Ensuring App Safety for Teens: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers

In today’s onlife world, teenagers are increasingly reliant on apps for socializing, learning, and entertainment. As parents and caregivers, it is crucial to be vigilant about the safety of the apps that our teens use – not all apps are built the same! With a multitude of apps available, at the time of writing this article there are approximately 1.8 million apps in the Apple store, and 2.8 million apps in the Google store, ensuring that the one your child chooses to download are safe and age appropriate is of great importance to parents and caregivers. Here are some guidelines to help parents and caregivers make informed decisions and keep their kiddos safer online.

  • Teach your kiddo about the importance of making informed choices when it comes to downloading apps or engaging with social media platforms. Prior to allowing your child to download any app or social network, first have them complete a due diligence report that encourages critical thinking about the content they consume. Here’s a great resource from our friend and psychologist Jocelyn Brewer – the creator of the due diligence report (1)

  • Before allowing your teen to download and use an app, take the time as a parent or caregiver to research it thoroughly. Look for reviews, ratings, and comments from other users. Investigate the app’s reputation for safety and security. It’s also advisable to visit the app’s official website and read the terms of service and privacy policy. A really good resource to research an app can be found at Common Sense Media (2)

  • Many apps have age ratings that provide guidance on the appropriate age group for users. Although these age ratings may be a good indicator for an appropriate age usage, some great research was done by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection that often found the age rating were NOT an accurate measurement when it comes to an “appropriate” age use (3)

  • Familiarize yourself with the privacy settings of the app. Ensure that the app allows users to customize privacy settings according to their preferences. Look for options that allow you to control who can see your teen’s profile, posts, and personal information. Teach your teen to use these settings effectively to maintain a level of privacy and control over their online presence.

  • Most devices and operating systems offer parental control features that allow you to monitor and restrict your teen’s app usage. Take advantage of these controls to set limits on screen time, restrict access to certain apps, and filter inappropriate content. This provides an additional layer of protection and helps you guide your teen’s online experience.

  • One of the primary concerns for parents is the potential for inappropriate communication in apps with chat features. Before allowing your child to download an app, investigate whether it includes a chat function and, if so, whether this feature can be disabled. Open communication with your child about the risks associated with online conversations is also crucial in fostering responsible digital behavior.

  • In-app advertising is prevalent in many free apps because that is how they make their money and can sometimes lead to exposure to age-inappropriate content. Check whether the app includes advertisements and, more importantly, whether there is an option to disable them. This ensures that your child’s experience remains focused on the intended content without distractions or potentially harmful ads.

  • In-app purchases can lead to unintended expenses and may expose your child to inappropriate content or encourage impulsive spending. Look into the app’s payment features and determine if in-app purchases can be disabled. This precautionary step helps you maintain control over your child’s spending habits and protects them from potential risks associated with unregulated purchases.

  • Location sharing is a significant privacy concern, and parents should be aware of whether an app has access to their child’s location data. Investigate the app’s privacy settings to determine whether location-sharing features can be disabled. This helps safeguard your child’s personal information and ensures that their whereabouts remain private.

  • If your child has an iPhone or an iPad you can turn on the function on the phone that prevents iTunes and App store purchases: go to settings and tap “Screen Time > Tap “Content & Privacy Restrictions” enter your password > Tap “iTunes and App Store Purchases” > Choose a setting and turn off “Installing Apps” and “In-app purchases”
  • If your child has an Android device there are several ways that you can block the downloading of apps on Android devices (4)

  • Apps are constantly evolving, and so are their safety features. Regularly review the apps your teen is using and ensure that they are up to date. Developers often release updates to address security vulnerabilities and enhance privacy features. Keeping apps current helps to mitigate potential risks.

  • The last thing that we recommend – download the app yourself and test drive it for a week so that you can make an informed decision! Is the app the type of app that you want your child to have on their phone?

In today’s onlife world, where teenagers are increasingly reliant on apps for socializing, learning, and entertainment, the responsibility falls on parents and caregivers to ensure the safety of their digital experiences. With approximately 1.8 million apps in the Apple store and 2.8 million in the Google store, making informed decisions about the apps your child downloads is extremely important in today’s onlife world. 

This guide has provided guidelines to empower parents and caregivers, emphasizing the importance of proactive involvement. By teaching your child about responsible choices, researching apps thoroughly, utilizing privacy settings, and taking advantage of parental controls, you can create a safer online environment. 

Remember, staying informed about the apps your teen is using, blocking unwanted features, and regularly reviewing and testing apps are ongoing processes to ensure the evolving landscape of digital safety is navigated successfully. By adopting these practices, parents can actively participate in their child’s digital journey, promoting a healthy and secure onlife experience.

While the onlife world offers numerous opportunities for learning and connection, it’s crucial for parents to actively participate in their teens’ onlife lives. By following these guidelines, parents can play a proactive role in ensuring the safety of the apps their teens use. Establishing trust, open communication, and staying informed are key elements in fostering a positive and secure onlife environment for teenagers.

Digital Food For Thought

The White Hatter

Post Script:Another option that we highly recommend – look at a minimalist phone such as the “Sunbeam Orchid Phone”, the “Ghost Phone”, or the “Wisephone” that do not allow the user to download any app or even have access to the internet.  Something that speak to here https://thewhitehatter.ca/smartphones/


1/ https://jocelynbrewer.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Due-diligence-on-download-kids-report-Digital-Nutrition-2021.pdf

2/ https://www.commonsensemedia.org

3/ https://content.c3p.ca/pdfs/C3P_AppAgeRatingReport_en.pdf

4/ https://www.alphr.com/block-downloading-apps-android/

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