From the classroom to the doctor’s office, smartphone apps are now a way of life. If you’re like me, you have several apps on your phone just to keep up with your children’s school.
However, there are several apps out on the market that you need to be concerned about as a parent of a teenager. Cyberbullying, sexting, and gossip are often taking place inside apps that were not necessarily designed for such use. Take note of the following apps and talk with your teenager about the danger of using these apps:
- SnapChat is one of the most used apps by teenagers. Its newest feature, SnapMap, allows your location to be placed on a map every time you open the app. If your teen posts a message to “Our Story”, a curated story by the SnapChat team, his or her location can be made public.
- Marco Polo allows you to interact with friends via disappearing videos. The danger in this app lies in the fact that your teen may receive inappropriate videos and then have no proof of the bullying or harassment done to them via the app. The same can also be true in reverse.
- Yellow has been called “Tinder for teens.” Users can look at pictures of nearby strangers, most ages 13-17, and then swipe right to become friends with a person. Once they are friends, they can send private messages to each other. While you must be 13 to access the app, it’s not hard for someone older to lie about their age and connect with your teenager inappropriately.
- Sayat.Me allows anonymous interaction between users. Their websites says, “Get anonymous feedback and be a better you,” but Sayat.Me is a hotbed for negative feedback and bullying. Many teens using it will place their personal url in their Instagram profile so that friends can go give anonymous feedback.
- AfterSchool is another app that provides anonymity for the users. It connects students at the same school, and users can post anonymous pictures or videos for other students to see. The potential for cyber bullying is very real with this app.
- Calculator% is an app that was pulled from the Apple app store in April of this year because it was not a calculator app at all. This app hid pictures and videos behind a password protected button within the app. While this app may be gone, there are dozens of other apps out there that look to be one thing, but are actually a way for your teen to hide photos. I encourage you to talk to your teenagers about every app on their phone; ask what the app does and have your teen give you a tutorial of the ones you’re unfamiliar with.
On the other hand, there are tools out there that can help you and your teen navigate this digital world safely. Here are three apps that can help protect your teen.
- Bark helps you track what your teen is doing on her various social media accounts and alerts you when potential cyberbullying or sexting is taking place. It even picks up on signs your teen may be depressed or anxious.
- Limitly gives parents the ability to limit how much time their teens are on their screens. You can block certain apps and games and set time limits for various apps. You can even create a different limit for different days.
- TrackKidz is similar to Limitly but it also gives you access to your teen’s contacts and his or her location. This app also tries to detect cyber bullying by monitoring your teen’s weekly usage.
Helping your teen make wise use of smartphones and other digital devices requires discernment and intentional effort. Yet, they are nonnegotiables in an ever changing cyber world. We, as parents, are responsible for protecting and shepherding them through this area of their lives, just like any other, as best as we can.