Image: Instagram, ASKFM, Kurbo
Technology can be pretty great. Apps in particular allow us to do so many things. For example, apps allow us to find the best price on diapers and cheddar cheese. And apps help us find that random park while driving without having to pull over to the side of the road eight times to consult a paper map. Additionally, there are countless apps to help parents and reassure them. And we can thank phone apps for saving our sanity by keeping the kids amused in boring situations. But, for everything good thing about them, there are problems. There are apps on kids phones parents need to know to keep them safe.
Technology is a massive part of our modern world. And every parent will grapple with how phones and devices impact their children and family. The reality is that technology isn't going to disappear from our lives — nor are we going to banish it completely. What mamas and papas can do is be aware of what their children are doing with their phones and educate them about tech safety. Here are 32 apps on kids phones parents need to know.
Holla is simply described as the "best random video chat app." You can see why that description could entice kids to go on it. The reality is that the app allows users to have conversations with anyone all over the world. It's not a dating app, but there could very likely be adult content. And there have been reports about trolling, racism, and bullying. Users are meant to be 17 years old to use the app, but fake accounts can be created. Holla has followers and popularity rankings that can be damaging to anyone's self-esteem. There is a "24/7 moderation system" that blurs faces while matching, but once you get on users can meet a person in live video without a filter. Holla can filter people by location, which can potentially be problematic if there are dangerous and/or inappropriate users.
No, Calculator% is not an app that helps kids with their math homework. That "%" on the end makes it something different entirely. The app allows users to hide their browsing history along with photos and videos. So, even if you are inspecting your kids' phones to make sure that they are looking at appropriate content, the app could be hiding it. It's one of the apps that has been flagged by police departments, including the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, that parents should know about. So, don't be fooled by that seemingly innocuous calculator symbol.
There are literally millions of Instagram users. It's very likely that you are one of them. The app is brilliant for allowing people to express their creativity, but as you are probably familiar with, it can send a message of promoting a "perfect" life. It can be difficult for adults to realize the constructs of Instagram aren't reality, and it can be even harder for kids. The need to get likes and searching potentially dangerous hashtags can make things worse. Instagram has tried to counter some of the problems, including recently hiding likes, but it won't do away with all the problems. And for every body positive selfie, there can be three heavily filtered and Photoshopped images that can make kids feel inadequate.
Skout is one of the apps on kids phones parents need to know. It is listed on the Oklahoma Madill Police Department and Sarasota County Sheriff's Office in Florida lists of apps that could be manipulated by predators and be dangerous to kids. Skout is a location-based social networking app that users can reportedly find friendship and romance on by communicating with other people (read: strangers). The app does not allow people under the age of 17 to share photos, but the problem is that children can lie about their age when creating an account.
You might balk at us including Tinder on the list. However, it is one of apps on kids phones parents need to know. There are reports about how kids are lying about their age to get on the app. That can lead to all sorts of problems. Children can start interacting with strangers and they could then share their location to meet up. And the person on the other end could be anyone. Furthermore, they may or may not know how old your kid really is. As you are probably familiar with, the comments on dating apps can be absolutely vile and definitely not appropriate for kids to see.
Image: Hot Or Not
If you aren't familiar with Hot or Not, watch out because the app is exactly what it sounds like. And that isn't a good thing. It does no body positive favors for anyone, kids or adults. First of all, it allows strangers to rate photos by levels of attractiveness. *Groan* It also functions as a hookup/dating app that allows people to meet up with its "Meet Me" option. The app's tagline is "Find someone right now" which can be worrying to parents in of itself. It is another app that kids could create fake accounts in order to gain access to it.
This is one of the apps that the Oklahoma Madill Police Department cautions moms and dads about if kids have it on their phones. MeetMe is exactly what it sounds like. It is an app that allows people to talk, video message, stream, and message people who are close to them. It encourages making new friends, but the bottom line is that kids could be talking to strangers and sharing their location. And they could potentially make plans to meet up with the people they were introduced with on the app because they live close. You have to be 17 to download the app from the Apple App Store, but kids could still download it then create fake accounts.
