These are the SmartSocial.com App Zones:
The SmartSocial.com team scours the internet to find the good and bad teen apps you need to know about.
Our Parent App Guides are based on real questions we get from parents and educators all over the world. Instead of keeping our research private, we share our Parent App Guides with our audience. Learn how our Parent App Guide research is conducted. Learn more about hosting a Positive Online Safety Speech at your school.
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GREEN ZONE: Here are the few apps SmartSocial.com considers to be a starting place for Teens and Tweens:
The internet can be a dangerous place for teens. This is why parents MUST be active on the same apps their students are using. We feel these apps in our green zone are the “lesser of three evils” as they can be used to help a student (14+ years of age) shine online to impress colleges and future employers. However, this does NOT mean they are safe. Adult content is on EVERY app (even Facebook and Instagram). When used wisely with our social media formula, these apps will better help your students adjust their Google results to create a portfolio of positive online accomplishments. If your students want to have a profile on these networks/apps, Josh Ochs and his team suggests that you please consider having a dialog with your students and understand these green zone networks are a safer place to start on social media. Also, you MUST be on the same apps your students are using. Never trust an app just because it looks safe. Parents are the only reliable digital safety app. At the bottom of this page, we list bad apps (red zone) that we suggest you not allow your kids to access/have/use.
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ClassDojo is a free communication app designed for teachers, parents, and students. Parents can instant message their child’s teacher. Teachers can encourage students for skills and values, such as working hard, being kind, and teamwork. Students can showcase their knowledge by adding photos and videos to their digital portfolios. The app can be used in a positive way to track student progress, get involved, learn more about your child’s school day, and teach positive online behaviors. Watch our ClassDojo App Guide Video.
Facebook is the Godfather of all social media apps (and the largest of all social media networks). Users on Facebook can share to the network from their desktop, tablet and/or mobile phone. Facebook makes their money by selling ads next to the feed (and in the feed) to let advertisers get in front of it’s users. Although Facebook has very robust privacy controls, we tell every child that “everything you post online is going to eventually be public.” This is because networks like Facebook have been known to quickly change their privacy settings without telling people and sometimes secrets are shared. That being said, Josh Ochs believes Facebook is a great place to start a positive online footprint. It’s a great place for a student to have a public presence (since Google will find a Facebook profile and place it above other results at times). This information is often visible for college admissions officers, and future employers when they search for them. Watch our Facebook App Guide Video.
Facebook Messenger (Owned by Facebook)
Facebook messenger (owned by Facebook) allows you to chat with anyone on Facebook. To initiate a conversation with users you usually need to add them to your Facebook friend list (otherwise the message might end up in their “filtered messages” list. We suggest for parents to add their students on Facebook and to monitor who they are adding as friends. Facebook Messenger is tied to a Facebook account, which is tied to a student’s real identity, reducing the amount of bullying and anonymous messaging. Watch our Facebook Messenger video.
Instagram (Owned by Facebook)
Instagram is a free photo (and video) sharing application that allows users to take photos (and one-minute videos), apply a filter, and share it on the app. Instagram became very popular, and so Facebook bought them. Parents should know that Instagram also has private messaging feature which some students can use instead of texting. Instagram has also added some “disposable” features to try and copy Snapchat. Instagram can potentially be great if it is used in a positive manner for showcasing one’s accomplishments. Students can post from a mobile device (but not a desktop). That’s because Instagram is designed to be used on a mobile phone (but can be discovered by Google). Josh Ochs Special note: Some students have a “fake Instagram” account, called a Finstagram. We have an app guide for that lower on this page. Watch our Instagram video
LinkedIn (Owned by Microsoft)
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network. It is an important tool for teens who want to improve their Google results when applying to college. It is the best place to start an online image to impress colleges and future employers. Watch our LinkedIn video.
Medium is an online publishing platform and app, that allows users to publish articles on any subject. When used wisely, Medium can have a positive impact on a student’s digital footprint. The website and Medium app can be a great place for students to highlight their thought leadership on topics relevant to their industry, major, hobby, or passion. Watch our Medium video.
Pinterest is a visual discovery tool that helps users find and save ideas. It’s a great source of inspiration for students. They can use Pinterest to find studying tips, DIYs and more. Kids can have fun on Pinterest but know there can be some adult content on the network, so parents should be close by to observe activity.Watch our Pinterest video.
Prezi is a presentation software that allows users to create and share visually engaging slide presentations through their website. Having a positive presentation can showcase a student’s passion and knowledge on a specific subject. Presentations can help a student’s online footprint, or hurt their image if they are outdated and not accurate. Watch the SmartSocial.com Prezi video.
Twitter allows you to send messages with up to 280 characters in length (and include photos and videos). Twitter is a place where students feel they can diary their feelings, not realizing their Tweets are tied to their identity and able to be seen by colleges and employers. When a student is ready to be online, we suggest they consider Twitter but share very positive and constructive content on the network. They should leave negative talk to texting and phone calls. Watch our Twitter video.
YouTube (Owned by Google)
YouTube (owned by Google) is the world’s second largest search engine (their parent company is the largest search engine, Google). Studies show YouTube is used by more students than almost any other network. You don’t have to login or register to see the benefits of Youtube. Parents should know that if your student is under 13 years of age, they should be present when their kids are watching videos on YouTube, since some content can be worse than late night HBO. Positive videos created by students can turn their Google results into a three dimensional version of their college resume. YouTube also has a multitude of educational videos student can learn from. Watch our YouTube video.
