TikTok (formally called Musical.ly- (12+ age) Create lip syncing videos with cool effects and post them for others to view. You don’t need internet connection to run this app and everything you do on it can be seen and commented on by anyone on this app. Open the app and random videos pop up that are often inappropriate or have inappropriate lyrics. Hash tags are usually attached to the videos and can lead to pornographic videos. Private chat rooms and messaging along with location services are available in this app.
Roblox– Parents need to know that Roblox is a game-creation website where users design and upload their own games — and play ones other people have created — in a multiplayer environment. The site offers a safe-chat mode for those under 13, and parents can restrict their child’s chatting capabilities. Roblox’s free-and-open communication policy –including the ability for unregistered users to chat — means that your kids’ interactions can vary widely, from legitimate player engagement to potentially risky involvement with predatory users. We recommend parents disable the chat functionality as a protective measure when parents can’t supervise kids’ play. We also recommend that parents set a four-digit PIN code that will be required to make any changes to their child’s account, preventing kids from giving themselves broader access, and change the security settings to only allow kids to access a curated list of age-appropriate games. There have been reports of users thwarting the chat and exchanging inappropriate/predatory messages with young players; some kids have also been exploited by predators through the site.
Twitch lets you instantly watch broadcasts of the games you love and chat with the players you follow. It is owned by Amazon and boasts over 100 million viewers monthly. Watching someone else play a game doesn’t make sense if you’re not a gamer, but for many enthusiasts, it’s akin to watching reality television. The most popular Twitch streamers have millions of followers, and hundreds of millions of channel views (crazy!). Broadcasters (same as streamers) earn $$ based on the number of subscribers. Users will be subjected to violence, mature content, and inappropriate language and there’s just no way to block it all as millions of gamers are commenting and speaking during game play. And because it’s Amazon there are lots of advertisements that can be inappropriate. There is also twitch currency which is encouraged to gain special privileges like private chats. Chat is available on all streams. Users can hide it, but there is no way to turn it off. Direct messages, called Whispers, can be sent to other users. This is not recommended for preteens or teens unless their parents are heavily involved.
Hot or Not (called Hot or … for iOS devices) is a social app that has users rate the attractiveness of others based on a series of photos. Users must first set up an account of their own, with photos — and must verify their identity with a working email address or a Facebook account and their mobile phones. The site says it will not accept a profile unless the user is 13 or older, and that users 13-17 can’t chat or share photos with users older than 17 — but there’s no age verification process. Users can log in to see what others think of them. And if two users think each other is “hot,” they can send messages to each other. Keep in mind that there’s no guarantee anyone is really who they say they are here. Tapping the “i” button in the lower right portion of the screen pulls up their location (by city) as well as other information they’ve provided. Its focus on objectifying other people which can lead to bullying. Even the app warns of nudity. Users may also be exposed to profanity, inappropriate content and inappropriate people.
Yubo App, formerly known as Yellow is commonly referred to as Tinder for teens, it is a social media app that has been designed to replicate the dating app Tinder. It has 15 million users and is popular among school age teens. Users utilize a swiping left/right motion to browse through online profiles of users in close proximity and of a particular age range determined by the browser. Mutual swiping of two users results in ‘matching’ and being able to chat.
Dangers: This app only requires a phone number to verify the user. The minimum age for use is 13 but like other apps that can’t be verified effectively, and there is no age limit to create a profile. This also means that online predators are easily able to create completely fake profiles posing as teenagers to make contact. There are no privacy setting options and no way to block users. This app syncs with snapchat so users can live stream video allowing anyone on the app to see the video and share it. Kids will be exposed to inappropriate behavior and possibly coerced to share personal information, other social media accounts, nude photos and arranging to meet in the real world. Because of the lack of user verification, they could be meeting anyone, it’s too easy for even very sensible kids to place themselves at risk. It is a very dangerous app.
Live.me is a social platform that allows users to connect with others and earn virtual goods which can be exchanged for prizes, rewards and cash. Viewers can also share the live feed while watching on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media accounts. You can also chat with different users.
Dangers of this app.- Users of all ages, talking and video chatting with people you don’t know. There are users that are doing provocative things including sexual behavior and drug use, profanity, bad behavior, nudity, sexually explicit behavior, violence, uses geo-location.
While the app requires you to be at least 18 years old or have consent from parents it is very easy to bypass and create an account. Any app that encourages students to connect with strangers online or strangers in their area can be very dangerous.
