grid of social media app icons

Popular Teen Social Media Apps To Monitor

By Officer Dane Hjelden, Ben Franklin Middle School, Dane.Hjelden@fargo.k12.nd.us

I have two children who go to school in West Fargo, and we received an article from the school with information on social media applications (“apps”) our children love to use, and what parents need to know about them. I was aware of the apps mentioned in the article, but not aware of what the apps entail. I thought it was great information to share, because as parents we should be monitoring what our children do to protect their safety and well-being. From a law enforcement aspect, it is difficult to keep up with all the new technology and new apps we face each day, but again it is something we need to do to help keep our citizens safe.

Here’s a list of popular social media apps currently being used by our teens, and why we should be monitoring them:

1. SnapChat

Why Your Teen Loves It
SnapChat allows users to send images and videos to their friend lists. The secret sauce is that the sender can place a time limit on how long the receiver reviews the image or video. The content or “Snaps” self-destruct within 1–10 seconds based upon the time limit set by the users. After the snap self-destructs, it is also deleted from the SnapChat servers. Teens love SnapChat because of its simplicity and speed. It sends photos and videos much faster than standard text messages. Teens send millions of snaps throughout the day of funny facial expressions or pictures of their pets.

Why You Should Monitor It
SnapChat is the number one sexting app on the market. Teens send nude snaps to their significant others under the impression that snaps self-destruct. Forensic experts have stated the snaps can easily be recovered, thus they are never truly deleted from the receiver’s phone. Due to the countless number of nude snaps, sites have popped up over the internet to take advantage of this “free” content. There have also been numerous cases of bullying with the app.

2. Kik Messenger

Why Your Teen Loves It
A super-quick instant messaging app with over 100 million users that allows teens to exchange videos, pictures, and sketches. New Kik Cards allows users to send YouTube videos without leaving the app. Kik Cards reached over 2 million users within the first week of their launch.

Why You Should Monitor It
Teens are using the Kik app for sexting and dating. Teens are sending nude selfies to one another through the app. Kik does not offer any parental controls. Additionally, there is no way of authenticating users, thus making it easy for pedophiles to use this messenger app.

3. Whisper

Why Your Teen Loves It
Whisper is the teen confession app. It allows users to superimpose text over a picture. Users are anonymous, thus allowing for “secrets” to be posted. Over 70% of Whisper users are females under the age of 25. Whisper provides freedom for young users to share raw feelings and emotions using simple pictures.

Why You Should Monitor It
Teens have started using the app for cyberbullying. Due to the anonymous feature of the app, teens are posting pictures of other teens with derogatory text superimposed on the image. Users do not have to register to use Whisper, thus there is no user profile. Unfortunately, the app allows users to communicate with other users nearby by using the device’s GPS location settings.

4. Ask.fm

Why Your Teen Loves It
Ask.fm is one of the hottest social networking sites that is almost exclusively used by teenagers and pre-teens. It is a question and answer site that allows users to ask anonymous questions. Ask.fm has Twitter and Facebook integration that allows users to connect with all their friends on those popular sites.

Why You Should Monitor It
Due to intense bullying, Ask.fm has led to four documented cases of suicide in the United States, Ireland, and Great Britain. Users engage in hyper-bullying by constantly asking inappropriate and derogatory questions. The app is totally anonymous and is not monitored by the developers.

Source: blog post at thesocialworkpad by Sedgrid Lewis, cyber crime expert and founder of spyparent.net

It is better to be safe than sorry.

What can you do as a parent?

The key for parents is to monitor the downloaded apps on your child’s phone. Here are some action steps for you to take:

  • Google the downloaded apps on your child’s phone to learn if they are dangerous or inappropriate.
  • Discuss potential personal safety issues and law enforcement consequences with your child BEFORE inappropriate use of these apps occurs.
  • Gather all of your child’s app passwords and user names for monitoring purposes. Monitor their use frequently.
  • If your teen refuses to give you his or her password(s), then download “spyware” to review your teen’s cell phone activity.

While you might not be a popular parent for monitoring your teen’s social media and app activity, your teen will understand that you care about them and want them to be safe. To use an old cliché, “It is better to be safe than sorry.”