Dangers of the App Stores for Children & Your Wallet

There are endless possibilities of fun for your child when you give them a smartphone or tablet. Google Play and the App Store have thousands (if not millions) of apps for learning, reading, playing, and surfing the internet. Kids can spend the entire day on their tablets – if you let them, but you should not.

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It used to be that most of the apps were free, or else very cheap. 99 cents for an app didn’t cause the end of the world when the credit card statement came in the mail. Today though, things are a bit different.

 

While many apps are still free to download and begin using, app developers and app stores have figured out other ways to make money off the apps. Here are a couple of ways they make money:

 

      • In App Purchases- While the initial download is free, only parts of the app work. To access other and more functional features of the app the user must make purchases. Specifically with childrens’ apps you’ll see this for downloading additional interactive ebooks, coloring pages, and game enhancements.

 

  • In App Ads- Those free apps that seem great are now being bombarded with ads. These ads pop up and bring the user to websites, other apps for purchase, or somewhere else on the internet. Some apps still have the ads on the bottom or top of the screen, but many have taken to the new pop up that is very invasive and difficult for children to navigate past (especially those that pop with no warning, during play for example).

Apps from App Store
These two options give developers some return on their investment of writing the apps. For the most part one should not mind the In App Purchases, as long as there is something to do with the app prior to making a purchase. We.re not against paying for an app, but one should only pay for something you are going to use, and usually there is no return policy for app buying.

 

We do see two problems with these options though. For instance with the In App Purchases, not every app makes parents input their password, and it is increasingly easy for kids to make purchases. Now that apps are no longer 99 cents, that credit card bill can go up very quickly.

 

The In App Ads on the other hand, we do have an issue. Many are difficult for kids to get past, which make them worthless for download. We feel like they should have some kind of warning saying “This app is annoying, just purchase it instead”. On top of that they often have inappropriate ads in simple apps like Chess, Sudoku and Solitaire sending younger children to sexy ads.

 

For the average user, these ads are fine but for a child they are not. I feel like there should be some kind of rating system for the apps to let you know ahead of time if they are safe for children to use.

 

Our Recommendation to Parents

Parents simply do not have the time to oversee every app their child uses at all times, especially in large homes. But they do have the opportunity, and the responsibility to talk to their children. We would advise parents to explain the ads and have their children let them know what problems they have with an app. If there is a problem, download an alternative.

 

Talking to your children about app downloads is important, too. We would suggest having them ask you about every purchase and not giving them the freedom to download even free apps without asking. This puts them in the habit of asking for all apps.

 

How About You? How have you dealt with app purchases, ads, pop ups and in app purchases? What suggestions do you have for other parents?

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Sexting- Mom & Dad It’s Your Responsibility

In a recent post on The Wallstreet Journal the author discussed sexting among teens. Specifically the article wrote about the increased incidents as many school children and most teenagers have their own phones, computers or tablets.

 

sexting can be a significant smart phone problem with teens

Sexting is a real issue among teens and according to the article, parents are the ones to blame- not the teens. It’s easy to overlook sexting as a parent, we tend to think our children are smart enough not to engage in this behavior because we would like to think we’ve raised them better.

 

The problem is we disregard peer pressure which has a very real hand in getting teens to do this. It’s often between a couple where one encourages the others saying parents won’t ever know. Come on, just do it, one says to the other.

 

Consequences of Sexting

But parents should know better, they need to know better, they need to have an idea of what is going on with their teenagers because this behavior can have real repercussions for their child’s future.

 

For instance, in a recent television special several young women came forward to discuss how their intimate pictures with previous partners were being shared on websites as pay back for break ups. These images are available publicly and anyone can access them, including potential employers.

 

There are laws that prevent underage images from being shown online, but there is always a risk because teen pics may look very similar to young adults.

 

Aside from website postings, sexting between two individuals can easily get out of hand by texts being forwarded to friends who send them on even further. Once a digital piece of information or a photo is released it can easily end up anywhere. Google or other search engines can then find these images and additional information that was shared then phone numbers and names are easily attached to the image.

 

Down the road potential employers will join the thousands of others who already search for a person’s name before hiring them. Your child certainly doesn’t want to show up as a result like this. It’s easy to see how quickly a simple text or photo message can get out of hand.

