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Do You Understand the Risks of Apps on Your Child's Mobile Device?

Parental Controls on Smartphones and Mobile Devices

With increasing numbers of children under 13 years of age receiving iPods, computer tablets, and smart phones for their own use, it’s important for parents to understand the dangers of handing over an Internet-connected mobile device without first enabling the built-in parental controls.

If parents don't monitor their child's use of mobile devices, and limit usage though parental controls, there is a real risk of their child downloading and using an adult-rated app that encourages their child to connect with adults right around the world. Some apps enable children to upload videos and photos of themselves in vulnerable situations leaving them potentially vulnerable to cyber bullying or a predatory experience.

If your child is under 13 and does have access to a mobile device, you should consider having at least some basic parental controls enabled on their mobile device. If your child is over 13, to keep your child safe, you still need to know about the apps that your child is downloading and how safe or dangerous they can be.

With parental controls enabled you can prevent your child downloading apps without your permission. Your child can also be blocked from using apps you might not want them to use. Parents can also put timers on the use of a child’s device, so it cannot be used in the middle of the night.

What Apps are Children Using and How Dangerous are They?

Some of the apps I've highlighted below are already very popular with children under 13 and some are being used by children and young teens when they are really designed for adults; this is despite the age recommendations set on the apps’ stores.

A quick look through the public stream on some of these apps shows that far too many young children are using these apps sometimes against the terms of service set by each app.

Note: Some of the age ratings on apps seem quite confusing.  For example, the age rating for "Zoosk" an adult dating app, is set at 4+ (age 4 years and older) when it’s clearly aimed at adults.

Some mobile apps also have expensive "in app purchases"; these are made using a credit card or a gift card within the free app. By encouraging users to buy extra "in app" virtual product to "level up" or access other premium features of the app, the app of course is no longer “free” to your child. Disabling the setting for "in-app purchasing" on your child's mobile device will prevent your child running up a huge debt.

 Applications that are Mostly Safe for Children

Note: Anything that has a social sharing aspect to it, or an ability to meet with strangers online is not safe for young children.

Skype is safe for children to use if an adult supervises it. Parents should ensure the very simple privacy settings are correct, so that strangers cannot approach them. Privacy settings are available under the main Skype dropdown menu.

It is important to talk to your children about appropriate behaviour on Skype, including when and when not, to use the video feature.

Facetime and iMessage on Apple devices are also safe, but parents still need

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to supervise and educate their children on appropriate use.

Note: If you set the parental controls on your child's mobile device to something like Age 9+, an app like Zoosk which is clearly designed for adults will still appear on the app store and can be downloaded because it's rated for 4+ year olds and over. 

 

Apps To Watch Out For on Your Child’s Device

You Now 4+ Free  live video streaming app (Apple) (Android via browser)

What is it? A live video streaming app. Children as young as 7 are live-videoing themselves through this app, in order to win points and fans. They can get voted up (which means they stay on longer) or voted off ! 'Feedback' is given.

Dangers: Children are filming themselves and the inside of their homes. There are potential privacy issues, and bullying in live chat.  Most children are being viewed and followed by adults. There have been cases reported anecdotally of paedophiles watching the videos and encouraging children to do explicit things. (more on next page)