Today we’re checking phones. iPads. Tablets. Whatever your child is using to access the internet and play games is what you’ll be using. I’ll tell you a little about some apps that might require a second look, and I’m asking you to share any apps not on this list so we can all make one another aware.
Except, we’re parents–so we’re being responsible.
Pull ’em out.
Do you know what your kids are doing on their devices?
Chatting? Snapping pics?
Logging on to dangerous apps?
It’s important to check in and see what they’re up to once in a while. How much is up to you, but I recommend every couple of days.
We do this by having our kids charge their devices in a common area of the house every night. After they go to bed is usually when I remember to check them out. A bonus to this is that even though they know we check their devices, it’s a little less intrusive than asking your child to hand it over to you.
Let’s talk apps.
These apps ask you to verify that you’re 13 or 18 or whatever-teen before they let you in. But we all know that kids can bypass this with a simple “yes.” Because users are supposed to be 13 years or older when they use the app, there are no parental controls.
You are the parental control for your child.
I am trying to pull together as many apps as I can for you, and then send you to the responsible sites that have written about them for more information.
A couple of things you should note before I begin.
1. These apps can be harmless–if your child sticks to friending their real-life friends and keeping their profiles private. Since most kids don’t do that, I’m not going to assume they do.
2. Kids are moving to these apps for one reason–their parents aren’t there. It’s up to you to educate yourself by using the apps yourself or learning to monitor them.
3. I am all for responsible use. I don’t delete apps unless I feel that my child isn’t mature and responsible enough to use them appropriately. I advise teaching your child to make smart decisions instead of deleting apps, but this is definitely a personal/family decision.
Here we go!
Of course we are going to start with Facebook. Though it used to be where all the kids hung out, they’re slowly leaving because it’s where their parents hang out, as well. Facebook used to be a great place for kids to find cool memes, but with apps like 9GAG and iFunny (see more on them below), they don’t need to hang out on Facebook anymore. Here’s my post to help you review the privacy settings on your teen’s Facebook account.
Snapchat is a very popular app among tweens and teens. The concept is pretty simple: you take a photo and send it to a friend, and they can view the image for up to 10 seconds before it deletes itself. Shannan from Tween Us wrote about parental concerns with Snapchat and how Snapchat images aren’t really deleted forever, like Snapchat claims they are. Because of the high instances of tween use, Snapchat created a SnapKidz feature, which I wrote about here on iPhoneLife.com. There’s not much monitoring to do with this app, as the images delete themselves, but it’s worth having a long talk with your child about appropriate ways to use Snapchat.
Kik An instant messaging app used by many tweens and teens. It’s used often for sexting and flirting more often than harmless chatting. Click here for a more in-depth review of kik on Tween Us.
MySpace is the old facebook, remember? Well, now teens are heading back to this network, but it’s a little more dangerous now that all of their parents are gone. There is still little to know about what teens are doing on MySpace, but it’s definitely an app you should open and check.
Yik Yak is all over the news right now. It allows anonymous comments to be left for those within a 5-10 mile radius of the user. I can’t think of anything good that could come of that. Tween Us has a great post about Yik Yak, and there have been several other news articles written within the past week, as well.
The WeChat text messaging app is huge in Asia right now, where they even have soda machines that interact with it. U.S. teens are slowly catching on. WeChat is similar to WhatsApp–they’re both texting apps. These texting apps are great for kids who don’t hsve unlimited texts, but they pose an issue because parents who are comfortable opening their teen’s text messages may not be as comfortable navigating around an unfamiliar app.
Reddit is a place for images and stories to be posted on the internet. One quick Google search for “Reddit teens” tells me why teens shouldn’t be anywhere near Reddit:
Facebook Messenger is yet another texting app. Have I mentioned that in all of these apps, it’s pretty easy to delete texts? It is very easy to group text in the messenger app, though, so I think that’s why this one is sticking around.
Foursquare is a location-based app. Though not widely-used by teens, if you see it on your child’s phone, they’re most likely “checking in” at locations. Publicly. Real-time. See what Common Sense Media says about Foursquare.
