The Most Dangerous Apps of 2017
By Kyle Roberts, MA
It’s a new year and with it comes a new list of up and coming apps that are trending among teens.. As parents, it is important to be aware of what is out there to protect our kids from bullying, unwanted sexual messaging, location identification and so much more. We understand, it seems like one more thing on a never ending list of ways we need to protect our kids, but you know as well as we do, a parent’s job is never done—let us help you make it easier.
Last year we told you about some pretty dangerous apps including those that allow kids to hide photos, apps and information from their parents. These apps are still available and widely popular, but now there are even more to be on the lookout for.
To help parents out, we’ve compiled a list of this year’s most popular apps or social media sites for 2017 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. Remember a lot of these require no age verification and if they do it is a simple check mark…not a real verification.
Social Media Apps
It is important to note that many apps come and go, but social media remains the same and in one form or another and will remain at the top of these lists for the foreseeable future.
It is in this realm where most of us ‘live,’ and since kids are spending more and more time on social media, it becomes an attractive place for predators and bullies to interact with kids. It is on these platforms where we see some of the best in people, and unfortunately where the worst behavior (bullying, sexual harassment, predatory behavior, pornography exposure) is happening. To help mitigate the dangers on social media, we specifically suggest you be friends with your kids. It also helps to know who they are friends with and also get comfortable with the privacy settings of each platform.
Instagram- Fun and creative way to capture, edit and share photos, videos and messages with friends and family. It has become a location for microblogging and is full of accounts that are linked to porn sites and porn stars. Many kids are also creating fake accounts, called “finstagrams.” Sometimes these are simply accounts used for one’s closest friends, but they are also highly used as a means of hiding an account(s) from Mom and Dad.
Twitter- One of the long standing giants of social media, twitter is still a favorite among teens. It is a platform that openly allows pornography and does little to stop trolling or bullying.
Snapchat- We have discussed it in past articles (link: http://bit.ly/2lIQKTW), but it is worth mentioning again as it continues to gain popularity and the level of bullying, sexual harassment, sexting and porn exposure continues to grow exponentially.
Live Streaming Apps
Live streaming apps with video often allow or encourage users to self objectify (looking sexy to increase likes or amount of attention) and are linked to pornography exposure and use. They are also a playground for predators.
music.ly–is a video social network app for video creation, messaging, and live broadcasting. Through the app, users can create videos and choose soundtracks to accompany them. The app also allows users to browse popular “musers,” content, trending songs and sounds and hashtags (Wikipedia). Although the app administrators try to keep up with inappropriate or pornographic hashtags, many slip through or change too rapidly for them to be stopped.
Omegle- is a free online chat website that allows users to socialize with others without the need to register. The service randomly pairs users in one-on-one chat sessions where they chat anonymously using the names “You” and a “Stranger.” Many videos exist of users standing nude in front of their camera to surprise or shock the stranger on the other end.
House party- A group video chat app, you are notified as soon as your friends are on and you can have a group or private, live conversation. Where this opens up an entire new circle of communication and online safety is that if one person in the chat happens to be connected to a user and the others are not friends, those connections are still able to join the conversation because of the mutual connection. Which means that kids who do not know each other have the opportunity to be chatting with people they do not know. Also of concern, is the ability to take a screenshot of the people you are chatting with, without them knowing about it (SociallySafe, 2016).
Don’t be fooled by the classification, these apps are more used to “hook up” than date. The imagery–mostly provided by the users– is highly sexualized and sexual messages or sexts are requested quickly into introductions.
Hot or Not- A user must first set up an account of his own, with photos — and must verify his identity with a working email address or a Facebook account and a mobile phone number. The site says it will not accept a profile unless the user is 13 or older and that users 13 to 17 can’t chat or share photos with users older than 17 — but there’s no age-verification process. Most concerning is the ability that girls (and boys) have to self-objectify themselves by posting their picture for boys and men to rate as “hot” or “not” (Conway, 2016).
Down- It’s tag line is “The secret way to get down with people nearby…If you want to hook up, say so!” You have the option to say you are down to hook up (casual sex) or go on a date.
It is important to note that when an app or chatting platform has a measure of anonymity it greatly increases the likelihood of bullying, sexual harassment, and other risky behaviors.
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 re-released last year 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.
Yik Yak-Allows people to create and view discussion threads within a 5-mile radius
ask.fm– Where users create profiles and can send each other questions
Wishbone- An app that allows the user to choose between two different options, particularly using pop culture. On a deeper level the user can send private messages to friends and create their own cards for comparison questions. This is perfect for online bullying or sexualized messaging.
What YOU can do:
With this daunting list, you maybe asking yourself how you can keep your kids safe, here are some tips:
- Approve every app on your kid’s phone
- Follow your gut instincts, if something feels off with your child
- Teach self-monitoring to your children
- Encourage your children to use technology, including their social media accounts, for good
- Find out what is popular in your region, different apps catch on in different locations
- Have regular discussions about phone use, apps, and social media with your kids
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 social media, sexting, consent, and so much more; including lessons and activities to empower your child with knowledge of sexual intimacy!
Conway, P. (2016, February 6). Tinder and 5 More Adult Dating Apps Teens Are Using, Too. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/tinder-and-5-more-adult-dating-apps-teens-are-using-too#
(2016, December 13). What Parents Need to Know About the Houseparty App. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from http://tweenhood.ca/houseparty-app/
Kyle Roberts has over 10 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations. She received her master’s degree in community counseling from the University of Texas At San Antonio with an emphasis in addiction recovery. When she isn’t wrestling with her little boy, she can be found teaching developmental psychology at BYU-Idaho or working on some DIY projects.