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Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard of the whole Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal. If not, this article on CNBC spells it all out for you (take a look – it’s kind of crazy).
The thing is, most Facebook users are adults. We know that anytime we hop on our social media accounts, there’s a good chance that our personal information isn’t totally personal. When there are literally billions of social media users around the globe on any given day, it’s virtually impossible to keep everything private.
But we also trust these companies to keep stuff private that they should keep private. No one needs to know our mailing address, date of birth, email address, or any identifying information unless we give the companies the right to share that information. What Facebook did was kind of a huge slap in the face to us all.
Which makes you wonder: if companies are doing this to adults, isn’t it even easier for them to do it to unsuspecting children? Those online games and apps your kids like to play – are they safe? A study conducted by researchers at the International Computer Science Institute suggests that there may be more issues with security than you think.
The study found that somewhere around 60% of its free apps for kids may be in violation of laws designed to protect the privacy of kids 13 and younger.
Scary Stats About Your Child’s Privacy
If you aren’t yet worried about that new app collecting information about your child, then maybe these numbers from the study will change your mind:
- 39% of studied apps in the Google Play store seemed to violate Google’s own TOS about sharing personal identifying information.
- About 57% of the included apps may potentially be violating the COPPA.
- 5% of the apps in the study collected user data with no parental consent necessary.
- 40% of the apps in the study shared this information over the web without proper security measures in place.
- Almost 5% of studied apps share contact or location information without consent.
I know it’s not an easy task for parents to keep their kids safe online. I struggle with this myself. Aside from setting parental controls and watching over their shoulders as they browse the internet (which I do with my kids), we don’t have much control. Parents should be able to rely on app and game developers to keep kids safe as much as we do. Instead, they’re doing the very thing we’re trying to shield them from online.
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An Expert Weighs In
According to Dan Riddell, the Chief Technology Officer of Kidoodle.TV, an ad-free video app that ensures safe media viewing practices for kids, “apps do not [always] have to go through a review process. There are laws such as COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) which are in place to help safeguard children but in most cases, app distribution platforms do not enforce these requirements.”
Kidoodle.TV is COPPA compliant and only collects data directly related to providing engaging and safe content to kids. The techies behind the app would know what its most popular content is. But they’d have no idea what kids are watching it. The apps we need to concern ourselves with are the ones that find out where your child lives or who his Facebook friends are without ever asking permission.
Keeping Kids Safe Online
One of the most important things we can do as parents to keep our kids protected is have a consistent presence in their internet lives. “Parents should always review an app their children are using. Kidoodle.TV uses a feature called ‘The Parent’s Room’ which enables parents to see exactly what content their children have watched, block content that is age-inappropriate and monitor the amount of time their children spend in-app,” says Riddell.
Kidoodle.TV is one app that at least makes our job easier when it comes to monitoring our children’s privacy. “[Kidoodle.TV] is an environment where children are incapable of navigating to unsavory content and one where advertisers can be sure that their audience isn’t being profiled. Parents have the ability to block any title in the Kidoodle.TV platform either by age group or by individual title. Kidoodle.TV offers full analytics for parents revealing what content their children engage. We also offer the ability to block ads to children for a nominal subscription fee.”
We also need to remember that we set the example. Be careful about what sites you visit and what you share online. If you have rules about internet usage for your kids, those rules should apply to you too. Make it a family effort so everyone understands the importance of using the web responsibly.
If you’re looking for a kid-friendly, fun, safe app, check out Kidoodle.TV. My 6-year-old loves it, especially the PetTube channel with its funny pet antics. The best part is that I can make dinner while he watches and I don’t have to worry about anything sketchy going on. I also love ABCMouse.com, which offers COPPA-compliant educational activities for little ones.
What do you worry about the most when it comes to your child’s internet usage? How do you make sure your children are safe online? Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram and keep the conversation rolling!
Amy is a mom of two, freelance writer, and blog manager who works with family-focused businesses to improve their content strategies. You can find her published work on Reader’s Digest Online, MSN, Niche, Frugal For Less, and other lifestyle publications.