APPS & YOUR TEENAGER

APPS2

I recently spoke to a group of parents, teachers and administrators at my daughter’s school. The general topic was online safety and what parents can do to keep their kids safe(r) online.  The specific topics were:

  • Digital Natives

  • Inappropriate Communications

  • Oversharing

  • Hiding Apps

  • Cyberbullying

  • Predators

  • Sexting

  • Popular Apps

  • How to protect your child today and in the future.

The parents were really interested in the apps kids are using today. Many parents had never heard of some of the apps I talked about. I thought to myself, “Perhaps other parents are interested in this information as well.”  Below is a list of apps that are popular with young people today. The list is not exhaustive. The focus is on ten of the more popular apps…AT THE MOMENT. I say at the moment because an app that is popular this month may not be the next month.

INSTAGRAM

What does the app do?

Share and edit photos and short videos. You can apply filters and effects to your photos making them look high quality.

What parents should know:

Because pictures are publicly visible by default, your teen really needs to adjust the privacy settings. Hashtags can make a person’s photos visible to groups of people beyond your child’s friends\followers.

Teens want to be liked. The more “likes” they get on Instagram the better. Does chasing more likes increase the chance of teens posting inappropriate pictures?

You can send private messages to up to 15 mutual friends.

 

SNAPCHAT

What does the app do?

A messaging app whose claim to fame is disappearing pictures. You take a picture (a snap) and send it to your friend and once your friend opens the picture, it will delete itself in 10 seconds.

What parents should know:

The myth that photos disappear probably led to an increase in sexting among young people.

Once you press send, you have lost control of what you sent. Nothing truly ever goes away. It can always be found on a phone, server, computer or tablet somewhere in the world.

What if your child’s friend takes a screen shot of the picture with another phone?

What if the person the picture was sent to downloaded one of the many third party apps that were created to do one thing and one thing only, make it easy to take pictures of snaps before they disappear.

 

KIK

What does the app do?

Kik is a messaging app that lets you send text messages for free. It is fast and there are no limits in terms of characters or fees.

With only a username (instead of a phone number), you can connect with a friend.

Many Kik users list their Kik usernames on Instagram.

What parents should know:

There are a lot of ads and in-app-purchase opportunities. Your child may be tempted to spend some money.

Predators use Kik looking for “new friends.”

There is an app called OinkText that links to Kik that will allow your child to communicate with strangers.

Two years ago I spoke with a local police officer who investigates crimes committed against children using the Internet. He said that he has had to contact every major app or social media site to get more info to help his investigation. Everyone has been helpful to him EXCEPT Kik. He said that Kik will not even return his calls or emails. Sounds like Kik does not care. 

 

WHATSAPP

What does the app do?

Users can send text messages, audio messages, videos, and photos to one friend or many people at the same time. There are no message limits or fees.

What parents should know:

WhatsApp says you should be at least 16 to use their app. Teens younger than 16 use the app.

As soon as you sign up, WhatsApp searches your address book looking for anyone that is already using WhatsApp and connects you to those people. You will be encouraged by the app to sign up friends that are not using WhatsApp.

 

WHISPER

What does it do?

There are some that call Whisper the confessional app. You send messages (whispers) and post whatever is on your mind and remain anonymous.

What parents should know:

Many shared deep secrets\desires that end up on Whisper are sexual in nature and are often coupled with partially nude pictures.

There are people that use the app to try and hook up with people nearby.

Since posts are anonymous, many of them are negative, dark, and revolve around substance abuse and depression.

Things begin anonymous, but the app encourages people to get to know each other personally in the “Meet Up section.

 

 JOTT

What does the app do?

Jott is the latest in a long line of messaging apps. You can use Jott to send and receive text messages. Jott was released in May 2015. It was downloaded over 1 million times in two months.

What parents should know:

Even if there is no cell signal or no Wi-Fi nearby, you can still use Jott to send and receive text messages. Jott uses Bluetooth (AirChat) to communicate and just about every phone has Bluetooth capability.

