16 Risky Apps Parents Should Be Aware Of (and Why!)

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apps parents should be aware of

We all use apps on our smart devices, but if you have a tween or a teen who uses any apps it’s good to be on top of what apps they use. Without wishing to freak you out completely, you should know that there are many apps that aren’t quite as innocent as they would appear. Here are 16 apps parents should be aware of – it’s essential reading!

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As the use of smart devices and apps continues to increase, so it becomes more difficult to keep track not only of new apps arriving, but also of your tween or teen’s use of them. Here are some apps parents should be aware of so that you can understand how and what they do, and be prepared to monitor your tween or teen’s use of them.

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Apps Parents Should Be Aware Of

#1. MeetMe

meet me app

MeetMe is a dating social media app that allows users to connect with people based on geographic proximity. As the name of the app suggests, users are encouraged to meet each other in person. It’s designed to help strangers, ages 17 and up, connect based on similar interests and location.

But police warn predators are using MeetMe. Users can private message each other and participate in livestreams. By default, the user’s age and location is visible on their profile.

The “Live” feature allows users to watch or stream live video on the app. Live streams can be filtered by location, so users can see people streaming nearby.

App Age Rating: 17+

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#2. Badoo

badoo app

Badoo is a dating and social networking app where users can chat, share photos, videos and connect based on location. A user’s location is identified by tracking his or her device’s location and then matching the profile and pictures of people the user could contact within the surrounding area. Although Badoo is free, there are many options for paid subscriptions and other in-app purchases.

While the app is intended for adults only, and the terms of use of the app do clearly state that Badoo is not for teens, it’s easy for under 18s to create a profile. Photos of anyone who is not an adult cannot be posted, including photos of any adult users with a child.
Users are able to block other users. However users can’t hide their profile completely. Someone they’ve blocked is still able to see their profile.

App Age Rating: 17+

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#3. TikTok

tik tok

TikTok is a free social media app available on iOS or Android, designed for creating and sharing short videos. TikTok merged with Musical.ly in 2018 to create a larger community, with existing accounts and data consolidated into one app, keeping the title TikTok.

With more than 100 million users, TikTok is very popular. Similar to YouTube, you can access an interactive world of videos that lets you connect with friends, follow people, and interact through likes, comments, and even do duets with other accounts on TikTok.

Tiktok is really popular with kids and teens for creating and sharing short videos with very limited privacy controls. Users can be vulnerable to bullying and explicit content.

Read our full parent’s guide to TikTok.

App Age Rating: 12+

#4. WhatsApp

whatsapp

You may be surprised to see that WhatsApp is one of the apps parents should be aware of. While many parents would be familiar with Whatsapp and use it themselves, just in case you aren’t, it’s a popular messaging app that allows users to send texts, vidoes, photos, and make calls and have video chats worldwide.

WhatsApp is a great way for young people to socialise with their friends, and while your tween or teen can only talk to existing contacts on their phone, some content can be shared that might not be age appropriate. This is particularly an issue if they are added to group conversations by other friends, so they can end up having contacts on their phone who they have never met face to face. Therefore, it’s possible they could see or be contacted by someone they don’t know and could be vulnerable to content posted by this person.

Although a user cannot control who adds them to a group chat, they can always control their own participation within it – they can leave whenever they want to.

It’s a good idea to advise your child that if they are in a group chat with someone they don’t know and are uncomfortable with, they should exit the group and speak to you about it.

App Age Rating: 12+

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#5. Skout

skout app

Skout is a location-based dating app and website. Skout describes itself as the world’s largest app for meeting new people. It uses your phone’s GPS to put you in touch with people who are nearby, letting you chat with strangers, send virtual gifts and share photos – provided you’re over 18.

When you’re near a fellow user, you can check out their profile before you decide whether or not to get in touch. But Skout also offers other ways to meet new people. The app has a feature called “shake to chat” which puts you in touch with a nearby person at random.

