If your teens have cell phones, then you need to know about these dangerous teen apps. Make sure that your kids are protected on social media and other apps by educating yourself on the potential risks of these popular apps for teens.
Well, we finally did it…
We broke down and got a cell phone for our 10 year old daughter.
Before the judgement starts rolling in, let me explain our reasoning…
Our daughter starts middle school in the fall (EEEK!), and we live less than a mile away from her new school. Convenient, yes, but it means that she will no longer have the option to ride the school bus. Instead, she’ll be walking to and from school each day so we wanted her to have a cell phone for safety reasons.
We’ve also started leaving her at home by herself when we go out to run a few errands, so it’s imperative that she has a cell phone in the event of an emergency.
By the way, what age were your kids when you started leaving them at home alone? This was a big debate in our family, but since she’s in 6th grade and she is VERY responsible, we felt that it was the appropriate time. Leave me a comment with your thoughts (but be nice, please!). 🙂
I got my first cell phone when I turned 16 and started driving. It was a flip phone (or a “dumb” phone as my Dad calls it), so my parents didn’t need to worry about social media apps or cyberbullying.
But, if you’re a millennial, you may remember Formspring, a website that allowed users to leave anonymous messages for their friends. Teenagers would exchange questions, confessions, and words of encouragement to people they knew – all without exposing their identity. Unfortunately, the ability to use the site anonymously made Formspring users targets of intense cyberbullying. Several high-profile suicides were linked to abusive messages on the platform, and in 2013, the website was shut down.
Popular apps for teens aren’t made with the intention of being harmful, but that doesn’t make them completely safe to use. As a parent, you probably know that – but do you know which apps your kids are using?
If you can’t find your kids on Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram, it may not be because they’ve blocked you! The mobile apps that are popular with millennials and Generation X aren’t as popular with Generation Z, so teenagers may not even have accounts on the apps you use.
Instead, they’re active on other platforms – some of which you may have never heard of. Stay in the loop by learning about these popular, and potentially dangerous, mobile apps that teens are using today.
Even if you’ll never use them yourself, you’ll have a better idea of what your kids are up to when they’re on their phones!
Here are the potentially dangerous teen apps that you need to be aware of:
Teen Apps that Parents Need to Know About
By now, you’ve likely already heard of TikTok, a social platform that lets users create and share short videos. This app is responsible for many of today’s viral trends, like the “Renegade” challenge and videos that make fun of “VSCO girls.” With TikTok’s most followed user being just 16 years old, it’s no surprise that half of its fanbase is under 35 years old.
The dance routines and funny videos are typically harmless, but the app has taken some heat over privacy concerns. Although users need to be 13 or older to sign up for TikTok, plenty of younger users wind up on the site, which caused the FTC to intervene in 2019.
You should also be aware of the risk for cyberbullying on this potentially dangerous teen app… My own daughter and a few of her friends were called mean and hurtful names in a TikTok video that was made by one of their classmates.
Profiles are also public by default, so your child’s location is visible unless they make their profile private. If your teen’s profile is private, though, they can choose who sees and comments on their videos, making this app generally safe to use.
Like Instagram, VSCO lets users upload, edit, and share photos on a profile. Instead of engagement, this app is all about the photography – you won’t see any comments, likes, or follower counts on here. However, users can share other people’s photos to their own profiles. Some people just edit the photos in the app before posting them to Instagram, while others share their VSCO profile links on their other social media accounts.
Since there’s no way to make an account private on VSCO, anyone can see the photos your teen shares on there. That means you can see them, too! While it’s helpful to be able to see what they’re posting to the app, keep in mind that strangers can see (and share) those photos, too.
Reddit is home to over 100,000 active forums called subreddits. These forums cover a wide range of topics, and people of almost all ages can be seen exchanging memes, stories, and opinions on them.
Thankfully for parents, Reddit users generally frown upon sharing personal information, such as your real name and social media profiles. However, it’s incredibly easy for a teen to see content that isn’t appropriate for them.
If your teen appears to be old enough, they can feature themselves on r/RoastMe, where users subject themselves to insults based on their appearance. Porn is limited to specific subreddits, but lying about your age is all it takes to access them. Some subreddits even promote racism, sexism, and unbelievably disturbing ideas.
