Our research has shown that parents' primary concerns when coming to choose mobile apps/games for their children is content appropriateness and cost. Existing research has shown that parents largely feel unsupported with choosing digital media for their children, and at the same time, they struggle to gain help from their families/friends or authoritative sources.
Our interactions with children have shown that children aged 6-10 have a good awareness of the importance of accessing age-appropriate content online. However, a large majority of them are finding their favourite apps/games through in-app or online promotions that may be personalised, based on their interests or the games they are already playing with. There are several possible consequences:
- Children's online footprints got exposed: A lot of these digital footprints of children are either explicitly collected, or more commonly, implicitly tracked through cookies or even newer technologies, during children's interaction with devices, of their own or shared amongst family members. As a result, not only children's only personal data and digital habits may be exposed to the vast number of online trackers, but also their families.
- Children are more likely to be exposed to promotions: Although children are cautious of being careful online, they are often attracted by the content and happy to "try out". However, these apps are not always designed with children's best interest in mind, and children have very little awareness of being exposed to promotion as a result of them being tracked.
Therefore, our KOALA Hero App is designed to help families to consider beyond the content appropriateness when choosing mobile apps for children, by incorporating additional information about:
- the amount of time spent on the app
- the age rating, education value or potential exposure to inappropriate language or in-app promotions of an app, aggregated from the commonsensemedia.org web site, an authoritative non-profit education organisation based in the US, and
- the number of trackers associated with an app
We hope the app will not only help parents to make a more informed choice of apps for their children but also make use of this app as a playground to facilitate discussions with their children about risks and implications.
What have you been using lately?
Is Instagram suitable for you?
Is Instagram sending a lot of information to others?
Where does Instagram send information to?
KOALA Hero is still under active development. For research evidence driven the development of the app, please refer to our report page.
If you want to get involved, please look out in our participation page for future design workshops and field trials of KOALA Hero!