10 apps every parent should know

Published On: Aug 06 2014 12:14:17 PM EDT
Updated On: Aug 05 2014 06:07:27 AM EDT

A researcher at Penn State University develops a list to make parents aware of the dangers of the apps that teenagers are using.

As social media and technology advance it can be difficult for parents to keep up with what is popular with their teenagers.

[WEB EXTRA:  Software to track your teen's activity ]

Megan Maas, a sex educator and researcher at Penn State, developed this list of 10  apps that she says every parent should know about:

1. TINDER
An app that is used for hooking up and dating. Users can rate profiles and find potential hookups via GPS location tracking. 450 million profiles are rated every day. The good news is that this app pulls information from users’ Facebook profiles, so it is more authenticated than other apps.

The Risks: It is easy for adults and minors to find one another. Also, due to the rating system, Tinder is often used for cyber-bullying; a group of kids can target another kid and purposefully make his/her rating go down.

 

2. SNAPCHAT
This app allows a user to send photos and videos to anyone on his/her friend list. The sender can determine how long the receiver can view the image and then the image “destructs” after the allotted time.

The Risks: Snapchat is the No. 1 app used for sexting, mostly because people think it is the safer way to sext. However, the “snaps” can easily be recovered and the receiver can take a screen shot then share it with others. Also, a lot of images from Snapchat get posted to revenge porn sites, called “snap porn.”

 

3. BLENDR 
A flirting app used to meet new people through GPS location services. Users can send messages, photos, and videos and rate the hotness of other users.

The Risks: There are no authentication requirements, so sexual predators can contact minors on Blendr and minors can meet up with adults. And again, there is the risk of sexting.

 

4. KIK MESSENGER
An instant messaging app with over 100 million users, Kik Messenger allows users to exchange videos, pics and sketches. Users can also send YouTube videos, and create memes and digital gifs.

The Risks: Using the app for sexting and sending nude selfies through the app is common among youth. The term “sext buddy” is being replaced with “Kik buddy.” Kids may use Reddit and other forum sites to place classified ads for sex by giving out their Kik usernames. Also, Kik does not offer any parental controls and there is no way of authenticating users, making it easy for sexual predators to use the app to interact with minors.

 

5. WHISPER
Whisper is an anonymous confession app that allows users to superimpose text over a picture in order to share their thoughts and feelings anonymously. Although posts are anonymous, the app displays the area you are posting from. You can also search for users posting within a mile from you.

The Risks: Due to the anonymity, kids are posting pics of other kids with derogatory text superimposed on the image. Also, users do not have to register to use Whisper and can use the app to communicate with other users nearby through GPS. A quick look at the app shows that online relationships are forming through the use of this app, but without users knowing the person behind the computer or phone. Sexual predators may use the app to locate kids and establish a relationship. One man in Seattle, Washington, was charged with raping a 12-year-old girl he met on this app in 2013.

 

6. ASK.FM
Ask.fm is one of the most popular social networking sites that is used almost exclusively by kids. It is a Q and A site that allows users to ask other users questions while remaining anonymous.

The Risks: Kids will often ask repeated derogatory questions that target one person. Due to the anonymity of the badgering, it creates a virtually consequence-free form of cyber-bullying. Ask.fm has been associated with nine documented cases of suicide in the U.S. and the U.K.

 

7. YIK YAK
An app that 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.

The Risks: Users are exposed to and contributing sexually explicit content, derogatory language and personal attacks. Although the posts are anonymous, kids often start revealing personal information as they get more comfortable with other users.

 

8. POOF
This app allows users to make other apps “disappear” on their phone. Kids can hide any app they don’t want you to see by opening the app and selecting other apps.

The Risks: It’s obvious, right? Luckily, you can no longer purchase this app. But if it was downloaded before it became unavailable, your child may still have it. Keep in mind that these types of apps are created and then terminated quickly, but similar ones are continuously being created. Others to look for: Hidden Apps, App Lock and Hide It Pro.

 

9. OMEGLE
This app is primarily used for video chatting. With Omegle users do not identify themselves through the service. Instead, chat participants are only identified as “You” and “Stranger.” However, users can connect Omegle to their Facebook accounts to find chat partners with similar interests. When choosing this feature, an Omegle Facebook App receives the user’s Facebook “likes” and try to match the user with a stranger with similar likes.

The Risks: Sexual predators use this app to find kids to collect personal information from in order to track them down more easily in person.

 

10. DOWN
This app, 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 Risks: Although identifying someone you are willing to hook up with doesn’t mean you will actually hook up with them, it creates a hook up norm within a peer group. Depending on your sexual values, this might be something you don’t want for your child. Also, because of the classification system, a lot of kids will feel left out or unwanted, which can lead to anxiety and distress.

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