Snap, Chat, Poke: What’s the recommended allowance for kids and mobile apps?

By Sheri Watkins

There’s a growing concern among parents of tech-savvy kids: Young children are getting their own smartphones and tablets, meaning they have access to more and more apps. Many of these are not appropriate for children, yet can be downloaded quickly and easily — usually for free!

Our team expert, Sheri Watkins, recently posted about the trendy app Snapchat and its popularity with tweens and teens, even though the app is commonly considered used for sexting. Now Facebook has launched its own version of Snapchat. Facebook’s Poke app has essentially the same capabilities and all you need to download it to a mobile device is a Facebook account.

So what’s a parent to do? We have a few recommendations:

  • #1: No app downloads without parental permission: Recently, I spoke with some parents and their teen daughters. I explained to the parents the controversy over Snapchat and its potential for risky content. One of the girls looked at the other and said, “She has Snapchat on her phone.” This young lady grinned innocently at her mom — who was surprised to find this was true. One way to head off a problem like this is to require kids to ask for your permission before they add an app to their phone or device. Keep in mind both Google and Apple allow parents to password-protect all purchases from their app stores. Kids should be able to explain what the app is, how much it costs and why they want it. They should also show you the app’s privacy policy. You would be surprised at how many apps don’t even have such policies. In fact the FTC recently reported that only 20% of more 400 apps studied disclosed any information about privacy policies. This is a red flag for parents. An added bonus to having kids do a little research on an app is tech and research skill building
  • #2: Know where the app is from:  You should not allow your child to download an app from an unsecure source. A good rule of thumb: For Android users, be wary of apps outside Google Play. For iPhone users, be cautious of apps outside of iTunes. The bottom line is you should only download from familiar sites you know are secure.
  • #3: Have your child’s passwords/log ins and check them:  Most parents require their child share all passwords and log-in information. This is a great idea. Be sure to review this information and actually log in with it every so often. Log in information can easily be changed and your child may neglect to share the updated information with you.
  • #4: Monitor: Check the device for rules 1-3:  This one can be a little controversial since this requires a parent to physically look at and interact with the child’s mobile device. Most parents would agree that younger children with their own mobile devices should be monitored closely. But what about teens? Most parents understand a teen’s desire for privacy and want to respect it. This can make monitoring your child’s mobile device difficult. Many parents of teens take the stance that if they pay for the phone and data plan, then they have a right to monitor how and when it is used. Ultimately, it is up to each family.
  • #5: Set clear consequences for breaking rules:  As parents we know rules without consequences don’t do much good. It’s important to discuss with your child the rules for app downloads and the consequences when those rules aren’t followed.

Do you have more questions? Sign up for Saving Face, our program for parents of tweens!

Sheri Watkins is the Co-Creator of Saving Face for Parents of Tweens.

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