ZeeMee is a free app that allows students to showcase themselves for college admissions, through photos and videos. Students can connect with each other on the app, based on interests and passion. Profiles can be made private and unsearchable online, so that only those with the link will be able to see them. The college admissions process can become overwhelming, especially if your student wants to showcase extracurricular activities such as sports, drawing, or dancing. This app offers students the chance to showcase their passions for their college application. Watch our ZeeMee video.
GRAY ZONE: Parents should participate in these apps with students to keep them safe. These apps can be good (and bad) for your Teens and Tweens.
The gray zone is a place where your students WANT to hang out, but if they post in a way that’s anything less than wise, it could hurt them. Also, the gray zone apps are ones where parents should be present, and so this section can be a great place for family time. We will call this the “family zone” since many of the apps can be entertaining, and let your student express themselves. As long as parents are nearby and following the students on each of these apps, it can be more safe. We recommend you have a dialog with your kids about Sexting and inappropriate content if your kids have these apps. The SmartSocial.com team suggests every parent put in the time each month to have a dialog with their kids about the apps they are using. This is the best way to keep your kids safe (not by restricting the kids, but by talking with them).
Owned by Snapchat’s parent company Snap, Inc., the Bitmoji app allows users to create a cartoon avatar or “emoji” that looks like themselves. Since it’s easy to create Bitmojis and share them on other apps, teens could get themselves in trouble if they create an inappropriate Bitmoji that gets shared on social media (or screenshot and shared). Creating a Bitmoji could encourage teens to obsess over their looks which can be damaging for their self-image and some security experts warn that giving 3rd party keyboards access to your device’s data can put your privacy at risk. Watch our video.
The Byte app lets users watch, create, and share six-second video loops. Users can follow other Byte profiles, but profiles cannot be shared and you can’t see how many followers someone else has. All videos posted to the app are automatically public. Users can like or comment on anyone else’s video, share it as a “rebyte”, or redistribute it through text, email, or another social media platform. There is a “flag” button to report inappropriate videos. Users can scroll up from the homepage to watch random videos. Or they can search for videos by username or from one of several categories. Watch our video.
Fortnite: Battle Royale
Fortnite is a very popular game that was released in 2017. There are two different versions of the game; Fortnite: Save the World and Fortnite: Battle Royale. Fortnite: Battle Royale is the version that is most popular with students. Fortnite is designed to be addicting to keep players coming back which can be difficult for teens and tweens who haven’t yet developed a healthy relationship with screen time. Also, students might come across profanity or inappropriate language from other players through text or voice chatting. Watch our video.
Google Arts & Culture App
Google Arts & Culture is an app and website that was launched in 2016 but went viral with its newest update. The popularity of this app is attributed to its “art selfie” feature. If the sole purpose of having an app is to take selfies, it might not be the most productive app for students to have. Also, some users have been insulted by the paintings they were paired with. Watch our video.
Google Hangouts is a messaging platform tied to your Gmail address. Users can message friends, start free video or voice calls, and start a conversation with one person or a group. Some parents have found predators targeting their kids through Google Hangouts to try and entice them into partaking in video calls or sending photos of themselves. Watch our video.
GroupMe App (Owned by Microsoft)
GroupMe is a messaging app where users can send group or private messages from their computer or phone using WiFi. Since activity from the GroupMe app doesn’t show up on their parents’ phone bill, some students use the app to hide their messaging activity. Watch our GroupMe App video.
From the creators of Meerkat (an early Periscope competitor), Houseparty is a video chat app that lets teens video chat with 2-8 people at the same time. All chats are unmoderated which means students might come in contact with inappropriate content or cyberbullies. Watch our video.
There’s a good chance your kids are on the Kahoot app at school. Teachers love using and creating game show-style quizzes, or Kahoots, to get students more engaged in their lessons. Kahoot was recently named one of the top educational apps by Yahoo and Digital Trends. We put this app in our Gray Zone because some students are using it in all the wrong ways. There are reports of students cheating and causing the quizzes to crash during class. So we recommend always monitoring your student’s usage of Kahoot. Watch our Kahoot App video.
Life360 Family Locator App
Life360 Family Locator is a real time location-sharing app that uses GPS location data to report the location of users. Users create geofences around their home, and other frequently visited destinations. If your family uses the app, be aware that your children can start sharing their location with their friends. Watch our Life360 Family Locator App video.
The Litterati app encourages users to clean up litter in their community while leveraging social networking. Some parents are concerned because their students take photos of themselves with the trash they collect and then post the photo to the app with their exact location. Geo-tagging can make it easier for predators to target victims in their exact location and learn more information about them. Watch our Litterati App video.
Marco Polo App
The Marco Polo app is a video instant messaging app. To add users, the app requests access to the users contact lists and says: “Send your contacts to the server to connect you with friends” and “Upload your address book to know which of your friends already have Marco Polo.” Note from Josh: It is a very bad idea to ever let your kids use apps that grant access to the contacts in their phone. Watch the Marco Polo App video.
Messenger Kids, by Facebook, is a video chat and messaging app that’s built for kids 6-12 years old. When kids receive a friend request, that request is sent to their parents to either approve or deny. Messages can’t be hidden and never disappear. Parents can easily read the chat and connection history. Josh Ochs believes your student should not be on social media before the age of 13. It’s important to regularly monitor younger kids regularly if they use Messenger Kids. Watch our video.
Musical.ly App (Closed August 2018, moved all users to China servers)
Note: Musical.ly was shut down in August 2018, but we leave this app guide here to teach parents/educators what it does. All of Musical.ly’s 100M users will be transitioned over to the Tik Tok app in China.
