Understanding Post Notifications On Instagram

Today was interesting. There was some buzz on the internet about Instagram’s post notification feature. Then, my family asked whether they should “turn post notifications on” so their followers would continue to see Instagram posts. If you are an Instagram user, does the image below look familiar?

Instagram post notificationsI was curious what really happens once Post notifications are turned on. It sounded similar to when Facebook changed their Pages algorithm, and all of the pages had to remind followers to subscribe in order to show up in news feeds.

Would turning on Post notifications merely guarantee an account to show up in a news feed, or would it proactively send a Push alert to a device every time a user posts?

To test, I recruited my family to open Instagram and enable some notifications. For example, open Instagram ⇒ go to Home ⇒ click an account ⇒ tap the 3-dot “…” icon in upper right ⇒  select “Turn On Post Notifications”.

Instagram post notifications

Upon selecting “Turn On Post Notifications”,  this message popped up on my device:

Instagram post notifications

This was a bit confusing to me. It sounds like for Post notifications to work, Push notifications must be enabled at the device level. Do I really want to recieve a text-like alert to my phone every time someone posts to Instagram?

And if I request that my followers “turn on notifications”, am I proactively alerting them every time I upload a photo to my Instagram account?

The situation deserved more testing. It was interesting that I had to delete and reinstall Instagram to enable Push notifications in my iPhone’s Settings (Instagram was not showing up in Settings > Notifications at first). It made me wonder if this was some ploy to get the masses to install Push notifications with the latest version of Instagram. Anyhow, now if I want to turn off the experiment, I could do so with a simple toggle in my iPhone’s Settings.

When I reinstalled the app, it was obvious that Instagram really really really wanted me to turn everything to ON.

Instagram post notifications

We proceeded to post to Instagram. Sure enough, our posts generated alerts right to the Home screen of each iPhone. 

So yes, Instagram’s Post notifications can behave like Push notifications, and may push all the way through to your device, regardless of whether the app is open or not. The end result of what you experience may depend on how Notification alerts are configured in your Settings. 

Notification Settings

My husband, who is not an avid Instagram user, appreciates the Post notification option. He is only following our family, and would like to know when one of us posts. So he will enable Post notifications for each of our accounts, and leave Push notifications ON for Instagram.

On the contrary, I open the app enough to see the activity for myself. To undo the test, I went to my iPhone’s Settings ⇒ Notifications ⇒ Instagram and turned off “Allow Notifications”. I’m hoping this keeps things quiet, for now.

Lorraine Akemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo Credit Flicker [MoB 68]

3 Lessons I Learned About Online Privacy When My Teen Googled Her Name

When my daughter Googled her name following a conversation with friends about who is on the Internet, I turned out to be her biggest online privacy problem. The results of the name search displayed several photos from my personal blog that we thought were labeled anonymously. Uh oh.

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 11.23.32 AM

“Mom, why is my sports photo showing up on an Internet search?”, she asked.

Good question, I thought. I should know better.

And so began a series of steps to understand our digital footprint before she enters the world of social media on her own terms. I learned more from this experience than any privacy workshop, and would like to share how we are addressing and correcting the problem.

Lesson 1: Evolving as a parent

As a parent, I needed to realize that my daughter is not a toddler anymore. She has opinions about how she is (or is not) presented online, and my job is to completely respect those opinions. My old default was to be proud of some milestone and shout it out, just like I did when they started walking, talking or playing. My new default is to chill out. If they have something to share, they will soon be able to share it themselves. For the past two years, my Facebook feed dropped off from family sharing, specifically for this reason.

Lesson 2: Even if I think I’m sharing anonymously, Google still has a way of figuring things out!

I never shared their first and last name combinations on a post, but Google still linked the last name from my profile with her first name, displaying her data on a name search. In instances where I thought she was totally anonymous, Google Plus circumvented the anonymity by linking text from a friend’s comment. Ugh! Should I have been using code names from day one? Or, should I have opted out completely from the online sharing universe?

Lesson 3: Third parties that seem innocuous, like sports leagues, have their own set of issues.

Another photo that popped up was from an old team roster. This sports league required photo IDs for every player, and getting the IDs printed required uploading the photo to their database. Did their database have a delete function for players? No. Were these rosters searchable over the internet? Yes. Do I wish I would have known that in advance? Yes! Lesson learned.

