Which apps targeted at kids collect the most data?

By the age of 8 years old, over 80% of children regularly use a tablet. They use the apps on these devices to watch their favorite shows, talk with friends, play, and learn about the world.

But did you know that most of the apps collect vast amounts of data on your kids? Probably not. After all, parents have got a tonne of things to worry about.

So to help you keep your kid's data safe, TheToyZone put together some charts ranking the apps for children that collect the most data.

But first, let's look at how (and why) companies get hold of your kid's data.

The realities of data collection for parents

It's official: data is now the most precious resource globally. Many commentators already call it the ‘new oil.’ Data gives companies and other organizations insights into our online habits, including what we might want to buy or download in the future.

And when something is that valuable, companies will go to great lengths to get their hands on it, even if it means crossing into some murky areas where the line between right and wrong becomes increasingly blurred.

A recent study at Berkeley University identified thousands of data-gathering apps aimed at kids. It found that:

"The apps harvested location or contact data without verifiable parental consent, and nearly a fifth of the apps collected personally identifiable information [e.g. name, birthday, biometrics] through third-party software development kits (SDKs) that were not supposed to be used in child-directed apps. Many also transmitted data without adequate security."

In other words, apps use technical loopholes to gather personal information on your children. They know their name, dates of birth, location, habits, and desires.

Are you feeling uncomfortable? You should be!

These apps also rely on the fact that busy parents don’t have the time to read through all those (deliberately?) confusing terms and conditions when downloading apps on their kid's devices.

Data hungry apps aimed at kids

So which apps gather the most data on your kids?

Greenlight Kids & Teen Banking is the most invasive kid's app, according to the study by TheToyZone.

In principle, the app is a great idea. It helps youngsters develop financial literacy, set saving goals, and even create their own little business where they can make cash doing chores.

But Greenlight Kids starts tracking 22 pieces of data as soon as it's downloaded. That's more than any other app on the list.

And it gets worse.

Greenlight advertised itself as an ethical app that never sells or monetizes children's data. However, an investigation by Vice magazine found a loophole in Greenlight's privacy agreement that reserves the right to share personal information with ad and marketing vendors, insurance companies, collection agencies, and other service providers - whoever they might be.

The company stuck by its original claim, stating that the clause was there in the event that Greenlight ever decided to start selling data in the future. Which it never would - of course!

More data hungry apps

The popular mobile game Pokemon GO is the second most data-hungry app in the study. It collects seventeen pieces of data related to your children's contact info, location, search history, user content, and the rather vague sound category of 'other data.'

Pokemon GO uses the data to refine the customer experience and identify other games, apps, or products that might interest your children.

But could it be up to something a little more nefarious? Possibly.

One of Pokemon GO's earliest investors was a company called In-Q-Tel. You probably haven't heard of them. Not many people have. That's because In-Q-Tel is a venture capital investment firm belonging to the USA's Central Intelligence Service (CIA).

Other kid apps that collect the most data include Animal Jam (16), Messenger Kids by Meta Platforms (15), and Youtube Kids (15.)

What types of apps collect the most data?

If you want to keep your kid's data safe, you need to know which types of apps collect the most information.

Money management apps like Greenlight Kids top the list. On average, they track 10.1 segments of data.

Unfortunately, every kid's favorite type of app comes in second. It's gaming. Popular gaming apps track 9.3 segments. This is especially worrying given just how much time our young people spend on gaming apps.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently labeled gaming addiction as a serious mental health condition. The WHO classes gaming addiction as "a pattern of gaming behavior characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities despite the occurrence of negative consequences." One WHO report found that the worst affected gaming addicts can spend up to 18 hours a day playing online games or apps!

Social media addiction among younger people is another major area of concern for medical professionals. And its ubiquitous presence in children's lives is one of the main reasons social media is a goldmine for greedy data gatherers. Social media apps come second on TheToyZone's list of which apps collect the most data. On average, they gather 6.5 segments of data.

Video streaming apps are next (6.3 segments), followed by books & reading apps (5.2 segments).

Coding, nature & animals, and science apps collect the least data. It's somewhere between 2.4 and 3.6 segments. More importantly, most of the segments are limited to usage and customer experience data.

Apps that collect zero data

A small number of apps reject the notion of data gathering completely. They're hard to find. So here's a breakdown of the apps that don't collect any information on your kids.

When it comes to social media, try and get your little ones to use Edmodo and Girl2GirlWall. They collect no data whatsoever.

City builder game Townscaper is the only gaming app in the study that collects no data.

Easy Dyslexia Aid and MarcoPolo Ocean are two educational apps that teach children without asking for any of their data in return.

It's practically impossible to use any digital service without handing over at least some of our personal information. The trick is to stay vigilant and understand what your kids are signing up to. It’s hard, but nobody ever said parenting was easy!
These kids apps collect the most personal data
Children’s Digital Privacy: The Apps for Kids That Collect the Most Data
In this new study, TheToyZone analyzed the privacy policies of the top 100+ apps for kids and ranked them based on how much data they collect:
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