Not everything online is evil, nor does danger lurk behind every app that comes to market. But keeping up with your teens’ and preteens’ online activities is much like trying to nail jelly to the barn door — frustrating, futile and something bound to make you feel inept.
Keep in mind that no app poses a danger in and of itself, but many do provide kids with an opportunity to make, ahem, bad choices or be put in a situation to be exploited by strangers behind a SmartScreen.
We’ve compiled a list of the sites and apps tweens and teens are flocking to in 2019. Plus, we have useful tips for protecting your child from cyberbullying and other online safety hazards.
- MEETME: a dating social media app that allows users to connect with people based on geographic proximity. App users are encouraged to meet in person.
- WHATSAPP: Popular messaging app that allows users to send texts, photos, voicemails, and makes calls and video chats.
- BUMBLE: Similar to “Tinder.” The dating app requires women to make the first contact. Kids have been known to create fake Bumble accounts that falsify their age
- LIVE.ME: A live-streaming video app that uses geolocation to share videos so users can find out a broadcaster’s exact location. Users can earn “coins” as a way to “pay” minors for photos.
- ASK.FM: known for cyberbullying. The app encourages users to allow anonymous people to ask them questions
- GRINDR: A dating app geared towards the LGBT community. The app gives users options to chat, share photos, and meet up based on a phone’s GPS.
- TIKTOK: A new mobile device app popular with kids. It’s used for creating and sharing short videos. With very limited privacy controls, users are vulnerable to cyberbullying and explicit content
- SNAPCHAT: One of the most popular apps in recent years. While the app promises users can take a photo/video and it will disappear, new features, including “stories”, allows users to view the content for up to 24 hours. Snapchat also allows users to see your location.
- HOLLA: A self-proclaimed “addicting” video chat app that allows users to meet people all over the world in just seconds. Reviewers say they have been confronted with racial slurs, explicit content and more.
- CALCULATOR%: Only one of several secret apps used to hide photos, videos, files and browser history.
- SKOUT: A location-based dating app and website. While users under 17 old are unable to share private photos, kids can easily create an account with an older age.
- BADBOO: A dating and social networking app where users can chat, share photos and videos and connect based on location. While the app is intended for adults only, teens are known to create profiles.
- KIK: Allows anyone to contact and direct message to your child. Kids can bypass traditional messaging features. KIK gives users unlimited access to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
- WHISPER: An anonymous social network that promotes sharing secrets with strangers. It also reveals a user’s location so people can meet up.
- HOT OR NOT: Encourages users to rate your profile, check out people in their area and chat with strangers. The goal of the app is to hook up.
Though not listed above it should be noted that YouTube could potentially be a threat.
Though YouTube’s purpose is a place to house and share your videos. You can control privacy settings. It’s also a great resource for educational videos and entertainment.
Why Parents Should Worry: Inappropriate content has been sliced into both all-ages content and children’s content. Also, comments on videos can be extremely inappropriate and hurtful. YouTube also has a known pedophile problem which is major cause for concern.
Is Instagram Safe?
Purpose: This hugely popular photo-sharing site is owned by Facebook, so you may be more familiar with it than with other photo-sharing apps. Users can add cool filters or create collages of their photos and share them across Facebook and other social media platforms.
Why Parents Should Worry: The app is rated 13+ and may be slightly tamer than Tumblr, but users can still find mature or inappropriate content and comments throughout the app (there is a way to flag inappropriate content for review). “Trolls” — or people making vicious, usually anonymous comments — are common. A user can change the settings to block their location or certain followers, but many users are casual about their settings, connecting with people they don’t know well or at all. Check out connectsafely.org’s “A Parents’ Guide to Instagram.”
Next Step For Parents
Sit down with your child and find out which apps she’s using, how they work, and whether she has experienced any issues on them, such as cyberbullying or contact from strangers. Look into apps that help you monitor your child online. And keep these tips in mind:
- You can set up age limits on your child’s device. The 2013 Pew Research Center survey found that nearly 40 percent of teens say that they have lied about their age to gain access to a site or create an account, so restricting kids’ access to apps by age rating is a wise move.
- You can’t join every site or app and monitor your child’s every move online; teens will always find a new platform that their parents don’t know about yet. Rather than hovering or completely barring your child from downloading every social media app, sit down and go over some general rules to keep him smart and safe online.
- Tell your child to let you know if someone is hurting her or making her feel uncomfortable online, even if the person is acting anonymously. Use the Cyberbullying Research Center’s “Questions Parents Should Ask Their Children About Technology” to guide your discussion. A printable anti-bullying pledge and parent/child online agreement are also useful tools.
- Make a rule that your child must ask for permission before downloading any apps — even free ones — just so you’re aware of them. When your child wants to join a new social media platform, go through the security settings together to choose the ones you’re most comfortable with. Advise your child not to share passwords with anyone, including best friends, boyfriends, or girlfriends.