Attempted Fixes

After running a name search on my personal blog, I substituted every first name reference to a generic “my daughter” or “my oldest” or “my youngest”. I did the same thing on Facebook by searching for my daughters’ names and adjusting or deleting any named posts. This seemed to fix the search listings on both platforms. Unfortunately, Google Plus is less cooperative. Even after deleting a post, the search results are still displaying the image. Next, I contacted the sports league director to request player privacy. They responded right away, but it’s taking awhile for the new privacy settings to take effect.

Moving Forward

If I had to repeat the last decade, what would I do differently? Blogging is an incredibly satisfying part of my life. I enjoy sharing stories, forming opinions, and connecting with others online. I also enjoy parenting. Luckily, I have great kids who learn along with me. I asked if they wanted to make the blog private or take anything down, and they said no. They enjoy looking back on our journeys and experiences together, even moreso now that they are becoming digital citizens themselves.

Today, I try to use more discretion before posting, keeping photos generally scenic or symbolic. When a photo is identifiable to mark a special moment, I ask permission first. What started as my personal blog is becoming a shared family archive that we enjoy. As new social platforms emerge, like Instagram, I show them my account and let them scroll through, so we experience (and learn) together how it works.

This strategy seems to be working just fine, for now…until the next episode comes along!

Lorraine Akemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Launching the new Moms With Apps



We’re thrilled to announce the launch of our brand-new website that makes finding great kid apps easy. We have over 1000 high quality apps from trustworthy developers and make it easy to find the right ones for parents to find the right ones for their kids.

Moms With Apps is designed, from the ground up, by parents for parents.  It starts with a tightly curated set of high quality kids’ apps from developers who are passionate about creating amazing apps for kids.  Moms With Apps then gives parents simple tools to find the right apps for their kids by age range, subject matter, privacy settings, and even whether the app works without an internet connection.

Moms With Apps showcases apps from hundreds of top app developers. Just like nutrition labels help parents decide which snack is right for their kids, Moms With Apps also provides parents with information – in plain English – to help them decide which app is right for their kids.


Celebrating One Year of Know What’s Inside®

Just one year ago, Moms With Apps launched the Know What’s Inside® program to provide answers to parents who wanted to know whether the apps their children were using were safe. Started with 20 family-friendly developers, today the program has over 230 member companies from 20 countries. The Know What’s Inside® program has made Moms With Apps the go-to destination on the web to find world-class apps designed for children. KWI-Logo-Small-02 Moms With Apps requires that each member company agree to a strict set of criteria. These best practices provide parents and teachers with information about the inner workings of apps, and help them make more informed choices about which apps are best for their children. Parents can find companies making apps for every platform including Amazon,  Apple, Blackberry, Google, Microsoft, and Nook.

Head on over to our members page to find more about our great companies.

Sara @actonline

Over 200 App Makers Support Privacy Best Practices

The KNOW What’s Inside® program, which supports privacy best practices in apps for kids, has grown to include over 200 members. The 200th member is Cupcake Digital, one of the leaders in creating apps for well known children’s characters.

KNOW What’s Inside is an effort to educate app developers about federal privacy regulations in the mobile app marketplace. These regulations can be complex and difficult to understand given technology’s rapid pace. In spite of this, resources exist to help distill the information so app makers can move forward successfully and within bounds of the law.

Our hope is that a wide adoption of best practices by app makers (such as writing and displaying a clear and easy to understand privacy policy) will build trust with consumers of kids’ mobile content over time.

Links & References:

SXSW Panel on Innovation and Kids’ Privacy (Can They Coexist?)

South by Southwest is a large annual gathering for the music, film and technology crowd which takes place every spring in Austin, Texas. This March, Sara Kloek of the Association for Competitive Technology organized a panel about innovation and children’s online privacy. With COPPA in effect since last summer, it will be interesting to discuss how innovation is evolving amid regulation.

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 9.35.17 PM

In preparation for this panel, I’d like to publish a few notes about privacy, so we can move on to think about the question: “can innovation and privacy co-exist?”

Note #1: How do I define PRIVACY?

For adults, I view “online privacy” as my right to understand how my actions on connected devices are transmitted across networks. If I click or tap something, is that action anonymous, or is it tracked, and to what level can that action identify me?

For children, I define “online privacy” as a small child’s ability to use technology without disruption from outside services directed to adults. By services, I mean things like being able to make a purchase, view a general audience advertisement, or access the internet.

Note #2: What do app makers need to know to deal with privacy laws successfully?

