We have pretty firm rules about screen time in our house: We try to limit our kids, ages 6 and 8, to 30 minutes a day on the computer, in front of the television, etc. When they watch TV, we either do commercial-free programming, or record shows and fast-forward through the commercials.

(Paul Sakuma/Associated Press)

We do allow them time on the iPad, though. They don’t have a Nintendo DS or other gaming system, but with the iPad, I feel like many of the apps have a lot of educational value. So we let the screen time rule slide a bit when it comes to that.

They play Marble Math, Sentence Builder and iWriteWords, to name a few. But they also play with apps from Disney, LEGO and the Smurfs — not for three hours a day, but on car trips or when one is waiting for the other during a scout meeting or sports practice.

The story by Cecilia Kang on the front page of today’s Post, about a new report from the Federal Trade Commission saying that hundreds of popular smartphone and tablet apps aimed at children are collecting personal data and sharing it without informing parents, has me rethinking this.

Kang writes that while television and print advertising targeting children is strictly regulated, the guidelines for mobile technology are “fuzzier.” The FTC and the Obama administration want tougher regulations, but many technology giants, including Facebook, Apple and Google are resisting those efforts.

If companies are collecting — and selling — information about which apps my children are using, and then using that information to target advertising at them, that’s a lot scarier than the random ad for Stompeez they might see on television.

So what’s the answer, while I wait for the FTC to work through the privacy and safety concerns? I’m going to use any ads that pop up as a talking point to teach my children about the pervasiveness of advertising and consumerism.

We can explain that this shows companies will do anything to try to convince people that they need or want something, or that if they only had a particular item, they would be happy and all of their problems would be solved. Hopefully our message about being a smart consumer will be louder than anything that’s coming from the ads.

How do you handle advertising on mobile technology with your children? Would you like to see more regulation?

Related content:

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