New Year, New Apps to Block: The TeenSafe 2016 App Blacklist
Teens these days spend as much time using smartphone apps as they do texting and posting on Facebook. But what do these apps actually do, and how can you know which ones are popular among teens?
A new year brings new trends and while you probably already have rules in place about all the big websites—have you considered what apps your kids may be discovering in 2016?
Fortunately, now you don’t have to wonder. As part of our ongoing mission to provide parents with the right tools and resources to keep our children safe in the digital world, TeenSafe has put together a list of the most concerning apps on the market today. Some of these apps target teens, some have yet to find a way to keep teens out—but all of them can pose a threat to our kids.
Without further ado, here’s the TeenSafe 2016 App Blacklist to breakdown what parents should watch out for this year:
Dating apps are not for teens. These apps are designed to help people connect and meet in real life. Some teens may use this app innocently; some may genuinely use them to find other teens with similar interests. But the truth is, these apps are designed for adults, to be used by adults. Even if they have a “minors” section, most dating apps do not have the proper age verification to ensure that only minors are using it.
At the end of the day, you don’t know who’s using these apps, and who is contacting your teen, and that’s why these apps have made it to the blacklist.
Tinder (& Blendr)
Tinder and Blendr are two very similar dating apps that connect users specifically to hook up based on physical proximity. Both use GPS technology to pinpoint a user’s location and is intended for others to meet in real life. While they are designed for adults, Tinder has a 13-18 year old section for younger users.
However, we believe no teenager should have access to dating apps, period. Most of these apps don’t have age restrictions or verification, result in risky sexual behaviors, and aren’t safe to use in general.
Tinder in particular has had several security breaches, which has resulted in user info being downloaded and released. While Blendr is focused on users with similar interests, it can still be used for hook-ups.
To learn more about the dangers of Tinder, you can watch our video on Tinder here.
Down allows users to sort their Facebook friends based on whether or not they’re willing to hook up. The app promotes itself as the “secret way to get down with people nearby.”
Down is so dangerous to teens not only because it perpetuates hook up culture, but it encourages teens to think of each other in terms of their physical attributes, which can lead to low self-esteem and depression in vulnerable teens with body image issues.
Perhaps the most dangerous of all the apps on this list, Omegle is a video chatting app that connects users with strangers. Despite the 18 and over age limit, there’s no age verification and users can enter chats with no moderation.
Anything and everything can be shown on camera, which is streamed live. Teens can be exposed to predators, nudity, and other inappropriate material via Omegle. Teens can more easily and safely video chat with their friends using Facetime or Google Hangouts.
Anonymous apps are dangerous for a number of reasons, most notably, the ability for peers and strangers alike bully people without repercussions. This isn’t just limited to teens—in fact many of these apps are popular among college students and adults, as well, and can cause the same emotional and psychological harm to their victims.
Think very carefully before letting your teen download any of these apps:
Yik Yak is an increasingly popular app among teens that jumped onto our awareness in 2014, after several schools were shut down because of it. It’s become no less dangerous since then.
Yik Yak works by allowing users to share and “upvote” short messages. While this may seem harmless, it can quickly turn when someone shares a message that’s mean or belittling in an attempt to bully other users. It’s especially problematic because bullying can be done anonymously without any way of stopping it.
Yik Yak also uses GPS location to determine what “Yaks” you see, which is what makes it so dangerous around schools – they instantly become a hotbed of digital anonymous gossip, bullying, and rumor-mongering. Many schools in the U.S. have already banned YikYak because of the potential for bullying.
Intended as a question and answer site, Ask.fm is an extremely dangerous app that has already been linked to nine cases of suicide in the U.S. and U.K.
The app promotes conversation between friends, as users can ask each other questions anonymously on their friends’ public profiles. The effect is a public forum where users receive negative messages without knowing who the cyberbully is.
True to its name, Whisper is used to spread secrets and rumors. Users post anonymous “confessions” shared amongst the Whisper community. Any app that allows users to post anonymously is going to be rampant with cyberbullying and Whisper is no exception.
The app is popular for teens as it uses GPS technology to posts “Whispers” from around the user’s area. This leads some teens to target their classmates when posting content. Rumors started in the school bathroom have now reached a wider audience thanks to this app.
“Use With Caution” Apps
While these apps aren’t on our blacklist, you should still keep your eye on them. Not only do some of their features make them risky for teens, but the fact that their so popular means that more teens are using them, and in some cases, abusing them:
Snapchat is one of the most popular apps used among teens today, but just because it’s popular, DOESN’T mean it’s safe! The appeal for most kids is that messages sent through this app are temporary, but the reality is that this “disappearing” format allows teens to send messages without parental controls. You have no idea what they’ve sent as it’s instantly erased. There’s no trace of the content shared between users.
Unless, of course, someone saves a snap they’ve been sent. This is extremely easy, as teens can either take a “screenshot” of the image, which is then saved directly to their phone, or they can use another device to take a picture. It’s been widely reported that teens often save and share snaps to bully or embarrass other teens.
Teens who like Snapchat can also use it to sext—when those sexts are saved it can lead to compromising situations. It’s best not to allow your teen to use Snapchat unless you can be absolutely sure they’ll use it responsibly and won’t send anything inappropriate.
Like Snapchat, Kik is a popular Wi-Fi based messaging service teens use to sext and send other inappropriate messages. To sign up all you need is an email address and to create a username. Then, you’re able to send messages to any and all of Kik’s users—there’s no barrier.
The minimum age to sign up for Kik is thirteen, but the app doesn’t verify its users’ ages. Online predators can and have used Kik to search a particular age range to find victims in their area.
To learn more about the dangers of Kik, visit our “Everything a Parent Needs to Know About Kik” guide.
Other “At Risk” Apps
Apps like Tumblr, WhatsApp, and Vine also allow their users to share opinions, images, and videos. They can be perfectly innocent if used correctly, but remain on high alert of getting blacklisted because the material shared within these apps can be inappropriate.
Young children should not use these apps — or really, any other social app — until they have proven their maturity.
Before installing an app, make sure to talk with your teen about what sort of information they can share. Most apps aren’t meant to be dangerous or used as cyberbullying platforms. Whether or not it winds up being harmful for a teen often depends on how the app is used.
If you’re worried about the apps your teen has on their smartphone, it’s time to install TeenSafe. It allows parents to view and block third-party apps installed on a child’s phone, and monitor activity on popular apps such as Instagram, KiK, and WhatsApp.
By monitoring with TeenSafe, you can ensure your child isn’t using any “Blacklisted” apps, and that they are making smart choices on the apps they do use.
Sign up for TeenSafe today to begin your 7-day free trial, and take a look at our full 2016 App Blacklist below: