App Friday: Establishing Best Practices for Disclosing In-App-Features

Today the FTC issued a report called Mobile Apps for Kids: Current Privacy Disclosures are DisAPPointing, which highlights “the lack of information available to parents prior to downloading mobile apps for their children”, and calling for “industry to provide greater transparency about their data practices.” That seems like a necessary and reasonable request, and given MWA is a participant in the industry, it would be wise to pay attention. We can start with the App Friday program, which is an opportunity to learn about a diverse selection of apps for kids.

Here is the checklist I use of “features to note” before purchasing an app or making it available to my children:

  • Hyperlinks websites or app stores that take the user out of the app
  • Social media buttons
  • Required log-ins or registrations in order for the app to work
  • Game Center integration
  • In App Purchasing
  • Advertising
  • Email, share or feedback functions
  • Push notifications
  • Any integration of third party SDKs
  • Any tracking of user data or analytics
  • TBD: Being constantly aware of any pending, dynamic, interconnected, technological invention

Some of these features could be fantastic (like the last one, if it’s tracking academic progress, for example), and some could be risky or annoying, but the bottom line is that it’s good to know what’s going on so you don’t get caught by surprise.

Over time, I’m confident we will see more developers include disclosures related to this checklist on their websites and within their app descriptions. I’m so confident, in fact, that I’ve wiped out the developer sidebar on the blog and had the MWA App Catalog removed from sale. Moving forward, the sidebar will be populated with developers who offer clear disclosures of in-app-features within their product descriptions. 

Featured Apps (Click the image to read the descriptions in iTunes. Promotional pricing lasts until 8pm US PST Friday, unless extended by the developer.)

Little Ace and the Ten Commandments, $.99 for App Friday. What did I notice? I enjoyed this app, it was so much more than I expected. It takes a long time to download, but I think it’s because it starts with a cinematic trailer about the story of this little chick who seeks out God, and on the way, learns about the 10 commandments.

Photo Safari, Splish Splash Inn, and Stop and Go are all FREE for App Friday, and include both iPhone and iPad versions. These are created by Short Stack apps and include “notes for parents” to suggest activities for parents and kids. Cute apps all around! The is a “more by shortstack” link within the app.

Word Book and Puzzle Box HD, FREE for App Friday. Includes In App Purchase for more content options. Puzzle and Word book choices, with stars to earn after completing activities to decorate your room. Nice, crisp and bright graphics, pleasing user interface. Also available as a Spanish version, just released.

Dr. Seuss Band FREE for App Friday. Free play with seussical instruments and create your own music. Fun stuff! In App Purchase available to unlock more content options, and  integrated with Game Center.

Question It, $7.99 for App Friday (from $24.99). For children with autism or other significant language disorders to provide systematic instruction over multiple opportunities to teach children what kind of word answers which type of Wh question. I only tried the LITE version. Please read the iTunes App Description and ratings for more information.

Animals for Tots, FREE with In App Purchase (always). The forest animals are free, and the farm animals can be purchased within the app. This is an animated flashcard app with animal sounds. Some social media buttons behind the About page.

Smartots Parents App, always FREE. A reporting tool for parents to track their kids’ progress in Smartots-enabled apps. Links to app store for recommended apps, requires login.

So that’s all I have for today, in terms of apps. I didn’t review every single in-app-feature in every app, but I think I gave you a flavor of the diversity of in-app-features available. Now, on to more fun stuff….

Find us on Facebook

Our weekly download party on Facebook starts at 10:00am PST / 1:00pm EST Friday February 17th on the PicPocket Books Facebook Page. Join the developers directly as they share more information about their apps, and pick up some fun deals along the way. I’ll be on to discuss any questions you have about our “In App Features”.

The Link Exchange

Add links to your favorite apps, blog posts, Facebook pages – or any link that covers family-friendly apps. Please include the app name (or page name) in the Link Title, your email, and a URL. Thanks for participating!

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