s description, but you can go a step further and run a Google search. Search for the app and developer along with terms such as “data breach”, “lawsuit”, or “privacy breach” and see what appears. Read in-depth reviews of kids’ apps from trusted online sources such as Common sense media.

Just a few minutes of research can give you a wealth of information on whether or not an app takes your children’s privacy seriously. If you come across anything red flags during your research, think twice before downloading an application.

Check the Apple Privacy Nutrition labels or the Google Play data security section

Apple began to add “nutrition labels“to app descriptions in the App Store with the 2020 release of iOS 14.3. The app’s nutritional label summarizes the types of data each app collects. Google has launched its own version of the function in April. The Google “Data Security” section shows what types of data the application collects, how it is used, whether the collection is optional, and whether it is shared with third parties.

If you see a kids’ app collecting and / or sharing data that you’re not comfortable with, you’d better look for another app.

Read the privacy policy and terms of use of the application

The App Terms of Use (ToS) details what you agree to when you download the app and your child uses it. The app’s privacy policy explains what steps the app and developer are taking to protect user privacy, including what information is collected, how it is secured, and with whom it is shared.

Of course, no parent has the time to sit down and read the Terms of Service or Privacy Policy when so many are ridiculously worded and of length like a short story. A simple trick to avoid having to read the whole thing is to look up key terms like “third party”, “sharing”, “gathering”, “data” and “location” in each document (Control + F in Windows, Command + F on MacOS.)

If the terms of service do not meet your expectations, do not download the application.

Find out what privacy settings and parental controls the app offers

Children’s apps tend to be solid privacy settings and parental controlbut if the app’s offerings are ineffective or do not provide an adequate level of privacy and control, please do not download it.

How you choose to evaluate privacy settings and parental controls will depend on your child’s age and whether the app is educational, gaming, or social. Overall, a few settings and controls to look for include the ability to:

  • Pre-approve friend requests
  • Specify who can contact your child through the app
  • Remotely track and restrict your child’s use of the app
  • Filter content to age appropriate levels

Talk to your child about the importance of online privacy

As soon as your child starts using connected devices and goes online, it’s time to talk to them about the importance of data privacy online. Have an open, honest conversation that will interact with your baby. Help them understand that online activities can have real consequences and that keeping private information private is critical. It can be like the digital equivalent of the old “never talk to strangers” conversation.

Regardless of how you choose to approach it, it’s important to make sure you and your child are on the same page when it comes to acceptable online behavior and be careful with what you share with others on the internet and on apps, with you interact with.

For more information, check out what you need to know about getting a debit card for your child or teen and Four reasons not to buy your child the Occulus Quest 2.

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