The Dangers of Messaging Apps

dangers messaging app

In a recent MamaBear Blog post, we identified some of the top messaging apps. Most parents are aware of the prominence of social messaging apps and the way they have captivated tweens. While messaging apps can be harmless in most cases, it is important for parents to not only stay in the know about which apps are being used but also to monitor them as closely as possible to ensure their children’s safety.

The Dangers of Messaging Apps

While kids may simply be using messaging apps like Kik and SnapChat to share trivial messages and a range of goofy emoticons with their school friends, there are some hidden dangers associated with messaging app use that would strike fear into the heart of any parent.

According to this Fox 4 article, in one week the app Kik was linked to three serious crimes involving teen victims in Southwest Florida. The apps are being used by predators to prey on young victims as well as by kids engaging in sexting and cyberbullying.

See Also: Taking Responsibility for Kids and Sexting

Designed for Young Adults, Usurped by Tweens

Parents should take note. Most kids who have smartphones use these apps on a daily basis and throughout the day and night. Originally designed for much older youths, messaging and social media apps have been usurped by young kids who lack the maturity to understand how much damage they can do.

See this article for an interesting perspective on what happens when apps designed for more mature college students fall into the hands of tweens:

See Also: Yik Yak App Makers Do the Right Thing

More alarming is the way different social apps are being used together by young kids in dangerous ways. For example, one blogger describes how the photo sharing social network Instagram and the messaging app Kik were used together to allow a pedophile to target a young teenager.

Safety Measures

What can parents do?

First, talk to your kids. Without taking too prying of a tone, ask them questions about the apps they use most. Try to make the questions positive, rather than negative, in order to get a foot in the door with kids reluctant to share. What are their favorite messaging apps? Who do they like to talk to? Have they made any new friends? Asking questions but keeping the dialog light and conversational can build trust and help kids to be more open to sharing with their parents.

Second, install a family safety app like MamaBear on all family members’ phones so that you can monitor your kids’ behavior on social media like Instagram and Twitter. This way you will know who they are making friends with and be able to keep tabs on any troublesome behaviors.

Third, remind your children to take their own safety seriously. They should be aware of the kinds of things that really do happen with messaging apps and the types of predators who lurk behind deceiving screen names and profile images. It is important for the whole family – parents and children alike – to stay in the know about what these apps should be used for and what can make them go terribly, terribly wrong.

 

Taking Responsibility for Kids and Sexting

kids and sexting

As much as we don’t want to admit it, more and more kids are sexting. According to studies conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, The Pew Internet & American Life Project and the Cox Communications Teen Online & Wireless Safety Survey, 39 percent of all teens have sent sexually suggestive messages via text, email or instant messaging and 48 percent of teens say they have received such messages.

Naturally, kids don’t want their parents to find out about sexting behavior. So they try to stay one step ahead when it comes to keeping select content hidden from their parents. Part of this is developmentally normal. But sometimes it can lead to trouble – especially when social media apps are involved creating harm to your child’s digital reputation.

Even when parents use family safety apps like MamaBear to monitor their kids’ safety, talking about the consequences to sexting is an ongoing, important conversation. Be aware of new social and messaging apps your kids and their peers are using. Also, do your best to responsibly monitor their text messages.

POOF! GOES PARENTAL AWARENESS

Take, for example, the popular app Poof. “Another app to keep an eye on is Poof,” writes one blogger. “It’s an app that hides other apps. All your child has to do is open Poof and select which app they want hidden and mom and dad will never know it’s there.”

This video shows how the app works on Apple devices (note the types of sexually themed apps the commentator decides to hide with Poof!).

Poof also makes a texting app that allows text messages to disappear after they’ve been read. “POOF text messages are never stored on servers, and leave no text messaging footprint behind!” reads the app’s description at the Google Play store.

Taking Responsibility

Do your kids’ phones have Poof?  How would you know? So whose responsibility is it to monitor kids when they engage in this behavior? These days, many groups who work with youth are taking action to keep tabs on kids social media behavior, from schools instituting new social media policies to the police, who are known to have their own procedures now for monitoring the social media accounts of local teens. Some might argue that it is the responsibility of the social media companies themselves to keep tabs on what is going on with underage accounts. Others believe it is firmly the responsibility of parents to monitor their kids’ behavior and hold them accountable when they go astray.

