Guest post by Mark Adkison, Co-Founder of ZABRA.com and Team interlinc member
As part of my job, I typically surf around social media sites and try to find the lay of the land, figure out the apps and then find ways to abuse those apps for potentially bad purposes. Most of the time, people keep it “between the lines.” However, there are examples of a few I’ve come across lately that I felt needed some calling out.
So, I’ve put together a little list of the top 5 Apps/sites your kids may be using and could be dangerous. You may be asking yourself, is an APP different from a site. In most cases, it’s the same thing. An app is literally an “application” (hence the word APP) that interacts with a website in one cohesive way. So, why do kids use APPS instead of sites? One, it’s typically easier to use than a website on a mobile device. Typing www.Facebook.com and then logging in, have to “pinch and zoom” to see the pages at the right level, etc. An APP streamlines all that cohesively and makes it easier to use.
Here’s my list of 5 Apps that parents, youth leaders, teachers … or anyone who hangs out with students … need to be aware of:
We’ve all read the headlines and news reports about how kids are getting into trouble using this app. Didn’t know about Snapchat? Here is their official explanation on their app:
“Snapchat is a photo messaging application (“app”) developed by Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy, then Stanford University students. Using the application, users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients.”
The key is “controlled list of recipients”. I can send a picture to someone that I choose. They may or may not want the pic. Then it magically disappears. That’s the “draw” for kids. I can send a weird picture and it disappears. The new draw is that now you can do video, much like Skype or other video chat services. It’s also important to note that the CEO of Snapchat is in hot water because of recently released emails he sent while in college.
Developed by two guys from Furman University, Yik Yak is the place to sound off anonymously about anything that’s on your mind. Two seconds on the APP and you’ll see why this reminds me of the old bulletin boards that dominated the internet in its early days. Random, filthy and potentially harmful and dangerous to your kids. Enough said! Here is an example:
Similar to YikYak but with pictures, Whisper allows people to post a graphical version of whatever they’re thinking at the time. While many of these “whispers” appear to be harmless, it only takes one to really freak you out. Example: “I’m alone in the world and I’m only 18. My mom is in prison, I’ve never met my dad. Thinking I should end it all.” I also read “18/M looking to hook up with a Female hottie tonight. Who’s game?” Users can also leave comments and connect on the APP as well. So not only is this a place for people to publicly and anonymously tell their secrets, it’s a place where potential predators could be lurking and wanting to groom your child. Here are a few examples:
Very similar to Whisper, Secret allows users to post confessions and secrets anonymously with graphics that are randomly selected or uploaded from the user’s personal pics.
Chances are your child has this APP already installed on their device. They probably use it constantly throughout the day. However, there is a new feature that Instagram rarely touts. It’s called Instagram Direct and allows communication and the ability to send a direct message to your child with a picture.
If you don’t know where Instagram Direct is located, then below is where you can find where this feature is located within the Instagram app.
Wait, doesn’t ZABRA monitor Instagram? Yes, we do. However, the API (programing that allows ZABRA to monitor specific accounts on Instagram) doesn’t allow our filters to examine Instagram Direct … at all. Have we asked? Yes. According to Instagram there are no plans to make this available for systems like us to monitor these messages. So what do you do? You should have a discussion with your child about not using this feature on their Instagram account. Also, taking time to spot check this is simple and easy and gives you a great “excuse” to engage and have a discussion with your kids about what they’re doing on social media.
So while this message is geared towards parents, it’s important for anyone who has influence and can speak to kids and/or parents to warn them of the dangers of social media. When I speak with kids and parents, I always says something like this: The best way to prevent a child from getting into trouble online is to keep them off as long as possible. But at some point in time, you will likely get asked about a phone, computer, etc. It’s our responsibility to teach kids the “do’s and don’ts” of the web, mobile devices and applications … just like we do in the real world.
Mark Adkison is Co-founder of ZABRA.com and currently works as VP of Product and Content Development. Mark is 20 year veteran of the music industry working for ForeFront Records and EMI Christian Music Group in promotion, marketing and technology and co-founded the popular music site HearItFirst.com.