No one can dispute the importance of technology in today’s homes and classrooms. Seeing a child with a mobile device is nothing new, and many parents conversations today focus on when, and not if, to give a child a smartphone.
But with technology comes responsibility, and many ed-tech stakeholders know how important it is to teach students not just about digital citizenship, but of being aware of their digital footprint and staying responsible and safe online.
Anonymous messaging apps, random video chats, and apps that lock or hide other apps–they’re all a cause for concern.
In recent years, headlines have been filled with reports of children who have been stalked by peers, who have had inappropriate contact with strangers, or who have been relentlessly bullied–some to the point that they take their own lives.
Despite parents’ and educators’ best efforts, children don’t always have great judgment. We’ve compiled a list of apps adults might want to keep on their radar. These apps are representative of other apps that work the same, so it’s important to be aware of potentially harmful apps that might circulate through schools and groups of friends. And remember–apps can change their names or icons, and one harmful app can be replaced by another of the same genre. Vigilance and education are key.
1. Snapchat: Snapchat is a pretty ubiquitous social media app that lets users send a seconds-long snap to friends. While the snaps disappear after 24 hours, users can screenshot them, so children’s activities don’t disappear with the snap. More problematic is the app’s location sharing, or Snap Map, which could make users vulnerable. Parents should make sure the feature is turned off if their child uses Snapchat.
2. Yubo: Yubo, sometimes called “Tinder for Teens,” rebranded itself in late 2017, changing its name from Yellow to Yubo and updating some of its major safety issues, including linking accounts with other social media platforms and lacking privacy options. However, there is no age verification, which means children of any age can enter an eligible birth date and use the app freely.
3. Omegle: This app exists to connect strangers–users are connected at random for video chats. The website states that chats are anonymous unless users choose to reveal their identity, and even reveals that predators have been known to use the site, and advises caution. It also claims video is monitored, but there is an option for an 18+ or unmoderated section.
4. Vault: The Vault app lets users hide photos and videos, and the icon is unassuming, so parents may not know if their child has explicit images saved to their mobile device. The app can be unlocked with a password or Touch ID.
5. House Party: A live-streaming group video chat app like this leaves the door open for bullying or sexually explicit activities. Users can chat in groups of eight and are notified when friends are in the app.
6. Sarahah: This anonymous messaging app was removed from the iTunes and Google stores after serious bullying accusations. But parents should perform regular searches for similar anonymous apps. It looks like users can still register through the tool’s website, which calls the tool a way to receive honest feedback from coworkers and friends who can remain anonymous.
7. Tellonym: The download page praises the app’s ability to help users “get tons of honest messages,” “find out new stuff about your friends,” and “ask things you never dared before.” As with other anonymous apps, users are at risk of being bullied or harassed.