In this rapidly changing digital world, it’s crucial for parents to “Parent Online” and know what apps their children are using! Parents are the 1st line of defense when it comes to Online Safety! Do you know what the age restriction is for the app your child, tween or teen is using?
Ask.fm: A question and answering service that gives tweens and teens the opportunity to ask and answer controversial questions anonymously. This site is highly integrated with popular social networking sites like Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. Users can invite their friends and followers to ask them questions by posting links on their timelines or Twitter feeds. Unfortunately, and sadly this site is ripe with abuse and has been linked to several incidents that have resulted in suicide. Ask.fm’s age requirement 13 years old.
Down: What ever happened to the normal dating process? This app, which used to be called “Bang with Friends,” connects via Facebook. Down users pick Facebook friends to whom they think are “sexy” and if the friend is attracted to them the app lets them know they are both “down to bang.”
First users select their “sexy” friends and are told, “they won’t know until they select you, too. Once we know you’re both interested, we’ll send a notification – when and where to meet is up to you!” As Down says to promote their app, “get dates or get down.”
This app has no age restriction in the terms of service because users sign in with Facebook which has an age restriction of 13 years old. We know that many kids use Facebook under the age of 13. The Down app is not suitable for kids, period. The how page of the website alone is disturbing, with graphic images and content that is inappropriate for kids.
Fess: “Fess lets you post anonymously to your high school. Only students allowed in, no Fesses allowed out. This is your high school’s own confessions app,” describes the ITunes store. A red flag should go up when ever we read the word anonymous, because anonymous apps usually spell trouble of the cyberbullying kind. Why else would it be anonymous? So beware and don’t let your kids “Fess”. Age requirement to use Fess is 13 years old.
Instagram: Owned by Facebook. Instagram is an online photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service that allows users to take pictures and videos, change the way a photo looks using digital filters and share them on social networking sites. It’s known as Selfie central! Parents need to make sure the privacy settings are set to allow friends they know to see the images. Also, the Geo-location feature needs to be turned off to mitigate online predator risk. Parents should also be aware that Instagram has recently been linked to buying and selling drugs. Required age of use is 13 years old. This is an app commonly used by younger kids today. Parents clearly need to supervise use!
Kik Messenger: A quick instant messaging service that allows teens to text their friends (who are also using Kik) and add photos and videos to the text message. It’s rated 17+ but many young teens are using it without their parents’ knowledge. Kik is very popular and has 90 million users. Kids may be exposed to highly sexualized, inappropriate content that includes graphic images.
Omegle: The home page of Omegle invites people to Talk to Strangers. This says it all about the app and kids. Not talking to strangers is one of the first things we teach our kids. Parents need to be vigilant about who their kids’ are chatting with online too. Omegle is a haven for sexual predators. This App is not for kids period. Kids are able to connect Omegle to their Facebook account to find chat partners with similar interests. When a tween or teen selects this feature, an Omegle Facebook App will receive their Facebook “likes” and match them with a stranger with similar likes. Personal info is at risk too. Omegle’s age restriction is 13 years old. This app should not be used by anyone that is not an adult.
Oovoo: What can you do on OoVoo? Kids are able to access OoVoo either on their computer or download an app on their smartphone. They can video chat with up to 12 friends (or strangers), send video messages,record and upload videos to YouTube and use the instant messaging feature. Parents need to pay attention to who their child is chatting with. The age requirement for this app is 13 years old.
Periscope App: Periscope enables kids to live stream right from their phone. When a child, tween, or teen hits record, anyone that uses this app can watch them live. The potential for misuse is extreme including accessing inappropriate content, posting inappropriate content, and posting personal information. There is an option for private broadcast. Make sure that your 13+ teen is using this setting. There are other similar apps like MeerKat and YouNow (18+).
Secret shuts down! One hate/gossip/cyberbullying app down, many more to go!
Secret: The mobile app Secret is all about sharing… secrets, anonymously. The free app allows users to send short text and image posts to their friends without revealing the identity of the person who sent the post. Secret reveals posts from the user’s contacts who are also using the app. As with all anonymous apps, Secret can be a hot-bed of mean comments and cyberbullying. Secret is limited to users who are at least 13 years old.
Snapchat: This app allows kids to send photos and videos. The images theoretically disappear within seconds so some kids are using Snapchat to sext. It’s known as the sexting app. Kids may think the photos disappear for all time but a screenshot capture can be taken easily and the image can go viral quickly. In addition, Snapchat has known security vulnerabilities such that their database of customer names and phone numbers was recently hacked. Snapchat restricts usage to those 13 years and older.
Tango: Tango for those 13 and older is all about connecting with others. This app offers free video and phone calls, messaging and group chats for up to 50 people. Users can share music and videos, send decorated photos, post to a news feed and play games together. To add friends, users can search phone contacts, nearby strangers anywhere in the world. As always parents need to be aware of who their child is chatting with! Also, Tango has a history of being hacked.
uMentioned: Get the juiciest stories, darkest secrets, and funniest moments shared by students on your campus.” The homepage promotion has an image with the caption, “I slept with my TA and got an A for the semester. I wonder what he was grading…” iTunes has deemed this app as appropriate for 12 year olds and above. Seriously?? Even though they also indicate the app has:
Frequent/Intense Profanity or Crude Humor; Infrequent Mild, Mature Suggestive Themes and Infrequent, mild alcohol, tobacco, or drug use or references.
Vine: Owned by Twitter, Vine lets older teens create and post short looping videos. Yes, the app is restricted to teens that are at least 17 years old because of the mature content which includes offensive language, nudity, drug use and sex.
WhatsApp: WhatsApp, in the process of being purchased by Facebook for the hefty sum of $19 billion is still most popular in the Middle East/Africa, but that’s changing. Usage in North America has grown by 230 percent. WhatsApp is a smartphone messaging app that allows users to create groups, send each other unlimited images, video and audio media messages, and location in addition to basic texting. Terms of service require users to be at least 16 years old.