Musical.ly is a popular app that let’s users create lip-syncing videos to their favorite songs. While this app may be fun for teens it may be scary for tweens due to the adult songs that can be found on this app. Watch our Musical.ly video.
ooVoo App (Shutdown November 2017)
Note: ooVoo has been discontinued in November 2017, but we leave this app guide here to teach parents/educators what it did.
ooVoo is one the world’s largest video and messaging apps. Parents should be aware that ooVoo is used by predators to contact underage kids. The app can allow users to video chat with up to twelve people at one time. Watch our video.
Periscope App (Owned by Twitter)
Periscope is a live video app that was bought by Twitter. It allows users to watch and broadcast real time videos from their phones. It’s easy to find your kids on Periscope if you know their Twitter usernames. Most of the content on this app is unmonitored and your students can watch live videos from all over the world. Watch our Periscope video.
Pokémon Go is an augmented-reality mobile game for iOS and Android devices. While quickly becoming one of the most popular apps of all time, it has raised some safety concerns. Find ways your kids can have fun and still stay safe if they play Pokémon Go. Consider playing as a family and remind your child that they can always contact you if they encounter anything suspicious while playing Pokémon Go. Watch our Pokémon Go video.
Rules of Survival
Rules of Survival is a battle royale style game, similar to Fortnite. Up to 300 people play until there is only 1 player left. Parents should be aware that children can talk to other players in the game, some of the character’s outfits are suggestive, and there are in-app purchases. Watch our Rules of Survival video.
Snapchat promises your kids they can take a photo/video, send it to a friend and the content will only be viewed once and then will disappear. We as adults know that’s not true, but students feel ok sharing very personal moments on Snapchat as they begin to trust people. Snapchat also has a “story” feature that lets users share some videos/posts for 24 hours on their feed. Snapchat is quickly growing and is one of the more valuable social media startups we have seen. It’s not going away anytime soon. Parents should add their students on the app and occasionally view their content. Watch our Snapchat video.
Similar to iTunes, Steam is an online distribution platform for users to buy and play video games. Users get instant access to thousands of games that are available on Steam. Most Steam games can be purchased but some are free to play. Although the games have age requirements, it’s easy for students to bypass the age restrictions. Some parents warn that it can be easy for younger students to be scammed into an unfair deal when trading items. So if your family uses Steam, familiarize yourself with the parental controls offered (called “Steam Family View”). Watch our Steam Games video.
Threads by Instagram
Threads by Instagram is a brand new messaging app that allows users to stay in constant contact and share private content with a list of their closest friends. One option on Threads raises some serious privacy concerns. Users can allow the app to track them and send out automatic updates on their behalf. While it won’t share exact locations, it could automatically show an emoji, like this , when a user is at home. If your kids are on this app, we highly recommend that you get on it too and have your kid add you as a “close friend” so you can make sure they’re using it safely. Watch our Threads by Instagram video.
Twitch is a live streaming video platform owned my Amazon where users watch people live stream themselves as they play video games (and live chat with viewers). Twitch is the leading live streaming video service for video games in the US and contains lots of chances for your students to chat live with friends (and strangers) on the platform. No matter how you configure your student’s Twitch security settings, there is no way to know if content is safe for your student unless you become familiar with the platform and review their favorite videos or streamers. Watch our Twitch video.
Vine App (Owned by Twitter, Closed in 2016)
Note: Vine has been discontinued by Twitter in 2016, but we leave this app guide here to teach parents/educators what it does.
Vine is owned by Twitter and is a 6 second video sharing app. Kids often post videos of their everyday life and blunders. Much of the content on Vine is crude humor and carefully crafted to get views. Some users of this app have become Vine Celebrities and moved onto other networks. Students who want this can end up hurting their reputation. Watch our Vine video.
The VSCO app is a photo editing app, similar to Instagram, with various filters and photo enhancements. Users can share their photos on the VSCO app or to other apps after they edit them. Unlike Instagram, there is limited social interaction on VSCO. Users can private message friends (if they follow each other), but they can’t like or comment on each other’s posts. VSCO profiles cannot be set to private, which means anything teen users post on VSCO can easily be viewed by complete strangers on the internet. The app gained popularity in the summer of 2019, due to the #VSCOgirl fashion trend. Watch our VSCO video.
WhatsApp Messenger (Owned by Facebook)
WhatsApp is a mobile messenger that allows students to use wifi to bypass their SMS/Text messaging feature and directly message other users on the app. This app is owned by Facebook. It is very popular with people who have international friends/family. Users can share their location and contacts with other users. WhatsApp allows kids to communicate with their friends using the app and bypass text messaging. Watch the video.
RED ZONE: ANONYMOUS APPS – Here are the apps SmartSocial.com considers to be NOT safe for Teens and Tweens.
These are the apps Josh Ochs and his team do not recommend for Teens or Tweens. These apps usually have inappropriate and unmoderated content. Also, they lend themselves to cyberbullying. Often, these apps are anonymous and will encourage students to behave in a way we have never seen before. When students use an app in anonymous mode (without it being tied to their real identity) they tend to behave badly. They are also more prone to bullying and predators in this zone.
AfterSchool App is an anonymous app that creates a separate chat group for every school. It has been removed twice from the AppStore because of threats and arrests. Messages often include bullying, pornography, and alcohol or drug references. Watch our AfterSchool App video.
Amino Chat App
The Amino App encourages young users to explore their interests and connect with people who have similar passions. However, those virtual Amino communities are uncensored and everyone using the app is anonymous. Your children could be chatting, sharing photos, or exchanging videos with adult strangers who have ulterior motives. There are several recent news accounts of predators lurking on the Amino App to prey on kids. If your children are using this app, we strongly suggest you delete it and encourage them to explore their interests in a safer environment. Watch our Amino Chat video.
