Are Apps for Kids Safe? Privacy & 2015’s Top Apps for Kids

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2015 apps for kids - check for kids data privacy

Apps for kids and app-enabled items are making gift guides all over the Internet as the top gift picks for 2015. Integrated, customizable and responsive – apps and tech toys built for children are exciting and geared to provide long-lasting, ever-changing fun.

Apps for kids are no different than regular apps – they still ask for personal information for registration and use. They might also have forums or social media integration and require access to things like contacts, photos, cameras and microphones.

Given the recent data breach at VTech, which compromised 200,000 child accounts, the protection of our children’s personal information online – especially in such apps for kids – is a serious topic, and one that should be considered even during this most wonderful time of the year!

As an example, here’s a look at three of this year’s top app-enabled toys and how they plan to protect your kids’ personal information:

2015’s popular toys with apps for kids

Sphero BB-8 Droid

Best apps for kids and app-enabled toys of 2015 - Sphero BB-8This app-enabled Droid™, created as a product tie-in to the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens™ film, is marketed as an interactive robot that is more companion than toy.

Using the app, users are able to guide the BB-8 via their mobile device or using voice commands and it will respond by growing its “personality” based on your style of interaction.

 

Personal data collected by Sphero could include:

  • Identity: Full Name, Address, E-mail address, Gender
  • Device: Reads your phone status and identity
  • Approximate network-based location
  • Photos/Media/Files: read, modify or delete contents
  • Camera: Take pictures and videos
  • Microphone: Records audio
  • Password
  • Billing Information
  • Content transmitted via message or other method
  • “Any other non-public information about you that is associated with or linked to any of the foregoing data”

Child users: They do not “intentionally” gather personal information about “visitors” under the age of 13. (Editor’s note: It is not clear if this is limited to just visitors of the site, or includes registered account holders as well.)

See more in their Privacy Policy.


PlayMation Marvel Avengers Gear

Best apps for kids & app-enabled toys of 2015 - Avengers PlayMation

Disney has released a line of smart technology-enabled wearable toys that all connect to a mobile app (“Avengers Headquarters) that connects missions and progress tracking with the use of the toys, making the experience interactive.

They use movement sensors, infra-red targeting and other detectors to track the performance of the user during missions.

Kids can connect to their friends and team up or battle against each other and upgrade the “abilities” of the gear through accomplishments in the offered games.

Personal data collected by PlayMation could include:

  • Identity: Full Name, Address, E-mail address, Gender, Date of Birth
  • Username & password
  • Billing information
  • Approximate network-based location
  • Information provided by the user on the website, mobile app or via social media apps

Editor’s Note: Any information collected for the PlayMation app and gear is also property of Disney as a whole through their privacy policies.

Child users: “In order to register your Avenger Gear, you must create a Playmation account (or use an existing Disney account). Both children and parents may create accounts by providing basic account information. A child may also provide his or her first name to customize Avenger Gear, and may create a screen name for tracking accomplishments in the app and other interactive features.”

See more in their Privacy Policy and Privacy FAQs.


Ubooly

Best apps for kids & App-enabled toys of 2015 - UboolyUbooly is a plush today that houses a user’s smartphone, displaying the screen through the front, where their app displays a face – giving the overall impression of an interactive, high-tech neon teddy bear.

The app engages kids with various interactions and activities – listening to voice comments and asking for input from the user to adapt to their preferences and customize its offerings.

 

Personal data collected by Ubooly could include:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • Email address
  • Parent’s email address
  • Child’s name, age, gender
  • Username and password
  • Billing information

Child users: “If we make material changes to how we use personal information collected from children under 13, we will notify parents by e-mail in order to obtain verifiable consent for the new uses of the child’s personal information.”

See more in their Privacy Policy and Children’s Privacy Policy.


A general security note about apps for kids

Beware of hidden in-app purchases! While many actual children’s apps are becoming more responsible at highlighting purchase points and obtaining parental consent for in-app purchases, many apps for kids are either a) adult apps that do not take underage users into serious consideration or b) are geared to entice users to purchase upgrades or items in order to play the game more enjoyably and/or faster.

Be sure to be part of the registration process for any app that your child wants to use – including gift cards they might receive for online stores like Google Play or Apple’s App Store. You can often review “top in-app purchases” on the app’s download page so you can get a sense of just how many points of purchase are integrated and required for play.

Because online security isn’t child’s play

  1. Always do your research on the company behind the app and their privacy policies for handling your information and that of your children.
  2. Consider generating an anonymous username so that you are not giving out any real information.
  3. And because these apps are housing such important information, make sure that they are each protected with a strong, unique password.

And finally, protecting apps for kids with a mobile password manager can be a great way to make security easy for kids because they’ll only have to remember one master password in order to be playing safe!


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