Once an account is created, the user can join a private group, such as a group created specifically for students at a school.

In order to communicate another Jott user needs to be within 100 feet, but has the number of users\groups grows that connects with your child, they can be further apart.

Like Snapchat, Jott messages can self-destruct. Jott says it is for privacy, some people may use it to hide inappropriate activity.

Jott is most popular among kids 13-17 years of age.

It is estimated that at some schools as many as 80% of all students are using Jott.

 

 FLINCH

What does the app do?

DON’T FLINCH!

If you are old enough, think back to when you played Flinch. You and a friend sat across from each other and starred at each other. The first one to move (flinch) in any way was out and lost. Well, there is an app based on the old Flinch game. However, as always, the app is being used the wrong way by some people.

What parents should know:

I downloaded Flinch and the access\permissions it wanted made me wonder. Why does a game where I am going to be looking at the face of other people online need access to my phone’s calendar, contacts and photos?

As far as I can tell there are three good things about Flinch.

  1. It is free in terms of you don’t have to pay money for it.

  2. It does use some nifty advanced facial expression technology.

  3. It could actually be fun depending on who you are playing against such as a real friend that you know.

STRANGERS

You have two options when playing Flinch. You can Play a Friend or Make a Friend. There could be trouble with the Make a Friend option. You will basically be inviting a stranger into your life, all be it a small portion of your life.  I read where one person chose the Make a Friend option and when the person popped up on their phone, there was a guy masturbating. The person that popped up on my phone looked like a serial killer. I quickly shut it down and deleted Flinch from my phone. 

I KNOW WHERE YOU ARE

People you don’t know can track your user name and your location if geo-location is not turned off. If you are at home or school, they could use the geo-location info, longitude and latitude and pinpoint where you are.

SMILE – I JUST TOOK A PICTURE

Flinch streams live video, but who’s to say your new friend will not take a screen shot of you and use the photo for whatever reason. This may not be harmful to you at all, but I would not want a stranger having a picture of me.

THEY DON’T REALLY WANT TO PLAY THE GAME

Flinch definitely may not be for you if you are a young girl. Many users are adult males who want to flirt with young girls…no real interest in playing the game.

I say pass on Flinch. Play the game the old school way.

 

 KEEPSAFE

What does the app do?

Keep safe is a hiding\privacy app. If there is anything on your phone you don’t want people to see, put it in the KeepSafe vault and apply the password. Whatever you put in the vault (picture or app) will be hidden from prying eyes.

What parents should know:

KeepSafe has a unique decoy pin feature. The scenario: You as a parent demand that your child type in his or her KeepSafe password. No problem, your child types in his decoy pin (you don’t know it is a decoy). KeepSafe opens up and you see things that are not so bad at all. Your child is fooling you. He purposely put those things in KeepSafe expecting you to demand that he type in the password. The real naughty things he does not want you to see are still hidden in the main KeepSafe vault which has a totally different password.

 

VAULTY

What does the app do?

Another app that kids use to hide things. You can’t see what is hidden until you supply the correct password.

What parents should know

Vaulty has a mugshot feature. If you type in the wrong password, Vaulty uses the camera on the phone to take a picture and stores it in the secret vault. The next time your child picks up her phone and types in her correct Vaulty password, she sees your picture. She then knows you have been snooping.

 MEETME

What does the app do?

The name says it all. You use the app to meet new people.

What parents should know:

I know someone personally that used this app. She thought she was meeting a fellow teenager; instead he was a grown man. Things did not turn out so well. Her life is now forever changed.

It is wide open. You can chat with anybody and everybody online.

You can hunt search for local people. A stranger with the ability to find out if you are nearby does not seem like a good idea to me.

The app asks for a lot when you register, first name, last name, zip code. The app asks to use the location service on your teen’s device. So whenever they use MeetMe, other creeps people can possibly know where your little lady is.

 

Be aware and keep your children safe.

 

 

John L. Jones

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