AntiLand App (Formerly AntiChat App)
AntiLand (formerly AntiChat) offers users the ability to anonymously chat with users around the world. Anonymous apps like AntiLand can be very dangerous for students to use because they encourage users to chat with strangers. Content in chat rooms can be very mature and many users ask for pictures or to send pictures. Watch our AntiLand video.
Ask.fm is one of the godfathers of cyber bullying apps (as it has been around for quite some time). It encourages students to set up a public profile and allow anonymous people to ask them questions. This encourages bullying and can really hurt the student’s feelings. Kids often reveal too much personal information on this site, and cyberbullying is very prevalent. Watch our Ask.fm video.
BIGO Live App
BIGO LIVE is a live video streaming social media network that encourages users to randomly chat with strangers using their video calls feature. The emphasis of connecting with strangers on BIGO LIVE is a major red flag that this app is NOT safe for students. In our experience, apps like this are commonly used by predators to target minors. Watch our BIGO Live App video.
The BitLife app guides players on a simulated life from birth to death. Players make text-based choices, which can promote safe or risky lifestyles. The app is rated for users ages 17+, however BitLife is popular among school aged children. Players are exposed to many mature ideas including drug addiction, sex, and violence. Player can earn dozens of different ribbons once they reach certain milestones, which could contribute to excessive screen time or gaming addiction. Watch our BitLife App video.
Boo App (Formerly Boomoji)
The Boo app (formerly Boomoji) is a social network where users create an avatar that they use to chat with others. If your student had the app before December 2018 (or if their friends did), it is likely that their phone number and any other personal information they linked to the app was exposed. In our experience, when tweens and teens have anonymous avatars to hide behind, they tend to misbehave than if they’re actions are tied to their real name. Watch our Boo App video.
BurnBook is an anonymous app for posting text, photos and audio rumor messages about others. The app compiles messages by school, so the app requires access to your location. It encourages students to screenshot the rumors and save them to their phone, which causes bullying issues. Watch our BurnBook App video.
Calculator% Private Photo App
The “Private Photo (Calculator%)” app is designed to help students hide photos and videos behind an innocent looking calculator app. This application looks like a calculator but entering a pass-code opens a private area. Watch our Calculator% Private Photo App video.
Call of Duty: Mobile App
Call of Duty is one of the most popular video games of all time. Now millions of people are taking their violent, multiplayer battles on the go. The free Call of Duty mobile app is rated for ages 17 and up, but is still popular among young children. The app has warnings for mature content, violence, and profanity. We also want parents to know this game can be addicting for users and offers many in-app purchases as players advance through the matches. Players compete against others while playing and can chat with strangers on the app, which could expose them to foul language and bullying. Watch our Call of Duty: Mobile App video.
Facetune and Facetune2
The Facetune app lets users change or remove their perceived imperfections in an instant. Facetune launched in 2013 and Facetune2 debuted in 2016 with enhanced features. They can be purchased in the iOS App Store and on Google Play. Facetune users can take photos through the app or edit photos on their camera roll, then share them to social media. Users can make minor or major adjustments to their appearance. The tools can smooth or reshape the face and body, remove blemishes, brighten teeth, and change the size of noses and lips. Some psychologists have warned there are dangerous health consequences for teens who regularly use the Facetune app. Watch our Facetune app video.
Fachat allows users to pay to video chat with strangers around the world. Tweens and teens could easily download the app and use a fake birthday to gain access. The Fachat app asks for permission to access a user’s camera and microphone. Users can remain anonymous or add their age, location, and photo to their profile. Users can swipe through profiles to find someone to video chat with. The app is free, but coins must be purchased for video chats. Chatting with strangers online could be dangerous and children could be exposed to some very mature conversations and inappropriate sexual behaviors on Fachat. Watch our Fachat app video.
Finstagram/Spam Instagram Account
Finstagram (Finsta) is a fake (or second) Instagram account (sometimes referred to as a “spam account” by students). Students get a second Instagram account along with their real Instagrams, to post silly pictures or videos (without their parents knowing about the second account). Watch our Finstagram App video.
The HOLA app is a random video chat app. Users must sign up with a Google or Facebook account. They are not asked to verify their age. New users must give the app permission to access the phone’s camera and microphone. Users push a “start call” button to immediately be connected with a live, random stranger. After 30 seconds, each phone call automatically turns into a video chat. Users report widespread profanity, nudity, and lewd behavior on the app. Users can pay a monthly fee to filter their chats based on profiles or genders. The app has a free translation service, so people can communicate with non-native speakers. Watch our HOLA App video.
At the time of this review, the HOLLA app was removed from the iOS App Store, but remains in Google Play. The HOLLA app is a live, random video chat app. Users must register with a phone number or Facebook account. The app requires access to a user’s phone camera and microphone. Users can swipe through live video chats with strangers. There is also a “Nearby” chat mode that uses the phone’s GPS to connect with nearby strangers. A monthly fee is required to search for users by their gender or profile. Many users report seeing nudity and and lewd behavior on this app. Watch our HOLLA App video.
The Hooked app enables users to read stories in chat form, like a series of text messages or as a series of video clips. Since the majority of the stories feature sex, violence, and drug use, this app is inappropriate for students. Also, this app can have a serious impact on your child’s digital footprint, especially if they sign up with their Facebook account. Watch our Hooked App video.
