Potentially Dangerous Apps That Put Teens at Risk

Dangerous apps

Parents and teens both benefit when they educate themselves about potentially dangerous apps on cell phones and mobile devices. JESHOOTS / Pixabay

Schools, psychologists, religious organizations, the police and parenting authorities are sounding the alarm about potentially dangerous apps that put teens and, sometimes, younger children at risk.

While most of the apps listed below can have purely innocent applications, they also have the potential to put young people in contact with cyber-bullies, sexual predators and other dangerous people.  It can also expose them to other risks, such as having their photos unwittingly used on revenge porn sites or having strangers manipulate them into sexting with them.

Parents may wish to look at their children’s phones and other mobile devices to see which apps they are using.  If your child is using one of these potentially dangerous apps, you may want to discuss the risks with them and establish rules for their use … although rules may be difficult for parents to enforce on a mobile device.  However, as you will see at the end of this article, parents are not entirely defenseless.

Potentially Dangerous Apps and the Risks They Pose

Ask.fm:  This site allows kids to go online and ask questions.  Risk:  Some kids have repeatedly asked questions that target one person in such a way that it has turned into cyber-bullying.  The site has been associated with at least nine cases of suicide in the U.S. and U.K.

Blendr:  This is an app used as a way to meet new people, based solely on their GPS location.  You can use it to send photos, messages, videos, etc.  Risk:  There is no way to authenticate that people are who they say they are.  As a result, adult sexual predators could pretend to be teenagers and attempt to meet teens in their area. There is also the potential for sexting and inappropriate messages.

Down:  The previous name for this app was Bang with Friends.  It allows the users to divide their Facebook friends into two categories … those who they just want to hang out with, and those they are “down” to hook-up with.  Risk:  This categorization has many complications.  It can lead to casual sex.  It can also cause some teens to feel anxious, unattractive or unhappy if they are not on anyone’s hook-up list.   No matter which category they are in, it can cause problems.

Kik Messenger:  This is an instant messaging site with over 100 million users who exchange pictures, videos, drawings, YouTube videos, etc.  Risk:  There are no parental controls for this site and people communicate through phony user names.  It is popular with sexual predators who even use their Kik user names to put classified ads for sex on Reddit and similar sites.  Kik is also currently being scrutinized in connection with a 13 year-old girl’s death in Virginia.

Omegle:  This app is used for video chatting.  Users can connect it their Facebook accounts to find chat partners with similar interests.  Risk:  Sexual predators have been known to use this app to track down information about potential victims.

Periscope:  This app was added to this list at the suggestion of a reader who mentioned it in the comments section.  According to the reader,  Periscope “allows users to live broadcast to other users – either privately or publicly. The rule is that there should be no adult content.”  Risk:  “Viewers can often find sexual/nude content.  Underage broadcasters may also be pressured to do things they do not want to do or may be bullied. Broadcasts disappear after 24 hours but viewers can take screen captures of live broadcasts and of broadcasts viewed during that 24 hour period. Also, the app automatically sets your location to be visible to viewers when you are broadcasting and the map that shows where you are is very accurate and can narrow it down to your almost exact location. I’ve actually seen one broadcaster tracked down via the location feature, while she was alone on a beach! It’s rather scary.”

Poof, Hidden Apps, App Lock and Hide It Pro:  These apps allow users to hide other apps.  When you open one of these apps, the user can then click on “approved” apps, rather than questionable one.  Risk:  While Poof is no longer available for purchase, many teens have already downloaded it and have it on their mobile devices.  In addition, similar apps are continually being created.  Parents should question any app on their children’s mobile devices if they do not know its purpose.

Snapchat:  This is popular with teens who want to send a photo or video to one or more friends.  Once the receiver sees the video, it will self-destruct.  Risk:  This app is the most popular one used by people engaged in sexting.  In addition, the photos do not always disappear, as intended.  The recipient can take a screen shot of the photo and pass it on.  Photos from Snapchat have been used on revenge porn sites, especially by former girlfriends or boyfriends.

Tinder:  This app is used by people who hope to meet and date each other.  Users rate information from Facebook profiles.  Risk:  It has been used by cyber-bullies who can gang up on one person and intentionally force their rating down.

Whisper:  This is an anonymous confession app that allows you to put your own text over a photo.  Teens can use the GPS in the app to locate each other.  Risk:  Some kids have used photos of other teens and superimposed insulting messages on the photos.  In addition, at least one man in Seattle, WA has been charged with meeting a 12 year-old girl through the GPS feature of Whisper and raping her in 2013.  This case shows that even the phones of pre-teens should be monitored carefully by parents.

Yik Yak:  Users post text-only Yaks that are viewed by 500 nearby Yakkers, as determined by GPS.  Risk:  Some young people are posting sexually explicit Yaks or personal attacks on others.  The Yaks can be used by cyber-bullies and, sometimes, young people reveal too much information, making it easy for strangers to locate them … for example, revealing that they are at a certain business or similar location.

How Parents Can Protect their Teens from Potentially Dangerous Apps

Parents are not completely defenseless against these dangerous apps.  Here are a few suggestions:

Talk to your teen:  It is possible that your child has downloaded an app and not realize the risks involved in using it.

Check your teen’s mobile devices:  If your teen has a cell phone, a tablet computer or other mobile device, it is likely that the devices and the Wi-Fi has been purchased by the adults in the family.  Consequently, whether your teen likes it or not, you have a responsibility to check their devices occasionally to see what apps they are using and insist they remove any that you consider risky.

Get your own protection app:  Install an a parental control app like TeenSafe on their devices.  This app allows parents the ability to monitor their children’s phone activity.

Sources:

Fairfield Public Schools, Fairfield, MT

9 potentially dangerous apps teens use that parents need to know about

http://www.teensafe.com/blog/new-year-new-apps-block-teensafe-2016-app-blacklist/

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/kik-messenger-app-scrutinized-following-13-year-olds-death/

#RiskyPhoneApps #DangerousPhoneApps #Parenting #ChildSafety


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  1. Dan

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