Internet access is no longer limited to desktop or laptop computers. World Advertising Research Center, using data from mobile trade body GSMA, says almost three-quarters of internet users, or roughly 3.7 billion people, will access the internet exclusively via smartphones by 2025.
Young people are one of the largest demographics utilizing smartphones today. A Common Sense Media survey says just over half of children in the United States now own a smartphone by the age of 11. In addition, 84 percent of teenagers have their own phones. Most youth grew up with the internet, and they have embraced a variety of apps, particularly social media apps, that connect them to the world.
Social media certainly can be an asset, but it has inherent risks, such as making kids easy targets for identity theft or sexual predators. Other apps expose users to explicit, unfiltered content. Parents must educate themselves about the popular apps their tweens and teens may be using and weigh their pros and cons. Here's a list of apps every parent should know in 2020.
• TikTok: This app (formerly Musical.ly) is designed for creating and sharing short videos, notably music videos. Users are urged to express their creativity, and special effects can be added. While minimum age for use is 13, there is no real way to validate users' ages so anyone can download the app. Parents say the videos are plagued by inappropriate language and content, including pornographic material. Also, some have warned that when sexual predators are identified, the app is slow to flag and remove these users.
• Kik: This is a cross-platform messaging app that enables users to chat anonymously without the need for phone service. Users also can share most digital media and video chat with one another. Forbes reports that Kik has had issues with child exploitation and sexual harassment.
• Tellonym: The web resource FamilyEducation says this messenger app allows kids to ask and answer questions anonymously, purporting to be the "most honest place on the internet." Cyber bullying and violent threats are common, according to watchdog groups.
• MeetMe: This social app advertises its ability to have users meet new people through messages, video calls and live streams. With no option to set privacy limitations, users can freely view other profiles within the vicinity. Also, reaching out to others and viewing profiles generates in-app reward incentives.
• Bigo Live: Common Sense Media says this app is like YouTube and Twitch in that Bigo Live lets users stream live video of themselves that others can see and comment on in real time. People also can send and receive "beans," which are virtual gifts that cost real money. The warning is that Bigo has a lot of mature content and predatory commentary.
Yolo: Yolo is an easy add-on for Snapchat, which also is a popular app among children. Yolo lets users ask anonymous questions and receive feedback. The anonymity of commentary can be a recipe for bullying, trolling and hurt feelings.
Parents can safeguard their children by monitoring internet access and understanding popular apps used by today's youth.