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Protect Yourself When Downloading Apps For Kids

December 11, 2012, 5:21 PM by Peggy Moyer

Protect Yourself When Downloading Apps For Kids

They're fun and even educational, but some of the apps you download for kids can also be dangerous.

From tracking online activity to using GPS technology, app developers and third-party companies can learn a lot about you and your kids.

Fortunately there are some things you can do to keep you and your kids safe when you download those apps.

Two-year-old June plays with an app on her mom's phone that helps her learn her letters.

"That is how you entertain your child sometimes when you're busy. It's like, 'Here play ABCs," Sioux Falls resident Lisa White said.

White likes the app because it's educational. But the recent FTC study suggests while June is learning her alphabet, app developers and third-party companies are learning valuable information.

"Essentially these are not phones anymore. They are mobile computers," Click Rain Operations Vice-President Eric Ellefson said.

Ellefson works with online marketing companies and app developers. He says anything you put on your device and any website or information you access become part of your phone or tablet's historical data and that's what developers and third-party companies are looking for and using.

"If it knows that I search and I've been looking for these types of things or it know my age and the fact that I'm single from my Facebook profile, because I've given it that, it can start serving me up ads that it thinks is appropriate to the device, not necessarily to the child based on the app that they're using," Ellefson said.

So while most parents think child-appropriate apps should come with age-appropriate ads, it doesn't always work that way.  Ellefson says parents need to know what they are handing their children.  He suggests playing with the app yourself and reading all of the fine print before letting your little one play.

"We live in a fast-paced world. A lot of times we scroll right past all of those disclaimers that are available on every single app that you download that you show exactly what information you are allowing that app to glean off your phone," Ellefson said.

In the next few weeks, the Federal Trade Commission hopes to toughen up the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act regarding what types of information can be extracted from your phone or mobile tablet.  The current law was written in 1998 before smartphones and mobile tablets existed.

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