Parents: How safe are the apps your teen uses?

Social media and technology can increase communication and access to a world of possibilities, but they also can contribute to bullying and dangerous activities.

Do you know what apps your teen is using? We’ve created a list of the four most popular apps to be aware of.

Instagram

Rated 8 out of 10 on safety

Instagram is a social networking app designed for users to post interesting photos, videos and live stories with their followers. Unless the user applies privacy settings, Instagram profiles are public. If the user applies privacy settings, only those approved through a request can view the profile.

Others can search profiles via username or through synchrony with the user’s Facebook page. Users should make profiles private and be aware of the location services function. The function tags images with their location, creating a way for others to find the user.

Overall, Instagram is a safe social channel if used wisely.

Music.ly

Rated 5 out of 10 on safety

Music.ly is an application that allows users to create and share music videos up to 15 seconds in length. Users generally use the app to lip sync popular songs and share with their followers or cross-upload to other social networks, in which many teens post their videos to Instagram, Twitter or WhatsApp.

Music.ly offers privacy and security settings, but they must be selected otherwise profiles are public by default. Once privacy settings are updated, only followers can view a user’s video uploads.

In the app, users can text and voice message, host group chats, have voice and video calls, and share documents. Users can access the application and all services via mobile and desktop.

Legally, users must be at least 13 years old to download the application, however it mentions “If you are not old enough to have authority to agree to our Terms in your country, your parent or guardian must agree to our Terms on your behalf.” Therefore, users can be under age 13 with their parent’s permission.

Overall, Music.ly is not as safe as other social networks. There are ways for users to have offline conversations and host chats with users they may not know.

After School

Rated 9 out of 10 on safety

After School, as described by its website, is a “private social network that allows American high school students to share and connect with fellow students at their same school.” Students can communicate while choosing to reveal their name or remain anonymous. Students can live chat with other students via video or text message.

After School is a social application that has partnered with organizations that promote courage, empathy and collaboration, while offering a safe outlet online for teens to reach out if they are in need of support or someone to talk to. These partners include Crisis Text Line, Youth Service America, DoSomething.org and Social Media Helpline for Schools.

Overall, After School fosters a safe place for students to chat, and its privacy settings and security features are more robust. It has a zero tolerance policy for cyberbullying or inappropriate behavior.

Spotafriend

Rated 4 out of 10 on safety

Where do we start with Spotafriend … it is a social app meant to mimic the popular dating app Tinder, except for teens to make friends. However, there is debate on whether this app is meant for friendships or encouraging dating.

Users who create a Spotafriend profile can swipe on others’ profiles to either become their friend or not. Photo, age, location and bio determine swipes. Users who swipe right and “match” a friend can then chat directly in a message format and participate in the app’s popular challenges to inspire conversation.

Overall, Spotafriend is a bit concerning, as it encourages users to swipe others based on looks and age, which in turn could translate into bullying or other negative behaviors.

These apps, as well as 6 other popular apps every parent should know about, are popular among teens nationwide. They can be safely used if rules are followed and security and privacy settings are applied. As a parent, teach your teen the safety tips below and be sure to diligently monitor their social media usage.

Tips to teach your teen about using social media and apps
  • Only use social platforms with a parent’s permission.
  • Do not disclose identifiable information, including address, city, phone number, name, school, etc.
  • Remind your teen not to post app-specific usernames on other social networks.
  • Encourage your teen to make a unique username and only accept requests from their friends.
  • Block people who are bullying or post negative, lewd or offensive content.
  • Teens should edit all privacy settings to allow only friends to receive or view messages, questions and the teen’s profile.
Tips for parents
  • Monitor your teen’s social media and app use daily.
  • Download the apps to familiarize yourself with them and follow your teen.
  • Make sure your teen has only one password. Know what it is and keep it in a safe place.
  • Set rulesfor screen time usage and when technology needs to be turned off.
  • Set rules for phone use after dinner and before bed. Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness recommends no phones at night.
  • More things parents should know about teens and the internet.


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