In today’s society, we have an app for our emails, an app for cooking recipes, an app to find restaurants, an app to take pictures, and much more. Children, and even young children, are increasingly using apps on their tablets, smartphones, and other digital devices.
So what does this mean for you as a parent?
First, you must understand how to safeguard your child’s personal information. Many apps, including ones specifically targeting children, often require the user to have some type of account. The FTC recently released a new infographic explaining what kid’s apps might not be telling you.
1. Apps might collect and share personal info
2. Apps might let your kids spend real money –even if the app is free
3. Apps might include ads
4. Apps might link to social media
To make sure the app is age appropriate, the FTC recommends that you:
• Download and play the app with your children
• Talk to you kids about your rules for using apps
• Turn off Wi-Fi and data services to prevent unwanted downloading
• Search for outside reviewers of the app from sources that you respect
Mobile apps aren’t necessarily good or bad. Depending on how they are used they can be great productivity tools, or simple time distracters. Parents should always be involved with what their children are doing, and mobile usage is no different. Because various apps offer a spectrum of good and bad content, you need to actively establish guidelines for your family.
iKeepSafe has an acronym, BEaPRO™, which helps all parents teach their children how they can become responsible, ethical digital citizens that have healthy online relations. Each of the six BEaPRO™ pillars, Balance, Ethics, Privacy, Reputation, Relationships and Online Security, can help guide your decisions regarding what is considered age appropriate.
The needs of each child are different, but as their parent, no one knows them better. Talk with your child frequently about appropriate behavior. We know from the public health model that youth respond best to messages that are both optimistic and come from someone that they trust.
Children also need to understand that whether it is on an application, or on the computer, they should always think before they act. Everything they do online contributes to their digital footprint. Even the pictures that “disappear” after ten seconds on the popular Snapchat app are actually permanent and can be retrieved. Be sure to encourage your children to use apps and the internet responsibly and to create positive reputations for themselves.
For more information and guidance about how to BEaPRO™ parent online go to iKeepSafe.org.
Ethan Parry is the Director of Public Relations for the Internet Keep Safe Coalition, an organization that gives parents, educators, and policymakers the information and tools that empower them to teach children the safe and healthy use of technology and the internet.