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Messaging apps: the dangers lurking in your kids’ pocket

Alina BÎZGĂ

August 19, 2022

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Messaging apps: the dangers lurking in your kids’ pocket

Messaging apps are an indispensable tool for children to communicate with friends and family.

Although not all apps will cause your children harm or put them in contact with malicious individuals, parents must familiarize themselves with the threats kids may face while using the popular messaging apps.

The most common dangers include:

  • Participating in a conversation with strangers who may want to harm them
  • Being harassed or cyberbullied
  • Sending or receiving inappropriate content (sexting)
  • Falling victim to an online predator who may manipulate and exploit the child
  • Becoming a victim of identity theft - read more about protecting kids' data online here
  • Exposure to offensive images and messages that may cause long-term negative effects on their mental health

Kids are naturally curious and are becoming internet savvy very young. While your kids may be texting pros by the age of 10, it doesn’t mean that they are mentally prepared to fend off online predators and bullies who may enter their lives via the apps on their phones or tablet.

As mentioned, not all apps are as bad in terms of privacy and security for kids. We would, however, like to underline some of the most dangerous instant messaging apps your kids might use, to allow you to intervene before they suffer any harm, these include:

  • Kik– The app, popular among kids under 18, is notorious for sexual predators. The app does not require profile verification and relies heavily on anonymity for interactions between users. There are thousands of public chat rooms where kids have been exposed to pornography and other lewd content.
  • Snapchat – The disappearing-message app is a haven for online predators. Teens and adults alike use it to send photos, videos and messages that have a set viewing time. Although the messages disappear, it doesn’t prevent the recipient from taking a screenshot of media files. This could fuel extortion attempts and other harmful interactions for kids, which could have a serious emotional impact.
  • Whisper – The anonymous secret-sharing app that lets users connect to groups based on their location and interests. The app has made headlines for privacy issues in the past and although it's recommended for kids ages 17+, plenty of younger kids use the app to make confessions and overshare information. Given the location-based grouping of the app and the ability to send private messages, Whisper is very dangerous as it could allow an online predator to contact kids in the real world.

To ensure that your kids use messaging apps safely, we recommend having an open conversation with them and ensuring that they:

  • Never share their real names or other personally identifiable information
  • Privacy settings are set to a maximum, including the location feature
  • Always ask permission before installing an unknown app
  • Young kids never use their smart devices unsupervised, especially late at night
  • They are always careful about the images and messages they share, even with friends
  • Never give their phone number or email address to strangers
  • Report suspicious messages
  • They never click on links from strangers

Keeping track of what kids do on their phones and other devices is a huge undertaking for parents and caregivers across the world. Bitdefender solutions provide parental control tools that give you peace of mind and provide help with screen time for your kids. You can easily block websites or apps entirely, to help keep your little one safe.

Based on your child’s age, Parental Advisor automatically chooses the best privacy features that can be fine-tuned for the parent’s and child’s needs by managing screen time and blocking incoming calls that have no Caller ID, among others.

The parental control feature can be found in most of our standalone security solutions or all-in-one security products.

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