This is another obvious one, but it still needs to be discussed. The harsh reality is that Twitter is full of trolls. Like with a lot of the big social media companies, Twitter is trying to put measures in place to combat things. However, not everything will get filtered. Potentially triggering content might be filtered, but the app could miss damaging exchanges between your kids and their peers. Additionally, Twitter can be used as a way to bully and to exclude people. Kids can also feel pressured based on the number of followers they have and how many likes and retweets they get. And let's not forget the need to always be on can impact doing homework and chores.
"Video chat, new friends, and make money" is the short description on Google Play for the LiveMe app. That already might have some parents wary. LiveMe has been flagged on potentially dangerous apps lists because it uses geolocation to share videos. Users are able to find the broadcaster's exact location. Newsweek reports that according to Sarasota County Sheriff's Office users can "pay" minors for photos using the "coin" currency on the app. Protect Young Eyes cautions that there are sexual images and videos "readily available," and there is pressure for people to create content that gets the most views which can lead to risky decisions.
The Badoo app has nothing to do with The Babadook. That really is not a relief to mamas and papas because Badoo is another dating app that kids are getting on. It is a "dating-focused app" that is about the usual flirting, meeting new people, and chatting. And it has millions of users all over the world. It is not the sort of content that kids should be exploring while they are on their phones. Different police departments have singled it out as an app to watch out for. Kids are getting on the app by creating fake accounts. So, be vigilant.
Yubo — formerly known as Yellow — is an app that was designed with the intention of people making friends. The Escambia County, Alabama Sheriff's Office has included it on the list of 17 apps parents need to be aware of. According to the police department, the app "is designed to allow teens to flirt with each other in a Tinder-like atmosphere." Similar to Tinder, Yubo allows people to connect based on their location. That means kids could potentially meet up with the strangers that they are communicating with. There are many headlines that have branded the app "Tinder for teens" and there are some reports of predators "sexually exploiting" teens that they have met via the app.
If you have been on the Whisper app, you will know that it allows people to share their feelings "anonymously." We write that in quotation marks because it isn't completely anonymous. The Madill Police Department in Oklahoma listed the application as apps on kids phones parents need to know because Whisper can reveal users locations so they can meet up. That doesn't exactly sound too anonymous. Furthermore, it might give kids a false sense of security in sharing their secrets, but they could be found out. Or, commenters could respond harshly. There are also some confessions/secrets that feature strong adult content.
As you can probably guess by now, TikTok has nothing to do with a clock or counting down to something. It is an app where users can create and share short-from videos. The problems are the filters do not stop bullying or scammers. It can also be addictive with users wanting to have the most popular videos. Furthermore, it is filled with regular "challenges" that could potentially backfire and cause problems and/or put kids in dangerous situations. The app has made headlines for the various scammers that are on it. TheNextWeb cautioned that there are scammers on the application that are promoting adult sites.
Moms and dads need to be aware because ASKfm is not a radio/music app. Far from it. The purpose of the app is to allow users to ask anonymous questions. However, it has been called out in multiple reports about technology because it can promote cyberbullying. Users can send questions to friends or send an "open" question. This means that kids using the app could be communicating with strangers. Additionally, they could be viewing and/or receiving inappropriate questions and responses. Last but not least, there are many concerns about any app that is dubbed "anonymous" because that is likely never truly the case. However, that is a concept that kids don't fully understand which leads to a false sense of security.
YouTube is one of the game-changers in the streaming services, like Netflix. It has revolutionized media, but that does not mean YouTube is totally positive. Family Education lists it as one of the potentially dangerous apps for children. Yes, there are ways to filter inappropriate content and monitor privacy settings, but the reality is that things get by. Furthermore, Family Education points out that the comment section can be especially triggering and hurtful. Additionally, the online streaming service has "a known pedophile problem." These points are especially causes for concern when kids want to upload their own content.
If you are a fan of Mean Girls, then you likely have an inkling what this app is about. And you will know that Burnbook probably isn't the best for the kiddos. Common Sense Media simply describes the app as an "anonymous board with hateful posts [that] lives up to its name." It is harsh-sounding but sadly accurate. The app's rules include no violence, nudity, or harassment and warns users who break the code will be banned. But, there is still cyberbullying despite some attempts by users to make it a positive space. It also isn't that anonymous. Users share their location and select their school from a generated list which means that people could very well figure who the "anonymous" comments are talking about in their class. They might even be able to figure out who posted them.
