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The 13 (other) apps parents should know about

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By J.R. Williams
jrw@familysignal.com

You know Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but they’re likely not the only social networks your teenager uses. These 13 apps represent some of the more concerning for parents, and we’ve included takeaways for each.

Remember:

  • Trends come and go, but today, messaging apps are king. The flavor of the moment will change.
  • Whatever app your child uses, they should be locking down the settings to their most private level, which is often not the default, to keep unwanted strangers away.
  • Whatever the privacy setting, kids shouldn’t use their real name, phone number or other personal information.
  • Children should know to treat everything they post on social networks — text, images and video — as if it would be seen by everyone they know.

Let’s dive in.

1. Omegle1. Omegle

What is it? Omegle (pronounced Oh-MEG-ull) automatically connects two strangers to talk anonymously about anything — or answer questions that a third stranger has asked — over text chat or video. The Omegle website provides the same functionality.

What should parents know? We won’t mince words for this one. Omegle is an explicit and profane network where users often trade usernames for other networks, such as Kik, to engage in online sexual conduct. Put simply, this app is not for children of any age. If it’s on your child’s phone, we recommend you delete it. Then block it using parental controls.

2. Line2. Line

What is it? Line is a combination messaging app, social timeline and free calling service.

What should parents know? Line connects to your child’s phonebook to make connections, but anyone can search for users by a username. The app also sells coins that can be used to buy digital stickers, which are used like emojis. Those can add up or put a charge on your card you don’t recognize.

3. Burn Note3. Burn Note

What is it? Kids can send texts and e-mails or start a chat room with messages that self-destruct. Messages only appear for a short time before being deleted, and only part of a message can be viewed at a time to discourage saving.

What should parents know? Anyone can receive a Burn Note, even if they’re not signed up for the app. Even though Burn Note says the messages are irretrievable, teens should know there are other ways to preserve the messages.

4. Blendr4. Blendr

What is it? A dating app that finds strangers nearby to connect with. Credits can be bought to improve your visibility.

What should parents know? This one’s a red flag for a teen. Just being in the same area as someone else is enough to trigger a match on this app. The app also asks for personal information, like a phone number and other social media accounts, for “profile verification.” Blendr also encourages users at every turn to upload photos of themselves and improve their popularity within the network. While photos are moderated for pornography, the bottom line is this one’s not for kids.

5. Whisper5. Whisper

What is it? Users can post captions on pictures for other people nearby to view. The photos can also be narrowed down to a particular school.

What should parents know? While many of the captions are funny, some are sexually explicit, and conversations can lead to more private chats.

6. Tinder6. Tinder

What is it? A dating app that finds friends of Facebook friends or other people in the same area for a potential match. Users can famously swipe right to like a photo, or right to dismiss it. If both people like each other’s photos, they can message each other.

What should parents know? Tinder has been around for a while and has a reputation of being a place to find casual encounters. Just like the other apps on this list that can connect your child to a stranger, we don’t recommend it.

7. Yik Yak7. Yik Yak

What is it? Popular on college campuses, Yik Yak connects people anonymously to respond to one another’s messages based on location. While it was once entirely anonymous, the app developers recently made a change to require a username to post.

What should parents know? You may have already heard about this app in a negative context like this. Yik Yak has a reputation of being a breeding ground for cyberbullying because the messages can be narrowed down to a specific school. While some conversations are harmless, this is one to look for on your child’s phone.

8. OoVoo8. OoVoo

What is it? OoVoo is a free communication app where users can call, text and trade content, but the big selling point is a video calling feature that can connect up to 12 people at the same time. Its interoperability with Android and iPhones make it popular with schoolchildren.

What should parents know? OoVoo says the minimum age to create an account is 13, but there are concerns for any user. The default setting for new accounts is public, which means anyone can contact your teen. This app has also been in the news for pretty serious reasons. And its privacy policy, like many on this list, means your child’s personal information can be used to serve advertisements.

9. YouNow9. YouNow

What is it? Users can live-stream themselves to the world with an accompanying chat room at YouNow.com and on the network’s app.

What should parents know? The app encourages users to improve their standing by interacting with the app more often (broadcasting, chatting, liking others’ feeds). It also integrates easily with the major social networks, which could reveal personal information the user thought was private. What’s more, videos are instantly archived to the user’s profile and can be replayed at will.

10. Skout10. Skout

What is it? A hugely popular dating app that lets users find random connections by shaking their phone to be paired with someone doing the same, or by using GPS to determine location. Users can create a profile similar to a dating site and update their social feed.

What should parents know? Shout has recently strengthened its moderation for inappropriate posts, but it’s still easy to fake a name and birthdate in order to see other children in the area. A user’s profile can quickly rack up others who have “checked” them out.

11. MeetMe11. MeetMe

What is it? Users can make connections with others in their area, but this network isn’t for kids.

What should parents know? While we couldn’t even sign up for MeetMe recently, this app has a reputation for attracting stalkers. The app makers recently settled a lawsuit brought by the city of San Francisco, which said that “dozens of children nationwide have already been victimized by predators who used MeetMe to coerce minors into meeting.” Stay away from this one.

12. Snapchat12. Snapchat

What is it? Chasing the big three social networks to be one of the largest communities around. Snapchat isn’t just another network, it’s a phenomenon. While it once had a poor reputation for being able to share suggestive posts that immediately expire, it’s now in use by everyone from politicians and musicians to kids and journalists.

What should parents know? Parents should stress to kids the general rule about social networks: Nothing you post goes away forever.

13. Ask.fm13. Ask.fm

What is it? A social platform where users can ask questions to other people anonymously.

What should parents know? This app also has a bad reputation as a venue for cyberbullying, and has been linked to cases of child suicide. The owners say reports of dangers on the social network are a media creation.


J.R. Williams
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