Parents, Are Your Kids Using These Apps?

Teens on their smartphones

Young kids are getting into social media networks a little more than they should be. Did you know 73% of teens now use a smartphone and 92% are going online every day?

While several digital platforms have age restrictions, this is not stopping the youth from creating an account and getting into the social media frenzy. You might be familiar with Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, but there are a lot more apps out there than you think.

And, there is a possibility that your child is engaging in these apps without your knowledge. Here’s a list of apps that your child might be using:

Snapchat—You’ve probably heard of this one. It’s a video messaging app where users can take photos and record videos to a targeted list of contacts. Accompanied with a set of fun filtered frames and tools to draw and add emojis, users have a ton of fun ways to interact. Once you hit send, the message will self-destruct. Download on iTunes or Google Play. (Price: Free; Age: 13+)

Ask.fm—This is an anonymous Q&A app. Users can post questions to a user’s wall without being identified, however this is a way for your child to be cyberbullied.  Download on iTunes or Google Play. (Price: Free; Age: 13+)

Voxer—This is a walkie talkie like messaging app that uses a voice messaging and “push-to-talk” system to communicate. By default, Voxer enables the “Share Location” and disables the “Privacy Mode.” That means, anyone communicating with your child can track their location. It’s important to check and enable privacy and location settings so you do not reveal any personal information. Download on iTunes or Google Play. (Price: Free; Age: 13+)

Tinder—If you’re a single parent or talk to your single friends, this is a popular dating app that connects matched users based off mutual interests and location. However, teens are actively on it. The app uses your information from Facebook including date of birth to verify your age. Users aged between 13 and 17 can see only other Tinder users within the same age group. Users over 18 can see only other users who are also over 18. Download on iTunes or Google Play. (Price: Free; Age: 13+)

Kik—This is an instant messenger app that you may have heard a lot recently on the news from a Maryland child pornography incident, to the Virginia Tech student killing a 13-year-old. Like text messaging, Kik is a “trendy, cross-platform” to connect with friend, groups and the world around you without providing your phone number. Download on iTunes or Google Play. (Price: Free; Age: 17+)

For the majority of the apps listed above the user has to be 13 years or older to sign up—teens under 18 are to “agree” with their parent or guardian before they sign-up.

What You Can Do

There are a few tips to help keep your child safe:

  • Start a conversation with your family about practicing good digital citizenship while socializing online
  • If needed, block all sites or apps that you believe consists of inappropriate content
  • Have your kid use your app store account or an account linked to your email, so you’ll be notified when an app is downloaded.
  • Be mindful of the personal information you and your family post on social media
  • Be aware of the people you and your youth befriend or add.

For more digital safety tips, read a blog post from National PTA President Laura Bay on “5 Ways to Set Your Ground Rules”—or check out other resources such as Teen Safe, Gaggle, Connect Safely and Common Sense Media.

Ebony Scott is the communications intern at National PTA. Catherine Llamido, National PTA’s digital communications specialist also contributed to this article.