I work in public relations at Cook Children’s. It’s my job to be on social networking sites, peruse the internet and keep up with the latest Apps offered on smartphones. To keep your children safe, it’s best that you monitor their phone daily. Look through their apps, texts and pictures. They may feel that you’re invading their privacy, but let’s be honest… You’re paying the phone bill, so you can do whatever you want!
Be aware of, that in my opinion are very dangerous:
Yik Yak – This App is one of the newest and one of the most dangerous. The messages can be viewed by the 500 Yakkers who are closest to the person who wrote the Yak, as determined by GPS tracking. Users are exposed to – and contributing – explicit content, abusive language and personal attacks so severe that schools are starting to block the App on their Wi-Fi. Although the posts are anonymous, kids start revealing personal information as they get more comfortable with other users.
SnapChat – This App allows users to send photos that will disappear after 10 seconds. Once the recipient opens the picture, the timer starts. Then it’s gone. From both the sender’s phone and the recipient’s phone. However, the recipient can take a screen shot of the photo and have it to share.
KiK Messenger – This is a private messenger app and is coveted by those under 18 The App allows kids to send private messages that their parents can’t see. There is very little you can do to verify the identity of someone on Kik, which obviously poses the risk of predators chatting with your child.
Poof –The Poof App allows users to make Apps disappear on their phone with one touch. Kids can hide every app they don’t want you to see on their phone. All they have to do is open the App and select the ones they don’t want you to see. Very scary! The good news about this App is it is no longer available but, if it was downloaded before it was deleted from the App store, your child may still have it. Some other names include: Hidden Apps, App Lock and Hide It Pro.
Omegle – Chat participants are only identified as “You” and “Stranger”. You don’t have to register for the App. However, you can connect Omegle to your Facebook account to find chat partners with similar interests. When choosing this feature, an Omegle Facebook App will receive your Facebook “likes” and try to match you with a stranger with similar likes. This is not okay for children. There is a high risk of predators.
Whisper – This is a meeting App that encourages users to post secrets. You post anonymously, but it displays the area you are posting from. You can search for users posting within a mile from you but you never know the person behind the computer or phone. One man in Washington was convicted of taking advantage of a 12-year-old girl he met on this App just last year.
Down – This application, 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 slogan for the App: “The anonymous, simple, fun way to find friends who are down for the night.” If that alone doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will!
I know it’s overwhelming to keep up with your kids and their online habits. But just remember to check their phones often, and even more importantly have real life conversations with them. Discuss the dangers of the Apps and make sure they understand the need to keep personal information private.
Please note: You can turn location services, or GPS, off on cell phones by going in to the device settings. This will keep the Apps and photos from posting the exact location or whereabouts of the phone user.