According to Pew Research Center close to 80 percent of teens in America have a cell phone, and nearly half of them use smart phones.
Apps are wildly popular and easy to get with a few taps of those smart phones.
Unfortunately, some of those apps are being used for more than just a friendly “hello.”
When it comes to her son, Colin’s new smart phone Maureen Donahue is always looking over his shoulder. Maureen likes the ability of staying in touch with her 13-year-old, but is concerned by the virtual trouble certain popular apps can welcome.
“With all of these new apps coming up it is difficult to stay on top of things,” Maureen said. “I think it is completely the parent’s responsibility.”
Four of the more popular apps that teens are downloading to their smart phones these days are; Snapchat, Ask.FM, Whisper and Kik Messenger.
Kik is an instant messaging app allows teens to exchange videos and pictures. Some parenting groups say Kik is used for nude “selfies” and finding sex among other teens. The app does not offer any parental controls.
Whisper allows users to post texts over photos anonymously. Some teens are using it to cyber-bully their peers anonymously and avoid punishment.
Katie Hurst a social media expert with Madison + Main advertising firm says while some apps have parental controls other do not. To avoid trouble Katie recommends mom and dad taking an active role in their children’s cyber world.
“The more you know the more you can protect your kids,” says Hurst. “Allowing your kids to know what to put out there is an important step.”
Back in Mechanicsville, Colin realizes there will be consequences if he uses his smart phone improperly.
“In order to get a game or whatever I have to go to my parents and ask them,” says Colin. “I could get into some trouble and then my parents would find out and then it would blow up in my face.”
Maureen says she trusts her son to make the right decisions with his smart phone, but she wants to remind him that she’ll be watching in person or electronically.
“My advice for a parent who is thinking about getting a smartphone for their kids is just be vigilant.”
Cyber Crime experts say the key for parents is to monitor downloaded apps on their child’s smart phones. Google the apps to learn if they are dangerous or inappropriate. And gather all of your child’s passwords and user names for monitoring purposes. Parents like Maureen Donohue say its better to be safe than sorry.