The prospect of having their kids using mobile phones and tablets without adult supervision can be frightening for any parent. But in today’s world, the fact that we might not always be able to supervise our kids’ electronic device use is something we have to come to terms with. And besides, children deserve some privacy and sense of independence. Since it seems that mobile applications won’t be leaving our lives any time soon, restricting our kids from using them might be a tad unreasonable.
So what can you do as parents to ensure your children are safe while using apps? One option could be for you to reach a compromise with your kids about going on apps with inappropriate content, by redirecting them towards more suitable alternatives. In order to be able to do that however, you’ll first need to get to know your child a little better and learn which apps they interact with. Are you familiar with the apps your child uses? Let’s take a look at five questions you can ask yourself to test your knowledge and discuss the things you should watch out for when letting your kids use apps.
Is it an online application? Can your kids talk to strangers on its platforms?
While online communities and social media platforms aren’t inherently bad, they can pose a danger to young kids who are just starting to get acquainted with the world at large. Let’s put it this way: you would most probably not let your child go outside unaccompanied and without supervision, right? As parents, we’ve all cautioned our children to “not talk to strangers” at one time or another. Letting your kids use online applications that don’t employ filters and safety features is the virtual equivalent of leaving your child to talk to strangers unsupervised out in the world. Some game apps have online chat platforms that don’t have security measures in place for children under a certain age. It’s important that kids be kept away from potentially harmful apps such as these for their own protection. That means that it’s up to you as parents to restrict your kids from using potentially harmful apps.
Does the app contain inappropriate language?
Apps can be equally as damaging to children because of the nature of their content. Thankfully, apps and social media platforms are now required by law to have certain security measures and filters in place. As a result, most have features you can use to block out inappropriate language and material (images, videos etc.). It’s important to be just as diligent in keeping your kids shielded from unsuitable content as you would in say, using age-appropriate language and behavior around them.
What are its policies regarding accidental or unwanted purchases?
You lend the tablet or phone where your credit card information is stored to your child for them to play with and at the end of the month, you receive a credit card receipt as long as your arm with purchases you don’t remember making. This is every parent’s worst nightmare. In-app purchases are commonplace these days, which is why apps that are designed to be suitable for children take special precautions against accidental or unwanted purchases. For instance, Google Play Store has a family setting that asks users to complete identity verification before all payment transactions. This way, they ensure your child can’t do any major financial damage with their little fingers.
Does it contribute to your child’s cognitive development?
We’re not saying that everything your child uses needs to be educational. Children need time to just be children, play and have fun. But some games that don’t require a lot of thinking can negatively affect children’s attention spans and cognitive development, especially if they’re played for hours on end. That’s why it’s important to make sure that the games your child plays are educational as well as fun. Luckily, there are endless options to choose from these days! Educational apps that use gamification techniques, puzzles, and fun content to help children study for school, and strategy games that stimulate children’s creativity are both great alternatives you can consider.
Does it have a security certificate, or ranking based on age-appropriate content in place?
Children’s safety on virtual platforms is a right protected by law. Therefore, protecting them from inappropriate content is a duty that’s taken very seriously. For instance in the United States, the Children’s Online Privacy Act (COPPA) was passed in 1998 to regulate the online use of personal information and data belonging to children under the age of 13. In compliance with this act, apps need to have certain regulations, security certificates and ranking systems based on age-appropriate content in place.
- PEGI (Pan European Game Information): PEGI is a content evaluation system used in 35 European countries that rates games based on their age classification. Before putting a game app on the market, the production company fills out a questionnaire based on whether the game contains unsuitable material such as violence, sexuality, and bad language. The PEGI labels fall into different rankings. For example, the PEGI 3 label indicates that the content is suitable for children of all ages, whereas the PEGI 18 label indicates that the content involves violence, inappropriate language and acts of a sexual nature.
- Apple App Store: The Apple App Store rates all of its apps based on suitability for children of different age groups based on its own age classification system. Apps rated 4+ are suitable for all age groups. Those rated 9+ indicate the app may contain infrequent occurrences of violence, or horror-themed or sexually suggestive content. A rating of 12+ indicates the app contains more strongly impactful content that is not suitable for children below the age of 12. For more information, you can take a look at Apple’s Age Ratings page.
- Google Play Store: Google has many regulations in place with regards to family-friendly content. The content it offers is inspected and approved by autonomous establishments that are certified members of The Internal Age Rating Coalition (IARC). For more information, you can read the Parent Guide to Google Play, which details the different ranking systems and family-friendly security measures Google employs.
- kidSAFE Seal Program: The kidSAFE Seal is an independent establishment certificate that indicates that a virtual platform’s content complies with the Children’s Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA). Online platforms, internet sites and apps designed for children pass through an inspection and obtain the certificate if they meet the required criteria. The kidSAFE+ COPPA compliance certificate is a higher-ranking certificate. This certificate indicates that an app’s privacy policies and surveillance activities are in accordance with the law, that its agreement terms are transparent, and that the personal information of children stored on the app are accessible by parents.
An app that has all the criteria we listed may sound too good to be true, but trust us, it isn’t! At Cambly Kids, we prioritize your children’s safety and do everything we can to ensure that parents have peace of mind. Cambly Kids offers kids of all competency levels aged 4-15 the unique opportunity to have private online English lessons based on their areas of interest, with tutors who are experts in their fields and native speakers of the language. With Cambly Kids, you can put your child in the care of our trusted teachers and for once, not have to worry while they “talk with a stranger”.
We almost forgot to mention: Cambly Kids has a kidSAFE+ COPPA certificate. This means that you as parents have control of the lesson plan and can closely surveille your children’s learning process. Discover Cambly Kids now to help your child learn English on a safe and secure platform.