Fort Worth, Texas,
04:37 PM

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. - 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 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. – 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 (880)
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Rosa L Clark
You should be glad you have a parent that monitor what you watch on your phone. After all she knows what is best for you. You will thank her when you get children of your own. I wish we had more mparents like her. Most time when parents monitor what their children watch, it is out of love and protection. You can watch things that you think is fun at an early age and get in serious trouble. So love your Mom and you will thank her In your later years.
My mom is super over protected and has an app that monitors what I do 24/7 and that's over protected. That will make me not know what to do in the real world. And when she think I'm watching something I'm not supposed to be watching she takes my phone away from me and looks through it. I hate it! It making me kind of "Hate" her. What should I do???
Another cringe-making app that I've discovered is:
"Friends search tool"
(and there are many others which are similar).
Be careful, it generates hundreds or thousands of contacts in somebody's Whatsapp, one of them could be yours. Once that person has your number, they say "Hi" to you and see if you answer back.
I think that providing personal data without your consent should be illegal.
Some Dad.
Well, I see all you parents are still making the same mistakes. Giving your kids cell phones laptops, and of course money. Do they earn it by doing house chores. I'd say not. Make them earn there cell phone. Or there laptop. Stop spoiling your kids. Let's think back. How many of the kids who have hurt other kids, in schools came from a honest working family. All of them. Did they earn there stuff nope. They was given there stuff. Back in 1970 I had to work to get my first car. I had to earn it. I was told nothing is free. If you want it work for it. So in today's world you people say your good parents. REALLY? Then why is kids getting better cars than there parents, because your kids are smarter then you.
These apps aren't entirely dangerous ... It only depends on the people using it ... That 13 year old who was killed obviously didn't know anything about the cruelty of this world ... Being an older sister and not always having my parents at home made it my responsibility to look after my smaller sister ... I have guided her in the right ways and have been a shoulder for her to lean on so she never had the reason to want to meet up with complete strangers ...Us decent humans shouldn't bring "useful" apps down due to the mistakes of others ... I may not be right or justified in my statement but I strongly believe that everybody has a choice, we just need to make a very wise one ... Parents who give their children that freedom to do as they please will NEVER be disappointed ... Those who hold back their kids tend to (most times) regret it, once their children leave the house they "loose their minds" and do things their parents have never dreamed of ... In conclusion I just want to say that it isn't the apps fault, those people who created it only did it to make money ... I'm sure they meant no harm.
Kik messenger isn't that bad to be honest. It depends on who you use it to chat with. You can add people you already know and talk to bots which probably won't do anything as they are quite dumb.
Darla M.
I wanted to thank all the teenagers that responded to this post and all the wonderful answers.
I have 3 kids. 22, 16 and 12. The first 2 are boys,with the youngest being a girl.
I have always felt that I do my best to trust them unless they give me reason not to trust. Otherwise they WILL shut me out. Just like many of the teenagers here have said.
I know we are the parents. And yes, my kids have strict rules, especially when it their safety depends upon it.
But I also feel there is a fine line that needs to be drawn. I have always done the best to raise them with the knowledge and instill skills with how to handle themselves in various situations. And to know they can always just ask if they need help or advice.
But at some point you need to trust that you have raised them well and hope they can handle themselves in situations appropriate for their age.
As much as I would LOVE to peruse through their emails and messages to make sure they are not doing anything they shouldn’t be....I need to give them that trust. Trust that they have earned, and deserve..and I know will make me proud.
So far I have not been disappointed. :)
Thank you to all who have made me feel good about my choice. Best of luck to all.
A teen who knows what she is saying
I am 15 years old and I honestly believe that you're right children should not be on these apps, but one question, why does you're child have a cell phone in the first place? I got my first ever phone when I was 13 and to be honest I'm kinda glad I did. When I got a phone it was a lot of responsibility. Responsibility that I really don't think an 8 year old has. I had to earn my parents trust and that is an important part of having a phone, and when I go to pick up my little sibling from elementary school I see these 6 year olds with a nicer phone than I have and also truth is I wouldn't trust myself with an iPhone 7 yet a kid 9 years younger than me has the brand new I phone. Ummm something is wrong here. Also the number one thing on most kids mind now is electronics. Im not saying these apps are good but really if any are used in the wrong way any app is not good for children.
