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Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Down, Instagram, Snapchat. It seems like every day there’s a new app available for children to connect with friends and strangers online. According to McAfee’s Digital Deception Study 2013, only 20 percent of parents say they know how to find out what their child is doing online. And nearly 70 percent of the study’s respondents (ages 10-23) take some measure to hide their online behavior from their parents.
With so many new apps and social platforms springing up, it can be difficult for parents to monitor their children’s online activities. It can be especially difficult when children are often the savvy technology users in their households. Here are some of the most popular apps right now that parents should be on the lookout for, particularly during the extended school break when children have more free time:
Snapchat An app that provides users with the ability to share photo and videos with anyone on his/her friends list, Snapchat gives senders the option to make an image or video visible for a determined period of time before it disappears. This app is often used for sexting and users get around the time limit by taking a screen shot on their mobile device. This creates a potentially damaging problem because the recipient has the ability to share an image with others that was intended to be private. Many of the images from Snapchat end up on “snap porn” – a revenge porn website.
Kik Messenger This instant messenger allows users to share videos, photos, drawings, memes and digital gifs. Sexting and exchanging inappropriate pictures are common. Parents need to know that Kik doesn’t offer parental controls and there’s no way to authenticate users, so sexual predators are able to freely interact with minors.
Tinder Tinder is an app that’s used for dating and casual sexual encounters. The app uses GPS tracking to find potential matches within a pre-determined distance from the user. While it is more authenticated than other apps because it’s linked directly to a person’s Facebook profile, children can easily lie about their age on Facebook to make them appear older.
Whisper This app allows users to tell secrets and share personal information. It is anonymous, however, displays the location from which someone is posting. Parents should be cautious, as this app has become notorious for spreading rumors and cyberbullying.
Poof This app is particularly troublesome because users can hide other apps that they have on their phones. All the user needs to do is open the Poof app and select the apps he/she want hidden from the phone. Although this app is no longer available for purchase, if it was downloaded previously, children may still have it on their phones. New apps with similar features have been created such as Hide it pro and App Lock.
Social media safety tips and more on how to protect children online are shared with students, parents and teachers by cybersecurity experts who visit classrooms through the (ISC)² Foundation’s Safe and Secure Online program. Any parent or teacher can schedule a free presentation at his/her child’s school or in his/her classroom, by filling out the school presentation request form at https://www.isc2cares.org/Request_A_Presentation.aspx.
As a Safe and Secure Online volunteer for over six years, I can attest to the positive impact this program has on children and their schools. Children become more aware of their online behavior and what to lookout for, while teachers and school administrators obtain a new level of awareness that often encourages them to evaluate the school’s cybersecurity posture.
The best advice I can give to parents is to talk to their kids about their online activities, then set expectations and boundaries regarding usage and acceptable behavior. See the (ISC)² Top 10 Safe and Secure Online Tips for Parents for more recommendations.