In this technologically advanced world, we understand that almost everyone has a cell phone by now. It isn't uncommon in our era for children that haven't even made it into middle school yet to be seen thumbing it up on their iPhones.
But, with all of the apps available to kids, with little to no parental consent required, what, exactly, are our children downloading? We have compiled a list of what we have found to be the top scariest applications available (for free) out in the digital world today.
Although the app's website states that "Snapchat is intended for use by people who are 18 years of age or older, and persons under the age of 18 are prohibited from creating Snapchat accounts", a whopping 50% of Snapchat users are between the ages of 13-17.
Through the app, sent photographs and videos have a timer on them placed by the sender, which once expires allows the picture to disappear "forever". Unless, that is, the receiver quickly takes a screenshot. In this case, the photo can be kept and distributed to whomever, leading to a variety of negative consequences, including bullying and shame.
Additionally, over the years Snapchat has been on the receiving end of several highly risky data breaches. The latest Snapchat breach compromised the photos of thousands of undersage users. Basically, Snapchat and kids = bad mixture.
Everyone loves Instagram. It is the second most downloaded app, with only Facebook beating it out. Its a wonderful sharing tool for all your pictures from the beach, or what you are having for lunch. Instagram is a neat way to quickly send a photo to friends to wordlessly say how your day is going with a picture of a quote, your fabulous shoes, etc.
We didn't personally see too much of an issue with a tween or responsible teenager having an IG account, but that was before they went and added DM. "DM" stands for "Direct Message," and this handy new feature means that one may snap a picture and send it, privately, to anyone they wish. This could be a prime place for kids and teens to sext.
Instagram also has a location geotagging feature and allows for teens to choose whether or not they want to make their profiles public or private. Although these features can be set to private and disabled, teens can enable these settings whenever they want to.
Tumblr is another app and social network that seems so innocent and sweet until you look into it. Pornography is so easily found on its pages that it's ridiculous. Pictures of scantily clad or naked people are available through the search option.
The popular blogging site is also host to a multitude of blogs that encourage unhealthy body images among young teens. "Thinspiration" and "Tinspo" blogs encourage girls to idolize eating disorders and become "inspired" to become excessively thin. These decspicable blogs are rampant and easily accessible on Tumblr.
A quick search of BADOO online and you will see that their wesite simply says "Badoo - chat, date and meet with over 223 million people. Join our community and make friends in your area." Umm, what? That is all fine and well, if you are a mature adult seeking companionship from another mature adult, but a swipe through the application itself shows pictures of persons very apparently NOT over the age of eighteen years old. In this world that we live in, that is no risk anyone should be willing to take.
The sign up is all too easy, and, as with all the apps mentioned in this article, there are no parental requests for age verification. It bothers one to think of all of the potential harm that could arise from the use of a dating app like this one. Our advice on this one is if you see it on your child's phone: delete, delete, DELETE!
KIK is yet another messaging app. Anyone can download it for free and send messages to anyone else that has kik on their device. The only positive is that you don't have to give out a telephone number, just a screen name, but it still screams "bad idea" to us. Can you guess why? Yep. Because you can send pictures, privately.
The photographs sent and received on this application have a similar feature to the timer on Snapchat. You can send a "bomb" with your picture so that it self destructs within seconds of being opened, but, there again, a quick shot of the screen and someone has it on their device to do with it what they will. Advice on Kik Messenger? Goodbye! Not a great choice for the younger generation.
The bottom line where popular apps and your children are concerned is safety, maturity, and responsibility. It is always the sole discretion of the parent or guardian of a young person to make these choices, but we feel strongly that these applications should not be used for persons under the age of eighteen.
If you make the decision to allow your youngster to use one or more of these apps, please, please speak with them about the dire importance of keeping their location private. Detail to them cause and effects of sending personal pictures and revealing private information.