Sunday, February 7, 2016

Potentially Dangerous #Apps Your Kids May Be Using

I'm re-posting Fulshear Police Department's Facebook post in it's entirety because I think that it's important information for parents. There are brand new apps available all of the time, but currently these are the most popular and have the most potential for abuse. A BIG thank you to Fulshear Police Dept in Houston, Texas, for putting this together and allowing me to share it.

"Many of us at the police department have children as well, and find it hard to keep up with the ever changing technology regarding phone apps. We hear from parents with issues regarding their children's cell phones quite often. Even as informed as we are, it is still hard to keep up and understand exactly what the potential for danger is regarding current apps and new apps being developed daily. Please make sure you inspect your child's phone as much as possible. Please discuss the possible dangers of certain apps.
The following applications (to name a few) have their uses, but also could be dangerous if allowed to be used by young children or teenagers.
TINDER: An app that is used for dating. Users can find potential "dates" via GPS location tracking. This app pulls information from user’s Facebook profiles.
Possible issue: It is easy for adults and minors to find one another. Also, due to the rating system, it is often used for cyber-bullying because the app allows for ratings, which in turn, a group of kids could potentially rate another child.
SNAPCHAT: This app allows a user to send photos and videos to anyone on his/her friend list. The sender can determine how long the receiver can view the image and then the image “destructs” or disappears after the allotted time.
Possible Issue: It is the number one app used for "sexting," mostly because people think it is the safer way to "sext." However, the “snaps” can easily be recovered and the receiver can take a screen shot and share it with others. Also, a lot of images from Snapchat get posted to revenge porn sites.
BLENDR: A flirting app used to meet new people through GPS location services. You can send messages, photos, videos, rate the looks of other users, etc.
Possible Issue: There are no authentication requirements, so sexual predators can contact minors, minors can meet up with adults. And again, sexting can be an issue.
KIK MESSENGER: An instant messaging app that allows users to exchange videos, pics and sketches. Users can also send YouTube videos and create memes and digital gifs.
Possible Issue: Using the app for sexting and sending nude selfies through the app is common. The term “sext buddy” is being replaced with “Kik buddy.” Kids use Reddit and other forum sites to place classified ads for sex by giving out their Kik usernames. Also, Kik does not offer any parental controls and there is no way of authenticating users, thus making it easy for sexual predators to use the app to interact with minors.
WHISPER: Whisper is an anonymous confession app. It allows users to superimpose text over a picture in order to share their thoughts and feelings anonymously. However, you post anonymously, but it displays the area you are posting from. You can also search for users posting within a mile from you.
Possible Issue: Due to the anonymity, kids are posting pics of other kids with derogatory text superimposed on the image. Also, users do not have to register to use Whisper and can use the app to communicate with other users nearby through GPS. A quick look at the app and you can see that online relationships are forming through the use of this app, but you never know the person behind the computer or phone. Sexual predators also use the app to locate kids and establish a relationship.
ASKFM: Askfm is one of the most popular social networking sites that is almost exclusively used by kids. It is a Q&A site that allows users to ask other users questions while remaining anonymous.
Possible Issue: Kids will often ask repeated derogatory questions that target one person. Due to the anonymity of the badgering, it creates a virtually consequence-free form of cyber-bullying.
YIK YAK: An app that allows users to post text-only “Yaks” of up to 200 characters. The messages can be viewed by the 500 Yakkers who are closest to the person who wrote the Yak, as determined by GPS tracking.
Possible Issue: Users are exposed to and are contributing sexually explicit content, derogatory language and personal attacks. Although the posts are anonymous, kids start revealing personal information as they get more comfortable with other users.
POOF: This app allows users to make other apps “disappear” on their phone. Kids can hide any app they don’t want you to see by opening the app and selecting other apps.
Possible Issue: You can no longer purchase this app. But, if it was downloaded before it became unavailable, your child may still have it. Keep in mind that these types of apps are created and then terminated quickly, but similar ones are continuously being created. Others to look for: Hidden Apps, App Lock and Hide It Pro.
OMEGLE: This app is primarily used for video chatting. When you use Omegle, you do not identify yourself through the service. Instead, chat participants are only identified as “You” and “Stranger.” However, you can connect Omegle to your Facebook account to find chat partners with similar interests. When choosing this feature, an Omegle Facebook App will receive your Facebook “likes” and try to match you with a stranger with similar likes.
Possible Issue: Sexual predators use this app to find kids to collect personal information from in order to track them down more easily in person.
DOWN: This app, which used to be called Bang With Friends, is connected to Facebook. Users can categorize their Facebook friends in one of two ways: They can indicate whether or not a friend is someone they’d like to hang with or someone they are “down” to hook-up with.
Possible Issue: Although identifying someone you are willing to hook-up with doesn’t mean you will actually hook-up with them, it creates a hook-up norm within a peer group. Depending on your sexual values, this might be something you don’t want for your child. Also, because of the classification system, a lot of kids will feel left out or unwanted, which can lead to anxiety or depression.
VINE: This app allows users to watch and post six second videos and share with friends.
Possible Issue: While many of the videos are harmless, porn videos do pop up into the feed, exposing your children to sexually explicit material. You can also search for access porn videos on this app. Predators can utilize this app to search for teens and find their location. Once found, try to connect with them via other messaging apps.
PERISCOPE: Periscope enables you to “go live” via your mobile device anytime and anywhere. The app enables you to become your own “on the go” broadcasting station, streaming video and audio to any viewers who join your broadcast.
Possible Issue: A potential source of sexual harassment and cyber-bullying. Main dangers of the Periscope app are sexual harassment, location tagging and non-monitored comments.
New apps are developed almost daily and some apps are removed. It is important to stay informed and aware as much as possible. Sites like foreverymom, crosswalk and educateempowerkids stay up to date regarding trending apps for teens.

