Children's Privacy at Risk

Children’s Privacy at Risk: New Data Reveals Apps Are Spying on Your Kids with 60% Having Access to Your Child’s Social Media and Camera Devices

Published on: December 13, 2023
Last Updated: December 13, 2023

Children’s Privacy at Risk: New Data Reveals Apps Are Spying on Your Kids with 60% Having Access to Your Child’s Social Media and Camera Devices

Published on: December 13, 2023
Last Updated: December 13, 2023

Children’s Privacy at Risk

  • 60% of the most popular kids apps have access to your child’s social media profiles and camera devices
  •  A third (33%) track everything your child is doing, including monitoring eye movements, and physical activity 
  • 23% have microphone access or store voice search recordings
  • 73% share or sell your children’s personal data 
  • Half (50%) of the most popular apps amongst children HIDE data collection practices
  • PAW Patrol Rescue World tracks 61% of your child’s personal and sensitive data 
  • 70% of apps who collect the most data are aimed at children 5 and under
Kid With App

A new study by tech review website, EarthWeb.com, analyses the privacy policies of the most popular kids apps and finds they are collecting vast amounts of information on your children, with 60% having access to their social media profiles and camera devices, and 73% sharing their personal information with third-parties.

Analysing the true scale of children’s privacy violations, 73% of apps were found to share or sell your children’s personal information with third-parties, and 60% have access to social media profiles and camera devices when access is enabled in device settings. 

Data from the Information Commissioner’s Office shows that 72% of children aged 3-18 have access to a tablet within their household, and nearly half of parents (49%) are concerned about how companies are collecting data on their children, highlighting a growing worry for parents in the digital age. 

Examining other areas around child digital privacy that might shock parents, the study showed 23% of apps have microphone access or store voice search recordings, and a third (33%) track everything your child is doing while connected to the app including tracking eye movements, and physical activity data. 

Looking at which popular apps track your children the most, the study reveals PAW Patrol Rescue World is tracking 61% of your child’s personal and sensitive data, scoring high on personal and behavioural data collection. 

PAW Patrol Rescue World

PAW Patrol tracks seven strains of personal and two strands of sensitive data, including your child’s age, name and date of birth, gender, contact details and location data.

Looking at behavioural data, the app monitors how your child uses it, and will gather persistent identifiers such as your IP address to determine the approximate location of your child. 

Noggin Preschool App tracks 90% of your child’s personal data, harvesting details on their interests, photos, date of birth, home address and gender information.

Whereas popular children’s game, Roblox is found to collect 53% of your child’s data, monitoring physical movements if connected on a VR platform and having access to your device’s address book.

Roblox 

The study reveals a disturbing trend of apps targeting young children, with 70% of apps that collect the most data aimed at children under five.

and analysing privacy policies, 50% failed to properly disclose how children’s data is collected, used, stored and shared.

Addressing the ambiguity surrounding data collection practices in app privacy policies, EarthWeb’s findings underscore the need for stricter regulations and enhanced transparency from app developers.

Jason Wise, Editor at EarthWeb comments: “Our analysis reveals that a significant portion of the apps gathering the most data are targeted towards children aged 5 and under, who may lack sufficient comprehension of the terms and conditions they’re agreeing to amidst persistent push notifications and pop-ups, even after parental consent is obtained”

Jason Wise continues: “To protect children’s privacy, parents must take proactive measures.

While fully comprehending app privacy policies before downloading may not always be possible, understanding how individual apps track children is crucial for tailoring effective online safety measures.

For instance, if an app is tracking your IP Address, introducing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt a child’s internet activity renders it more challenging for third parties to monitor their online behaviour.

Moreover, privacy-focused web browsers like DuckDuckGo and Brave can safeguard a child’s privacy.

Additionally, many devices offer parental controls to restrict screen time, limit app and website access, and monitor online activity.

Parents should set app permissions carefully, specifically around personal and location data, and regularly review them to make changes as and when needed”. 

Across the 30 apps analysed, 96 types of personal information is revealed to be tracked, including 20 types of sensitive personal data and 47 types of behavioural data, wth the average app tracking 8.8 strains of data on your child. 

According to the study, 40% of apps who collect the most data are from gaming categories, with educational apps tracking the same as social media and messaging (30%).

Looking at download costs of the apps who track children the most, 90% of them are free to sign-up, with PJ Masks Racking Heros the only application charging users. 

Only two apps in the study held a COPPA Safe Harbor Certification – a program to ensure practices surrounding collection, use, maintenance and disclosure of personal information from children under the age of 13 are consistent with principles and requirements of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The Top 10 Popular Kids Apps Spying on Your Child the MOST – with PAW Patrol and Roblox Ranking Higher than TikTok

RankApp NameCategoryAge RangePersonal Data Score (/10)Sensitive Personal Data Score (/6)Unique Identifiers Score (/2)Behavioural Data score (/5)Third-party Tracking Data Score (/3)Spy Score
1PAW Patrol Rescue WorldGaming5 & Under7223261%
2RobloxGaming9+4224253%
3Lingokids – Play & LearnEducational5 & Under6123253%
4TikTokSocial Media & Messaging13+6221250%
5Noggin Preschool Learning AppEducational5 & Under9100142%
6Speech Blubs: Language TherapyEducational5 & Under4122242%
7Kiddopia – Kids Learning GamesGaming5 & Under6221042%
8InstagramSocial Media & Messaging13+2223138%
9PJ Masks: Racing HeroesGaming5 & Under5021238%
10SnapchatSocial Media & Messaging13+2223138%

Methodology:

  • 30 of the most popular current children’s apps were included in the study
  • The privacy policies of all 30 apps were analysed looking at personal, sensitive, behavioural, unique identifiers and third-party sharing to collect datapoints on how much information is gathered on children in these categories 
  • The overall score for each app was calculated by adding each category together and dividing that number by the full count and multiplying by 100 

Sources

Information Commissioner’s Office Data

Stay on top of the latest technology trends — delivered directly to your inbox, free!

Subscription Form Posts

Don't worry, we don't spam

Written by Jason Wise

Hello! I’m the editor at EarthWeb, with a particular interest in business and technology topics, including social media, privacy, and cryptocurrency. As an experienced editor and researcher, I have a passion for exploring the latest trends and innovations in these fields and sharing my insights with our readers. I also enjoy testing and reviewing products, and you’ll often find my reviews and recommendations on EarthWeb. With a focus on providing informative and engaging content, I am committed to ensuring that EarthWeb remains a leading source of news and analysis in the tech industry.