If you’re a parent or grandparent, you know that kids pick up the latest technology lightning fast. Of course, that means the children in your life can also be using apps and visiting sites that are totally inappropriate for their ages. Worse yet, you might not even realize it.
Let’s look at five potentially dangerous apps that the children you deeply care about might be using and why they’re dangerous.
Snapchat (bit.ly/1zUbda8) is a picture-messaging app whose claim to fame is that the messages last only for a few seconds once they’re opened. Then the messages supposedly evaporate into thin air. In theory, you can send embarrassing or risque pictures without being afraid of someone stealing them or distributing them.
Unfortunately, the claim that Snapchat makes it safe to send risque pictures is just plain wrong. It’s way too simple for anyone to grab a screenshot of the image before it’s deleted. In October 2014, hackers got their hands on thousands of “deleted” Snapchat images that had been stored on third-party servers. While it wasn’t exactly a breach of Snapchat, it’s further proof that pictures don’t always disappear.
In fairness, many teens use Snapchat for innocent picture-conversations with each other. And as Snapchat grows in popularity, the company is moving further away from its sexting association, but it’s still a big concern.
If your teen is using Snapchat, ask them to show you how they’re using it. Make sure that your teen is communicating only with people that they know, and that they realize the pictures they send don’t just vanish forever. Remind them, “Once on the Internet, always on the Internet!”
While Snapchat has uses besides sharing inappropriate images, Tinder (bit.ly/1Awv4vD) is all about meeting new romantic partners, which probably isn’t something you want your teen doing with strangers.
Tinder allows a person to create a profile and see images of potential romantic matches in the immediate area. The person can choose whether they’re interested in another user or not. If two people like each other, then they can have a conversation through the app and potentially meet. Again, broadcasting images to strangers and potentially meeting them on a whim is not something teens should be doing, in my parental opinion.
Actually, underage teens aren’t even supposed to be using this app. The only way to get on the app is to have a Facebook account with a birth date that indicates the user is over 18 years of age. There is no verification of the user’s age claim.
Any child who ends up on the app will be meeting people who are over legal age. They might come across predators, scammers and any variety of creeps that no one should have to deal with.
In short, Tinder is dangerous for kids. Keep them away from it.
Vine (bit.ly/1EJygWj), the app that 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.
Some teens, as I’m sure you remember, will do almost anything for acceptance and attention, including doing something edgy or crazy.
In response, Vine just released the Vine Kids app, which features hand-selected videos that are supposed to be appropriate for younger audiences. Unlike the real Vine app, Vine Kids can’t record videos. This might be good for younger kids, but I can guarantee older kids and teenagers will want to use the real Vine app.
If your kid does use Vine, or any social media site, be sure to friend, follow or join them on it to monitor what they’re doing and saying. You might also occasionally look at their phone to confirm which apps they have installed, or even review their activity on the site. You’ll want to know if they’re running with a dangerous crowd or doing something stupid or worse.
Whisper (bit.ly/1ufqlMD) is an app built specifically for spreading rumors and secrets. It lets users post pictures and text anonymously. Apps like Whisper could potentially be a good outlet for teens as anonymous confessions can help people unburden themselves.
However, Whisper shares the secrets based on geographic location, so the users nearest to you are the ones more likely to see your secret. If your child reveals too much, it can put them in a dangerous situation with friends or adversaries.
The most dangerous apps for teens use GPS tracking to bring people physically together. Cyberbullying is much more hurtful when the person bullying your child moves from online to in-person abuse. In this case, Whisper seems like it could cause teens more harm than good.
9Gag (bit.ly/1DJKmLw) is one of the most popular apps to distribute memes and pictures online. The risky part for teens lies within the fact that all kinds of pictures are shared on 9Gag. These pictures aren’t moderated and could come from any uploader and feature terrible images you don’t want kids seeing.
Not only that, but some 9Gag users are cyberbullies and abuse other users online. Many of the people guilty of “swatting,” or getting the police to raid an innocent person’s house, come from 9Gag. Go to bit.ly/1CymQE4 to learn more about swatting and how to protect your kids from becoming a victim.
If your child has to get their humor fix from somewhere, always try to make sure that they’re getting it from a place with rules and regulations that commit to keeping underage users protected.
Kim Komando hosts the nation’s largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Hear it locally at 94.3 WSC News Radio noon-3 p.m. Sundays. For more information, go to www.komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.