Steam is to gaming what Netflix or Amazon Prime Video are to TV. Like other content-streaming platforms, Steam has oodles of content, but the quality varies a lot, and not all of it is age-appropriate. While it has plenty of fantastic, family-friendly games it also has games where the main draw is the graphic violence or explicit sex. The platform has even come under fire for boldly announcing that it would sell any title, no matter how extreme (including a controversial 2018 school-shooter game that was only removed for violating Steam’s terms of service). While there are thousands of family-friendly games available on the platform, many of the games on Steam feature graphic violence, swearing, or sexy stuff. Kids can also find plenty of swearing and mature content in the groups and forums. And the trading system can expose unsuspecting gamers to scammers. Steam supports both text and voice chat. You can add friends and chat individually or in groups with both people you know and people you don’t know. You can also join public chat rooms and talk to anyone on the platform. However, Steam also has robust parental controls that can greatly reduce the risks kids face while using Steam — if parents take the time to figure them out.
Discord is a free voice, video and text chat app for teens and adults ages 13 and up. It was created to bring people together through a love of gaming. Teens can access Discord via their PC, browser, or mobile phone. Parents need to know that Discord – Chat for Gamers is a voice- and text-chat tool geared toward gamers. Users can log in with a username, and they can add friends, join a server, chat by logging in with a code provided from an email invitation or from a real-life friend. Users can send direct messages to other users, chat, and talk or listen in larger group chats. Using the Nearby feature when adding friends (and with location features turned on), you can find users near you. While there are good features available for opting into conversations, this is still a social-networking app, and it’s primarily geared toward adults. As you might find on any social network, there are issues with abusive language, mature content, sex, violence, alcohol, and drugs.
HOLLA Parents need to know that HOLLA a Live Random Video Chat is a social networking app that lets users conduct live video chat sessions with random strangers. Registration requires either your phone number or a connection to your Facebook account, and the app insists on accessing your phone’s camera and microphone. Default settings upon starting the app connect you to live random chat with users who could be doing literally anything (including engaging in sexual behaviors) when you connect. The app’s “Nearby” chat mode uses your phone’s location tracker to connect you with nearby strangers; If sex traffickers and online predators described the perfect social media app, this would be it. This app flies in the face of parents, encouraging users to expose their names, faces, age, and location to strangers around the world. It’s downright dangerous for kids. In addition to adults making inappropriate connections to kids, there are reports of adult males exposing themselves and engaging in sexual activities during video chat. the app contains no method of age verification or parental controls. Without question, HOLLA is your average parent’s nightmare; an app that not only encourages kids to talk to strangers, but exponentially magnifies the number of strangers they encounter — and insures they’re nearby.
Skout is a flirting app used to meet and chat with new people. Based on the age entered at registration, teens and adults are assigned to different groups, but ages aren’t verified. Once teens turn 18, they’re automatically moved into the adult group, but it’s easy to enter a false birthday at registration and pose as either an adult or a teen. Their exact location isn’t revealed, only a general region, and posts are now more closely monitored. Also, teens can’t send pictures in private messages. They can earn points for using the app and responding to ads. Then they can redeem points to reveal the profiles of users who’ve “checked” them out or to access users in other geographic areas. Posts include plenty of profanity, inappropriate content, and suggestive pictures.
Instagram (age 13+) Is one of the most popular preteen/teen apps. It is a picture-sharing social network, where users take photos, edit images with different filters & digital effects, make videos and live stream. It is a search engine for billions of images and now it also offers location- and hashtag-themed Stories; collections of user posts that are labeled with a specific city or hashtag that disappears in 24 hrs. It also offers messaging and private messaging. If you have any adult content filters on your child’s device or on your home internet, Instagram bypasses all of these. The type of content your child can come across via a perfectly innocent search within Instagram’s search engine could include: drug use, violence, porn, gun sales, Sub-cultures that include Pageant style beauty and ugly competitions, anorexic and self harm cultures, sexual role playing, pretty much anything really. Photos posted have location information unless geo tags are removed. This is not as simple as just turning location settings off on your phone or within the app.
Finstagram-You’ve heard of Instagram, but have you heard of finstagram? “Finstagram” or “finsta” is the term teen’s use for a fake Instagram account. Other names for fake accounts are spam accounts or pseudonym (pseudo) accounts. Teens create these secondary accounts for a variety of reasons—some harmless-teens feel comfortable posting more of their real selves and have just a few close friends as followers. And some not so harmless-they are used for a darker, more secretive purpose to fool parents. Following their teen’s real accounts may make parents feel like they’re in the know. Meanwhile, teens are posting photos of parties where drugs or alcohol are present, nudity or trolling or teasing other people, to the secret finsta or spam accounts. In this way, even attentive parents are kept in the dark about the places where actual danger and poor decision-making lurk.
