These Apps are Dangerous for Your Kids: Parents Should Be Wary of What’s on Their Kid’s Screens
By Steve Walters
Tech is fast. Kids are faster.
If your children are using these apps, security experts say you should monitor them. They can fall into danger before they know what they’ve done. Don’t be shy about keeping a sharp eye on what sites they are visiting.
Dangerous apps allow users to anonymously sent text messages, pictures, or videos. They provide user’s locations. They allow users to hide content such as pictures and videos; and they promote sexual activities or “hook ups.”
Here are some to look out for.
Live.Me is a popular, live-streaming video app that uses a device’s location services to share videos. Users can view and comment on live or recorded videos. A video can be viewed by anyone during the broadcast, and the broadcaster can block users, but that is often only after graphic language or content is displayed. Live.Me also allows users to purchase “coins” to gift to streamers that can be converted to actual money. Apps such as this pose a serious risk of exposing children to graphic language, sexual content, and online predators.
Hide it Pro
This app is designed to simply allow users to hide content such as pictures, videos, and notes. Sporting an innocent-looking icon, this app allows users to create a password protected photo / video album, and even an “escape” password that, when entered, opens the app but shows a fake, empty album. When you open this specific app, a screen displays a message stating the application encountered an error and must be closed. But if you swipe the screen to the right, you’re then prompted to enter the password. These types of apps are difficult to detect by design, so don’t always assume the app is what it appears to be on the surface.
This is one of the most popular apps. Famous for its fun filters and photos / videos that disappear, recent updates allow users to create “stories” that make content available for 24 hours. There is a chat feature that enables users to send text and photos / videos and the app provides locations of users. This is potentially dangerous because of the chat function but also it can give children or especially teens a false sense of security in thinking that photos are deleted from the app. Remember: Once a photo or video is out in the cyber world, it is virtually impossible to delete it. Stress caution when posting pictures or videos online.
ASK.fm is another very popular social media app with children and teens and is known for its cyberbullying. This app has been linked to multiple teen suicides. It lets users anonymously ask and respond to questions of topics from the mundane to the very risky. This app is a text only so there is very little chance for your kids to encounter nudity, but graphic and explicit language is almost a given.
Many online safety advocate groups strongly recommend preventing your children from using this app. The danger of this app is the anonymity that gives users the ability to be aggressive and cruel.
Holla is a video chat and dating app that randomly connects you with users across the globe and locally using the location services on your phone. The app provides multiple filters that allow users to mask their appearance, giving some level of anonymity. The idea of your children randomly talking to strangers is dangerous in and of itself. Several review sites report users dealing with graphic language, extremely sexual content, cyberbullying, and racial slurs. If your children are looking for a form of video chatting, other methods are available. Most smartphones come with a video chat function already installed.
KIK is an instant messaging app that lets users send text messages, photos, videos, and GIFs. KIK doesn’t offer parental controls and it only takes an email address to create an account, so anyone can contact your child on KIK.
With no parental controls, KIK has become a popular forum for teens to have sexually explicit conversations. It also makes it very easy for a sexual predator to gain access to children. If you’re going to allow your child to use an instant messaging app, reinforce the importance of not giving personal information to anyone.
Hot or Not
Hot or Not is marketed as a dating app, but it is often used as a “hook up” app and children can come into contact with people of varying ages. The app does have an age requirement of being at least 18, but it’s easy to bypass. The app works by displaying profiles of users and then you can swipe left if you don’t like the profile, or swipe right if you do like the profile, much like the very popular app Tinder works. However, where Hot or Not differs from Tinder is that users don’t have to match to send each other messages.
The company does monitor pro- files and nudity is very rare. But the message function is not monitored so graphic and sexually explicit language is very possible. The potential for your child to be matched with a stranger, and ability to receive uncensored messages, makes this app very risky.
Omegle is a video chat app that works almost exactly as Holla does. It connects users with random strangers, and just as with Holla, Omegle is not safe for children. Users are exposed to graphic language, drug and alcohol references, sexually ex- plicit content, etc. Omegle not only offers their video chat platform as a mobile app, but if your child is savvy enough, Omegle also can be run via a web site from a desktop or laptop computer.
Omegle offers an unmonitored option that opens up Pandora’s box when it comes to what a parent is trying to keep their children from being exposed to. This app and web site should be used with extreme caution.
This is technically considered a social media app, but it has earned the nickname “Tinder for kids.” The app was recently rebranded from the original name of Yellow. This app has earned such a dangerous reputation that it prompted the police department from Lenexa, Kans., to issue a warning about the app on their Facebook page.
The app is aimed toward children ages 13 – 17 to make new friends. It works like Tinder in that a user swipes left or right to reject or connect with a user. When last checked, the app does not require any age verification so this means a predator can easily pose as a younger person to at- tempt to meet with children. The basic premise of this app, to assist your teenager in meeting a stranger, is a big, red flag.
Reddit is an app that allows users to post text messages, images, and videos anonymously. You must create an account to post, but you can view content without creating an account.
This app is host to a tremendous amount of graphic and sexual content, pornography, and racially insensitive topics. Reddit has many categories or subpages they call “sub-reddit,” with one of their most popular subreddits being “Reddit Gone Wild” in which users post pornographic images and links to pornographic videos. Reddit does prompt a user to acknowledge that they are over 18 to view mature content by simply clicking a button, but there is no actual age verification. A teenager who is using this app basically has access to a vast library of inappropriate content.
As a parent, I would strongly recommend if your child or teenager has any of these apps installed on their smartphones, the least you can do is discuss the basics of internet usage safety. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the new technology and apps that are released so often.
The best way to keep your children safe is to remain diligent and continue to monitor their mobile devices. Try your best to maintain an open dialog with your children so they can come to you with questions about some of the issues they’re facing versus using an unsafe app for guidance or advice.