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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!*