Using family settings for apps

2016-01-07 06:00

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MOBILE apps have become a central feature of modern life. Mothers and fathers welcome this change because apps offer many opportunities to enrich the lives of their children in all sorts of ways.

However, for all the upsides, there are plenty of downsides and this is where some parents can fall short. Fully understanding the safety implications of apps, maintaining visibility of what your children are getting up to online and even understanding digital life can be challenging.

Here are some of the key things parents should look out for when assessing the suitability of apps for their children on two of the most popular app sites in the world — Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store.

Make devices safe and secure

Whether it is your own device or one that belongs to your child, it is important to have security measures set up from the outset so you have some control over what your youngsters can access (whether you are present or not).

Set passwords, restrict access to certain websites and have a discussion about what you believe is acceptable and unacceptable when it comes to using mobile devices, browsing the Internet and interacting with apps.

Consider investing in an app yourself, which will help to keep your mind at ease when your children are out and about. Parental-control apps, for example, are growing in popularity because they offer a high-level of security that can be modified by mums and dads depending on the age of their children.

Some of the more sophisticated versions also come with inbuilt “app review” technology, whereby age-inappropriate apps are automatically blocked, advice on app suitability based on age groups is given and time limits are set on certain apps.

Google’s Play Store

Google has invested a lot of time and money in making its app store more family-friendly. Some of the features that the tech giant has developed include a so-called “family” filter, which allows parents to identify child-friendly apps across multiple categories straight away; and “family star” that immediately highlights what is suitable for youngsters.

Additionally, to prevent children unintentionally racking up huge bills when accessing certain apps, Google has made it mandatory for developers to highlight whether in-app purchases are included.

As a further level of security, for apps that have been labelled for ages zero to 12, a user has to input a password to make an in-app purchase.

Apple’s App Store

As with Google, Apple has made its App Store more family-friendly, with one notable example being an overhaul of its kids’ category. Not only is this geared specifically towards children under 12, it also comes with certain “parental” assurances too.

All apps found under this section have to adhere to requirements set out by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. This includes limiting the user journey “out of the app” - to another website - with “parental gates” and requiring apps to get parental consent when it comes to accessing personal information.

Other measures that Apple has introduced in more recent years include the ability to disable in-app purchases from the outset and labelling each app on the store that has in-app purchase functionality.

Each app also has an age rating, allowing parents to glance quickly at its suitability. As a case in point, Snapchat is designated as being appropriate for children 12 and above for the following reasons - infrequent, mild sexual content and nudity, infrequent, mild profanity or crude humour, and infrequent, mild alcohol, tobacco, or drug use or references.

The start to a safer, more secure world of apps

Whether you are an Android or iOS user, taking into consideration some of the points outlined above will ensure that when it comes to apps and child safety, you can be confident that you have covered many bases. After all, you appreciate the value that apps bring and want your youngsters to have access to them.

However, you still need that assurance that you have no qualms about leaving your children alone with a device.

- Memeburn.

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