Smart Parents Ask These 5 Questions Before Adding Another App To Their Kid’s Phone: Tech Expert

I’m often surprised at how little time and thought parents spend deciding which apps their kids can download to their phones or tablets.

As a tech education researcher, one of the biggest mistakes I see parents making is letting their kids install an app just because “all the other kids are doing it.”

The selection of applications is not a popularity contest. Every child’s needs and interests are different, and an app that makes sense to one child may not necessarily make sense – or be healthy – to another.

Here’s what smart parents ask before downloading another app on their kids’ devices:

1. Who does the app connect my child with?

If the app allows your child to communicate with other users, beyond playing against each other, think about who those people are. Do your kids already know them in person or are they anonymous users? Does the communication take place in a group or one-to-one?

Apps that enable interactions with others can be a great way to encourage kids to stay in touch with family and friends. But apps that allow conversations with complete strangers can open the door to harassment.

Always check the settings and descriptions to make sure kids can easily report abuse. Roblox, for example, provides several ways to monitor account activity.

If you decide an app is safe, set terms with your child and discuss what is considered inappropriate to share, such as personal information, photos and videos you don’t want the public to see, or comments. hurtful.

2. How does the app make money?

Very few apps are really free, even if they are advertised this way. It’s okay to pay for great apps, but parents should understand how they’re supposed to pay before they download.

Some apps have one-time fees or monthly subscription plans. But watch out for apps that require additional in-app purchases to unlock basic functionality. Apps that constantly ask for more money may not be suitable for young children who cannot recognize this type of upselling.

The most problematic profit strategy comes from apps that make money by bombarding children with ads that may not be appropriate.

To prevent your child from spending, most phones allow you to change settings to require a password for purchases.

3. What does the app teach my child?

Identify how the app keeps your child engaged. Does it provide high quality content or does it use cheap tricks that can lead to unhealthy habits? Some apps, for example, include systems where points or progress are reset if a child doesn’t use the app every day.

Keep in mind that not all gaming apps are bad. Pokémon Go requires basic math and introduces players to nearby landmarks. Minecraft can teach children the basics of programming skills, teamwork, problem solving and provides an environment that fosters original thinking. For children from 6 to 10 years old, Occupied water encourages critical thinking to use wheels, blocks and paddles to help Archie the Fish find his way around his aquarium.

On the flip side, purely luck-based apps (think: the digital equivalent of a kids’ slot machine) aren’t always the best choice.

4. Is my child’s information protected?

Many apps ask for a child’s name or age to personalize it or to verify that the user is old enough. But beware of apps that ask for too much information, like their address or geolocation.

There is little risk in providing anonymous data, as it is generally used to help developers improve the functionality of the application. But information collected to target advertising to children may be of more concern, as it can manipulate the ads to be more effective.

The Apple App Store now includes detailed privacy information that helps you understand the data collection practices of each app. Google announced that its Play Store will follow in 2022. In the meantime, I recommend that you check out PrivacyGrade.org, which analyzes the privacy settings of over a million apps for Android mobile devices.

5. Does the app match my child’s abilities?

The first four questions lead to this last and most important: From what I know about my child, does the app seem like a good fit?

Consider your child’s age, maturity level, and ability to self-regulate. The app should also align with their unique interests and disposition. Previous experience with similar apps can also be a good indicator of potential success with a new app.

My daughter has shown that she can use social media responsibly, while my son has yet to demonstrate this level of maturity. On the other hand, my son loves making music and is very interested in using apps that support this activity, although my daughter would not find them at all interesting.

It’s also healthy to occasionally suggest new apps to help our kids explore other digital topics and activities that they might not find on their own.

Richard culatta is the author of “Digital for Good: raising children to thrive in an online world ” and the CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), a non-profit organization serving education leaders in 127 countries. Prior to STE, Richard was appointed by former President Barack Obama to lead the Office of Educational Technology at the US Department of Education. Follow him on twitter @RCulatta.

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