President Obama recently called on Congress to take steps to protect the privacy of elementary and secondary school students. He also announced that 75 companies, including Microsoft and Apple, have signed a pledge to use data collected from students only for educational purposes and to avoid using data collected to target advertising to those students.
President Obama said, "Michelle and I are like parents everywhere -- we want to make
sure our children are being safe and smart online." A recent survey of parents from Moms With Apps confirmed just that. When searching for apps for their kids, 90 percent of parents look for those that protect their child's privacy, and 86 percent of those parents worry about apps collecting their child's personal information.
As Congress considers legislation, they must not forget the economic boom coming from innovation in the educational technology space. We've already seen billions of dollars invested in classroom and at-home educational and development technology -- and that will only continue.
Innovators and investors are not the only ones seeing the benefits of educational technology. Parents, too, see the benefit with over 96 percent of parents surveyed believing apps are beneficial to their child's education and development.
And, it's not just parents who are on board -- educators agree. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center found that teachers who regularly use digital games in the classroom report improvements in their students' core and supplemental skills. However, as we've seen in recent years, the pace of lawmakers does not keep pace with that of innovators. While legislation is likely to be considered, passage is not guaranteed and even then not likely to go into effect for many months.
What can parents and educators do right now to find beneficial technology that also protects a child's personal information?
Of the parents Moms With Apps surveyed, 49 percent report that the process of deciphering app privacy settings that may or may not disclose this type of data collection is "moderately" to "very hard." Taking steps to safeguard your child's privacy shouldn't be difficult. Here are some tips to get you started:
2. Never allow your children to lie about their age when an app requires the user to be 13 or up. There's a reason for the age gate; it gives parents more control of their child's data.
3. If the app costs nothing, determine exactly why it is free. Many free apps will use advertising to help support the cost of the development of the app. If you are not comfortable with your child seeing ads while playing a game, think twice about whether that free app is really "free."
4. Get cozy with the settings on your phone and your child's device. You can turn off Internet access, app store access, in-app purchasing, and other popular features before your child uses the device.
5. Teach your children about privacy -- make it a family conversation. Kids should always think twice before entering their name, date of birth, email address, and other personal information.
6. Find a trusted source to help you discover great apps for your kids. Moms With Apps provides information about app features like data collection, in-app purchases, and connection to social networking and makes searching for apps for kids quick and easy.
Privacy is important but so is helping kids develop new skills, learn about the world, and have fun. When it comes to apps, a little knowledge can go a long way for both parents and for kids.