App makers need to know about COPPA, and a great way to get educated is to read the FAQs published by the FTC. Upon reading, app makers should note three primary points:

  1. The definition of “Collect Personal Information” includes a persistent identifier, so even using analytics in an app for kids can trigger COPPA if not done so in a compliant fashion.
  2. The definition of “Operator” includes any 3rd party services in the app, meaning the app maker is responsible for ALL services integrated into the app being COPPA compliant.
  3. Getting Verifiable Parental Consent, within an app for kids, isn’t easy. Do parents have the time and inclination to provide their email, fax, credit card, or ss# to an app? You tell me, but I know my own personal answer is no. This means app makers will benefit from understanding the Exceptions to parental consent, covered in section I of the FAQ.

Note #3: What do parents need so they don’t find themselves (and their kids) in a jam?

  1. The truth, even if the truth isn’t perfect
  2. A trusted brand so they can make purchasing decisions
  3. A uncomplicated user interface to save time and eliminate technology confusion

Do parents have these things yet in the world of kids and technology? Some, but not all. For #1, we are working on the KNOW What’s Inside program for app developers, with 180+ companies who build transparency into app descriptions. For #2, some trusted brands in the app space are emerging, with great companies both succeeding AND doing the right thing. But are these brands as well known to parents as PBS? To be determined. Number 3 is “in process”. Many start-ups have innovative ideas about family tech, but only time will tell if these ideas gain traction with a large scale audience.

Note #4: Where have we seen innovations?

Clear, concise, and easy to read privacy policies (this example provided by Cowly Owl):

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 9.13.18 PM

Iconic disclosures (originally launched on Moms With Apps, created by Operatio Apps)

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 9.07.11 PM

Audience segmentation (i.e., “gates”) in mobile apps (this example provide by Avokiddo):


Family-friendly social sharing (this example provide by Sprite Kids):


Highlighting trust and transparency (this example provided by Very Nice Studio):


Note #5: Is it possible for innovation and privacy to co-exist?

In my opinion, yes – but it takes a lot of work. Designing a product for kids under thirteen requires time to do the homework on applicable legislation. In addition, it requires a thoughtful and appropriate product implementation, with enough patience to let the brand grow the good old fashioned way.  In other words, success in the kids’ app marketplace may look more like the turtle than the hare.

In the meantime, we do what we can to advocate for app makers who are making family-friendly choices.


KNOW What’s Inside™ Partners

KWI Partners

Moms with Apps is a community of app developers making amazing apps for children. Our community benefits from an extensive ecosystem, including the people who highlight members of the KNOW What’s Inside program (app makers who implement privacy best practices in apps for kids). Together, we share the mission of supporting app makers who design products with children in mind. I’d like to recognize our first set of partners so we can start building out our program.

Jellybean Tunes App Report

Every week, Garry Froehlich of Jellybean Tunes produces The App Report, which showcases newly launched, family-friendly apps. This report is syndicated by a group of reviewers who use social media to spread the word. Garry takes time to designate which of the apps are members of KNOW What’s Inside by placing the member logo next to the each applicable app. Thank you GARRY!

Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 10.29.42 AMApp Friday

Every week, George Karavias of App Friday publishes a “Download Center” of specially priced, family-friendly apps. These apps receive enthusiastic reception from parents and educators who consistently follow the promotion on the web, Facebook, and Twitter. Each KNOW What’s Inside member has a green checkmark by their app, so consumers know which apps are actively implementing privacy best practices in apps for kids. Thank you GEORGE!

Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 10.34.43 AM

Pappas Appar

Daniel Wieselberg of Pappas Appar runs a popular and well respected app review site in Sweden. Daniel adds the KWI Logo to each member he reviews on the site. Additionally, Daniel has added the functionality to search apps according to their characteristics, such as age, gates, category, and ratings. Thank you DANIEL!

Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 10.40.16 AM


Siva from AppyMall runs one of the largest online searchable databases for kids’ apps, sorted by “store” category such as Apps for Special Needs, Apps for Middle School, and Apps for Speech and Language. He pays close attention to our KWI members and gives them the spotlight in recognition of their respect for children’s online privacy.

To become a KNOW What’s Inside™ partner, please contact hello@momswithapps.com with an example of how we can increase awareness of KNOW What’s Inside™ members. We can take the conversation from there.

