Apps Parents Should Know About to Keep Kids Safe
Looking for a list of the top Apps Parents Need to Know? You're in the right place.
Do You Know What Apps Your Kids are Using? Here’s everything you need to know about 15 of the newest apps middle schoolers use that you should be monitoring on their phones, and how to keep your kids safe online. Middle school and high school parents…consider this a warning about the dangers of these popular apps. Online safety, especially on cell phones is important for both tweens and teens, and often, the dangers lie in very popular photo and video apps, messaging apps, social media apps, video chat, and yes, even explicit content apps.
This is especially important if you’re the parent of a child in 4th to 9th grade. And if you think it’s not happening in 4th grade, you’re dead wrong.
This is the world we live in now. Even as early as grade 4, there are dangerous apps parents need to monitor. Oh, you say your 4th grader doesn't have a phone yet? If they use any device, then you might want to keep reading.
I know…this isn’t normally what I write about on my blog, but it’s such an incredibly important topic in the aftermath of all the recent violence in American society that I couldn’t ignore the fact that kids all over our country are going back to school this week. Cyberbullying is ever present, and apps that allow users to hide their activity are especially popular.
Is violence directly related to kids and their phones? I think that’s debatable, but there is one thing I can argue for certain…the more parents that are informed about what these apps are, and the more they take the initiative to monitor what their kids are actually doing on their phones and devices the better off we’ll be.
How do I know about the most dangerous apps kids use?
I feel that I have a bit of insight in knowing the dangers of what kids do on their phones because my husband is the principal of our local high school in the community in which we live.
I can tell you first hand, many parents do not pay much attention to the principal or what he or she actually does on a daily basis, especially if your child is a rule follower and doesn’t get into trouble at school.
At our high school, there are approximately 1400 students in grades 9 through 12. My husband oversees a team which includes: 2 Assistant Principals, 5 Guidance Counselors, 4 Office Secretaries, 150 Teachers, and countless other personnel to help ensure that these children are kept safe and of course become prepared for college or career before they graduate. And that’s just grades 9-12. Our school is a mid-size public school in a mostly suburban part of town. We have 15 other public schools, some larger and some smaller, within a 30-mile radius of our community.
To put this into perspective, compare that to your office. Typically the C-Suite oversees a large team of people who report up through their hierarchy. If you’ve ever been a Vice President, part of the C-Suite in corporation, or even a director in a medium-sized company, you can appreciate the amount of time you put in to the leadership of the team who reports to you.
Now, imagine you have not only that team who reports to you, but you are also responsible for the safety, security, schedule, and overall well-being of 1,400 kids on a daily basis. It’s a damn hard job.
Now, WHO is supposed to be monitoring what the kids are doing on their phone?
He selflessly works 16 hours a day, almost every day of the school year. In the summer, he’s fortunate to be able to go back to a regular 8 hour work day. I’m not exaggerating in the least, I’m both grateful and proud of him, because he never complains. In fact, he considers his job a service to our students and our community.
I'm sharing this to give you some perspective, because most of the time, all I see (on social media, ironically) are parents complaining about how the school is doing nothing to prevent kids from engaging in dangerous social media. Interestingly, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree sometimes.
In all seriousness though, the stark reality of our world today is that more often than not, situations are triggered from kids and all the social media on their phones. If there happens to be a “situation” such as a child who posts anything that resembles a “threat” on social media, my husband is immediately forced to drop anything else he was doing (such as a performance review of a teacher for example) and spend the rest of his day, evening, or weekend for that matter, doing interviews with students, parents, the FBI, and others to make sure proper procedures are followed.
These procedures…they’re put in place by the federal government. Schools have to follow the law of course. Then maybe the school district plans a “town hall” so that hundreds of other community members can come together for a meeting to be informed about the situation and what the school is doing to keep their children safe. This is the unfortunate reality of communities all across our nation.
With all of the recent violence in our country, you can bet that the administrative team spends a lot of time making sure there are procedures in place to keep children safe. With news of online predators, human trafficking, and gun violence, sometimes parents become immune or even potentially forget about something that seems harmless but is extremely dangerous…the apps their kids have access to on their phones.
Who’s job is it to teach online safety?
Schools have some programs in place, but do you know if your child pays close attention to what their counselors are teaching at school?
