Fort Worth, Texas,
14
April
2016

7 dangerous Apps that parents need to know

Information Security Officer lists some of the scariest technology for your kids

By: Jody S. Hawkins, Information Security Officer

Over the past several years, I have been actively speaking to parents, children, tweens, teens, and young adults regarding the dangers of the Internet and social media. I discovered rather quickly that I could not prepare a single set of presentations to use over and over again. Rather, I need to conduct new and fresh research for every single presentation I do, regardless of how much time has passed from one to the next.

Why? Because that is how fast things change in the world of technology and online interactions.

I am not going to go on a long rant about immorality or express my true feelings about the class of a person it takes to create certain apps for monetary gain, all the while knowing full well that children can and will fall victim while using those apps; instead, I am going to stick with the matter at hand.

Parents, you need to be aware that truly dangerous apps exist and are readily available to your children. And, if you are reading this as a young person or young adult who thinks I am being condescending, tough. In order to write an article such as this that is intended to reach the parents of potential victims, I have to be general in my assumptions and sweeping in my aim. I would rather offend you than not get the message out to someone that could prevent a devastating, life altering event for a child.

In my presentations to parents, I list a handful of apps; however, you have to understand that there are literally millions of apps available and, even those apps where the intended purpose by the app’s creator may be innocent, can be used dangerously. The reverse is also applicable; however, with the apps I am about to showcase, it is unlikely that they would be used in a benign way. With that, let’s talk about them:

1. SeekingArrangement.com - Brandon Wade is the founder of this site and supporting apps are available on GooglePlay for Android devices as well as iTunes for all iOS devices. SeekingArrangement identifies itself as a “sugar daddy dating app”. While discussing SeekingArrangement, it is also important to note that Brandon Wade also created an app called CarrotDating. CarrotDating (no longer available at the time this article was written) was an app that was borderline prostitution in the same way backpage.com ads are also “borderline” prostitution. The “borderline” is fairly evident. Although CarrotDating has been nixed, the philosophy behind the trend is still evident… bribes for dates. Of course, “dates” can be defined in ways other than going out to dinner and a movie.

2. Yik Yak – This App is one of the most dangerous. It allows users to post text-only “Yaks,” or messages, of up to 200 characters. The messages have no filter and can be viewed by the 500 Yakkers who are closest to the person who wrote the Yak, as determined by GPS tracking. Users are exposed to – and contributing to – sexually explicit content, abusive language, and personal attacks so severe that schools 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. This app is a rumor machine and a perfect channel for the kinds of bullies who hide behind a screen, hurting other people behind a shield of anonymity.

3. Ask.fm – This app allows users to ask a specific person anonymous questions. Users can answer these questions and posts them to their personal page, truly leaving nothing to the imagination. This is especially dangerous because it allows any user to target a specific person anonymously. Bullies, predators, and more can send anonymous messages to a specific person, asking them inappropriate things or even simply making hurtful statements.

4. Kik Messenger – This is a private messenger app and is coveted by those under 18 for a number of reasons. The App allows kids to send private messages that their parents can’t see. This app also allows users to identify themselves by a made up username, posing the dangers of anonymity. To make matters even scarier, third party websites allow users to search for people based on things like age and gender. There is 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. Just last month, a 13 year old girl was murdered by a man she presumably met on Kik Messenger. 

5. Omegle – This App has been around since 2008, with video chat added in 2009. When you use Omegle you do not identify yourself through the service – chat participants are only identified as “You” and “Stranger;” the app’s slogan is “Talk to Strangers!” 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. When choosing this feature, an Omegle Facebook App will receive your Facebook “likes” and try to match you with a stranger with similar likes. This is not okay for children. This app is the perfect channel for sexual predators. Experts say these predators blackmail young children, by starting inappropriate conversations with them, then threatening to send the messages, photos, or videos to their parents if they tell anybody, therefore trapping the child in a disgusting, dangerous situation. 

