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This Warning about Dangerous Apps for Kids is Going Viral

The Short of It

A Facebook post from a Texas police department that warns parents about the dangers of popular apps for kids has gone viral.

The Lowdown

The Fulshear Police Department in Houston may not have realized how much of an impact its cautionary post about applications like Tinder and Snapchat would have, but since Feb. 4, it has been shared close to 5,500 times.

The warning begins, "This mornings post is rather long but extremely important, especially if you have children who are using cell phones. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and take a few minutes to read this post.[sic]"

It goes on to urge parents to inspect their child's phone often and discuss the possible dangers of certain apps. For example:

Tinder
  • What it is: An app that is used for dating. Users can find potential "dates" via GPS location tracking. This app pulls information from user's Facebook profiles.
  • Possible issue: It is easy for adults and minors to find one another. Also, due to the rating system, it is often used for cyberbullying because the app allows for ratings, which in turn, a group of kids could potentially rate another child.
Snapchat
  • What it is: This app allows a user to send photos and videos to anyone on his/her friend list. The sender can determine how long the receiver can view the image and then the image "destructs" or disappears after the allotted time.
  • Possible issue: It is the number one app used for "sexting," mostly because people think it is the safer way to "sext." However, the "snaps" can easily be recovered, and the receiver can take a screen shot and share it with others. Also, a lot of images from Snapchat get posted to revenge porn sites.
Yik Yak
  • What it is: An app that allows users to post text-only "Yaks" of up to 200 characters. The messages can be viewed by the 500 Yakkers who are closest to the person who wrote the Yak, as determined by GPS tracking.
  • Possible issue: Users are exposed to and are contributing sexually explicit content, derogatory language and personal attacks. Although the posts are anonymous, kids start revealing personal information as they get more comfortable with other users.
Down
  • What it is: This app, which used to be called Bang With Friends, is connected to Facebook. Users can categorize their Facebook friends in one of two ways: They can indicate whether or not a friend is someone they'd like to hang with or someone they are "down" to hook-up with.
  • Possible issue: Although identifying someone you are willing to hook-up with doesn't mean you will actually hook-up with them, it creates a hook-up norm within a peer group. Depending on your sexual values, this might be something you don't want for your child. Also, because of the classification system, a lot of kids will feel left out or unwanted, which can lead to anxiety or depression.
Vine
  • What it is: This app allows users to watch and post 6-second videos and share with friends.
  • Possible issue: While many of the videos are harmless, porn videos do pop up into the feed, exposing your children to sexually explicit material. You can also search for access to porn videos on this app. Predators can utilize this app to search for teens and find their location. Once found, try to connect with them via other messaging apps.

Other apps mentioned in the post are Blendr, KIK Messenger, ASKFM, Poof, Omegle, Periscope and Whisper. Here's the post in its entirety to learn more about the possible issues:

 
 

The Upshot

The Facebook post goes on to remind parents that new applications are developed daily. Staying informed about what your child or teen is using will help you counteract the possible negative impacts. Sites that can help parents stay informed are For Every Mom, Crosswalk and Educate Empower Kids.

"Parenting can be difficult already, this can make it more difficult," the post concludes.

Thank you to the Fulshear Police Department for posting this warning, which is chock full of good information. There's no doubt parenting in the age of apps is scarier than ever and we parents can use all the help we can get!

Were you aware of the dangers of these apps?

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