Technology abounds in virtually every aspect of our day to day lives. Advertisements for the latest and greatest kids apps are predominant on television, in kid magazines and within online gaming websites. Marketing firms know exactly how to entice kids into clicking and downloading the latest and greatest app on mobile devices, be it a tablet or smart phone. 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 child wants to use so you’re comfortable with the content and the features.
- Use the device and app settings to restrict a child’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. Most often the information is included on the download screen under a terms or disclaimer section.
- 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. Safety is key. Kids are prime targets for online predators and the less you allow to be shared, the safer your child will be.
- 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. It's one thing to tell a child 'don't chat with strangers in virtual worlds,' but when you back that up with something like, 'not everyone is who they say they are online' will give your child some food for thought, granted they are old enough to grasp the concept.
There are thousands of apps on the market and many are great educational tools. Like anything else in this day and age, use precautions from the start and it will be a positive habit your child will grasp as they get older.