While users under 17 are unable to share private photos, kids can create an account using a fake age. Users aged between 13 and 17 will automatically be placed in a teen section of the app, which bans private photo sharing and prevents chatting with people less than 100 miles away. But there is no way the app can verify users’ real ages. This means that adults can enter the teenage section, and kids can stumble into the adult section just by signing up with a different age.

App Age Rating: 17+

#6. Bumble

bumble app

Bumble is similar to the popular dating app Tinder, however it requires women to make the first contact. Kids have been known to use Bumble to create fake accounts, giving a false age. Users are required to sign up with their Facebook account to verify their age (but someone can lie about their age on their Facebook account).

The Bumble app makes it easy for predators to target victims. Connections expire every 24 hours which encourages users to check the app daily. The private message feature can mean inappropriate messages, or cyberbullying can be done easily through the app.

App Age Rating: 17+

#7. Kik

kik app

Kik is a popular mobile messaging app which is free to use. It is similar to Viber and WhatsApp but has some additional functions that differentiate it. For example, it has an internal browser, meaning users are encouraged to spend more time within the app.

Kik allows anyone to contact and direct message your child. Kids can bypass traditional text messaging features. Kik gives users unlimited access to anyone, anywhere, any time.

There was a news announcement in September 2019 that the company who had developed Kik were not going to continue with it as they wanted to focus on cryptocurrency, however they then announced in October that “Kik is here to stay”.

In September 2018, BBC reported that the Kik chat app had been involved in more than 1,100 child abuse cases. So this is definitely an app to be monitored.

App Age Rating: 17+

#8. Snapchat

snapchat

Snapchat is one of the most popular apps in recent years. While the app promises users can take a photo/video and it will disappear, features including stories allow users to view content for up to 24 hours, allowing ample time to screenshot and share.

It also has a private message and group chat feature, so again as with any app that offers group chat, there’s the possibility of being shown inappropriate content.

Read our full parent’s guide to Snapchat.

App Age Rating: 12+

#9. YOLO

yolo app

YOLO is a free social media app available on iOS or Android, which is basically linked to Snapchat. So if your teen or tween uses Snapchat, they may well be using YOLO.

It’s basically like a free add-on feature for Snapchat. When you connect YOLO to your account, you can add an “ask me anything” sticker to your Snapchat Story that invites your followers to just swipe up and give you feedback or ask questions anonymously. Then, you can decide whether to respond to those questions in Stories.

YOLO is rated 17+ on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store recommends Parental Guidance. However, there is no date of birth input when signing up (not that that would stop a tween or teen), because it just uses your Snapchat log in to get going.

Because of the anonymous aspect of the way YOLO poses questions, this can lead to potential problems and is what merits it being added to our list of apps that parents should be aware of. Remember that anonymous apps often bring out the worst in users because people feel they can say anything anonymously without accountability. This could in turn lead to instances of bullying, inappropriate messages, and so on.

Read our full parent’s guide to YOLO.

App Age Rating: 17+

#10. Live.me

liveme app

Live.me is a live streaming video app that uses geolocation to share videos so users can find out a broadcaster’s exact location. Broadcasters can receive live responses which can potentially mean that inappropriate content is sent to children. Users can make money by encouraging ‘viewers’ to buy gifts/coins to turn into cash.

The Live.me terms of use specify that users be at least 18 years old or have parental permission to use the tool, but tweens and young teens are broadcasting via the app. Live streaming can be problematic, especially if a young person is influenced to share too much personal information or inappropriate content to gain more viewers or likes.

App Age Rating: 17+

#11. Holla

holla app

Holla is a video chat app that allows users to meet people all over the world in seconds. Although the Holla terms of service state that users must be 13 to create an account and that anyone under 18 needs parental permission due to the opportunity to view unknown content, in reality there are no age verification methods so it’s easy for tweens or teens to create an account.

All of this means that adults can connect easily with minors, and the app’s ability to stay connected as ‘Friends’ allows predators to use this app. The other issue is access to explicit content. While Holla’s terms of service state they can monitor for nudity, weapons, etc but they don’t have to – so you cannot be sure what’s being vetted and what isn’t.

