Growing up in today’s hyper-connected world comes with a whole host of issues. In and of themselves, the majority of apps and sites aren’t inherently dangerous. The problems occur when they are mismanaged or, as with anything, used for bad instead of for good.
It’s scary to see how the apps we love the most can also be the most dangerous. Even the least unassuming apps, such as YouTube, enter the realm of being unsafe once we realize how much alarming content our kids are subject to – whether it’s the videos themselves, the comments underneath posts, or the various ads.
As with most things in life, moderation is key – as are expectations. Here are 7 apps to familiarize yourself with in order to best understand what kids may be viewing, how we can find safer ways to monitor them, and how to open up those conversations with your child surrounding if, how and when they should use certain apps.
⛔ 1 TikTok
There are negative newsworthy stories related to this app seemingly every week, whether it be mental health issues, dangerous challenges, or body image issues. Just last month, kids in Texas were hospitalized after trying out the TikTok Benadryl Challenge
According to TikTok’s community guidelines, the video-sharing app is “deeply committed” to child safety and has “zero tolerance” for behavior that could lead to child abuse or sexual exploitation – but even so, parents should make sure to turn on all privacy settings for their kid’s account, so only people their kids know can interact with them.
⛔ 2 Snapchat
As the images and messages get deleted instantly, people sometimes use the app for unethical activities, including images and messages they think they can ‘get away with.’ These include embarrassing photos, nude images and ‘revenge porn.’ And once those images are out in the ether, it only takes one second for a crafty person to take a screenshot – and then that proof is out there forever.
⛔ 3 Psst! Anonymous
Psst! Anonymous is a chat room app that prides itself on messages being deleted almost immediately from the server, ID-masking, and identity-less private chat. For parents, these so-called benefits are super disturbing. Basically, if someone contacts / messages / trolls / bullies your child – there is no way to catch the perpetrator.
Psst! Anonymous is only one of many anonymous chat room apps available – other current popular versions include Whisper, Blendr, Tellonym, Ask.fm, and more. Not only is anonymity an issue here in terms of ‘stranger danger’ and online grooming – but at the most basic level, social etiquette goes out the window. There’s no accountability for what someone writes – and kids are losing the ability to empathize, as they don’t see the negative impact that their hurtful words may be having.
**⛔ 4 Kik **
Kik is a popular free messaging app used for group chats or direct messages – and enables you to contact both friends and strangers. As with the apps mentioned above, it also allows users to remain anonymous. While anonymity could be seen as a positive aspect, it’s also a concerning one – anonymous messaging apps can make kids feel safer and bolder, leading them to divulge too much information, participate in cyberbullying, or even make risky decisions. Kik Messenger has been associated with sexual predators and inappropriate content in the past, and is rated as inappropriate for anyone younger than 17.
⛔ 5 Instagram
Instagram’s emphasis is on ‘the visual’ – the best pictures, photo collages, reels and ‘stories’.
One of the main problems with Instagram is the ‘My Perfect Life’ pretense – users are so keen to match their lives to the ‘picture perfect’ images they see on this social media app that it becomes difficult to separate fantasy from reality, especially as the majority of images are heavily edited and filtered. This often leads to low self-esteem, low self-confidence and body image issues.
Additionally, ‘Influencer’ culture is rife on Instagram – and not all influencers are a good influence! They may also hold religious, racial, or cultural beliefs which you wouldn’t necessarily want your child to be influenced by – and there is the added worry of ‘dangerous selfies’, whereby influencers will post pictures in risky situations, prompting their followers to try and emulate them.
⛔ 6 YouTube
YouTube’s incredibly vast array of content is not always kid-friendly. As well as educational and How-To videos, YouTube is also host to explicit videos and offensive language. While YouTube does monitor content, their commitment to openness means that some videos remain that may be suitable for adult viewing, but may not be suitable for kids. Once a child has access to YouTube, including every ad that precedes the videos, they can roam freely – and it can be very difficult to monitor what disturbing, offensive or age-inappropriate content they may be viewing.
YouTube will also auto-recommend videos it thinks a user is interested in – so one violent video could prompt a viewer to watch many more as the app continues to auto-load ads and videos – leading to a downward spiral of negative influence.
Remember: YouTube is user-created – so while the app can and does red flag content where it needs to, this doesn’t necessarily happen before a child has already viewed it.
⛔ 7 Roblox
Roblox is an online platform where games can be both made and played by users. While imaginative play is to be applauded, there are games on the platform that have horror or bloody themes. Roblox themselves do offer parental controls, but it’s important to check what types of games your child is actually accessing.
What Part Can We Play
Part of the danger isn’t necessarily the various apps and online content – it’s the scaremongering amongst parents can often distract from the real issues at hand.
Using any social network can be risky, but it is possible for kids to safely use certain apps as long as they have excellent privacy settings. Parental supervision is also recommended.
The answer is not to remove social media from kids’ lives completely. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) as well as the camaraderie that some games and social media apps bring can be important aspects of children’s, tweens’ and teens’ lives. Our job as parents is to make sure that whatever is happening, it’s within a safe environment.
Parental control apps are a great solution for managing the vast amount of potentially dangerous apps out there. You’ll be able to have peace of mind that your kids are keeping cyber safe.
A parental control app like FamilyKeeper will:
- Notify you if incendiary keywords are used
- Supervise which apps your child is downloading
- Allow you to block age-inappropriate websites
- Help to protect your child from online predators
- Alert you when unknown numbers or profiles attempt to contact your child
- Detect suspicious or dangerous images
FamilyKeeper also encourages parents to discuss with their children the dangers of these apps, and why a parental control app is an important safety feature. During the app set-up process, you can review with your child when, why, and how to use certains apps and sites – and why some may not be a good idea.
For further information, visit www.familykeeper.reasonlabs.com.