Got teens? Four popular apps you need to know about

Got teens? Four popular apps you need to know about

Safety Tips and Product Recalls

Got teens? Four popular apps you need to know about

If you’ve got tweens or teens who are on phones or iPads or similar devices, you need to stay vigilant about the latest “hot” apps.

Many are targeted at kids under the age of 18 and are wildly popular because they are free and easy to use.

But most also have pretty frightening features that could put your kids at risk if they connect with the wrong person.

On the flip side, we also highlight one app that’s designed to help parents make sure their child responds to their text messages.

Yellow

The app ‘Yellow’ bills itself as a friend-making platform, but there are pitfalls with the program and how it works. It’s specifically marketed to teens, but it doesn’t come with necessary parental controls to keep them safe.

Who it’s for: Teenagers, ages 13-18

Why it’s popular: The free app allows teenagers to to connect with others nearby. It’s easy to use, and syncs up with existing social media accounts.

Why you should worry: This is known as the ‘Tinder’ for kids. The most concerning aspect is that it doesn’t verify age. We were able to create an account and we’re over the age of 30. There are numerous reports in the app store of it being used for cyber-bullying and sexual harassment.

Bottom line: Potential disadvantages outweigh the positives. Don’t let your kids download it. If they have already, delete it off their phone.

Musical.ly

Teenage girls represent the core audience for this app, which allows its users to make their own videos.

 

Who it’s for: Teenagers, ages 13-18

Why it’s popular: The free app, which has been downloaded by more than 215 million users, allows teens to create music videos with friends and then share them with their followers. It’s easy to use. It comes with fun filters, extras and music library.

Why you should worry: While it seems harmless, you should consider that other “musers” (what the app calls its users) are are allowed to like your teen’s content.

This could send it into global “Featured Feeds.”  Unfortunately, age and identity of the users are not verified. A quick search revealed content containing nudity, violence and explicit language. In-app messages can be sent from non-friends. And one Illinois father said a user sent his 7-year-old daughter messages asking for topless photos.

Bottom line: Proceed with caution. If you allow your kids to use it make sure you set and manage the account’s privacy filters. (The default option is set to “public.”) Warn them not to share personal information with anyone who contacts them.

Sarahah

This is a messaging app, and the name means “candor” in Arabic. It was originally designed for employees to give anonymous feedback at their places of employment. But its proven particularly popular with teens.

Who it’s for: Everyone

Why it’s popular: The free app allows teenagers to anonymously post feedback or comments to any user profile. It’s a simple app, with simple features. It connects to other social media apps such as SnapChat. Teens especially like the anonymous note-passing feature.

Why you should worry: With no accountability and no need to share personal details, it’s the perfect breeding ground for cyber-bullying. Already users are reporting receiving messages containing violent content, abusive language and sexual requests.

Bottom line: Potential disadvantages outweigh the positives. Don’t let your kids download it. If they have already, delete it off their phone.

‘Reply ASAP’

This app isn’t for your teen. It’s for you. It was created by a father who got really tired of his teenage son ignoring his messages. It allows you, the parent, to remotely “lock” your teen’s phone until they respond.

Who it’s for: Parents of tweens, teens.

Why it’s popular: The app literally renders your child’s phone useless unless they respond to your text message. If you send a message through the app, it sends an alarm to the child’s phone. The child can then hit snooze for three minutes, which sends a notification to the parent. Or they can respond. The alarm won’t turn off until they do.

Why you should worry: There’s not a lot to worry about here, but there are some challenges with the app’s functionality.

First, it’s only available on Android. Second, your child can always delete it from his or her phone. If they do that, you’ll get a notification, but that’s not really going to help you get a faster response. If you want more than one user to be able to contact the teen, or if want to contact more than one child, you’ll need to pay a nominal fee.

Bottom line: Depending on your needs, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Educating teens is key

Common Sense Media, an independent non-profit organization based out of San Francisco, works to educate others about emerging technology.

The experts there recommend some conversation starters for parents who want to talk with their teens emerging and popular apps.

  • Talk about online anonymity. How might the features or platform of apps like Sarahah contribute to cyberbullying. Do you think people would be as mean to someone’s if they were standing face to face? How does hiding behind a screen make it easier?
  • Stress the importance of choosing apps wisely. Encourage them to have open conversations with you about what their friends are using and the pros and cons of those platforms. Let them know they can and should come to you if they see something inappropriate.
  • Encourage them to take a break from the drama. Drama and cyberbullying are not the same. And if you’re child is always  on their device, they don’t ever have a chance to cool off from the everyday disputes. Make sure they know you are always aware for them.

Check your kids’ phones

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