It’s not unusual for today’s toddlers to be able to easily navigate an electronic device. It’s an intuitive part of their daily lives, despite some parents’ quest to shield them from it.
Most children born after 2002 use technology on a daily basis, and it’s important for parents to know how to protect their children online—specifically when using apps.
The FTC has published studies on privacy disclosures on children’s apps annually since 2012. The inaugural reports, “Mobile Apps for Kids: Current Privacy Disclosures are Disappointing” and “Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade,” uncovered that a staggering amount of apps share user information with third parties, unbeknownst to the children who are using those apps.
The key to keeping hold on what apps are putting your child’s security at risk is to investigate their privacy practices. Easy enough, right?
Well, not exactly.
In the most recent survey, 45 percent of the 364 apps tested turned out to have privacy practices available only after downloading. An additional 38 had privacy practices available in harder-to-find places, the FTC reports, such as through a link to a developer’s website.
The kind of privacy data in question includes children’s geolocation data, photos, videos, and audio recordings, as well as persistent identifiers such as cookies that can track a child’s activity online.
Seek out age-appropriate apps for children
Chris O’Shea, founder of Cowly Owl, a London-based children’s app company, says that his biggest advice to parents is to stick to apps that are made for their child’s appropriate age group.
Parents should also beware of free apps, especially those riddled with pop-up and other forms of advertising that can take children out of the app and onto a third-party site, putting them at risk.
“Not only could the advertising not be age appropriate, but the advertising networks that they use can often track your device across apps to build up a behavior pattern of what your interests are,” O’Shea says.
COPPA can help protect children’s information
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was established in January 2014 by the FTC to place parents in control over what information is collected from children online.
“The rule also applies to websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information directly from users of another website or online service directed to children,” the FTC states in its COPPA FAQs.