Smartphone apps parents should get to know to understand potential dangers

Safety experts urge parents to learn about app capabilities and to discuss with kids
Posted at 3:29 AM, Aug 30, 2022

COLORADO SPRINGS — As our families transition back into another school year our teens are more connected on more devices than ever before. It’s why safety experts say parents need to get familiar with smartphone apps and what exactly they’re used for.

Did you know there’s an app that looks like a calculator, but you open it up and it’s a secret messaging app?

From those hidden messaging apps to video streaming, gaming, photo sharing and dating, there are apps available for download that can do it all.

While the apps themselves in many cases may be harmless, information shared in these spaces and how people use them to interact with our loved ones can create safety issues that the experts say our families should be talking about.

”I have a daughter who just went off to college just this week, so it’s one of those things where as she was going through the process of applying for colleges and stuff you have to be careful what you put out on social media.,” said Colorado Springs parent Daniel Luu.

He now has a teen in college and a teen in high school. Both of them have smartphones with apps that he’s had to express his concerns about how they’re used.

”The key thing is if you don’t communicate with your kids somebody else will. Right? Because we don’t live in a bubble,” said Luu.

Recently, law enforcement agencies across the country have put out alerts for parents to get familiar with more than a dozen smartphone apps where teens can interact with strangers, share photos and video, experience cyber bullying, and give up their exact locations. Luul says as a parent this warning is helpful.

”When your kids are talking on those things it’s not just somebody who is locally, it can be anywhere in the world,” said Luu. “You just don’t know who they are talking to. I think it’s super useful to have the parent be knowledgeable about it and do the research into it.”

I took this list of apps to school safety expert Susan Payne who says she’s seen instances where teens get into trouble on these apps.

”It does happen that they have gone as far as getting someone to exchange photos, maybe sexually explicit photos that suddenly they are demanding financial payment in order not to contact their friends and they’ll do some really crazy things like screenshot their followers on instagram and say I know who your followers are and I’m going to send this out to them. We really have to worry about the impact it has on our children,” said Payne, who founded the Safe2Tell program.

Luu says with these kinds of dangers ultimately, he’s had to take charge to protect his kids.

”It’s one of those things where I’ll say I will check your phone. Don’t make me do it. I have the capability of doing it. I want to trust you on it,” said Luu.

We know these aren’t easy conversations, so here are some steps you can take right now to help teens stay safe on their devices:

  • Take inventory of apps on the device– are they needed? 

  • Talk about how to recognize a threat and imposters with fake profiles

  • Encourage reporting dangers and speaking up
  • Identify 5 trusted adults to contact in a crisis

Here is a look at the alert put out by law enforcement with descriptions about apps they believe parents should know about:

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