HOUSTON COUNTY, Ala. (WDHN) — The Houston County Sheriff’s Office is sending an important warning for parents to make sure to take the time to monitor their child’s internet usage and social media accounts.
The internet and social media sites are valuable resources for learning and connecting with friends, but social networking sites are also prime targets for criminals.
It is crucial that parents are aware of these apps and websites. While they can be invaluable resources for learning and connecting, they also can connect your child to a criminal if not watched closely. It is important we all take the necessary steps to protect our Children from those who want to do them harm.
There is a large variety of social media apps that parents should be aware of, listed below is the top 16 social media applications common with connecting children to criminality.
Investigators urge parents to familiarize themselves with these applications to keep their children safe online:
- Bumble — Bumble is a popular dating app that requires women to make the first contact. It is common for minors to use this app and falsify their age.
- Calculator% — Calculator% is one of several “vault” style apps that appears to be a harmless app, but is Chatous — Chatous is a messaging app that allows users to chat and share images. This app makes it easy for predators to engage in age-inappropriate conversations with potential victims.
- Discord — Discord is a voice and text chat tool that allows gamers to communicate in real time. Users can chat, add friends one-on-one or in larger groups. This app discusses content geared towards adults, but allows users as young as 13.
- Grindr — Grindr is a dating app for LGBTQ adults, not children. The app gives users options to chat, share photos and meet with people based on a smartphone’s GPS location.
- House Party — House Party is a group video chat app that allows users to communicate via live video chats and texts. There is no screening, and the video is live. Users can also communicate with people they do not know.
- Me — Live.Me allows users to livestream videos using geo-location to share the videos so other users can find the broadcaster’s exact location. Users can earn “coins” to “pay” minors for photos.
- Monkey — Monkey is an app that allows users as young as 12 to chat with people all over the world during a brief introductory call, then users are given the chance to add each other on Snapchat.
- Snapchat — Snapchat is a photo & video sharing app that promises users their photo or video will disappear even though it does not. Snapchat stories allow users to view content for up to 24 hours and share their location.
- TikTok — TikTok is a popular app among kids that is used to create and share short videos with limited privacy controls. Users are vulnerable to explicit content and cyberbullying used to hide photos and videos.
- Tinder — Tinder is a dating app that allows users to “swipe right” to like someone and “swipe left” to pass. Users can falsify their age, share photos, messages, and meet.
- Tumblr — Tumblr is a blogging app and website that allows users as young as 13 to create an account. There are very few privacy settings and pornography is easy to find. Most posts are public and cannot be made private.
- WhatsApp — WhatsApp is a popular messaging app allowing users to text, send photos, make calls and leave voicemails worldwide.
- Whisper — Whisper is a social network that allows users to share secrets anonymously and it reveals the users’ location so strangers can meet.
- YouTube — YouTube is a video sharing app that may not be age appropriate for kids. Inappropriate content can be found using innocent search terms, but with parental controls this can be avoided.
- Yubo — Yubo is a social media app that allows users as young as 13 to create a profile, share their location, view other users’ profiles in their area and view livestreams. Substance abuse, profanity, racial slurs and scantily clad people are common.
Investigative tips for parents to stay connected to their child’s online activity:
- Talk to children about sexual victimization and the potential of online danger.
- Keep the computer or laptop in a common room of the house, not in a child’s bedroom.
- Utilize parental controls available from internet service providers or use blocking software.
- Always maintain access to a child’s online account and monitor email.
- Teach children the responsible use of online resources.
- Find out the computer safeguards being utilized at school, the library and at friends’ homes.
- Never automatically assume that what a child is told online is the truth.
To report child exploitation call the National CyberTipline at 1-800-843-5678, or visit CyberTipline.com.
For more information on smartphone apps and internet safety, contact the Houston County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division.