Mom of 4
I just found my 11 year old daughter using the app quetiv for sexting with a 17 (or so he says) yr old boy. My 11 yr old! I watch her tablet and pc but never heard of the quetiv app..
While I acknowledge that these apps can be REALLY dangerous, keep in mind that you shouldn't exaggerate. Yes, there are several threats on the internet. Your children deserve some privacy tho. Tbh, I think the best method to prevent this kind of situations is to discuss the topic, honestly and with an open mind, with your kids. You wouldn't want to ruin your relationship with them by being overprotective and generating an environment of distrust, would you? I presume you wouldn't. You NEED to prepare your children to move around on the web and that's how you're gonna keep them secure. Don't check their communications, don't spy on them, don't hack their computers. Because that's just offensive, uncivil and... it's just wrong!! Would you like someone to do that to YOU? No! Just believe that they are mature enough to know better, to LEARN from you, because that's YOUR job. There are no shortcuts. If you can't do your obligations, if you can't raise responsible and educated children, you shouldn't be a parent.
Tech blog
Nice post.
Thank u

An 'irresponsible' teenager
I feel bad for the kids of you helecopter moms. My mom is close to being like that but at least gives me some privacy and I have some serious things to point out. Sheltering your kid from the outside world can cause major problems as they grow up, I'm an example of that. I had nearly no freedom as a young kid and as a result I have no idea how to react to social situations, nearly no friends, and can't interpret body launguge the right way. The internet is the only place I feel comfortable and where I found great and true friends who understand my social problem. Second, ANY app can be bad if used wrong. Sit you kid down and talk to them about it at an EARLY age so it'll be carved into their brains and they'll know what not to do. Plus, all the thing you all are worrying about tend to a part of life in this world, you just have to accept that. I have a little sis who I go crazy looking after so I know a bit how you feel, but at least I still give her the basic freedoms all people have. Third, you check your kid's phone or invade their privacy, most will instinctively set up a block against you and get more secretive. The more you say no, the more they'll sneak around and say yes. Kids learn by trial and error for the most part. The way I see it, it's kinda like anything else in life. They try something out, learn about it, and based on things they learn PREVIOUS to that they'll make a decision if it's good or bad. So talk to them about it and they'll make the good decision in that situation. Finally, I saw Quotev up there and I have something to saw about it. I've used Quotev and made great friends on there, they're better than my friends in real life. Quotev rarely has anybody over 20 for the most part and is watched over by and any accounts that may not by ok can be reported or blocked. Most people on there are actually suffering from some problems in real life and the internet is their only escape, especally Quotev, where many with the same issues are able to help them.
My Mom is suffocating me because she thinks go on ANY social media sites is bad and can lead to getting killed, raped, kidnapped ect. But she has Facebook. She always says that she never posts pics of the family or her kids because that's unsafe and someone can find out who they are and where they are! This is not true! I HAD a phone but she took It away because she THOUGHT that I was doing something wrong, but she never had proof because I never did! what she would say was " you looked like you were doing something you weren't supposed to be doing!" She wouldn't even let me text she would say " They can call the house phone!" If she comes in to a room she asks me what are you doing or she hovers over my shoulder when Im watching tv and if a part in the show looks weird she asks in a suspicious tone "what are you watching" and I tell then she asks "what's it rated" She made me stop watching a pg14 show because she saw an "inappropriate" part Even though I'm 16! So PLEASE if you are a parent and reading this DONT do what my mom is doing it just makes your child in a sense "Hate" you.
Why are these apps even aloud to be used by our children in today's society this world of distress and abuse of our children. This app queotv is another app that is hidden from parents.
I believe that monitoring our kids phones and tablets laptops is a necessary thing. We need more involve parent kid intervention. Making them feel loved and wanted by family and parents living each other. Working outdoors family time camping the old way tents...... JUST being involved is what I have known works for my kids. Being in there bubble and asking questions.
Social media has exploded for the wrong reasons.
Concerned parent
Michael Nunley
Keep up the good work. Overexposure to tech dampens common sense and attention to the real world. Skill is learned by doing, not web surfing. I see the world going downhill day by day and no one even notices let alone be concerned by it. A persons culture is disposed to be unique, the internet has destroyed that and made us all grey figures with no identity. Thank you for caring and doing something about it. These people must be exposed for what they are. Sadly, I don't think enough people care, too busy online.
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.
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
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.
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...