In a follow up to a post we did last year on this topic, guest blogger Jake Lester gave his perspective on dangerous apps that parents and students need to be aware of.
With the constantly accelerating technological progress and all the fascinating new opportunities that it opens, one needs to be reminded of the perils that all new things bring along. On the one hand, we must not be tinfoil-headed, and we should stay open to the changes that the world introduces, but on the other hand, we should treat them with a healthy dose of suspicion.
It has been a while since smartphones and apps are no longer treated as a technological breakthrough that will change our lives. They had already changed our lives quite some time ago. They have opened a lot of opportunities to make our lives more comfortable in many ways. For instance, there are a lot of apps that can be used in class to facilitate the academic process. Still, some objective threats that smartphones may bring upon us remain overlooked. As in many cases, the vulnerable group is children and teenagers.
It is up to the good parents and the caring teachers to apply all their effort to protect the children from such threats. By threats, we should not mean such minor inconveniences as lack of concentration at school. The use of some apps may provoke more dire consequences – from increased bullying and up to molestation.
While understanding that we cannot forbid the children to use smartphones altogether, as wells as tracking all their activities on their smartphones would be an unacceptable violation of privacy, there are still measures that can and must be taken. The most obvious ones being raising awareness on the perils of using certain kinds of apps and blocking those apps on your wi-fi.
There are tons of dangerous apps out there, and ever more are being put out all the time. So, it would be impossible to collect them all in just one post. So instead, let us take a look at some illustrative examples and see how they can be used by ill-intended minds to harm the children.
This website’s tagline says “Relationships on Your Terms. Where beautiful, successful people fuel mutually beneficial relationships”. It also offers apps for both iOS and Android. It offers people to register and seek dates while having established the terms beforehand. Basically, you can sell or buy a date. Clearly, this borderlines prostitution. However, a young mind may understand a date as something like a dinner or a walk on the beach.
It seems naive, but a child may presume that someone would be willing to pay for their time just for the sake of spending time with them. A child needs to be explained (or reminded) that if someone is willing to pay for their time, then it is most probably something less innocent than merely going to the movies.
This app allows users to post text-only messages (“Yaks”) limited to 200 characters. The Yaks are read by 500 users in the nearest vicinity.
No filters are applied, so users at schools have been reported to have received sexually explicit content or even contributing. The users are anonymous, so one can reveal any information without any fear of getting caught. This makes it a perfect channel for bullying. Many schools have decided to block this app on their wi-fi.
This is a messaging app that puts the privacy of the users on the front. So, one can correspond without any restraints, being identified by nothing more than a made up nickname. Third-party websites often trade Kik usernames categorized by gender and age. This means that a sexual predator can have your child’s Kik nickname, and there would be little to nothing you can do to verify the identity of this chat partner. As tempting as it may be, anonymity suggests a lot of risks that you and your child should be aware of.
This chatting app’s tagline is “Talk to strangers!” It has been around since 2008 and has video chats since 2009. It is the definition of anonymous: you don’t need to register to use it, and the chat partners are only identified as “You” and “Stranger.” However, in order to find you some chat partners with similar interests, it will offer you to connect to your Facebook, so it has access to your likes to link you to users with similar likes. This gives the ill-intended people the perfect opportunity to provoke your children into inappropriate conversations, and then blackmail them to send the outcomes of such conversations to their parents and/or friends, thus trapping them to exploit them further.
It is a message board that schoolkids can access by scanning their school ID or via Facebook. This is meant to secure the app from outside visitors.
The user, however, becomes anonymous once inside the app, so the school kids are free and welcome to post whatever they want. There is no need to go into detail about what conflict and drama it can create within the school.
There is even a section for students over 17 which they can enter by scanning their driver’s license. This provokes the users to share even more explicit messages and content.
This article is by no means aimed at provoking paranoia or establishing total control over the schoolchildren’s smartphones activities. However, one needs to stay alert to the risks that the children may get exposed to by using certain apps. Just don’t be lazy to keep an eye on the new apps that may pose a threat to a child’s well-being and do your best to raise awareness among the children regarding smartphone safety and security.
Guest Post by Jake Lester
With a background in education and entrepreneurship, Jake Lester currently writes for the educational blogging projects. Jake writes for many blogs and gives useful advice for entrepreneurs, students and educators. He likes to cover stories in productivity, careers and education. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook