Christian Parenting and Family Resources with Biblical Principles

10 Most Dangerous Apps That Parents Need to Know

  • Jaime Jo Wright Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2020 21 May
10 Most Dangerous Apps That Parents Need to Know

Did you know that one of the kid’s most popular apps gives complete strangers access to chat with them online?

Were you aware that another often used app introduces your child to soft porn?

And what if someone told you that “kid” profiles on streaming media apps are only as kid-proof as your child’s ignorance?

One might not consider the dangers of such apps like Fortnite, Snapchat, and Netflix, but beware, they are worth considering. At the time this article is written, there are 78.3 million Fornite users, 186 million Snapchat users, and 151 million Netflix subscribers.

The odds your children will remain unaffected by these and other apps, are highly unlikely.

It’s not a new conversation, this “be careful what your kids download” subject. But often, parents request a list of the most dangerous apps so they can easily safeguard their child.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as a Top 10, and even the “safe” apps can become dangerous. So as parents, we need to be vigilant. As someone who has worked in the wireless industry for seventeen years, I recommend three important parental filters:

1. Know your child--do they communicate openly with you, or are they private?

2.You own the phone (or tablet)--just because it’s “theirs” doesn’t mean it’s off-limits. Have you set the expectation that you can look through their phone any time?

3. Just because it’s “Kid Safe”, doesn’t mean it is--have you researched the app?

Your electronic devices can be fabulous additions to your family’s options for entertainment and education. But a major error many parents make is trusting someone else—namely the app developer—to rate the potential harm for your child.

But, as a mom, not just someone who works in the industry, I’ve found that some of the safer apps are also important to not disregard.

It’s time to learn about some potential dangers lurking in your child’s bedroom that would rival any boogeyman.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/vejaa

  • 1. Roblox

    1. Roblox

    They define their app as: Roblox is a global platform where millions of people gather together every day to imagine, create, and share experiences with each other in immersive, user-generated 3D worlds.

    If you’re still unclear, picture going online and creating your own social environment. A school, a theme park, a neighborhood. In this environment, your made-up persona can be anything from a super-hero to a skateboarder. You can find a gazillion pros for this online imaginary play-place.

    It’s remarkably popular with kids. In August of 2019, Roblox boasted over 1,000,000 users monthly.

    So what are some of its dangers?

    • Open environments to join--this means your child can tour imaginary worlds and be introduced to different users. Many of these users are complete strangers to your child.
    • Real-time chatting--while exploring these worlds, characters can initiate chats. While many of these conversations can be innocent enough, reports online vary from bullying, to propositioning, to harassment. And, don’t underestimate the not as shocking but regular exposure to language, bad attitudes, disrespect, and other more standard dangers we tend to overlook.
    • Strangers as friends--one surf through my seven-year-old son’s messages and I found several friend requests from complete strangers. Granted, he has been too “scared” to accept them, but they’re there. Whether the requestors are authentically 7-13 year old, or a 51 year old man/woman creeping on my kid, I’ll never know.

    Should you remove the app from your child’s phone? Well, Roblox does offer privacy settings. This is helpful, but also not fool-proof.

    For one, I can’t—at least to my knowledge—control these from my phone, and my son showed me how he knows to go into settings and reverse any controls I’ve already pre-set.

    So, is your kid trustworthy enough to not do that? Does your kid have a healthy fear of strangers? Is your kid willing to ignore chats and conversations between characters? That is something only you can answer as a parent.

    2. Snapchat

    They define their app as: Snapchat lets you easily talk with friends, view Live Stories from around the world, and explore news in Discover. Life's more fun when you live in the moment!

    Basically put, imagine snapping a photo, sending it to your mom to view, she looks at it, and after a short period of time, it disappears into cyberspace never to be seen again.

    Fun? Yes. My sister-in-law and I Snapchat regularly. Silly pictures from what our morning coffee mug looks like, to pictures of our feet in fuzzy socks. Snapchat can be a super fun app and it’s no wonder it’s popular with kids who are visually stimulated.

    So what are some of the dangers?

