The internet can be a scary place for parents.
Sixty per cent of mums and dads say they’re concerned their child is exposed to risks online, including contacting strangers, accessing inappropriate content and being the victim of bullying. That’s according to a survey by Australia’s eSafety commissioner.
While we don’t want to make anyone more alarmed than they already are, there are a number of apps cyber safety experts warn that parents should be wary of.
If your child or teen has any of these apps on their phone or tablet, you might want to consider deleting them, or monitoring their use.
Omegle is an app that’s designed to allow strangers to chat or video-chat with each other anonymously. If that doesn’t already sound like an invitation for predators, the app’s website explicitly says as much.
“Omegle (oh·meg·ull) is a great way to meet new friends,” the website explains. “When you use Omegle, we pick someone else at random and let you talk one-on-one. To help you stay safe, chats are anonymous unless you tell someone who you are (not suggested!), and you can stop a chat at any time. Predators have been known to use Omegle, so please be careful.”
Advice for what you should and shouldn’t tell your child if they’re being bullied. Post continues.
Yubo (formerly Yellow)
A US police department issued a warning about this app on Facebook in August last year.
The app was then known as Yellow – it’s rebranded, presumably to get away from its reputation as “Tinder for kids”.
Yubo is aimed at 13 to 17-year-olds and is meant to allow Snapchat users to meet “friends” in their area, but could equally be used to arrange sexual hook-ups or for predators to pose as teens and lure children to meet in person, the Lexena Police Department warned.
Like Tinder, the app allows teens and kids to swipe left and right depending on whether they want to connect with strangers or not.
“What makes the Yellow app so concerning is that it embodies one of the most dangerous aspects of social media: It allows teens the ability to easily meet people (strangers) outside their parent’s sphere of knowledge or control.”
“If that did not sound dangerous enough, Yellow is matching you with another person geographically near them, facilitating face-to-face meetings.”
Sarahah wasn’t made for cyber-bullying, but experts agree it may as well have been. The app allows kids – and adults – to write anonymous messages to others and has been described as “a breeding ground for hate”.
After the death of Dolly Everett, Vikki Ryall from Headspace shares her advice on how parents can talk to their kids about mental health and suicide. Post continues.
“I have been scared, broken and sick to my stomach ever since I read messages about my 13-year-old daughter,” the mum wrote. “No one, especially our youth, should have to read messages like this about them.”
While intermittent fasting can have health benefits, it’s easy to see how Vora could be misused by teens to record disordered eating and encourage disorders like anorexia and bulimia.
Experts say parents should also be wary if they see a lot of other health and fitness apps on their child’s phone, as a number of these are favourites of eating disorder sufferers.
Reddit allows its users to post and share almost anything, including stories on very adult topics, as well as photos containing nudity. In order to access these Not Safe For Work threads, users are asked to tick that they’re aged over 18 years old. There’s basically nothing stopping children from ticking the “Yes, I’m over 18” button and accessing this mature content.
When Musical.ly sprung onto kids and parents’ radars in 2016 there were many who didn’t know what to make of the app, including us at Mamamia.
However, it did not take long for cyber experts and parents to realise the app was not safe for kids to use unsupervised.
The app allows kids (it’s popular with children as young as eight) to share videos of themselves singing their favourite songs. It sounds innocent enough, but users can comment on these vids and the app can become a platform for cyberbullying just as Facebook can be. Then there’s the fact that it’s also GPS-enabled and could be used by predators.
Cyber safety expert Susan McLean’s conclusion was that parents of kids under 13 should seriously consider deleting the app, while parents of teens should ensure they have a ‘private’ account and monitor their child’s use.
Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat
There’s probably no need for an explainer on what these apps are, but parents may find Rebecca Sparrow’s take on social media apps worthwhile reading.
The author of helpful guides for teen girls points out that children don’t have the same brain capacity as adults, and yet kids as young as eight are using these very adult social media apps.
As with each of the apps in this list, it’s worth arming yourself with as much information as possible to decide what’s right for your child.
For more helpful cyber safety advice and resources for parents, check out the Federal Government’s iParent website.