With the new year comes an opportunity to take a fresh look at exactly what apps your kids are using. And while many parents are well versed in the potential dangers of apps like Snapchat and Kik, other lesser-known apps present their own problems. This year’s contenders for most dangerous apps not only expose your kids to cyberbullies, but they can also encourage risk-taking behavior. Many leave an open invitation for strangers to contact them. So which apps deserve worst-of-the-year billing? Here are some of 2018’s bonafide bummers, not only for your kids’ confidence, but also for their safety.
The Premise: This swiping app describes itself as an “easy and free way to make new friends and chat with them.” A la Tinder, users left-and-right swipe until a match is made, and then communication can begin.
The Problem: Unlike Tinder, Yellow is being marketed directly to teens. More concerning still: Although the company says the app prevents underage users from contacting people over the age of 18 and vice versa, there is a significant loophole: With no age verification, adults can easily create an account with a false birthdate, allowing them free access the app’s millions of under-18 users.
The Premise: The social gaming app allows users to send and receive dares, which can earn them money after posting a video of themselves completing the dare. (What could possibly go wrong?)
The Problem: While some dares are innocuous enough — take a photo with a funny face, dance in public, etc… — others are anything but (streaking, getting tattoos and other activities). Furthermore, users can also send “dare-roulettes,” which go to all Double Dog users, including strangers.
The Premise: The video sharing social network allows users to create and share short music videos of themselves singing, dancing and lip-syncing.
The Problem: Musical.ly is being described as the first social media app to reach the elementary school market, which is a huge issue given that geo-location is enabled by default when the app is downloaded. A quick scroll through some of the millions of accounts is enough to give parents pause. Children who look as young as 7 or 8 have up to 200,000 followers, while parents of children as elementary-age kids have reported strangers asking them for naked images via the app. Word to the wise: If your child has Musical.ly, enable privacy settings.
The Premise: This photo editing app claims to offer users “a slim face and bigger eyes instantly… No need to go for any plastic surgery and it saves money and time.”
The Problem: It’s being targeted to very young children. With its colorful, childlike logo and the fact that its iTunes screen shots feature before and after photos of a girl who looks no older than 5, Slim Booth also promises to make users look more like a “celebrity.”
The Premise: The camera app offers a series of exceptional photo filters and editing options. Beloved by a cult-teen following, VSCO now boasts 40 million users.
The Problem: VSCO has gradually expanded from a photo editing app to one with an active social network. The problem? The app has no privacy settings. Translation: All accounts are public, with location features that can be added. Want 40 million people to have unfettered access to your kids’ pics? We didn’t think so.
The Premise: One of the original honesty apps, ASK.fm is a social network that lets users anonymously ask / answer questions. People can’t see who is following them, but they can see the number of followers they have.
The Problem: After creating an account, users can post an anonymous question. Then people who they are following can respond with a text, photo or video. Questions are asked anonymously, however answers to questions are identified by username and photo. Its recently released feature Shoutout allows users to ask questions to fellow ASKfm-ers who are geographically close to them. This includes both people you follow, and those you don’t. It also means that you can receive questions from people who happen to be in your vicinity (example: your school, neighborhood, live music concert or other event).
The Premise: Translated from Arabic as “frankness” or “candor,” this is another “honesty” can connect teen’s Snapchat account to let them send and receive anonymous “feedback” to and from friends and strangers.
The Problem: Unlike ASKfm where users receive anonymous questions, with Sarahah, you receive anonymous in-coming messages from friends and other users. And while anonymous compliments are common, there have also been reports of anonymous death threats and sexual harassment. Comments are entirely unmonitored and the app is not surprisingly considered by many to be the most likely to facilitate cyberbullying.