Safety vs. Surveillance: What Children have to say about Mobile Apps for Parental Control


CHI '18: Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems

Paper No. 124

Mobile applications ("apps") developed to promote online safety for children are underutilized and rely heavily on parental control features that monitor and restrict their child's mobile activities. This asymmetry in parental surveillance initiates an interesting research question -- how do children themselves feel about such parental control apps? We conducted a qualitative analysis of 736 reviews of 37 mobile online safety apps from Google Play that were publicly posted and written by children (ages 8-19). Our results indicate that child ratings were significantly lower than that of parents with 76% of the child reviews giving apps a single star. Children felt that the apps were overly restrictive and invasive of their personal privacy, negatively impacting their relationships with their parents. We relate these findings with HCI literature on mobile online safety, including broader literature around privacy and surveillance, and outline design opportunities for online safety apps.

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