While many parents monitor their children’s screen time, local children’s advocates are urging parents to dig a little deeper and learn exactly what apps their children are using and educate themselves on the potential risks associated with online games and messaging.
With some apps posing dangers to children, parents should stay up to date with the newest online social media tools. Several apps enable cyber bullying, allow for hiding pictures and videos, encourage chatting with strangers and exposing the users’ location.
Heather Kleinfeld, prevention coordinator for Coffee County Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC), warns parents about the risks of using those apps.
CAC focuses on protecting children. The organization serves children who are victims of severe abuse through prevention, intervention and education.
“One of the scariest apps is Calculator%,” Kleinfeld said.
Calculator% allows its users to hide photos, videos, files and browser history in, what looks to the unfamiliar eye, to be a calculator app.
“Most parents see the app and they think it’s a calculator, but it’s not,” Kleinfeld said.
The users type in a code and they can hide pictures and other files on their phones.
“So most parents would see a calculator app and not think anything of it,” Kleinfeld said.
She recommended parents explain to their children that any app that can be used to reach out to others can be used in a harmful way.
“When they can see other people, it also means other people can see them,” Kleinfeld said.
Kleinfeld advised parents to pay attention to the social media their children use and stay aware of new apps.
“Mind your internet and cellphone use,” Kleinfeld said. “Make sure you stay up to date with the apps. That doesn’t mean you have to be proficient and use all of them, just keep in mind there are a lot of apps and they constantly change. Just make sure you at least know about them.”
Good communication is a key to keep children safe, said Joyce Prusak, executive director of CAC.
“A lot of parents have agreements with their kids that they can look at [their kids’] phones anytime – or at least once a day – and that’s huge for communication,” Prusak said.
There are 14 apps CAC officials warn about, and they encourage parents to learn about the potential risks.
Calculator% is used to hide photos, videos, files and browser history. This is only one of several secret apps used for that purpose.
Bumble is similar to the popular dating app Tinder, but it requires women to make the first contact. Kids have been known to use Bumble to create fake accounts and falsify their age.
Live.me is a live-streaming video app that uses geolocation to share videos, so users can find out a broadcaster’s exact location. Users can earn “coins” as a way to “pay” minors for photos.
Ask.fm is known for cyber bullying. The app encourages users to allow anonymous people to ask them questions.
Snapchat is one of the most popular apps today, especially with young people. While the app promises that users can take a photo or video, which will disappear, recent features of the app allow users to view content for up to 24 hours. Snapchat also allows users to see your location.
Holla is a self-proclaimed “addicting” video-chat app that allows users to meet people all over the world in just seconds. Reviewers say they have been confronted with racial slurs, explicit content and other inappropriate comments.
Kik allows anyone to contact and direct message children. Children can bypass traditional text messaging features. Kik gives users unlimited access to anyone, anywhere and anytime.
Whisper is an anonymous social network that promotes sharing secrets with strangers. It also reveals a user’s location so people can meet up.
Hot or Not
Hot or Not encourages users to rate other users’ profile, check out people in the area and chat with strangers.
Omegle is a free online chat website that promotes chatting anonymously to strangers.
This app is designed to allow teens to flirt with each other in a Tinder-like atmosphere.
Users can post anonymous rumors about people through audio messages, texts and photos.
This app allows users to compare children against each other and rate them on a scale.
Many children create fake accounts to hide content from parents. Children also like to text using Instagram because messages are deleted once a user leaves the conversation.
About the Children’s Advocacy Center
Since opening its doors in 2005, more than 3,700 children and their non-offending families have been referred for services to the center.
Additionally, the CAC provides child abuse prevention workshop for children and adults in the community.
More than 20,000 children in the local schools have participated in the center’s programs.
All CAC services are provided free of charge.
CAC is located at 104 N. Spring St., Manchester.
For more information, call 931-723-8888.
Elena Cawley may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.