6. Whisper – This is a meeting App that encourages users to post secrets. You post anonymously, but it displays the area you are posting from. You can search for users posting within a mile from you. You are also able to communicate with users who post secrets. A quick look at the App and you can see that online relationships are forming constantly on this App, but you never know the person behind the computer or phone. One man in Washington was convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl he met on this App just last year. 

7. After School – This app is a message board that students can join by scanning their school I.D. or Facebook profile. While the scanning feature provides some security from outside users, once in the app, the user is anonymous. However, this app effortlessly creates drama and conflict among users because they all attend the same school. Students are able to freely post about anything. This year, a single school had problems with posts that included topless photos, alarmingly vulgar posts from males talking about fellow female students, and more. There is even a section where students can scan their driver’s license and enter a discussion only for students ages 17 and up, openly creating an environment for the discussion of more explicit material.

As with my presentations, articles such as this are a moving target as things get more troublesome by the minute. The biggest problem is that these apps make money. Because of this, more apps get developed that push the envelope of morality and safety. Look, if the developers could ensure the apps would only be used between consenting adults, I wouldn’t have a problem with all of this; however, the only way to ensure that to any reasonable level is to pretty much kill the app’s revenue streams. Because of this, we must remain diligent and be ever on the lookout for the next worst thing that could fall into the hands of our children. These apps make criminals out of cowards.

Please note: You can turn location services, or GPS, off on cell phones by going in to the device settings. This will keep the Apps and photos from posting the exact location or whereabouts of the phone user.

About the author

Jody S. Hawkins, Information Systems Security Officer, has been in technology for medical facilities since early 2000 and has been practicing for more than 20 years with his start in the United States Air Force. He is a part of Cook Children's Experts on Call Speakers Bureau. Hawkins specializes in privacy and technology safety and is a regular speaker at the National HIT/HIPAA Conference. He has been quoted and published in several national publications, including Health Information Management Magazine.

Hawkins' can speak on a variety of security topics facing our children & parents today, including:

