Are Your Kids Using Age-Appropriate Apps?

Nobody ever said parenting was easy, and in the digital age, we face more challenges than ever. In addition to juggling our kids’ schoolwork, piano lessons, and playdates, we now we have to worry about how they use technology. How can we keep our kids safe online, especially in an era dominated by social media? The answer lies in knowing whether or not the apps they’re using are age-appropriate.

1. Read the Fine Print (and Then Some)

First and foremost, you need to make sure your kids are old enough to use the app or platform in question. Many apps require users be at least 13 years old to create an account, but you can’t rely on legal terms alone. Even if children are technically “allowed” on an app, they can be exposed to inappropriate content. I recommend checking out the reviews from Common Sense Media. Its age ratings are often different (and more accurate) than what’s listed in an app’s terms of use.

2. Give Your Parental Consent

If kids are able to create an account without your approval, it could mean that the app does not comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which prevents digital platforms from collecting personal information from children. Parents should also be wary of letting their kids sign up for username-based apps that let kids follow whoever they want.

Anonymity doesn’t keep harmful content or behavior from appearing in comments or feeds — in fact, I would argue that it’s more likely to occur when users can hide behind a username. Even if an app is COPPA-certified, parents should take the time to familiarize themselves with how it works. It’s not enough to rely on safeguards alone.

3. Avoid Likes and Followers

Young children and teens should steer clear from apps that heavily focus on acquiring likes, followers, and other forms of social validation. When users’ “success” or popularity is based on these metrics, measured against both their peers and celebrities, it encourages kids to idealize their lives, which can lead to self-doubt and depression.

4. Check in Online

You won’t be able to look over your kids’ shoulders every time they browse the web, so it’s important to look for apps that help you monitor their online activity. My daughter, for instance, often uses our iPad to read books, and every month, my wife and I receive a report that tells us how much time she spent on the app and what she was reading. Parents should know what their kids are doing online, especially when social media is involved.

We want our kids to be safe wherever they go — and that includes online. That’s why it’s so important for parents to make sure their children are only using apps and platforms that are intended for their age group. Take these four simple steps to ensure your kids have safe and enjoyable online experiences.