Do you know what apps are on your child’s phone? Who do they interact with on these apps? They might say that they are talking only to their friends at school, but what happens when the friend has an older brother or sister? The “friend” list expands, and suddenly they are “friends” with a lot of people you don’t know…or worse…they don’t know?
When is the last time you looked at your child's phone?
What happens when your 4th grader bears witness to others who are posting mean words or photos through one of these apps?
What happens when your 6th grader bears witness (through an app) to a friend who is posting about how they are depressed and threatening to kill themselves? Does your 6th grader know how to respond?
What happens when your 8th grader bears witness to sexting and the sharing of questionable photos through these apps?
What happens when your 10th grader bears witness to a potential fight after school, or worse, a threat against another student?
And when your 12th grade daughter decides to meet up with a strange boy who’s been “sexting” with her but doesn’t go to her school and she’s never met him before?
If you think this is not happening in your part of the country, you are dead wrong. This isn’t the world we grew up in, but it’s the absolute reality for our children.
On the first day of school, my husband has an assembly for all students to inform them of the expectations of the school day, as well as the consequences for taking actions, including suspension for sports and school. Yet twice a week, he suspends students for vaping. Maybe they were caught in the bathroom with paraphernalia. Or maybe they were caught in a remote hallway of the school while everyone else was in class. Parents come to his office and utter words such as “my student would never do that” … except it was caught on camera.
Kids succumb to temptation and peer pressure through these apps, and it’s worse than it was when we were in school because they don’t just leave the peer pressure at school at the end of the day…social media goes home with them.
Before I get in to the dangerous apps list, parents and teens should know these two important points:
- Once a picture or video leaves your phone and is sent to someone else, it is out of your control.
- Someone can use that picture or video against you (your child).
Here are the Apps that parents should know about for the start of the 2019/2020 school year:
PS: Watch the video below to see what they look like for easier reference
- Ask.FM: This app lets users ask anonymous questions and is known for cyberbullying.
- Badoo: A dating and social media app where users can chat and share photos and videos based on location. The app is supposed to be for adults, but it’s been reported that teens create accounts with a fake birthday.
- Bumble: Similar to Tinder, but requires girls to make the first contact. Law enforcement has stated that kids and teens can create fake accounts and falsify their age.
- Calculator: This is one of several apps that are used to hide photos, videos, files and browser history.
- Grindr: A dating app geared toward the LGBTQ community based on location.
- Holla: This is a video chat app that lets users meet people in seconds. Law enforcement officers say users have seen racial slurs and explicit content.
- Hot o meter: The app lets users rate other’s profiles, view profiles of people in their location, and chat with strangers.
- Kik: Children can use this app to bypass traditional text messaging features (such as when you turn off notifications after a certain time in the evening) which gives users unlimited access to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
- Whisper: An anonymous social network that lets users share secrets with strangers. This also shows a users location.
- Live.Me: A live-streaming app that uses geolocation to share videos. Users can earn “coins” to “pay” minors for photos.
- MeetMe: A dating app that connects people based on location. Users are encouraged to meet in person.
- Skout: A location-based dating app that is supposed to prohibit people under 17 from sharing private photos. However, note that kids can easily create an account with a different age.
- Snapchat: One of the most popular social media apps in the world, Snapchat lets users take and share photos and videos. The app also lets people see your location.
- TikTok: An app popular with kids that lets users create and share short videos. Law enforcement said this app has “very limited privacy controls” and users can be exposed to cyberbullying and explicit content.
- WhatsApp: A messaging app that allows texts, video calls, photo sharing and voicemails.
What can parents do about these dangerous apps?
Are you prepared for the start of the school year?
Take some time to review your child’s phone for these apps, and talk through your expectations. In my personal opinion, I’m paying for my child’s phone and phone plan, so it’s technically MY phone, they just get to use it. That means until my child is an adult and no longer living in my house, I have full and complete access to monitor their phone, their apps, and connect with any social media profiles that they use, including connecting with their friends.
If their friends do not “connect” with me, then my child is not allowed to connect with that particular friend. These are just my rules, but I take my children and their behaviors very seriously.
I’ve seen parents take to social media to “complain” about rules, actions, or policies that have been put in place at their school. Many times, people tend to comment on a topic without having all the facts about the topic.
