15 apps parents should worry about

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Keeping your kids safe online is a never-ending effort.

Law enforcement agencies from around the country are publishing a list of 15 apps that parents need to know about if they have young kids.

You wouldn’t let your youngster wander the streets of any municipality all by themselves late at night, so why would you let them wander all by themselves among apps where kids as young as 8 years old are getting into trouble?

“We’re seeing cases involving kids on online making sexually explicit material as young as 8 years old,” said Det. Kevin West of the Cary police cybercrime unit.

He says the 15 apps you ought to know about list is a good starting point but not the definitive word on what to watch out for.

“The 15 apps are just the tip of the iceberg because the apps change every day,” he said.

To help parents out, he’s put together a presentation with pictures of many of the current apps that represent a danger to youngsters.

West says the dangers revolve around one thing.

“The problem with all these apps is most of them is that involve stranger chatting,” he said.

To protect your kid you’ve got to know what’s available to them on their smartphone.

From apps like Calculator-Plus and Vaulty that let your kid hide photos and videos in encrypted files, to apps like Ask.FM that can foster cyberbullying or apps like KIK and Whisper that allow secret chats, you need to beware.

“Parents should look at each app in their child’s phone and figure out what it is,” he said. “Eight to 15 is where parents need to watch their kids closely.”

Jill Strickland is a parent who tries to keep tabs on her child.

“I have a 16-year-old who is only allowed on her phone two hours a day, and actually we can shut off the apps so she can’t even get to the apps,” she said.

Bhavna Bhat is a mother who keeps a sharper eye on her 12-year-old, saying she’s not as wary about what her 16-year-old is looking at because “she has a good head on her shoulders.”

West says there’s no one app that every kid is using.

He says it varies from school to school and from peer group to peer group. His advice? Check your kid’s phone often for dangerous apps.

“If you see those apps on your kid’s phone you should have an immediate conversation with them about how they are using the app,” he said.

He advises doing an internet search if you find an app on your child’s phone you are unfamiliar with.

Parents have to be aware and train themselves to look at what’s out there.

West said you should never just give a kid a phone and never look at it again because you’re asking for trouble.

West says parents can do an internet search on an app to find out what’s it’s about.

There are also lots of websites out there that can help parents navigate the internet app scene that includes lists of dangerous apps and why they can be trouble for your kids.

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