Technology is a typical part of every teen’s day. They wake up and check messages, text with friends and post selfies throughout the day. While all this screen time may annoy parents, it is the center of their child’s social life. Keeping up with the latest ways kids are using technology is time consuming, but it’s our only way to keep our kids safe.
While speaking with a group of middle school parents, many parents admitted they were unsure what apps their own child is using or what each app does. My suggestion to all parents, check out the apps on your child’s phone and other devices, you may be surprised at what you find! Below is a list of apps all parents should know about and the reasons for concern.
1. Snapchat Teens use Snapchat to send pictures to their friends, assuming that it will disappear in seconds as it is marketed. The problem: the photos don’t go away forever, they can be saved on a 3rd party service which could be (and recently was) hacked. Snapchat has also been used for sexting, with screenshots being forwarded to others without the original sender being aware.
2. Yik Yak This app enables users to post comments anonymously and has been associated with cyberbullying. Posts can be shared on Twitter and Facebook, meaning posts in Yik Yak could very easily be spread to other social networks. Geolocation is used to share “yaks” with others in your area, but you can turn this feature off. (See Tips section below).
Users can post secrets and rumors anonymously. Teens use it as a way to share confessions, rumors or their most private thoughts, but the app shares the posts based on geographic location, meaning others in your area could be reading your child’s posts. If identifying information is shared, your teen could end up in contact with someone dangerous.
4. Tinder Users create a profile (including their pictures) then scroll through potential matches in their geological area. It allows people to chat through the app and possibly meet up. The potential for your teen to meet with a stranger should cause concern. Stories of preteens and teens meeting their “Tinder” match, only to end up in a dangerous situation are not uncommon.
5. Ask.fm Yet another anonymous posting site where bullying is rampant. Children as young as 13 are allowed to have an account (the same age restriction as Facebook and Twitter) and content is not screened or reviewed. Even if your teen blocks anothe