  • Social media
  • Cyber bullying
  • Sexting
  • Safety online (Parents & Child)
  • General home networking security
  • Virtual Child (Parents)
  • Internet Safety (Parents & Child)
Comments 1 - 20 (864)
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f12
02
October
2016
Very valuable article ! Thank you . I need to mention (for some comments below ) that Parents must pay attention to what their children do, in order to protect them. And it doesn't make them bad parents or exagerating and parano ones. The world changed a lot ( and still changing ), the society value became confused so it's obvious that it's the parents duty to check what their child do, what he likes, and observe when ther is something wrong with his behaviors.
YXNtb2RldXM=
27
July
2016
This article is extremely biased and really just expresses the juvenoia that some people have, the dangers of these apps is smaller than literally walking around the block. I believe the rest of the comment section has expressed already how wrong the article is however i feel like it's important to add my 2 cents here. Just like somehow one of these apps might bring any danger, they're isolated cases and the software is in the GREAT majority of cases (read: all except one or two cases) just a harmless source of social interaction or entertainment and no one should be kept from using them. Thank you for reading.
A non-biased (near) teen
11
July
2016
I am a 12 year old boy. I use my computer for the thing that I enjoy most: researching about arthropods and other invertebrates (yeah, I'm weird). I have NEVER gone on Facebook, and only on Instagram to look at the pictures (I have no account). I also use Twitter (and, likewise, have no account) for monitoring updates to my favourite video game, Minecraft, which my Mum downloaded on her phone as a present. But I am unusual and most teens would use their computer for more devious purposes... Just remember, Parents, I love my privacy and would be distraught to think that my parents were "monitoring" me. I understand that kids can be irresponsible and quite stupid sometimes, but if they are then it's down to your, yes YOUR, bad parenting (or perhaps their lack of brain!). And to those of you who think it's a good idea to confiscate your teen's device, whenever my parents have confiscated anything, I feel a great sense of shame which quickly changes to anger at their lack of trust. So you're really making them hate you more. But teens, don't assume that your parents hate you for taking your device, they are just trying to help you.
African
04
July
2016
I'm a bit old and I'm in Africa. Frankly I'm surprised parents check their kids phone with all the human rights and freedoms you have. The fact is children decide what to do when to do it and how to do it if they aren't in front of you. It your children stand before you it's not the for you to command them like their drill sergeant or something... Cos if they leave you they won't do a thing you just said in commands. Be nice to your kids talk to them like grown ups who can make their decisions and trust them to. If you keep your children from all the apps in the world in your mind you did something but you did nothing. Cos they will end up doing what they should have done when we're there when you're not. My mum always tell me make your own decisions and I never said " if I should have known better " I only accept the replications of my decisions and I learn from them... If my mum was making all the decisions for me I wouldn't know better now to make the right ones... Imagine your parents making all the decisions in the house and your 14 years old boy doesn't have a say... He'll go out maybe school or library or somewhere and meet a friend who make his own decisions.. And you'll realize you did nothing but scared your kids away from you...
Anon
04
June
2016
I saw Quotev's name up there and I highly disagree. Parents don't understand the bonds and friendships kids can create. There's a 13 year old age limit for a reason. I've met some of my best friends there and wouldn't change it for the world, so before parents start judging it all, they should get on there themselves
Person
22
May
2016
Personally, I think this is a pretty helpful thing! I'm a teen myself, and I keep away from all these apps. But I also disagree with a few- like Kik. It might seem bad, but that's how most people text their friends. And I think it's pretty sad that at least five 16 year old people can't even use grammar and write their sentences correctly, because I'm pretty sure I can and I'm younger than them.
Another perspective
17
May
2016
In case anyone still looks at this site. I would like to put a perspective of a 15 year old boy who understands these views. I understand that some apps are not safe for purposes such as sexual content and potential child predators. I would like to say that in one case I read above I saw that an eight year old girl received a phone. Being a person who I got my first phone when I went to highschool I see that the problem is not completely the fault of the parents. Other than the fact that they have their child a phone for any purpose. Nowadays I spend a significant amount of time on my phone. But I believe early exposure to technology like a device that can be used to do nearly endless things on the internet cannot be good for a young child. I feel part of the last generation that spent time outside. Besides that I think that a child who is not properly educated or mature enough to understand what is right to do and what isn't on any social or public communication platforms. No I have not had an experience like these but I know how to properly conduct myself on the internet. This is all acquired through yes a low level of maturity. My parents do restrict my phone to not operate with cellular data or wifi at set times as well as blocked up certain sites but I know that I will not be communicating with a stranger let alone taking inappropriate pictures of myself for them. This does come with maturity. My advice as a fifteen year old is to wait to expose your children to technology specifically the internet. I hope this helps.
