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Could these be the worst apps for kids?

An expert looks at the pros and cons of Periscope and other apps parents need to know about

Social media has made it easier for us to stay connected with others. At the touch of our fingertips we can instantly communicate with people all over the globe. But do children consider the consequences of sharing information online?

We all know about Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. All three are great resources to stay updated with people and news. But even those old favorites come with concerns if your child posts something inappropriate that can be damaging to their reputation and may have forever consequences.

But what about the latest apps?

Jody Hawkins, Information Security Officer at Cook Children’s, gives his thoughts on the benefits and dangers of today’s social media, depending on the way it’s used. Below is a list of social media platforms and apps with brief explanations of what to look out for as a parent. We begin with looking at the latest app that could pose danger to your kids – Periscope.

Periscope – Hawkins calls this “possibly the next worst app for Kids.” Periscope is a new iPhone app that allows users to share real time videos on Twitter. Currently it is only available on iPhone; but Hawkins expects that to change soon. The problems are quickly rising for parents and kids.

Twitter has pushed Periscope into production to get ahead of the competition in hot pursuit. A lot of work has been done in regards to privacy, safety and keeping offensive language off the comments. By default, Periscope uses your GPS location and allows any users on Twitter to know your location while shooting video.

“Think about that, parents. Your child posts a video and every creeper in the world can suddenly see where he or she lives,” Hawkins said. “When Periscope first launched, the locator would allow others to ‘zoom in’ on the location and see an actual intersection. That feature has since been disabled; however, the location given is still in the neighborhood of where the user is located.”

Pros: Twitter is a fun and interesting app when used appropriately. The live-streaming app makes it easy for users to track broadcasts from friends, as well as streams of people from around the world. Users can watch live and recorded broadcasts and make a friend’s list and look at a global tab. You can block spam and it’s easier now to block any annoying comments.

Cons: Currently, Periscope allows anybody to say anything which could include cyber-bullying and inappropriate comments. Online, anonymity encourages juvenile behavior and brings out the worst in some people. Even if a child turns off the GPS location device, a predator familiar with the area where the child is walking will know how to locate him or her.

Hawkins says: “Through trial and error, I am sure Periscope will improve in regards to monitoring posts and better protecting user’s privacy. However, even with improvement, this app is not for kids. For now, it is what it is – another concern for parents.”

Social media apps are geared toward young adults and adults. The app creators and companies like Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc. are catering to the broadest audience possible. Too many limitations on apps like Periscope and they lose their adult users. That means it’s up to parents to monitor their children’s usage of such apps. The permanence of things posted to the Internet can be a danger for anyone; however, it is especially dangerous when in the hands of a child who hasn’t developed a more mature sense of reasoning.

As if you didn’t have enough to worry about as a parent these days, here are eight apps to be aware of that your kids may be using:

1. Hot or Not – This app allows you to upload pictures of yourself while other people in your area vote on whether you are “hot” or not. You can vote on others in your area as well.

Pros: There are no benefits for children to use this app.

Cons: If someone scores badly, this can damage a teenager’s self-esteem. Chat is available and connections can be made with strangers.

Hawkins says: He describes this app as a “game of sorts” for kids, but it can be a risky one. In an attempt to receive a higher score, users often resort to posting risqué pictures.

2. Badoo – This social/dating app promotes the idea of meeting new people, sharing interests and even dating. It’s a way to make connections with people who share similar characteristics and you can search for people nearby. Users have to pay monthly.

Pros: If you are an adult, it’s an outlet to socialize with others who share the same interests as you.

Cons: It allows you to find people nearby to chat with and leads to meeting strangers. Badoo uses GPS technology, making it easy for predators to find your child.

Hawkins says: He would not recommend this app for the under 18 aged crowd due to the risks.

3. Palringo & 4. Tango – Both of these social messaging apps allow users to meet people from all over the globe. Palringo is a group chat app that lets you create social groups based on mutual interests and allows you to send messages to the entire group or chat one-on-one. Discussions can range from topics about sports to adult content. Tango lets you talk, text, call and video chat with friends or strangers all over the world for free.

Pros: People can find like-minded friends from all over the world. Think an international, accessible pen pal.

  • Palringo can lead to discussing about inappropriate topics and predators may use these apps to meet children

Hawkins says: Both apps are good for meeting people you would never otherwise meet and finding people who can talk about your interest. Younger children shouldn’t be involved and even teens who participate should only do so in groups appropriate for their age group and with careful adult supervision.

5. Tinder – This dating app allows users to connect with new and interesting people around you. This app lets people see images of other users— you swipe right to like the picture or swipe left to pass. If someone likes you back, then it’s a match. After the match is created, you have the option to chat with the individual by phone.

Pros: There are no benefits for children to use this app.

Cons: This promotes meeting other like-minded adults and bases a “match” from physical looks.

Hawkins says: “I see this as more of a dating app for people aged 18 and older and I would not recommend it for younger teens.”

6. Grindr – This social media app is aimed toward gay, bisexual and bi-curious men. This app uses your mobile’s location-based services to show you Grindr guys close in your area.

Pros: Provides an outlet for an adult male to be comfortable with his sexuality and connect with others. But the key word in the previous sentence is “adult.”

  • Can lead to kids meeting with adults and all the dangers involved. This is not Ok for kids. In fact, it’s very dangerous.

Hawkins says: “If your son has this app, I suppose the closet door is open” and parents may take this opportunity to talk sexuality and risks with their children. As with all dating apps, Hawkins would not suggest this for people under 18 years old due to the likelihood of meeting up with adults.

7. Chat Roulette – This is an online chat website that pairs random people together to video chat. Every time you begin a new chat, you never know who you are going to come face-to-face with.

Pros: There are no benefits for children to use this app.

Cons: The user can encounter people eliciting inappropriate acts. You never know what will pop up on the screen.

Hawkins says: The first thing listed on the app’s download page says it all – “Warning! For adults only!” Hawkins encourages parents to be aware of what their children are viewing online and really take part in their lives, including what they are doing online. This social outlet is not recommended for the under 18 year old age group.

8. Fake-a-Text -This app allows the user to set who the text is to look like it’s from, what the text will say, and when it will be sent.

Pros: Children can impress their friends and look cool by looking like a celebrity texts them.

Cons: This can hurt reputations and upset friends by tricking them. This app also encourages lying.

Hawkins says: “This is a teen’s dream if they want to fool their friends,” Hawkins says. This “evil little app of deception” can hurt the reputation of a real person. For example: a teenage boy can convince his friends that a real girl sent a sexual text, even though she didn’t, and this can harm her reputation.

Social media has its benefits, but those benefits can come with drawbacks. Tell your child to be cautious about the information he/she is putting out there in the online world. You also might want to have the “stranger danger” talk again with a reminder to be careful about the people he/she is chatting with online. Finding the right balance with what you share online and what you keep private is key in the social media domain. Give them a certain time frame to log-in and make sure it’s on a computer that you can view.

- Article written by Amanda Burmeister


About the source

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)
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