Every conscientious parent squirms a little when it comes to which apps to allow your kids access to. While some apps are just super lame with bad coding that just makes the kids more frustrated than happy, other apps can be downright harmful. Here are a few apps we’ve come across that you’ll want to steer your kids clear of.
It may come as no surprise to you, but most of these dangerous apps are some type of social media. They allow your kids to chat with strangers, or anonymously post secrets, or hide their activity from their parents. The apps listed below are some of the more popular ones, but the best way to be sure your kids are safe is to look up any apps you don’t recognize and see what services they offer. If the app has similar features to the apps listed below, I’d probably remove them from your kid’s phone.
Poof or HideApp: These allow your kids to hide the apps on their phone they don’t want others (aka, parents) to see. So if you see one of these one on their device, you know they’ve got stuff on their phone that you wouldn’t approve of.
Snapchat: I wrote a post about the evils of Snapchat a few months back. This app offers your kids the ability to send and receive messages, photos, or videos that disappear without a trace after a few seconds. This allows kids to send and receive content they wouldn’t want anyone else to see, or have a permanent record of. The bad news is that there are very easy ways to capture those images and store them or redistribute them anyway. So, that picture that your little angel thought nobody would ever know about can start floating around the internet and other social media sites. See also Wire/ Wickr/ Poke.
Whisper: It allows you to anonymously post your secrets, comment on other’s secrets, and chat with other users in your area. The latter allows many opportunities to make things less anonymous than any parent would be comfortable with. In the Seattle area, Whisper was used to lure a 12 year old girl to a motel room where the 21 year old man she was chatting with assaulted her.
Ask.fm: This site is very popular with the kids. Browsing through it’s content you may think you were transported back to the cafeteria or locker room in high school. There is no monitoring of ANY content on the site, and as such it’s rife with expletives and sexualized content. There are also no privacy controls and there is the ability to be completely anonymous, which can definitely lead to trouble as kids feel they can get away with just about anything.
YikYak: This one gives the nearest 500 people the ability to chat each other in a chatroom like atmosphere. Imagine the damage this can do with cyber bullying at school. It’s also dangerous if your child starts talking to a stranger. This wouldn’t be a stranger in some remote state that has no access to come near your child, this would be someone who is close by, who could easily arrange a meeting or a visit!
Kik: So, you don’t allow your kids to text from their phones, in an effort to help protect them from sexts, and bullying, and whatnot? Your kids have tons of easy workarounds like Kik, and other similar apps. These apps allow free texting, bypassing your carrier permissions, with the bonus of not being logged on the phone text history. So if you thought that removing texting from their phone line would keep that stuff from happening, you’re totally wrong. Kik was also implicated in the story of a girl being blackmailed for nude photos. See also Viber/ WhatsApp/ Textnow.
Vine: I know we reviewed this app on our site a couple years ago, and it came out glowing. Turns out that this app too can be used for nefarious purposes, and gives kids easy access to porn. Yes, porn is against the user agreement, but people are still doing it, and it can show up in your kid’s feed. Or, they can search for it and find plenty of available videos. It’s crazy how damaging six seconds can be.
Tinder: This app is used for hooking up. Tinder allows you to post pics of yourself and view photos of other users. You can flag the photo of someone you find attractive and if they also flag you, then you are allowed to contact each other. Yay! Just what you wanted—another way for your teen to find and be found by others looking for *eyebrow waggle* action. See also Down/ Skout/ Pure/ Blendr.
It is so important to know what your kid is downloading and using on their phone! Their minds often can’t understand the permanence or harm of their actions. Please stay involved and make sure you know what’s going on through constant communication with your children. Tomorrow we’ll be talking about how to make sure YOU are in control of the apps that appear on your child’s phone!
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I’m a technological enthusiast with a completely unrelated degree in English Literature. I’ve also been known to dabble in photography and DIY furniture refinishing, with occasional stints of fitness sprinkled among all of the above.