Many of today’s teens and tweens not only have smartphones: They’ve never known a time without them. For them, app usage is simply a normal part of life.
This doesn’t mean today’s youth always knows, understands, or pays attention to phone safety and security when it comes to the apps they use.
Below, we’ll explore app permissions so you can better explain what they are to your kids.
What Are App Permissions?
When an application is downloaded to a phone, tablet or other device, the user will generally need to grant or deny certain permissions requested by the app. The types of permissions an app seeks can vary: Some might request permission to access your camera or contacts, while others want to know your location.
Apps may need to access certain areas of your phone so they can work properly, such as an image filter needing to access the camera. Yet you want to make sure that none of the apps downloaded are overreaching with the types of permissions and information they can see and collect.
Important Things to Consider
Let’s look at the most important things to think about when it comes to app permissions. Keeping things simple will make it easier for you to explain digital safety to your kids.
Where You Download the App
One of the first things to consider is where the apps are downloaded from. Always make sure they come from a trusted source. If they don’t, it’s impossible to tell what security vulnerabilities might be hiding inside the application.
To avoid the problems caused by untested apps, you and your kids should only download apps from reputable sources. This will ensure that the app has undergone all the appropriate testing, reducing the chances that it is malicious.
The Fine Print
Always take the time to review the fine print. It might seem like a wasted effort, especially when you see apps with tens of thousands of positive reviews. However, without reviewing the fine print, you don’t know what you are agreeing to.
Kids might not always be capable of understanding the ins and outs of the legalese on these apps. In those cases, it’s important to suggest that your child come to you for help in determining whether the app permissions might be infringing on their personal information or whether there are any issues hidden in the fine print.
Reviewing and Granting Permissions
Teaching our kids about app safety is important. In addition to downloading from a trusted source and being aware of what they are agreeing to by installing the app, they should understand the permissions they are granting the app. Permissions control what an app is allowed or not allowed to do on a device. By granting permissions, you allow an app to use a feature and by denying access, you are preventing it from using a feature. Ensure you and your kids understand that they have full control over those permissions.
App permissions are easily viewed on a device. For Android devices, click on settings, then apps. From there, tap the app you want to look at and tap permissions. You can review the permissions and choose the options “Allow” or “Don’t Allow”. You may find that some apps won’t function properly without all permissions granted but the choice should always remain yours.
For Apple devices, click on settings, then privacy and tap on any entry to see the apps granted those permissions. Disable any unneeded permissions. You can always grant those permissions again if you change your mind.
What Are the Big Ones to Watch For?
When it comes to granting any app permissions, the “big ones” include:
- Access to your microphone
- Access to your camera
- Access to your location
In most circumstances, you should not allow these permissions unless you need them for the app to work properly. Even then, younger kids should get their parents’ permission to ensure there aren’t dangerous apps that could put them and their privacy at risk. Dangers can include things like apps requesting permission for access to personal data, contacts, and even access to photos. If permission must be granted for an app to function properly, only allow permission for when the app is in use.
The choices you make about what data apps can access are important. It is worth spending time explaining these permissions to your kids and making sure they understand how their personal information will be used so that no one makes a wrong decision when clicking "yes."