The Hoop app makes it easier than ever for students to meet strangers on Snapchat. You must log in to the Hoop app with a valid Snapchat account. Hoop app is built on the Snapchat platform (but is not owned by Snapchat). Hoop users swipe through profiles to find new people to connect with on Snapchat. On each profile the Hoop user can either: push an “X” and go to the next profile or push the Snapchat icon to ask them to connect on Snapchat. Users must earn Diamonds to make new connections. They can earn them by sharing a referral code, rating the app on the App Store, taking surveys, adding new Hoop profiles to Snapchat, and through other virtual tasks. Watch our Hoop App video.
IMVU is an app where users create custom avatars and use them to chat with strangers in random chats or 3D chat rooms. This app can be used by predators to try and get victims to share their phone number, send photos, and video chat off of the app. Content on IMVU is inappropriate for teens and avatars can be used to simulate explicit activities. Watch our IMVU App video.
Jott Messenger App
Jott Messenger is an app that allows students to send messages without a data plan or a WiFi connection. Jott messenger creates a closed network with other devices (usually using a direct bluetooth signal) and can reach other users up to 100-feet. Like Snapchat, Jott includes a “self-destructing” feature that lets the user decide when a message, photo, or video will disappear. Watch our Jott Messenger App video.
Kik Messenger App (Based in Canada)
Note: In the fall of 2019, there was a lot of speculation about the future of Kik Messenger and whether or not it was going to shut down. However, in October of 2019 they announced that the app is here to stay.
Kik allows anyone on the app to contact your child and directly message them. There are reports of adults using the app to communicate with preteens. It can be very difficult for students to discern who is a predator and who is real and some adults have been known to use this app to pretend like they are tweens and teens. Users can connect with anyone on the network and aren’t limited to their phone’s contact list. Watch our Kik Messenger App video.
Kids are having a blast making shareable videos on the Facebook-owned app called Lasso. If you’ve ever heard of Tik Tok, the Lasso app is extremely similar. Lasso app users can create and edit videos and set them to music. The Smart Social team put this app in our Red Zone because we believe it poses some serious safety risks to your kids and some privacy concerns that could follow them into adulthood. The privacy controls on this app are extremely limited. Complete strangers can watch every video your kid is creating on the Lasso App. Yikes! Watch the Lasso App video.
The LINE app allows users to have hidden chats, make new friends, and build a social media network filled with cute stickers and avatars. It also gives users a free way to make calls and send texts. Strangers can easily contact kids through the LINE app and LINE Play. If your student is using LINE, we recommend turning their “public user ID” to private, adding a passcode, and filtering messages from non-friends. The location settings should also be turned off or nearby strangers can locate your children and send them a friend request. There are also many in-app purchases that parents should be aware of. Watch the LINE App video.
Lipsi is an anonymous feedback app where students can accept anonymous feedback from others. Anonymous apps like the Lipsi app are not safe for students and don’t help them build a positive digital footprint. We’ve seen similar apps like Yik Yak, Sarahah, and After School removed from the Apple App Store due to cyberbullying. Remind your children that anonymous apps are never truly anonymous. Content they share through the Lipsi app can be screenshot by others or shared across other platforms. Watch the Lipsi App video.
Live.ly App (Closed June 2018)
Live.ly was a video streaming app from the creators of Musical.ly where users broadcasted live video (or video chatted with friends). The Livel.ly app was discontinued in June 2018. Before it shut down, there were reports of students using Live.ly to play truth or dare, and it was not uncommon to see students younger than 13 on the app. Some parents had even called the Live.ly app a “pedophile hunting ground”. Watch the Live.ly App video.
Live.me is a live streaming video app that allows users to watch or broadcast live-stream videos. The app uses geolocation to share videos, so users know broadcasters exact location. Users earn coins on Live.me and some predators are using coins as a way to pay minors for pictures. Be aware that anyone can watch your students videos and access their information on the app. Watch the Live.me App video.
The Look app is a free messaging app that combines live video with text messaging. In the past the Look app was known to request the user to upload all of their contacts to the app’s servers. The app would then send text messages to many of the contacts saying the user invited them to join the app. This felt like a spammy technique to many users. Also, some users have reported that it’s easy for strangers to message you on the app. Watch the Look App video.
The MeetMe App dating connects strangers based on similar interests and locations. Users can private message each other and participate in live streams. They are also encouraged to exchange gifts and money through the app. Police have issued warnings about MeetMe after cases involving predators caught using the app. Although it’s rated for people ages 17 and up, younger users can still download and use MeetMe. As a default, names and locations are public on profiles. If your kids have this app on their phones, we highly recommend they delete their profiles immediately and then delete the MeetMe app. Watch the MeetMe App video.
The MeWe app is a social networking app for users who want more privacy. The app encourages users to be their “uncensored selves” which doesn’t promote being positive online. Having the ability to create separate profiles to share with different people means the app doesn’t promote authenticity (being inauthentic can hurt your child’s digital footprint). Additionally, many users have reported receiving a lot of inappropriate and mature spam content from bots on the app. Watch the MeWe App video.
The Mojiit app is a social network where users create and share animated avatars using augmented reality. Using their phone’s camera, users take videos of themselves which turn into an avatar. The 3D avatar mimics the user’s voice and movements. Some teens who don’t like the Snapchat update are using the Mojiit app instead. Mojiit uses geolocation and encourages users to go to certain locations nearby. Geolocation features can be dangerous for teens and tweens because strangers nearby can find the student’s exact location. Watch the Mojiit App video.
The Monkey app randomly pairs users with strangers for a 15 second video chat. When signing up, users connect their Snapchat usernames and phone numbers to the app. Users see the age and gender of the other user before connecting with them in a 15 second chat. We highly recommend deleting the Monkey app if your child has it because random video chatting apps make it easy for teens to be targeted by predators. Watch the Monkey App video.
