• Apps to Watch Out For
    If you're a parent, guardian, grandparent or educator, you know how quickly kids pick up on the latest new app.  Here are a few your child might be using, and why they can be dangerous.

    Blue Whale - Vulnerable young people are the targets for Blue Whale. Once the app is downloaded onto a device, it accesses its data and harvests the user’s information. In the Blue Whale Challenge, a group administrator – also referenced as a mentor or master – challenges the user to complete a task each day for 50 days. If the daily tasks are not completed the personal information gathered is used as a form of blackmail as a threat that your private information will be released or your family threatened. The task on the last day is to commit suicide, which is how the user "wins" the game.  Police and school districts worldwide have issued warnings about this app.

    ASKfm lets users ask anonymous questions (they also can choose to not be anonymous). Kids might use it for cyberbullying and to unfairly target certain classmates.

    Hide It Pro allows users to hide pictures and videos behind a lock screen and can create multiple photo and video albums and email them to others from inside the app. The app automatically locks when users exit it, and it also includes a code-enabled feature that makes the app appear empty if someone, like a parent or teacher, finds it and knows what it does. 

    Omegle provides users with the chance to converse online with random strangers.  According to Common Sense Media "Parents need to know that Omegle is an anonymous chat client with which users discuss anything they'd like.  This can easily result in conversations that are filled with explicit sexual content, lewd language, and references to drugs, alcohol and violence.  Many users ask for personal data upfront, including location, age, gender (ASL), something kids might supply (not realizing they don't have to).  Adults wishing to chat anonymously may find use for this app, but kids should be kept away."

    Line is an all-in-one mobile hub for chatting, sharing photos and videos; and also includes free texting and video calls.  There is a hidden chat feature in which users can decide how long their messages can last.  

    Snapchat is a picture-messaging app whose claim to fame is that the messages last only for a few seconds once they're opened, then supposedly evaporate into thin air. In theory, you can send embarrassing or risque pictures without being afraid someone will steal or distribute them.

    Unfortunately, the claim that Snapchat makes it safe to send such pictures is wrong. It is, in fact, way too simple for anyone to grab a screenshot of the image before it's deleted. There have been several cases of teenagers getting into serious legal trouble for capturing and distributing illegal photos sent to them by underage girls.  In one case, hackers got their hands on thousands of supposedly deleted Snapchat images and redistributed them.

    While most users probably use Snapchat for innocent picture-conversations with each other, this can still be a major concern.

    If your child is using Snapchat, ask them to show you how they're using it. Make sure they are communicating only with people they know and that they realize the pictures they send don't just vanish forever. Remind them, as with everything else they post online "Once on the Internet, always on the Internet!"

    Burn Note is similar to Snapchat but is for text message only.  Burn Note's display shows just one word at a time, adding a sense of secrecy to the messages. 

    Vaulty stores photos and videos away from parental eyes, but it will also snap a photo of anyone who tries to access the app with the wrong password. 

    Calculator% is a app that appears to be a calculator but is actually used to hide photos.

    HiCalculator's description indicates it “ can hide your photos and videos behind a calculator.” Parents, teachers and other adults are likely to pass over the app without realizing it. 

    Audio Manager has nothing to do with managing your audio.  It's actually one of the top apps used for hiding other apps.

    Tinder is all about meeting new romantic partners.  The app allows a person to create a profile and see images of potential romantic matches in the immediate area. If two people like each other, they can have a conversation through the app and potentially "hook up." Again, broadcasting images to strangers and potentially meeting them is probably not something you want your teenager doing.  While the only way to gain access to the app is to have a Facebook account with a birth date that indicates the user is 18 years old or over, a user can set any birthdate they wish and there is no age verification.

    Vine, which lets you record and share six-second videos, seems like a totally safe app at first. It gets dangerous when you consider how strong peer pressure is on social media.  Sometimes the best way to get attention on social media is to do something edgy or crazy. Last year, in the most dramatic example yet, teens across the world took to setting themselves on fire. In response to this, Vine released the Vine Kids app, which features hand-selected videos that are geared toward younger audiences. Unlike the real Vine app, Vine Kids can't record videos. But again, no guarantees that children will stick to the kids' app.

    Whisper, an app built specifically for spreading rumors and secrets, lets users post pictures and text anonymously. This could potentially be a good outlet for teens. But Whisper shares the secrets based on geographic location, so the users nearest to your child are the ones more likely to see the secret. If your child reveals too much about themselves or others, it can put him or in a dangerous situation with friends or adversaries.

    Yik Yak is another anonymous, smartphone-based community. The comments posted by YikYak users are shared with the 500 people living nearby (based on GPS location).  According to psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow, YikYak is the most dangerous app that has ever come in existence. Classmates can easily become members of a virtual community, sharing mean comments and malicious remarks about each other. Cyber-bullying becomes an easy, convenient and readily available option.

    Poof is an app of a very different nature from everything else included in the list so far and it poses a completely different set of dangers. Poof is an app created for the sole purpose of hiding other apps on a smartphone. A kid can use Poof to hide Snapchat or Whisper, preventing parents from ever learning about their installation on the phone. Seeing the Poof app on your child’s phone should be an instant red flag, as it indicates that your kid may be trying to hide something.

     Be Aware!  There are apps that are specifically designed to enable hiding of inappropriate content.   How does this work?  The app appears to be a calculator or other type of commonplace app but when you enter the secret code you actually access the hidden content.    Try this:  go to the App Store and search for "secret app."  You might be surprised with the results.