Risky Mobile Apps
all parents and youth leaders should be aware of.
- After School.
This app is used by high school teens, who share their most personal thoughts secrets, sexual fantasies and nude photos It is also being used to bully other teens and make violent threats. All posts are anonymous - the perfect app for bullying, sexting, spreading rumors and posting crude and sexually explicit comments.
- Yik Yak.
What the app does:
From the Yik Yak web site: "Yik Yak acts like a local [chat room] for your area by showing the most recent posts from other users around you. It allows anyone to connect and share information with others without having to know them."Why it could be risky:
The anonymity of Yik Yak means you and your teen never know who you're talking to on the other side of the screen. This makes cyber-bullying easier, increases chances of predators communicating with your child, and allows for a community where anything goes, including language, sexual innuendo, and hate-driven content.
- 152852. Gaggle.
What the app does: From the Gaggle App in the iTunes Store: "Gaggle is an anonymous local bulletin board to post messages to the people around you. It is a fast reliable way to share your thoughts, gossip and talk about things around you."
Why it could be risky: Similar to Yik Yak, Gaggle is completely anonymous and therefore fosters a community without accountability which can lead to sexual or hateful content and extreme language.
- 152863. Snapchat
What the app does:
From Wikipedia: "Snapchat is a photo messaging app wherein users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. These sent photographs and videos are known as "Snaps". Users set a time limit for how long recipients can view their Snaps after which they will be hidden from the recipient's device and deleted from Snapchat's servers.Why it could be risky:
While Snapchat should be commended for their recent strides in making their service less anonymous, more permanent, and more age-friendly, the short-term nature of the app still may be a concern. Because photos, drawings, texts and other content can be deleted immediately after being received, use of the app sometimes leads to sexting, bullying, or sharing inappropriate content.
- 152874. Kik Messenger
What the app does:
From the Kik web site: "As the first smartphone messenger with a built-in browser, Kik Messenger lets you talk to your friends and browse and share any web site with your friends on Kik."
Why it could be risky: The biggest risk that comes with the fact that it's very hard to identify a Kik user. Since usernames are not verified, users can create false accounts and connect with other Kik users. The app also allows teens to send text messages that will not be traced by mobile service providers, that parents can't see, and that cannot be monitored on a monthly phone bill. This leads to excessive texting and opens the possibility to sexting, sharing inappropriate content, and other dangers.
- 152885. Omegle
What the app does: From the Omegle web site: "When you use Omegle, we pick someone else at random so you can have a one-on-one chat. You're anonymous unless you tell someone personal info and you can stop a chat at any time."
Why it could be risky: While Omegle makes small efforts to ensure safety with its app (advising against sharing personal info and a group of moderators) the site tagline, "talk to strangers" is enough to classify this app as risky all on its own.
- 152896. Whisper
What the app does: Whisper allows users to share secrets anonymously and receive replies. Users post messages which are displayed as text superimposed over an image, similar to greeting cards.
Why it could be risky: Like many other apps covered today, Whisper allows users to be anonymous. In fact, the service is all about sharing "secrets" and encourages a high level of anonymity but also a high level of openness. Users are encouraged to share their secrets with complete strangers. In our book, you can't get much riskier than that.
- 152907. Frontline Commando (and similar violent games)
What the app does: Frontline Commando and similar violent games offer realistic war violence as a form of entertainment.
Why it could be risky: According to a recent study, "Children who play violent video games may experience an increase in aggressive thoughts, which in turn, could boost their aggressive behavior." Be cautious when allowing your youth to play extremely violent games as it may lead to aggressive behavior.
- Some parents rely heavily on OpenDNS, a free wifi filtering service — it redirects all internet activity on your wifi signal to a different Domain Naming Service (DNS) that can be filtered based on your preferences. It works through your router. It filters everything from gaming, gambling, pornography, and lingerie sites to cheating, dating, video sharing, social media, etc. It has robust options to customize to each family’s preferences. It is a baseline tool, and every family needs some sort of filtering support. It also disables the capabilities of browsers to support “private browsing,” if you select that option. You can see every website that is visited from any device that is using that signal. It is a free service.
- There are quite a lot of new tools for monitoring teen activity, but almost all of them have workarounds or drawbacks. Some families do not allow their children to have internet enabled phones, which are too much of a temptation, because there are too many workarounds that other youth will describe and detail.