Hands up how many times have you installed an app and clicked ‘I agree’ without reading the terms and conditions? And who’s reviewed the privacy settings on their Skype or Facebook accounts recently? Nope. Not many of us. In fact, over half of Facebook users don’t know what third party apps have access to their Facebook account – including personal details, timelines and event lists of friends[1]. Have you thought about eSafety for children?

So, how likely is it that our children are taking the time to review their privacy settings? And how easy does this make it for strangers to connect with them online?

With 68% of children playing games alone and without family members in the room[2], we asked kids’ eSafety app Azoomee to take a look at some of the most popular apps amongst under 13s, and find out how easy it would be to have a stranger make contact and what we as parents can do to support and protect our children. Here’s how they got on…

eSafety: App (s) you didn’t know let your kids talk to strangers

1. Clash of Clans – a combat strategy game.

Build your village, train your troops & go to battle!

  • Global Chat is available at the touch of a button and there is no way of switching it off.
  • Swear words are shown as a series of asterisks, however, these are the only words that are omitted. Users can report any language they deem offensive.
  • You can join an online clan with strangers quite easily, as well as add friends who you can then chat with in ‘clan chat’. Users can mute chat from any users they don’t want to see.
  • Whilst free to download, there are numerous in app purchases in what is known as a ‘pay to win’ model – those who are willing to spend will have the strongest clans. Players spent $2.3 Billion in these games in 2016[3].eSafety: 5 Apps you didn't know let your kids talk to strangers - Clash of Clans

What you can do?

  • Play with your child and ensure they play in a shared space.
  • As a parent you can also disable the ability to purchase within an app – the instructions you need are here: Apple iOS device in-app settings/ Google Android device in-app settings

2. Musical.ly

The lip-syncing video creation app is especially popular amongst girls.

  • Users can download, join musical.ly and start posting publically without inputting an email address. eSafety: 5 Apps you didn't know let your kids talk to strangers
  • Videos can be tagged with locations or keywords making users easier to find.eSafety: 5 Apps you didn't know let your kids talk to strangers

What can you do?

  • Talk to your child about the importance of privacy and security online. Here’s a great video from Azoomee to share with your children about the importance of keeping your personal information private.
  • Switch ‘hide location info’ option on to ensure that their location is not shown when they post a video.
  • Make their musical.ly account private – in ‘settings’ scroll down to ‘Private account’ option and turn it on. This will ensure that all videos that are posted can only be seen by approved followers but the profile will stay public.

3. ROBLOX

Roblox is a user-generated gaming platform and is the #1 gaming site for kids and teens (comScore)

  • Despite Roblox being labelled as a 12+ game on the appstore you can make a profile as young as 2 years old.
  • If you create a profile under 13 in Roblox you will be labelled as such and this is meant to limit your actions in app, yet you are still able to make friends and participate in public and private chats with strangers.
  • There is no way of knowing if the child you are speaking to on Roblox is actually a child or an adult.

eSafety: 5 Apps you didn't know let your kids talk to strangers

What you can do?

  • In March 2017, Roblox rolled out parental controls that enable parents to shut-off chat capability.

eSafety: 5 Apps you didn't know let your kids talk to strangers

4. Minecraft

Minecraft is a game for users 7+ to build and create a virtual world using building blocks.

Users can use a multiplayer function to explore the worlds created by other users and to combat, chat and play with them.

  • Like any multiplayer experience, there is a risk of bullying and inappropriate comments
  • There are possible content issues within the game, such as killing animals, according to Net Aware, 15% of parents reported seeing violent or hateful content on Minecraft Pocket Edition.eSafety: 5 Apps you didn't know let your kids talk to strangers

What can you do?

  • Restrict your child’s play to single player mode
  • Play together, understand what’s fun about the game and what potential risks there are
  • Activate restrictions on in app purchases on your device

5. Twitch

Twitch is a live social video platform for gaming, watch live streams of video games and chat with streamers and other viewers, from anywhere, anytime.

  • Twitch is officially for users 13+, but as with other sites, there is little stop a user selecting the year required to access. If you are between the ages of 13 and 18 you may only use the Twitch Services under the supervision of a parent or legal guardian who agrees to be bound by these Terms of Service.
  • Once you sign up there is nothing to stop you watching content from inappropriate games.
  • Swearing is common in the gamer’s videos, even on the live stream on the homepage https://www.twitch.tv/

What you can do?

  • Ensure your child knows how to block and report inappropriate content
  • Discuss the risks associated with the site, and how it isn’t possible to control what content you might see in a live stream and what this could entail?

Top five eSafety tips for parents:

    1. Use safe apps like Azoomee as a one stop shop for games and video online, with new content added every week, no ads, no in-app purchases.
    2. Talk to your children about their gaming habits, and play with them
    3. Keep up to date; don’t be scared of the technology, it’s important to understand the safety features in order to keep your children safe
    4. Keep gaming in a shared space, and in daylight hours; it’s good to set the example about ending screen time as the sun goes down
    5. Use online safety videos as conversation starters to explain to your kids what the dangers are and what to do if they are worried. Perhaps you can look at installing the CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) button? The Click CEOP button can be added to a school or organisations website in order to provide children and young people with information, advice and a direct reporting route to CEOP.
      If you would like to add the Click CEOP button to your site, email the URL to ceopeducation@nca.x.gsi.gov.uk who will provide you with the necessary guidance and assets.

Gaming makes up an enormous amount of the time children spend online, almost 7 hours a week for children aged 5-7 years, rising to 9 and a half hours a week for 8-11 year olds[4] and gaming is by far the most popular type of channel accessed on YouTube from 7-16 years.

Types of Youtube Channel

[5]

Games can be a great way for children to learn problem-solving and boost creativity, in the right context they can collaborate and work as teams, and most importantly have fun! But like all aspects of parenting, keeping your kid’s safe and protecting them from inappropriate content means informing yourself. Understanding their world, and with technologies evolving at the speed they do, and new apps arriving by the day, it can feel overwhelming.

Barnados recently released a campaign called “Follow Me” – posing the question of how comfortable we should be with a culture of not just accepting ‘friends’ and ‘follows’ online, but actively chasing them. When placed in the context of the real world, ‘following’ someone takes on a much more sinister edge. Knowing where our children are online, is every bit as important as knowing where they are in the real world, arguably even more important.

[1] http://www.christiankonline.com/facebook-user-privacy-infographic/

[2] Childwise (2017) Monitor Report

[3] https://venturebeat.com/2017/02/15/clash-royale-clash-of-clans-push-supercell-to-2-3-billion-in-2016-revenue/

[4] Ofcom (2016) Children and parents: media use and attitudes report 2016

[5] Childwise (2017) Monitor Report