In a recent MamaBear Blog post, we identified some of the top messaging apps. Most parents are aware of the prominence of social messaging apps and the way they have captivated tweens. While messaging apps can be harmless in most cases, it is important for parents to not only stay in the know about which apps are being used but also to monitor them as closely as possible to ensure their children’s safety.

The Dangers of Messaging Apps

While kids may simply be using messaging apps like Kik and SnapChat to share trivial messages and a range of goofy emoticons with their school friends, there are some hidden dangers associated with messaging app use that would strike fear into the heart of any parent.

According to this Fox 4 article, in one week the app Kik was linked to three serious crimes involving teen victims in Southwest Florida. The apps are being used by predators to prey on young victims as well as by kids engaging in sexting and cyberbullying.

See Also: Taking Responsibility for Kids and Sexting

Designed for Young Adults, Usurped by Tweens

Parents should take note. Most kids who have smartphones use these apps on a daily basis and throughout the day and night. Originally designed for much older youths, messaging and social media apps have been usurped by young kids who lack the maturity to understand how much damage they can do.

See this article for an interesting perspective on what happens when apps designed for more mature college students fall into the hands of tweens:

See Also: Yik Yak App Makers Do the Right Thing

More alarming is the way different social apps are being used together by young kids in dangerous ways. For example, one blogger describes how the photo sharing social network Instagram and the messaging app Kik were used together to allow a pedophile to target a young teenager.

Safety Measures

What can parents do?

First, talk to your kids. Without taking too prying of a tone, ask them questions about the apps they use most. Try to make the questions positive, rather than negative, in order to get a foot in the door with kids reluctant to share. What are their favorite messaging apps? Who do they like to talk to? Have they made any new friends? Asking questions but keeping the dialog light and conversational can build trust and help kids to be more open to sharing with their parents.

Second, install a family safety app like MamaBear on all family members’ phones so that you can monitor your kids’ behavior on social media like Instagram and Twitter. This way you will know who they are making friends with and be able to keep tabs on any troublesome behaviors.

Third, remind your children to take their own safety seriously. They should be aware of the kinds of things that really do happen with messaging apps and the types of predators who lurk behind deceiving screen names and profile images. It is important for the whole family – parents and children alike – to stay in the know about what these apps should be used for and what can make them go terribly, terribly wrong.