Smartphone, tablet apps pose risk to children: expert

The director of a national child exploitation tip-line is concerned smartphone and tablet apps are puting children at risk of being lured by child predators.

Child-luring expert says apps may be linking predators with children

The director of a national child exploitation tip-line said children are now becoming vulnerable via online games and smartphone and tablet apps. CBC's Gosia Sawicks reports. 2:22

The director of a national child exploitation tip-line is concerned smartphone and tablet apps are puting children at risk of being lured by child predators.’s director, Signy Arnason said apps can share too much information about the children using them and could allow strangers to contact children.

A report published in 2012 by the American Federal Trade Commission looked at 400 randomly chosen children’s apps from the Apple App Store and Google Play store.

The study found 21 per cent of the apps allowed children to access social media sites where they could share sensitive information without parental supervision.

A handful of the apps also shared information such as the location and phone number of the user with a third party. 

The authors of the study concluded only one in five apps clearly informed parents about the app’s capabilities before it was downloaded, and they called on the industry to improve its communication with users when it comes to privacy disclosures.

Arnason is also warning parents about the dangers of apps. She said too often apps allow children to be contacted by strangers through the internet and often without the parent’s knowledge.

"I just don't think that parents have even contemplated this new area. [...] Right now it's pretty open ended and it presents some challenges," said Arnason.

According to Arnason, apps also fall short on tracking and monitoring conversations children may be having with strangers.

"What we're seeing, though, as we're shifting into the app space, is a lot of that isn't recorded, a lot of that isn't moderated, and it's a space that I think we're going to see some growing risk," she said.

Arnason said the lack of monitoring also creates challenges for law enforcement should a child be contacted inappropriately.

CBC contacted Google and Apple for comment.

Google said in a statement it has an "industry-leading permission system" and offers "best practices for developers to follow when designing apps that handle user data."

Apple declined to comment.