A Parent’s Guide to App Permissions: Keeping the Kids Safe and Secure
A recent New York Times investigation revealed the extent to which even children’s locations are tracked by the devices they carry and apps they download. While location tracking is hard to avoid completely, there are definitive steps you can take to keep your kids’ data as private as possible. Here we’ll outline how to find the app permissions in your children's phones, what they mean, and how you can keep them safe.
What are app permissions?
When your child downloads an app, you must typically grant the application certain permissions. These permissions allow the application access to specific components of the device such as your camera or contacts. Hopefully whatever the app is accessing is in support of its functionality. It’s worth making sure, however, that no apps are overreaching in terms of the information they’re able to see and collect.
How do I know what permissions my children’s apps have?
You can view an app’s permissions to see what information it’s accessing. If you’re using an Android device with Android 6.0 and up, you can review and change app permissions:
- Go to Settings > tap Apps & notifications
- Tap the app you want to update > tap Permissions
- Choose which permissions you want the app to have, like Camera or Phone
If your children have an Apple device, such as an iPhone or iPad, you can review and manage app permissions:
- Go to Settings
- Scroll down to the list of applications at the bottom of the screen.
- Tap each individual app’s name to check its permissions. From this screen, you will also be able to turn various permissions on and off.
You can also prevent your phone from sharing your location in the background by going to Settings > General > Background App Refresh.
Tips for managing app permissions
It’s easy to catch yourself skimming past the permissions request screens in order to expedite the process of getting a new app. If you haven’t taken the time to review permissions on your child’s phone after each new installation, they might be granting apps access to certain parts of their account or device without your knowledge.
Here are some good rules of thumb for protecting your child’s online privacy.
1. Always read the fine print
When your children install a new application, always read the prompts so that you know what permissions the app is requesting. In some cases, you may even be able to deny the app certain permissions without compromising its functionality. If you aren’t okay with the permissions the app is requesting and there is no way to deny them, cancel the installation and find an alternative app.
2. Check for permissions after the app has been installed
After your child has installed a new mobile app, check its permissions from the setting screen or with an app permissions explorer to make sure that it didn’t take any unauthorized permissions.
3. Grant risky permissions sparingly
Be careful about granting access to accounts, SMS, your child’s contact list, and location information. Don’t agree to these permissions unless they’re absolutely necessary for the app’s function and you’re confident that the app is from a trusted developer.