I drove by a bus stop the other morning and I noticed EVERY SINGLE CHILD was looking at their cell phones. In our house we are SUPER strict with cell phone use because I work for a local non profit (Treasured Vessels Foundation) and we hear stories all the time about kids who are contacted by traffickers through potentially DANGEROUS APPS.
These traffickers are smart, they are aware of the newest trends and how to find new victims, and the most in demand victim for a trafficker is a child. In fact, the average age a child is trafficked is 13.
“Most teens — 85% of those aged 14 to 17 — have cell phones. So do 69% of 11-14 year olds and 31% of kids aged 8-10, according to a 2010 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation,” explains an WebMD article. This study was done in 2010, can you imagine what those numbers are in 2017?
This means a majority of kids are at risk of encountering a trafficker or predator at some point through one of the many apps they may use on their phones
We have found there are some apps that are dangerous and have the ability to expose children to sexual content OR unintentionally expose them to potential traffickers. Below are the “dirty dozen”, apps that have proven to be dangerous for our kids to use.
1. Snap Chat
I am still not an avid Snap Chat user but this is in the upper echelon of apps that are used by our youth. It allows you to capture an image or video and make it available to a recipient for a specific time. After that time limit is up, the picture/video automatically disappears forever…or so Snapchat claims. This gives the user the sense that what they post won’t ever be seen again, unless a screen shot is taken.
We’ve heard horror stories of kids who have been blackmailed by a trafficker through Snap Chat. They send a pic that is less than modest and the trafficker will save the image as a form of blackmail to attempt to threaten the youth into sending more or even meeting up where they can be abducted.
This is my favorite app of all time. I love to scroll through my feed to see what people are up to, but did you know the explore section of a woman’s account is populated by far different content then a man’s? I took my husbands and my 14-year old son’s phone to see if that was true and sure enough the images and things Instagram thought they would be interested in was pornographic in nature. They receive friend requests from fake porn accounts consistently.
This is a great opportunity to communicate with your children about the dangers of porn and how it actually fuels the sex trafficking industry.
On the surface this app seems harmless (however, there is potential for your youth to purchase things within the app which can add up to a high phone bill) but that’s not the concerning part of this app. There is a feature called “hidden chat” that acts like Snap Chat. You can send videos, text messages and they “disappear”. The only difference is the user can choose how long the message can remain visible, so it could be 2 seconds or 2 weeks.
Another reason to talk about tech safety with your child.
We would never allow our kids to have a Tinder account so welcome the kid version of it, Yellow. The user gives their name, Snap Chat user name, age, sex and what they are looking for. There is not an age verification for this app. You swipe right if you like the person or swipe left if you don’t. It allows strangers to chat with each other making it very easy for a predator to find a child nearby with their photo, name and age. This is a very unsuspecting app image, so if you see a yellow square like this one on your child’s phone, you may need to start asking questions.
This one seems weird to me. This app will choose a complete stranger for you to chat with and you can decide whether you want to chat through text or video. Right on the app’s website it says, “Predators have been known to use Omegle, so please be careful.”
If this isn’t a red flag I don’t know what is. There have been many accounts of someone logging into the app using the video choice and a nude person is on the other end.
A free app-based, alternative texting service that allows texts/pictures to be sent without being logged in the phone history. This app has a built-in web browser and all sorts of internal native apps, which means that once you arrive in Kik, there’s very little reason to leave. You can play mobile games, make memes, watch videos, listen to music, and watch videos. So those parental blocks you have on your child’s phone are bypassed through this app.
So, we all thought Tinder was all about hooking up? This app has Tinder beat, it’s motto is, “the secret way to get down with people nearby.” It connects to the users Facebook friends list and acts like Tinder where you can choose whether you like the person. If so and they like you, you are connected with the intent to hook up.
This app does not require age authentication, uses your GPS and connects you to people nearby. The whole objective is for people to “flirt” and “meet up”. The dangerous part of this is a minor can be contacted by a trafficker. You don’t have to prove you are who you say you are, and kids fall prey to the tactics of a trafficker or predator when asked if they want to “meet up”.
This app allows you to post secrets anonymously and also allows you to chat with other users in your geographic area. Another “anonymous” platform for people to connect. This is a tool that is also used for cyberbullying.
This app will not only store photos and videos away from parental eyes, but it also will snap a photo of anyone who tries to access the “vault” with the wrong password. Parents who find it on their teens’ phones can conclude just one thing: Your kid is hiding things from you.
Allows users to watch and post six second videos. This is an app that children can be exposed to sexual content.
Hides other apps on your phone. You select which apps you would like to hide and their icons will no longer show up on your smartphone screen.
Navigating these waters can be tricky. We want to give our kids the opportunity to be trusted but apps make it hard to keep them from drifting. When entrusting a child with a cell phone we need to have honest conversations about the dangers, what boundaries are set and consequences for breaking those rules.
There are people out there who use these tools to manipulate very naive children and we need to be educated and aware of the dangers that lie within the palm of our kids’ hands.