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Teens these days spend as much time using smartphone apps as they do texting. You don't need to know the ins and outs of all the apps, sites, and terms that are "hot" right now (and frankly, if you did, they wouldn't be trendy anymore). What is important is knowing the basics and if there are hidden dangers in the apps your child has on his/her phone. As part of our ongoing mission to provide awareness to parents on resources to keep our children safe in the digital world, we have put together a list of the most concerning apps on the market today using resources like Teen Safe and Common Sense Media.

ARE YOU PROTECTING YOUR KIDS FROM THE "APP" PREDATORS?

TEXTING APPS

Kik Messenger is a wifi based messaging app that lets kids send videos, pics and GIFs for free. There are no parental controls.

What parents need to know

  • Teens are using to sext and send other inappropriate messages. To sign up all you need is an email address and to create a username. Then, you’re able to send messages to any and all of Kik’s users—there’s no barrier.

  • The minimum age to sign up for Kik is thirteen, but the app doesn’t verify its users’ ages. Online predators can and have used Kik to search a particular age range to find victims in their area.

  • The app allegedly has been used in high-profile crimes, including the murder of a 13-year-old girl and a child-pornography case. There's also a Kik community blog where users can submit photos of themselves and screenshots of messages (sometimes displaying users' full names) to contests.

WhatsApp lets users send text messages, audio messages, videos, and photos to one or many people with no message limits or fees.

What parents need to know

  • It's for users 16 and over. Lots of younger teens seem to be using the app, but this age minimum has been set by WhatsApp.

  • It can be pushy. After you sign up, it automatically connects you to all the people in your address book who also are using WhatsApp. It also encourages you to add friends who haven't signed up yet.

SELF-DESTRUCTING/SECRET APPS

Snapchat is a messaging app that lets users put a time limit on the pictures and videos they send before they disappear. Most teens use the app to share goofy or embarrassing photos without the risk of them going public. However, there are lots of opportunities to use it in other ways

What parents need to know

  • It's a myth that Snapchats go away forever. Users have figured out how to save or screenshot the images, so they aren’t really gone and can be used against the sender later for “revenge porn” or any other nefarious purpose.

  • It can make sexting seem OK. The seemingly risk-free messaging might encourage users to share pictures containing sexy images.

Whisper is a social "confessional" app that allows users to post whatever's on their minds, paired with an image. With all the emotions running through teens, anonymous outlets give them the freedom to share their feelings without fear of judgment.

What parents need to know

  • Whispers are often sexual in nature. Some users use the app to try to hook up with people nearby, while others post "confessions" of desire. Lots of eye-catching, nearly nude pics accompany these shared secrets.

  • Content can be dark. People normally don't confess sunshine and rainbows; common Whisper topics include insecurity, depression, substance abuse, and various lies told to employers and teachers.

  • Although it's anonymous to start, it may not stay that way. The app encourages users to exchange personal information in the "Meet Up" section. It also uses GPS, so predators can find you easily.

Ask.Fm – Intended as a question and answer site, Ask.fm is an extremely dangerous app that has already been linked to nine cases of suicide in the U.S. The app promotes conversation between users where they can ask each other questions anonymously on their friends’ public profiles. The effect is a public forum where users receive negative messages without knowing who the cyberbully is.

Yik Yak is a free social-networking app that lets users post brief, Twitter-like comments to the 500 geographically nearest Yik Yak users. Users are putting alot of sexually explicit content on Yik Yak and with GPS users are not hard to find.

POOF, HIDDEN APPS, & GHOST APPS

Calculator% - Audio Manager – Vaulty – Hide It Pro

KeepSafe – FotoX – Photo Locker

 

These are all apps designed to hide other apps or photos on the phone. Not all are available anymore, but if your child already has them, they can still use them. They allow your child to conceal apps and pictures they take from their phone screen, so you will have to be diligent about searching for them.

MICRO-BLOGGING & PERFORMANCE APPS & SITES

What parents need to know

  • Teens are on the lookout for "likes." Similar to the way they use Facebook, teens may measure the "success" of their photos -- even their self-worth -- by the number of likes or comments they receive. Posting a photo or video can be problematic if teens are posting to validate their popularity.

  • Public photos are the default. Photos and videos shared on Instagram are public unless privacy settings are adjusted. Hashtags and location information can make photos even more visible to communities beyond a teen's followers if his or her account is public.

  • Private messaging is now an option. Instagram Direct allows users to send "private messages" to up to 15 mutual friends. These pictures don't show up on their public feeds. Although there's nothing wrong with group chats, kids may be more likely to share inappropriate stuff with their inner circles.

Instagram lets users snap, edit, and share photos and 15-second videos, either publicly or with a private network of followers. It unites the most popular features of social media sites: sharing, seeing, and commenting on photos. It also lets you apply fun filters and effects to your photos, making them look high-quality and artistic.

Tumblr is like a cross between a blog and Twitter: It's a streaming scrapbook of text, photos, and/or videos and audio clips.

What parents need to know

  • Porn is easy to find. This online hangout is hip and creative but sometimes raunchy. Pornographic images and videos and depictions of violence, self-harm, drug use, and offensive language are easily searchable.

  • Privacy can be guarded but only through an awkward workaround. The first profile a member creates is public and viewable by anyone on the Internet. Members who desire full privacy have to create a second profile, which they're able to password-protect.