MyLOL is the #1 teen dating app in the US, UK, and Canada and is designed for students 13-19 years old. Built-in features of MyLOL encourage users to send private messages to random strangers. While people over 20 years old are not permitted to create an account, MyLOL makes it easy to enter another birth date, if you’re not a teen. Watch the MyLOL App video.
Ogle is an anonymous app that automatically searches your location for nearby schools when downloaded. The app allows *anyone* to interact with school feeds, engage on any campuses content, and share or ask anything anonymously. Since there is little formal registration, bullies and predators can easily masquerade as students and friends. Watch the Ogle App video.
Omegle is an anonymous text and video chat room that connects strangers to talk with each other. The app allows you to share personal information, and also contains inappropriate and unmoderated content. Omegle’s slogan is: “Talk to strangers!” Omegle also has a video chat feature. The content in video chat rooms is not moderated by administrators. Watch our Omegle App video.
Overwatch is a multiplayer first-person shooter game available on Windows, XBox One, and PS4 that is incredibly popular with students. The game only works if players are matched onto teams with other real people which means that your child will be exposed to strangers in every match. Watch our Overwatch Game video.
Phhhoto is a camera app that shoots moving pictures that continually loop to make short movies. There is no option to make an account private, users can only block specific users from seeing their Phhhoto posts. Students without smartphones or email addresses can get access to the app. Users can use a landline or any number to verify their account if they are on a tablet or wifi-only device. Encourage your student to delete the Phhhoto app and use the social media networks in our Green Zone that can positively impact their Google results. Watch our Phhhoto App video.
Known as “the front page to the internet”, Reddit is a website where users can post interesting news, humorous memes, questions about topics, and random information. Registered users can comment and vote posts up or down which determine its position on the site’s pages. Content is organized by groups/areas of interest called “subreddits.” Reddit is incredibly popular and has been in the top 10 most trafficked websites for years. Parents should be aware that most accounts are anonymous, there are no editors on Reddit – anyone can submit content, users can only down vote or report inappropriate posts, there is a lot of explicit content, and although the platform is intended for users age 13+ there are a lot of teen focused subreddits. Watch our Reddit video.
Targeted to kids ages 8-12, Roblox is the largest user-generated online gaming platform. A recent study revealed that the average monthly visits for Roblox users under the age of 13 is 25.5 visits. News sources like ABC and NBC have reported that predators use the gaming platform to target children. Since users can create and upload games, inappropriate and graphic content can appear in any game. The purpose of the game is to interact with other players, the majority of other players are anonymous. Anonymous apps can have a negative impact on a student’s digital footprint and safety. Watch our Roblox video.
Sarahah is an app and website that allows users to send and receive anonymous messages. Teens and tweens feel like they can hide behind their anonymous screen names and bully others without repercussions. There is no way to report inappropriate content or threats. Many students attach their Sarahah links to their Snapchat and Instagram stories and accounts. Watch our Sarahah App video.
The SayAt.Me app is an anonymous website and app, on the Google Play Store, that allows users to gather feedback from others. Anonymous apps are breeding grounds for cyberbullying behavior. Some students feel like they can hide behind anonymity on social media to hurt others. Also, SayAt.Me encourages users to compare their self-image to other people’s opinions which can be damaging to a developing tween or teen. Watch our SayAt.Me App video.
Secret App (Closed in 2015)
Note: The Secret App was discontinued in April of 2015 but one the co-founders was hired by Snapchat, so we leave this app guide here to teach parents/educators what it does.
Secret is an app that allows people to share messages anonymously within their circle of friends, friends of friends, and publicly. When a student sees a secret about them on the app, they don’t know who posted it, but they do know one of their 3-100 connections sent it. This can cause bullying and anxiety. Students often hide behind being anonymous when posting, and forget that anonymous does not mean untraceable. Watch our Secret App video.
The Signal app is a free private messaging app that promises privacy for users through end-to-end encryption. It is widely used by people – from politicians to famous athletes – who don’t want to risk having others see or hear their personal information, private messages, and photos. The app’s developer is a 501c3 nonprofit and there are no in-app purchases available. The company says it doesn’t collect metadata on its users (this includes a user’s identity and location). Using any private messaging app could lead to negative behavior because students might feel they can hide their actions from their parents. Watch our Signal App video.
Spotafriend is an app strictly for teens designed to help them find friends. We discourage students from using Spotafriend since there have been instances of adults being able to easily bypass the age restriction. Also, this app can be used by predators to try and target victims nearby. Watch our Spotafriend App video.
StreetChat is a live photo-sharing board designed for middle school, high school and college students. Kids feel freedom to send mean posts because they do not have to confirm their identity within the app. This leads to students often posting about real people. Watch our StreetChat App video.
tbh App (Closed in 2018, Owned by Facebook)
Note: The tbh App was discontinued in July of 2018 but we leave this app guide here to teach parents/educators what it did.
TBH stands for “to be honest”, and the tbh app is a social networking platform where users anonymously answer questions/polls about their classmates. In October 2017, Facebook acquired the app. There is no verification process on the app so anyone can sign up and say they attend a school in their area, even if they are an adult. Even though the questions/polls are approved by the developers, tbh can still promote bullying and make it easier for students to become a target. This app encourages users to anonymously critique their classmates which can promote unhealthy student interactions. Watch our tbh App video.
Telegram Messenger App
Telegram is an app that offers unlimited instant messaging with encryption. The app syncs across devices so that users can access their chats on mobile, desktop or tablet. Recently, the Telegram Messenger app was temporarily removed from the App Store due to the danger it posed to children. Watch our Telegram Messenger App video.
