Should parents be concerned about their children’s apps?

In the last few weeks, several popular children’s entertainment apps have released updated versions that have introduced safety features.

Sharon Thompson, vice president of parental responsibility and community engagement at the Center for Digital Democracy, a nonprofit that advocates for technology safety for children, says several of the apps have done an admirable job of meeting privacy demands, from Facebook’s age restrictions on its news feed to the Hello app’s blocked listings and prompts for parents to opt out of showing ads. But when the Disney app Instagram launched an application layer that contains privacy settings for children under 13, its developers went a step further and included account passwords, making it possible for parents to access certain information about their children. The feature was discontinued this week, according to Thompson.

Of course, we are talking about kids here. So, should parents worry? Should they be constantly reviewing the applications they hand their children if they’re going to hand them smartphones before kindergarten? “That’s a good question,” Thompson says. “That’s a great question. At the end of the day, it’s a tough one because we’re in uncharted territory.”

But Thompson thinks the answer is, “Yes, but be careful.”

“Listen, this is a dramatic change for the app providers,” she says. “They didn’t know where the line was.”

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