Fort Worth, Texas,
14
April
2016
|
04:37 PM
America/Chicago

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 (875)
Thank you for your message. It will be posted after approval.
flef
21
November
2017
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.
15
October
2017
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
13
September
2017
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
21
August
2017
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..
Dae
20
August
2017
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
16
June
2017
Nice post.
Ife
26
April
2017
Thank u

An 'irresponsible' teenager
22
April
2017
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.
Crystal
19
April
2017
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.
Lydia
11
January
2017
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
22
December
2016
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.
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.