The ever-changing world of internet social media apps and sites can be a confusing arena. First, Where do parents go to keep track of what and where their teens are doing online? Then, is it possible for parents to protect their children from the negative effects of social media? Are there benefits of social media? Also, what about cyberbullying and oversharing? Are there programs or apps available for parents to aid them with social media monitoring?

Popular Social Media Apps and Sites Kids are Using

Among the favorite social media apps and sites are Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. There are also dozens of lesser-known apps and sites accessible to our teens that parents need to know about. We’ve compiled a list including many of them. The main component of staying abreast of what apps your child is using is communication with your kids. Talking to them about apps and how they use them is the best safety net on the internet.

Social media apps are different types of applications available via phones, computers, and tablets. In our list below, While debating the question, “What is a social media?” it seems we were not able to formulate a specific definition that encompasses all that social media has evolved to be. Because, it includes texting, private and public messaging, video sharing, image sharing, and more. We divided our list into major areas based on the most frequent use of the app.

Apps determined to be inappropriate for children and teens under 18 are marked with a warning sign (). Apps that are known for being abused by sexual predators are marked with two warning signs ().

General social media networking apps and sites.

Facebook – A basic chat and sharing app that allows users to chat in open forums and pages, closed and secret groups, private messages (via Messenger), and via personal “time lines.” Also, users can share video, photos, memes, and typed updates.

Messenger – Facebook’s private messaging service. Allows users to share video, photos, files, chat privately, video chat, and send audio messages to people connected with them to on Facebook.

⚠ WhatsApp – This app’s safety may improve now that Facebook has bought it. This is a Smartphone messaging app. It allows users to send unlimited messages, create groups, send videos, images, and audio messages. This app also allows face-to-face calling.

Twitter – A communication app that allows “tweets” of up to 280 characters that also allows replies. Users can follow other users, share links, memes, and images. Limited moderation on this app can allow for abusive language, images, and other types of cyberbullying.

Social media apps that are not appropriate for teens.

⚠ Tinder – A dating app that promotes “hooking up” and allows users to “rate” other users.  Tinder easily allows adults and minors to connect. The rating system has the possibility of facilitating cyber-bullying and targeting. Tinder is location-based and has a minimum age requirement of 17.

 Blendr – Powered by Badoo, this app uses GPS service to connect users who can use the app to exchange videos and photos, message one another, and “rate” other users. There are no authentication requirements on this app. There is an age requirement of 18, but users can connect through Facebook. If they filed an incorrect birth date with Facebook, children and teens can access this app.

 Kik Messenger – This is a standard messaging app allowing users to exchange messages, chat, send videos and images, create gifs. There are no parental controls and Kik does not authenticate users. Kik allows users 13 and older, with no restrictions on sexting.

 MeetMe – This dating and social networking app is a known predator site. It is inappropriate for users under age 18. It allows users as young as 13, but requires a parent or guardian to read and agree to their Terms of Service (TOS) and Privacy Policy. We all know that can be circumvented.

Image sharing apps and sites.

Instagram – An image, meme, and video sharing app owned by Facebook. Restricts age to 13 and older, but this is frequently bypassed. Users can set viewing limits to “friends” or “public,” like, comment, and search public posts and images.

Pinterest – A file and media sharing app. Users can upload images and other content, save them in designated collections, share them with family and friends via other social media apps. Search features include an image look-up so users are not limited to word-only searches to locate articles and pins that interest them.

Video sharing apps and sites.

 Snapchat – Restricted to 13 and older. The app allows users to send photos and videos and is frequently used to “sext.” Time limits for how long the image or video will be available are set by the user, but kids can easily capture images. There are known security issues.

Oovoo – Available as a phone app or via computer. A video chatting app that that allows up to 12 people to chat, record and post videos to YouTube, send video messages and instant messages. This app has an age requirement of 13.

Periscope – A live-streaming app that posts immediately to the internet. The danger of this app is that teens can post and access inappropriate content, and possibly share personal information. There are in-app settings allowing private broadcasts that they should use. This app has an age requirement of 13. Similar apps, MeerKat and YouNow, rated at 18 and older are available.

YouTube – A video site where users can view, rate, upload, comment, and share content. The site contains user-generated videos, documentary full-length films, video blogs, television clips and news, and educational material. Users must register to upload videos. There is a rating system, but it is up to individual users to self-regulate what they access.

