While there is no doubt the Internet is an invaluable resource to us today, there is also no doubt that on it lurks many terrible, and often hidden, dangers to our teens. Aside from the stranger danger present online, cyber-bullying and exposure to sexually inappropriate material are two other major problems prevalent for teens online today. Unfortunately, the number of apps that pose serious risks to our teens’ safety and emotional well-being is quite baffling. So, this week I will start by sharing just a few of the apps I believe all parents should be made aware of today.
- Beeps – This particular app was created to provide teens with a way to communicate with one another without adult supervision. It allows the user to use a high frequency ringtone that can only be heard by fellow teens. The alert tone is set at a frequency of 14,800 hz, which is a range that most adults cannot hear, but most teens can Therefore, parents and teachers will not even realize that the teen user has received a text message, phone call or other phone alert.
- Kik – This is a quick, instant messaging app that allows teens to text their friends (who are also using Kik) and add photos and videos to the text message. However, parents need to know that this app encourages users to invite everyone in their phone’s address book to join Kik. There is also some stranger danger with this app. An app named OinkText, is linked to Kik. OinkText allows communication with strangers who share their Kik usernames to find people with whom to chat.
- SnapChat – This messaging app allows users to put a time limit on the pictures and videos they send before they disappear. It’s popular with teens because it allows them to send fun moments without the risk of them going public. The images also load faster than with email or text. However, it is a myth that Snapchats go away forever! Recipients are able to take screen shots before the clock runs out, thus allowing them to hold onto the image permanently. In addition, it can make “sexting” seem okay to teens since they are provided with the false notion that their images are gone in seconds, something that is anything but okay!
- Yik Yak – This is a free, location-aware, social networking app that allows users to post “anything and everything” anonymously with brief, Twitter-like comments. Those comments are then sent to the 500 people also signed into the app who are geographically nearest to the user at the moment. Kids use this app to find out the latest opinions, rumors and secrets around them. However, it reveals the child’s location, which most certainly can be a danger. In addition, it can facilitate cyber bullying and also allow the distribution of explicit sexual content.
Please stay tuned for next week’s blog for info on more apps popular with teens today. It is so crucial that we stay abreast of their online habits in order to better protect them.