If a user is able to avoid these harmful forums, they’ll still have to deal with other users being jerks (thanks to the anonymous nature of the app). Despite making room for youth on teen-oriented subreddits, this app doesn’t create a safe environment for them.
If your teenager plays video games, they likely use Discord. On this social app, users engage with one another in themed chatrooms, known on the app as servers. In addition to typing out messages, the app lets users record voice messages and send photos to fellow players. Discord’s community of gamers and friend-seekers send 963 million messages each day, many of which are from teens who use the app every day!
Gamers are known for their smack talk, but on Discord, users can take it a step further. Harmful messages and hateful memes are common on the app, and teens have reported seeing Holocaust jokes and 9/11 memes on the servers they use.
Teens can also send explicit content to one another, especially on private servers. When using this potentially dangerous app, teens need to stay smart, be kind, and not send photos they wouldn’t want the world to see.
Photomath is every struggling high schooler’s dream… and I’d be lying if I said that I wouldn’t have used this teen app if it had been available to me during AP Algebra!
Photomath checks teens’ homework for them, which sounds great on the surface, especially for parents who would never make it on the show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader!
When a user scans a math problem with their phone, Photomath interprets it, answers it, and shows its work. Students can even make complex graphs and manually enter problems on a math keyboard. With an app this comprehensive, kids could make a case for ditching their math tutors!
However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that teens use this app to cheat. Kids using this app have no reason to do their homework themselves, leaving them clueless on exams. Photomath can help students identify the concepts they still need to work on, but why would they scan their problems after they’re completed when they can see the answers first?
Needless to say, there’s not much incentive for teens to do their own work with this app. So while it may not seem like one of the dangerous teen apps, it can result in lower grades and a diminished work ethic.
This popular app for teens lets people live stream themselves playing video games. Gamers are able to stream their games and webcams while talking to viewers, making for some entertaining broadcasts. Thanks to the Twitch app, users can also stream games from their smartphones. Some streamers even become popular enough to make money, motivating teens around the world to start their own Twitch channels.
If a teenager isn’t streaming themselves on this app, it’s relatively safe to use. They’ll likely be watching live streams of games they already play, which doesn’t expose them to much that they haven’t already seen. Streamers do tend to use explicit language and make adult-oriented jokes, though, especially while playing games like Call of Duty.
Twitch makes the list of dangerous teen apps because of the potential for cyberbullying and/or sexually explicit comments if your teen DOES decide to stream themselves. This is especially true if they build a following or if they’re girls.
Most importantly, minors should always use a VPN when streaming to hide their location from predators. Overall, how safe this app is for teens depends on how they’re using it.
While all of these dangerous teen apps raise concerns, HOLLA is by far one of the riskiest apps that your teens can have on their phones.
Like Chatroulette, HOLLA pairs its users with strangers to video chat with. Unlike the websites that inspired it, though, this app makes it easy for users to meet up with each other. By giving HOLLA permission to access their phone’s GPS, users can connect with people who live nearby. Despite being designed for adults, teens can often be found using the app.
Nothing about this dangerous teen app is appropriate for teens – or anyone else. As you may expect, the app is filled with grown men showing off their genitals. If a teenager is using the “Nearby” feature, they can easily connect with predators with the intention of seeing them in person.
Unless users pay a fee, they can’t filter profiles by gender, leaving teens no reasonable way to ensure that they won’t see perverts on their screens. This app was deemed dangerous enough to be removed from the App Store, but Android users can still download it. Unlike the other apps on this list, nothing good can come out of a teen using HOLLA.
With the exception of HOLLA, none of these mobile apps are 100% safe or unsafe – it all depends on what teens stumble upon and how they intend to use the platforms. Talking to your teen about using these potentially dangerous teen apps appropriately can prevent issues at school, cyberbullying, and contact with predators.
When kids will always find a way to use their favorite apps, an open discussion can be the best way to keep them safe!
What about your teens? Have you seen any of these apps installed on their phones, or do you know of any other dangerous teen apps? Leave a comment down below!
And be sure to check out my Printable Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt for Teens if you want a FUN activity that makes good use of your teens’ cell phones… and gets them out from in front of the TV!