Parents should exercise respect and set a positive example for their children with regard to online behavior. I’m all for your first amendment rights, but lets be mature about it; if you don’t have all the facts about a situation, your best bet is to keep your comments to yourself. I’ve bore witness to online comments spiraling completely out of control, with people chiming in about a topic they have no knowledge about. Please recognize that if your comment could potentially be hurtful or harmful to someone else, even if that person is your arch enemy, you should make sure you gather all the facts before you fuel the fire.
I hope this article encourages you to take a closer look at what your children are engaging with on social media apps. Practicing good online habits begins with us…we’re all in this together, so for the sake of our kids and their future, lets stand strong and make sure we are spending time to have these very real conversations with our children.
Well, that was a bit of a deep dive on a topic that I typically don’t blog about, but honestly, it’s been on my mind and I just think there is nothing more important than the safety and well-being of our children. As parents, raising children is not an easy job, in fact it’s harder than any other job I’ve ever had.
I spent the first 10 years of my career in a corporate marketing job, but when my children were born, my dreams of a corner office were replaced with a need for flexibility.
If you’re longing to have more job flexibility so you can spend more time with your family too, read this next.
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I need to fwd this article to my friend right now. She is dealing with a pre-teen she constantly has to monitor her activity!
Thanks for reading! There are definitely some on the list that were new to me. 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing – this was full of helpful information, it’s so crazy to think our kids could have access to some of these potentially harmful apps and I’m literally dreading the day our son is old enough for these types of things. For now, we’ll soak in these toddler years as much as we can!
Definitely enjoy every moment of those toddler years…it goes by in the blink of an eye!
Thanks for sharing!!! I have 3 kids and this definitely helps!
Thanks for reading!
WOW! What an eye-opener. Things have changed so much since I was younger… I am only in my 30s and we still went outside to play. I didn’t have a phone until I started to drive.
Haha, I won’t tell how old I was when I got my first phone, it makes me feel old!
I am dreading the stage when our daughter wants her own phone – there are just so many dangers to go with the positives. Thanks for the list – I have never even heard of most of these apps!
Great article. Luckily my kids are still too young to have their own phone but I will definitely be monitoring their phones when they are old enough.
My kids are 10 and almost 12 and don’t have phones but they do have tablets. I have an “adopted” daughter (she’s been a friend of the family for a decade) who’s 14 and is on Tik Tok. And she constantly talks bad about herself and I think part of it is that there seems to be such a high-level of self-hate on that particular platform. But that’s probably a symptom of the larger problem of social media making it so easy to bully people with minimal or no consequences. Thanks for sharing this list of apps parents should know about, I’ll share it as well!
I agree…so many children make mean and hurtful comments, videos, etc. and there are little or no consequences because their parents don’t even realize what they’re doing! Unless of course they are the one who the comments are directed toward. Thanks for reading, and sharing!
This is SO helpful! My son is coming to this age and I feel… lost!
I like to think I’m caught up with the times as someone who works with social media and also teaches teens, but there were a couple on that list that I hadn’t heard of before…
Great information here. I will definitely share this to my friends to raise awareness and to keep their gadgets kid friendly.. 😘
Safety is the first thing to comes to mind, when children are involved.
Thanks for the wonderful post.
I don’t have kids, but I have a niece and several small cousins. Great info! I’ll be sharing it with their parents.
Saved and noted every advice in this useful-beyond-any-degree article. With two kids this is the very thing I needed to come across and read carefully.
I don’t have children yet, but this list is good to keep in mind. Keeping children safe is so important x
what great apps! i am going to have to share with all my mom friends!
Thanks for reading, and for sharing Ashli!
As someone with two young cousins (more like nieces to me), I know how terrifying apps these days can be. This is a great informational piece to help parents become more aware of the dangers that they need to be wary of.
Thanks for reading Emily!
This post is such an eye opener. I have to save this post and really need to share it with other parents as my older one just started middle school and most kids have access to phones now. Awesome information.
Thanks for reading (and sharing!) yes, definitely an eye opener!
Wow. My child is only a toddler and we just got him his first tablet (a kid friendly one) and just started researching online safety, VPN’s and so on. What a different world than the one I grew up in….and I’m only in my 40s!
So true! My kids started on an ipad at 5, and although it’s easier to have a handle on it when they’re little, as they get older it’s definitely harder to keep on top of it! Thanks for reading!