The Tellonym app allows students (and strangers) to ask and answer questions anonymously. The Tellonym app can be linked to a user’s Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter account, allowing students to get inbound anonymous messages from their friends and strangers. When teens connect anonymous apps to their Instagram or Snapchat they open themselves up to being targeted by strangers across platforms (and bullying/threats from people they may not know). Watch our Tellonym App video.
Text Me App
The Text Me app offers free texting, calling, and additional phone numbers. In our experience, students will download apps like this so that they can hide their activity from their parents. Even if a user doesn’t have a cellular plan, they can make calls and send texts using the app. Additionally, the Text Me app offers location sharing features which can be incredibly dangerous for students. Watch our Text Me App safety video.
The TextNow app turns any wifi connected device into a phone with its own phone number, even if the device doesn’t have a phone plan. With the TextNow app, users can send traditional text/sms messages that won’t show up in their phone bill. There are several reports of predators using this app to target victims. Watch our TextNow App safety video.
Tik Tok App (Based in China)
The Tik Tok app is a music video social media platform. Musical.ly was purchased by the creators of Tik Tok and Musical.ly discontinued their app and transferred all of the users to the Tik Tok app/servers in China. This app is popular because it mixes self deprecating humor with the latest pop music songs. In our experience, apps like Tik Tok can allow strangers to direct message your children (and consume a large amount of time, without creating a positive online footprint for your student). Watch our Tik Tok App safety video.
Tinder is a dating app, marketed to adults, that allows users to connect with other Tinder users. Users anonymously swipe right if they’re interested in seeing a user’s profile or they swipe left to pass. If both users express interest or “swipe right” on each other then those users become a match. Once a user has been matched with another Tinder user they can start chatting with each other in the app. When signing up, users must use a Facebook profile to verify their authenticity to Tinder. Watch our Tinder safety video.
Tumblr App (Bought by WordPress.com’s parent company Automattic)
In 2019, Tumblr was sold by Yahoo to Automattic (WordPress.com’s parent company). Since WordPress runs 34% of all websites in the world, that means that Tumblr – which is already incredibly popular with students – is going to get even more prevalent. Tumblr is one of the world’s most popular blogging platforms. In 2013 (until 2019) Tumblr’s terms of service stated they would not delete pornographic information. They encourage students to hide from their real identity (by suggesting a default/random fake username on registration). Tumblr has a big search box at the top of the page and up until January 2019 pornographic information could still be found. Watch our Tumblr App video.
Twenty App (formerly Mappen App)
Note: In 2019, the Mappen app was re-branded as the Twenty app.
Twenty app is a social media networking app that focuses on location sharing. We believe this app is not safe for students to use and if your student has it, have a dialog with your students about sharing their location with others. Watch the Twenty App video.
Voxer is a free messaging app that allows users to send real-time voice messages (like a walkie-talkie) to other users. Teens like using Voxer because their activity on the app doesn’t appear on their parents’ phone bills. By default, profiles are public on Voxer which can be very dangerous. Watch our Voxer video.
Wattpad is a relatively unmoderated online storytelling community. One of the major concerns with Wattpad is that teens are posting explicit and inappropriate stories that are connected to their personal Facebook profiles (and shows their profile photo). On Wattpad it is easy for your student to access explicit content and predators are using this site to contact teens. We recommend finding alternative ways your teen can share their creative writing publicly. Watch our Wattpad video.
WeChat (Based in China)
WeChat is a free texting, video, and calling app developed in China. WeChat is one of the top 50 most popular social media apps in the iTunes store with over 980 million active users. WeChat encourages users to chat with strangers nearby or around the world, at random. This feature is incredibly dangerous for teens and tweens. Watch our WeChat video.
WhatsGoodly is an anonymous, location-based, social polling application designed for college students. It has a 17+ age restriction, but younger students can still see polls and vote. There are a lot of questions about dating, relationships, alcohol, and smoking on the app. Watch our WhatsGoodly App video.
Whisper is an anonymous social network that allows people to “express themselves.” (Anytime an app encourages students to “express themselves” to strangers, please be very careful). Whisper reveals a user’s location, which makes it easy for people to arrange to meet up. This also makes it easier for predators to locate and connect with users. Watch our Whisper App video.
Slingshot App (Owned by same company as Wishbone App)
Slingshot is a comparison app, marketed to boys, that allows users to vote or create polls. Slingshot users can create any type of poll, including polls that are not appropriate for teens. In the beginning, this app would force students to watch inappropriate videos before moving onto the next poll. Watch our Slingshot App video.
Wishbone App (Owned by same company as Slingshot App)
Wishbone is a comparison app, marketed to girls, that allows users to vote or create polls. Slingshot users can create any type of poll, including polls that are not appropriate for teens. In the beginning, this app would force students to watch inappropriate videos before moving onto the next poll. Watch our Wishbone App video.
Yubo App (formerly called the Yellow App)
The Yubo app markets itself as a way to make friends even though it’s mostly used as a dating app. This can be confusing for teens and tweens who join the app and are not aware of the intentions of other users. This app is nicknamed “Tinder for Snapchat” and “Tinder for Teens.” Yubo app users can join a live group stream or swipe through profiles. If two users swipe right on each other’s photos then they become a match and can chat or share Instagram and Snapchat usernames. The Yubo app is free, but users can pay for a premium subscription to up their visibility and get rid of ads. Watch our Yubo App video.
Yik Yak App (Closed in April 2017)
Note: Yik Yak has been discontinued in April of 2017, but we leave this app guide here to teach parents/educators what it does.
