Being a parent in the digital age is harder than ever. Not only do you have to worry about traditional parenting, but you also need to be aware and vigilant in what they are doing with their digital devices. Because it is harder to monitor, it is easy for kids to install mobile apps that not only expose them to cyberbullying but also online predators.
UPDATED (09/13/2019): Kik reached out with concerns regarding their inclusion in this article and had this to say:
“Kik takes online safety very seriously, and we’re constantly assessing and improving our safety measures. There are two ways we do this.
“One is through technology and constant improvements to the product itself. Our team is regularly investigating new technologies and evaluating moderation practices to help us become leaders in online safety. We also encourage users to report content that they believe violates the Kik Terms of Service and Community Standards. Users are able to block other users they no longer wish to chat with, or ignore chats from people that they don’t know. Actions are taken against users found to have violated Kik’s Community Standards or TOS. Those actions may include banning the user from the Kik platform, and reporting illegal behaviors to law enforcement agencies.
“The other is through education and partnerships with organizations that help adults and teens understand the challenges of today’s online landscape and how to avoid bad situations. For years, we’ve had teams dedicated to this, and we will continue to invest in those types of tools, provide resources to parents, and strengthen relationships with law enforcement and safety-focused organizations.
“Online safety will always be a priority for us. We want our users to safely enjoy Kik, and we will continue making it a positive place for them to interact and have meaningful conversations.”Kik PR
As we mention later in the article, open dialogue and discussing internet safety with your kids is very important in this day and age. That being said, that doesn’t change the fact that anyone of any age can sign up for a Kik account by simply lying about their birthday. During our recent test, as long as you are 13, you can sign up for Kik.
Not only that, Kik has a random chat option available and you can also guess usernames and chat with the results that return. Another interesting feature that can make it hard to track what your kids are doing on Kik is that conversations are deleted when the app is uninstalled. When reinstalled, the conversation history is gone (including any videos or images shared) so, as a parent, you really have no easy way to view that message history if your tween or teen is trying to stay one step ahead of you.
It’s likely that these reasons contributed to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office in including Kik on this list of apps you should keep your kids away from.
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has released an infographic with 15 mobile apps that parents should know about. If any of these mobile apps are installed on your child’s devices, you probably want to uninstall them — or in the very least, monitor their activity on these apps a daily basis.
Originally released last year with nine mobile apps, the list was updated with six more last month. Some of these are obvious no brainers but a few are ones which are popular with kids and may not be as obvious.
In case you’re on a mobile device or are having issues reading the infographic above, the 15 mobile apps parents should know about (and why) as outlined by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office are:
- MEETIME: MEETIME is a dating social media app that allows users to connect with people based on geographic proximity. As the app’s name suggests, users are encouraged to meet each other in person.
- GRINDR: GRINDR is a dating app geared towards gay, bi, and transgender people. The app gives users the option to chat, share photos, and meet up based on a smart phone’s GPS location.
- SKOUT: SKOUT is a location-based dating app and website. While users under 17 years old are unable to share private photos, kids can easily create an account using a different age.
- WHATSAPP: WHATSAPP is a popular messaging app that allows users to send texts, photos, voicemails, make calls and video chats worldwide. WhatsApp uses an internet connection on smartphones and computers.
- TIKTOK: TIKTOK is a new mobile device app popular with kids used for creating and sharing short videos. With very limited privacy controls, users are vulnerable to cyberbullying and explicit content.
- BADOO: BADOO is a dating and social networking app where users can chat, share photos and videos, and connect based on location. While the app is intended for adults only, teens are known to create profiles.
- BUMBLE: BUMBLE is similar to the popular dating app “Tinder” however, it requires women to make the first contact. Kids have been known to use Bumble to create fake accounts and falsify their age.
- SNAPCHAT: SNAPCHAT is one of the most popular apps in recent years. While the app promises users can take a photo/video and it will disappear, new features including “stories” allows users to view content for up to 24 hours. Snapchat also allows users to see your location.
- KIK: KIK allows anyone to contact and direct message your child. Kids can bypass traditional text messaging features. Kik gives users unlimited access to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
- LIVE.ME: LIVE.ME is a live-streaming video app that uses geolocation to share videos so users can find out a broadcaster’s exact location. Users can earn “coins” as a way to “pay” minors for photos.
- HOLLA: HOLLA is a self-proclaimed “addicting” video chat app that allows users to meet people all over the world in just seconds. Reviewers say they have been confronted with racial slurs, explicit content, and more.
- WHISPER: WHISPER is an anonymous social network that promotes sharing secrets with strangers. It also reveals a user’s location so people can meet up.
- ASK.FM: ASK.FM is known for cyberbullying. The app encourages users to allow anonymous people to ask them questions.
- CALCULATOR%: CALCULATOR% is only one of SEVERAL secret apps used to hide photos, videos, files, and browser history.
- HOT OR NOT: HOT OR NOT encourages users to rate your profile, check out people in their area, and chat with strangers. The goal of this app is to hook up.
While removing the mobile apps above from your child’s devices is a start, open dialogue and discussion about internet safety are paramount in preventing your children from being cyberbullied or, worse, the victim of an online predator. Any mobile app that is installed should be reviewed diligently to see what permissions it is accessing and those like access to photos and geolocation disabled to prevent the app from using it.
What do you think about the 15 mobile apps listed above that the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office is warning parents about? How do you monitor your children’s online activity? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter, Facebook, or MeWe.Source: Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office