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District Cautions Families About Apps, Online Activities

Do you know what your kids on doing on their electronic devices?

In an ongoing effort to keep students safe, police agencies and the Phelps-Clifton Central School District are warning parents and legal guardians about specific apps and potential threats, such as cyberbullying, online predators and other unsafe behaviors that may put children at risk.

Police are warning families about nine specific apps, including Snapchat, Holla, Hot or Not and Whisper. Some of these nine apps can share your child’s location, allow children to video chat with strangers and post anonymous messages.

"The cyberbullying in some of those apps," said Jackie Shuman, an investigator with the Rochester Police Department, "those are the ones where people can say things and not be held accountable. They don't realize what they are doing to people (when) they are saying harsh things." 

More than one in three young people have experienced cyber threats online, according to data from the i-SAFE Foundation.

Law enforcement agencies say the best way to stay on top of these apps is to simply ask your child what apps they like to use. Parents can also help children turn off location settings on these apps.

Here are the apps agencies are warning against:

  • BUMBLE is 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. 
  • LIVE.ME is a live-streaming video app that uses geolocation to share videos, so users can find out a broadcaster's exact location. Users can earn "coins" as a way to "pay" minors for photos.
  • ASK.FM is known for cyberbullying. The app encourages users to allow anonymous people to ask them questions.
  • SNAPCHAT is one of the most popular apps of 2018. While the app promises users who take a photo or video that it will disappear, newer features include "stories" that allows users to view content for up to 24 hours. Snapchat also allows users to see your location.
  • HOLLA is a self-proclaimed "addicting" video chat app that allows users to meet people from across the world in just seconds. Reviewers say they have been confronted with racial slurs, explicit content and more.
  • CALCULATOR is one of several secret apps used to hide photos, videos, files and browser history.
  • KIK allows anyone to contact and direct messages to a child. Kids can bypass traditional text messaging features. KIK gives users unlimited access to anyone, anytime and anywhere.
  • WHISPER is an anonymous social network that promotes sharing secrets with strangers. It reveals a user's location so people can meet up.
  • HOT OR NOT encourages users to rate your profile, review people in their area and chat with strangers. The goal of the app is to connect individuals for various encounters.

By working together and staying current on recent trends, schools, parents and guardians can help to better protect students on various social media and online platforms.

In addition to being aware of the dangers related to specific apps, parents are encouraged to talk to their children about their online and social media activity. District parents and legal guardians also are encouraged to contact their school principal if any social media behavior or activity is impacting a student’s experience at school.

Any online predatory behavior, along with other unwelcome behavior, should also be referred to local law enforcement agencies immediately.