Does your child have access to a Smartphone? Then it’s about time you know about certain apps that are popular with children and young adults. Most of these apps are designed to keep your children’s online conversation as private as possible. Some allow them to take a picture and share it while keeping it safe from the curious eyes of parents. What’s scary is the fact that these apps allow them to share images, chat and communicate not only with friends but with strangers as well.
Here are some of the popular apps that children and young adults use to keep their online conversations as secret as possible:
WhatsApp Messenger is a cross-platform mobile messaging app that allows exchange of messages without having to pay for SMS. There is no actual age restriction.
What are the possible concerns? Unlimited texting, photo and video sharing including the ability to share location to anyone on the friend list increase the risk of Sexting (the sending or receiving of texts, photos, or videos of a sexual nature). Whatsapp doesn’t use SSL encryption – which might allow hackers to view private information through unsecure WiFi networks.
Instagram is an image sharing app. That allows users to take a picture from their photo library or click one, apply filters to it and upload it.
The scary part: Use of Hastags for the images allows anyone (including complete strangers) with access to Instagram to view the image and the private information associated with it. This ups the risk for Sexting. And additional concern is the fact that it allows searching for images without the fear of these being reflected in the browser history.
This app doesn’t restrict itself to just texting, Kik users can exchange videos, sketches, etc. Recently the makers introduced Kik Cards and features built in HTML5 that allows users to send YouTube videos, find and share images, GIFs, Reddit pics, etc.
What are the concerns? While the age limit is 17+, the app is actually popular among school kids aged 12-16. The app gives access to information to anyone with a ‘Kik username’. Increases the risk of exposing personal information to strangers as one has to just type a name to view details. Online grooming by strangers and sexting are huge concerns.
Allows users to send a video or an ugly selfie (a modified image that is supposed to be funny) to their friends or anyone they wish to send it to. The app then destroys the image after the user has received after a period of 10 -15 seconds.
What are concerns? Receiver can take a screenshot of the image. It increases the risk of cyberbullying and/or sexting.
LiveProfile allows users to send unlimited texts, photos and videos to anyone on their accepted friend list.
Concerns? Their Facebook page has an extensive list of individuals from all over the world giving away their user IDs. The app provides an option to team up or interact as a group – a facility that might be misused by cyberbullies to gang-up against one individual. Online grooming by strangers and sexting are other risks associated with the use of these apps.
The list as given above is not exhaustive, everyday or month a new social app is created and the most recent one to do so ‘Pheed’. The app promises to be the new craze for teens all over the world.
What you can do?
- Become familiar with your child’s Smartphone technology. Understand how different facilities work on these phones.
- There are a few mobile tracking software available. You can use a computer to track your child’s SMS, MMS, phone calls, etc. online. StealthGenie allows you to track all the activities on WhatsApp.
- Join your child on his/her Instagram account. This can also be accessed from computer. Searching under your child’s name will show “public” information being posted by or about your child.
- To restrict download of this app by children less than 17 years of age, ensure that your Smartphone has a download restriction based on their content rating. For example in an iPhone you can restrict by Settings > General > Restrictions > Allowed Content > Apps.
- Snapchat has privacy settings that can be set to receive and send messages to friends only. You can also educate your child regarding the same.
- Give a basic phone to your children.
- Most importantly, start communicating frankly but nicely with your children. Educate them about the risks of misusing the mobile phone.
Education is important. As a parent, you may not be able to stop your children from downloading the apps, but it is important to be able to understand the implications and the ways to deal with such issues. Keep yourself updated and aware and communicate with your child.