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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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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Helping Your Child Understand Family Safety In A Digital World

When you give your child their first cell phone or laptop, a major concern is their safety. This makes sense because they will probably use the device on a regular basis. And as kids are, there is a good chance they’ll share information they shouldn’t with people they do not completely know.

 

helping children understand the dangers of cell phone usage can create a loving bond between parent and child

What we hardly think about is family safety (in regards to cell safety). Not only does the child have their own safety at risk when they share too much information, but they put the entire family at risk.

 

We go out of our way to list out things they shouldn’t mention to strangers or in public places, but have we covered all of our safety bases?

 

Probably not, which is why it’s time to revisit the whole discussion about online safety with your children, teens and even young adults.

 

They already know the rules you’ve mentioned before about not using location names, people’s last names, etc. Now it’s time to consider adding some of the following guidelines to the digital family safety talk:

 

Descriptions of brothers, sisters, family names, etc. Scammers, hackers and other criminals are supremely intelligent, they can piece together the smallest pieces of information to quickly come to conclusions about where we live, where we’ll be at a certain time, or even when we won’t be home.

 

For instance, a young girl discussing her brother’s football game on Friday night and how the whole family goes, can easily give enough information to anyone looking to rob a home.

 

Details. While we have covered this before, it’s important to revisit this again, because the danger is in the details. All messages should be vague. Conversations over text could easily be done over a service such as SnapChat to save yourself from worry. We do not recommend using this application, but if you also use the Kidtrack™ Mobile app, you can set up alerts for words you do not want used on this kind of application so that you can be warned about its misuse. Kidtrack™ will also monitor and display images that have been sent as well as whether this application has been used at what time and for how long.

 

SnapChat is a service that allows one user to send messages or pictures to another. As soon as the receiving party gets the message and reads it, it self destructs. You’ll no longer have to worry about your child’s friend keeping copies of their conversations on a phone they lose. We do NOT recommend the use of Snapchat. See our post about Sexting.

 

Use Passwords. Along with being extra careful about details that help identify your family members, a cell phone is the ultimate place to get all of the information necessary to steal identities, max charges, make obscene phone calls and more. Your child’s phone should have a security password in place, along with software that makes it easy for you to locate it when it is lost.

 

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While this will make it difficult for a parent to ‘hack’ into their child or teen’s phone, this is a safety measure that affects the entire family and really is the best for everyone.

 

Stronger Passwords. Even when you’ve told your child everything you can about online safety details will slip through the cracks. It happens, but there is another line of defense; stronger passwords.

 

A study was done in 2013 that showed that up to 10% of passwords on teens’ phones included the word love. Obviously this makes hacking into a phone much easier.

 

By teaching your child about passwords that are less easy to guess and more advanced we give them another tool to keep us all safe.

 

On many sites you now have to use a password with 8 characters including a capital, lowercase, number and even a symbol. It’s hard enough for us to remember these passwords but they are much more difficult to crack for other people.

 

Clean Out Their Phones. When it’s time to get a new phone make sure you clean out their phone and reset it to factory settings. Even then there may be other options you can use to make sure all personal data is thoroughly erased. Be sure to search for their phone model on Google to learn what you need to know about erasing data.

 

The world is a scary place and it’s difficult to keep our kids safe now more than ever. Sit down and talk to them to make sure they understand how these things happen to people just like you.

 

Remind them often to stay safe online and off. And in the mean time if you have tips for other parents about family safety leave them in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.

 

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