Apps NJ parents should watch out for on their kids’ smartphones this year
Now that school is back in session, kids are carrying their electronic devices wherever they go.
Many Jersey parents are voicing concerns about the threat of online predators but they’re not sure what they should be doing to keep their children safe.
“The apps that children use today is where predators are going to be,” said Lt. John Pizzuro, commander of the State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
He pointed out many apps pose a potential danger to youngsters.
Kik, for example, is a messenger app where individuals can have their own online community.
"We definitely have predators targeting children through Kik,” he said.
Another app to watch out for, according to Pizzuro, is a networking app called Yellow.
“Yellow is the children’s Tinder, as they call it, where children are able to swipe left and right on people’s pictures. But individuals are able to lie about their age,” he said.
A popular video lip-syncing social network app called Musical.ly can also be dangerous. And then there’s Omegle.
“This one puts two strangers together in their choice of either a text, chat or video, being anonymous,” said Pizzuro.
He said another one to watch out for is Skout, which is described as a flirting app.
“You can sign up as a teen or an adult, you’re placed in an appropriate age group and you’re able to look at someone and if someone cheats you, you can cash in points to see who it is,” he said.
Pizzuro pointed out parents need to understand the list of apps considered potentially dangerous is constantly changing.
“Usually we see them by talking to other children, other victims, and it’s the tips we receive from the national center of missing and exploited children.”
He also stressed any game-oriented platforms where different people can join in on the action are potentially dangerous because you never really know who you’re talking to.
Pizzuro said online predators will frequently make contact on an app and then suggest changing platforms.
“Let’s say I meet you on an app and I’m going to take you directly to a Skype so I can get you one-on-one.”
He also said apps that hide conversations, photographs as well as videos, like Hide It Pro, can pose a danger because parents won’t know what their kids are looking at, and they probably won’t realize what this app is because it may be disguised as some other type of app, like a calculator.
“If your son or daughter has three calculators on their phone, obviously that’s a cause for concern.”
He noted these types of apps may be password protected, so even if a parent discovers one, they may not be able to open it to see what’s going on.
So how do you keep your kids safe?
“Have conversations, know what your children are doing, knowing what apps they utilize. I think having those conversations with them to begin with is the most important thing that someone can do,” he said.
“Parents should be talking to their kids everyday about open communication, open dialogue, especially for what apps that they’re doing, what apps that they’re on.”
He added today’s smart phones “have a lot of responsibility behind them. They do a lot of different things, they make our lives easier. But at the same time they can impact us negatively.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com
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