Apps are today’s equivalent to yesterday’s skates, cabbage patch dolls, transformers, NERF balls and video games. Every kid wants one and there are plenty to go around.
A recent article on CNN.com looked at the dilemma many parents face when their little one wants a popular app downloaded onto their phone. A couple’s 9-year-old daughter wanted the app, Musical.ly. Her classmates were using it and sharing content and she wanted to be able to join in on the fun. It basically enables you to share your own music videos to popular songs.
While dad, David G. Allan, didn’t say yes or no right away, he did tell her he would do some research and let her know his and his wife’s decision.
It’s a good thing he decided to check it out.
His online research provided commentary and articles about the app plus an opportunity to sign up and give it a try.
After downloading the app and examining the content, he and his wife chose to veto the request.
In a Facebook post, he laid out his 3 reasons why.
“I found sexual content in user profiles and videos, without trying very hard. There was easy, direct exposure to strangers. Adult strangers. And I found no way to filter out those first two items, even with privacy settings on. The privacy settings seemed to only reduce other risks.”
The app’s terms and conditions says signup requires users to be age 13 and older, but user age is self-reported and something parents can restrict only for app downloads at the device level.
When a website says that a child must be 13 years or older to use an app, that’s just a legal way to protect themselves; it is not necessarily because they want to protect your child.
A 1998 law titled the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act details the responsibilities of developers to protect online privacy and safety of kids under age 13. Website operators reduce their legal culpability by putting that age cutoff in their terms and conditions.
Over breakfast the next morning, Allan told his daughter that she would not be allowed to download the app and the reasons why. “I explained to her that an important part of my job as a parent is to do everything I can to keep her safe. And because she trusts that I've got her back in all things, my permission to use social media brings with it the assumption that it is a safe thing for her to do.”
Turns out that some of his daughter’s friends’ parents read his post and deleted the app from their child’s phone. It wasn’t long before his 9-year-old and her classmates were on to the next app. He checked that one out as well and allowed her to get it.
A good point made in the article is, “We will all have different ideas of what's appropriate, but it's the conversation and deliberation that's important. And the flipside of social media is that it gives us a great forum with which to engage in it.”
It’s not easy being a parent. There are times when you have to say no and stick to it, but giving the no a reason, puts it in context for a child. They may not like it, but at least they no why you’ve made that choice.
Apps are not going away and younger and younger children are finding them and sharing them. It’s imperative that parents not only know what apps their child is using, but that they do the research on these products. It’s one way to help keep your child a little safer when the digital world offers something that is simply not appropriate.
Story source: David G. Allan, http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/10/health/screen-decisions-go-ask-your-dad/index.html