Skype – Allows users to video chat and text messages. Group chatting is available. Users can transfer files and images in the chat feature.

Music sharing apps and sites.

Spotify – Spotify allows users to listen to music and share playlists. This is a file-sharing service that allows users to access music from every genre. Users can create playlists of their favorite tunes and share them with friends. The “free” version of Spotify earns money by having users listen to and view ads.

Musical.ly – A video creation and music app that allows users to find music and create their own lip-syncing videos. Some of the Terms specify users must be 13, but this doesn’t appear to be monitored. Because of the availability of adult language and videos, parents should monitor this app’s use.

Anonymous apps and sites.

⚠ Yik Yak – Yik Yak has been described as “Twitter meets Reddit.” Users can post text-only “Yaks” up to 200 characters. Yaks are viewable by up to 500 people closest to the originator as determined by GPS tracking. Because it is an anonymous app, it is wide open for abuse.

 Whisper.sh – This app allows users to type a thought, confession, or short statement, then add a background image from the image files and post the “whisper” to a user community. This app has an age requirement of 17 or older.

 Sarahah (pronounced Sahara) – This anonymous messaging app allows users to post a link to a Sarahah board on other apps, such as Snapchat. People can tell the user what they think (true confessions) anonymously. While not flagged for sexual predators, this app is ripe for cyberbullying. From Fortune:

The app allows users to search for others who they may know and then send them anonymous messages. True to Sarahah’s origins as a tool for honest employee feedback, the app encourages users to craft “a constructive message” after they select a recipient. Users can apply filters exert some control over who sends them messages, and they can “favorite” the messages that they like—but the app does not allow them to respond to messages. Sarahah’s website notes that the app will not disclose users’ identities without consent.

Hide everything from your parents apps.

 Audio Manager – THIS IS NOT A MUSIC SHARING APP. It is a hiding everything you don’t want your parents to see app. The Droid Effect reviewed this app:

Hide It Pro is a free app on Google Play store which disguises itself as an audio manager app. There you can set a password/pin and store some pictures, videos, musics, apps, files, messages, and more which you don’t want others to see. The app disguises itself as a fully functional audio manager. Long pressing the logo at the top of the app reveals its true purpose, a hidden area for whatever files you want to hide. You can move any file you want by either selecting it from the app or using share feature when you are viewing/listening what you want to hide. This app is extremely simple to use.

Because this app is easy to use and inherently dangerous we do not recommend it for teens.

 Calculator% — THIS IS NOT A CALCULATOR APP. Like Audio Manager, it is a hiding everything you don’t want your parents to see app. This app appears in the app store under “photo vaults.” While the app has responsible uses, discussing it with your child would be a good thing.

This video explains the app in greater detail:

Does your child have this app– Calculator%? You need to know what this app really is for— and it isn't for adding numbers! Check out this new video (less than 2 minutes)!

Posted by Blount County District Attorney-41st Judicial Circuit on Tuesday, September 1, 2015

 VaultyAs the name implies, this is a file storage vault with the ability to hide photos and video behind a password-protected entry point. Stored files are invisible to file managers. The app allows users to filter, share, rename, search, zoom, and view photos. For an additional $4.99 users can purchase a Vaulty Stock app which hides the Vaulty app behind a fake stock-checking application.

Keeping Children and Teens Safe Online

Teens and social media apps are like bread and butter. They go together and once blended it is impossible to separate them. With the popularity of social media networking, it is imperative that parents keep themselves educated on what apps are available, what they do, and how they work.

There are some benefits of social media. Teens learn to communicate better. They (sometimes) add their parents to the friend list, which allows parents to maintain an eye on postings. As with all good things, there are also negative effects of social media. Some of those include cyberbullying and oversharing. Social media monitoring is a necessity of parenthood in the digital age. There are good and bad ways to monitor your teens. Base decisions on how intensive your social media monitoring should be on trust and communication.

Communication with Teens is Integral to Keeping Them Safe

We have included a lot of different apps in this guide, but it is in no way complete. The most effective tool a parent can use in keeping their children and teens safe online is through active communication. TALK to your kids about online safety. Let them know what hazards are out there. Try to avoid being judgmental when they do share with you (that is not as easy as it sounds).

Additional links to guides for apps.

Featured image CC by 0, via Pixabay

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