There’s an app for everything, literally. Just like adults, kids use apps on their phones for a variety of reasons. They use them to connect with friends and family, complete schoolwork, and even learn new languages. While most apps are helpful and harmless, it is important for parents to be aware of which apps are on their children’s phones and how their children are using them.
Know the Basics
According to Statista, 70% of US children were use smartphones in some capacity, logging between 3 and 6 hours of screen time per day. CNN reports that a growing number of children under 10 are using social media apps, with about half of children between 10 and 12 using them. Given such widespread usage, monitoring children’s app usage has become a top parenting priority. While we know that we should monitor our children’s smartphone usage, it can be difficult to know where to start.
App Usage Problems
First, we need to know the possible dangers and pitfalls of our kids’ app usage. The main concerns boil down to privacy, content, and safety.
The Washington Post detailed the scale at which children’s apps are spying on them. They found that, “More than two-thirds of the 1,000 most popular iPhone apps likely to be used by children collect and send their personal information out to the advertising industry, according to a major new study shared with me by fraud and compliance software company Pixalate. On Android, 79 percent of popular kids apps do the same.”
Rebecca Heilweil’s piece in Vox describes the content rabbit hole kids can easily fall into while watching YouTube kids. This can happen with any apps that have autoplay or “For You” pages such as TikTok. Algorithms can lead children to dark or inappropriate content as well without a child’s intention to do so.Of course parents also need to be concerned about a child’s safety while using apps. Safewise.com discusses the dangers that kids can face while using an array of popular apps. They compiled a list of “dangerous” apps that parents should look out for, but also reason that some apps mentioned could be useful or safe, as long as children use them in an appropriate manner.
Know the Positives
Everything in moderation can be applied to most everything in life and apps are no exception. Our children will be using technology for the rest of their lives, so it’s important for them to learn not just how to use them, but how to do so safely and responsibly.
Commonsense Media categorizes recommended apps for children of all ages. Parents can search by age group or purpose and find safe and helpful apps children will enjoy. Their website also offers advice for parents as they navigate the ever-changing world of technology.
The most important action that parents can take to ensure safe and healthy smartphone usage is to be present and aware. The New York Times’ Smarter Living author Melanie Pinola offers 3 basic tips:
- Aim for Balance: Monitor tech use in both quality and quantity while looking for signs of unhealthy usage.
- Be a Role Model: Use media the way you want your children to
- Make Tech a Family Affair: Set rules as a family and be involved with your child’s experiences.
Of course, we can also use technology to help us manage and monitor! Check out Wirecutter’s review of parental control apps to help keep your child safe.