May 17, 2021

There are so many apps out there that it's hard to keep track of all of them. And with many kids having smartphone, it can be tricky to decipher what's what. There are some apps out there that look pretty harmless but they have dirty little secrets. They're not kid-friendly at all.

We're seeing some negative consequences of so much technology with kids, including cyberbullying and sharing or viewing inappropriate content online. Some apps are now even marketing to kids when they're more meant for adults. For example, there's an app called Bigo, B-I-G-O. It has an adorable baby dinosaur on it, but what it is really used is live video streaming with strangers. There's Wink and Yubo which are basically the same as Tinder.

Discord allows voice and text chat with no content filters. There's Wishbone which allows users to create polls vote on topics, and it seems to be marketed to girls. Signal is a messaging app but keeps messages private. AntiLand lets users anonymously chat and share photos with other users all over the world.

With teens trying to hide all their imperfections, there's Facetune which allows users to alter their images in photos. One app that is very concerning even though app image looks like owl eyes and a beak on a black background and looks pretty innocent, it's called Hooked, and it lets users read stories in a chat format, and features stories with sex, drugs, and violence.

There's one app which parents definitely need to be aware of. It's called The Calculator# app. It looks like a calculator, however, it's a secret storage app for photos, videos, and other files. If your child wants to hide things from you, they may use an app like this.

So with all this out there at your child's fingertips, what can you do as a parent to keep them away from these types of apps? Kids are craving social interaction more than ever right now, with in-person gatherings kept to a minimum with the pandemic. First, insist on transparency with your kids. Find out what apps they have on their phone. For my preteen and teenager, I have my fingerprint on their phones, so I can ask for it at any time and see what's on there. The apps they want won't even download on their phone unless they request it through my phone, and I put my password in the phone, and then it lets them know I've approved it. And guess what, they're totally okay with these safeguards because we've talked about it, and we've set boundaries with their phones.

Second, talk about what's okay and what's not okay on their phones, and why you want them to not see some of the stuff that's out there. Have open and honest conversations and let them know you're looking out for their best interests.

Finally, if they're not able to stay off apps that are inappropriate, you may need to take their phones away. Harsh, but necessary consequences. Most importantly, though, is, as a parent, you need to be aware of what apps they look at, and use, and educate yourself on what the apps are so you're in the know.

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