Twitter is huge with teens right now. Though it’s usually a place where kids can chat with friends, there are some teens who try to gain as many followers as possible. This becomes an issue when strangers try and connect with your child. There are stories about adults trying to meet teens locally and lure them to different (more private) chat apps.
Vine is a video platform that teens are heading to. They can easily create short looping videos and share them with friends and strangers. Normally, this app isn’t too much of a concern depending on who your teen is friends with. Learn more here.
9GAG Tweens and teens love memes. But memes aren’t always made for tweens and teens. 9GAG is a mostly adult app where you can find some funny memes. The app is rated 12+ but I have to say I think it should be left for older kids. You can read more about 9GAG here on the iTunes app website.
iFunny is similar to 9GAG. Use with caution. There is, as there are many memes and images meant for adults. Common Sense Media says stay away.
Pinterest is a collection of pretty images. Every once in a while you’ll come across a meme, but I truly can’t remember ever seeing anything offensive. As with any app, it depends on who you follow, but I think that Pinterest is pretty safe for tweens and teens alike. They can find fashion ideas, the latest Rainbow Loom tutorials, and fun science experiments and crafts here.
Tumblr Tumblr is a micro-blog. It’s a way for people to collect images they like and share them with others. Some people have no problem sharing images that may be offensive to others. I feel like I’m saying this again and again, but it’s all about who you follow. With good monitoring, this app should be ok for teens. Here is what Common Sense Media says about Tumblr.
Updated: A Mom left this comment for me below (thank you!), and I want to make sure you see it:
Hi great advice. However I disagree about tumblr. There are tons of pro anorexia blogs and lots of porn. I would limit tumblr to a 16 year old or older. I accidentally clicked on something on tumblr and found extremely graphic images and animated gifs that kids should not see.
Ask.fm I’m going to go ahead and say that this app isn’t a good idea for tweens and teens. It’s a place overrun with bullies and and the app has been linked to suicides overseas. You can read what Shannan at Tween Us has to say about Ask.fm here. Common Sense Media has a similar opinion here.
Omegle Chat with “random strangers.” When you open Omega, it chooses a random stranger for you to chat with. After meeting the stranger you can choose to keep talking or find someone else. In my mind, I’m thinking of internet dating. I see no reason for kids of any age to be on this. Here is a good article about Omegle
Down Formerly called Bang With Friends (I’m not even joking), Down connects you with “safe people” to date. You can add friends, look through their friend lists and choose to “Get Date” or “Get Down.” I really wish I was kidding about this app. Obviously, an app made for adults, Down has no place on your child’s phone.
*Please check the comments for great advice and tips about other apps I haven’t mentioned here, as well as experiences that are different from mine!*
tinder is dangerous
Ashleigh Burroughs says
My friend’s two-weeks-from-11 year old desperately wants a phone. I sent her here, then came for myself. I don’t know how you parent in this culture, where mistakes are so easy to make and don’t ever go away… no matter what the app says, as you point out. Great post!
Thank you for thinking of me! The age is different for every kid–Jack will be 10 this summer and he is not even close to ready for a phone!
So, I’m a teen… I’m 16. I see the problem with some of these apps and advice… but for the most part I had to laugh.
In the first place, if your child is using any of these apps for “bad” reasons, they are probably up to a lot worse outside of their phone. The technology is not the problem, the problem simply extends to the technology.
Second, the author says it is less invasive to just go on your kids tech when they don’t know your on it? HA. As if. That is way way way way worse. Don’t ever do that. In fact, keep checking their phones to a minimum. Only check if you are specifically worried about something, or they will be setting and changing passwords to stop you from literally invading their privacy. That’s what your doing, snooping and invading privacy. And doing so behind our backs will never make it better.
Third, this article assumes that your teen is up to no good. Please don’t take that stance… it feels horrible… like you don’t trust us and won’t give us the chance to prove tht we can be trusted :(
Fourth, yes, these apps can be harmful, but everything can be, and it’s all in how they use it. Think of it like banning seesaws, what good actually comes of that? I mean sure, a few less injuries from irresponsible use, but you lose the joy and the fun… playgrounds would lose everything that’s good about them. And it’s the same with the phone, sure keeping an eye on this apps monitoring them and removing may avoid your teens seeing things you don’t believe they should be exposed to, but it also makes it feel like there’s no point in having a smartphone if u can’t do anything, and makes you the parents seem over protective, which they will resent.
