Parents can have difficulty keeping up with all the sites and apps kids seem to find as they figure out Facebook is for fogies. This isn’t an exhaustive list but here are 10 sites, a few with caveats, your kids may be checking out.
Ask.fm: The social network, which allows users to post anonymous questions and answers, became controversial after it was linked to several teen suicide and bullying cases. The site, which is not for children under 13, was sold last year and has since instituted a new safety guideline to prevent cyberbullying. But there’s no consensus on whether this has worked. A parent will want to check out this site if there’s a chance their kid is on it.
Instagram and Instagram Direct: On this photo sharing app, popular with all ages, users can post photos and short videos and followers can “like” pictures and leave comments. Public photos are the default but there are privacy settings. Instagram’s direct message feature lets users send a photo or video to a select group of people (up to 15). From a safety standpoint, there is a concern about kids being harassed or approached inappropriately through private messaging.
Kik: Police and school security officials are urging caution with this app, which allows users to message each other anonymously without going through the phone company. The app is rated for ages 17 and up, but it’s also used by younger kids and predators. Police are reporting cases of bullying and “sextortion” linked to Kik. FBI officials call sextortion a growing Internet crime with a perpetrator convincing kids to send a racy picture then threatening them if they don’t comply with their demands. A Hialeah man who was recently convicted of child pornography and sextortion reached kids through Kik, Skype, Omegle and other sites.
Periscope: Live streaming videos that allow any user to broadcast live to anyone with a phone is the appeal of this app. The Wall Street Journal said it’s like video chatting on Skype, except that you’re broadcasting one-way to anyone who feels like tuning in.
Pinterest: The app is like a virtual pinboard where users can share, save and categorize pictures and ideas for topics including crafts, music and clothes, with millions of boards. You don’t hear about problems with Pinterest but the tattoo category can be iffy and Pinterest does link to other sites. Users can create a Pinterest account via a Facebook account or an email address.
Snapchat: The popular app allows teens to exchange their photos, texts and videos and to use it as a live video chat. The chief claim is that these texts and photos are only viewable for one to 10 seconds before disappearing, but screenshots can be taken. The site directs kids under 13 to SnapKidz as long as kids don’t lie about their age. While kids say they like Snapchat for silly or “in the moment” photos and videos, the site has been used for “sexting.” Parents are urged to talk to their kids about taking or posting pictures that would get them in trouble. If they’re in doubt, they’re able to block this site.
Tumblr: : It’s described as a cross between a social network and a microblogging site. Teens can use it to creatively share photos, videos and text and also follow others’ accounts, including actors, athletes and artists. Reblogging is similar to retweeting. The site and app are not for children because it is possible to access pornography and other inappropriate material. If teens are using it, be sure to follow them and talk about using the site safely.
Vine: Users can create and post six-second videos, which are also often shared on Twitter and Facebook. The app is aimed at teens age 17 and up. Videos tend to be harmless and even fun and creative, but resourceful kids can find nudity, drug use and other inappropriate material.
WhatsApp: The free instant messaging app allows users 16 and over to send text messages, videos, photos and audio messages to one or more people with no message limits or fees. It’s popular for international travelers.
Yik Yak: The free social networking app is geographically based. It lets users post anonymous comments, opinions or secrets to Yik Yak users within a 1.5-mile radius. The app is rated for people 18 years and over. The site is often used in school, on campuses and in malls. The risks include location sharing (unintended), requests for hook-ups, harassment and finding drugs and alcohol. “Yik Yak has a reputation for allowing for bullying,” said Edward McAuliff, chief information security officer for Miami-Dade schools.