The average teen spends more than 9 hours a day in front of a screen (kids ages 8-12 spend six hours in front of a screen every day). It’s no wonder 54% of teens think they spend too much time on their cellphones. And what are they doing? Using their apps. Mobile apps account for nearly 90% of mobile use! The average smartphone user has between 60-90 apps on their phone, and while many are helpful, some can pose danger, especially to teens and kids. But which of these apps should keep parents awake at night? We think these 12 dangerous apps for kids are worth noting. We’ve chosen them due to their popularity and risk.
HIP is short for Hide it Pro. This app looks like a music manager, but its actual purpose is to store secret photos, videos and text messages. Kids use it to hide inappropriate material from their parents along with …
Another “hiding” app, this time using a simple calculator icon. By entering your own code, you can access hidden photos, contacts, browser history and passwords, all kept safely from a parent’s prying eyes.
If you have a teen or tween in your house, you probably have at least heard of Snapchat, which has more than 180 million users. Snapchat allows its users to send a photo or video from their phone, which then disappears after a few views. This “disappearing” feature, however, encourages the sharing of inappropriate photos. Unfortunately, it is fairly easy for the recipient to take a screen shot, keeping the image or text forever. For more information, we recommend connectsafely.org’s “A Parents’ Guide to Snapchat.”
This popular app has more than 4 million users. On Tinder, you can post a selfie and people can “like” you. If you like him or her back, you can connect—the app even includes GPS tracking to help you find one another. Tinder describes itself as “the fun way to connect with new and interesting people around you,” but it’s mostly used as a dating tool or for one-night stands, even between teens and tweens. You only need to be 13-years old to use it, although there is no way to verify someone’s age. It attracts online predators which is why one blogger calls it: “The Worst App Ever for Teens and Tweens.”
Whisper lets users, including kids, anonymously share whatever they’re really thinking. Does that sound good to you? It even includes a “nearby” section where you can see posts from people who live near you. Lots of trolls post racist, sexual, or abusive content, with plenty of guys asking teens for pictures of themselves. A 12-year-old girl in Washington was reportedly raped by a 21-year-old man who met her on Whisper, making this questionably-appropriate app one of the most dangerous apps for kids.
Kik lets users exchange videos, photos, sketches and gifs to anyone, even to people they are not friends with. There are no parental controls and kids can password protect their information so parents can’t see it. Since it lacks age authentication, predators can easily interact with kids. The app has also been connected with cyberbullying; Rebecca Sedwick, a 12-year old from Florida, committed suicide after receiving messages like “Go kill yourself.” As of 2016, Kik was reportedly used by approximately 40% of all teenagers in the United States.
Ask.fm is a Q&A site where users can ask other users questions anonymously, which makes publishing suggestive or insulting questions pretty easy, and routine. A number of child suicides have been linked to cyberbullying from this app, making it another one of the most dangerous apps for kids.
TikTok is an incredibly popular app for creating and sharing short videos, with more than 100 million users, many of them children as young as 10 or 11. Special effects can be added, and kids are encouraged to show their creativity. But there is also a lot of inappropriate language in the videos, and by default all accounts are set to public, letting strangers contact children easily.
The video giant YouTube is one of the Internet’s most popular sites, with more than a billion users. It’s a great resource for educational videos and has robust privacy settings. Unfortunately, it’s also a great resource for inappropriate content, some of which is spliced into cartoons and other videos aimed at children. The most widespread problem, however, may be from user comments, which can be hurtful and bullying.
YouTube also attracts pedophiles. As Wired Magazine reports, “Videos of children showing their exposed buttocks, underwear and genitals are racking up millions of views on YouTube—with the site displaying advertising from major cosmetics and car brands alongside the content. Comments beneath scores of videos appear to show pedophiles sharing timestamps for parts of the videos where exposed genitals can be seen, or when a child does the splits or lifts up their top to show their nipples.”
Tellonym is an anonymous messenger app that calls itself “the most honest place on the internet.” It’s one of the most dangerous apps for kids because the app allows kids to ask and answer questions anonymously. So, as you might expect, cyberbullying, violent threats, and sexual content are prevalent. Messages can connect to social media accounts, so if a user writes something terrible about a classmate, it can be shared loudly with the rest of the world. Tellonym is particularly popular in middle schools and high schools.
On Tumblr, users can keep a diary, share photos and videos, and chat. This is another very popular website and app, with more than 450 million active blogs. But, like many sites that have no or uneven policing, users can post pornographic, violent and other inappropriate content. Common Sense Media says Tumblr is “too raunchy for tykes” and also notes that privacy settings aren’t easily set up. Plus, anyone can search for terms such as “suicide” and see hundreds of graphic images and blog articles, some of which glorify dangerous behavior. Tumblr has officially banned all “adult” content, but their efforts are not foolproof.
With more than one billion users (and owned by Facebook) this photo-sharing site is incredibly popular. Users can add filters or create collages to share on social media platforms. While this site does not have as much inappropriate content as Tumblr, users can still find mature or inappropriate content and comments. People leaving mean-spirited and anonymous comments are common.
Be Smart about These Potentially Dangerous Apps for Kids.
In fairness to all of the apps in this list, or at least most of them, when used safely they can be fun, and help children connect with each other. But when in the wrong hands, or accessed by mean-spirited or an unintended audience, they verge from fun to potentially dangerous apps for kids.
Parents should be aware of the apps their children use, how they are being used, and educate their kids on their dangers. Knowing the best apps to use, along with the best Internet safety tips for kids can be incredibly important. At Single Path, we work with educators and businesses on cyber safety, security and education every day. If you have any questions about any of these potentially dangerous apps for kids, we invite you to reach out to us. We are always happy to answer your questions and help the wonderful world of the Internet be safer for everyone.