Social media is everywhere these days, as are the followers, friends, postings, and tweets that seem to consume everything in their wake. But what's less known is the extent to which those networks are available to young children—without their parents' knowledge—through apps marketed as educational tools.
That was one of the many findings of a report released this week by the Federal Trade Commission, "Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade," which raised broad questions about the extent to which popular apps, games, and others tools pose privacy risks to children and their families by making personal information available to third parties without telling parents about it.
We wrote about the report's overall findings, as did others. But the extent to which apps, available through Apple and Google Play, allow children to connect in one way or another to Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, and to a lesser extent Game CEtner, OpenFeint, YouTube, and others, without their parents' knowledge, was largely overlooked.
About 9 percent of the apps surveyed by the FTC in the report disclosed that they had links to social media. But as was the case with other aspects of the FTC's review, the app designers' disclosures did not tell the full story.
When the agency investigated the apps, they found that a substantially higher portion of them, 22 pecent, in fact linked to social media.
Parents should be worried about these app-to-social media links for several reasons, the FTC argues. Parents may not want their children communicating with other users they've never met. And they also might worry about children posting comments, photos, or videos that could attack someone's reputation.
Social media's integration into apps is "highly relevant to parents selecting apps for their children, and should be disclosed prior to download," the authors of the report say.
Here's a breakdown of the extent to which social media are accessible through the apps reviewed by the FTC: