Children Innocently Using Dangerous Smartphone Apps
July 24, 2019
Says, ‘allowing dangerous people into your home and their bedrooms’
When inexperienced children innocently use smartphone applications, they often do not realize predators are also lurking on sites looking to exploit their innocence. In today’s digital era, many teens and children feel pressured to post everything about themselves online. Due to this potential exposure, parents must play an active role in ensuring children stay safe on the internet.
“If you don’t know who your children are texting and gaming with on their phones, you could be allowing dangerous people into your home and their bedrooms,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “I urge parents and grandparents to be informed and take an active role in their children’s online presence so together we can protect our kids. As long as bad people target the children of Arkansas, my office will be here to go after those people.”
Smartphone apps that allow messaging and video-chat between kids and anonymous or fake users pose the greatest threat. Apps like Yubo, known as “Tinder for teens,” allow users to chat and exchange information with people they may only know by a couple of unverified pictures. Recently, an Ohio man was arrested for the sexual exploitation of an 11-year old enabled by the app.
Chatous is another potentially harmful app commonly used that instantly connects users with random strangers all over the world for a one-on-one video-chat. The random nature of the app lends itself to the possibility of exploitation.
Attorney General Rutledge has issued the following tips to help protect Arkansas families:
- Parents should make a unique password, or know the password for their child’s social media sites. Consider making the passwords stronger by adding numbers or special characters. Having strong, unique passwords for each site helps prevent hackers from taking over social media accounts to send spam, scam friends or use information against the owner of the account.
- Follow the “Front Page Rule,” which reminds social media users not to put anything on a social media site they would not want to see on the front page of a newspaper.
- Assume that status updates, photos and videos posted on social networks are permanent. Even though a profile is deleted or information is removed on one site, older versions can continue to exist on other sites.
- If your child would like to engage in face-to-face meetings with contacts found online, use caution as the other party may not be trustworthy and may not be who they say they are.
- Do not respond to messages that are inappropriate. Encourage children to tell an adult if they ever encounter anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Always be aware of clues that a child is experiencing harmful or abusive content online. These include frequent seclusion, mood changes and lack of transparency, among others.
- Parents and guardians should establish smartphone use policies for children and consider downloading a monitoring service app that allows them to view the child’s smartphone activity.
Recently the Department of Justice announced the arrest of 1,700 individuals in connection to online child exploitation. Parents should be aware of not just social media apps like Yubo or Chatous, but also apps like “calculator dot,” which allow children to hide pictures in secret files and to search the internet behind the facade of an innocent calculator.
For more information about ways to be safe online and other consumer-related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.