Do you know what your child is up to on their mobile phone? In this age of smart phone technology, children have more access to the internet and in many cases are just as, if not more tech-savvy than their parents. Technology, especially if you’re a little behind the times, can be very deceptive. Your kids may be downloading apps that you think are innocent and just a simple way for them to keep in contact with their buddies, but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. While apps are beneficial tools for communication, education and entertainment, it’s important for parents to be prepared for all the impacts that apps may have. These are some of the apps that you should know about:-
1. Tinder (rated for ages 17+)
Tinder’s description in the App Store:
“Tinder finds out who likes you nearby and connects you with them if you’re also interested. It’s the new way to meet people around you.” It also says, “Tinder is how people meet. It’s like real life, but better.”
The geo-location feature facilitates face to face meetings by revealing a user’s location. Users can even set the range of location, so they can narrow it down to within a couple of kilometres. Parents absolutely need to know that their kid can give out their location, which can be very dangerous because of the anonymous nature of the app. Anonymity also increases the risk of cyberbullying. It is a hunting ground for sexual predators and all types of CREEPY people, as seen in the disturbing pictures on the Facebook group “Tinder Creeps”. And if all that hasn’t already put you off the app, as a parent, do you really want to encourage our children to like or dislike others based on looks alone? There’s a section of the Tinder profile for listing interests and hobbies but the main focus is clearly on appearance.
Rated the worst app for teens , you might think about blocking this app from your child’s device.
2. Snapchat (rated for ages 12+)
This app allows users to send photos and videos that disappear from view within 10 seconds after they are received. Kids normally use the app to send and receive silly and/or embarrassing pictures of one another because they believe the images can’t be saved and circulated. The seemingly risk-free messaging feature might encourage users to share pictures containing inappropriate content.
The internet, however, never forgets. It turns out Snapchat DOESN’T actually delete them. A digital forensics company discovered that the app actually saves the images to a hidden folder on the phone called RECEIVED_IMAGES_SNAPS. Users can take also take a screenshot before an image vanishes in the app. That can be good or bad—bad because a screen-captured image can embarrass the people in it, good because—if things do go wrong—it can be used for evidence against someone trying to hurt the people in it.
3. Ask.fm (rated for ages 13+)
Ask.fm is a social networking website set up in a question and answer format that is very popular with teens. You sign up, and the system allows you to pose questions that anyone else can answer, or answer questions coming from other users. It also allows you to post anonymous questions.
As easy as it is to find compassionate, warm-hearted people on the Internet, it’s just as easy to encounter bullies and you can end up with a stream of anonymous, hurtful messages that may or may not be coming from people you know. Ask.fm has led to numerous cases of cyberbullying and has been linked to a string of teen suicides.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron once called it ‘vile’.
4. Kik Messenger (rated for ages 13+)
Kik i s a texting service that lets teens chat and swap pictures while bypassing their mobile provider’s SMS service. The service became popular among teens who did not have unlimited texting. Through their data plan or Wi-Fi connection, Kik users can send and receive text messages and photos to an individual on their Kik contact list, or they can start a group chat with several Kik contacts. The app is rated ages 17+, but there is no age verification so anyone can download it.
The potential threats to safety arise when kids begin to take their privacy casually and share their private Kik username on public social network like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Tumblr. And, like all the other social networks, once someone knows your child’s username, anyone can send them a message. This opens the door to unwanted solicitations from Internet trolls, perverts and cyberbullies.
5. Yik Yak (rated for ages 17+)
The producers of this app call it “the anonymous social wall for anything and everything.”
Yik Yak works like a “virtual bulletin board” for anyone within a 2.5 kilometre radius. Users are not limited by who is following whom. They post a comment and anyone with the app can see what they have to say. What’s more, Yik Yak allows users to vote on or reply to any so-called “Yak.” This is done anonymously using 200-character messages. The app is rated ages 17+ and targets university students, who can use it to spread the word about parties and events. But younger users are easily getting their hands on the app
Yik Yak posts can be especially vicious and hurtful, since there is no way to trace their source, and can be disseminated widely. For example, a Yik Yak comment about a student at one school can be seen in seconds by students at another school in the vicinity.
6. Jailbreak Programs and Icon-Hiding Apps
These aren’t social media apps but you should still know about them (especially if you have a tech-savvy teenager. “Jailbreaking” an iPhone or “rooting” an Android phone basically means hacking your own device to lift restrictions on allowable applications. Once the phone is jailbroken or rooted, the user can then download third-party apps not sold in the App Store or Google Play store. Instructions on how to do it are readily available on the Internet. Cydia is a popular application for jailbroken phones. Other apps such as Poof and SBSettings are known as icon-hiding apps. These apps are supposedly intended to help users clear the clutter from their their screens, but some young people are using them to hide questionable apps and violent games from their parents.
While these are just some of the well-known apps that have content and privacy issues for kids, there are several others as well. What’s more important is creating a healthy channel of communication with your child so that such services are not misused without your knowledge. None of these apps promote negative content, violent content, pornographic content or other risks and if your child is using them respectfully, appropriately, and with a little parental guidance, they should be fine.
Rather than hovering or completely barring your child from downloading every social media app, it is much easier to teach respect because at some point, your children will leave the nest and make their own choices about technology use. Have regular conversations with your child about how to treat others with respect and stress the importance of having relationships only with those who are respectful in return. As with all social media, respect toward self and others makes us safer.
(photo courtesy of grungygentleman.com)