Do you know what app that is? Do you remember when newspapers and magazines were delivered to your home, when analog phones were a fixture in your home, hearing boom boxes and listening to music with walkmans, doing research using Encyclopedia Britannica, playing games on a SEGA console, and not to forget pagers. If you were born somewhere between the late 70’s and 80’s, you remember growing up with these sources of media. Adults born in the 70’s might remember going to the library to complete research for school papers or using the house phone to call friends. They might have even checked to make sure their parents weren’t eavesdropping on the secondary phone in the house before retiring to their room for privacy. Maybe you remember pagers and creating code words by inverting numbers. For adults born in the 70’s this new technology was exciting.
Those born in the 90’s once again experienced yet another game changer: The Smart Phone. The Smart Phone was a handheld computer that encompassed \
all the individual media used in the 80’s including phone calls, texting, Internet use, games, music, and a new network of social media applications, also known as apps. The Smart Phone, along with an advanced Internet allowed us to easily communicate with others worldwide.
The boom of social media bred social growth and accessibility. Children learned how to access the world at their fingertips and connect with people known and unknown through phone applications, also known as apps. This breakthrough was influential in how children learned, and how they connected to people. So much so, it’s hard to pry a phone out of the hands of children and teens.
Along with the growth came a sinister undercurrent. Children have been exposed to vulgar language, inappropriate content, harassment, bullying, stalking, grooming and victims of sextortion, just to name a few. Given that you can’t stop this sinister undercurrent, it’s your children’s reality, you can get yourself educated and start to dialogue with your children so that you can help them develop the tools to function successfully in their world.
AWARENESS (do you know what app that is?)
It is important for parents/caregivers to be aware of the apps their children are utilizing. Although you cannot always control what your child has access to or what your child is exposed to, having an understanding of this new age technology can help keep your child safe. Sometimes when parents don’t speak to their children about taboo topics and safety concerns, children sometimes find out incomplete or inaccurate information from their peers, the Internet, movies, etc.
COMMON APPS & What You As Parents Could Do
Below is a guide to assist you on the first steps in learning about the apps your child may be using. This guide will help you consider the safety features on your child’s phone to decrease the vulnerability of your child’s presence online, because let’s face it, most children do not take the time to set up safety measures on their phones and on the apps they use.
You will learn the names of apps, their app’s features, and how the app could potentially make your child vulnerable to online predators and inappropriate content. Lastly, you will be provided with resources in the event that you or your child were victims of online crimes.
MEETME (do you know what app that is?)
This app is a dating app. This app allows users to connect with other users filtered by sexual orientation, location and gender via iPhone app, Android app, and the MEETME website. All user profiles are public, but a user can have personal chat conversations with other users if they choose. MEETME live has a feature that allows users to live stream content. During live streaming, a user can see who is viewing their footage by clicking on the eye icon. Users that are streaming live can also view hearts left by viewing users. Hearts are an indication that someone likes what they see. This app encourages users to meet in person.
Parent/guardian, this app identifies the location of its users, so be sure to check your child’s location feature on their phone to make sure location is disabled. If the location feature is enabled, users will know where your child is while your child is using the app.
Also note that if your child uses the live streaming feature, users can get insight on where your child is, the setting they are in, their interests, and other details that may be in the frame of the live stream. Additionally, if your child views other users’ live streams, they can expose them to adult and inappropriate content. Remember, this is a dating app. Adults may view your child’s profile and attempt to connect with them by personal chat, or request your child to do live stream.
WHATSAPP (do you know what app that is)
This app is a social mixed media app. This app allows its users to send and receive texts, pictures, documents, videos, and voice calls worldwide. This app uses end-to-end encryption, meaning the communications between users is secure and not seen by a third party. Users can communicate with other users worldwide, reminiscent of the proverbial pen pal, but with more privacy.
Parent/guardian, note that when end-to-end encryption is used, that means the service provider of the app does not see the information being sent or received. This can be a good thing for average communications, however, if someone sends communications, pictures, and/or videos that are predatory in nature, the provider is not able to flag those communications, alert authorities, and suspend the account of the user. You would only be aware of such communications if your child disclosed the information to you or if you observed the communications.
BUMBLE (do you know what app that is?)
