October 14, 2016

Dangerous Apps and Your Teen

As you likely know, smartphones drive the world of teens today! Whether used to calculate their total at a clothing store; help with homework they have spent way too much time on; just snapping a few selfies; or to contact their friends they hope to meet up with this weekend, teens use their smart devices for everything!

With the ability to access the Internet and download applications from the "App Store", teens can innocently be dragged into danger! While the majority of parents are familiar with and know to regulate the more mainstream apps, such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, there are many other apps that your child could be using that are potentially dangerous. HEARTS for Families™ is here to help parents learn what is really out there. Here are a few apps to keep your eye out for:

Texting Apps

  • KIK Messenger: This is a texting app that lets you to text for free - completely unlimited! (STRANGER DANGER!) There are many ways people can disguise themselves as someone they are not and easily communicate with other KIK users. This app was allegedly used in various high-profile crimes, including the murder of a 13-year-old girl and a child pornography case - That’s scary!!
  • WhatsApp: This is an app that allows users to send text messages, audio messages, videos, and photos to one or many people with no message fees or limits. (Another platform of STRANGER DANGER)

Micro-blogging Apps and Sites

  • Tumblr: This is a social media platform that’s like a cross between a blog and twitter. It’s a news stream full of text, photos, and/or videos and audio clips. Users are capable of creating and following “tumblogs” or short blogs that can be seen by ANYBODY online. Parents need to know that porn is easy to find here! While this social hangout spot can be easy to find creative ideas, it can also open a world of trouble. Self-harm, drug use, offensive language, violence, pornographic images and videos are easily searchable! These posts are most often copied, shared, and re-blogged keeping it online forever!
  • Twitter: This is also a micro-blogging tool that allows the users to "tweet" messages to other followers, users, or celebrities. While this is a good tool for keeping up with the latest sports information or news from your local area, it can allow teens to tweet in the heat of the moment - possibly posting something they don’t mean, which in turn could ruin their reputation later on. (Remember - it is out in cyber space, FOREVER!)

Self-Destructing and Secret Apps

  • Whisper: This is a social “confessional” app that allows its users to post whatever is on their mind paired with an image. Parents should know that the content expressed on Whisper could be very negative including topics related to insecurity, substance abuse, depression, and lies or “secrets” of teachers or peers. While this app is anonymous from the start, the “meet up” section encourages users to share personal information. (Not so “anonymous” after all)
  • Yik Yak: This is a social network app that allows users to post brief posts or comments to geographically nearby Yik Yak users within a mile and a half away! Rumors, secrets, lies and opinions are common things to find while viewing the Yik Yak feed. Parents should know that many schools are banning access to this while at school because of the gossip, threats, and cruel nature that Yik Yak can hold.

Meeting and Dating Apps

  • Omegle: This is a chat site and app that randomly pairs two strangers together in a chat or video room. Parents should know that there is NO registration and the connections made are complete strangers across the world! Due to the site being completely anonymous, foul and explicit language and sexual chat thrives.
  • Tinder: This is a photo and messaging dating app that allows users to browse others users’ pictures for potential matches within their area. Parents should know that this site is all about getting ‘swipes’. You either swipe right to “like” a photo or swipe left to “pass”. If another person “likes” your photo too, then they are paired together. Meeting up is the main goal for teens and in-app geo-location makes sure they’re close by too. But beware - you just never know whom you will really be meeting up with!

So, parents, please be aware! Cell phones aren’t what they used to be anymore. With the advancements of technology, this generation of teens is experiencing complete access to the world at the touch of a finger. We encourage you to talk with your child about cell phone safety and share your expectations. For more tips on cell-phone safety and teens, click here.

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