The Internet is undoubtedly an amazing thing. It enables us to access so much information, lets us communicate quickly and clearly with others, and allows us to see enough cats being stupid to last a lifetime (actually scratch that, there are never enough cat videos!)
But with all the benefits come a multitude of dangers. Parents nowadays know little to nothing of what their kids are accessing online, the apps that the kids use, and the threats that come with them.
Below we’ve looked at ten apps that are at best unhealthy for children, at worst a danger, and should definitely be avoided at all costs. (There are some more in the image.)
- Kik Messenger – Described by police as “a predator’s playground”, Kik is an instant messenger app with no registration controls, and no way to know who you’re actually talking to. The app is rated 17+, but anybody can download it. With previous cases involving cyberbullying and sexting, this is one to avoid.
- Vaulty – Vaulty stores photos and videos in a secure location that can’t be accessed without a passcode, and photographs anybody who tries. Not an app used unless something is being hidden, you should be wary if you find out your child has it downloaded – what are they hiding?
- Tinder – You’ve probably heard of this one – still the ultimate no-no for anybody still considered a child. Promotes chatting and meeting with people you’ve never met before, with sexting being very common, and with no problems downloading it, your child could masquerade as being older, and adults can masquerade as being younger.
- Calculator% – Has your child got a newfound interest in mathematics? No, there’s already a calculator app provided automatically by phones. This app craftily hides photos from prying eyes, and disguises itself as a benign math app.
- Betternet – One of a number of VPNs (Virtual Private Network) that allow kids to bypass parental controls, accessing any website they like. The VPN also hides their use by rerouting the IP address (the device’s unique identity) throughout the world, meaning it won’t be shown on the history.
- Yik Yak – An anonymous app where people can post statements that can be viewed by anyone in the local area with the app. The anonymity allows people to say things they couldn’t normally say in person, allowing bullying and explicit things to be shared and seen with no consequences for the poster.
- Whisper – This 17+ app’s motto is: “Share Secrets, Express Yourself, Meet New People.”, and if the first and last parts don’t sound like a recipe for disaster, I don’t know what does. Dangerous both for the bullying that it allows, the personal information it can turn viral, and the fact that your location is broadcast, the app doesn’t have a great calling card for young people. Be aware of horror stories such as that of a 21 year old luring a 12 year old to a hotel for sex (http://q13fox.com/2013/10/10/man-charged-after-using-whisper-app-to-lure-teenage-girl/#axzz2vCiEI0zQ).
- Snapchat – If Helen of Troy was the face that launched a thousand ships, Snapchat is the app that launched a thousand nudes. Used daily by teens, it promotes the fact that content disappears, and is untraceable. First, that’s not entirely true: photos and messages can be saved by taking screenshots of them, and secondly, the untraceable nature means that there can be no evidence of wrongdoing, allowing for any manner of messaging to take place; this leaves your kids defenseless from predators, and able to do age-inappropriate things. Here’s a tip: leave well alone.
- Spotafriend – any app that purports to be a “Tinder alternative for kids aged 13-19” is not one your kid should be involved in. Despite the unassuming name, this is just one more app to meet strangers, and with iTunes reviews such as “Lots of people try to hookup”, it doesn’t bode well. Anyhow, since when do kids need to meet people online to make friends?
- Yubo/Yellow – It’s not a good sign that Yellow rebranded itself from Yellow to Yubo. It was linked to multiple sexting incidents, and was, like Spotafriend, dubbed “Tinder for teenagers”. Exposing your location to meet new people and send photos and videos to them bears a bad similarity to Snapchat – except with Snapchat, you generally know the person first… Not a good idea.
The internet ain’t all dangerous, and most app-makers have good intentions at heart. But all the same, often they can become co-opted by people with bad motives, and with very many good apps, and very few bad ones, why take the risk?