There are many ways for residents to connect with friends and family members using apps on their cellphones.
Officials with the Children’s Advocacy Center of Johnson County are encouraging parents to keep an eye on what apps their children use on their phones.
In May, Apple and Google removed three dating apps from their stores after reports of the apps allowing children as young as 12 to access them, according to Tampa, Florida’s WTSP 10 News. The Federal Trade Commission said apps Meet24, FastMeet and Meet4U appeared to violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and the FTC Act.
“The apps are operated by Wildec LLC, a Ukranian company, according to the FTC,” according to WTSP 10. “They collect a user’s birthdate, email address, photos and real-time location data. The FTC claims the apps failed to block users under the age of 13 from using the apps or from being contacted by other users.”
Tammy King, CAC executive director, said she thinks by next month there will be 10 more apps children can access and next year there might be 30 to 40 more.
“It is impossible to stay out in front of all these apps,” King said. “Some apps are designed with adults in mind, but kids know how to manipulate information to gain access. Unfortunately, there are also child predators that use these apps to groom and exploit children. I don’t think this is going to change, so parents and caregivers have to focus on building open, honest and loving relationships with the kids in their lives.”
Parents also need to listen, she said.
“That is the basis for good communication,” she said. “Kids are often trying to tell us something is wrong, and we are too busy and too distracted to really hear them.”
It comes down to a conversation about healthy choices that reap healthy consequences versus pour choices and negative consequences, she said.
“We also need to model healthy choices for our kids, and we need to keep emotions in check if we want our kids to speak openly with us,” she said. “We also need to establish firm rules with understood consequences for breaking rules. Kids struggle when rules and consequences are not clearly established.
“I would also recommend parents sharing media stories with their kids when they are age appropriate. They need to understand that they can quickly end up in dangerous situations when communicating with others through apps and/or online.”
Phone apps are going to continue to increase in numbers, she said.
“We need to equip our kids how to navigate the online world carefully and responsibly,” she said. “Youth tend to feel bullet proof online, and that can quickly cause them to get into situations that can have dire consequences.
“Perpetrators are really good at exploiting vulnerabilities in our kids. Please talk to the kids in your life and have rules about accessing all their electronic devices. Make it clear you are doing this because their safety is your responsibility and you love and care about them.”
Law enforcement officials encouraged parents to keep an eye out for the following phone apps:
• MeetMe: A dating social media app that connects people based on location. Users are encouraged to meet in person.
• WhatsApp: A messaging app that allows texts, video calls, photo sharing and voicemails with users worldwide.
• Bumble: Similar to Tinder, but requires women to make the first contact. Law enforcement officials said children and teens can create fake accounts and falsify their age.
• Live.Me: A live-streaming app that uses geolocation to share videos. Law enforcement officials said users can earn “coins” to “pay” minors for photos.
• Ask.FM: This app lets users ask anonymous questions and is known for cyberbullying.
• Grindr: A dating app geared toward the LGBTQ community based on user location.
• TikTok: A new app popular with children lets users create and share short videos. Law enforcement officials said the app has “very limited privacy controls” and users can be exposed to cyberbullying and explicit content.
• Snapchat: One of the most popular social media apps in the world, Snapchat lets users take and share photos and videos. The app also lets people see your location.
• Holla: This self-proclaimed “addicting” video chat app lets users meet people in seconds. Law enforcement officials said users have seen racial slurs and explicit content.
• Calculator+: This is one of several apps that are used to hide photos, videos, files and browser history.
• Skout: A location-based dating app that is supposed to prohibit people under 17 years old from sharing private photos. However, police say children can easily create an account with a different age.
• Badoo: A dating and social media app where users can chat and share photos and videos based on location. The app is supposed to be for adults only, but they’ve seen teens create accounts.
• Kik: Children can bypass traditional text messaging features using this app. Kik “gives users unlimited access to anyone, anywhere, anytime,” law enforcement officials said.
• Whisper: An anonymous social network that lets users share secrets with strangers. It also shows users’ location so people can meet up.
• Hot or Not: The app lets users rate profiles, check out people in their area and chat with strangers. Law enforcement officials said the goal of the app is to hook up.
For more information, visit www.wtsp.com.