YouTube– Parents need to know that YouTube is a video-sharing site and app, and there are many videos on YouTube that may not be age-appropriate for kids. It’s difficult to rate the app overall because there are so many videos that have a vast range of topics. Some videos contain inappropriate language, content, and violence, even videos on YouTube kids and cartoons can be inappropriate. The app includes a feature that lets you see how much time you’ve spent watching videos, and you can set reminders to turn off autoplay and take a break. The site is entirely user-generated and relies on its community to flag videos that violate YouTube’s terms of service (mostly for sexual content, language, and hate speech). For full reviews of the most popular channels, check out our YouTube Reviews. Channel owners can also now distribute live content, and can launch livestreams at will, which are governed by YouTube rules. Plenty of inappropriate content can surface by typing in the most innocent of search terms, including pornography so parents will want to monitor kids’ use. YouTube does offer parents the ability to filter out objectionable content and comments using Safety Mode. However, Safety Mode doesn’t catch everything, and it’s easy to disable. YouTube also has three channels by which users can access specialized content: YouTube Kids, YouTube Gaming, and YouTube Music. As of 2017, the YouTube app allows in-app messaging between users.
Houseparty is a video chatting app that’s pretty open. Friends can communicate with each other through live video and texts in chat groups. There’s no screening and the video is live, so there’s nothing to keep kids from inappropriate content. Users can send links via chat and even take screenshots. There’s also nothing keeping friends of friends joining groups where they may only know one person.
Ask.fm app allows users to interact in a question-and-answer format — with friends, peers, and anonymous users alike. The app is rated ages 13+ and is most popular in Europe but is catching on in the U.S. Some kids have used the app for hurtful cyberbullying that has been linked to suicides. British schools have sent home letters calling for students to stop using ask.fm because of its use in several cyberbullying incidents there, and its loose regulation and lack of monitoring. In response to the uproar in the U.K., the site added a button where users can report abuse.
Walkie-Talkie PTT (push-to-talk) app allows users to quickly exchange short voice messages. They can have chats going on with multiple people at a time and just have to tap the play button to hear any messages they receive. Although it largely has an adult following, including some people who use it for their job, it’s becoming popular among teens who enjoy its hybrid style of texting and talking. Hurtful messages from cyberbullies can be even more biting when they’re spoken and can be played repeatedly. Surprisingly, the app is rated ages 4+ in the App Store.
Snapchat is an app that allows users to send photos and videos that disappear from view within 10 seconds after they’re received. It’s rated ages 12+. Many kids are using the app to send inappropriate photos because they believe the images can’t be saved and circulated. But, actually Snapchat pics don’t completely disappear from a device, and users can take a screenshot before an image vanishes in the app. Recent studies reveal that “sexting” (sending sexual messages and images, usually via text message) is increasing amongst younger kids and “disappearing photo” apps like Snapchat might embolden kids to send more explicit photos and texts than they would have before through traditional texting.
Whisper is 17+ this app’s motto is: “Share Secrets, Express Yourself, Meet New People.” It has a similar feel to the now-defunct PostSecret app, which was discontinued shortly after its release because it filled up with abusive content. Whisper lets users set up anonymous accounts to make their messages or confessions overlap an image or graphic (similar to e-postcards), which other users can then “like,” share, or comment on. While it allows for creative expression, it can also take overly personal content viral. The app also shows a user’s location. Although the app is geared toward older teens and adults, younger children are finding their way to it. A 12-year-old girl in Washington was reportedly raped by a 21-year-old man who met her on Whisper.
Tumblr (17 + yrs. Old)- is consider one of the most dangerous apps. It is one of the most popular social media platforms and has one of the youngest audiences. The average user age is 13-35 years old. Tumblr is a blogger platform that makes it easy for users to post images, gifs, videos, music, texts, links, and more. Tumblr can be used as a search engine for teens to easily find artistic media and pop culture based on their interests and also gives them a creative outlet to share their own views. However, just typing in a seemingly harmless word can produce explicit content. There are very few privacy settings and none on the mobile app, therefore all the users content is public. Kids are exposed to pornography, unhealthy, dangerous, and violent behaviors, bullying, and inappropriate language. Mental health experts say Tumblr can damage adolescent’s mental health because it tends to glorify self-harm and eating disorders. Users can only block people from contacting them but not from seeing their posts. 61% of teens consider Tumblr their favorite social network.
Monkey (ages 13 an older)- randomly connects teens with other Snapchat users for a 10-second video chat. In reality Monkey is a chat roulette type of video chatting app. Once you’ve downloaded the app it will ask you your age. You set your age to whatever you’d like it to be, provide your phone number and your snapchat username and you’re in. It immediately begins connecting you with someone to video chat with. While it’s connecting it shows your face dimly in the background and says who it’s connecting you to, their gender and age. You have the option to skip the connection or accept. Kids are exposed to nudity cursing, derogative language bullying, asking others to expose themselves, alcohol, drugs, and violence. This app has a high risk for internet predators.
