Snapchat is a picture-messaging app whose claim to fame is that the messages last only for a few seconds once they're opened, then supposedly evaporate into thin air. In theory, you can send embarrassing or risque pictures without being afraid someone will steal or distribute them.
Unfortunately, the claim that Snapchat makes it safe to send such pictures is wrong. It is, in fact, way too simple for anyone to grab a screenshot of the image before it's deleted. There have been several cases of teenagers getting into serious legal trouble for capturing and distributing illegal photos sent to them by underage girls. In one case, hackers got their hands on thousands of supposedly deleted Snapchat images and redistributed them.
While most users probably use Snapchat for innocent picture-conversations with each other, this can still be a major concern.
If your teens are using Snapchat, ask them to show you how they're using it. Make sure they are communicating only with people they know and that they realize the pictures they send don't just vanish forever. Remind them, as with everything else they post online "Once on the Internet, always on the Internet!"
Tinder is all about meeting new romantic partners. The app allows a person to create a profile and see images of potential romantic matches in the immediate area. If two people like each other, they can have a conversation through the app and potentially "hook up." Again, broadcasting images to strangers and potentially meeting them is probably not something you want your teenager doing. While the only way to gain access to the app is to have a Facebook account with a birth date that indicates the user is 18 years old or over, a user can set any birthdate they wish and there is no age verification.
Vine, which lets you record and share six-second videos, seems like a totally safe app at first. It gets dangerous when you consider how strong peer pressure is on social media. Sometimes the best way to get attention on social media is to do something edgy or crazy. Last year, in the most dramatic example yet, teens across the world took to setting themselves on fire. In response to this, Vine released the Vine Kids app, which features hand-selected videos that are geared toward younger audiences. Unlike the real Vine app, Vine Kids can't record videos. But again, no guarantees that children will stick to the kids' app.
Whisper, an app built specifically for spreading rumors and secrets, lets users post pictures and text anonymously. This could potentially be a good outlet for teens. But Whisper shares the secrets based on geographic location, so the users nearest to your child are the ones more likely to see the secret. If your child reveals too much about themselves or others, it can put him or in a dangerous situation with friends or adversaries.
Yik Yak is another anonymous, smartphone-based community. The comments posted by YikYak users are shared with the 500 people living nearby (based on GPS location). According to psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow, YikYak is the most dangerous app that has ever come in existence. Classmates can easily become members of a virtual community, sharing mean comments and malicious remarks about each other. Cyber-bullying becomes an easy, convenient and readily available option.
Poof is an app of a very different nature from everything else included in the list so far and it poses a completely different set of dangers. Poof is an app created for the sole purpose of hiding other apps on a smartphone. A kid can use Poof to hide Snapchat or Whisper, preventing parents from ever learning about their installation on the phone. Seeing the Poof app on your child’s phone should be an instant red flag, as it indicates that your kid may be trying to hide something.