We’ve seen lots of inquiries lately from parents who want to know which apps are safe for their kids and which ones are to be avoided, or at the very least monitored. This is a great question, and we wish it were one that we could answer definitively. With thousands of apps being added to the Apple store and Google Play each and every day, it would be difficult if not impossible to track them all. Plus, many apps like Vine, for instance, are created for harmless entertainment purposes and then used to propagate smut.
There Are Ways to Spot a Bad App
Rather than attempt to block all potentially harmful apps in one fell swoop, we think the best method is to approach the issue on a case by case (or in this scenario, app-by-app) basis. Here are a few guidelines to follow:
Carefully Consider Pic and Video Sharing Apps
Decide if and how you want your child to share pictures or videos with others. Although there may be nothing wrong with your teenager sharing a picture of her new dog with her friends on Facebook, not all teens (or even tweens) use photo-sharing apps so innocently. If you do decide to let your kid post videos and images online, be sure that the proper privacy settings are in place to ensure that the content is seen by a select group of family and friends, not a bunch of strangers.
You’ll need to consider other features of the app as well. For instance, if the app in question allows photos and videos to disappear within minutes of the recipient viewing them (think Snapchat, for instance), then that may be a cause for concern. These apps make it tempting for teens to share images of themselves that they wouldn’t otherwise, giving them a false sense of privacy. After all, it’s been proven that Snapchats don’t really go away—they can be recovered.
Consider Your Family’s Values
All families are different, so what may be fine for one could be unsuitable for another. For instance, there are tons of kids’ apps that allow children to apply makeup to virtual models or participate in a digital fashion show. If you want your daughter to focus on inner qualities rather than superficial ones, then these may not be the best apps for you. Of course, there are some apps that cross all moral boundaries such as It Girl, the app that lets users buy friends and seek out sugar daddies all in a quest to be “the hottest girl in town.”
Experiment With the App Yourself
All parents want to trust their children’s decisions, especially when they get to be teenagers, but it’s a mistake to think that even older kids are equipped to make wise decisions all of the time. That’s why it’s important to let your child know that you want to take a look at the apps he’s interested in. Sit down together and explore the apps’ features. Talk about how the app can be used safely and point out any potential pitfalls. In some cases, you may have to just say no to an app. If that’s the case, explain to your child you do trust her, but that you need to keep her safe from others who may want to do her harm.
Use Parental Monitoring Software
Even after you’ve given your child the go-ahead to download an app, that doesn’t mean your job is over. Apps routinely offer new features, so it’s important to keep an eye out for these updates. Parental monitoring software like Qustodio allows you to see which apps your kids are using, how long they’re using them, and exactly how they’re interacting with other users.
Don’t let one bad app spoil your kids’ innocence or safety. Be discerning about which apps they have access to, and monitor their usage regularly.