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More Apps Your Kids Should Avoid

June 7th, 2017     By Boys Town Contributor

Teen, Today's Family, Tween

​We’ve written about so-called “dangerous apps” before. (Read about them he​re and here.) But as with anything internet-related, apps that can be used for bullying, “hooking up” and other illicit purposes come and go rapidly, so it made sense to update our list.

The current list includes apps you are familiar with, but there are a few additions that you should be on the lookout for. And remember, as a parent who pays for your child’s smartphone and/or tablet, you are completely within your rights not only to access the device but also to search for and remove any apps you feel are inappropriate.

  • Instagram
    Seemingly harmless, Instagram is sort of a streamlined version of Facebook where people post images and others respond to them. The danger lies in the fact that tweens and teens tend to be obsessed with receiving as many “likes” as possible, which can lead to the posting of provocative pictures. Instagram photos are also public by default, and privacy must be set manually. Parents should be aware that their teens likely have a “finsta” account ( fake + Instagram = finsta) where they post things they only want their closest friends to see. Their “rinsta” account ( real + Instagram = rinsta) will likely be a sanitized version they allow their parents to see.
  • Tumblr
    Even though this microblogging app has been around for a decade, it’s still very popular. Tumblr makes creating an image-driven blog easy, and you can find Tumblrs on just about any subject. Parents should know, however, that content isn’t censored, and a lot of pornography is available on Tumblr.
  • GroupMe and WhatsApp
    These texting apps are geared toward older users. GroupMe contains GIFs and emojis that cover adult themes, including drinking and sex. WhatsApp is restricted to users 16 and older, but many younger teens use it. It also accesses your phone’s address book and tries to get you to push the app to everyone on your list.
    As its name suggests, this social platform is geared toward musical performance. It mostly consists of teens lip-synching to their favorite tunes, but it also contains musicians performing original material. While this sounds harmless, as with some other apps, tweens and teens on fish for “likes,” which can motivate them to engage in provocative or outrageous behavior to gain attention.
  • Houseparty and YouNow
    These apps allow users to stream live video to other users. The common danger is teens’ natural urge to gain popularity, which can lead to making poor decisions that they can’t take back, such as live-streaming dangerous stunts, drug and alcohol use, and sexual situations.
  • The Blue Whale Game/Challenge
    This isn’t an app; it’s a viral social media phenomenon that has been linked to the deaths of several children around the world. It starts off as a sort of scavenger hunt, but quickly takes a dark turn, encouraging participants to engage in self-harm, animal torture and various other extremely negative behaviors to move on in the game. The 50th and final “challenge” is allegedly suicide. Most children drop out of the game early on, but several have gone much further and ended up in the hospital or worse. The “game” is usually identified by the hashtag #bluewhalechallenge, which appears with images proving that a particular challenge has been accomplished.

The keys to preventing your tween or teen from accessing dangerous apps are communication and observation. Your children need to know what is expected of them regarding the use of these apps and their devices. There are two reasons for this: One, they can’t claim ignorance if you find them using an inappropriate app. And, two, it makes it difficult for you as a parent to issue a negative consequence if your child wasn’t aware that an app wasn’t allowed.

We suggest that calling a family meeting during a neutral time (not when tempers are flaring) to discuss the appropriate use of internet-connected devices, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops. Make sure your tweens and teens understand that access to these devices is a privilege, not a right, and that the devices can be taken away if they are abused. Your children also need to understand that there is no right to privacy for these devices — you can and will check their content at any time.

Keep checking back here for the latest updates on dangerous apps. And make it a habit to check your children’s devices at regular intervals.

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