 

A Parent’s Responsibility- Not A Child’s

problems about teenage sexting needs to be discussed between parent and child

Parents have the ability to monitor their childrens’ and teens’ digital devices for this type of behavior. With software options like KidTrack a parent can keep track of the text messages and photos being sent from their teen’s phone. Additionally parent can get alerts when specified keywords are found on the phone.

 

Having access to monitoring software doesn’t take away all need for parental monitoring, parents will have to specify the potential keywords that may lead to sexting, not simply look for when it happens as that is when the real damage occurs.

 

The Talk

A good time to have a discussion with your kids about sexting is long before it would occur. For instance, long before they ever have a boyfriend or girlfriend you should discuss the consequences. A follow up chat should be had when dating begins. There is no reason not to bring it up when you hear a story or news episode that discusses it.

 

In addition to simply telling your children not to do it, you should help them figure out how to move the conversation past it. It’s more difficult for your child to tell their friend no than it is to not listen to you, so it’s important to give them a way out of the situation.

 

A few pointers on helping them change the conversation:

  • Having them tell their friends their parents monitor their phone (even if you don’t) and they will see every picture they send or receive (even on SnapChat). Tell them the phone sends screenshots.
  • Tell their friend you just asked to use their phone.
  • Tell their friend they had another friend that did that and ended up getting into a lot of trouble.

 

Summary

It is up to the parent to protect their child and make sure they are acting appropriately. Parents need to take the driver’s seat and cover all of their bases with the digital world. If you need help, ask questions below and we will do our best to give you some guidance.

 

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photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

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6 Ways to Restrict Children’s Cell Phone Usage

Does your child get too much screen time? Recent studies show that children with more screen time are more likely to be obese and less active. While studies don’t always reveal all of the circumstances of a study, it makes a parent thin.

With my own kids I try to reduce screen time, but in a screen focus world it is difficult, so I’ve done some research to 6 wasy to restrict yoiur child's cell phone usagecome up with guidelines to help my kids stay creative and use their minds in other ways. I hope you find them helpful.

No cell phones during homework. It’s hard enough for a teen to pay attention to their homework and focus on getting the right answers without having constant beeping from friends who want to text.

The constant cell usage will distract them, making it take much longer to get work done, and this is a great opportunity to teach them the difference between work time and play time.

No cell phones during dinner. Americans are great at ignoring each other during what should be a bonding family time.

Take a look around any restaurant; everyone has their phone or tablet out chatting with friends, playing on apps, and ignoring each other.

Dinner used to be an opportunity to discuss your day, share stories and spend time with your families. Let’s take the time to enjoy our kids, they are only living with us for so long, and there is nothing more important than family.

Turn in your phones and tablets at 9pm on school nights. This one is going to drive your teens insane, while being great for them. They’ll hate the idea of not being able to do what they want, but they need to sleep.

During the teenage years sleep is extremely important, and one too many teens are caught making late night phone calls and exchanging texts at 3 am. It’s best for their health and their grades to follow this rule, even if it causes an argument or two.

Password protect downloads for children. Have you seen television shows where a kid puts hundreds of dollars on their parent’s cell phone bill?

When you give a young, or irresponsible, child/teen the password to make purchases and downloads without asking, this is bound to happen.

It’s quite easy to add a password and enter it when they want to buy something, with your permission. Another option is to only allow them to use gift cards for app/phone software purchases, so that their spending can be monitored.

Use your carrier’s text/minute/data limits. It’s annoying that your carrier charges to use these features, but they can save you a lot of money by endorsing limits that are easily passed by teens and children.

Choose how many texts, minutes and data space they can use each month and let them learn how to stay within those limits. There are free apps they can download to help them keep track.

Use software to cut back on their allowed cell phone time. There is software you can use to restrict their phone usage during certain hours.

This works great for keeping them off the phone, but they would be able to tell you are monitoring their phone time, which may be a drawback. If you tell them about it though, you’ll be able to automate when they can use their phones and not have to worry about watching them during these times.

Technology has made life so much easier than it was a mere 20 years ago, but it’s made us less connected and that’s something we want to avoid.

Using some of these restrictions might help you restore family time in your home, while also giving your child/teen time to make real connections, use their minds for play and learning, and helping you avoid the constant power struggle.

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