Finally, some of these apps are nearly as harmless as they can get. Like weheartit, there’s some proana, but if your child likes that they’ve probably been exposed to it in real life. Pinterest is the same, there’s barely any nudity although there is some partial nudity but for god sakes you’re talking bout a teen not a child. What about shopping online for underwear or swimsuits? It won’t be worse than that or Pinterest will have removed it. Twitter rarely has anything bad on it, and dm isn’t the most common use of it the im apps really aren’t worse than texting, just a free version. Tumblr can be good but there are some things tht you would view as inappropriate as parents, but if they’re looking at it there, it will be pretty damn hard to stop them from ever seeing it. We’re teens, we’re determined, we hide things, we’ve done things you will never know about, we can be dirty, we can get drawn into things like proana, but these things online, they don’t cause this behavior, were growing up, we will rebel and experiment, but chances are, we will be okay in the end. So lighten up, and just breathe. It will all be over soon and you will be proud of us again.
Pinterst is one to be careful of. They can search any word they want and come up with some very inappropriate pictures
Tumblr does not promote anorexia or anything at all. It is a blogging service. There are blogs there that promote a lot of stuff many find bad.
4square does NOT have check ins. Those have been moved to Swarm.
If the criteria is you can search and find something objectionable add Bing Google Yahoo Ask blogger blogspot etc.
I must admit I have some of this apps like Twitter, Weheartit, kik, Facebook, 9GAG and Vine. Actually, the app is not a problem the idea of how the child uses the app is the problem. I never seen any graphic pictures in any of this apps, 9gag has but I never look at it soo yahh. But besides that, the other apps are really safe to use once you use them wisely. Kik isn’t safe but we could always say no to sexting or whatever, it doesn’t matter if that person threatens you, just tell your parents and it will be done. I’m 13 and I try my best to keep things in my age even with this apps in my iPod. Yes my parents check my iPod but it doesn’t bother them because they know I could handle it. Thanks for this anyway and I’ll show this to my younger sister and my mom.
As someone recently out of teenagerhood myself, I must say the concept of sneaking behind your child’s back and sneaking around their phone, no communication or reason, is very disrespectful and not the wisest decision. If these apps are being used for unsavoury purposes, or exposing your children to things you do not approve of, then the problem is not the app. Deleting it will not change anything – teens can and will find ways around it. Wouldn’t you is someone thought they knew better than you enough and went around changing your personal items to suit themselves better?
If your child is using technology in ways you don’t agree with, then as a parent you should have interacted and communicated with them enough by the time they are teenagers that you have instilled a sense of moral values in them, and exposed them to things you believe are right. Your ideas and your child’s might not align exactly, but they are, in the end their own person. unless they are in immediate danger – i.e. Tinder or something where they might get in a dangerous situation, then they do have the right to live their own lives. Sneaking around and trying to control their lives minutely will just create resentful kids – my friends have parents who do stuff like this, and they find ways around it. My mom would NEVER do something so invasive and rude to me. Rather, if she thought there was a problem she would sit down and talk to me about it. consequently, I am open with my mom because she has trusted me, and therefore I can trust her.
Please do not do this to your kids – talk with them about technology, be open with them about potential risk, and by the time they are teens (personally, four year olds with iPhones make me intolerably sad) their value system should protect them from some of these supposedly dangerous apps.
Thank you, Emily. My kids know that I check their phones, and I almost always teach them how to use something rather than deleting it. Each situation is so different, so my goal is to tell parents where to get more information and have them make a decision based on their family rules.
As a 15 year old I must say this: 9gag may be bad, but I’ve never seen anything funnier
Eyes Opened says
All parents need to be proactive. Kids and teens think they’re invincible or they know what they’re doing at all times. There is so much crap out there and sickos targeting our kids and teens. If your child has nothing to hide, it shouldn’t be an issue. If they do have something to hide, it is an opportunity to teach. We are here to be loving parents, not friends. This is a new world with way more issues and we cannot kid ourselves. If trust is broken, we have every right to look further.