Update: I'm adding a few more I've come across.

BURNBOOK: An app for users to anonymously post pictures and text. It has become a collection of nasty comments and threats from students directed at peers.
ChatRoulette: This website allows people to anonymously video chat online with anyone and without any security blocks or filters. Also used for sex chats and video hookups.

FESS: An anonymous app for high schoolers to post confessions. Users are validated that they’re in high school through their Facebook accounts. They can post "fake" confessions implicating peers in various nasty scenarios, spread rumors, etc.
YouNow: A live video streaming app, where kids (some look like they're maybe 10 or 11) are videoing themselves. Possible issue: Children can chat live and be viewed and followed by adults. 

Telegram: Telegram, a cloud-based encrypted messaging system. You can use the messaging app on just about every platform out there, and through your web browser, and it comes with options such as self-destructing messages and document transfers. Users can add several devices to an account and receive messages on each one. Connected devices can be removed individually or all at once. The associated number can be changed at any time and the user's contacts will receive the new number automatically.

Oovoo: Similar to Skype, though not available as widely. Video chatting and texting.

Beme: (Works with iPhone) Beme works using your iPhone's proximity sensor, that little dot above the earpiece on the front of your phone. When you are using the Beme app, you cover that sensor and the recording starts. As soon as you uncover the dot (or you hit the 10 second time limit) it stops recording and immediately and automatically posts it to Beme. You don't get to see the raw footage first, nor can you edit or alter it before it uploads. The idea is that you are filming 10 second bites of reality from your own perspective (instead of spending time changing, enhancing, cropping and editing to make a perfect little recording. The danger, of course, is that kids will be recording themselves and each other doing God-knows-what and then it's automatically uploaded for all to see. But wait, there's more. When someone views a clip, they will see themselves in a little box in the top right corner. Hit "SEND REACTION" and the Beme app will take a picture of the viewer reacting to the video and send it to the person who posted the video.
Cool, but again I think we can all see the danger when you're dealing with kids/teens.