Getting On Track With COPPA


To prepare for the launch of KNOW What’s Inside, a kids’ app program for privacy best practices, I’ve been looking at a lot of apps and privacy policies. There seem to be common areas where developers are unclear about COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), and I want to share these observations to help with July 1st compliance efforts.

Many developers are still leaning on their website privacy policies instead of privacy statements specific to mobile apps. 

I’m noticing that developers either don’t have privacy policies, or if they do, their policies do not adequately describe how data is used in their apps. Many policies are written for websites, and not for mobile apps. Apps have their own set of dynamic features that use data, and these features need to be addressed in policies so consumers can learn what to expect from the app. Also, writing the policy helps developers think through their data framework in context of the regulation. For information about what to include in a privacy policy, see COPPA FAQ section C, and as a best practice, the KNOW What’s Inside program description.

“Collecting Personal Information” has multiple meanings.

I often read clauses in privacy policies that say, “we do not collect any personal information”, where the developer then thinks COPPA compliance does not apply. Our traditional understanding of “collecting personal information” meant type-in-your-name-and-address-and-email-on-this-website-so-I-can-store-it-on-my-server. But the updated COPPA definition of “collecting personal information” means something more like collect-use-or-disclose-digital-data-even-if-that-data-is-a-number-without-a-name-attached (and even if that data is collected by some other company!) Even if you don’t have users doing a bunch of data entry in your app, please be aware of features or services in your app that are data-rich. Sections A.2 and A.3 of the FAQs summarize this quite well.

When designing apps for kids, YOU are responsible for the privacy practices of all services included in your app. 

Farther down in the privacy policy I might read something like: “This app may include links to other online services, and we are not responsible for the privacy practices of those other services”. Given that the definition of Operator has been updated, these might not be the kind of assumptions we want to make. Check out the description of “Operator” in Section A.5 of the FAQ: “Modify the definition of “operator” to make clear that the Rule covers an operator of a child-directed site or service where it integrates outside services, such as plug-ins or advertising networks, that collect personal information from its visitors.”  Simply put, if you integrate services that aren’t COPPA compliant, then you aren’t either. This handy post from ACT4Apps helps developers evaluate the COPPA compliance of a 3rd party service.

Once you feel like you are ready to tackle COPPA, come see us at Moms With Apps – we have a great program waiting for you!

App Developers Speak Up About Design and Policy

Two key events are taking place this week for children’s app developers. First is the Dust or Magic App Camp on the Monterey Peninsula, where a variety of experts share best practices for making interactive media. Kicking off with a “State of the App” panel on trends and news, the conference continued into case studies about building apps for kids. Many of the highlights were tweeted out in the #dustormagic stream. If you are an aspiring app developer and want to learn from industry leaders, here are the people to watch: http://dustormagic.com/appcamp/appcamp-2013-speakers/.

This photo was taken in Merrill Hall at the Asilomar Conference Center, which is where App Camp takes place annually each May.


Meanwhile, another group of app developers headed to Washington DC to discuss immigration, STEM and privacy issues with policy makers. Hosted by the Association for Competitive Technology, 50 app developers and tech entrepreneurs met with state senators and local representatives. They visited the White House Office of Science and Technology whose staff advises the President about the internet, innovation and privacy. They also met with the Federal Trade Commission to discuss children’s online privacy and best practices.

Here are some photos of Ann Adair, the mom-with-app from Thinkamingo, on her trip to the White House and Capitol Hill (with Senator Marco Rubio!).




By speaking up and collaborating with others, app developers can make a difference in their industry. The challenging trifecta of ever-changing technology, crowded app stores, and increased regulation are tough problems to solve. But these issues are not impossible with a community dedicated to sorting it all out. Thanks for the photos Ann!

FTC Sends Letters to Developers About COPPA Rule

In preparation for the new COPPA Rule coming July 1st, the FTC sent letters to over 90 app developers summarizing compliance information. Reading the FTC’s press release, in addition to these letters, would be an ideal crash course for interpreting new COPPA legislation. How do your apps need to be constructed to be in compliance with COPPA? Who is at risk? What are the exceptions? A summarized version of these answers is spelled out in the following resources:

FTC’s announcement about the letters: http://ftc.gov/opa/2013/05/coppa_education.shtm

Letter to developers who may be collecting audio and images in apps: http://ftc.gov/os/2013/05/130515coppadomesticimagesletter.pdf

Letter to developers who may be collecting persistent identifiers in apps: http://ftc.gov/os/2013/05/130515coppadomesticidentifiersletter.pdf