It would be nice if we could tell you that the Wishbone app was some modern version involving the lovable dog from the namesake 90s TV show. (Remember it?) However, that isn't the case at all. The application is about comparing anything. The concept seems innocent enough but it can turn from TV shows and books into more personal subjects. It might also lead to lower self-esteem if young users find that what they like isn't considered "popular." The app allows for users as young as 12, but Protect Young Eyes reports it was once rated for 17+. They write the original older rating was the better rating, especially because there is zero monitoring and pornographic comparisons can be found via hashtags.
It is possible that you might use WhatsApp with your kids. At the very least, we bet that you use it yourself. The handy application allows people to send messages across platforms, including send videos, text messages, voice messages, etc. It has great potential, but it can be used in a negative manner. That is why parents should be wary of it for kiddos. It could be used to spread negative content. Furthermore, kids could use it to communicate with strangers and possibly to share their location. All that's needed is an internet connection and children could communicate with someone anywhere in the world.
Image: Socratic Math & Homework Help
This one is a bit different compared to others on the list. One could view kids having an app that helps them with their homework as being a good thing. Unfortunately, Socratic Math & Homework Help has been called out. It isn't the "get unstuck, learn better" app it was meant to be, but a tool for potential cheaters. Common Sense Media included the application on its list of apps parents should be on the lookout for. It provides answers which aren't always right because they're taken from online. And the problem is that kids can use the app to simply get the answer rather than figuring out the concept. That means they are no better off. See Salon's article, "It's ridiculously easy for kids to cheat now," in relation to the app.
We know that the list of apps on kids' devices parents need to know about is constantly growing. But, do not overlook Lipsi on the list. It is another one of the so-called anonymous messaging apps. Protect Young Eyes reports that the app is 18+, but there are still young users who get passed the age restriction by lying. The risks of using the app go up because it can be connected to Instagram thus making it not-so-anonymous. Lipsi users can add their app links to their Instagram profile which can lead to abuse. Users of Lipsi can delete all of their conversation history, but that has positive and negative effects.
Watch out for BitLife — or BitLife: Life Simulator as it is sometimes called — on kids' phones. It is a game where users are given an identity and they take it on from the character's birth to their death. CNN included it on its list of apps teens are using that you've never heard of. The article raised concerns that the app introduces young users to mature themes such as drugs, drinking, crime, and hookups. Users can do more virtuous things, but that can be problematic because it can lead to skewed perceptions of an idealized world. We're not even going to get into the graphic and having to explain that one to younger kids...
This is another app that Family Education wants parents to know about for its potential problems. Kik, or Kik Messenger, is a 17+ texting app that allows people to text using a username as opposed to a phone number. Kids under the age are using fake accounts to get on and communicate with strangers. And negative reviews have highlighted cyberbulling, sexting, and inappropriate behavior. Just the New York Times headline, "Wildly Popular App Kik Offers Teenagers, and Predators, Anonymity" should raise concern for moms and dads who see kids using the app.
Technology has made a lot of things easier. One of the negative sides to it is it has made it easier for students to cheat. That is why parents should be more aware of plagiarism and keep an eye to see if their kids download the EssayBot app. It is one of the apps on kids phones parents need to know because it promotes cheating. It is described as a "free writing tool," but Salon warns it helps kids complete their assignments with prewritten selections. What's even worse is that it readily tells users it "paraphrases for you to erase plagiarism concerns."
Image: Hide It Pro HIP
Apps that hide content on our phones are designed to protect our privacy, but it can be a different matter when the app is being used on kids' phones and parents want to ensure they're staying safe. That is why Hide It Pro can be problematic. It was featured on the list of potentially dangerous apps by the Escambia County, Alabama Sheriff's Office. The app appears to be a music manager, but it can hide all sorts of messages including texts and photos. If you were to look at your kid's phone and they had the app, the icon would be music notes with the short form "HIP" as the name. Users create a pin code to hide the stuff they don't want people to see in a folder so parents wouldn't be able to access it even if they knew something was being hidden.