This app is a dating app. This app allows its female users to make the first contact. The app offers in-app fees for various services such as the Spotlight feature, SuperSwipes and the Travel Mode, to name a few. If a user purchases the Spotlight feature, their profile is advanced to the top of the stack and viewable by more people. The SuperSwipes feature allows users to make known their interest to other users. Lastly, the Travel Mode allows users to activate what city they are in for other users to identify who is in their area. This feature does not show the exact location of the user, only the location of the center of the city they are in.
Parent/guardian, when a user signs up for this app, there is an age requirement; however, ages are not verified. This means that children can create fake accounts and falsify their ages. If your child has a profile, they may be contacted by adults, meet up with them, and engage in a relationship with an adult.
GRINDR (do you know what app that is)
This app is a location social networking/dating app. This app is worldwide and targets specific users that are lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and queer. This app uses smart phone GPS location to locate nearby potential matches. A user can begin communicating with another user identified in their vicinity. This app is known for its users hooking up sexually.
Parents/caregivers, be mindful of the location services used on the app. Users of the app can know the vicinity of where your child is while using the app and learn of their precise location. Because this app is location-based, be sure to check your child’s location feature on their phone to make sure it is disabled.
TIKTOK (do you know what app that is)
This app is a short video-focused social networking app. The users of this app are worldwide. The app has a “For You” tab which calibrates videos that the app thinks its users would like. If a user is under the age of sixteen, their videos would not appear in other user’s For You column. This app has a “React” feature allowing users to react to a video they are watching. Users can adjust their settings to have their videos shown publicly, to only their friends, or private. Users can directly message another user. Users over the age of eighteen years old can receive virtual gifts that can be converted to money.
Parent/guardian, beware that your child could be vulnerable to bullying and explicit content. Check to make sure your child entered their age as it is and not older, to prevent content that is inappropriate for them. Also, make sure the location feature on your child’s phone is disabled. Check the privacy settings on the app to make sure your child’s videos are not public for all to see.
SNAPCHAT (do you know what app that is?
This app is an instant messaging app. This app allows users to take, edit, and share photos and videos called “Snaps.” The media can be altered using filters, texts, drawings, and effects. This shared media is only available for a short period of time, and after it is viewed by the recipient, up to 10 seconds, the media is inaccessible. The media can be posted to direct contacts or publicly. This app allows users to store photos in a folder called “My Eyes Only,” allowing password access only. It is said that this app may use end-to-end-encryption. This app also has a feature called “Snap Cash,” which allows users to monetize the content they share. It is said that this feature is popular amongst models and adult porn stars. The “Snap Map” feature allows for users to know where someone is located.
Parent/guardian, make sure the location feature on your child’s phone is disabled. Although photos and videos disappear, understand that the recipient can do a screen capture of the content and save it on their media device. Unfortunately, some people use their screen captures to bully, and sextort users. Due to the nature of the content disappearing after a short timeframe, some children/teens use this media to sext each other. Sexting is when people text each other using sexual language, pictures and/or videos. Remember that with the Snap Cash feature, users can get money for the content they publish. Be aware of the content your child is publishing, and/or notice if your child has an increase of money. There has also been dialogue about how this app can fester body dysmorphic disorder. The thought is that when users modify their face using the filters that the app offers, the user may believe they are more attractive with the filters than without. To that belief, some users sought facial reconstruction surgery to change their appearance to look like the filtered image they created of themselves on the app.
HOLLA (do you know what app that is)
This app is a video chat app for ages 17 year old and older. This app allows users to interact with other users worldwide. This app has a language translator option making communication accessible for users in different countries that speak various languages. This app has a feature that allows its users to identify other users within their area using the phone’s GPS location.
Parent/guardian, this app can expose your child to explicit content, racial slurs, and inappropriate content. There were complaints about adult men frequenting the app and when on screen would have an exposed chest while lying down. There were other complaints of men and women requesting perverted acts as well as exhibiting perverted acts. For example, one user asked another user to remove their shirt and expose their genitals. Due to this app having a location feature, be sure to check your child’s location feature on their phone to make sure it is disabled.
CALCULATOR% (do you know what app that is)
This app is a secret storage app. This app allows users to hide browser history, videos, photos, files, and other apps within a calculator interface. At first glance, it appears that the app is a typical calculator. One can be fooled because the app does allow calculations, but when the user inputs their password and presses the equal button a new screen pops up revealing the hidden content.
