By Tina Mattsson
Teens love fresh and new, so when a new app or social media site pops up, it can be tempting for your tween or teen to hop on over and start sharing. And we as parents can often get left behind. Things change so quickly it’s hard to keep track of what each app or social media site does. Many of these apps have fun and positive uses. But used incorrectly, they can lead to some scary consequences. Cyberbullying is now a huge issue for many teens. According to a recent study, 43 percent of teens feel cyberbullying is a bigger problem for young people than drugs (Vodafone, 2015). Kids base their self worth off of how many likes or shares or thumbs up they get on their posts. Predators target young people online daily
Last year we told you about some pretty dangerous apps including Tinder, Snapchat, and Whisper. These apps are still available and widely popular.
To help parents out, we’ve compiled a list of the most popular apps or social media sites for 2015 that your kids may be using, listing a brief summary and any issues of which to make you aware, and what the app icon will usually look like on the phone (Gaggle, 2015). The apps are organized into categories.
This Fall’s Most Dangerous Apps:
Burn Note – This is a messaging app where all messages self-destruct (delete) after reading. This app only uses text messaging. Users cannot send images or videos. Parents would have no evidence that a conversation took place. This can lead to bullying or sexting or any other dangerous practice, and parents would have no idea.
After School – The description for this app in the app store says it is an anonymous and private message board for your school. This app originally launched in late 2014. But after reports of threats of school shootings on the app, it was taken down. (Burns, 2014) It was rereleased a couple of months ago with new safety features in place. (Burns, 2015) However, we are still concerned about this app since users can still post anonymously, although there is now an option to post under your real name.
Best Secret Folder – This is an iOS app that allows users to store photos secretly. The app icon is called “My Utilities” so others don’t even realize the app is on the phone.
Gallery Lock – This is similar to Best Secret Folder, but it’s for Android users. It also offers a “watchdog” feature, which will snap a photo of the user with the front facing camera after 3 failed password attempts.
KYMS (Keep Your Media Safe) – This iOS and Android app hides all media including photos, videos, texts, documents, and PDFs. It is disguised as a calculator app.
Private Photo (Calculator %) – This is another app designed to hide photos. The app looks just like a calculator, except in the bottom right corner of the app icon is a % symbol. Users enter a code on what looks to be a working calculator. They can then access their storage of secret photos.
Video Recording and Sharing
Meerkat – This app captures live streaming video through a mobile device. Users can link their Meerkat account to their Twitter or Facebook account to share their live streaming videos to followers. The problems with this are numerous. Live streaming opens the door to cyberbullying and predators.
Periscope – Similar to Meerkat. Periscope was just released this year, but users are already reporting sexual assault and bullying. (Tempesta, 2015)
Location Sharing – Click here for instructions on how to turn off location sharing on your child’s iPhone.
Foursquare – This is an app that allows users to geotag their exact location at any time. Problems with this are obvious to us as adults. But we need to teach our children why this is so dangerous.
Periscope – We mention this one again because the app has a location-sharing feature that is on by default and must be turned off. Most teens will forget to do this, or not recognize the importance of this.
9Gag.com – This is an image and video sharing site. Users can upload a video or image to share. Then the videos or images are voted up or down, and users can leave comments. Some posts are cute and fun. But most are not. Users can even browse the NSFW (Not Safe For Work) section. NSFW videos are blacked out until a user clicks the button to play the video. But nothing is stopping anyone, including children and teens, from seeing the inappropriate content.
Reddit Forums – This is a social media website. The app for Reddit is actually called Alien Blue. Content is organized into “subreddits” according to topics. There are subreddits dedicated specifically to porn. A user only needs to click a button confirming they are 18 to enter these subreddits.
iFunny 🙂 – This is an image based joke app. “There’s enough swearing, sexual banter, soft porn images, and rude and hateful comments to negate anything else in the mix that’s remotely funny” (Villamagna, n.d.).
Paltalk – This app allows users to communicate in a group chat via video, Internet chat and voice.
Adult Player – (We did not include the app icon as it is pornographic.) This is an android app that does not appear in any vetted storefronts, such as Google Play. Instead, users install the app directly from a website. It is said to offer free porn. But it’s actually something called ransomware. The app uses the cameras forward facing camera to secretly capture an image of the user. The user is then locked out of the phone until a $500 ransom is paid.
Chatting, Meeting, Dating
Other Useful Information
Lifestyle and photography categories on iTunes are the most likely categories to contain porn since iTunes doesn’t have a porn or “adult” category like Android. Apple does not allow true nudity, but people in their underwear are okay. And of course, some slip by.
Apple’s most recent update, iOS 9, has a way to hide pictures on your phone, no app needed.
How to Keep Your Kids Safe
It is necessary for parents to stay educated as new apps and social media sites become available. But obviously no parent can be on top of everything all the time. So the most important thing we can do as parents is to communicate with our children. Here are some other tips.
- BE THE PARENT. Don’t allow your child to roam free in the dangerous and unhealthy environments many of these apps provide. Click on any apps you don’t recognize on your child’s phone.
- Discuss the hidden dangers of social media that teens may not recognize. On many live streaming videos, tweens and teens can be seen giving out their full names and the city and state in which they live. Kids need to be taught not to over share on the Internet.
- Set restrictions on their cell phones and check the phone often.
- Internet filters are also a great option. But no filter will stop everything; so establishing yourself as someone your teen can talk to is vital.
This new world we live in can be scary. But if we are prepared and open with our kids, we can help them safely navigate social media.
See our book 30 Days of Sex Talks for ages 3-7, 8-11 and 12+ to find ways to start conversations about topics like this; including lessons and activities to empower your child with knowledge of sexual intimacy!
Tina Mattsson has a BA in Journalism with a Minor in English. She is a mother, writer and advocate for children’s safety and education.
Citations and References:
Groundbreaking Vodafone Global Survey Reveals 43% of Teens Think Cyberbullying a Bigger Problem Than Drug Abuse. (2015, September 22). Retrieved October 2, 2015, from https://www.vodafone.com/content/index/media/vodafone-group-releases/2015/cyberbullying-survey.html
Burns, M. (2014, December 11). After School App Again Pulled From The App Store After More School Shooting Threats. Retrieved October 2, 2015, from http://techcrunch.com/2014/12/11/after-school-app-again-pulled-by-apple-after-more-school-shooting-threats/
Tempesta, E. (2015, April 7). New live streaming app Periscope is ALREADY on its way to becoming a parent’s worst nightmare following numerous reports of sexual harassment and bullying. Retrieved October 2, 2015, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3023772/New-live-streaming-app-Periscope-way-parent-s-worst-nightmare-following-numerous-reports-sexual-harassment-bullying.html
Villamagna, D. (n.d.). iFunny 🙂 – App Review. Retrieved October 2, 2015, from https://www.commonsensemedia.
How to hide multiple photos in iOS 9: Camera, album. (2015, June 19). Retrieved October 2, 2015, from http://www.howtoisolve.com/how-to-hide-multiple-photos-in-ios-9-camera-album/
Top Social Networks & Apps Your Kids are Using. (2015, September 1). Retrieved September 22, 2015, from https://www.gaggle.net/top-social-networking-sites-and-apps-kids-use/
Burns, M. (2015, April 21). Controversial After School App Relaunches With New Safety Features And Zero Tolerance For Hate. Retrieved September 22, 2015, from http://techcrunch.com/2015/04/21/controversial-after-school-app-relaunches-with-new-safety-features-and-zero-tolerance-for-hate/