Kurbo sounds like some addictive game, but it is actually a "health coaching" app. It is produced by WW (formerly Weight Watchers) and it is geared at kids and teens, particularly those aged 8 to 17, to help them pick what to eat. The app tracks kids' progress, has coaches, and it uses a light system to tell them what is the healthiest option. (Green is good, red is bad.) Some concerns have been raised about the app. Critics and parents are concerned that it spreads "thinspo" and is more concerned about weight loss rather than wellness. Healthline reported that it's problematic because it is teaching kids at a young age that they "need" an app to eat healthily and mindfully as opposed to listening to their bodies. FYI: Coaching on the app costs money — $69 per month.
Snapchat is another one of the "biggie" apps that is highly likely kids have on their devices. It is also listed on Oklahoma's Madill Police Department's list of apps that parent should be aware of on their kids phones. First of all, the app can allow users to see a kid's location. The concept of the app is also troublesome. The photos and videos that are being sent are meant to disappear. However, there have been many viral examples of where that isn't the case. There are other apps that allow people to save Snapchats. And that could be hurtful to children. On the other hand, a kid could get sent a damaging message, but not be able to get proof of it/or you could miss it.
Like Tinder, Bumble is another one of the dating apps that you might be surprised to see on children's phones. It is one of the applications that is listed on different police charts. Again, kids are lying about their age to get on Bumble. It can be problematic whether they're looking for friends, at the dating selection, or just curious to see what all the talk is about. Bumble is meant to give female users more control and allow them to make the first move, but that doesn't protect kids who are making fake accounts. And even though Bumble is seen as the more positive Tinder, there is still catfishing and trolls to be found.
Don't overlook LINE on the apps on kids phones parents need to know. It was included on the list of apps that can be dangerous to kids according to the Escambia County Alabama Sheriff's Office. It is a messaging app that allows for text, video, image, and audio exchange across phones, tablets, computers, etc. It sounds great for business, but it can be worrisome for kids, especially if they start talking to strangers. Users can select how long their photos and videos are visible for. The time can change from a few years to weeks. And any time frame could cause problems. There are in-app purchases which parents should watch out for, especially if kids somehow get access to credit cards.
There are apps that have been designed for positive use, but people are changing the way they are meant to be used to promote harmful things. In the case of weight loss apps, some users are using them to promote eating disorders. This is why Vora is on the list. The app is already potentially troublesome in the hands of children because it's a fast tracker plus social platform which allows you to record how much you fast. That already teaches kids problematic eating habits and tells them they "need" to use an app to manage their diet. The social aspect takes it to more worrying levels because that breeds competition. Vice's headline: "A Twisted Comparison Game': How Fitness Apps Exacerbate Eating Disorders" says it all.
The name of the app should alarm parents. But, the Houseparty app isn't specifically for organizing house parties. However, that news isn't completely reassuring. The description of the app is a "face-to-face social network." Family Education lists it as being one of the apps that can be potentially dangerous to kids because "friends" can communicate via live video and group chats. Because everything is live, there is no filter. The content will immediately be seen no matter how mature. And users can end up talking to strangers because they only need to "know" one "friend" to join a group.
We know, the dating apps just keep on coming. But, we want to make sure that you don't forget about any of them. Grindr is frequently featured on the list of apps for parents to watch out for. It can be a problem because kids could create fake accounts and share their photos. Then they could possibly meet up with people because of the GPS feature in the app. Grindr is geared towards LGBQT+ people so that could be a sensitive issue whether your kids identify that way or not. And because this is a dating app, there can be a lot of adult content, ahem, photos and comments that kids could come across.
If your kid(s) has Snapchat on his/her phone, he/she might also have Yolo. Users can only download Yolo if they have Snapchat because it's an add-on app. The additional app's purpose is to allow users to post "anonymous questions on Snapchat." Common Sense Media includes Yolo on its list of apps to watch out for because the anonymous feedback often generates bullying and trolling. Furthermore, someone might reach out with an honest question, but be even more hurt by the responses. It also isn't completely anonymous because users can choose whether they want to make the feedback they receive public or not.