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Children are at risk from smartphone apps

UK regulator wants parents to step in between kids and apps
Wed Jan 16 2013, 15:22
Smartphone user

UK MOBILE REGULATOR Phonepayplus has warned parents about a pocket-based threat, the smartphone application, or app.

A report from the regulator said it has seen way too much danger in smartphones and asks that parents step in and take some responsibility for what children access, play, and do.

Not being involved, it warned, puts children at risk from security issues, rogue apps, high bills and cruel tricksters.

Phonepayplus said that it has seen plenty of scams, including versions of Angry Birds that were downloaded through the Android app store yet pinched £15 from people, and it thinks that enough is enough.

"Complaints to the regulator about children and apps rose 300 percent in a year," it said in its report. "There are risks from apparently free services, with malware and in-app billing being particularly risky for children."

It named Angry Birds, Assassin's Creed and Cut the Rope as apps that have been copied by fraudsters, and in one case the regulator said these were able to steal £15 from users.

In another case people were exploited by tricksters who convinced them that paying for something in a game would help a friend in real-life.

"In one case a 14 year old girl was tricked into paying for virtual credits in a game when a social media 'friend' said she had no credits to phone her dying grandmother," added Phoneplayplus.

"In another case, children between 12-14 year olds were tricked into 'sharing' and 'liking' a promotion for supermarket vouchers on Facebook, virally spreading the promotion which misled users into taking part in a premium rate competition."

The regulator said that it is working with firms including Facebook to make sure that scammers are not able to exploit children in this way, and also recommended that parents start putting the 'smart' into 'smartphone'.

"Connected devices will define the age in which today's children live and we are determined to ensure that they can receive the benefits while being protected from the risks," said Paul Whiteing, chief executive of Phonepayplus.

"Smartphones in children's pockets can burn holes in parent's wallets, so we are working with partners across industry and other agencies to prevent this. This is a real challenge for parents and for us as a regulator but this plan meets that challenge head on."

Parents are advised that they can do things like registering the phone as a child's phone, keeping an eye on their bills and making sure that they know what apps they have and what those apps involve. µ

 

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