I’m asked all the time about certain apps and if they are safe. To make raising your tech-savvy kids in the digital world easier, we have developed our Top 10 Blacklisted Apps for 2017.
The Apps on our list are dangerous and shouldn’t be found on any tween’s device. These apps are full of inappropriate content and are usually unmoderated. Most of them are anonymous and are ripe for both cyberbullying and predators.
- After School – rated 17+
The After School app is marketed as an anonymous and private message board for your school. The apps description includes “post confessions, funny experiences, compliments, feelings, and more!” This app is marketed to tweens and high school students although it is rated 17+. The app allows students of any high school or middle school to join and create a board for their school. Students believe they are truly anonymous and are posting incredibly raunchy and rude comments, video clips, and images. It is not for kids.There are also ways for predators to join any school as a student to view and post to these young kids. There is a way for you as a parent to do so as well and we show you how to do it so you can monitor what is happening in your kid’s school on this app in our Stay SMART parent’s portal.
- Ask.Fm – rated 13+
Ask.fm is a social networking site based on anonymous question and answers. Members choose which questions or statements they want to respond to. Their answers can include videos or photos, all of which are posted to their profiles, as well as a real-time feed of responses. This stream makes it easy for any lurker with an account to glimpse inside this secret world of unfiltered tween thoughts full of crushes, insecurities, and school drama. Kids commonly exchange Snapchat & messaging account info publicly here and bullies are unrestrained.Ask.fm has more than 90 million members in over 150 countries and the most recent stats I can find say 42% of Ask.fm users were under the age of 17. This app has been implicated in the suicides of at least 9 teens in North America and has been banned from quite a few high schools. Only recently has the apps creators started to think about online safety. Up until now, the founders argued that negativity on Ask.fm was just a reflection of society’s shortcomings and a lack of proper education.
Blendr / Grindr– rated 17+
Blendr is a very popular location based dating app. Grindr is the popular original app. It is focused on hookups for homosexual and bisexual men. Both apps use a device’s GPS to find local matches and exchange photos. An app used for dating by adults who can access the location of its users is never for children. It creates and environment where children are vulnerable to being approached by the wrong kinds of people.
- Secret Calculator Apps – rated E for Everyone
The Private Photo Calculator%, Secret Calculator, and Smart Hide Calculator are just three of the apps developed for all users to hide photos and videos behind a working calculator app.Once you enter the password in the right area, you are shown the vault interface where you can hide, unhide pictures, videos, documents, or files with any file extension, and with some of these apps, if you give them complete access to your device, you can also hide and unhide apps.
- Kik – rated 17+
Kik is a very popular messaging app with over 300 million registered users. It allows users to connect with strangers through sending pictures, texts, videos, sketches and more. It is popular among youth because of the anonymity gained through it. The app is rated for people 17+ though tweens and young teens (11-15) are its main users. Police have described it as “the number one social media problem involving teenagers” and it has been linked with several kidnappings and murders worldwide.
- Omegle – rated 18+
Omegle is a video chatting app & website that connects users with strangers so they can have a one on one chat with each other. In fact, their motto is “Talk with Strangers”! Their iTunes description says, “Chats are completely anonymous, although there is nothing to stop you from revealing personal details if you choose to.” This is not for kids.Omegle has a completely unmoderated video chat system. It randomly pairs people to talk live via webcam. Many predators use this to find victims and kids can be exposed to unsolicited nudity and sexual acts. There is also fake webcam software that can trick kids into thinking they are talking with other teens. Lots of predators will trick kids into doing inappropriate actions on camera and take screenshots. These will be used to blackmail the victim later.
- Spotafriend – rated 17+
As Tinder recently banned teenagers, a new app was created that mimics Tinder exclusively for teenagers between the ages of 13 & 19 years old. My first issue with this app is that it is marketed to kids 13+ but is rated for users 17 and older.Much like Tinder, Spotafriend uses your phone’s GPS to find matches close to your location. It then allows teens to view pictures of others near them, and swipe either left (no thanks) or right (I’d like to get to know you better). If both teens swipe right, then they are connected within the app where they can chat privately. This app endorses meeting people offline that you’ve only met online. Not something any tween or young teen should be doing.
- Vine – rated 17+
Vine is a video-sharing app. It can be used on any mobile device, where registered users can record and post their six second looping videos (called vines). Vine also has a website where anyone can watch posted vines. Even with its 17+ rating a quarter of U.S. teens have Vine and brands know it. Even Disney World is on Vine and they (as well as many other brands) are paying Vine stars to use their brands within vines. Most kids are on Vine to have fun and make silly videos, however, parents should be aware that it is easy for them to find and watch very inappropriate content. According to the App Store, Vine’s 17+ rating is due in part to “Frequent/Intense Sexual Content or Nudity.”
- Whisper – rate 17+
Whisper is designed to allow users to post secrets and chat anonymously. It is used by many teens despite its 17+ app rating. There is both the app and the website whisper.sh. You don’t need to create an account to post or chat. Users are encouraged to share and spread “secrets” about themselves and others. Whisper reveals a user’s location and other users can search by that location. Lots of kids are posting they are bored and looking for a stranger to chat with and possibly meet up. Nothing good happens on this app. Encourage your kids to use something a little safer, such as Instagram.On top of this, the Whisper app requires their own four-digit pin to keep their posts from being seen when you inspect their phone. You can open the app to see and post messages but to view an archive of your messages you need a four-digit pin. This way if a phone falls into the wrong hands (aka mom), their posts and messages are hidden from view.
- YikYak – rated 17+
YikYak allows people within a certain radius to share and upvote short messages. Due to its anonymous features, it allows kids to cyberbully anyone near them. It has been banned by many school campuses in North America. The popularity of this app is fading, which is good news for parents and schools alike. Think of this app like a drug. Kids haven’t heard good things about it but they want to take a risk and see what happens if they download and use it. If you see this app on your kid’s phone, have them remove it and use something that is much safer and less prone to cyberbullying, like Twitter.
How To Handle Blacklisted Apps
As parents, we’d love to forbid our kids to use these blacklisted apps, and depending on their age, that may work however blocking or forbidding teens to do anything usually doesn’t. Instead, be sure you are having open conversations with your kids about anonymous services online and that they are never completely anonymous.
It is through ongoing open communication about technology, not restriction of the technology, that we will keep our kids safest. Be sure during those conversations to use real examples of the trouble that can happen. We’ve included some within this list to help you start the conversation.
This list is an excerpt from our new book “Cyber Smart Parents: A guide to internet safety for kids“. It forms part of our App Traffic Light System. We give parents the best information on apps and what to be aware of with our Green means Go, Yellow use with Caution, and Red means Danger apps lists.