Applications, also known as apps, can be downloaded onto computers, laptops and mobile devices. They can be downloaded onto any electronic device that is connected to the internet.

Each app is a program or piece of software that can do different functions or activities. They can be used to social network, read the news or do your banking – their functions are endless! They are used for many different reasons and new ones are created every day. 

Social media apps

Many popular social networking websites are also available as apps for your smartphone or mobile device. Some examples of apps include:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat

Many apps are free, but there are some you need to pay for. Be aware that some apps have extra features that you have to pay money to use. These are called in-app purchases.   

Challenges of apps

It’s important to remember that there can be more security risks involved in using free apps. This is because they often want more of your personal information in exchange for the app being free.

Official stores

It’s important that you only download apps from the official stores, such as the Apple Mac App Store or the Android Market. Apps from these stores have been tested to make sure they work on the device they are used on.

Free or low-cost versions of apps

Warning iconMany apps will have an option of downloading the free version or paying money for the full or premium version. Free or low-cost apps are sometimes pirated and repackaged to contain malware. This means they are stolen and given a virus that can hurt your device. You can read more about malware here

Downloading apps from places other than official stores could:

  • cause damage to your device
  • put your personal information at greater risk.


Most smartphone apps use a system to work out the best age group to use the app. This is called classification. The official app stores will have more information about the age classifications for each app you use.


Some apps are free which can make them very attractive to children and young people. A lot of apps need to be bought using a credit card or gift card. We encourage parents to talk to their children about the apps they want to use before helping them to buy them.


When a developer makes an app it must meet privacy laws. These laws are about how the app uses your personal information. However, not every app is checked to make sure it meets these requirements. You should be aware of the privacy policies for all the apps you use.

Internet access

Downloading app iconWhen you download an app you should check whether it will need ongoing internet access. Some apps do not need to be connected to the internet once you have downloaded them. Other apps don’t work properly without the internet. If you are using an app that needs to be connected to the internet, think about how this will affect your data allowance. It can be very expensive if you go above your set download limit.

Top tips

  • Research the apps you and your family use so that you know what activities everyone is involved in.
  • Check the classification of each app and that it is age appropriate.
  • Only download apps from the official stores.
  • Before you download an app, check which features of your device (particularly the GPS function) it wants to use – turn off any that are unnecessary.
  • Some apps contain in-app purchases which can quickly add up on your phone bill. Read your device’s user guide to learn how to turn off in-app purchases.