Eyes Opened says
Forgot to add…. Little tip!! In every icon that has a group of apps, check to see if there is a second page! Also you can make as many main pages on smart phones do things can be hidden in other pages.
Great info!!! Thank you for compiling this. I wasn’t even aware of some of these apps. I am very open with my kids regarding their phones — they have them (in our case) as a mode of family communication – for safety reasons — for sports activities and after school pickups etc. overlapping practices, etc and data blocks on. From the beginning we had the “all access at any time” rule. I totally agree with “Eyes Opened” about checking —when said: “if your child has nothing to hide, it shouldn’t be an issue.” I am being a parent – trying to keep my kids safe. Yes – be open & be honest with them but be present in their lives – which in this day & age means knowing with whom they are interacting & about their technology usage.
Thanks again for sharing!
momo lolo says
a other one to look out for is a “fun and safe” game called, movie star planet. u can apparently, meet new freinds play games, and of course… date! the problem with this is the people on there are REAL people and constantly try to meet children in person.
Now that KIK is rated everyone, how do I block it for android or set it to not able to download apps?
As a foster parent, I don’t have the luxury of having been there to parent the 13 year old child in my care, and I know that there was little to no supervision from age around 6 up. After being used to doing exactly as this child wanted, a firm direction is needed, especially in making sure safe behavior is happening online. I appreciate the help of these reviews to give me some guidance on the subject. Thank you.
Please, let’s not assume that every child has the luxury of a safe environment to grow up in, or even that they have parents that are actively parenting. Look at the kids in foster care to see just how many don’t.
That is such a great bit of information, thank you. I can’t imagine trying to get control of something like a child’s phone after having little to no supervision for so long. Good for you for being knowledgable about this topic, I know it can’t be easy. Hugs to you!
Where is the trust here? I understand making sure your child is using his/her device safely but what I don’t understand is your constant thought that your child is up to no good. If you are constantly reaffirming your distrust for your child by, for example,always going through their phone, why should the child try to be anything but untrustworthy? After all my parent already thinks I’m a bad person. I’ve seen some of you say if there’s nothing to hide what is the issue? I’ll tell you. You don’t trust the child. That not only affects yours and your child’s relationship, it affects his/her sense of responsibility. For example: “I have been trusted with this device, therefore I should strive to be trustworthy with it.” When you act like you don’t trust your child they have no reason to try to be trustworthy.
I’m a teen, and from personal experience, I can say going through your kids phone is just gonna create sneaky kids. In my person opinion, (and i no way am i telling you how to parent) you should let your kids have their privacy. Even if they have nothing to hide, just going through someones personal belongings is just kinda anxiety fueling. If you dont mind me sharing my point of view on some of the apps you’ve chosen, then please countine reading.
For instagram, i have a wide variety of my family following me and checking my post. These people include my mom, brothers, cousins in they’re late 20s and more. From a diffrent profile you can easily see who they follow and whos following them. Really, all you have to do is create an account and follow your kid(s).
For Snapchat, i see where your coming from, but honestly all kids do on snapchat these days is send streaks to each other, send people pictures of their food or pets, or stuff people just dont care about. Really, just get other family members who are closer to their age to follow them to check out their stories.
For Tumblr, yeah you’re really right about that let you’re kid get one at 14.
For MySpace, no one, and i promise you, nobody is using MySpace.
WeHeartIt/Pintrest, let your kid roam free. They’re both actually really amazing apps and id totally recommend them for teens.
If you’ve read this far, thank you and i hope you have a good day/night/whatever.
I don’t care what teens write here. I was also a teen once and so were all the parents. When my child started reading self harm and suicide at age 9 from a phone her grandmother gave her with no family monitoring, now she cuts herself for attention. She texted her boyfriend crush and told him she was going to cut her wrist if he ignored her. We got through that but there’s a lot of depressed people out there who seem to find joy encouraging self harm and even write poetry about it. Sickening. My daughter told me she saw porn at 9 years of age too. I’m blocking everything I can until she get older and learns right from wrong and that everybody she meets online are not her friends!