Report on kids’ app use shows frightening results, child protection centre says

A new report from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P) has taken a deep dive into app use among young people, and its results may be alarming for many parents.

The research has found that many apps being offered through public app stores have unsuitable age ratings, inconsistent enforcement, and parental controls that can be easily bypassed.

The centre’s Signy Arnason told 680 CJOB’s The Start that over the course of the pandemic, the organization has seen a 48 per cent increase in child victims coming forward over the course of the pandemic, and that it is calling for stronger Internet regulations.

“Kids are being sextorted, doxxed, (victims of) non-consensual distribution of intimate images, online luring — there are all sorts of things kids are facing,” Arnason said.

“There’s increased time they’re online and there are major risks.”

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Arnason said more onus needs to be put on tech companies and app stores to protect children online.

“All you have to confirm is, ‘Yes, I’m 17.’ … Meanwhile, the app store knows at what age you signed up to your account,” she said.

“There’s absolutely no excuse for why we’ve allowed kids to connect to apps that are really for adult audiences.”

Read more: Winnipeg man arrested by child exploitation unit, RCMP looking for additional victims

The Centre is urging parents to have important conversations with their children about online safety and app use — until more safeguards are put in place.

Yet Arnason said the tech industry has unfairly put all of the responsibility on parents, which she said just isn’t reasonable.

“You cannot know what your children are doing 24/7 on these devices. It’s impossible,” she said.

“We’ve got to start to gain some control over this environment, which is why this app report fits with many of our other studies that say the Internet has to be regulated.

“This isn’t good enough, because who is paying the biggest price for this? It’s children.”

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