1) Yik Yak allows users to post text-only Yaks of up to 200 characters. Messages can be viewed by the 500 Yakkers who are closest geographically, determined by GPS. Users are exposed to and contribute sexually explicit content, abusive language and personal attacks so severe that schools in the States are starting to block the app on their Wi-Fi. Although the posts are anonymous, kids start revealing personal information as they get more comfortable with other users.
2) SnapChat allows users to send photos that will disappear after 10 seconds. Once the recipient opens the picture, the timer starts. Then it’s gone from both the sender and recipient’s phone. However, the recipient can take a screen shot of the photo and have it to share with others. This app enables kids to feel more comfortable ‘sexting’ with peers.
3) KiK Messenger allows kids to send private messages their parents can’t see. There’s very little you can do to verify the identity of someone on KiK, which obviously poses the risk of sexual predators chatting with your child. And again, this is an easy tool for sexting.
4) Poof makes apps disappear on their phone with one touch. Kids can hide every app they don’t want you to see by simply opening the app. Fortunately, it’s no longer available, but if it was downloaded before it was deleted from the app store, your child may still have it. Apps like this are created and then terminated pretty quickly by Android and Apple stores, but there are similar ones being created constantly. Some other names include Hidden Apps, App Lock and Hide It Pro.
5) Omegle (‘Talk with Strangers’) has been around since 2008, with video chat added in 2009. Chat participants are only identified as You and Stranger and you don’t have to register for the app. However, you can connect Omegle to your Facebook account to find chat partners with similar interests. With a high risk of sexual predators, you certainly don’t want your kids giving out their personal information.
6) Whisper encourages users to post anonymous secrets, but it displays the area you’re posting from. You can search for users posting within 1.6km from you! Online relationships form constantly on this app, but you never know the person behind the computer or phone. A man in Washington was convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl he met on Whisper last year.
7) Down, which used to be called Bang with Friends, is connected to Facebook where users can categorise their Friends as someone they’d like to hang with or someone they are ‘down’ to hook up with. The app’s slogan is, ‘The anonymous, simple, fun way to find friends who are down for the night.’ Eek!
Kristin advises that to keep your kids safe, it’s best to monitor their phone and wireless devices. Look through their apps, texts and pictures. ‘They may feel that you’re invading their privacy, but let’s be honest, you’re paying the phone bill, so you can do whatever you want!’ Discuss the dangers of the apps and make sure they understand the need to keep personal information private.
Kristin’s top tips You can turn location services, or GPS, off on cellphones and tablets by going into the device settings. This will keep the apps and photos from posting the exact location or whereabouts of the phone user.