One review on iTunes says “This is a paedophile’s heaven…the amount of perverted old creeps and children that use this is insane.”

App Age Rating: 17+

#12. Whisper

whisper app

Whisper is an anonymous social network that promotes sharing secrets with strangers. It also reveals a user’s location so people can meet up. Whisper is unlike other social networking apps because users don’t have an identity when using the service. You don’t have a profile, friends or followers. However the app does use your location and allows other users to add a school or group but it doesn’t ask for photos or email addresses.

The main way of communicating with someone on Whisper is by responding to their Whispers. This can be done by sending your own Whisper or through the chat function. As with any app that allows chat or private messaging, it’s difficult to preserve your anonymity when you start giving away information that way.

App Age Rating: 17+

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#13. Ask.fm

askfm app

Ask.fm is already known for cyber bullying. The app encourages users to allow anonymous people to ask them questions and other users can answer. It allows anyone to post anonymous comments and questions to a person’s profile and is increasingly being used as a means to communicate abusive, bullying and sexualised content.

The site doesn’t monitor content, which opens the door for content that’s inappropriate – and that’s very, very easy to find. Users can report questions or answers that are violent or pornographic or that contain hate speech.

App Age Rating: 17+

#14. Grindr

grindr app

Grindr is a dating app for men looking to connect with other men for friendship, companionship or sexual encounters. The app gives users options to chat, share photos and meet based on GPS location. Grindr is not appropriate for children or teens.

The app uses the user’s device geolocation services to show men that are in their area. Users can also send private messages to each other using text or images. Anyone can set up an account and share any information on the app that they want.

App Age Rating: 17+

#15. Photo Calculator Apps

private photo calculator app

There are several so-called “secret” apps parents should be aware of that are used to hide photos, videos, files and browser history. These “Photo Calculator” apps are designed to help users hide photos and videos behind an innocent looking calculator app.

In 2018, Apple removed the Calculator% app from the App Store amid a police investigation, but several similar apps have taken its place. These apps look like a calculator but entering a passcode opens a private area.

App Age Rating: 4+

#16. Hot or Not

the game by hot or not

The Game by Hot or Not app is designed to rate your popularity based on how others rate your profile (which includes a picture). The Apple App Store description reads: “The Game by Hot or Not is the original way to find the coolest people near you and let them find you too!”.

Hot or Not encourages users to rate your profile, check out people in your area and chat with strangers – all problematic features from the point of view of online safety for young people.

App Age Rating: 17+


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Tips for Parents If Your Tween Or Teen Is Using Any Of These Apps

#1. Try the apps yourself

Try out the apps yourself and get your tween or teen to show you the basics. This is one of the best ways of learning and understanding what it’s about.

#2. Have a conversation again about internet safety

Remind your tween or teen that they should tell you if they see anything strange or receive any adverse messages. And that they should never divulge any personal information to a stranger.

#3. Talk about internet use and what that can mean

Have a frank discussion about using apps, the Internet and about talking to strangers online. Discuss what you post online and how people could potentially misuse that or indeed misunderstand. What are the risks?

#4. Talk about cyber bullying and peer pressure

What does Advice for Parents on Cyber Bullying mean to your tween or teen? How would they feel if they got this type of message online, and what would they do? Similarly, remind them about the importance of how their own messages and comments can be perceived. Discuss how peer pressure can lead to people doing and saying (both in person and online) mean, hurtful, dangerous or untrue things.

#5. Ask your child why they are using a particular app?

Is it for validation? Is it to avoid embarrassment? The answers to these may be the start of more conversations you need to have.

#6. Remain vigilant

Even though you have talked to your child about being safe, it’s important to remain vigilant and check in regularly with your child. Keep the conversation going and stay interested and informed.

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Does your tween or teen use any of these 15 apps? Are there any other apps parents should be aware of? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!

16 Risky Apps Parents Should Be Aware Of - Mykidstime



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