Edited by Kirsty Watts, Academic Dean of Technology/eLearning
Not everything online is evil, nor does danger lurk behind every new 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 children with an opportunity to make bad choices.
Sometimes when it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s really not a duck. Such is the case with Audio Manager, an app that has nothing to do with managing your teen’s music files or controlling the volume on their smart phone and everything to do with them hiding things like nude photos from you. It’s one of the top apps for hiding other apps.
Yes, there are such things. Children can hide any app they don’t want you to see, Teen Safe says. When you press and hold the Audio Manager app, a lock screen is revealed — behind which users can hide messages, photos, videos, and other apps.
This is similar to Audio Manager but this time with a calculator icon posing as something it isn’t. Sedgrid Lewis, online safety expert, notes that these apps look like a normal calculator app but when teens push a button within the app they can hide all inappropriate pictures. “It’s a key way teens are hiding their nude pictures from their parents,” said Lewis.
Lewis says the best way to solve this situation is for parents to add their teen to their iCloud account. That way, whenever a new app is downloaded by the teen, it will automatically download to the parent’s phone as well.
Think it’s not serious? Last year, there was a headline-making case in a Colorado high school where teens used apps to hide a huge sexting ring from parents and school officials.
Vaulty will not only store photos and videos away from parental spying eyes, but it also will snap a photo of anyone who tries to access the ‘vault’ with the wrong password. Parents who find it on their teens’ phones can conclude just one thing: Your child is hiding things from you.
OK, so you’ve undoubtedly heard of Snapchat, an app that allows you to send a photo or video from your phone and determine how long the person on the other end can see the image until it self-destructs. But what you probably didn’t know is that a lot of images from Snapchat are regularly posted to revenge porn sites, called ‘snap porn.’
Snapchat may not be the #1 app used for sexting but that’s not to say it isn’t the principal appeal of the app for many. Users think their snaps will disappear and they are wrong. It’s actually pretty easy to recover a Snap, take a screenshot of it and share it with others — and by others, we mean porn sites. No parent wants to find a photo of their teen daughter or son on sites like snapperparty or sexting forum.
Not for nothing, Snapchat last year published a ‘Snapchat Safety Center’ reminding children that nude pictures were not allowed. ‘Don’t use Snapchat for any illegal shenanigans and if you’re under 18 or are Snapping with someone who might be: Keep your clothes on!’ the company wrote.
The reality is, Snapchat is likely on your child’s phone. The best control you have (besides taking the phone away) is to just have a frank heart-to-heart about how there is no such thing as texts or photos that disappear and this is some down-and-dirty stuff that can come back to haunt them.
Like Snapchat, Burn Note is a messaging app that erases messages after a set period of time. Unlike Snapchat, this one is for text messages only, not photos or videos. Burn Note’s display system shows just one word at a time, adding a sense of secrecy to the messages. By promising a complete delete, children could feel more comfortable revealing more than what they would do otherwise. And again, capturing a screenshot so that the message can be shared and lives forever, may be the app’s Achilles’ heel.
Even if your child doesn’t have the app and has no interest in reading super-secret messages, they could unwittingly get involved: The app sends a Burn Note alert that they have a message waiting. Curiosity can kill the cat and an app like this could encourage cyberbullying when children feel they can get away with things because there will be no record of it.
Line is an all-in-one mobile hub for chatting, sharing photos and videos, free texting and video calls too. But the devil is in the detail. Things can get dicey with the hidden chat feature; users can decide how long their messages can last (two seconds or a week). But the biggest shock may come to your credit card. Your child can rack up some hefty in-app charges on Line as well. While the app says that minors need their parents’ permission to use it, there is no monitoring to ensure this takes place.
Bottom line: If your child doesn’t have a credit card number, you are controlling access to their in-app purchases.
Omegle provides users with a chance to converse online with random strangers. Is there anything that strikes fear into a parent’s heart faster than that sentence?
Common Sense Media is a fantastic resource to get aged-based ratings for movies, TV shows, books, games, websites and apps. Although based in the US, it provides more than a rating, it provides a brief synopsis of the media and recommendation for parents.
This is what they say about Omegle ‘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, and gender, something children might supply (not realizing they don’t have to). Adults wishing to chat anonymously may find use in this app, but children should be kept far away.’
Tinder is a popular app used for hooking-up and dating that allows users to ‘rate’ profiles and locate hook-ups via GPS tracking. It is too easy for adults and minors to find one another. And the rating system can be used for cyber-bullying; a group of children can target another child and intentionally make his/her rating go down.
Blendr’s 300 million users meet new people through GPS location services. You can message, exchange photos and videos, and rate the ‘hotness’ of other users (encouraging your child to engage in superficial values at best). Also, since there are no authentication requirements, sexual predators can contact minors and minors can hook up with adults.
KiK is an instant messaging app that lets users exchange videos, photos and sketches. Users can also create gifs. All well and good so far. Unfortunately, the term ‘sext buddy’ has been replaced with ‘KiK buddy.’
Sex researcher Megan Maas, wrote on ForEveryMom.com that children are using Reddit and other forums to place classified ads for sex by giving out their KiK usernames. KiK does not offer any parental controls and there is no way of authenticating users, thus making it easy for sexual predators to use the app to interact with minors.
One of the most popular social networking sites that is almost exclusively used by children. It is a Q&A site where users can ask questions anonymously. The problem is that children sometimes target one person and the questions get nasty. It is cyberbullying with no chance of ever getting caught. Ask.fm has been associated with nine documented cases of suicide in the U.S. and the U.K. In 2014, its new owners pledged to crack down on bullying or said they would shut down the site.
Article originally by Ann Brenoff, Senior Writer/Columnist, Published on Huffington Post 17/2/17
I would like to reiterate that these apps are harmless in their original intention with the vast number of technology companies and entrepreneurs trying to launch apps that will be the next Facebook. However, it is the people our children are exposed to that provide the danger. Having open conversations with our children about the risks and nasty elements lurking in the background provides opportunities for them to tell you what they have experienced and also for you to offer guidance on how to handle these situations if they find themselves in them. Encourage your children to make good choices when online and to keep themselves safe.