Officials Warn Parents Of Apps Their Children May Be Using
Officials in the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office in Florida are reminding parents to stay vigilant in monitoring their children’s phone app use. The department has updated its heavily circulated list of smartphone apps parents should be aware of. This comes after the arrests of 23 men who traveled to meet people that they presumed were children for sex.
During its latest operation, the sheriff’s office said men connected with people they thought were 14-year-old boys and girls through apps including Plenty of Fish, HILY, MocoSpace and Zoosk.
Another new addition to the list is an app called “Monkey.” Deputies say it is rated for people 12 and older but also has “mild sexual content and nudity.”
Law enforcement officers encourage parents to monitor their children’s phones and keep an eye on what mobile apps they are using.
Here is a list of apps authorities want your children to avoid using:
- Plenty of Fish: A popular free dating app/website that encourages chatting with strangers. Allows users to browse profiles based on location.
- HILY: A dating app where users can browse photos, engage in chats, send private videos and more. Based on the GPS location of a mobile device, strangers can arrange to meet up locally.
- Zoosk: A location-based dating app and website. The app is available in 80 countries and utilizes a ‘carousel’ feature, which matches users with random strangers.
- Mocospace: A free social networking and dating app. Users can connect with strangers worldwide via text messages or voice calls.
- Best Secret Folder: Specifically meant to hide photos and videos. It features password protection, decoy videos and alarm settings.
- Monkey: A live video chat app that connects users to random strangers worldwide, offering group chat and private message options. It claims to be rated for ages 12 and up but has “mild sexual content and nudity.”
- MeetMe: A dating social media app that connects people based on location. Users are encouraged to meet in person.
- WhatsApp: A messaging app that allows texts, video calls, photo sharing and voicemails with users worldwide.
- Bumble: Similar to Tinder but requires women to make the first contact. Law enforcement says kids and teens can create fake accounts and falsify their age.
- Live.Me: A live-streaming app that uses geolocation to share videos. The sheriff’s office said users can earn “coins” to “pay” minors for photos.
- Ask.FM: The sheriff’s office said this app lets users ask anonymous questions. It is known for cyberbullying.
- Grindr: A dating app geared toward the LGBTQ community based on user location.
- TikTok: A new app popular with kids lets users create and share short videos. Law enforcement said the app has “very limited privacy controls” and users can be exposed to cyberbullying and explicit content.
- Snapchat: One of the most popular social media apps in the world, Snapchat lets users take and share photos and videos. The app also lets people see your location.
- Holla: This self-proclaimed “addicting” video chat app lets users meet people in seconds. Law enforcement said users have seen racial slurs and explicit content.
- Calculator+: Police say this is one of several apps that are used to hide photos, videos, files and browser history.
- Skout: A location-based dating app that is supposed to prohibit people under 17 from sharing private photos. However, police say kids can easily create an account with a falsified age.
- Badoo: A dating and social media app where users can chat and share photos and videos based on location. Police say the app is supposed to be for adults only, but they’ve seen teens create accounts.
- Kik: Police say kids can bypass traditional text messaging features using this app. Kik “gives users unlimited access to anyone, anywhere, anytime,” the sheriff’s office said. The Kik app is shutting down, although there’s no clear date for when that will actually happen.
- Whisper: An anonymous social network that lets users share secrets with strangers. Police say it also shows users’ location so people can meet up.
- Hot or Not: The app lets users rate profiles, check out people in their area and chat with strangers. Police say the goal of the app is to hook up.
Police said parents and teens should know two things:
- Once a picture or video leaves your phone and is sent to someone else, it is out of your control.
- Someone can use that picture or video against you.
Click here for more guidelines to follow when it comes to Children’s Cyber Safety.