Apps/Resources 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. (While links are included to the iTunes store, most of these apps are available in the Google Play store as well.)
FastMeet, Meet24 and Meet4U were created by Ukraine-based company Wildec. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently sent a warning letter to Wildec stating the company appeared to be violating both the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the FTC Act.
To create an account, FastMeet, Meet24 and Meet4U required users' dates of birth, email addresses and photographs.
These apps have been removed from the Apple store but remain available from Google Play.
Moma Challenge - The viral "Momo Challenge" is resurfacing around the world, and parents are being warned to be particularly vigilant of the content their children are consuming online. The "Momo Challenge" is an example of the potentially dangerous content which is concealing itself in harmless looking games and YouTube videos, including such videos as Peppa Pig and Fortnite. The Momo image is being edited into the videos. That image delivers messages either directly or via the Facebook owned app, WhatsApp, after which children receive instructions on challenges they need to complete or else their families will be harmed.. The various challenges range from self harm to a directive to commit suicide. Several parents are reporting issues with children having difficulty sleeping after seeing the image, while others blame more serious behaviors on this type of activity.
Law enforcement says parents need to focus on the bigger picture. The danger lies with your child feeling pressured to either follow the orders of any online resource via challenges or peer pressure. More important is that your child knows not to give out personal info to anyone they don't know, and that they feel comfortable coming to you if something makes them unconformable.
Tik Tok (Musical.ly) - A lip-syncing video app, Tik Tok (also known ad Musical.ly) allows users to share short videos of themselves. The app is rated for ages 12 and up, but there is no system in place to verify a user's age. Because the use of popular music may contain explicit language this app should not be made available to children.
Yubo -Sometimes referred to as the "Tinder for Teens", Yubo rebranded itself in late 2017, changing its name from Yellow to Yubo. Advertised as a way to "make new friends", this app has an age rating of 17+, but any user can enter any birth date and use the app. The site lists "Frequent/Intense Mature/Suggestive themes, Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor, Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content and Nudity, Infrequent/Mik Alcohol, Tobacco or Drug Use or References."
Holla - A social media networking app that allows users to conduct live video chats with random strangers who are nearby. The paid version allows uers to view full profiles and search by gender.
Houseparty - A live-streaming group video chat app, this app leaves children susceptible to bullying or sexually explicit activities. Users can chat in groups of eight and are notified when friends are in the app.
Tellonym - This app advertises its ability to help users “get tons of honest messages,” “find out new stuff about your friends,” and “ask things you never dared before.” As with other anonymous apps, users are at risk of being bullied or harassed.
MeetMe - This app's goal is to create new relationships for teens. But, where some apps allow you to connect with old friends or new acquantances, MeetMe focuses on connecting you with strangers who are nearby.
Monkey allows users to share up to 15-second videos anonymously with strangers. Users personal information (age, gender and location) is shown, but there's no way to verify their identify. If you accept a chat with someone, the video chat begins.
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. Similar apps include Locker, Best Secret Folder and KYMS.
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.
Kik Messenger is an alternative to standard texting and social networking apps. With features such as video, sketches, bot search and friend code scanning, this app is not for children under 13. The Kik Code function encourages users to connect to commercial brands and third party sites.
Vsco is a photo creation app that allows users to shoot, edit and post images to a profile, similar to Instagram. Privacy settings and location sharing have to be manually turned off or this can be a very dangerous tool for the unaware user.
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 misleading. It is, in fact, very 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. In an update of September 2018, users can now save Chats for 24 hours.
As in other social media apps, 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!"
Voxer allows the user to have ongoing chats with multiple people at a time. The push to talk feature allows quick exchange of short audio messages. Because hurtful messages are even more dangerous when spoken, and in this app can be played repeatedly, Voxer has the potential to be dangerous. Surprisingly, it's rated for ages 4+.
Vault 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. (Simliary to Vaulty for Android)
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.
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.
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.
6 Ways to Keep Your Child Safe Online
Guidelines for Apps
If you have a teen, changes are they have a smartphone. That means they have access to apps, and you aren't always aware of which ones they are installing on their device. There can be read dangers for children involved in these downloads.
While some apps are obviously undesireable, others are much more difficult to identify. Features such as the ability to remain anonymous, providing location details and more can be risky.
Guidelines for any app
There are certain items you should be aware of for all the apps on your childrens' devices. These include:
- Check the location settings to make sure your child's whereabouts are not being shared
- Check photo settings to make sure geotagging is not ot
- Turn off advertising wherever possible
- Read the privacy policies for all apps carefully
Remember - you can always turn off the app store on your child's device!
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) says that, before collecting personal information online from a child under age 13, companies must first provide notice to the child’s parents and get the parents’ consent.
If you think a website or application your child is using isn’t following the law, report it to the FTC here: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1