See Also: Schools offer social media training to deter sexting, other dangerous online behavior

MamaBear Family Safety App Now Includes Twitter Monitoring

twitter monitoring

Parents with kids that use Twitter to follow celebrities and tweet to their friends (and strangers) now have a tool to help them know more about their kid’s activity on the popular social network.

MamaBear Family Safety App’s new version 2.8 for iOS and 2.5 for Android  features a new update offering parents the ability to monitor their children’s activity on Twitter.

Popular with people of all ages and especially with celebrities and their fans, Twitter is a social “microblogging” app through which users can write, read and share 140-character “tweets” on any subject. While Twitter offers privacy settings that allow users the option to approve follow requests, the default setting allows anyone can follow and see what a person tweets. So a child who uses Twitter without setting the account to private is sharing his or her messages with millions of Twitter users around the world.

See Also: Protecting Kids from Internet Stranger Danger

This can be unnerving for parents worried about who can see what their kids share via twitter – especially if they use hashtags with certain words (e.g. “Headed to #MainStreetMall 2day with my gurls”), because a hashtag before a word makes that word/phrase searchable by any Twitter user as a common filtering option.

The new MamaBear Twitter update allows parents to monitor their child’s Twitter account for restricted words, who’s following them and who they’re following.

By using all social monitoring features on MamaBear 2.8 for iOS and 2.5 for Android, parents will save time and keep their children safe staying “in the know” with information from their child’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all at once.

Stay in touch and let us know what you think of MamaBear by emailing us at info@localhost.  Your feedback is critical in our mission to protect children.

 

Comparing Family Safety Apps: MamaBear and Net Nanny

Choosing the right family safety app isn’t easy. That’s why we’re taking the time to compare the features of MamaBear with a few other family safety services now on the market.

Let’s take a look at Net Nanny and review it’s similarities and differences compared to MamaBear.

Net Nanny created internet filtering software that allows parents to be in control of web browsing – preventing selected sites to be viewed while allowing others. Initially the software was created for computers and now has extended to mobile web browsing. They clearly state their benefit as families being able to “use the Internet as a resource for homework and fun without fear of accidental exposure to undesirable material, or encounters with dangerous individuals.” Net Nanny has added social media monitoring and mobile device monitoring.

The Net Nanny service allows parents to:

  • Set filtering for nearly twenty categories of online content to either block the site, send a warning or allow the child to view;
  • Send a warning message or completely block access to adult content like pornography;
  • Limit the total number of hours spent on the internet in a 24-hour period OR set specific times of the day when a child is allowed to be online;
  • View a web page without being bombarded by vulgar language;
  • Monitor social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, Tumblr, Google+)  in order to protect kids from online threats and monitor activities related to your child’s “friends,” cyberbullying, sexual predators, privacy concerns and reputation-damaging pictures or videos;
  • Send parents reports and mail alerts about a child’s online activity;
  • Check usage reports, change a child’s profile settings and much more remotely from any computer with an Internet connection;
  • Use preset user profiles or customize settings for each family member; each computer can have unlimited user profiles.

Mobile device monitoring on iOS and Android replaces the mobile browser being used with Net Nanny’s browser for secured browsing.   Net Nanny can also set time controls and monitor apps used on Android devices.

See Also: Protecting Kids from Internet Stranger Danger

MamaBear’s main similarity to Net Nanny is social media monitoring.  Both allow parents to monitor a child’s social media accounts to protect them from cyberbullying, predators and other threats. Both apps send parents alerts based on a child’s online activity.

There are some key differences between the services as well. Net Nanny is primarily a web browsing monitoring service for desktops and mobile devices with added service for social. MamaBear is taking a mobile first strategy focusing on the child’s location, social media activity and driving speed delivering all communication through the parent’s mobile device reducing the amount of emailed reports to thumb through and figure out.

Location monitoring and driving speed awareness are services offered through MamaBear.  These features are not a part of Net Nanny’s service. With MamaBear parents receive an alert when their child drives or rides over a preset speed limit that tells them how fast they were going and where they were when they exceeded the preset limit. You can also view the child’s location history and pattern for the day.

See Also: Monitor Teen Driving with the MamaBear Driving Monitor App

There are many wonderful apps and protection services that offer a variety of useful features to fill different needs for families. Some apps, like Net Nanny, are designed to focus on web browsing behavior on both desktop computers and mobile devices; others, like MamaBear, track children’s behavior both on social media and in real life situations. It’s helpful to know what the options are so parents can choose a service to help them keep their families safe while allowing freedom without worry.