A look at the risks kids face on popular social media sites

7 On Your Side has a look at the dangers of social media and the apps that parents may not even know their kids are using.
November 11, 2013 7:32:12 AM PST
Many parents find it nearly impossible to keep up with what their kids are doing in the social space. We're back to warn parents about what kids are doing online and the potential risks they face.

Last year we did a story about what was on your teen's smartphone that you don't know about. We thought it was time to update that story because it changes so quickly.

Instagram, Vine, Facebook. Those websites and mobile apps are the ones most parents know about. But there are more apps that parents don't know about that might set off alarm bells.

For instance, Ask.fm is a lesser known website and app for iPhone and Android users.

It's a social site where people can ask questions anonymously and then receive the answers anonymously. Everything from "what kind of movies do you like?" to "ask me what celeb you want naked and I post a pic."

To sign up, you only need to be 13-years-old.

The non-profit organization Common Sense Media provides age-based ratings of social media sites. It gave Ask.fm very low marks for "positive messages." Dr. Shira Lee Katz is their director of digital media.

"The issue, of course, is if you get answers that are hurtful," she said.

Bjorn Thyrring is 15-years-old.

"I have a friend of mine who asked a question and she got a response that she wasn't looking for from a lot of people and it made her feel really bad about herself," Thyrring said.

Ask.fm says users have the option to choose to ask questions anonymously, but they say millions of questions are asked every day by users who use their names.

Omegle is an open chat room popular among teens. Here too users only have to be 13 or older to sign on.

"You can talk to anyone," Dr. Katz said. "You don't know how old they are. You don't know where they're located. You don't know if they're male or female."

Omegle's tag line is users can to talk to strangers. On its site, the company states, "When you use Omegle, we pick someone else at random and let you have a one-on-one chat with each other. You're kept anonymous unless you tell someone personal information."

Omegle also writes, "safety is important and you can stop a chat at any time."

Rafael Cervantes is from Dixon. He tried the site a few times.

"I remember going on it back in 7th grade and there's some perverted stuff on there," he said.

There are several apps young people use to find dates. Tinder is a popular one.

Tyler Warren and his friends use this app frequently and say they love it.

"You can meet all sorts of girls your age on Tinder," he said.

Tinder is set up like a game and pulls information from users' Facebook profiles.

"Swipe left, 'wouldn't,' swipe right, 'would,' and then they see you and if they like you," Warren said. "Then they swipe right. And then if you both swipe right it starts a conversation."

Like the others, you only have to be 13 to sign up for Tinder. However, Tinder says only six percent of their users are between 13 and 17 and that they do not target minors.

But don't despair, not all kids are making risky decisions with social media.

"A lot of my friends use those sites," Thyrring said. "But its caused more drama than it's worth."

So here's my advice when reviewing apps and websites that your kids use. Ask yourself these questions:

Do they want your full name?
Do they want access to your location?
Do they want to know your birth date?
All this information can be potentially shared with the public.
Also, look for sites with paid moderators. This shows there is someone watching and potentially reporting bad behavior.
And lastly, is there a way on the site to report inappropriate interactions?

In 2015 a new law goes into effect that if asked will make website operators take down negative postings about minors.


Load Comments