Secret Dangers of Mobile Apps for Kids

iPad KidWhat you don't know about the mobile apps your kids are using might be putting them at risk, according to a new study from the Federal Trade Commission. Hundreds of mobile apps aren't being honest with parents about the types of personal information they're collecting about the kids using them, and that's not okay. They're also pushing advertising on kids, even in cases when they say they're not. 

"While we think most companies have the best intentions when it comes protecting kids' privacy, we haven't seen any progress when it comes to making sure parents have the information they need to make informed choices about apps for their kids," the FTC said. They studied 400 apps popular with kids on both Apple and Android devices. And what they found is shocking.

What do parents need to know?

  1. Some apps are secretly collecting data on your kids. More than half of the apps studied were transmitting information on your kids, like location, device IDs, and sometimes even phone numbers.
  2. Marketers collecting the information could be breaking the law. There were 223 apps that sent data to "one of 30 advertising networks, analytics companies, or other third parties." Websites cannot legally collect information on kids under 13 without parental consent.
  3. People are secretly advertising to your kids. Only 9 percent of apps said they contained advertising, but researchers found that 58 percent actually did.
  4. Some are even lying about advertising to your kids. There were 24 apps that said they didn't contain advertisements. Ten of them actually did.
  5. They could be linking to social networks. There were 22 apps for kids that contained links to social networks, but only 9 disclosed that information.

What can parents do? Until the FTC comes up with more strict guidelines for mobile app developers, parents have to stay on top of things. If you are worried about your kid's private data, and don't want them to be advertised to without your consent, it's important to know which apps they're using, and to test the apps out yourself so that you know how they work and what kind of data they could possibly be collecting. 

Do you let your kids use mobile apps?


Image via flickingerbrad/Flickr

Read More >