    • It’s easy to sext. What’s that? Well, it has the word “sex” in it, so it can run the gamut from partial nudity to imagery of the actual act. As a parent, it’s super hard to monitor. There are some apps that claim to help you do so, but I’ve not tried them, and one wonders if they truly do give you full monitoring power.
    • It’s easy to hide. If your child has—once again—friended or followed someone on Snapchat they don’t know—or do know—it’s super easy to hide their conversations from you, because they simply disappear. There’s no history to go back and read in Snapchat. So, if someone is sending your kids nudes, or pictures holding a poster board with the word “Die” on it, odds are, you’ll never know.

    My kids won’t have Snapchat for a long time. It’s not worth it. And I haven’t even mentioned the “Newsfeed” which is public news filled with soft porn, profanities, and other such fun stuff.

    Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Hal Gatewood

  • 3. YouTube

    3. YouTube

    YouTube is easily described as an online video library. If you haven’t visited YouTube, I’d be relatively surprised. You may have even been on it and not known, as a high number of videos linked to online will take you to YouTube.

    Kids can spend hours on YouTube. Full confession: mine have. There is everything from videos on how to make neon slime, to boys playing with plastic dinosaurs in their backyard, to toy reviews, and even episodes of Tom & Jerry. YouTube isn’t all evil.

    So what are some of the dangers?

    • While YouTube tries to censor, you can still easily find adult content on the app. Type the word “sex scenes” in—actually, don’t. It’s harder to find hardcore porn—not that I’ve put forth a concerted effort—but if you wouldn’t want your kids watching an adult scene from a popular TV show, then beware.
    • The “harmless” kid’s show can affect your kid’s attitudes. We’ve seen my daughter’s entire persona change after watching a specific YouTube channel run by a middle-school YouTuber who invites the child to share life with them. When I watch it, it didn’t come across as threatening to me at all. But, when my daughter started imitating disrespectful attitude, tossing her head, eye-rolling, and even yelling “O.M.G.!” when she was surprised, we had proof positive she was being affected by what she watched. This is a know-your-child issue. She doesn’t watch that channel anymore, but it’s not necessarily harmful in the sense of Internet predator.
    • Your child also has access to music videos from artists in country music to much more explicit. They have access to dangerous pranks, videos of kids bullying other kids, actual footage from accident scenes (I mean, my daughter may want to be an EMT, but not at ten years old), and more. YouTube does try to monitor this, and will pull or block explicit material, but it’s not foolproof.

    So really, YouTube is something you should monitor. The good news is, they offer a YouTube Kids app. It filters out the majority of the ick. But, it’s still important to stay involved and watch your kid’s favorite channels. Especially so if you start seeing their personalities take a shift for the worse.

    4. Hulu (and the like)

    Hulu, Netflix, Prime Video… pick your poison. The fact is these platforms give a vast array of options for all sorts of viewing entertainment.

    From superheroes, to sitcoms, to a good old Christmas romance flick, if you’re not on one of these platforms, well… you’re not the typical American. And that’s okay!

    But for those of us who do watch and enjoy such entertainment, there’s a few things about these apps you should know.

    So what are some of the dangers?

    • Profiles--while apps like Hulu allow you to set up profiles, even their kid-friendly profiles have a loophole. When I log onto to Hulu using my son’s app, I see the menu of profiles to log under. If I use his, I can only access kid friendly shows. Which is great! And, for the most part, works wonderfully! But if my son is even remotely savvy, he can just as easily click on my profile (which I can’t find an option to set a password for-maybe I’m seriously missing it) and thus have access to all my adult viewing, too. And while I enjoy watching crime TV, it’s definitely not something I want my kid to have access to.
    • Kid-friendly--keep in mind as well, that if you select “kid-friendly” profile, you’re still entrusting someone else to gauge what your child should and shouldn’t watch. I was watching one show with my daughter and was surprised at how much dating, kissing, and crushing was involved. Adult level discussions about Jr. High “cheating”, and mean girls whose bullying tactics almost seemed justified, because let’s face it, they were prettier, more popular and just cool enough to want to like them. My son has full on access to many, many cartoon/graphic novel type shows. A lot of them I feel are totally harmless, but I have had alternative discussions with parents who are adamantly against some of them which have nods to what could be seen as witchcraft.