Grindr is the world’s leading mobile social network app exclusively for gay, bi and curious men. Over 2 million guys in 196 countries use Grindr every day. Grindr finds men close to you for chatting and meeting anywhere in the world. There is high risk for bullying, sexting, inappropriate adult content, and nudity. This app is for adult men but has experienced many cases of minors signing up as an adult that ended with them as the victim of a child sex crime. In the same way that children and young adults will explore other inappropriate and dangerous activities they will sometimes explore apps like these, however this app can have disastrous consequences and no minor child should ever use this app.
Voxer (13+) is walkie-talkie PTT (push-to-talk) app allows users to quickly exchange short voice messages. They can have chats going on with multiple people at a time and just have to tap the play button to hear any messages they receive. Although it largely has an adult following, including some people who use it for their job, it’s becoming popular among teens who enjoy its hybrid style of texting and talking. You don’t have a way of verifying who is on the other end of a Voxer account. People have been known to set up fake accounts, which makes cyberbullying and other inappropriate behavior easier. Hurtful messages from cyberbullies can be even more biting when they’re spoken and can be played repeatedly. Kids count on parents not monitoring Voxer and the has been used to further criminal behavior.
Chatroulette allows anyone with a webcam and Internet connection to instantly video chat with any other visitor anywhere in the world. Even if you don’t have a web cam, you can still use the site and view the other people using it. All you do is go to the site’s homepage, click a button to sync your webcam, and you are instantly connected randomly with other users. The roulette part comes in because if you don’t want to chat with the person you are paired with, you just click Next and another person randomly appears. You can continue to click Next — and so can the other user — until you find someone you want to chat with. The site requires no registration or age verification. In our visits, and in news coverage about the site, most of the people using the site appear to be masturbating men — often with the webcam focused on their genitals. The randomness of the site means that you just never know and can’t control who you are going to interact with next. Besides the sex, there’s also the danger of impressionable teens meeting total strangers — and since there is no content filter on the site, you have no idea where the conversation could lead. Besides these risks there’s also the ease with which rejection occurs. Anyone who visits will inevitably get passed aside for someone else. Finally, adding insult to injury, there are the people who visit just to mock other users.
Parents be aware of IRL. It’s an app marketed to kids/teens as a tool to help them create get together with groups of friends offline. The app may be called Let’s Hang or Gather. What often happens is the child will be sent a text (that comes from a 5 digit number meaning it’s sent from a server not a person) or an email saying “Someone has complimented you, click the link to see more” or “You have been invited to Gather or Let’s Hang with 4 of your friends using this app.” If the receiver clicks the link they will be asked questions like their age, location, and for access to their contacts. It downloads and stores all your contacts in their system and then uses them to send out spam messages to get others to join. The app contains preset categories with names that are in code, such as “Little Committee” for meeting up to drink alcohol, and lets you send anonymous nominations “Noms” to friends that include references to alcohol and inappropriate language. It also allows you to send photos, have private chats, and has a map function to find users locations. This app sells your information and is high risk for grooming kids and sex trafficking potential.
Jailbreak Programs and Icon-Hiding Apps
These aren’t social media apps — and they’re confusing — but you should still know about them (especially if you have a tech-savvy teen or have had to take away your child’s mobile phone privileges because of abuse). “Jailbreaking” an iPhone or “rooting” an Android phone basically means hacking your own device to lift restrictions on allowable applications — meaning, the user can then download third-party apps not sold in the App Store or Google Play store (sometimes sketchy apps). It’s hard to say how many teens have jailbroken their mobile device, but instructions on how to do it are readily available on the Internet. YouTube and Cydia are popular application for jailbroken phones, and it’s a gateway to other apps called Poof and SBSettings — which are icon-hiding apps. Utilities Apps that look like a calculator or even a settings app could be hiding apps. These apps are supposedly intended to help users clear the clutter from their screens, but some young people are using them to hide questionable apps and violent games from their parents. Be aware of what the Cydia app icons look like so you know if you’re getting a complete picture of your teen’s app use. Apple doesn’t provide an official way to hide apps, but you can store iPhone apps you want to hide in a folder, shielding it from view. iPhone folders support many “pages” of apps, so you can store “private” apps on back pages in a folder. You can also configure your iPhone so that it isn’t possible to search for installed apps. You can also hide the hidden apps folders on your Android phone by downloading an Android launcher with a “hidden apps” option. Apex Launcher is one of these apps and can help you smoothly achieve the task. The launcher is also visually stunning to look at in terms of wallpaper and other features.