13 Apps Every Parent Should Know in 2020
By Sierra Brann
We live in a world full of Apps! While some are harmless, others pose threats that we may not even be aware about. Popular apps can make our children easy targets for sexual predators, or may even expose them to explicit, unfiltered content. Do you know what apps on your child’s device are safe? This article contains apps that may be potentially dangerous for this next year.
To see dangerous apps from previous years–that are still a concern for parents– check these out:
Social Networking Apps
MeetMe is a social app that advertises its ability to allow users to meet new people through messages, video calls, and live streams. Mainly used as a dating app, users are required to build a public profile that can contain sensitive information. With no option to make information private, users can freely view other profiles within their vicinity. The app also encourages reaching out to other users- particularly users of the opposite sex- and viewing profiles by offering incentives through in-app rewards.
Kik is an alternative, cross-platform messaging app that allows user to chat anonymously without the need for phone service. Along with being able to share most any digital media, users can also video chat with one another. According to Forbes.com Kik has had issues with child exploitation and sexual harassment for some time now. This includes spambots spreading graphic content to users and users themselves taking advantage of Kik’s anonymity. This app also allows users to connect and chat with random users through the use of special scannable codes that link to individual users and group chats.
Live.me is an app in which users are able to view the live broadcasts of other users. This app contains features allowing users to locate local broadcasts within their city or town, as well as being able to view broadcasts worldwide by selecting specific regions. There are multiple reports of sexual harassment, sexual content/partial nudity, and predatory behavior seen regularly within Google Play store reviews for the app. This app has a 17+ rating that can easily be falsified by users to gain access to the app.
Yubo is an app that allows users to meet strangers online and video chat with them. According to a review published by WebWatchers, even though Yubo is advertised as a way to simply make friends, Yubo’s design closely resembles the popular dating app known as Tinder. Connections made on Yubo offer users the opportunity to link one another through Snapchat. Newly connected users can then find one another’s locations through Snapchat depending on their privacy settings. Though Yubo contains age restrictions, these restrictions are loosely monitored making it easy to falsify information.
Anonymous Messaging Apps
Whisper is an app that lets users post photos and videos completely anonymously. Users can interact with one another by commenting on posts or by messaging other users directly. Despite the site claiming that it regulates content posted, many reviews by users on the Google Play store report the app to still contain an abundance of nudity and other explicit content. It is also reported within Google Play reviews to contain users who abuse their anonymity to sexually harass other users. App wants users to be 17 and older but users can easily falsify information to make an account.
Chatruletka is a social, “cam-chat” app that connects users with strangers around the world via randomly selected video calls. This app follows the format of a similar service known as Omegle which also connects users at random for spontaneous one-on-one video chats. Omegle, in particular, has been reported for sexual/pornographic content presented by some users.
YOLO is an app that works in conjunction with the popular Snapchat app. This app allows users to comment anonymously on the stories of other users who also use the app depending on their privacy settings. Can be used to cyberbully people or be the victim of cyberbullying.
Virtual/Augmented Reality and Role-play Apps
Holo is an app that allows users to utilize AR technology to include a selection of animals, popular characters, and celebrities in their photos or short videos. Content made with Holo can be shared just like any other photo or video through external messaging and social media. Holo is not filtered and can contain explicit pictures and pornographic content.
WallaMe is a little-known app that allows users to link short messages, phone-drawn graffiti, and images to locations in the real world with augmented reality. Using their device’s camera, anyone with the WallaMe app can view public postings- “Walls”- in their location or on the app’s public feeds that showcase the more popular Walls. Walls created can also be private so that only specified people can view them. Could contain explicit pictures.
BitLife is an app in which users are able to simulate living another life. Rated 17+, this text-based game allows users to decide how their character will grow and act. Contains mild sexual content and nudity; mature suggestive themes; simulated gambling and drugs; mild profanity and crude humor. Child playing games can seek aspects of game in their real-life or have a hard time differentiating which is okay or not in real life.
