Gone are the days of fumbling with huge maps while you drive, hand writing your family and friends’ contact information into an address book you keep by the phone that is plugged into the wall, and even using a hand-held flashlight. These days, there is an app for all of it.
For the most part, this is convenient. Everything you need is in one easy-to-find place: your phone. But as developers continue to create apps that cater to convenience, more dangers are lurking on kids’ smart devices.
It is likely that your children already have a phone so you can reach them at all times and a tablet to keep them occupied, so it is important that you monitor the apps they are downloading, even the ones that seem harmless. Here are some popular apps that you may even be using yourself but that could be harmful in the hands of kids.
Apps likes Best Secret Folder and Secret Calculator look normal (they hide behind typical icons like a utilities folder and calculator, respectively) but they allow kids to safely guard photos, videos and notes that they don’t want you to see. Both require passwords and both include systems that document intruders by snapping a photo. Best Secret Folder includes an optional feature that, when activated, will make you think you have cracked the code by playing fake videos. Secret Calculator users can activate a feature that erases all data in the app when attempts to login have failed five times. These apps are for iOS devices. Smart Hide Calculator is the equivalent on Android devices.
It is all too easy to use messaging apps recklessly. Kik and WhatsApp are essentially free texting apps that allow users to message people directly without using a phone number. Sure, you can talk to friends and family while getting around data plans but strangers can reach out via these apps, too. Kids may also see them as a way to send sexts away from parents’ prying eyes. Yik Yak users can post short messages anonymously. Each message is tagged with a GPS location so users within a certain radius can see it and comment. Since strangers can see your child’s posts, they run the risk of being exposed to inappropriate content through comments. Cyberbullying is also a threat with Yik Yak.
Not the Norm
When used responsibly apps like Snapchat and Vine are fun, but kids don’t often think of how they can be potentially harmful. Businesses are starting to jump on the Snapchat bandwagon as another form of social media, but are still considering it to be secure app for sending inappropriate photos because they disappear after several seconds. However, the snaps don’t completely go away. Users can take screenshots that, if racy enough, could end up on revenge porn sites termed “snap porn.” With Vine, short, six-second video clips are posted for the whole world to see. All profiles are public and there is no privacy setting. Kids and teens may post videos that show sensitive information like their address or name of the school they attend every day without realizing that it is not safe for strangers to have this information.