The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age, and on operators of other websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from a child under 13 years of age. The act was signed in 1998, but according to a new study conducted by researchers at Michigan Medicine C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital found that child-centered games or educational apps are collecting and sharing the data of children as young as preschool.
Researchers found that 67% of the apps played by 3- to 4-year-old children collected collected the data and digital identifiers and shared them with third party marketing companies.
Here are a few ways you can help your kids reduce the amount of information that’s being collected about them online, according to TrendMicro.com:
1. Use privacy settings on any social network or website that has them. While sites like Facebook can still collect data about you, it’s best to be in the habit of sharing only as much as necessary with anyone online.
2. Delete cookies or use a browser that has a Do Not Track feature. Parents and kids can turn on Do Not Track in the four most popular browsers: Mozilla, Safari, Internet Explorer and Google Chrome.
3. Avoid certain websites or refrain from downloading apps that collect a lot of information.
4. Turn off the geo-location feature for the mobile apps that don’t need to know where your kids physically are. Some apps need it to work (such as Google Maps) but most don’t (such as Angry Birds). Also consider turning it off for the phone’s camera so that the photos they share are not tagged with their location.
5. Use security software on any device your kids is accessing the Internet from. While companies are collecting information to sell you something, there are cybercriminals who might try to steal your information for other purposes.
6. Teach kids to think critically about any offers they see online. If an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is.