At some point your child will learn to download and connect to app. They may tell you , most probably won’t. That’s not just because they don’t trust their parents but, as with any child, the excitement of the moment and curiosity is probably just too much for them. They can’t resist the temptation.
However, what the child does is not nearly as important as what the parents do. Its almost guaranteed that at some point you will find your child using an app you didn’t know about. They may not have asked you before they download it, they may have just downloaded it with their mates. You can probably add a little bit of peer pressure in there, and/or a large dose of curiosity. Either way parents won’t always know, you have to make a point will of trying to discover what apps they have. From there you can discuss what apps present the biggest risk and why.
Not an easy task when you consider thousands of apps are produced on a daily basis and there over 5 million apps in circulation today (3 million Android and 2 million Apple). With such a huge number of apps to choose from its almost impossible to view and discuss the pros and cons of each app.
Then again who would want to trawl through 5 million apps!
Well I’m certainly not going to do it but I have discovered that the apps we would like our kids to avoid all have certain commonalities and we have listed 9 of the most common traits below…
- Its safe to join because its Popular – Don’t fall for that one, just because the app is popular does not mean its safe. Parents need to exercise caution with any app as they all have the potential to be misused.
- Its great as its hides your name and allows anonymous users or messages – Keep children away from apps that allow anonymous users or messages to be posted. This type of app normally encourages things like cyber bullying as the perpetrator can remain unknown.
- Its ok for anyone to join as there is no join age limit – apps like are usually aimed at adults so some content maybe unsuitable for the younger ones. Apps like Facebook have a joining of age of 13 years. The older the joining age the more likely it will have content you don’t want your kids exposed to.
- The app is requesting for personal information does this make it safer?- you need to check why its needed. If its published then other users will be able to identify things like age and location. This information maybe available to all users if they are public accounts.
- It allows unmonitored access – This should be a red flag as users are unmonitored so very little in the way of restrictions. These types of apps may have inappropriate content.
- You can live video, no screening – videos are often inappropriate and some younger users may be encouraged to make a video which puts them at risk. You need to keep in mind that contents of a video message can be recorded by others. If a copy is made of a inappropriate video and details surface on the net later the impact on the those recorded can be enormous.
- They only allow public accounts – you have no privacy and your account details are for public viewing, always a risk.
- Its ok my message is removed after use – Apps like Snapfish claim to make the user feel safer as they delete the content afterwards. This encourages young people to take risks and send potentially risky stuff to other users. There are stacks of apps available to copy this type of content directly from the screen, so be careful of this type of promise. Ask yourself how do I know if they delete the app? How easy is it to copy the contents?
- Use it yourself – Ok not really a trait but if you want to know what an app is like test it out yourself. Think of it this way you wouldn’t let your kid buy their first car with out some help to make sure its safe, the internet is no different. You have to test the app yourself to see who who uses it eg too old too young, does it contain inappropriate content. Do a google search to review the app for things like its reputation for cyber bullying. Remember your research may just help another parent.
Please remember it is important to reinforce to your children that nothing is private on the internet and always exercise caution when posting information. One of the biggest dangers for young internet users is oversharing. The mental pain this can cause to young people is immense. The best advice I can give is if they would not want you, their parents, to see the information they are about to post, then its probably not appropriate to share. If in doubt, leave it out! don’t post it, simple as that.
What goes onto the internet stays there. Forever!
This also applies to apps that you want to remove. Deleting an app does not automatically delete any data they already have on you. To do this you must either try to deactivate the account or ask the app developer to remove your data . Some will follow through with your request but there are no guarantees. We have to remember the internet operates across international borders. What’s law is one country may not be so in another.