Cyber-safe tips for choosing children’s apps

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Cyber Safety for Kids and Families with Joanna and Jodie on 103.9FM The Fish Family Morning Show

vinekids_2The children’s app business is innovating constantly and there is no shortage of choices. You may hear about the next best thing from another parent or from your child who learned about it from a friend. Recently, Twitter introduced a kid’s version of Vine, a popular social media app meant for adult audiences that allows for the creation and sharing of 20-second videos. The new Vinekids app is designed for kids five years and older that features animated characters and does not allow the creation of videos.

The internet is an open environment and it is relatively easy to create and market apps globally, so parents must be vigilant about knowing that the apps that are downloaded for their children and family are coming from trusted resources. The FTC has recently issued a warning to a Chinese children’s app developer, BabyBus, that several of its apps violate the Child On Line Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which mandates developers comply with the COPPA Rule’s notice that includes verifiable parental consent, and other requirements. According to Inside Privacy, some of the BabyBus apps collect precise geolocation information that is shared with third parties, such as advertising networks and/or analytics companies which is a violation of COPPA. According to a recent NetworkedWorld report, Twitter claims that there is no sign up process to access the new Kid’s Vine app, and they are not collecting any personal data from the user but it is not clear whether they are COPPA compliant.

So how can you discern whether a child’s app, such as this new Vinekids, is to be a trusted resource for content and personal security?

See related: Tiny tot app trends

Family-approved app list

The challenge for parents is to create and enforce a family policy that establishes the criteria used to determine what apps are downloaded and used in age-appropriate ways. One of the best ways to accomplish this objective is to engage your child in the creation of a family-approved app listing. The premise is that every app, whether it is free or involves a fee, is an important decision. Because they can contain malware or expose the family to unwanted intrusions to privacy, such as identity theft, every member of the family is expected to agree to discuss and review the apps they want to download.

The most important objective of the Family-Approved App List is to promote an open dialogue about your child’s on-line experiences. You have an opportunity to educate child about your cyber-safe house rules, and also learn about what is happening in your child’s life, the things that interest him and his peers, and their perceptions about the role of technology to enhance their experiences in life.

Children’s app approval criteria: Consider the source

  • Consider apps produced by a reliable publisher such as Harper Collins: children’s reader apps.
  • Consider quality references for apps that come from resources like the local library, Common Sense Media, and YourSphere.
  • Great kids apps recommended by the Sacramento library, for example,  feature interactive experiences for the parent and child to teach the child: talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing.
  • Set up news alerts for COPPA and children’s apps to stay current on what is trending.


Jodie Stevens, Hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM, with her Joanna Jullien, CyberMom. They talk cyber safety on Tuesday mornings.

Jodie Stevens, Hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM, with  Joanna Jullien, her CyberMom. They talk cyber safety on Tuesday mornings.

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.

Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and spiritual resilience. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.