How Do I Know If an App Protects My Child's Privacy?

Thanks to laws that help protect children online, parents shouldn’t worry about their child’s privacy on apps, right? Wrong. Despite the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, not all apps protect their young users’ personal information. In fact, the problem might be more widespread than you think.

A study published last year looked at 5,855 free Android apps marketed to kids and families to gauge whether they follow COPPA standards. Over half of them showed signs of violating child privacy rules. Does the same apply to your family’s favorite apps?

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to tell at first glance whether an app is safe. It’s up to parents to do a little digging to determine if an app is trustworthy enough to let their children use it. To help you keep your children safe in apps, we created this quick guide on how to tell if the apps your children use are COPPA compliant.

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Determining Whether an App is COPPA Safe

Here are a few things that signal an app might be safe for your children.

Check the Privacy Policy

To comply with COPPA, all websites and apps have to provide a privacy policy that clearly outlines what information they collect, use, and disclose from children. This privacy policy should be easy to find and digest. If you can’t find an app’s privacy policy, or if you pull it up and struggle to understand what the app does with your child’s personal information, don’t risk it.

Check out Jellies’ privacy policy, for example. We clearly state that we don’t collect ANY personal information from children.

Look for COPPA Certifications and Seals

Apps that take COPPA seriously go out of their way to get certified. If you see any COPPA seals or certifications on an app’s website, app store listing, or marketing materials, chances are it’s a winner. Be on the lookout for badges from:

Just so you know, Jellies is KidSAFE-COPPA certified! 😉

Do Some Research

You can learn a lot about an app by reading through some of the app store reviews or doing a quick Google search. If an app is a known COPPA violator, you may encounter articles about lawsuits or complaints from educators and parenting advocates.

To take it a step further, check out Common Sense Media’s app ratings and reviews. If you want to learn more about a particular Android app, try running it through the AppCensus database for a breakdown on the app’s privacy settings.

Popular Apps That Are NOT COPPA Compliant

You might be surprised to learn that some of the most popular apps and websites don’t follow key privacy rules for children. YouTube and Facebook are among those that aren’t COPPA compliant. That’s because both platforms claim to cater to a general audience. While COPPA only applies to apps and websites for children under 13, larger apps like YouTube and Facebook say their users are 13 and older.

There’s no denying that children under 13 watch videos on YouTube and create profiles on Facebook. Whether the platforms should be held accountable for that is up for debate. Parenting advocates, for example, argue that YouTube goes so far as to collect data on child users to target them with advertising.

Learn More About Your Child's Right to Privacy Online

COPPA really is a parent’s best friend, but it’s sometimes difficult to understand. To learn more about COPPA, check out our resource What Every Parent Should Know About COPPA. You can also head straight to the source for a more detailed look at the law on the Federal Trade Commission webpage.

We recommend learning more about ways to protect your child online beyond privacy concerns. Check out the Jellies blog for more parenting resources to learn more about the trouble with popular kids apps and how to set up parental controls on your iPhone or iPad.