Anonymous Text Messaging Can Be Dangerous for Teens
All parents know well how much modern teens are obsessed with the Internet and especially social networks. It is a fast and easy way to stay in touch with the friends, chat, share news, photos, and videos. However, we should remember that not all of the social media are safe and harmless. Sites that offer anonymous messaging may hide certain threats for the kids and sometimes lead to unpleasant and even dangerous consequences.
Why are anonymous messenger apps so popular among teenagers? Generally, they all have a colorful and smart interface and are easy to use. Also, after a while they let kids feel somehow addictive and wait impatiently for the news updates and more messages. But the most significant – they let conceal one’s identity and/or location.
Therefore, users are encouraged to tell things, discuss situations and people, and express their opinion openly. Many children feel more confident this way, but some can go beyond the limits, insulting or bullying others. Moreover, there’s no guarantee that a fraudster or an online predator is not hiding behind a fake profile of a kid.
Here are a few quick facts about anonymous messaging apps:
- 70% of teens are trying to hide their online life and behavior from parents;
- At the same time, 72% of parents worry about the online activity of their children;
- Teens assume that they are using anonymous text messaging to conceal their digital footprints – to say things they don’t normally say and talk to those who they tend to avoid otherwise;
- 25% of kids admit that their parents know very little or nothing of their behavior online.
There’s a broad range of anonymous apps. Most popular of them are Snapchat, Whisper, KIK, YIK YAK, Tinder, Vine, Ask FM, Line, Burn Note, and Omegle. If your teen is using one or several of these apps, you, as a parent, should know the risks and discuss them with your child. Here’s the short overview of some apps, which presence on child’s device should put parents on the alert.
Snapchat is the mainstream and hugely popular app among the teenagers. All messages, images, and videos sent through Snapchat self-destruct after a short span of time. This provides an illusion of anonymity and feeling of boldness to post any content. Why only an illusion? Because users can easily screenshot anything that others send. There are documented cases of teenage suicide caused by bullying through Snapchat. Check out some stats to see just how popular Snapchat is:
- 41% of teens in the US use Snapchat;
- 35% use it mainly because the content on it disappears;
- 30% of children admit that they use Snapchat only because their parents don’t use it;
- 25-30 minutes is an average amount of time that a teen spends in this app daily.
Whisper’s got over 800,000 of underage users. It lets conceal one’s identity and share secrets anonymously. However, the app is known for some users going beyond the limits and spreading gossips, abusing and bullying others.
YIK YAK lets its users leave anonymous posts based on their location. There are many cases of teens making threats and degrading remarks through this app.
This site allows its users to ask anonymous questions. It has over 28 million of users under the age of 18. There are at least 9 registered cases of teenage suicide, which happened due to the cyberbullying through Ask FM.
The app has 218 million of monthly users. It offers the option of “hidden chat” where all messages self-erase. The risk is very high that your teen may meet a potentially dangerous stranger in a chat room of the Line app.
What dangers are the anonymous apps hiding?
Under cover of anonymous apps, children can leave mean comments, spread gossip and share hurtful content about their peers. They also can become the victims of cyberbullying themselves.
It is easier for the online predators to stalk teens through the social networks that offer anonymity, involve them into talking and possibly convince to meet in person.
Staying anonymous, teenagers may try to partake in risky sexually explicit conversations.
- Adult content
Children may come across adult content on the anonymous sites with no age verification.
- No guarantees of anonymity
As much as 47% of users save screenshots of private chats and “temporary” messages and may easily spread them later.
- Apps reveal location
Some apps claim to hide your identity, but at the same time, they show your location. Hence, predators and fraudsters may get to a child by using the apps’ GPS feature.
Bots are designed to act like personalized and suggestive messages, to possibly involve a child into online schemes or adult content.
What can parents do to protect their children from the possible threats of the anonymous messaging apps?
- Set the boundaries. Tell your teen about the dangers of communicating with strangers, sharing information and revealing inappropriate information. Explain that bullying others may lead to serious consequences and is unacceptable.
- Educate your child about the extreme and sad consequences of anonymous messaging. You may read and discuss the related articles together.
- Explain the possible consequences. You never know where the messages sent “anonymously” may land. Sometimes suggestive and private information sent through such apps may be revealed to a wide
- Check your kid’s privacy settings. Tell them how to block people.
- Turn off any location sharing features based on GPS.
- Make sure that your child isn’t sharing his/her phone number or any other personal details in public profiles.
- Use a reliable parental monitoring app such as Pumpic, to be on the safe side and keep an eye on your teen’s online life.