Teenagers are notorious for pushing boundaries, making risky decisions and not always being open about their activities. It is par for the course and pretty much expected adolescent behaviour.
After all, back in the day didn’t we all tell our parents we were staying at a friend’s place when we were really going to a club or a party?
However, these days our children aren’t just hanging out at their mate’s house, a park or dodgy establishments. There is a whole virtual playground that presents new dangers and risks for our children. And they can access it without even leaving the house.
An important way for parents to keep their children safe is to be informed and observant. Monitoring your child’s device may seem like an invasion of their privacy, however, it is important to know what they are doing online and who they are doing it with.
Social media based and live streaming apps in particular open our children up to the world. Not only are they at risk of being bullied or harassed by their peers, they can be contacted by complete strangers. Many apps work on location so your child can be pinpointed. It’s an online predators dream. You cannot rely on inbuilt controls within apps such as age verification as they can easily be overcome.
New technologies and applications are released all the time so keeping up with what is the latest virtual trend is imperative.
Here are some apps parents should be aware of right now:
Snapchat – A popular photo-sharing app that appeals because of its funky filters and “self destruct” messages. It is easy to screenshot images however, and no doubt many an unwary snapchatter has had a compromising photo used against their will. The app has age verification which is easily overcome by entering an incorrect birthdate. The latest Snapchat update also has location settings which can help predators pinpoint your child. If your child does use this app, make sure its in “ghost” mode.
Yellow – Dubbed as “Teenage Tinder”, this app encourages users to “find new friends ”. It links with the Snapchat app to find people to talk to using the swipe left or right functionality. It’s recommended for 17+ but has no actual age restrictions. There are growing concerns about inappropriate images and chat being shared by young teens, as well as the potential for grooming by predators.
Musicl.ly – A video community designed for creating, sharing and viewing short music videos. There are some parental controls but there is still a high risk of being exposed to inappropriate content or personal content being used without permission.
Kik Messenger – An instant messaging app that allows text, photos, videos and other content to be sent between users. This app has been associated with many child exploitation cases and is a huge concern because of the lack of parental controls and the ability for users to remain anonymous.
Ask.fm – This app allows you to post questions and answers to other users anonymously. There has been much controversy about this app and it has been linked to a number of cyber bullying and teen suicides. It has been taken over by Ask.com who claim to be working hard to improve safety and accountability.
Omegle – With a slogan like “Talk to strangers!” this one leaves little to the imagination. It pairs users randomly for one-on-one chats that can be text or video. Users do not need to register.
Apps that hide apps
Monitoring your child’s app use is a lot more difficult if you can’t see what they are using.
There are apps that are designed to mask or protect apps, files and photos. These are often called vault or ghost apps. These may parade as something completely different such as a blank folder or a calculator. Such apps include: AppLocker, Hide It Pro, Vault Hide, Best Secret Folder, Calculator Vault, Secret Calculator Folder.
There are also ways to create hidden folders on both iOS and Android devices that your child can easily discover with a quick Google.
Of course these are just a small sample of the apps available that pose a risk to your child. The Australian Government eSafety Commissioner website has great comprehensive information on popular apps with information on security and privacy concerns.
It is also important to consider password controls and app store accounts your child has access to as many apps offer in-app purchases that can rack up large bills.
Above all else, talk to your children openly about cyber safety. Be clear about the risks of sharing too much information about themselves, the importance of protecting themselves from bullying and about making good decisions online.