Exhausted parent
05
May
2016
I recently had a chat with my 14 year old daughter about the dangers of social media. Had her promise me to not create accounts until she was older and could understand the nature of humanity a little more. So much can be absorbed by kids who have no idea how to process such information. She had deleted all accounts she had created prior to our talk and and apologized to me with what seemed to be pure sincerity. Only a day later, she recreated all new ones. This really broke my heart and our trust bond. This behavior is very reminiscent to a drug addict. Her response to why she did it was... "i dunno..." ... I finally made the decision to deprive her of her tablet which was a gift, and looked through her chat logs and photos. What I found made my heart sink deep into the abyss of my stomach. She was chatting with strangers, exchanging pics. She stored pics and some were VERY inappropriate. I'm talking pics of men's erections through underwear. One stranger, told her he was beating off his 'd'. She was having these random discussions with people she didn't even know.... I mean... wtf. This is my 14 year old kid. First thing that hit me was... THIS IS MY FAULT. Why the hell did I think it would be ok to give her a tablet to connect to the world wide web with???????? At the time when we gave her this tablet as a christmas gift, I was thinking, "she can watch movies and play fun game apps. Well make sure to put a lock on it to keep her from drifting into the dark side of the web". NOPE. Never did it cross my mind that she would not only find out the parental password to lock her tablet, but completely override any setting we applied to prevent her from being able to download any other apps besides the ones we approved. But she did. She found a way and it was more important to her to break the trust between us permanently, in order to chat with these people whom she has no idea whether or not, they're actually people her age. The apps she used was KIK and at some point, even Instagram. ....I also found an app she installed called the Kardashians.... Talk about twisting the rusty knife. The internet is very heavy. I've seen all there is to it, right down into the deep web where even just a glimpse would show you just how really bad people can be. I love my daughter with all my heart. But as a parent, I've every right to give her only a limited amount of privacy within reason, and protect her from malicious traps, where I can find them. Once she's of legal age, she can do whatever she wants. We can only hope, she makes the right choices and be a great human being and not some low life idiot, who spends 99% taking stupid duck lip photos for some sort of approval from people that don't even exist. Trust is built and reinforced over time. Its not something that just appears in a blink of an eye when it's convenient.
Once a teen
05
April
2016
When my twin sister and I were 13 years old, we spoke to some guys in a chatroom called cybervale (now obsolette) and arranged to meet them (without our parents knowing). We meet the strangers at the mall and even went in their vehicle for a drive. They drove us around and we chatted and then dropped us back at the mall. Now when we look back, that was very dumb for us to do and we could of ended up raped or even killed. To date, our parents don't know half the things we use to do. Parents, please I urge you to protect your children and monitor them. When they are adults they can get the freedom they want. Your money pay for the phones, tablets and computers, you have a right to monitor them. Be parents, guide, teach, monitor and love them.
A Devastated Mother
03
April
2016
You need to add the app, "Tango" to your list. It may seem harmless at first. My 8 year old daughter was given my old phone. We just have it for her to use at home with our wifi to play games and facetime with her Nana as they read books together and facetime her cousins. She and her Dad downloaded Tango so they could call each other while he was at work because he has an android phone and she has an iPhone. I check her phone everyday. Last night while I was in the shower something HORRIBLE and non-reversible happened. I came downstairs and she looked like she was doing something wrong. I asked her to give me her phone. I opened her Tango and there were people on there I didn't know. She said, "Mommy, people send me messages and I don't know who they are." Then I opened one of them. I was horrified to see what I saw. There were the most disgusting pornagraphic pictures sent to her by a 31 yr old man. Then when I scrolled up farther, they had been chatting for about 45 minutes. He had asked her to send him a picture of her without her clothes, AND SHE DID!!!!! she also sent him a video of her in just her panties. