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Preying for Profit: Why Parents Must Understand How Apps Work

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aloneonphone_croppedWith over 1.5 million apps expected in the Apple AppStore by the end of 2015, two things are certain. First, the nonstop wave of new apps is not going to slowdown. Second, the competition to create an app that breaks through, let alone pays the bills, is vicious. What is an aspiring developer with dreams of wealth to do? Create a new app that taps an easyto target user, hope it spreads like a virus, and figure out how to make money with it later.

This may sound like a reasonable business except when it takes advantage of vulnerable users who don’t understand what they are giving up for a free app to connect with their friends. No where today does this happen more than with social apps used by teenagers. All too often, teens (not to mention parents) know very little about how apps are created, what information they collect about users, and how data about users might be shared.

For example, apps that use Facebook logins (like the controversial AfterSchool app) can collect and share context about an anonymous user to further appeal to their interests (such as the user’s high school). But, to generate income and build a viable business, it could sell that information to advertisers or worse, data intelligence sources that re-purposethat information for other businesses to use with little regard for privacy or safety.

Another great example is the “connect with other users near you feature in some apps. While it seems cool, the app is requesting and using geolocation data (i.e. highly accurate latitude and longitude coordinates about the user. Here are some helpful details about how it works.) to create a map of others in the area using the app. To the socially-inclined teen, that sure seems cool. However, what if the app developer is tracking everywhere the user goes simply to sell it to other companies for advertising or consumer behavioral analysis? Perhaps commute patterns? Maybe even fashion interests based on location? When you pause to reflect on this, this is information a parent would never share with a stranger, right? According to PCWorld’s Daniel Ionescu, “Most geolocation apps let you set a certain level of privacy, but you can never be too wary of people with bad intentions who may be following your updates.”

While there is nothing wrong with a profitable business, many of these apps appeal to teenage vulnerabilities. They offer the promise of actions without repercussion (anonymity), the thrill of independence (not letting parents see), and the opportunity to connect socially outside of healthy channels. In many cases, these capabilities can actually increase exposure to negative behaviors such as hate speech, violence threats, internet predation, and countless other repercussions from which most parents try to protect their kids.

Along with device controls, developing an understanding of how apps really work and how you can protect and monitor usage leads to a healthy device relationship in your household. A great place to start is with Netsanity 14-Day trial to simply monitor and understand the apps your kids are using today. With detailed logging to show the types of apps your kids use, the most active times during the day they use these apps, and more about their device use helps you develop an informed perspective on what apps you should research and possibly even block.

Why wait? Get started today.


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

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