What’s the Deal with Web Push Notifications?

Push notifications: you either love them or hate them.

Personally, I think push notifications are pretty slick. With one little ding, they help us stay connected with family and friends, keep us up to date on current events, and send us reminders when it’s our turn to serve orange slices at the neighborhood soccer game. Notices like this typically come from apps that we’ve downloaded onto our devices, but this isn’t the only way to get them. Did you know that websites can send you and your kids notifications as well? 

It’s true! With web push notifications, websites can send bulletins directly to your browser. With over 5 billion people using the Internet regularly, it makes sense that many websites use these notifications to help people stay engaged and up to date on new content. Some schools even send students web notifications to remind them about upcoming assignments or community events—and that’s just one of the ways tech can benefit the classroom.

But what’s the difference between web push notifications and app notifications? Are browser notifications even safe? Let’s find out!

What Are Web Push Notifications?

Basically, web push notifications are little messages sent to your computer or smartphone through a web browser, as opposed to an app. They typically show up in the corner of your screen with a little ding, making them pretty hard to miss—even for little eyes. Don’t worry, though, they’re totally optional. Websites are required to ask for your permission before they send notifications. These requests look something like this:

Websites use push notifications for a ton of different functions. A ticketing website, for example, may use notifications to remind your teen about that big concert next weekend, while a news outlet might give them the scoop on recent breaking news. Online marketplaces even use notifications to let shoppers know about upcoming sales and discounts—and who doesn’t love a sale?

What’s the Difference Between Web Push Notifications and App Notifications?

Web notifications don’t sound too different from the typical notifications we get—and honestly, they aren’t. The primary difference lies in how the notifications are sent. Websites send web push notifications to your device’s web browser, then from your browser to your device. App notifications, on the other hand, are sent directly to your device. 

The difference emerges because these two types of bulletins require different forms of code. Web notifications use “web push code” while app notifications use “app push code.” Pretty aptly named, right? Web push code is embedded onto a company’s website, allowing the website to send notifications to your device through your browser. When your browser is closed, web notifications can’t reach your device. App push code, on the other hand, sends notifications directly to your device’s operating system. This way, your phone can receive notifications even if the app in question hasn’t been used in a while. 

Are Web Push Notifications Safe?

Now that we have a good idea of what web notifications are, you’re probably wondering: are web notifications safe for kids (and adults)? 

Well, the answer largely depends on the website sending the notification. If the website is trustworthy, the notification itself is likely pretty trustworthy too. If an untrustworthy website asks to send notifications, however, I wouldn’t recommend it. Shady websites may abuse push notifications to link users to nefarious corners of the Internet, potentially leading to compromising drive-by downloads. Teach your kids to be careful about what websites they allow to send them notifications.

Make sure you and your kids trust a website before you allow it to send notifications to your browser. Not sure how to tell if a website is trustworthy? Teach your kids to take a peek at the web address. If the address begins with HTTPS and shows an image of a padlock, it’s likely secure. This means that any data sent through the website is encrypted. Websites that don’t have a padlock and begin with HTTP are unencrypted, and thus, unsafe. 

We at Troomi are dedicated to helping you and your kiddos stay safe online. That’s why smartphones from Troomi Wireless feature the KidSmartⓇ Safe Browser, which gives you the power to designate which secure domains your child can visit and receive notifications from. Click here to learn a bit more!

Should My Family Use Web Push Notifications?

Ultimately, this one’s up to you and your kids! Choosing to allow web push notifications or not is a matter of personal preference.

On one hand, these notifications are pretty handy. They let your favorite stores and companies reach out without requiring you to download a million apps you’ll never use. Instead, everything is restricted to your browser. Web notifications are also a great replacement for promotional emails, ensuring that your email remains clean from spam and unwanted advertising. 

On the other hand, notifications of any kind can be obnoxious and distracting. When your child is trying to complete a research report on the Internet, a notification is likely all it takes for them to lose focus on the task at hand. In fact, a recent study found that notifications cause procrastination and “prompt task-irrelevant thoughts, or mind wandering, which has been shown to damage task performance.” Yikes!

If you decide to use web notifications but ultimately change your mind, it’s a cinch to turn them off. Just head to your browser’s privacy settings and update your preferences—it’s as easy as that.

And don’t forget to come back to the Troomi blog for more tech tips and tricks!