Parent/guardian, this app allows secrecy that can be detrimental to your child without you being aware. A user can hide texting apps in this secret folder which can make it impossible for you to set up safety features for.
SKOUT (do you know what app that is)
This app is a location-based dating app. Users range from the age of 13 years old and older; however, only users 18 years old and older are able to share private photos. Users can see who viewed their profile. Users can earn points when other users send what is known as a “Wink Bomb.” Users can video chat with other users or send text messages to other users.
Parent/caregiver, children create fake accounts often using fabricated ages to access all of the apps features. This could put your child at risk for predatory victimization. Sometimes when children crave attention, they do things that are uncharacteristic such as saying or doing something inappropriate to get acknowledged, in this instance with Wink Bombs. Be sure to check your child’s location feature on their phone to make sure it is disabled.
KIK (do you know what app that is)
This app is a messaging app. This app allows users to connect and directly message any user by use of photos, videos, messages, stickers, emojis and other content anonymously. To use this app, users have to be 13 years old and older, however age is not verified. Users can share and view content from the web. The app has a feature called “Kik Codes.” Kik Codes are a unique code assigned to each user to make it easy to send and share content with other users. This code is similar to a QR code. When someone clicks on a Kik Code, they are directed to the chat screen of the user that particular Kik Code is attached to. This app does not use end-to-end encryption; however, the IP addresses of users are stored. The IP address identifies the device in which a person is using. This app allows its users to share their exact location with other users. This app does get monitored and any bullying or child explicit content is removed by moderators.
Parent/guardian, there had been concerns of adults requesting nude images of children on this app. Monitor your child’s conversations, make sure to have your child’s location disabled, and check the age your child provided on their profile.
WHISPER (do you know what app that is)
This app is a social networking app. This app allows users to be anonymous and share secrets with strangers. Users cannot create a profile, which eliminates the option of users to have friends and followers on this app. Users can post anonymous secrets, confessions, and comment on other users’ posts. This app allows its users to select an age group of content they would like to view. To use this app, your location has to be enabled.
Parent/guardian, your child can be exposed to vulgar language, inappropriate experiences, and the potential to meet with a stranger. It has been said that older men frequent this app, select the underage group, and message who they believe are underage users. Be sure to check your child’s location feature to make sure it is disabled.
HOT OR NOT (do you know what app that is)
This app is a social rating app. This app allows users to rate the attractiveness of other users using a scale of 1 to 10. The app allows users to identify the users that are in their area, and chat with users. This app has a “Meet Me” feature allowing users to connect with each other. This app has fees associated with it. The initial download, profile creation, viewing of other users, matches and chats are all included for free. Paying customers can get their profile added to the top of the app for more people to view, can view other profiles while being invisible to that user, and can give gifts to other users, as well as other features.
Parent/guardian, this app has been known to be a hookup app. Your child may be targeted because of their youthful appearance. Your child may also be exposed to negative feedback about their profile and their appearance, which can have long lasting negative effects on their mental health and self-esteem.
GENERAL IDEAS ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN TO DO HELP YOUR CHILD
What you can do to help protect your child:
Monitor the apps your child uses on their phone, laptop, desktop, or any other electronic device
Know the purpose of the apps on your child’s electronic device
Check the geo-location option on your child’s phone to make sure it is disabled
Have Internet safety conversations with your child
Be open to having dialogue with your child about their experiences online
Keep in mind:
Be cognizant of what your child possesses because some online predators entice children with money, objects, likes on social media, clothes, payment for nails and hair, cell phones, hotel stays, or any other offering in exchange for something they want from your child.
If your child was targeted or a victim of an Internet crime, do the following:
Understand that your child is a victim of an Internet crime.
Try not to shame your child. Predators can be very cunning and know how to lure a child to do various acts.
Ask your child if they shared the content with any of their non-offending friends, non-offending teachers, or any other non-offending adults when the communications between your child the predator occurred. This can be helpful in an investigation to provide witnesses.
Always keep chat communications, pictures, and shared content between your child and online predator as evidence for when you report the incident to authorities.
Contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children hotline at 1800-THE-LOST, or on their website, https://www.missingkids.org/HO...; or call your local Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) office.