Everyday there is a different app being created for iOS and Android devices. It is almost impossible to keep up with the latest. Although I am no longer a classroom teacher, I work in a middle school as a technology trainer/integration support specialist. Therefore, I keep my ear to the ground and I listen to the students as the share their social media stories. I can say one thing that some smart phone apps are down right scary as an adult; so I know it can be even more dangerous for middle school teens. To keep our kids safe, it is important to monitor their social media use, phone, texts, apps, and photos. Yep, kids may feel that you are invading their personal space and privacy but you are only doing it for their safety.
So I have compiled a list of 7 apps that I want you to keep an eye out for and you will thank me later.
- Poof –The Poof App allows users to make Apps disappear on their phone with one touch. Kids are super smart. Your kids can hide every app they don’t want you to see on their phone. It simply because they know it isn’t a good app for kids from the start. All the kids have to do is open the App and select the ones they don’t want you to see. Very scary! The good news about this App is it is no longer available, which isn’t uncommon for these types of Apps. But, if it was downloaded before it was deleted from the App store, your child may still have it. Keep in mind that Apps like this are created and then terminated pretty quickly by Android and Apple stores, but there are similar ones being created constantly. Some other names include: Hidden Apps, App Lock and Hide It Pro.
- Hot or Not – This app allows you to upload pictures of yourself while other people in your area vote on whether you are “hot” or “not.”You can vote on others in your area as well. It is not safe for predators.
- Chat Roulette – This is an online chat website/forum that pairs random people together to video chat. Every time you begin a new chat, you never know who you are going to come face-to-face with. Totally unsafe. Your kids can encounter people eliciting inappropriate acts. You never know what will pop up on the screen.
- Omegle – This App is not new and has been around since 2008, with video chat added in 2009. When you use Omegle you do not identify yourself through the service – chat participants are only identified as “You” and “Stranger”. You don’t have to register for the App. However, you can connect Omegle to your Facebook account to find chat partners with similar interests. When choosing this feature, an Omegle Facebook App will receive your Facebook “likes” and try to match you with a stranger with similar likes. This is not okay for children. There is a high risk of sexual predators and you don’t want your kids giving out their personal information, much less even talking to strangers.
- Whisper – This is a meeting app that encourages users to post secrets. You post anonymously, but it displays the area you are posting from. You can search for users posting within a mile from you. A quick look at the App and you can see that online relationships are forming constantly on this App, but you never know the person behind the computer or phone. One man in Washington was convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl he met on this App just last year. Please make sure your kids are not on this app. Hek look at the name.
- Down – This application, which used to be called “Bang with Friends,” is connected to Facebook. Users can categorize their Facebook friends in one of two ways: they can indicate whether or not a friend is someone they’d like to hang with or someone they are “down” to hook up with. The slogan for the App: “The anonymous, simple, fun way to find friends who are down for the night.” This is an invitation to scary land.
- Yik Yak – It allows users to post text-only Yaks of up to 200 characters. The messages can be viewed by the 500 Yakkers who are closest to the person who wrote the Yak, as determined by GPS tracking. Users are exposed to – and contributing -sexually explicit content, abusive language and personal attacks so severe that schools are starting to block the app on their Wi-Fi network. Although the posts are anonymous, kids start revealing personal information as they get more comfortable with other users.
Parent Tip: You can turn location services, or GPS, off on cell phones by going in to the device settings. This will keep the Apps and photos from posting the exact location or whereabouts of the phone user.
Please understand not all social media apps are bad. Some social media apps have its benefits, but those benefits can come with drawbacks. Tell your child to be cautious about the information he/she is sharing in the online world. You also might want to have the “cyber birds and cyber bees” talk again with a reminder to be careful about the people he/she is chatting with online. Finding the right balance with what you share online and what you keep private is key in the social media domain. Give them a certain time frame to log-in and make sure it’s on a computer that you can view. Even ask your child’s teacher to teach about digital citizenship.