Apps to hide browser history
DuckDuckGo is a popular privacy browser app that allows users to browse the internet with more privacy and security than the standard browser/search engine. It is used primarily to prevent user information related to internet usage from being tracked, sold, or recorded by marketing companies. While ensuring the privacy of users, it does also mean that no browser history or cookies are saved. This means that the user can look at anything they want to on the internet without anyone being able to see what they saw. Can be used to access pornography and other explicit content.
Calculator- Photo Vault is an app designed to appear like a normal calculator. Requiring a password to access, this app allows users to hide photos, videos, and apps. Users can also hide their browser history when using the browser that comes built into the app. Similar apps exist that also utilize the guise of a calculator. Can be used to hide naked or inappropriate photos of people.
POOF is a small, knock off app of Snapchat. POOF lets users message other users within visual range. It does not require an internet connection; however, users do still require shared wifi and Bluetooth connection. Messages in this app are deleted once users move out of range or are inactive for too long. Can be used by sexual predators to connect with your child or send them pornographic content.
Ways to keep our children safe:
- Go through and check what apps are on your children’s phone on a regular basis
- Look at their messages to other people and see what they are posting on social media sites
- Check the devices browser history to see what they have been searching
- Sit down with your children and talk to them about anything you have concerns about. Explain to them why it concerns you.
- Discuss what can be done to resolve any concerns and keep it from happening again in the future
- Be honest and straightforward with your children. Talk to them about the consequences of inappropriate use of technology Set boundaries and rules with them.
- Let your kids know that you love them and you want what’s best for them; let them know why you are monitoring their devices
- Have conversations with your kids about what kinds of apps they have on their devices
Before I got my first phone, my parents printed out a phone contract that we both signed that contained rules and guidelines that went with having the device. Such rules and guidelines included turning the phone off every night at 10 pm, never saying anything over text that I wouldn’t tell someone in person, always informing my parents of the password to my phone, never taking pictures of myself naked/sending pictures of myself to other people, etc. My contract was hung up in my room in a place where I would see it every day and remind myself of that agreement. It is an awesome resource for parents and children. You can get one for your child here!
Be proactive when it comes to your kids’ social media use and digital safety; start having conversations with your kids today!
Online Safety Resources:
Sierra Brann is completing her degree in Marriage and Family Studies at Brigham Young University Idaho. She enjoys being outdoors with her husband and reupholstering furniture in her free time.
Amar InfoTech. (2019, July 10). Top 10 Future Trends in Mobile App Development 2019-2020. Retrieved from: https://www.amarinfotech.com/top-10-future-trends-in-mobile-app-Development-2019-2020.html
Brewster, T. (2019, March 6). Exclusive: What Happened When The FBI Took Over The Instagram And Kik Of A Child Porn Dealer. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2019/03/06/exclusive-the-fbi-took-over-the-online-identity-of-a-pedophile-letting-child-porn-spread-for-18-months/#37cf80555cb1
Elgersma, C. (2019, Jan. 25). Apps you’ve never heard of that your teen is already using. Retrieved from: https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/25/health/common-sense-2019-apps-partner/index.html
Google Play Store. (2019, Sept. 22). Retrieved from https://play.google.com/store?hl=en_US
Keil, S. (2019, August 7). 15 apps parents should look out for on their kid’s phones. Retrieved from:https://www.kyma.com/news/15-apps-parents-should-look-out-for-on-their-kids-phones/1106737158
Miller, C. (2019, Feb. 24). Police warn parents of 14 apps that could be dangerous for kids. Retrieved from:https://news3lv.com/news/local/police-warn-parents-of-14-apps-that-could- be-dangerous-for-kids
NEWS10 ABC. (2019, Aug. 8). Police say these 15 apps could put your kids in danger. Retrieved from: https://www.news10.com/news/police-say-these-15-apps-could-put-your- kids-in- danger/
Olenick, D. (2019, April 3). 81 Potentially dangerous apps from in the Microsoft Store. Retrieved from:https://www.scmagazine.com/application-security/81-potentially-dangerous-apps -from-in-the-microsoft-store/
WebWatcher (2019, Nov. 19). Is Yubo ‘Tinder for Teens’ and Should Parents Be Concerned? Retrieved from: https://www.webwatcher.com/blog/is-yubo-tinder-for-teens-and-should-parents-be-concerned/