Social media is invading all of our lives and not always in a good way. Read on to find out what are the most dangerous social media apps for children and what you need to know to keep you, and your children, safe.
The Most Unsafe Social Media Apps In Use Today
App. Apps. Buzzwords that have somehow become indispensable parts of our lives. As the Internet matures and technology advances they are only going to become more sophisticated and more important to daily routines. When it comes to function they are about as unlimited as you can imagine, there is an app for just about everything you can think of doing or needing. The most popular have come to be known as Social Media. Social media is any use of the Internet that allows users to interact. Where there is interaction there is fun, but also the opportunity for harm and when it comes to your kids the harm that can be done is very great indeed. This is a guide to the most unsafe social media apps on the Internet today along with a listing of apps for parents to monitor.
- Hands down the most invasive aspect of social media, apps and the Internet is data collection and loss of privacy. That being said there are several dangers your children face when using the net that have nothing to do with data collection; bullying, inappropriate content and falling prey to predators.
Now lets talk about social media, a family of apps found on the Internet that not only require you to give up information to use them but actively promote and entice you to give up more each and every day. Be assured that all those fun memes, electrifying political stories, pics of sexy bodies and posts you make are all being monitored, if not by the social media app itself then by predators lurking behind a veil of digital anonymity just waiting for the next juicy target to show up.
At best your child may be faced with an add for a toy they just can’t live without. At worst a nefarious criminal, sexual predator or otherwise undesirable person could use this information to do you and your family harm. There are dozens of reported cases from around the world of predators meeting kids online, luring them away from home and taking advantage of them in the most horrific ways.
The Most Common Internet Dangers For Kids
Phishing has long been a safety issue for Internet users. It is the practice of “fishing” for useful information through surveys, questionnaires and emails designed to pique interest and generate responses. Children are especially vulnerable to this if not warned of the dangers.
Catfishing is a newer problem but one with far wider ranging repercussions. Catfishing is the practice of meeting someone online, befriending them and then exploiting that relationship for ulterior purposes. When it comes to children this could lead to sexual harassment, stalking or worse. If a child is led to send pictures of themselves across the web they could easily end up as kiddie-porn.
Cyber-bullying is more common than you may imagine. It is the use of social media to force, threaten, coerce or aggressively dominate someone. Social media apps make it easy to bully, and be bullied, and to do it in a seemingly anonymous way. Not only that, the way some social media apps operate a group of kids could gang up on an individual and pile on an unbearable load of hate.
- Inappropriate content.
If there is one thing the web is good for its inappropriate content. This could range from the racially sensitive to the violent, pornographic or subversive and all is made readily available through social media. If you care about what your kids see and do then you need to care about their Internet connected devices and the websites and apps they are using.
The Most Dangerous Social Media Apps for Children
This is our list of the most dangerous social media apps for kids. Many of these apps are well-established businesses with otherwise bright futures. Some are smaller and less well-known so may find themselves shut down or out of business in the near future. Because there are new apps developed every day it is important to check back for updated listings from time to time.
Tinder is “the fun way to connect to people around you”. It is a social media app that uses geo-location to introduce you to people in your area and supposedly safe for the ages 13+ crowd. In practice it has become the world’s leading dating, hook-up and one-night-stand app as it allows users to “like” each other before connecting. When it comes to inappropriate apps for teens this one puts them in immediate danger of catfishing, stalking and worse. In terms of cyber bullying it is one of the worse offenders as a group of kids can gang up on one another to vote down user ratings down.
AskFM is a social media app that allows its users to ask questions and get answers from the community. Also listed as OK for the 13+ age group it almost exclusively used by the under-aged crowd. It has come under fire in the UK and the US for its role in cyber-bullying and attacks that have led to suicides. Major criticisms include a lack of regulation and monitoring that have allowed the app to be used as a hurtful tool. Due to its anonymous nature kids can safely hide behind an illusion of safety to commit atrocious acts of hate against each other.
- Kik Messenger
Kik Messenger is a texting/group text app that goes beyond simple messaging. Users profile pictures appear next to messages along with the ability to text with other users and outside your phones contacts list. The site says it is for use by those 17 and older but with no age verification anyone can sign up. Aside from its reported use as a dating/hook-up app it is has also been linked to vicious cyber-bullying attacks and is one of the most dangerous apps for children.
Voxer is a walki-talkie app that allows users to send quick voice messages to other users. Although largely used by adults and mostly in a work setting the app has gained a following among a more youthful crowd who enjoy the voice/text combination. Rated for ages 4+ on the App Store it has also been linked to cyber-bullying.
Snapchat is a messaging app that uses pictures and video to tell a story. The pictures disappear from view 10 seconds after viewing but don’t truly disappear from the Internet. How long can digital data last you ask? A long time. Widely used as a sexting-app by adults it is feared that more children will be emboldened by the app and its features. Along with this is the chance that images and video created by your children could be screen-captured before deletion. There are a number of websites whose only purpose is to post pictures and screen-captures stolen from Snapchat. A simple Google search for “snap porn” will return a long list of sites like SnapperParty, the worlds leading site for SnapChat porn.
Vine is a Twitter originated app that combines aspects of YouTube, SnapChat and texting. The app allows users to created short, 6 seconds or less, videos and upload them to the Vine website. Videos run the range from the simple and innocent to the complex and even pornographic. Although the app is rated 17+ young users are still downloading it and can find racy videos with the simplest of keyword searches.