    The moral of this app is, have a solid list of what shows your kid is allowed to watch, and be sure you’re regularly checking in for compliance and no-cheat-switching-profiles.

    Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Pan Xiaozhen

  • 5. Fortnite

    5. Fortnite

    Fortnite is another virtual reality world where your character can fight monsters, foes, and villains. It is considered highly addictive. But it’s also super fun, other-worldly, and completely immersing.

    So what are some of the dangers?

    • Assuming you’re unaware of or have ignored parental controls, Fortnite opens your child up to racist conversations, mature language, exposure to stranger interaction, and pretty much a free pass into the unfiltered world. To their credit, Fortnite does have options to lock down on stranger-danger and free your child’s ears from four letter words. But as with any app, it’s not infallible.
    • Violence is Fortnite’s friend, and whether it’s too realistic or “just a game” varies from household to household. So, be sure if you’re considering allowing Fortnite on your kid’s device, that you play a few rounds yourself, so you aren’t shocked by destruction and woe.
    • Did I mention highly addictive? Searching the Internet reveals stories of kids smashing car windshields to get their device that was locked in their parent’s car, parents on the verge of divorce over Fortnite-related family issues, and children who aren’t even aware literature—or the real world—exists. 

    7. TikTok

    This app is really popular. My nieces love it! It allows you to create short videos, including music videos to top hit songs, and post them. It also serves again, as another outlet to social activity, friend-making, and conversing.

    So what are some of the dangers?

    • As with other apps, there are parental controls. Be sure to use them. But also, be aware this may not completely veil your child from sexual content. For example, some of the music will still have sexual implications and profanities.
    • You have no control over what their friends post. A suggestive dance in a super revealing outfit may be the tip of the iceberg.
    • Predators still like to use TikTok to find vulnerable young folk, and don’t assume because your child is over the recommended age, that they are immune to the temptations of online relationships.

    The good news? Yes, there actually is!

    You can limit the TikTok account to friends only, or even private. You can limit your child’s interaction to people you’re aware actually exist and really are their BFF from 9th grade and not a creeper from Tennessee in their basement with a 45-year-old body.

    In short, use parental controls on this app, chat with your kids for complete transparency, and be extremely cautious of any pre-teen use.

    Photo Credit: ©Pexels/lalesh aldarwish

  • 7. Ask.Fm

    7. Ask.Fm

    This app has the pretense of being rather fun. Ask a question anonymously and get answers anonymously. Or do it openly, if you prefer to know who you’re talking to.

    I’ve seen it used and it can be fun to have people send answers to “What do you like best about me?” and get responses like, “you’re super sweet” and “I’ve never met anyone as loyal as you”.

    So what are some of the dangers?

    • An innocent question can lead to very serious answers. “What do you like best about me?” can receive answers such as “Nothing. You should kill yourself.” Or, “Fat people aren’t likeable.” Bullying is a very serious issue. Not the old-school play-yard “you’re a dummy”, but the new-world pressure to legitimately kill yourself. And apps like this become a violent playground that can be extremely detrimental.
    • Bullying isn’t the only issue with this sort of app. Your child can be easily propositioned. “Do you want to have sex?” isn’t an uncommon question, with the option to connect more personally with other apps. That’s a road no parent wants their child going down.

    All in all, the anonymity of an app like this does have some privacy functions. But even with brief research, it’s apparent the risk probably outweighs the advantages.

    And, if the question is a necessity, I’m guessing a good, old-fashioned phone call to ask it is probably safer (although not particularly anonymous). 

    8. Holla

    This one blows my mind. Maybe because I’m not into random meet-ups, but even as an extrovert, I draw the line somewhere. Or maybe I’m just old.

    Regardless, Holla is an app allowing for random video meet-ups. Sign-in, swipe left or right as chat options appear, and accept or decline live chats.

    It’s like a dating site on steroids. Insta-date, anyone?

    So what are some of the dangers?

    • If it needs to be spelled out, your child/teen can have access to live video chat online with a complete stranger.
    • Your child/teen can be exposed to heavy sexual content, racial slurs, body-shaming, obscenity, and more.
    • It’s not recommended for anyone under the age of 17. If you’re a stick-in-the-mud like me? It’s not recommended for anyone. There are other apps available to video chat with people you know. Chatting with a stranger? I prefer my local coffee shop.

    Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Tim Gouw

  • 9. Socratic

    9. Socratic

    Okay, so online homework help? Sign me up! The idea in and of itself is a great one. Take a pic of your problem, science, math, social studies and more. Submit. And bam! Help is on its way.

    So what are some of the dangers?

    • Instant answers. The idea, while good, also can potentially encourage old-fashioned cheating. Of course, Google is always available and the option to find answers isn’t necessarily rocket science without this app. However, it’s super-fast and super addictively easy.
    • Ethics. Some challenge the ethics behind the app. The educational ethic. Point, click, answer, sort of defeats the concept of pen, paper, brain. However, one must recognize that we also live in an entirely new world of technology and maybe it has its uses.

    All in all, while not overtly bad in the sense of privacy, sexuality, or predatory implications, these are some of the options available to your children for study habits—er, answers.

    As a kid, this is an easy sell app, and hypothetically speaking, an easy sell to a parent if merely going by a verbal explanation. “It’s a homework help app.”

    It can be used as a “homework solve app”. Parental discretion is uniquely yours. Just be aware.

    10. Bitmoji

    I love this app. So does my daughter. Create a cartoon caricature of yourself and you can insert YOU into any text, social media post, etc. with humor, cute-factor, and fun expression.

    You can design your caricature down to what outfit you think best fits you, change it to reflect the season, even update your hairstyle if you’re like me and randomly incorporate various dye-techniques.

    So what are some of the dangers?

    • One might argue, nothing. But again, this is where I challenge parental involvement. When signing up for Bitmoji, the user does have to enter an approved birthdate indicating they’re of the approved age. Meaning, some content is meant for more mature audiences. Please note: your child knows how to fudge their age. My daughter did—with my permission—and was easily granted access when she posed as fifteen instead of her real-to-life age of under ten.
    • Bitmoji is more innuendo than explicit. But it likes to play with cussing. The abbreviated WTF isn’t uncommon. It also has depictions of characters recovering from a hangover, laying seductively albeit clothed on a bed, and gazing into crystal balls.

    All in all, this is for certain a per-parent decision as to whether their kid should be allowed to use it. One might easily argue that “dangerous” is too hefty of a word to describe Bitmoji.

    However, if you put it contextually into an eight-year-old requesting to use it and then receive a message from them with an all caps “WTF” attached? Then it becomes a tad more disturbing. Best to be aware and make an educated decision before you get a note from your child’s best friend’s parent asking them to stop messaging their kid.

    Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Wavebreakmedia

  • Keep Yourself Up to Date

    Keep Yourself Up to Date

    In a nutshell, apps range in danger. Danger can also vary from child to child and family to family.

    In the end, it’s critical to be up on what your kid is loading on their device.

    All too often I hear the excuse, “I’m not up on that stuff”, or, “I can’t keep up”. Well, make it a point to.

    Other adults in the world are keeping up and they have access to your kids. Your savvy is your first line of defense for your children—or simply nixing devices altogether. But even if that is your ultimate conclusion, remember, your kid’s friends have devices.

    Your kids will be exposed to apps and the social media world. Being educated on even common, apparently non-threatening applications is just as important as looking up the easy-to-find, top 10 most dangerous app lists that are pasted all over the Internet.

    Use your discretion but use your head. No app is danger-free. Proper safeguards and a parent well-armed with knowledge will go a long way in making a device a fun, safe, and educational experience for your child.

    *Disclaimer: I’m not an expert, just a parent writing an article based on what she’s seen, heard, and experienced. Please do your own research and don’t rely on anyone else to give you rock-solid answers. Apps change regularly, and what is posted here may be proven inaccurate as soon as tomorrow. So do your own research, don’t quote me as Gospel truth, and remember, apps are ever-changing, so regular parental maintenance and awareness is strongly advised.


    Jaime Jo Wright is winner of the Christy, Carol, Daphne du Maurier, and INSPY Awards. She's also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of three novellas. Jaime works as a human resources director in Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband and two children. Find Jaime online: www.JaimeWrightBooks.com, Facebook, Twitter, PinterestInstagram.

    Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Alexander Dummer