Unfortunately, bullying has been a staple of school life for as long as we can remember. 45% of young people experience bullying before the age of 18. More than 16,000 young people are absent from school because of bullying. 83% of young people say bullying has a negative impact on their self-esteem. 30% of young people have gone on to self-harm as a result of bullying. 10% of young people have attempted suicide as a result of bullying.
Bullying is as much a part of school life today as it ever was. What’s different today, however, is that much of that bullying and predatory behavior is happening online.
Today, there is no shortage of apps on the various app stores that offer anonymity to their users. These apps tend to be very popular with young people. They also tend to attract the worst elements of society, who want to prey on the insecurities and vulnerabilities of young people.
Therefore, parents need to be aware of the dangers these apps pose. We have chosen five of the most dangerous apps below:
Omegle is a video chatting app that connects users with anonymous strangers. Kids using Omegle can be exposed to predators, nudity, and other inappropriate material via Omegle. When you use Omegle, chat participants are only identified as “You” and “Stranger.” However, you can connect Omegle to your Facebook account to find chat partners with similar interests. When choosing this feature, an Omegle Facebook App will receive your Facebook “likes” and try to match you with a stranger with similar likes. Predators use this app to find kids to collect personal information from in order to track them down more easily in person.
Ask.fm is a “question and answer” style social network which will let you ask strangers for their advice as well as answer questions they might have. Users are able to post to an Ask.fm board and get responses from strangers all over the world. Many times users will receive negative messages without knowing who the messages came from. Ask.fm has been known for teens and cyberbullies that prey on the vulnerabilities of users. Some features allow anonymous users to ask personal questions directly, as a form of taunt. Ask.fm has been associated with nine documented cases of suicide in the U.S. and the U.K.
Kik is a free instant messenger app for smartphones with over 100 million users worldwide. Users can exchange messages, videos, pics and sketches. They can also create and share memes and gifs. Kik does not offer any parental controls and there is no way of authenticating users, thus making it easy for predators to use the app to interact with minors.
Whisper is a smartphone app that allows users to share secrets anonymously. It allows anonymous users to superimpose text over a picture in order to share their thoughts and feelings anonymously. It displays the area you are posting from. You can also search for users who fall within a mile’s radius from you. Users do not have to register to use Whisper and can use the app to communicate with other users nearby through GPS. You never know the person behind the computer or phone. Predators also use the app to locate kids and establish relationships with them. Any app that allows users to post anonymously is going to be rampant with cyberbullying and Whisper is no exception.
YikYak is a social media app that lets users post anonymous messages, called ‘Yaks’, that can be seen by anybody within a set radius. These ‘Yaks’ can be viewed by the 500 ‘Yakkers’ who are closest to the person who wrote the ‘Yak’, as determined by GPS tracking. Using this app, bullying can be done anonymously without any way of stopping it. There is also the added danger of kids revealing their personal information to users on the app after they get comfortable with them.
The most effective way parents can get ahead of the dangers posed by such apps is to frequently talk with their children about social media and the proper way to use it. Without regular open communication, trying to regulate internet use won’t be very effective. Equally important is to set boundaries as to what your kid can and can’t do on the internet. How to go about regulating their kid’s internet use is entirely up to the parents, but parents have to be vigilant and active in exercising their discretion.