Common Apps Teenagers Use for Cyberbullying
Teens are always on their phone, chatting away with friends in cyberspace using a number of social media apps. Parents are usually surprised at how many different ways kids can come up with to do basically the same thing. Teens like having different apps to chat with because each app may have a neat feature that others don’t, or they often turn to using apps that allow more privacy when texting close friends. Often, what parents don’t see are the many different ways that lots of these texting apps are used by cyberbullies to manipulate or harass someone to extreme measures. These apps can become tools for cyberbullies to use when attacking their victims.
Facebook and Twitter
These social media websites promote their free apps and most teens have these installed on their cell phones. The information they share is usually publicly visible for all of their friends. Parents can friend or follow their children so that they can be aware of what is shared publicly. However, these apps can allow for private messaging. Cyberbullies use these apps to publicly shame others and privately harass their victims. They can get others in on a taunt. If that’s not dangerous enough, these sites are known tools for cyberbullies who will steal identities and ruin reputations.
Whatsapp and Kik
These are popular texting apps which connect users to their cellphone numbers. In addition to texting, users can send cute smilie faces, photos and videos to each other privately. There are a number of chat apps which fall in this category. Viber, ChatON, Line and Fring are just some of the more popular names, but they all do about the same thing. Teens use these apps a lot because they can connect to a Wi-fi hotspot and chat extensively without worrying about going over on cellular minutes or data. Once a phone number is verified, teens can still use the app over Wi-fi, so they can still continue to chat long after the phone has been deactivated. The private nature of these apps can be dangerous, but generally speaking, a cyberbully victim will usually know who their attackers are.
Whisper and Streetchat
So-called confession apps, these apps allow users to post text and photos anonymously to anyone within a general location or group. This attracts teens who want to share secrets or confess their feelings without worrying about someone finding them out. What can happen here is a group of teens might gang up on someone once they find out a secret and repeatedly call them names or just provide an overwhelmingly negative experience. Taunts through these apps can get real personal. Teens who fall in love with reading confessions will often find themselves reading or seeing something they didn’t want to see.
Similar to a confession app, Ask.fm allows users to ask questions and receive answers anonymously. This program links in with each user’s Facebook or Twitter account and will show questions and answers from other unknown users who are in their social networks. This service can turn into torture when a group of teens repeatedly pick on someone with rude questions, insults or threats. Things can get pretty ugly and since it is tied into such popular media sites, it becomes even more hurtful knowing that it could be the ones closest to you who are doing the most harm.
No matter the social medium, there will always be a way for bullies to find a way to intimidate, harass or extort from others. Because apps are not necessarily tied to the cellphone carrier themselves, bullies use apps as a way to try and bypass detection or leaving reliable trails. Teens should learn to remove themselves from the hostile situations when possible, and remove apps that are not providing positive emotional feedback. Things that are shared online can have lasting effects. Parents should be aware of the apps on their teenagers’ phones, how they are being used and how they can be used the wrong way. By using smartphone monitoring software, parents can keep reliable logs, print them out and address situations before they get out of control.