What Are “Anonymous” Social Media Apps?: What Parents, Educators, & Students Need to Know

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January 24, 2022

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In this VIP resource parents & educators will learn

  • What are anonymous apps/websites?
  • Why are anon apps/sites dangerous for kids?
  • Tips to talk with kids about anon apps
  • Real-life examples of dangers from these apps
  • What are some of the most popular anonymous apps among kids?

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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!

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Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

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Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.

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Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

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This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.

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Irene C.

Educator Webinar Attendee

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Green Zone.
This app is not safe for students to use unsupervised, but a Green Zone app can serve a positive purpose to help a student to navigate social media and someday build an online brand. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Green Zone.

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Gray Zone.
Gray Zone apps often contain lots of private & disappearing messages, and strangers can use this to chat with students. Parents should participate in these apps with students to keep them safe. This zone can be a great place for family time since many of these apps can be entertaining, and let your students express themselves. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Gray Zone.

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Red Zone.
Red Zone apps often have lots of anonymous features, adult content, and easy contact with strangers. Supervision is strongly suggested on each of these apps or move your kids to a safer zone. All apps require parental supervision, these apps more than others. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Red Zone or view our list of 100+ Apps to find a safer app with your student.
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This trend is categorized as a Dangerous Social Media Challenge.
Viral challenges encourage students to do dangerous things to garner likes, views, attention, and subscribers. These challenges can be found across several social networks and may encourage students to perform dangerous activities. SmartSocial.com keeps parents updated on these social media challenges before an incident may occur in your community.

Table of Contents

Being on apps or social media websites that encourage users to be anonymous or “your true self” is dangerous for students for several reasons. Students may want to be on these apps because they think that “all their friends” are on them, but all users should know the dangers of interacting with strangers, especially on anonymous social media.

Find out why apps that offer “anonymous” use are often considered SmartSocial Red Zone apps.

Parent training video

Listen to the parent training resource:

What are anonymous social media apps?

  • Anonymous social media apps (aka anon) or websites do not conduct any, or very little, identification checks to ensure users are the person, or the age, they are claiming to be
  • Users share ideas, ask questions, and interact with other users without revealing their identity
  • Anonymous apps or sites often do not require a validated email address or phone number to register and users can sign up for an unlimited number of usernames, regardless of whether the app monitors or enforces rules
  • Apps and social media sites are easily accessible on app stores and through regular Google searches. More anonymous apps exist on the “dark web,” which requires more extensive access knowledge

Are anonymous apps bad for kids?

  • These apps often encourage “self-expression,” which frequently leads students to share more information than they would with people they know (whether that information is true or not)
  • Anonymous communications very easily turn into sharing inappropriate content (photos or videos) and/or sexting, whether or not the student requests or consents to that type of communication
  • Thinking other users are anonymous may encourage students to share too much personal information, like revealing photos or their physical location, that predators are looking for
  • Online disinhibition (lack of restraint when posting online) leads users to act out more frequently or with greater intensity than they would in person or with people who know who they are offline (From: CyberPsychology & Behavior)

Dangers of anonymous apps in the news

Fox19 Now, Cincinnati Ohio: Video games, websites predators are using to lure children
A couple months ago, there was a local child that was on Omegle and had been solicited…initially it was ‘do you have pics?’...that’s the kind of websites you’re dealing with…

Fox 19 - Cincinnati, OH

Threats of violence against schools led to the arrests of five people under the age of 18, and now local officials are sounding the alarm about a social media site where three of those threats were made…

KHQA - Quincy, Illinois

Why do students want to be on anonymous apps?

The ability to be anonymous and ask questions that may be sensitive or embarrassing is one reason why millions of teens worldwide are using these apps.  Also, these apps remove the anxiety of presenting your ‘best self’ online and allow teens to take on different personas and explore different ideas without fear of repercussions

www.internetmatters.org

Examples of anonymous apps/websites

Logo for the Whisper app

New apps appear in the app stores every day. We have created parent and educator guides for the most popular apps among teens. 

Is there an anonymous app/website your student is asking for permission to use or is already using that we haven’t covered? Let us know! 

Some of the most popular anonymous apps to look for on your student’s device: 

Logo for Reddit

What can parents & educators do?

  • Talk with your students frequently about what apps they are viewing, who they are talking to, and what information they generally share 
  • Develop strategies together to recognize when their actions are being driven by pressure to be “themselves” or through peer pressure vs. their own interests or goals
  • Consider creating a list of acceptable apps/websites with your students and talk about why you think they are dangerous  (see the SmartSocial Social Media and Cell Phone Agreement course for a framework of how to set expectations on social media as a family)
  • Try to not tell students what you think they “should do,” but rather help them understand dangers and how to make decisions for themselves
  • If students seem to not understand peer pressure or repeatedly take unnecessary risks based on what they read or see online, consider seeking counseling through their school or other mental health resources
  • Visit SmartSocial.com frequently to learn about the most current social media challenges (If you don’t see a Social Media Challenge you’re looking for, fill out this form to let us know!)

Bonus: What can students do?

  • If your friends want you to join anonymous apps find another way to connect with them like a text message group or app or suggest an app in the Green/Yellow zone of our SmartSocial Popular Teen Apps List
  • Encourage your friends to not reveal identifying information about themselves and to never meet a stranger they have met online, even if they think it’s someone your age who goes to another school
  • If it feels too tempting to not get involved in dangerous apps, talk with a trusted adult about other alternatives to occupy your time and attention
  • Remind your friends that nothing posted online is ever truly anonymous and many apps/website companies work with police to investigate threats or evidence of breaking the law with sophisticated digital tracking. Here's an example:
...[F]our students faced disciplinary action after posting false information on the anonymous social media site Yik Yak…Police reports reveal University police worked alongside Yik Yak to identify the students behind these posts….Yik Yak provided each student’s phone number and IP address at the time of the post. Through this, police were able to pinpoint the precise location of each post and the student associated with each phone number.

West Virginia University

MomTalk podcast with Beth & Andrea discussing anonymous apps

Conclusion

Apps or social websites can seem like an easy and fun way to blow off steam or explore your ideas in a “safe” environment, but these anonymous apps are anything but safe for students. Parents and educators must be aware of apps that encourage students to “be their true selves” and the consequences in “real life” off the apps.  


Students need positive adult support to resist the temptations of checking out these apps, which can lead to a slippery slope to predators and other online dangers.





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What Are “Anonymous” Social Media Apps?: What Parents, Educators, & Students Need to Know

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