This generation of parents are foraging new ground with technology. Most of us did not grow up with cell phones or tablets with Internet and a host of apps at our fingertips. The digital world changes so rapidly that even when we think we know what the latest thing is, it’s probably already changed. If you are like most, you are concerned about what your child is exposed to within these apps; even the ones that are seemingly harmless.
Unfortunately there are those out there who are trying to do harm to our children and apps are an easy way for nefarious people to obtain access to them. As caregivers we do our due diligence to monitor what apps we allow our children to have access to, but what if it appears to be safe, but is disguised as something else? For Example: You may have heard about the “Calculator%” app which is a front for a secret app that can be used to hide photos, videos and files.
TikTok is a locally popular app with somewhat younger kids. The title doesn’t give any indication about what it actually does…hint, it doesn’t tell time. You may not even know your child even has it. If you ever allowed your child to download and use the Musical.ly app; which was a kind of fun new age karaoke app that users used to record lip-syncing and dance videos to share, then you should know it changed to TikTok. The main concern with this app is that there are not many options for parental controls. The possibility of explicit material is there as well as your child’s own material being public.
Some are not intentionally misleading in title or have “fake” fronts, but still can be very dangerous for children. Messaging apps such as Snapchat, Kik, Holla, Whatsapp just to name a few are all intended to allow users to message each other, video chat, and send photos or videos to one another. Many have the capability for the messages to disappear after being sent which can lead to a false sense of privacy for the users.
One of the major concerns with apps intended to meet people or so-called dating apps is the ability for the users location to be used. These have users create profiles describing their likes or dislikes and match them to others with similar interests. The location is shared with others so that local people can meet up. This is one of the most dangerous features for minors; predators and those with bad intentions can easily use fake profiles or lie about who they are in order to obtain access to anyone using the app. Skout, Grindr, MeetMe, Tinder, Bumble and Badoo are all examples of these types of apps you may see downloaded on your child’s device that you should be very wary of. Whisper also uses GPS, however is billed as an anonymous way to share secrets with strangers.
Hot or Not is a literal rating app that allows users to rate each other in a sense of attractiveness and chat with each other. The ways this can damage one’s self-confidence are endless with this format.
The main thing to remember with any of these social applications is that they expose your children to potentially harmful people and material. The potential of their privacy being violated and for bullying to occur is much higher when it can be done via social media. Consider putting password protection on their phones for downloading so they cannot download any apps to their devices without putting in a password only you know. That allows you the opportunity to research the app and its purpose to try to vet out something potentially harmful.