While many apps targeted towards children might seem harmless, there are many others that might track your children’s data, and potentially sell it on to third parties you’d rather they weren’t interacting with. As your little ones spend more time in front of the screen, it’s important that they are protected. A cheap broadband deal can also allow you to not have to worry about the cost of keeping your child(eren) entertained. To put your mind at ease, parents can compare the best broadband deals and what parental controls they offer to ensure they stay safe online.
We’ve looked into which apps and games are the most and least child friendly based on how much personal data they collect.
Some of the worst offenders for collecting data are gaming apps. Games will often track your data to sell on to third-party advertisers, which allows them to remain free to play. While this might just be a nuisance for adult players, for children it could mean being targeted by inappropriate products you’d rather they didn’t see.
A game called ‘Sandwich Runner’, which involves players moving food into a giant mouth, collects the most data of all the apps we studied. 14 pieces of data are linked to personal details, including the player’s name, age, location and more. A further 13 data points are used to track users across the internet, which could involve seeing what other sites your children access and using that information to sell to them elsewhere.
This simple pool game might look harmless enough, but it targets your children with ads while they play. It collects seven pieces of personal data and six pieces of tracking data, along with three bits of non-linked data, which is usually used to understand how people interact with the game. The game also allows in-app messaging, and while chat options are limited, it might still mean your children are talking to people much older than them.
This game allows players to sort water into different colours, but collects a total of 14 pieces of data while it does it. Often it’s the most basic games that will collect the most information, as it depends on selling it to fund its operation. If you wonder why so many adverts are popping up on your phone, it’s because the game you’re playing needs them to stay online.
The first non-gaming app to make our list is Duolingo. This app helps people learn a new language, and is one of the highest regarded educational apps on the market. However, it gathers 19 pieces of data while teaching you. While the vast majority of this data is used to harness your learning experience and make the app work better, some of it is used for advertising, the manner of which the app has no control over.
13 pieces of data are gathered by the game Text or Die. The game encourages you to type faster than an online opponent, or - as the name suggests - die. It’s not as violent as it sounds, but it might still not be ideal for younger users.
If you want your children to be safe when using mobile apps, choosing providers that don’t gather any data at all could be a good idea. All of our top five apps collect no data from users, making them a safe choice for smaller hands.
This creative colouring game is aimed at children from 4 years old and upwards. It teaches them all about colour combinations, and is great fun to play together.
This game follows a similar path, but is aimed at even younger players. Children can colour in playful characters, tell stories and have fun, all without any data being collected.
Learn all about shapes, food, colours and more with 15 interactive games that get little minds thinking creatively.
Could your child be a musical master? There’s only one way to find out. This game teaches them basic rhythm and notes, as well as great hand eye coordination.
This game is designed for slightly older children. It’s effectively a murder mystery style game, which means it might be a little scary for younger players. We’d advise playing it together to be safe.
When it comes to apps, it makes sense to moderate what your children are looking at. Follow these top tips to make sure they’re playing safely.
If you’ve got kids using your broadband connection, it’s a good idea to set up parental controls. Apple and Android phones offer many ways to keep tabs on your child’s usage and restrict it when necessary. If your child is playing games online, certain settings can be implemented to block your child from talking to strangers, limiting their communications just to friends and family and keeping them safe from any potentially dangerous characters.
You can set age limits on your phone that prevent adult content or gambling apps from showing up, and in the App Store or Google Play you can also select children-friendly options.
While having your bank account linked to the app store might make your life easier, it also makes it much easier for your children to spend with it. Either remove your details or make sure facial or fingerprint ID is required to make any transactions.
The easiest way to make sure your child is safe with apps is to use them together. Playing can be a great way to bond and have fun, and if you’re both taking part you can stop anything unexpected happening.
“Setting parental controls is a great way to protect your kids from harmful online content.
“To set parental controls on an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings and then Screen Time. Select Content & Privacy Restrictions before choosing a Screen Time passcode. Then tap Content Restrictions and Web Content, before deciding on Unrestricted Access, Limit Adult Websites or Allowed Websites Only.
“On Android devices, go to the Google Play app and the profile icon. Tap Settings Family and turn on Parental Controls, then create a PIN that only you know. Finally, select the type of content you want to restrict.
“Parental controls work by filtering keywords, such as gambling, adult, violence or bad language, meaning that sort of content can only be seen by people with the required access code.
“You can also use parental controls to limit the amount of time your child spends on their device or on a particular app. Don’t let them download apps on your phone without you, and read the reviews of any apps to make sure they really are as child-friendly as they promise.
“You can do the same thing with your broadband provider, or via general internet security. You can set up a secure internet connection by adding antivirus software, which will protect you against viruses, and may also allow you to add extra parental controls. That way, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that they can’t access inappropriate content or get an accidental virus on your laptop or computer.”