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. My little sweet baby who we shelter from prime time tv was doing this!!! I started whaling!!! I couldn't breathe!!! Then the phone started to ring.. he was calling her to have a video chat!!!! She said he had been trying to call her and she never answered. I answered and he was on video doing horrible things and making horrible noises, I yelled at him and told him did he know he was talking to an 8 year old little girl, and I was going to have him arrested, and that I hope he burned in hell. I also sent him a text message basically saying the same thing. I called my husband who was at work, and he came home, and had some friends from our Church come over to sit with me until he could get there. I also called the Sheriff's Dept and they came over and looked at the phone, and talked with my daughter for a pretty long while. She was so upset and scared, and confused. She kept saying, "I hate myself, I'm a bad person, I should be punished!" The guy even texted 2 hours later when my husband was holding the phone and asked, "are you alone now?" We couldn't believe it!! My husband was trying to bait him acting like my daughter and trying to get his phone number.. He said he lived in Syria!! I say all of that because we are a very strong Christian family. We attend Church 3 times a week. We study the Bible with our child regularly, and pray with her every night before she goes to bed. I have had many talks with her about this very thing. We even watched a Dr. Phil show on this very subject and we had a long talk about it. AND IT STILL HAPPENED in the little short time I just went to take a shower. Now her life and our lives are changed forever!!! I don't think I would feel any different if she had been raped. My baby's innocence has been taken. All of these teens comments just anger me! My sweet little girl was violated on an app that seemed like a harmless app that you can call your friends and family and play games. Parents, I beg you, PLEASE monitor these apps, even if they look harmless!!!
Some Parents have no chill
21
March
2016
Parents who look at their kids phones need help
Imelda
04
February
2016
Interesting to read.
Natalia
19
January
2016
As a 16 year old, my opinion may not be as valid as anybody older than me, but in any case, I think parents should give their teenagers a significant degree of privacy. Suffocating your child only makes them resent you more, especially in the teenage years, where your child is developing their own views and opinions on the world around them. You have to trust them to tell you if they came across something negative, or something that could have negative implications. My parents recently grew very overprotective, and confiscated my phone multiple times because I had downloaded apps, such as Kik, that they hadn't recognized. I can't trust them anymore, and I rarely approach them with anything, be it negative or positive, because I'm scared of what they might say. Sure, protect your kids from the horrors of the Internet. But do so while giving them the full scope of your trust. Tell them why whatever they're doing is wrong, or could be potentially problematic. But if you assume that your child will obey whatever you say without questioning your motives, you're forgetting that they're still human. They have the right to know. Don't suffocate your children.
arabella
05
October
2015
okay wow lisTEn,, i think parents should trust their kids more because most of us learn from mistakes and if your child doesn't then your kid isn't responsible snd should be watched over but some parents go to the extreme. my dad downloaded this thing that allows him to track whatever i do and my parents check all my devices each month for two years so far and found nothing bad because even if i am 14 i still am responsible and i do not give my personal information to strangers. i however agree that kik is not a good app as sometimes strangers or "sex bots" text you on it and if your child is responsible he/she would delete the chat as i do. i understand that it might not be appropriate and you don't want your child to see anything bad but you have to know that they grow up and they know all these words if they're around my age. snapchat isn't a bad app because you can see whoever adds you and if you don't want them looking at whatever you post then you can easily block them. it is a huge invasion of privacy to see your parents looking through everything i mean you could just ask and not spy on them. everyone deserves privacy! you should talk to your teens by all means and inform them of the danger of private information and responsible ways to act, but then let them live their lives!! my friend i knew him but he moved but i still kept contact with him and we still talked because his parents let him use his phone and did not spy and he died very soon after a few months but he still lived his life!! he went to concerts and hung out with friends and still got straight a's and his parents trusted him and he is very lucky to have parents who let him live his life. i think all teenagers should be treated fairly and have privacy because it means a lot. sometimes people find internet friends online and that may not be good but keep in mind that they could be talking to another teenager and not an old man because what old man these days know how to speak like a teen and not a "lame nerd" and most of them might not even have the same interest so how would they even talk to your kid anyways. the cases about the kids who has had an incident with older men who pretend to be pre-teens are because of things like kik but with snapchat you can make sure the people you talk to are real because no older men would post pictures of themselves coming off as a teenager would they? it really depends on your kids maturity.
arabella
05
October
2015