Yik Yak acts like a local bulletin board for your area by showing the most recent posts from other users around you. Many bomb threats were made on this app. Students forget that being anonymous on an app does not mean being untraceable. Police departments are quickly able to locate students at home and address them after a threat to school safety. Once students are in college, they seem to be much more mature on this app. Watch our Yik Yak App video.
The Yolo app is an anonymous Q&A app that works seamlessly with Snapchat. If your children use Snapchat, it is very likely that they will encounter the YOLO app. If your child has the YOLO app, we recommend that they delete it and stick to using Snapchat on its own with parental supervision. Watch our YOLO App video.
YouNow is a popular broadcasting platform where kids can watch and stream real-time videos. Users decide whether broadcasters should continue their live videos with thumbs up and thumbs down voting. If the amount of likes exceeds dislikes, you will be given another minute. If not, then the current broadcast will be voted off. Anyone can record the videos that are posted, take screenshots, and bully others with the recordings. Watch our YouNow App video.
DANGEROUS SOCIAL MEDIA CHALLENGES: These are viral social media challenges that are popular with students on almost every social network.
Viral challenges like these encourage teens to do dangerous things just for likes, views, attention, and subscribers. These challenges usually target students across several social networks and requires them to perform dangerous activities. Students have to post proof of them partaking in the dangerous challenge on social media. Often, these challenges have serious repercussions and encourages students to behave in a way we have never seen before.
The Blue Whale Challenge
The Blue Whale Challenge is a game teens play to perform harmful tasks over 50 days, with the last task urging the victim to die by suicide. The challenge as a whole is meant to harm students and slowly get them to trust the game. Each challenge in the game shames the student to take another action (or they will share their secrets with the public). Get involved, have a healthy dialog with your students about their day and social media. Pay attention to any changes in your teen’s behavior, especially if they become reserved, withdrawn, or fearful of social media. Consider contacting your teen’s school. If your child has engaged with anything like the Blue Whale Challenge, other students might be engaging with it too. Watch our Blue Whale Challenge video.
Condom Snorting Challenge
The condom snorting challenge is a viral trend where teens post a video of themselves snorting a condom through their nose and pulling it out of their mouth. While this may sound like a joke, teens have been doing this challenge since 2007. With one YouTube search, our team was able to find videos that were uploaded in April 2018 of teens doing the challenge (2 teens had even live streamed it that same day). This challenge can be very dangerous and can cause choking. Health experts warn of infection or allergic reaction. Viral challenges like this encourage teens to do dangerous things just for likes, views, attention, and subscribers. Watch our Condom Snorting Challenge video.
The Deodorant Challenge
The deodorant challenge is a viral teen trend where students spray their bare skin (or someone else’s) with aerosol deodorant for as long as they can stand it. The challenge is painful, can have a lasting impact, causes scarring, and is causing some teens to be hospitalized. Knowing about social media challenges and trends before your teen does can help you keep them safe before an incident occurs. Watch our Deodorant Challenge video.
The Fire Challenge
Some kids across the country are lighting themselves on fire– or letting their friends ignite them while recording it for social media. It’s called the “Fire Challenge.” The life-threatening internet stunt has been around for a while, but unfortunately, some kids are still attempting it and some of them are getting badly burned in the process. People attempting this challenge spray their bodies with common household accelerants, like nail polish remover or hand sanitizer, and then light themselves on fire. We highly recommend parents discuss the dangers of the Fire Challenge with their kids before they find out about it from their friends. Watch our Fire Challenge video.
Momo Challenge (A hoax, but important to know about)
The Momo Challenge is a dangerous viral social media trend with teens and tweens. The challenge encourages students to contact an unknown person called “Momo” via WhatsApp. Throughout the challenge, students are sent violent and graphic images and texts. If students want to stop the challenge “Momo” threatens to leak their personal information. Students who partake in the Momo Challenge are actively communicating with strangers who intend to encourage self-harm. Watch the Momo Challenge video.
Slender Man is a fictional character who originated from a viral internet meme. The character is portrayed as a tall, thin, and faceless man in a black suit who goes around traumatizing people. Although he is fictitious, the Slender Man is causing teens to act dangerously. In 2014, two tween girls stabbed a classmate and claimed it was in an attempt to act on behalf of the Slender Man after reading about him online. Watch our Slender Man video.
Shell On Challenge
The shell on challenge is a social media trend that is gaining popularity among students. Teens are challenging each other to eat food items still in their packaging. To partake in the challenge, teens will shoot a video of themselves eating something with the ‘shell on’ and then post that video on social media. It should be a red flag for parents if their child is doing this challenge to gain attention on social media. Watch our Shell On Challenge safety video.
The Skullbreaker Challenge surfaced on TikTok in late 2019. Three people stand side-by-side. The two people on either end will trick the middle person into dancing or jumping with them to make a video. Then, they kick the unsuspecting person’s feet out from under him/her forcing the victim to fall on the ground. The prank is then posted to social media. There are reports of kids getting concussions or being hospitalized with other injuries after attempting this. Some students have also faced legal consequences for participating in the Skullbreaker Challenge. Watch our Skullbreaker Challenge safety video.
Tide Pod Challenge
The Tide Pod Challenge encouraged students to consume a plastic laundry detergent pod and post a video of it to social media. At first the challenge started as a joke but now poison control centers are warning parents about this dangerous activity. The Tide Pod Challenge is incredibly dangerous. It’s essentially ingesting poison. Even if a student doesn’t eat the entire laundry detergent pod, just ingesting a tiny bit can lead to serious health repercussions. Watch our Tide Pod Challenge safety video.