Who’s behind your kids Apps and shaping their charming faces?

Photo Wonder

My 11-year-old daughter asked me for some new apps today.

Thinking I’d be clever, I asked her to write down the names of the apps she has heard about from her friends and the names of the app developers.  I told her I’d google the developers to see what kind of companies they were, what they were developing and try and navigate the murky waters of app developers who are targeting young children and tweens.  I’m curious, what’s their motivation?

Have you ever wondered what motivates a company to create a slew of FREE apps directed to young girls, encouraging them to take their picture, change their faces, modify their voices and share their creations?

Do app developers then have access to their customers photos?

How much information can be gleaned from the activity of children on the apps?  Emails? Locations?

Here’s just one of the apps she’d heard about from a friend, as seen on the itunes.apple.com website:

Photo Wonder by  Developer: Beijing Baidu Netcome Science & Technology Co., Ltd.

The app description says it shapes charming faces and slim bodies.  Basically, it enables users to take their picture and then edit a slimmer body onto themselves.  Or as they say, “Shaping charming faces and slimming bodies in the easiest way.”

As seen on itunes.apple.com.
As seen on itunes.apple.com.

The reviews:

“Sexy      by Peoplez jojo

So yummy I love it

This is my favorite photo editing app  by Bunnne

I love this app so much! It is not only cute but very useful! I recommend it to anyone who loves taking selfies!

沒有跟大咖對比那個吖    by Zhuomin C

下載就是為了對比那個的”

But don’t worry parents — it’s for ages 4+.

But just because a four year old can use this app, is it ‘safe’ to teach young children that re-shaping and slimming is better?  If the app then encourages users to share enhanced photographs of themselves, is that a safe online practice?

There is a specific code for advertising to children as defined by ages two to eleven-years-old.  Part of the reason for having such strict guidelines, as stated in the background of the code is that, “Children, especially the very young, live in a world that is part imaginary, part real and sometimes do not distinguish clearly between the two.”

I went to the Apple website to see how new app developers were regulated and what criteria did they need to meet to be able to give a 4+ guideline.  I’m still looking.

Parental App Review sites like Common Sense Media offer advice and age appropriate guidelines to parents, but it’s not comprehensive and Photo Wonder didn’t appear at the time this was published.  And it’s not always what the app does, but tather, who the app exposes our children too.

And perhaps I’m over-thinking this and all of these FREE Princess Apps, Make-up Salon Apps, Voice Changers, etc. are harmless.  The question is, who can tell us and who can we trust?

An internet security specialist said to me, “nothing is free online.  Always question motivation.”  He also said, quite wisely, he’d never let his kids buy an app that had anything to do with a camera.  He says “sharing photos is far too dangerous for children to do online.”

As a Mom, I would welcome some clearer and more comprehensive guidelines to help keep us parents on an even playing field.  In the meantime, I get to tell my daughter, “No” and she gets to reply, “You’re the most over-protective Mom.  It’s so unfair.”

Little does she know, it’s not only unfair, it’s a mine field.

What’s my motivation? I studied Journalism at University of King’s College in Halifax, NS and spent several years working in kids television at YTV, where I promoted, marketed and adhered to CRTC’s guidelines and regulations for ‘speaking’ to children through media.  The rules there are clear, as are parents expectations.  I’m simply trying to examine the disconnect that’s taking place in our children’s world online.

 

Cookbook launch at St. Mary’s Boat Club

Around 200 guests came out to celebrate Wendy McCallum’s Real Food For Real Families cookbook launch.

The event took place on a beautiful June evening at St. Mary’s Boat Club in Halifax, N.S., where families and friends basked in the sun-filled party room, sampled recipes and had their cookbooks signed by the newly published author.

Colorfully decorated tasting tables were adorned with recipes from McCallum’s cookbook; including Cowpoke Chili, a selection of dips, roasted nuts and power balls.

Here’s a slideshow sampling of my photography from the event:

Owner of Simple Balance, McCallum has spent more than a year creating and nurturing ‘real food’ recipe alternatives to fast food convenience meals often relied upon by busy families.

McCallum’s cookbook is now available in Chapters and Indigo across Canada.