okay wow lisTEn,, i think parents should trust their kids more because most of us learn from mistakes and if your child doesn't then your kid isn't responsible snd should be watched over but some parents go to the extreme. my dad downloaded this thing that allows him to track whatever i do and my parents check all my devices each month for two years so far and found nothing bad because even if i am 14 i still am responsible and i do not give my personal information to strangers. i however agree that kik is not a good app as sometimes strangers or "sex bots" text you on it and if your child is responsible he/she would delete the chat as i do. i understand that it might not be appropriate and you don't want your child to see anything bad but you have to know that they grow up and they know all these words if they're around my age. snapchat isn't a bad app because you can see whoever adds you and if you don't want them looking at whatever you post then you can easily block them. it is a huge invasion of privacy to see your parents looking through everything i mean you could just ask and not spy on them. everyone deserves privacy! you should talk to your teens by all means and inform them of the danger of private information and responsible ways to act, but then let them live their lives!! my friend i knew him but he moved but i still kept contact with him and we still talked because his parents let him use his phone and did not spy and he died very soon after a few months but he still lived his life!! he went to concerts and hung out with friends and still got straight a's and his parents trusted him and he is very lucky to have parents who let him live his life. i think all teenagers should be treated fairly and have privacy because it means a lot. sometimes people find internet friends online and that may not be good but keep in mind that they could be talking to another teenager and not an old man because what old man these days know how to speak like a teen and not a "lame nerd" and most of them might not even have the same interest so how would they even talk to your kid anyways. the cases about the kids who has had an incident with older men who pretend to be pre-teens are because of things like kik but with snapchat you can make sure the people you talk to are real because no older men would post pictures of themselves coming off as a teenager would they? it really depends on your kids maturity.
Kittibi
02
October
2015
Wow, this article is amazing in such an idiotic way. Do you really think that it's the child's fault that they didn't know any better about the situation? Maybe the reason they spilled out some information they were not supposed to is because their parents didn't inform them about the dangers of being on the Internet. And if you don't want your kid to download these sort of apps, why don't you, I don't know, put a password on the Appstore so they can't download apps without your permission?? Seriously, it's the parents' fault that they can't keep up with what their kid downloads, and they shouldn't be mad just because they weren't smart enough to actually learn about the app and what it's capable of, along with the potential dangers that it could pose. Kids don't just develop having the best judgement of any sort of situation online right away, they need to be told that there are some dangers to apps and that they should be aware of what's the right thing to do and what isn't. So parents that agree with this article, you need to do some actual research instead of relying on this article that's filled with painfully obvious opinions and "facts" that aren't true in any way, shape or form.(Also not EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE INTERNET WORLD EXCEPT FOR YOUR CHILD IS A PREDATOR lmao)
Kaitlin
28
July
2015
im 13 and i would like to ask is instagram a dangerous app to have?
jeesia
21
July
2015
(I am a 13 year old ) I honestly think that these apps are only dangerous if you use them irresponsibly. For instance, Snapchat. I only add people that I know. I won't just add random people that I don't know. Same with kik, when I didn't have a phone and I had an Ipad, I couldn't text with Whatsapp so I had to use Kik. I didn't have anything else to text my friends with. I only added my friends and even when it's a random person, i wouldn't chat with them unless I knew who it was. Although, i do think the poof app is not a very good idea to make an app like that from the beginning. It is useless, sneaky, and very imature. A while back, my mom didn't allow me to download Kik for those reasons (sexting, talking to people I don't know, etc.) and I didn't even think of being sneaky and downloading the poof app then download Kik. And for the parents, I wouldn't like it if they checked my phone. And thank goodness my parents don't. I know they are just looking out for me but if they asked I wouldn't mind I mean, I don't have anything to hide. So I think if you just ask, it would be better, because if they refuse, that would mean that they do have something to hide and you still shouldn't check their phone behind their back. I think that every app is dangerous if you use it irresponsibly.
Mom.
28
June
2015
Quotev, is NOT just a "share your story and read stories from other people" it has an interactive chat and more. It's NOT for "just children". If your child 16 and below has this; block the WEBSITE, yes this is not an app, it's a Website. My child of 11 was recommend by her teacher to post her poems, soon she discovered the ćhat rooms and individual chats one can have, at one point she was conversing with men in their 20's. I blocked it.
Kcaj
15
May
2015
Ok I am a child I am mature just so everyone knows I don't think most of the apps here would be good for kids like the poof app it encourages children to get bold apps and hide them from their parents these apps sound bad yes it is ok for parents to look at children's devices once in a while us children do like our privacy though if you do find something I think it's best not to be assuming and to ask your. Child but if your unsure about an app search it up first most children will want to try and kind of trick you they will tell you the bare bones of the app and defiantly not s bit they think u would disapprove of.i am ten by this column you can probably tell I'm mature
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