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Know What Apps Your Kids are Using

We’re fairly strict with our daughter as to the kinds of movies she can watch, apps and Internet sites she can go on, and I like to think I’m “on top of it.” She is only allowed to download 3-4 apps on her mobile device at one time. If she wants a new game, she needs to delete one. Several months ago she starting playing an app called My Talking Tom. Tom is a cat and the object of the game is to feed him, bathe him, play with him, and put him to bed. Sounds just like life with a toddler, right?

It seemed harmless to me and after watching her play for a few minutes I was fine with it. My Talking Tom is part of a larger series of apps called Talking Tom and Friends.  There is also Talking Angela, which my daughter enjoyed much more because you can put make-up on her, dress her and change her hairstyles.

Know

 

At one point she showed me how you could beat Angela up. You could punch her face repeatedly for no reason, not that you’d need one, but it seemed like a weird feature to me and I was not okay with it.  I later learned the app has a chat feature where kids can text with the cat while she sits in a Paris café. My mom radar wasn’t too happy with this feature, either. Who’s on the other end? Where is the information going? What kinds of questions are being asked? Even with my reservations, I let her play it because dinner wasn’t getting to the table on it’s own.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, when she came home from school crazy about the app and how it needed to be deleted. She told me how someone from so and so’s old school got killed because of the app, and the cats eyes are really cameras. OMG, you need to delete it because I’m so scared I won’t even go in the house until the app is gone {here’s where we had a talk about Urban Legends.}

After a quick Google search I found out that two years ago there was a big fuss over the game because people believed it was part of a pedophile ring, asking your child personal questions to gather information about where they live and what school they attend. “Do you lie to your parents?” and “Have you kissed anyone?” were just two of the questions parents had issue with.

I wanted to know more, so I went to CommonSenseMedia.org to find out what age was recommended for the game and to read parent reviews. While the game is harmless, they don’t recommend it be used by anyone under 14 years of age, due to the grown up nature of some of the questions.   That seems a stretch to me because I can’t imagine any 14 year-old finding the game worth-while, but I’m glad I can gather the information and make a decision for my kid.

Safe Apps

The lesson here is that we really should be vigilant in what our kids are doing online, but it’s hard when we’re trying to work from home, or cook dinner, or just have a few quiet minutes to ourselves. A mobile device can be a slice of heaven to a parent. But doing a quick Internet search takes only minutes, and in the long run we can save our kids and ourselves a lot of grief.

PS – Google just released a new search engine for kids called Kiddle. Kiddle offers kids safe Internet searches, so no need to worry about what they’ll find when trying to research an animal project for school {seriously, I was terrified of what we might find,} or when they get to that age where searching for female body parts becomes a thing. On Kiddle they’ll just get an “Ooops” message when searching inappropriate content.  All I can say is, finally!

How do you screen your kids apps?

 

 

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