Before kids get immersed in the wonders of the digital world found on a new cell phone, tablet or gaming device, parents need to explore and determine the level of privacy these devices and their software can provide.
The FTC reports that many mobile apps made for kids under age 13, or made for a general audience but used by kids, collect their personal data and share it without parents’ knowledge or consent. That personal information can include things parents may not have thought of, such as location, pictures and videos.
The BBB urges parents to monitor their child’s use of mobile apps. The following tips are a great starting point.
• Test the app. Judge the appropriateness of the content and features.
• Check if the app connects to social media or other services that share photos, videos or personal information or that allow chatting with others. And if it does, check to see if you can block or limit those activities.
• Read disclosures and privacy statements to see how personal information will be collected, used and shared. If you are not given choices on how that information is used, consider deleting the app.
• Change the settings on the device and within the app to restrict downloads, purchases or access to additional material.
• Disable interactive features such as Wi-Fi and carrier connections to block access to material that you consider inappropriate.
• Communicate with your child about the importance of protecting personal information, both online and off.
Kids may only see the fun of interacting with friends on a mobile device. Armed with knowledge and with a bit of sleuthing, parents can determine which apps provide the level of safety and confidentiality that they consider appropriate.
If you believe your child’s personal information has been misused or shared without disclosure, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.ftc.gov. You can also contact your BBB at 509-455-4200.
By Erin T. Dodge, BBB Editor