Two Very Popular Apps Your Kid Might Have Going Back to School

by Seth Woolcock

As your kid heads back to school this year with their new blue jeans and Nikes, they may also be taking two new apps along with them.

One is “TikTok,” a popular short-form video sharing app that is currently #1 on the Apple App Store. The other is “YOLO,” a new anonymous question and answer app students can use as a plug-in with Snapchat. It is #18 on the app store.

While these apps might help your kid pass time on their bus ride home or during lunch, there are also some real dangers that parents need to be aware of.

TikTok and Sharing Private Information

TikTok is a social media service that is designed to let users watch, create and share videos. Often times these videos are filled with today’s top music hits, which users have access to for free.

Originally known as “musical.ly,” before that app merged with TikTok in August 2018, this social media channel combines several key concepts from other popular apps.

It has the feel of “Vine,” a former, popular video sharing service that was known for its hilarious 6-second videos. But unfortunately, due to a lack of revenue, Twitter shut down Vine in January 2017.

When I was a tween myself, Vine was insanely popular for a summer. While I didn’t have a smart phone at the time, all my friends were using it. And from what I remember of the app, it was mostly filled with people doing dumb stunts in order to get likes.

TikTok uses the same rabbit-hole tactic that YouTube uses to hook young users. It pre-loads the next video to keep you from leaving the app.

But just like any social media, the real concern is the amount of private information your kid could be sharing with the world. TikTok makes it easy to share too much information with strangers. In fact, by default, TikTok accounts are set to public, which allows ANYONE to see your videos and location information, and it allows anyone to direct message you.

To learn how to change your kid’s TikTok settings to private, check out this short video. It literally only takes a minute. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgrGwn60yyE

By the way, TikTok had to make a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission this year for illegally obtaining children’s personal information. In response, the app created a section just for children. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2019/02/video-social-networking-app-musically-agrees-settle-ftc  However, this can easily be bypassed by providing a false birth date.

Of course, the other major issue with this app is the content kids are watching. Because popular music has a large amount of foul and sexualized language today, your kid might be exposing themselves to this language as well as watching people dance in suggestive ways. Maybe you’re not ready for your kid to watch this.

YOLO and the Danger or Anonymous Apps

When I was growing up, the acronym “YOLO” became popular. It meant “You Only Live Once”.  Pretty tame, I guess, but the app is potentially more dangerous, I think.

The app YOLO encourages users to “get anonymous answers” as soon as they are logged into the app. You can either create your own question to ask, or use the “dice” that will prompt a pre-made question. The app then encourages you to post the answers on your Snapchat story.

I have seen a lot of people say some fairly inappropriate things to others using this app. My big concern is cyber bullying. The app is popular enough that a lot of kids could be targeted by these anonymous comments.

According to, the Pew Research Center (https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/09/27/a-majority-of-teens-have-experienced-some-form-of-cyberbullying/), last year at this time, more than 59 percent of teens said they experienced some sort of cyber bullying.

Former anonymous social media apps, like “Ask.FM,” “Sarahah” and “YikYak,” created social havoc in my high school, in my opinion. There was such an outcry that a letter was sent home to parents asking them to get their children to stop using these apps. If I remember correctly, iTunes and the Google Play store actually kicked off Sarahah from their platforms in 2018, after they received enormous amounts of backlash because of cyber bullying.  https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-43174619

Ironically, I believe tweens use these anonymous social media apps so they can get acceptance from their peers. However, they often get the inverse.

I think it’s crucial that kids grow up slowly with these apps. You will want to have a serious conversation with your kid about these apps. Sharing personal information and getting caught up in cyber bullying are just two of the issues you should discuss. Try some of our links if you want to learn more.

More helpful Links:

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/parents-ultimate-guide-to-musically

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2019/06/18/yolo-app-raises-bullying-concerns/1292307001/

Cyberbullying or Cyberbullied? (Both are bad…)

 By Morgan Rihn

Odds are your child will become part of a cyberbullying scheme at some point in their young life. It’s unfortunately just one of the consequences of the new “digital age”.   The only question that is relevant is: will they be on the giving end or the receiving end?
(I’ll admit for the moment there may be a few in the middle just “watching”.)

So what is cyberbullying?

By definition it is bullying that takes place over the internet, cellphones, or social media. Yes, these things overlap. Social media is on their phone, etc… Cyberbullying is posting or sending inappropriate, negative, or private information about someone to threaten, harass, or embarrass them.

My personal story about cyberbullying

I was in middle school and a new girl moved to my school. That girl and I were similar in ways and I became envious of her. I accused her of stealing my friends. Of course, I now realize my friends liked her because she was just like me. I can now confess we both did our share of cyberbullying each other. Usually on social media or via text message. A lot of hurtful things were said, and because of it, we both lost some friends.  We did not get along for quite a while and we did get in trouble with our parents for the way we were acting.

Looking back on the situation, it was ridiculous.  None of those things needed to be said/written, and all of those things are still out there – in/on the internet somewhere.

Of course, we eventually got over it and became good friends. Nobody changes as much as a teenager.

So isn’t it ironic that the ever-permanent internet is where today’s teens spend so much of their time?  Teens need to change. The internet is permanent. Not really a good match.

What should you be concerned about? Everything…

Anything your kid posts on the internet can become public and it might affect online reputation. Don’t believe them when they say “it will disappear in a few seconds on Snapchat”.  (Read our blog post about Snapchat  to learn more.)

Stopbullying.gov says cyberbullying is persistent, permanent and hard to notice. Dr. Lauber told us a story about when he left school, he was safe from bullying as a young kid. But his kids experienced even in his house because they were online. There’s no longer any safe place!

Did you know…

  • the 2015 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) indicates that, nationwide, about 21% of students ages 12-18 experience bullying?
  • the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) indicates an estimated 14.9% of high school students were electronically bullied in the 12 months prior to the survey?

Cyberbullying is not always easy to catch. Unless your child shows or tells you, or you’re very knowledgeable on their social life (texting, social media, etc…), you may be unaware of what is going on. Parents and children use technology differently. This makes it difficult to know when cyberbullying may be happening. Below is a graph from cyberbullying.org on cyberbullying victimization, along with some signs of cyberbullying and some helpful tips.

Is your child bullying or being bullied?

Cyberbullying happens to children of all ages at least once in their lives and at any time of any day.  KidsHealth.org  mentions some signs of cyberbullying:

  • being emotionally upset during or after using the internet or the phone
  • being very secretive or protective of one’s digital life
  • avoiding school or group gatherings
  • changes in mood, behavior, sleep or appetite
  • wanting to stop using the computer or cellphone
  • being nervous or jumpy when getting an instant message, text, or email
  • avoiding discussions about computer or cellphone activities

So what can you do?  I confess, I’m not a parent yet. And maybe my generation will be more prepared for it, since we’re the first generation to live through it. But here’s what I found (and Dr. Lauber endorses these tips!)

  1. Be open and honest with your child. Be someone they can come to for help.
  2. Offer your comfort and support.
  3. Praise them if they seek your help.
  4. Talk to someone like a principle or guidance counselor at their school.
  5. Encourage your child to “be the better person” and not retaliate.
  6. Keep evidence.
  7. Provide punishment for those who are bullying.
  8. Limit technology time and monitor it.
  9. Learn more about online safety.
  10. Set a good example yourself.

No one wants their child to be bullied or to bully others, but it happens. I believe it always has and always will. But I hope I’m wrong.

All you can do is try your best and help your child make good choices. The good news is I lived through it. Your child will to.

But start the conversation!

Some useful resources:

https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it/index.html

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/cyberbullying.html

See our blog post on family dinners.