Whisper is an anonymous messaging app that allows users to send messages along with images in a manner akin to digital postcards. Part of the apps motto is to “share secrets”, secrets that maybe your children shouldn’t be sharing or become privy too. Like most others, this app is intended for use by older teens and young adults it too is popular among the younger crowd. It has also been linked to catfishing and alleged rape of minor children. While the app is intended to be anonymous, it does list your geographic location so anyone with the will power could easily track and find a user.
Tumblr is another photo sharing app that is being used by young children. Intended for an older, more mature crowd Tumblr hosts a wide variety of explicit, raunchy and content that is inappropriate for young minds. Along with this is the risk of lost privacy, Tumblr has many privacy ensuring features but they’ve made using them such a pain it’s likely your kids aren’t.
Instagram is a wildly popular photo-sharing app now owned by Facebook. The app lets users add all sorts of filters to their images along, create collages and add a wide variety of other enhancements. The app is rated 13+ and recognized as a much safer platform than other photo-sharing apps but it still hosts a lot of inappropriate content and can put your children at risk of catfishing, especially if they keep their profile public or accept people they don’t know as followers under their private profile.
Blendr is another one of those “fun ways to meet people”. It is a social media and sharing app that lets users send and post messages, photos and videos as well as rate the “hotness” of each other. The problem is that there is little to no verification of ID so users can hide behind anonymous user profiles putting children at risk of catfishing and other online frauds. And that doesn’t count the access to sexting and other inappropriate uses of the net a child may get into.
Poof is an app that by itself isn’t so much of a problem. What it does (or did, it’s been discontinued) is hide other apps on your mobile devices so that the icons are not visible on the home screen and that is the problem. Savvy kids can download the app and use it to hide any app they want, all it takes is the touch of a button and Poof! It disappears. Now, the Poof app has been discontinued and is no longer available but there are new versions of this application popping up on the Internet all the time.
Omegle is an app that outright advertises its purpose as letting you talk to strangers. It is a video chatting service that keeps members anonymous but still uses their Facebook account info to find others with like interests. The site is used by catfishers and sexual predators to find targets. Once connected a series of innocent sounding questions can easily lead them to your doorstep. What I find incredibly alarming is that on their home page they will tell you that predators are known to use the site, so be careful.
Well, if you had any concerns about this app’s appropriateness let me tell you this. The home page includes the phrase “what the f#&k is this”, not a site I’ll be letting my kid use. It is an app under the umbrella of Facebook and is used to rank your friends. That’s right folks, rank your friends. You can mark if a person is someone you’d hang out with, or if you were “down” with hooking up. Aside from the use as a dating and hook-up app this site can be exploited for cyber-bullying and stalking.
iFunny.com is a place to post and view funny pictures, memes and video. This site is not so much a social media site as it is a place to view and enjoy humorous images. The problem is that the content is not edited for age appropriateness. Sure, they don’t let you post explicit, exploitative, hateful, hurtful or otherwise unwanted content but that does not mean your child won’t be exposed to things you many wish they weren’t.
Oovoo is another Facebook owned app and video chat service. This one is a little safe than most but still a danger to young users. The app connects you to your friends with video and voice chat as well as group messaging and texting. Messages can be attached to images and sent to the group or recorded and saved for later. As with all social media apps there is a chance it will be used for cyber bullying.
Musical.ly is an app for creating and sharing short videos. Like all video sharing services there is a chance for explicit and otherwise inappropriate content to be displayed. In the For Parents section the site goes over who can view videos, anyone on the platform, and what to do if you think your being bullied or catfished. Users are able to message each other through profiles. Children under 13 are not allowed to use the site although there is very little to keep them from signing up if they so choose.
Skype, believe it or not, is a favorite tool for catfishing. It is a great voice and video chat service, has all the bells and whistles a user could wish for, but is still a means for strangers to reach right into your child’s lives. A simple contact request from the wrong person and before you know it your child is sending pictures, giving up details and maybe even planning a meet with their new “friend”.
Social Media Apps Parental Guidance
Kids today, it seems like, are born with technology in their hands. They grow up knowing how to use it and for the most part they are more knowledgeable than their parents. This makes keeping tabs on the devicesand websites you allow your kids to use very hard. The experts agree, the best way to protect your child from social media and the detrimental effects of cyber-bullying is to talk to them. Talk to your children regularly about what they’re doing, who they are doing it with and any kinds of problems they may see, hear of or experience.
- Can you disappear from the internet? Will that help protect my family? Are questions I get all the time and the answer is maybe. You can control your digital footprint but it is unlikely you will disappear completely.
The best protection for your kids is to make sure their connections and Internet use is secure, and to teach them how to recognize bad people and bad uses of the web. The first task is easy. This can be solved with a VPN like the service from Le VPN. VPN stands for virtual private network and is the method used by top businesses and governments around the world to keep connections secure. Among other things the VPN will mask your IP address so that no one and no thing will be able to geo-locate or track your child using digital markers. It also creates a near invisible connection that hackers and predators will not be able to find. The top VPN apps such as Le VPN come with top-secret level encryption so that in the unlikely event your child’s Internet use is monitored by a third party nothing they do or share will be view-able or usable.
After that it comes down to best practices. Teach your kids what it means to be safe on the net, teach them not to share sensitive information or to talk to anyone they don’t know. You don’t want your kids talking to strangers over the net anymore than you do on the street. So, take the first step now and secure your child’s Internet use with VPN.