Authorities urge parents to know apps that could pose a danger to their kids

Updated: Aug. 21, 2019 at 11:09 AM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Heading back to school means a time for kids to make new friends. It can also lead to increased social media activity.

For parents, knowing what’s on their child’s smartphone or tablet is an important step in helping to keep them safe as they head into this new school year.

The Horry County Sheriff’s Office is reminding parents that now is a good time to double check their child’s smartphone activity.

Most parents and guardians are aware that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are well-known social media apps that can be predator hot zones. However, lesser-known chat apps like LiveMe are what experts say parents should also be aware of.

Parents, ask yourself these three questions:

· Do you know your child's password?

· Do you perform periodic checks on their devices?

· Do you know what apps are on your kids' phones and how they're used?

The list of potentially dangerous apps range from ones that can access your location, like Snapchat, LiveMe and Skout. Other apps like Whisper allow people to post anonymously and show their location.

There’s also Omegle, which is a platform where you literally talk to strangers. Some tricky apps are designed to hide pictures, documents and web history. They can be disguised as another app such as a calculator.

Officials with the Horry County Sheriff’s Office said new apps are being developed all the time and sometimes it means more than just a conversation with your children. So, it’s up to parents to know what apps are on their kids’ phones and to research the ones they might be unfamiliar with.

“It really goes back to us as adults making sure that we know what our privacy settings are on our phones, making sure that we know what the apps are created for, what they can do, what information that they’re garnering and getting from us,” said Brooke Holden, spokesperson for the Horry County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities say you should also keep a close eye on your children’s online gaming platforms like Fortnite, Roblox and Minecraft.

A recent study by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education shows 40 percent of fourth through eighth graders have connected with a stranger online. The Horry County Sheriff’s Office says establishing an online agreement laying out expectations is key to protecting your child.

Authorities are urging parents and guardians to check your child’s privacy settings on their device. A small adjustment that can make a big difference when it comes to your kids and social media is making sure their location sharing is off so no one can track them.

Below is a list of apps parents should be aware of:

· MEETME: a dating social media app that allows users to connect with people based on geographic proximity. App users are encouraged to meet in person.

· WHATSAPP: Popular messaging app that allows users to send texts, photos, voicemails,and make calls and video chats.

· BUMBLE: Similar to “Tinder.” The dating app requires women to make the first contact. Kids have been known to create fake Bumble accounts that falsify their age

· LIVE.ME: A live-streaming video app that uses geolocation to share videos so users can find out a broadcaster’s exact location. Users can earn “cins” as a way to “pay” minors for photos.

· ASK.FM: known for cyber bullying. The app encourages users to allow anonymous people to ask them questions

· GRINDR: A dating app geared towards the LGBT community. The app gives users options to chat, share photos, and meet up based on a phone’s GPS.

· TIKTOK: A new mobile device app popular with kids. It’s used for creating and sharing short videos. With very limited privacy controls, users are vulnerable to cyber bullying and explicit content

· SNAPCHAT: One of the most popular apps in recent years. While the app promises users can take a photo/video and it will disappear, new features, including “stories”, allows users to view content for up to 24 hours. Snapchat also allows users to see your location.

· HOLLA: A self-proclaimed “addicting” video chat app that allows users to meet people all over the world in just seconds. Reviewers say they have been confronted with racial slurs, explicit content and more.

· CALCULATOR%: Only one of several secret apps used to hide photos, videos, files and browser history.

· SKOUT: A location-based dating app and website. While users under 17 old are unable to share private photos, kids can easily create an account with an older age.

· BADBOO: A dating and social networking app where users can chat, share photos and videos and connect based on location. While the app is intended for adults only, teens are known to create profiles.

· KIK:Allows anyone to contact and direct message to your child. Kids can bypass traditional messaging features. KIK gives users unlimited access to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

· WHISPER:An anonymous social network that promotes sharing secrets with strangers. It also reveals a user’s location so people can meet up.

· HOT OR NOT: Encourages users to rate your profile, check out people in their area and chat with strangers. The goal of the app is to hook up.

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