Todays edition of our 10 day countdown to Safer Internet Day is all about apps. Apps are small, specialised software programmes which can be downloaded to a mobile device to carry out a particular function. Young people love to personalise their own devices by downloading ‘apps’ which carry out fun and useful functions from looking up the weather forecast, playing games to sharing photos on a social networking site!
You can download apps via a ‘shop’ or ‘store’ on your mobile device, for example Apple’s App Store, Google Play and BlackBerry App world. You are able to download some apps for free and others will be paid for apps, normally paid for via an online account or charged to your monthly phone bill or to your pay as you go credit.
As a parent, it’s important to monitor what your child is downloading on to their smartphone or their internet enabled device. You can read further information about apps and mobile devices in Childnet's Parents' Guide to Technology.
How do I know if an app is age appropriate for my child?
Apps can be downloaded in an app store either on the smartphone device or online. As some apps cost money and others may contain content that you don’t think is appropriate for your child, you could use your details to register and then decide together which apps to download. As they get older you may prefer to talk to them about the apps they are using but give them the responsibility to download apps themselves.
Familiarise yourself with the online app websites so you know what apps are out there, and perhaps you can recommend your child some fun apps! There are also apps which are tools for parents that can help filter out age inappropriate content or help restrict some of the device’s functions.
It is worth checking the age ratings on apps, where available. However, you should be aware that app developers provide these age ratings and they are not generally independently rated. You can also look at app reviews online. For example, Common Sense Media provide age ratings and reviews for many apps, relying on developmental criteria to determine what content is appropriate for which ages.
It is possible for apps to contain viruses and some smartphones are more prone to malicious apps. Smartphones run on an operating system (much like a computer), the three main ones are Google Android, Apple iOS and BlackBerry. Apple approve every app that gets to their store (for iPhones, iPads and iPods) so there is some degree of quality control. Android and BlackBerry phones use software that allows developers to produce and upload any app. It is always worth reading reviews of the app on the relevant app store to check that other users have not had problems with it.
What is in-app purchasing?
While many apps are free, sometimes you may also decide to pay for apps, which commonly cost around 99p to £2.99, (though some can cost more). In-app purchases are not always obvious; you may have downloaded a free game app, but then to upgrade to the next level you are asked to make an “in-app purchase”. By doing this you will be asked to pay an additional sum of money, we have heard stories where young people have got into difficultly and have ended up running up huge bills!
You can turn off in-app purchases if you are worried and on some smartphones it is possible to block in-app purchases and downloading apps by going into your phone settings.
How do I report an app?
If you need to report an inappropriate app (it may be a scam app, or contain illegal or inappropriate content), please use the following links:
1. Make sure you check what the app really does, read the reviews and ratings
2. Don't download apps from non-trusted app stores
3. Always check the list of 'app permissions' before you download