What parents need to know

  • Songs and videos contain lots of iffy content. Because it features popular music and a mix of teens and adult users, swearing and sexual content are commonplace.

  • Gaining followers and fans feels important. Teens want a public profile to get exposure and approval, and many are highly motivated by getting more followers and likes for their videos.

Musical.ly is a performance and video sharing social network that mostly features teens lip syncing and to famous songs but also includes some original songwriting and singing. Musers, as devoted users are called, can build up a following among friends or share posts publicly.

LIVE-STREAMING VIDEO APPS

What parents need to know

  • It's associated with musical.ly – your music video community. Because of the parent app's popularity, this streamer is all the rage and Musers have a built-in account.

  • Privacy, safety, and creepiness are concerns. Because teens are often broadcasting from their bedrooms to people they don't know, sometimes sharing phone numbers, and often performing for approval, there's the potential for trouble.

Live.ly – Live Video Streaming poses all of the same risks that all live streaming services do, so poor choices, oversharing, and chatting with strangers are all a part of the package.

YouNow: Broadcast, Chat, and Watch Live Video is an app that lets kids stream and watch live broadcasts. As they watch, they can comment or buy gold bars to give to other users. Ultimately, the goal is to get lots of viewers, start trending, and grow your fan base.

What parents need to know

  • Kids might make poor decisions to gain popularity. Because it's live video, kids can do or say anything and can respond to requests from viewers -- in real time.

  • Teens can share personal information, sometimes by accident. Teens often broadcast from their bedrooms, which often have personal information visible, and they sometimes will share a phone number or an email address with viewers, not knowing who's really watching.

  • It's creepy. Teens even broadcast themselves sleeping, which illustrates the urge to share all aspects of life publicly and share even intimate moments with strangers.

MEETING, DATING APPS & SITES

What parents need to know

  • Users get paired up with strangers. That's the whole premise of the app. And there's no registration required. Believe Despite . . . . Because Every Life Is Worth Fighting For

  • This is not an app for kids and teens. Omegle is filled with people searching for sexual chat. Some prefer to do so live. Others offer links to porn sites.

  • Language is a big issue. Since the chats are anonymous, they're often much more explicit than those with an identifiable user might be.

Omegle is a chat site that puts two strangers together in their choice of a text chat or a video chat room. Being anonymous can be very attractive to teens, and Omegle provides a no-fuss opportunity to make connections. Its "interest boxes" also let users filter potential chat partners by shared interests.

What parents need to know

  • It's all about swipes. You swipe right to "like" a photo or left to "pass." If a person whose photo you "liked" swipes "like" on your photo, too, the app allows you to message each other. Meeting up (and possibly hooking up) is pretty much the goal.

  • It's location-based. Geolocation means it's possible for teens to meet up with nearby people, which can be very dangerous

Tinder is a photo and messaging dating app for browsing pictures of potential matches within a certain-mile radius of the user's location. It's very popular with 20-somethings as a way to meet new people for casual or long-term relationships.

Bottom Line

  • Take inventory of your kids' apps and talk with them about the hidden dangers of sharing “all” and connecting to anyone online that is unknown.

  • Password protect all downloads to your child’s phone so you have to Approve/Decline any App or game they want.

  • You can also install monitoring and filtering software like Teen Safe and Covenant Eyes.

  • Discuss the very difficult topics of sexual predators and pornography and equip them on what to do if they are exposed or hurt.

  • Disable Geotagging on all smart devices by going into the location services.

  • Most Importantly – Create a high standard of love in your home and build the needed relationship for you to be approachable by your child.

MeetMe - the name says it all. Although not marketed as a dating app, MeetMe does have a "Match" feature whereby users can "secretly admire" others, and its large user base means fast-paced communication and guaranteed attention.

“46% of teens said they would change their online behavior if they knew their parents were paying attention.”

What parents need to know

  • It's an open network. Users can chat with whomever's online, as well as search locally, opening the door to potential trouble.

  • Lots of details are required. First and last name, age, and ZIP code are requested at registration, or you can log in using a Facebook account. The app also asks permission to use location services on your teens' mobile devices, meaning they can find the closest matches wherever they go.

PARENT RESOURCES

Missing Children & Child Pornography: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

 

missingkids.org

 

24 Hour Hotline:

1-800-THE-LOST (843-5678)

Runaway & Homeless Youth:

National Runaway Safeline

 

1800runaway.org

 

24 Hour Hotline:

1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929)

Dating Violence:

National Dating Abuse Helpline

 

loveisrespect.org

 

24 Hour Hotline:

1-866-331-9474

Suicide:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

 

suicidepreventionlifeline.org

 

24 Hour Hotline:

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Pornography: Fight the New Drug

 

FTND.org

 

Educating on the harmful effects of pornography by using only science, facts, and personal accounts.

Domestic Violence:

thehotline.org

 

National Domestic Violence Hotline

 

24 Hour Hotline:

1-800-799 SAFE (7233)

 

Sexual Abuse:

Rape, Abuse and

Incest National Netrowork (RAINN)

 

rainn.org

 

24 Hour Hotline:

1-800-656-4673

IMPORTANT WEBSITES + PHONE NUMBERS

  • Facebook - White Circle
  • Instagram - White Circle

© 2017 Believe Despite | Created by Anna Douglas

P.O. Box 204 Pilot Point, TX 76258   |   214.306.9008

National Human Trafficking Hotline