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10 Things to Watch out for When Downloading Apps for Kids.

I heard from another friend the other day about an opportunity that she had to work with her daughter on Internet safety. It started out with a question, a comment and a question:

Who can see the pics that get posted in an iPhone app? For example… My daughter downloaded Fashion Freax and then uploaded shots of herself in various fashions. She said people could comment on them and “like” them. I said, “What people???” She said “anybody on the internet”. HUH?? Naturally we cited this as an example of not good to do for x and y reasons and quickly deleted all the photos, the account and the app. HOLY X$#@. Any chance you want to write an article? Please. 🙂

Of course, I had to write an article about this. And this article is not a criticism of the App in general, it’s a criticism of the App being used by underage girls.

I did some research into Fashion Freax and some other apps, and found some things about this that are definitely not good.  These are things to be sure to look for when you’re downloading apps with your kids.  I know it can take a little longer to do, especially when I also see an app I think looks pretty cool and just hit download.  But, when downloading apps for my kids, I always try to add the right safety filter for how I believe is best to not only keep them safe, but to make sure that what they’re doing is appropriate for their age.  Fashion Freax is neither, in my opinion…

  1. The first thing I noticed was the page to download the app, which is clearly geared for girls in a way that is designed to show them off in “fashionable” outfits (strike 1).  Clue into the words: “Top In-App Purchases.” This is a clue that if you’re not careful, it’ll cost you more money as you go by paying $1.99 to get rid of the ads (strike 2). And it only has 7 reviews (strike 3). Interestingly, after 2 days, the app had 105 ratings, and many of the 5 stars look fake, and some of the 1 star reviews were pretty harsh (strike 4).
  2. Check out what you can do and see without being logged in.  I downloaded the free app and started browsing before I registered for an account.  I was quite surprised at what I could see.  I could see lots pictures of young women of questionable ages in various poses and outfits (strike 5).  To be fair, many of them were cropped so you couldn’t see faces, but there were plenty that showed faces.  There were also conversations and usernames available (strike 6). Here’s a screenshot:
  3. Then I checked out the Terms of Service (which are typically fairly boring) on my iPad and noticed a couple more strange things.  When I first clicked to register, I was presented with the Terms of Service screen and, here’s the strange part, it defaulted to the last screen with the accept button!  They’re not even pretending to make you scroll through and read them (big strike 6).  You can believe they might be hiding something here.
  4. Then, notice the last section, 11.5 Applicable law. “The laws of the Federal Republic of Germany are always and exclusively applicable.” I’ve got nothing against Germany, in fact I’m part German, but, the laws in Germany are different from the laws in the US and this is definitely an area in which to be careful (strike 7).
  5. There is technically an age limit to registering on the site. They say it’s 14 years of age, and they collect age on the registration form, but they don’t say how old you have to be.  a responsible site would say up front, if your too young, then you can’t register.  They should make it obvious (strike 8).  You can also connect via Facebook or Twitter or Google which means they’ve distanced themselves from the age restriction even more.
  6. As with all social media outlets anything you post here you lose all control of what happens to photos you upload (strike 9). My friend discovered this:

    At first I thought she was uploading her pictures and only her other friend that was doing it too could see them. They were “liking” each other’s pics. Then she got a new bathing suit and wanted to show it to her friend and so she brought the iPad to me to show me the pics. Suddenly I just got this weird feeling. Seeing a pic of my 11 year old in her bathing suit on an app just set off alarm bells… I didn’t really have to tell her to delete them. She couldn’t wait to delete the whole thing once we shed a little light on it. So, we sat there and did it together.

    Unfortunately, those pictures still live on a server somewhere overseas…

  7. I highly encourage parents to read the terms of these apps and websites, I know it’s boring, but, it’s important.  I found this little gem also:

    7.3 Liability for personal contents
    The user is personally liable for his/her contents. Liability by FashionFreax is excluded. Should damage result for FashionFreax due to the behaviour of a user, the user is then obligated to make up for this damage to FashionFreax or rather to preferentially prevent the development of damage by avoiding third party claims

    Now, I’m not a lawyer, which is what they want, but this tells me that they reserve the right to sue me for damages if they don’t like something I’ve done and can claim it hurt them.  For example, if they get in trouble because they found out my underage child registered for the site, then they could come after me, even though they didn’t do much to prevent it.  This is probably somewhat normal, but still bad (strike 10).

There’s a lot to be aware of when you’re downloading apps for your kids.  It absolutely worth looking deeper to make sure you know what you and your children are getting into.  Here are 4 simple steps.

  1. Read the terms.
  2. Browse the site and app without logging in to see what you can see.
  3. Check the online reviews
  4. Talk about what you’re going to post.

Be safe!

4 Comments - Leave a Comment
  • Therr -

    Great advice! That app said age 9+, did it say age 14 somewhere in the terms? Your friend should probably not let her daughter download apps on her own till she’s like,oh I don’t know, 30 maybe. 🙂

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