In an age where children are becoming active in social media at the tender age of 10 it’s important for parents to be aware of the apps they are using and the content they are consuming and sharing as a result. Fads come and go, and trends are precarious in their longevity, making it difficult to keep on the pulse of what is hot in social media and what is not. For instance, YikYak, an anonymous status posting app was booming not two years ago but has since faded in popularity.
So what sites and apps are popular? you may be asking. And why is it so important that I know what one my child is on? I know the overbearing and protecting parent stereotype is stifling and one you may be wanting to avoid, but nonetheless, there is nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution when it comes to your child’s social media use. There isn’t a need to know everything about these apps and sites, just enough to know the dangers and whether you can trust your child to use them or not. After all, social media is the preferred method of predators to meet their victims these days, with 1 in 7 – that’s 13 percent – of youth Internet users receiving unwanted sexual solicitations. Additionally, in a poll of 11 to 17-year-olds, 35 percent reported that they have experienced cyberbullying.
And so, here is a list of popular and potentially dangerous sites and apps that your child may be using.
Kik messenger is a free messenger app that allows users to send messages and pictures. As Kik needs a username from users to sign up there is a definite Stranger Danger since you can add contacts via this anonymous username.
Tinder is a dating app, where users will swipe left to match with other users. The signup date for this is 18, but a lot of kids will create a Facebook with a fake age to join up. This leaves kids open to predatory behavior and potential abuse from adults and is a hard no for them to have.
This is a Q&A app, where users will answer anonymous asks to their public profile. The anonymity involved in this app is very dangerous, as it leaves users open to harassment and sexually explicit questions from askers who will remain anonymous.
Essentially this is a walkie-talkie app, where users communicate in voice message snippets. It offers a live feature, and the ability to share text, photos and videos, and your location as well. The danger here is harassment from cyberbullies that can be played again and again.Snapchat
Snapchat is a popular messaging app where users send temporary ‘Snaps’ (pictures) as a means to communicate. Popular with teens, users can be added to group chats with strangers. Whilst the assumption here is that the Snap will go away, users can screenshot anything, leaving teens open to cyberbullying and, also, sexual predators who will add them and try to groom them.
Whisper posts confessions from users on top of a picture. Some of the content is adult and alarming, with users posting about sexual desires or even distressing situations such as abuse. There aren’t a lot of signup requirements, so it is easy for kids to join. It also allows a user to communicate in-app, sending pictures and text alike. There have been two cases of arrests involving the use of Whisper to send/ask for explicit images of minors.
music.ly is a social media app that is based around recording yourself lip syncing to a song and posting in in-app. Because this app has users of all ages there is a lot of content for mature audiences, especially in the popular music used in the app.
Houseparty is a group video chat application that can have up to eight people in a chat at once. Because this is a live app, there is a risk of inappropriate behavior that can be screenshotted and shared, and kids may see distressing content as there is no way to control what others show in a chat.
This app uses Snapchat to connect to it, and like many old video chat rooms, users have 10 seconds to video chat with a random user. Though users do get to look at their chat partner’s age, gender and location and can chose whether to accept or not, there is still a big risk of sexual content being shown by strangers to kids.
Omegle is a chat site that pairs up users at random, or according to specific interests in either a text or video and text chat. This site is rife with users looking for sexual chats and porn bots, so it is not a place for children or teens.
If you’re concerned about your child using these applications and websites, talk to them about it and explain why they are inappropriate to use. You can also use parental control apps to filter the content and apps your child sees and uses. Apps such as KidGuard (free) and NetNanny (paid) allow parents to block websites, monitor social media use, and block apps from being downloaded, making it much simpler to keep your child safe from dangerous apps and websites.