Digital media and apps allow children to communicate and express their creativity, connect with peers, and share their feelings. However, they can be an avenue through which cyberbullying occurs. There are many types of apps and sites available for free that give users the ability to search for people and share or post information about them anonymously.
Parents may not be aware of the apps that their children use regularly or may not be aware of the risks involved in using them. There are many ways that cyberbullying can be hidden in apps and sites, such as texts, videos, and web calls that disappear or do not appear on the device’s call or text message logs.
Many apps also make it easy for users to access, view or participate in adult or harmful content. Privacy and location settings may make them more vulnerable to stalking, cyberbullying, exposure to adult content, or other dangers.
Popular Social Media Apps and Sites
Some current popular social media venues and apps include:
- Amino: An app that lets users join online communities, chats, forums, and groups on a variety of topics based on their interests.
- Askfm: A social networking site that allows users to ask other people questions, often anonymously.
- Calculator%: A “vault” or secret app that appears harmless, but hides photos, videos, files, and browser history.
- Chatroulette: There are over 20 different chat roulette sites that allow users to instantly connect via webcam and video chat. Sites typically pair the users randomly and instantly.
- Discord: A voice-over-IP (VOIP) app that allows users to video chat with others, private message, and join, create, or participate in public and private chat rooms. This app is often used by players to chat with each other while playing videogames.
- Facebook and Facebook Live: The most commonly used social media site that is accessible on many different media platforms.
- Facebook Messenger Kids: A messaging app and platform for children.
- Houseparty: A group video chat and social networking app that allows up to eight people to video chat at once in a “room.”
- Instagram: A photo and video sharing and networking site that connects users through other social networking sites (e.g., Facebook).
- Kik: Messaging app that allows users of all ages to contact others anonymously.
- Line: A messaging app that allows users to make free phone calls, leave voice messages, and text. Users can delete texts or chats from recipient’s phone using a timer.
- LiveMe: A tool to broadcast live-streaming videos and watch other users’ videos.
- MeetMe: A dating app that connects users to others based on geographic proximity.
- Omegle: An app that pairs users with strangers in anonymous one-on-one chat sessions.
- Reddit: A site that stores social news, rates and evaluates web content, and discussion threads.
- Roblox: An online game platform with free multiplayer games created by users. Roblox allows users to communicate with each other and join groups.
- Sarahah: An anonymous messaging app that allows users to send anonymous messages to people they may know.
- Snapchat: A photo messaging app that allows for sharing pictures and short videos that are intended to be erased shortly after delivery.
- Telegram: Messaging app that allows users to share photos, videos, and files; make calls, and delete texts or chats from recipient’s phone using a timer.
- TikTok: An app that allows users to create and share their own videos where they lip-synch, sing, dance, or just talk.
- Tumblr: A social networking site that allows posting of short blogs and media.
- Twitch: A live stream platform for gamers to watch live stream content, chat, and connect
- Twitter: A microblogging site that allows users to send, read, and reply to “tweets” or short messages.
- VSCO: A photography app to capture and edit photos.
- WeChat: An app that allows user to chat with friends, and to search for people nearby and around the globe.
- WhatsApp: A private messaging app that allows users to text, send photos, videos, and location information to their contacts.
- Whisper: An anonymous social media site that allows users to post and share photo and video messages.
- YouTube: A video sharing platform that allows users to post and share videos.
- YUBO (formerly YELLOW): An app referred to as the “Tinder for teens” that allows users to swipe right or left to accept or reject the profiles of other users.
- YouNow: Broadcast, Chat, and Watch Live Video: An app that lets teens broadcast themselves live. They can see and respond to live chat or view other broadcasters and chat with them.
Risks of Social Media Apps and Sites
Social media has many benefits that must be balanced with the risks it presents. Risks to be aware of include:
- Screening for harmful content on websites and apps varies widely.
- Content posted can be incorrect, harmful, or hurtful.
- Apps and platforms can be used to share harmful or adult content.
- Apps and platforms can include users of all ages and allow children to connect with adults.
- Apps and platforms can have no moderator for chats, groups, and forums that allow all types of content to be posted or shared.
- Apps and platforms can allow all types of content to be posted or shared.
- Privacy controls over who can view or access posted material vary across apps, and many users are not aware of how to use them effectively.
- Apps that allow for real-time user videos “live streaming” can been used to show bullying, violence, suicide, and harmful acts as they are happening.
- Some apps that include location information can be used to get personal information, such as someone’s age, current location, or where someone lives.
- Apps that support telephone calls do not show up on a call log, so parents may not know who their children are talking to.
Parents can search online for organizations that provide in-depth parental reviews of apps, platforms and games used by children to learn more about them. By learning about the risks, important security features, and other details about the apps, platforms, and games children want to use, parents can make an informed decision about how or if their child will use them.