Messaging Apps & Online Predators

With new applications and social media sites introduced all the time, it is difficult to stay on top of the potential dangers our children are facing. The internet can be a cesspool of danger for some teenagers. Some of the apps that teens favor can expose them to online predators.

To help make it a bit easier, we put together an overview of what your kids may be using to communicate online. We have highlighted the most dangerous messaging apps & Online Predators.

Messaging Apps & Online Predators

Not every messaging app that your child might be using will put them in harm’s way. That being said, for many teens the allure of group and anonymous messaging apps is strong. Teens want to keep up with their friends constantly as not staying in touch can lead to social media FOMO. Anonymous or not, messaging apps can make kids feel safer and bolder, leading them to divulge:

  • too much information
  • participate in cyberbullying
  • even make risky decisions

Snapchat Messaging Apps & Online Predators

This app allows users to send photos, videos, and messages from their mobile device to another Snapchat user. The user sending the photo can determine how long the receiver of their picture or video can see the image until it “self-destructs”. Your teen can also post a story on their account of a photo or video. This story stays visible for 24-hours from the time posted until the expiration.

However, as seen with anything posted on the internet—even if your child “self-destructs” the media they sent, that does not mean it has vanished forever. Users have found ways to bypass the feature by screenshotting and screen-recording what they sent. This means that any intimate photos or messages sent by your child, under the impression it would vanish, can ultimately be captured and possibly used as fuel for cyberbullying.

Many teens are not even aware of the information they are making available to the public. For example, under settings many teens opt into the Snapchat Map, known as “SnapMap”. This feature allows public access to the user’s exact location at all times. In other words, your child’s selection in their privacy settings may allow strangers to see their location, their story postings and give them the ability to directly contact your child.

Kik

Kik is a messaging app that allows your kids to send group and private messages and is continually making headlines as it is one of the most dangerous apps for teens. It is important to know that Kik limits how many recent messages are saved, saving only a certain number within 48 hours and older, making it difficult for parents to monitor their child’s chats. Kik also makes it very difficult to identify both the sender and receiver of messages as there is no profile verification. Although this app is extremely popular for kids under the age of 18, it is also very popular with sexual predators.

Kik has had a problem with child exploitation on the app since its creation and is still making headlines concerning this in April 2019. Not only have children been exposed to mature content, but there are numerous inappropriate chat rooms, cases of child predators using the app to contact children, and even child pornography.

Whisper

Another anonymous messaging app that parents will want to be on the lookout for is Whisper. The Whisper app allows users to connect in groups based upon their interests and location in order to confess secrets. While the app is rated 17+, Whisper still allows users aged 15-17 to use the platform. Posts in this app are called “whispers” and users can sift through topics and then reply publicly or direct message the poster.

What makes Whisper one of the most dangerous apps for kids are the anonymous features as well as the location-based grouping. Pair that with the ability for other local anonymous users to direct message your children and you’ve got the perfect recipe for your child to be in contact with an online predator.

WhatsApp

Also owned by Facebook, WhatsApp has more than 1 million monthly active users as of early 2018. Many teens are not using the app’s texting feature, but are also letting you post status updates, send videos, share locations, and make voice and video calls over the internet. It has been another way for strangers and predators to get in touch with your children.

In recent years, attackers have also created malicious software downloads that masquerade as WhatsApp. Once installed, they can compromise the security on your children’s phones and/or desktops if they access their account on the computer.

Why Online Predators using Social media to Victimize minors?

Obviously, the technology in the shape of instant messaging apps provides cover and anonymity to the cyber predators. They can operate sitting in their sleeper cells and can make contact with their target without exposing their identity. Moreover, they can chase more than one target at the same time and they just have to send a flying message to a young flame and there will be possible chances they can trap them easily. There are following things that really suits to an online predator.

  • High successful rate
  • Cover & anonymity
  • No risk factor to get caught
  • Easy to operate

How to Tell if an App is Safe for Kids?

t’s hard enough to keep up with the apps that your kids are downloading on their phones, but deciphering if an app is appropriate for your kids adds another challenging layer to digital parenting. The first thing you should do when making decisions about the apps that are allowed on your child’s devices is to learn more about them. App names, icons, and even a cursory view of app descriptions in the app stores can still leave users questioning its capabilities and uses.

Net Nanny’s App Advisor is vital for parents who want to better understand the apps that their kids are using. Using the App Advisor, you can learn more about what an app is and why it is or isn’t safe for your kids, with clear callouts for questionable features like live streaming, location tracking, interactions with strangers, and mature content.

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TeamSafe Screening – Key Elements to Consider

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