Keeping your children safe online is a key priority for every parent across the country.

According to Anushka Bandara, co founder and chief executive officer of Elegant Media, Australia’s leading App development and software company, every parent needs to know the dangers of allowing kids to play with Apps and use strategies to minimise the risk.

With children growing up in front of tablets and screens, the dangers of allowing your kids to play with Apps has never been greater.

“Apps can be a breeding ground for paedophiles, abuse and other dangers. Kids can even innocently give away information about where they live and who is at home at certain times of the day.”

Anushka Bandara, CEO of Elegant Media

Just because you downloaded the Apps from the App Store or Google Play doesn’t mean they are safe. These platforms publish thousands of new Apps every day and they put developers through hoops as part of the approval process, but they don’t control who uses the Apps or the inherent risks to kids. Ultimately this comes down to the user and in the case of kids, parents and guardians.

The dangers of Apps

The dangers associated with allowing your children to play with Apps are unparalleled in today’s society and we need to consider the following:

  • Minimum age requirement: While Google Play and the App Store do require every App to set a minimum age requirement, there is no real way to validate the age of someone downloading an App. Due to this your children can easily accidentally, or intentionally, find themselves on platforms that are inappropriate for their age.
  • Privacy settings: By default most Apps set all accounts on their platforms to public. This means your child can be contacted by anyone on the platform, and children can unintentionally share sensitive information such as your address or the name of the school they attend.
  • Inappropriate content: Video streaming Apps often do not monitor or restrict the content shared on their platform. As a result, inappropriate content, such as nudity and swearing, can be sliced between all-ages and children’s content.
  • Paedophilia and grooming: On private message or live-streaming platforms, your vulnerable children can be specifically targeted by, or randomly paired with, an adult with poor intentions. Multiple Apps have been connected to tragic and disgusting misuse of certain platforms by paedophiles.
  • Cyber bulling: Apps can be the cruel dwelling for devastating online bullying. Some Apps even contain anonymous platforms for cruel comments to posted without any ‘face-to-face’ consequences.
  • Addiction: Apps are designed specifically to encourage users to spend significant periods of time on their platforms. Without realising, many children can find themselves addicted to Apps with out-of-control sedentary screen time deteriorating their mental and physical health.
  • In-App Purchases: Too many parents have found themselves forking out hundreds to thousands of dollars after their children have used their credit cards to make In-App purchases. In many cases, children do not know they are spending real money within game-style Apps.

What parents need to do

  • Set up age limits on your child’s device: Due to the App Store and Google Play’s age restriction protocol being incredibly weak, take control through device settings. Whether your child has a phone, tablet or other electronic devise, most should have age limits in their settings. Restricting your child’s access to Apps beyond the age rating is an easy first step.
  • Set up some general rules with your children: As opposed to hovering over your child’s device or downloading every App they use, sit down together and develop a list of general rules to keep them safe when playing with Apps.
  • Create trust: It is important that you tell your children to let you know if someone is hurting them or making them feel uncomfortable on an App. By creating a calm two-way stream of conversation, children will feel safe and be more likely to come to you if anything goes wrong.
  • Check before downloading anything: An easy rule to introduce with your children is that they must ask for permission before downloading any App (even free ones!). Also, advise your children not to share their password with anyone outside of your home.
  • Educating your children: Educating is far more effective than reacting. Educating your children is a long term preventative strategy to protect them if they’re being victimised on an App. Knowing there will always be more bad Apps for children is the first step – so don’t waste time waiting for the next to pop up.
  • Get on an App: It is very difficult to monitor your child’s behaviour on Apps if you do not know how they work. Participating in a range of social networking, gaming and private messaging platforms will give you a glimpse for how inappropriate people or behaviours could arise, and what to look out for.