Is This App Appropriate?
During a recent night out with some girlfriends, one woman brought up Pinterest. Most of us in the group have an account—and love it. But this mom raised concern about her 12-year-old daughter getting an account. While the daughter wants to get ideas for crafts, my friend worries about what else she may stumble upon. While the apps policy doesn’t allow pornography there is still stuff like skimpily dressed bathing suit models, figure drawings and even exercise posts that some parents might now be comfortable with their young teens stumbling upon. Click on these inappropriate images and your child can end up viewing far more questionable content. The app also allows for “hidden boards”. While that’s a great option if you are collecting ideas for Christmas gifts, it can make it impossible to monitor what your child is pinning.
You, like my friend, may do your best to protect your child from the dangers of the Internet, social media and other on-line information. But even the best of us can be bested by technology—especially mobile apps. The very nature of these apps makes it difficult for parents to monitor. And while many are entertaining, informative and even educational, some come with risks.
Instagram is a great photo-sharing app that allows a user to set up a profile and then share photos with others online. What parents may not know is that the user profile has a place to include personal information such as name and birthday and contact information like a phone number and e-mail. Teens may not understand the dangers of posting that kind of personal information online.
Some apps like SnapChat, CyberDust (Tagline: Every spoken word isn’t recorded. Why should your text be?) and Frankly Chat (Tagline: Gossip with your best friends without getting caught!) allow users to post pictures or send messages and videos that are deleted over time. This inability to trace conversations makes it impossible for parents to monitor. The anonymity factor could also allow users to send inappropriate or bullying messages without having to worry about accountability. If nothing else these kind of apps encourage gossip.
Anonymity combined with openness may also be an issue with apps like Whisper and Omegle. Whisper allows users to post one-sentence confessions laid over top of an image. While site developers are looking for ways to broaden the user base, so far it is largely a young demographic. Omegle picks someone at random for you to have a one-on-one chat with. While the site advises against sharing personal information, the site tagline is “talk to strangers”—something that most parents have likely been warning their children against.
Keeping up with a seemingly unending array of new apps can be difficult for parents. But being aware of the types of sites your child is accessing on their mobile device can be as important as teaching them to safely cross the street.