The Most Dangerous Apps of 2019
By Trishia Van Orden and Melody Bergman
Cooking? Cleaning? Losing weight? Wasting time in the grocery line? There’s an app for that!
Each year, hundreds of new applications spring up in our digital app stores. Many of these apps can help improve our daily lives, from organization, hobbies, and shopping to medication, health, and wellness. While many of these apps are useful and safe, many are not.
We know you don’t have time to sift through them all. (We’re busy parents too.) So our team at Educate Empower Kids has done some of the legwork for you. We’re here to help!
Over the last several years, we have discussed several apps that pose risks to children. These applications cover a variety of genres including social media, gaming, chat rooms, rooting and anonymous apps. Some apps we have included in our past “Most Dangerous Apps” articles include Twitter, Facebook, ASKfm, Tinder, Tumblr, Snapchat, Yik Yak, and hiding apps. These applications still pose a threat to kids and teens, especially when privacy settings and monitoring are not in place. However, for this year’s list, we wanted to bring some dangerous applications to light that might not be as well-known.
SOCIAL MEDIA APPS
We all use social media these days. Almost everyone has a Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram account. But did you know there are other, less known social media networks? Many of these platforms are unfiltered or have very loose regulations.
While some people use social media as a way to reach out and connect, we need to be mindful about the choices we make in these virtual spaces. If we aren’t careful, social media can open the doorway to harmful content such as porn, self-harm, eating disorders, and questionable celebrity role models. It can also expose our children to bullying, negative self-treatment, trolling, identity theft, and predators. The less regulated the social media site, the more risk it poses.
BYF – Unfiltered Social Media Platform: A social media app that offers people an unfiltered experience. There are no restrictions or filtering, which means unlimited access to pornographic images and conversations. This app also poses a risk for cyber-bullying, trolling, and encouraging self-harm.
Comvo – The Free Speech Social Network: A platform that offers unfiltered posting. The makers encourage users to speak freely and post whatever they want. This app also allows users to “expire” their posts so they cannot be accessed after a certain date.
Social Media Freedom: This application is rated M17+, but there is nothing stopping those younger than 17 from downloading the app. Users can “mark” their favorite locations, which makes them an easy target for predators. Also, all messages “self-destruct.”
Look: A live video and text messaging app that is unfiltered and contains inappropriate content. It also encourages users to connect with strangers nearby.
ASKfm: A social media app that allows users to post in a Q&A form. It is well known for cyber-bullying, trolling, swatting and encouraging suicidal behaviors and should be avoided at all costs.
9GAG: An app that encourages users to upload and share “user-created” funny content with little or no filtering. This app has a history of swatting, trolling, and cyber-bullying, and should be avoided at all costs
VIDEO CHAT APPS
Chat apps cover anything from messaging via text to video “snapchatting.” Many of these chat applications connect users with others who have similar interests and locations. Some apps even allow users to rate other users as hot, sexy, or not. Most of these applications contain mature content and are filled with predators waiting for fresh prey. Live-streaming is especially dangerous because pornographic/harmful content can be distributed instantaneously without any filtering or mediation.
BIGO LIVE: A live-streaming video social media network. The main focus of this app is to gain status and money through views and advertising.
TikTok (formally Musical.ly): The purpose of this app is for users to create and post “real short videos” and messages. It is notorious for mature/pornographic content.
HOLLA: A video chat application that allows users to post random videos and connect with strangers in their area. It is easy to fake age and can put children at risk of meeting and interacting with predators.
Blendr: A video chat room where you are encouraged to “chat, flirt, and meet” with other users in your immediate area. People are rated by their “hotness.” There is no age restriction for this app.
YouNow: A live stream video chat app where the user broadcasts live to “fans” who they may or may not know. (It is possible to view as a “Guest.”) We read several reports about “perverts” trying to get young girls to expose themselves on camera. Apparently, it is a big problem in this app.
Periscope: An app that allows users to create, live-stream, and watch videos from their mobile device.
