Letting your child speak to kids of a similar age is a vital part of their development, and apps can help with that, especially during school holidays and other times they’re away from friends. But do you know which apps they use and who they’re speaking to?
The 10 apps below can all help your child stay in touch with friends, but they could also let them be contacted by strangers and be subjected to cyberbullying.
These are some of the most popular apps around, but they all have their own dangers – read on to find out what they are.
This is a photo-sharing app that lets users send and receive photos to and from their friends. Photos are only displayed for 10 seconds, then disappear forever. Though beware: it is possible for the recipient to take a screenshot of the photo and save it. The app could also be used to send images of a sexual nature.
Dating app that lets users ‘like’ another user’s profile by swiping right. If they like you back, that’s a match and you can start chatting.
It uses the phone’s location to show other users nearby, meaning strangers could know your location.
The minimum sign up age is 17, but like Facebook, there’s no way of verifying anyone’s age.
Anonymous messaging app that encourages users to share stories they wouldn’t want their name put to, which strangers can comment on.
Some categories can contain sexual imagery, and thanks to the messaging capability, there’s nothing to stop users arranging to meet up. Share your location and total strangers could know where you live.
While kids might think it’ll be a good way to share secrets they wouldn’t tell in person, they could end up being judged for their behaviour, possibly bullied or be exposed to subjects they don’t understand. Whisper is rated 17+, but this age limit is easy to circumnavigate.
Kik is different from other messaging apps like WhatsApp because users only need an email to set up an account and aren’t verified. This means any user can set up a fake account and start talking to your child using their username (which predators could guess and message) - potentially exposing your child to unwanted messages, along with pictures, videos and gifs.
This messaging app also has a built-in web browser, so you can share web links without leaving the app. Kik has a 17+ rating.
5: Hide Photo
If your child has photos and videos on their phone that they don’t want you to see, they can hide them using this app. It removes the offending material from their phone’s photo gallery and only shows them when they enter a PIN. It could easily be used to conceal explicit photos and videos.
Teen dating app aimed at 16 to 20-year-olds. The app is moderated, and can detect if any key words are mentioned that suggest illegal activity.
The 20-year-old upper age limit only came into effect recently, and reportedly some older users who had signed up before it had could still use their accounts.
It also contains in-app purchases, which can cost as much as £57 each.
7: Telegram Messenger
Free 4+ rated messaging app for sending messages, video and images in the same vein as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Telegram encrypts messages so they’re not visible to any third-parties that might be snooping, and lets users destroy messages and attachments from both devices – though just like with Snapchat, they can be captured in a screengrab first.
8: Viber Messenger
This app works just like WhatsApp. You can send free messages and make free video calls, but only to people whose phone numbers you have. That makes it more secure than some messaging apps, but you should still be aware of who your child is talking to.
It has a 4+ rating.
This app’s cartoony look and cat characters are likely to appeal to children, but beware — it lets them chat to anyone nearby who’s using the app and has a 17- rating. Privacy settings can be set so that users can only chat to their friends whose phone numbers they have. But there’s no way of knowing if they keep those privacy settings on.
Its chatrooms are known to contain bad language and invitations to chat privately with strangers.
10: Down Dating
Another dating app that requires users to be at least 17 years old, though it has no way of verifying that. It uses the user’s location to find people nearby, then if they like each other, lets them chat.
Like all apps that let strangers contact each other, the potential for misuse is enormous.
For a comprehensive and easy-to-use resource of the most up-to-date information for keeping your child safe online, check out Internet Matters.