By Patti Poss, Mobile Technology Unit, Division of Financial Practices, Federal Trade Commission
Do your kids or grandkids use apps on your phone, tablet or e-reader? Of course they do. Many apps are fun, educational and engaging. But before you hand over your mobile device to a youngster, here are six things to know and do:
- Try out the apps your kid wants to use so you’re comfortable with the content and the features.
- Use the device and app settings to restrict a kid’s ability to download apps, make purchases within an app or access additional material.
- Consider turning off your wi-fi and carrier connections using “airplane mode” to disable any interactive features, prevent inadvertent taps and block access to material that you think is inappropriate or just don’t want.
- Look for statements about whether the app or anything within the app collects kids’ personal information — and whether they limit sharing, using or retaining the information. If you can’t find those assurances, choose another app.
- Check on whether the app connects to social media, gaming platforms or other services that enable sharing photos, video or personal information, or chatting with other players. Then determine whether you can block or limit those connections.
- Talk to your kids about the restrictions you set for downloading, purchasing and using apps; tell them what information you’re comfortable sharing through mobile devices, and why.
Want to know more? The FTC has released a new report on mobile apps for kids. Following up on a previous report, the survey found, among other things, that many apps included interactive features, or sent information from the mobile device to ad networks, analytics companies, or other third parties, without disclosing the practices to parents.