Privacy Policy

We are scientists. We are also parents, and we use KidTalk with our own families. Data collected by this app is for you, the users, and for science. We will not sell data under any circumstances, or share your data without your permission. We are committed to protecting your data.


First, participating in KidTalk means that our research team can access your data in order to conduct scientific analyses. No one else (e.g., funding agencies, other universities) can access your data without your permission. If you want, you can give us permission to share your recordings with other KidTalk families in the 'Say What?' game, and also share your data in public scientific repositories. ​This maximizes your impact on science. However, you can turn off sharing at any time by going to 'Settings' or 'Consent Form' in the Menu Bar. Even if you have them turned on, you can label any individual recording as 'private' and it will not be shared.


Data shared in scientific repositories will be shared in a way that makes it less likely that anyone will know the data is yours. But of course, someone who knows you may recognize your voice. 


Second, we will combine your data with those of other families to write summaries that may be published in scientific papers or discussed in the media. Just like when you read about the results of a poll, these reports will describe averages and other summaries. Your name and identifying information will not be included. We will discuss these findings in our blog, so stay tuned!

A copy of our consent form and IRB approval letter can be found here for your reference. 


For more detail, read on below.


Step 1: Logging into KidTalk


You can log into KidTalk with a new username and password or with existing accounts (e.g., Gmail, Facebook). Either way, logging in does not grant us access to your KidTalk account or any other accounts. Instead, we receive an encrypted alphanumeric token, which makes it impossible to link your KidTalk data to your identity. 


Your email address is kept separately from your scrapbook. We will use your email to send out weekly updates about KidTalk. You can unsubscribe at any time. Your email address is never linked to your data.


Step 2: Providing consent (required) and additional sharing (optional)


When you access KidTalk for the first time, you will see a consent form for participating in this study. This research is overseen by the Institutional Research Board at the University of Maryland. A copy of the consent form is available here and on the platform. You will sign your name on the consent form, but your name is never linked to your data. Also, providing consent means that only the KidTalk research team will access your data. Everyone on the team is trained on how to handle personal data and maintain confidentiality.


No one else will see your data without additional permission. Sharing your data will allow future researchers to answer questions that haven’t yet been posed. On the consent form, you have the option to provide permission to share your data in the following ways. 


  1. Transcripts of recordings to be shared with other researchers: Parent-child conversations are regularly made available through publicly accessible databases such as CHILDES

  2. Audio recordings to be used in the “Say What?” game: Child speech is hard to understand, and the “Say What?” game crowdsources this challenge to other KidTalk parents. Audio clips are short (less than 10 seconds) and draw only from recordings that families have made available.

  3. Audio recordings to be shared with other researchers: Parent-child conversations are regularly made available through publicly accessible databases such as HomeBank

  4. Survey responses to be shared with other researchers: Family surveys are regularly made available through publicly accessible databases such as Open Science Framework


We will make sure that your data are anonymous before they are shared outside of KidTalk, and will remove names and other identifying information that might have been said. Since audio recordings are voices, they may be individually identifiable. However, based on past research, this probability is very low, and we will do our best to ensure there is no other identifying information in your recordings.


You can change your preferences for sharing at any time by unchecking relevant boxes under the “Settings” menu. You can also stop future sharing of already collected data by contacting us. We cannot delete existing copies of previously permissioned data, but we can remove the originals from our own database and/or stop sharing these data from being shared with new researchers.


Step 3: Providing background information 


To maintain confidentiality, we are careful about what information we ask. We collect broad demographic information (e.g., race and ethnicity), and ask for broad geographic information (e.g., ZIP code). Since KidTalk involves scrapbooking language development, we have to ask about your child’s age. However, to maintain confidentiality, we ask for the birth month and year only, and not the exact date.


Also, you will create nicknames to tag your recordings, and this can be anything (e.g., Mommy, Daddy, Rover). We ask general survey questions about how COVID-19 has affected your family environments and these are completely optional. A list of these questions are available here


Step 4: Making and sharing recordings


You always decide how to share each individual audio recording. If you do not want the KidTalk team to hear a specific recording, you can: 


  1. Crop out segments that you do not want in your scrapbook.

  2. Delete the full recording. 

  3. Select the “make private” option, which will prevent the recording from being shared in the “Say What?” game and publicly accessible databases. 


You will also have the option of sharing individual recordings with two non-research communities:


  1. Family members: COVID-19 has made it difficult to share child development with family members. To help bridge social distances, you can allow specific relatives and relatives to listen or add to the scrapbook. You can control these settings under the “My Family” menu. 

  2. KidTalk social media: One of our goals is to educate the public about the science of language development. To help with this mission, you can allow for specific anonymous recordings to be used as examples of child speech on social media platforms. We will make sure that recordings are anonymous before they are shared.


How is my information stored and secured?


Once you have made your recordings, your files are stored on a secure, password-protected server, hosted by Google Servers. These are extremely secure and widely used by our industry. Only the KidTalk research team will have access to these files.


How will my data be used for research? 


The primary goal of research is to describe general patterns that are seen across groups (e.g., how is COVID-19 affecting language use in particular states, among monolinguals vs. bilinguals, particular ages). To do this, we will combine your data with data from other families when we write research reports about KidTalk. This helps maintain confidentiality.


We also collect feedback from families (e.g., through email, contact form, direct messages) about how to improve the KidTalk platform or how to communicate ideas more effectively with participants. Private communications are only accessible to the KidTalk research team. We will never share, sell, publish, or otherwise disclose your contact information to individuals who are not involved in this study. 

How long do we keep your personal information?


Based on guidance from the Institutional Review Board at the University of Maryland, KidTalk audio recordings will be retained by the KidTalk research team for up to seven years after this study is finished or the last paper is published. Please note that data (e.g., recordings, transcripts) that are shared with scientific databases will be retained indefinitely since it is part of the public domain. Also, we cannot remove your data once they are published in a research study, since it is one piece in a larger scientific data set.