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Apps parents need to know about

Apps parents need to know about

Do you download apps for your kids to play with? Does letting children play with gadgets like iPads and laptops teach them about the responsibility of having expensive technology in the home? What age is too young to set up a social media account? Should you chat about ‘sexting’ with your pre-teen?

It’s a minefield for parents these days keeping up with technological advances and helping strike the balance between raising tech savvy children and protecting them from the potential hazards online.

We asked our resident online safety expert Rebecca Moonen to give her two cents worth on the latest technology parents should know about.

Instagram

When you hear Instagram you might think filters, hazy sunsets and vintage effect photos of food but there’s more to the photo-sharing app than that as there’s also a community element to Instagram.

Users follow others, commenting and liking the photos they post – not unlike the basic timeline features of Facebook.

Like Facebook, Instagram has a policy of over 13s but unfortunately, like Facebook, it’s easy for web savvy pre-teens to get around this age restriction by simply entering a suitable birthdate when signing up.

While parents might think their kids are simply expressing their artistic sides, there are the same cyber risks with Instagram as other social networks.

Rebecca Moonen, iiNet’s Compliance Manager has this advice to stay safe when using Instagram:

“By default, photos uploaded to Instagram are publically viewable. Younger users should toggle the “photos are private” switch to ‘on’ from their Profile page. Once set to private, anyone who wants to see the photos will have to send a request for permission (that your kids will need to approve.) Users should also be careful of hitting the ‘Geotagged’ button- allowing others to see the location that the photo was taken (such as the physical address of the family home.)”

This message will self destruct…

We recently covered private messaging apps on the iiNet blog, which includes everything from self-destructing messages to coded messages that can only be unscrambled with a code or permission from the sender.

While these apps are all well and good for adults, there are potential risks for youngsters. Some concerned parties claim these messaging apps only encourage ‘sexting’ (sexually explicit texting to you and I) and it’s something parents should be aware of.

Here’s Rebecca Moonen’s advice:

“Younger users need to be mindful that there is nothing stopping the recipient of a risqué photo from taking a screen shot of the image before it disappears. Interestingly, the Privacy Policy of the Snapchat program does not guarantee the photo will be deleted from their servers either. The icing on the cake? A recent security flaw with Snapchat displayed the email address of the sender; plugging this address into Facebook can reveal the profile (and full name) of the user. Anonymous? Hardly. “

Gaming apps

If I’d a dollar for every time I’m out and I see a small child in a stroller playing with their parent’s smartphone or tablet…. Well, I’d have enough to buy a tablet of my own pretty quickly!

While there are tons of great gaming and educational apps aimed at children and giving mum and dad a well-earned break, parents need to be careful about what they download to their phones, and what kind of access apps have to their personal data.

Rebecca Moonen adds:

“It’s really a case of buyer beware when parents offer their iTunes password (and thus credit card usage) to their kids. Often the language used in gaming apps is confusing to younger users, who can’t tell whether the money used in the game is real or not. The persuasive language is also designed to create anxiety in kids (who believe their characters may die if not tended to.) Parents should turn off “in app” purchasing which enables users to buy content from within the application. iTunes passwords should be kept away from young eyes, and (as always) parents should monitor the use of technology across devices.”

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