We all know that kids love apps. From a parent's perspective, apps can provide a much more interactive, and educational experience than TV. But with over one million apps in the stores, it can be difficult to find just the right app for your kids. And it's even more difficult to find apps you can trust.
With an increasing focus on online privacy and the sheer number of apps, parents are keen to avoid apps that do things that may take them by surprise like collecting personal information about their children or pop up advertising asking your child to join the latest dating site. But what can parents do, and who's watching out for our kids?
Since 2000, the first stop has been the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is charged with monitoring businesses that may be collecting personal information from children. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a law passed over a decade ago that was intended to give parents control over how their child's personally identifiable information is collected online. Just this week, the FTC found that two companies, Yelp and Tiny Co., were violating COPPA, collecting children's information without parents' permission. But in the 14 years since COPPA went into effect, only about two dozen companies have faced penalties from the FTC. With thousands of companies online, and over 1 million apps available, it's almost impossible for the FTC to find all of the violators.
Parents don't want to mistakenly download one of those apps that blatantly break the law. Parents want to protect their kids, but it can be stressful and time consuming to research apps to make sure they're safe. Just like nutrition labels help parents decide which snack is right for their kids, Moms With Apps provides parents with information -- in plain English -- to help them decide which app is right for their kids.
If you're a parent looking to download a new app for your child, here are some questions you may want to ask:
- Will the app work without an internet connection?
- Does the app collect information about kids?
- Does the app include advertising or in-app purchases?
Many developers, including all those we work with at Moms With Apps, are transparent about these things and many of the developers are parents themselves. In fact, many of them started making apps because they were frustrated with the lack of quality apps for their own children.
Only parents -- not legislators and not Moms With Apps -- can decide what apps are best for your kids and we know not every app is right for every child. Parents have enough worries about limiting screen time and wondering if apps are right for kids without considering privacy implications. But it's important that parents know what's inside their kids apps, both to make sure their privacy is protected and that the apps are of the highest quality.