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Parenting Tips for the Smartphone Generation

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"There's an app for that." Apps, or applications, can make our lives easier. They can help us with recipes, directions, logging workouts, editing photos, and everything in between. Even if you can't find the time to play Scrabble or Angry Birds, it is likely that your kids are learning to navigate the world of mobile apps in the pursuit of fun and games.

There are age-appropriate games available for download, and many educational activities that have the parent stamp of approval. Things can go wrong, however. Just ask the five parents who sued Apple in 2011 after their kids charged hundreds of dollars while playing games that they had downloaded from the app store. These games were free to download, but gave the option of using real money while playing.

While that might be an extreme case, we still have to ask ourselves how to monitor what our kids are downloading. High costs are not the only threat. There are apps that contain malware, apps that access too much personal information, and apps with content unsuitable for children. What can you do about it?

  • Talk to your kids early and often about how to navigate the net and use mobile devices. Set clear ground rules about what is permissible and what is not when it comes to apps and activities. Click here if you need some ideas about how to start that conversation.
  • There are blocks and filters available to parents that can restrict your children's' online activity when you aren't hovering around them. Spend some time viewing the restrictions available in your settings. On Apple devices you can prohibit explicit language, in-app purchases, multiplayer games, downloading apps, and more. For Android users, check out the various parental control apps available to you.
  • If you don't want to mess with the settings on your own Apple account, consider setting up a separate "child safe" account. It does not have to be linked to a credit card, and you will be able to send paid apps as gifts from your account to theirs if you so choose. Remember: you can have multiple accounts on one device.
  • When your kids download apps from the Apple Store or Android Market, try them out yourself. The content may be aimed at an older audience, or include links to social media sites so that users can share their scores.
  • Read the fine print. There are apps aimed at children that will access your phone's unique I.D., your phone number, or your geolocation data, and pass it on to a third-party. This can happen with all different kind of apps, but do not permit downloads from third-party sources as they are more likely to be harmful to your device.
  • Keep your devices updated and protected with security programs.
Sources:

Tome Wilson is a Product Development Engineer at Comcast.