Law enforcement is warning parents about certain smartphone apps that can be used to bully or target children, often without their parents' knowledge.

Do you think you know the apps on your child's phone right now? How about which ones could be used to target kids? If you answered no to these questions, you're not alone. Often, parents aren't familiar with the "hottest" apps or how kids are using them.

A sheriff in Sarasota, FL, issued a warning for parents about 15 apps that could be used to target children. His warning comes after 25 people in Florida were arrested, accused of being sexual predators, and human traffickers. The accused used social media to target children. The Florida sheriff's warning is being shared by Central New York police agencies as well.

Credit: Sarasota County Sheriff's Office via Facebook
Credit: Sarasota County Sheriff's Office via Facebook

Here are the 15 apps parents should be aware of:

  • Meetme: It's a dating social media app that allows users to connect with people based on geographic proximity. The app's users are encouraged to meet each other in person.
  •  Grindr: This dating app is geared toward gay, bi and transgender people. It gives users options to chat, share photos and meet up based on a smart phone's GPS.
  • Skout: It's a location-based dating app. While users under 17 years old are unable to share private photos, kids can easily create an account with an older age.
  • Whatsapp: This is a popular messaging app that allows users to send texts, photos, voicemails, as well as make calls and video chats.
  • Tiktok: It's a new app popular with kids that's used for creating and sharing short videos. With very limited privacy controls, users are vulnerable ot cyber bullying and explicit content.
  • Badoo: This is a dating and social networking app where users can chat, share photos and videos based on location. The app is intended for adults only, but teens are known to create profiles.
  • Bumble: It's similar to the popular dating app, Tinder, however, it requires women to make the first contact. Kids have been known to use Bumble to create fake accounts and falsify their age.
  • Snapchat: It's one of the most popular apps of 2018. While the app promises users can send a photo or video and it will disappear, recent features allow users to view content for up to 24 hours. Snapchat also allows users to see your location.
  • Kik: This app allows anyone to contact and direct message your child, sometimes anonymously. Kids sometimes use Kik to bypass traditional text messaging features. Kik gives users unlimited access to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
  • LiveMe: This live-streaming video app uses geolocation to share videos so users can find out a broadcaster's exact location. Users can earn coins within the app and use them as a way to pay minors for photos.
  • Holla: The app's makers admit it's an "addicting" video chat app. It 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.
  • Whisper: This is an anonymous social network that promotes sharing secrets with strangers. It also reveals a user's location so people can meet up.
  • This app has become known for cyberbullying. The app encourages users to allow people to anonymously ask them questions.
  • Calculator%: This is one of several secret apps used to hide photos, videos, files, and browser history.
  • Hot or Not: This app encourages users to rate other users' profiles, with the focus on physical appearance. It also allows users to check out people in their area and chat with strangers. The sheriff says the goal of this app is to "hook up."

Now, just because these apps are present on your child's phone, doesn't mean they're using them for dangerous purposes but it is important to talk to your children about these apps, and internet safety as a whole. Be sure location services are turned off for each of these apps.


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