Rotten Apples – More Bad Apps Parents Should Know

In October, Help @ Home listed out some favorite apps among the members of Generation Z. Many of the apps in that post were not necessarily harmful if used as intended. The “Bad Apples” article is very popular with parents and is one of the most read posts in the last sixth months. In this post, we look at some additional apps that all parents should know.

Snaphack

Snapchat continues to be one of the most popular apps among young adults despite a recent design change that angered users. The appeal of Snapchat is that users like the idea that they can send an image/snap that will disappear after a few seconds. We discussed this concept and the potential dangers that go along with the app in the last post. Snaphack adds a whole new level of complexity to list of concerns.

Why is this a concern?

Snaphack presents the more significant threat. This app allows the party viewing the snap to save a copy to their phone without informing the sender. Once saved, the image can be forwarded to others who can use it to bully, harass, or embarrass the original sender. Snaphack users can save their snaps to a folder protected by a vault app like Hide It Pro. Vault apps allow the user to hide inappropriate content from anyone who might want to check their phone. Together, these two apps can be the catalyst for some abysmal choices.

Jott

Jott is a messaging app that doesn’t require a phone number or a data plan. It uses wifi and Bluetooth to connect to other users in a walkie-talkie style of communication. Jott allows users to send messages, photos, and videos similar to texting. This app includes the “vanishing photos/videos” features of Snapchat where an image will disappear after a few seconds. Jott has combined the elements of two popular apps (Kik Messenger and Snapchat) to into one and that could spell trouble for parents.

Why is this a concern?

The disappearing photos feature can quickly lead to sexting and inappropriate images. In addition to this, Jott’s ability to bypass security is highly concerning. The app’s unique use of Bluetooth and wifi allows it to get around many of the filtering systems put in place by parents or schools to prevent this type of behavior. The silver lining to this black cloud is that its connection has a limited range of 100ft. Teens must be within that small radius to use this sneaky app.

Yubo / Yellow

Similar to Tinder and Grindr, Yubo is a dating app. Users swipe left on a person’s profile to signal they would like to chat. If the person on the other end also swipes left, a match is made, and conversations can begin. Yubo is often referred to as “Tinder for Teens” due to its popularity with teenagers and young adults. A recent update added the ability for users to create a virtual room with up to four people live streaming their camera. The app allows an unlimited number of people watch these live rooms.

Why is this a concern?

Other than the obvious concern of teens communicating and potentially hooking up with random strangers, the app uses GPS location to connect users. Adults/predators can use a fake profile and message to trick teens into meeting face to face. The app allows anyone to sign up without any form of identity verification. The live rooms are entirely unmoderated, so basically, anything goes. Teenagers and young adults should steer clear of this group.

YouNow

YouNow is a live streaming app. The app encourages users to “discover awesome people, become a broadcasting legend, and make lifelong friends on YouNow.” This is a trendy app with young teenagers. YouNow provides a platform for kids to live stream video in an effort to become an Instaceleb. While watching a live stream, YouNow users can comment on the video and even give virtual gifts as a way to interact with the streamer.

Why is this a concern?

YouNow has put some safety measures in place to ensure that the app does not become a hotbed for cyberbullying, nudity, etc. For starters, users must be 13+ to sign up. Nudity, vulgar language, and cyberbullying are not permitted, but the since the streamers are live, this can be hard to control. YouNow also offers users a way to report offensive users. Like Snapchat, this app is not necessarily a bad one when used correctly. The app is concerning because it allows a young person to stream for hours with the simple push of a button. It can be easy to attract unwanted attention or to unintentionally share too much information when live streaming. Parents should be aware of the app and what it does.

Monkey

Monkey is an online chatting platform that selects two users for a conversation based on their age and hashtags. Once two people are matched, they can have a brief “introductory” call. If they want to continue the chat, they need to “add time” to the app. Often though, teens who want to continue the conversation simply add each other on another social media network like Snapchat.

Why is this a concern?

Randomly being paired up with someone for a conversation can swiftly lead to bad choices. The app has a “zero tolerance policy” on cyberbullying, but users have to report the bullying first. There doesn’t appear to be much value in this app. It reminds me of another lousy app, Omegle, only with a few additional regulations.

What does that mean to parents?

It is a daunting task to stay apprised of what the latest app or online craze that is sweeping young America. An ongoing conversation about appropriate phone and internet use is essential. I urge you to consider checking your child’s phone often, set technology boundaries and monitor online behavior. There are parental control apps that allow you to monitor your child’s device, and if you find apps that you do not want your child to access, consider having a conversation about why they need to be uninstalled and the importance of safety. We’ll cover these parental control apps in a future edition of Help @ Home. Ongoing and consistent communication will help your child to develop those behaviors that will ultimately lead them to independence in making safe and responsible choices when online and on their smartphones.

What does that mean to educators?

These apps underscore one of the many reasons that districts need to provide digital citizenship training to students at all grade levels. Well designed, relevant digital citizenship curriculum can help students understand what information is safe and not safe to share online. It can provide children with strategies to deal with cyberbullying, inappropriate material, and other unwanted online interactions. As stated for parents above, ongoing and consistent communication will help your students to develop behaviors that will ultimately lead them to independence in making safe and responsible choices when online and on their smartphones.

 

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