Houseparty: An application that allows people to video chat and text 2-8 people at the same time. You can connect with your friends and friends of friends. You can create a “live” place where you can connect on and off throughout the day and meet people secretively.
There are many gaming applications out there that can pose a risk to children; however, the following applications have caught our attention due to the risks they pose. Any gaming platform with a live-chat feature or community attached poses a risk, as predators and cyberbullies thrive in these environments.
Twitch: This application allows users to watch and comment on live streams of videos games. You can also create your own live stream that others can comment on.
Discord: A video game chat application that allows users to log in and join other gamers while playing a video game. This application has mature content and privacy settings that are easily changed.
ZEPETO: This is an avatar-based game that allows users to chat and meet others via the game. Users do not need to know each other to interact.
IMVU: A social game that allows users to create a 3D avatar and then interact with other people, even complete strangers. This game allows people to “have sex” and encourages stereotypical body images for women and men.
JAILBREAK AND ROOTING APPS
Jailbreak and rooting applications are used to remove restrictions and limitations on a phone, tablet, game console, or computer so the user can install apps, extensions and other software prohibited by the manufacturer. This puts the device at risk for hacking, malware, theft, and stalkers.
Cydia: A jailbreak/rooting app mainly used for iPhones. This app doesn’t have an age restriction.
Jailbreak: A jailbreak/rooting application used by Android and iPhone users alike. There is no age restriction to download and use.
ANONYMOUS MESSAGE APPS
These applications allow users to start conversations with other users (close and far) while remaining completely anonymous. This puts users and non-users at risk of bullying and harassment. Below is a list of some of the more popular anonymous apps.
Lipsi: According to the creators this app allows you to connect with your friends and be open and honest with them while protecting your identity.
Tellonym: This app is much like ASKfm in that it allows users to post questions and get answers. The main difference is that Tellonym allows users to post and answer completely anonymously.
Whisper: This app was created to share secrets and discover what others really think. It is essentially a social media app that connects you to others in your location. Everything is done anonymously and there is not much if any filtering.
Sarahah: An app where users can pass anonymous “notes” to each other giving feedback about their strengths and weaknesses. Users do create a profile which they can connect to Snapchat.
Phone applications allow users to make and receive phone calls and text messages without using their phone carrier. While these apps are great if you are in a pinch for money they can also be dangerous–especially for kids. Many phone apps are not monitored and “throw away” all proof of contact after the call/message has been sent. Therefore, if a child is sending or receiving harmful material (especially from a bully or predator), there is no way to protect them, and there is no way to prove it.
WhatsApp: An online phone that is unmonitored. Comes with unlimited talk, text, video and picture sharing. However, you do need a phone number to sign up. Difficult to control and monitor.
LINE: An instant messaging app that allows you to make voice and video calls to anyone worldwide without using your mobile carrier. You can also text and share files, and join a group message with up to 200 people.
For more information about apps that pose a risk to kids and teens:
Also, check out these great resources to help your kids use digital devices safely and responsibly.
Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good, is a great book on using social media and other technology to spread kindness and good in the world.
Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Discussions for the Digital Age provides you with information and topics, including social media and using technology, that you should talk to your children about.
Social Media and Teens: The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Kids Safe Online proves you with information on how to stay safe and smart while using social media.
Trishia Van Orden has a Bachelor’s Degree in Marriage and Family Studies from Brigham Young University-Idaho. She has a love for psychology and hopes to one day open a Family Life Education Center where she lives. She is currently writing for Educate Empower Kids and working as a volunteer in a girl’s youth group program. She is a wife and a mother of three beautiful girls.
Melody Bergman is a mother and step-mom of three awesome boys, co-host of the Media Savvy Moms Podcast, and blogger at MamaCrossroads. She is also a member of the Safeguard Alliance for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and facilitator for the Virginia Alliance on Sexual Exploitation. Melody has a bachelor’s degree in communications and has been writing and editing since 2002. Her mission is to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect children and families.