Detective: Parents must watch apps

SALEM – A Salem detective is trying to help educate parents on mobile apps their kids could be using to exchange photos, chat with people they don’t know and message back and forth.

On the department’s Facebook page, Det. Brad Davis posted an article he found through the Ohio School Resource Officer Association which highlights “five of the most troubling Web and mobile apps your teens may be using.”

Davis routinely posts information on the department’s Facebook page in an effort to keep the public informed about the weather, programs, city events or stories regarding the department, including major arrests or incidents.

He said he decided to share the article by Dan Tynan as a means “to help educate parents how to be a little more proactive with their children.”

A lot of parents he talks to now seem to almost be afraid of the new social media and some don’t have the technological knowledge that their kids possess. They didn’t grow up with Facebook or Twitter. In the not-so-distant past, people called each other on the phone or talked in person.

“They don’t understand what the kids can do with their phones. They don’t know what to look for and we’re just trying to help them along,” Davis said.

First there was Myspace, then Facebook, then Twitter and now tons of other sites for sharing photos and communicating with others. He explained there’s a new social app known as Pheed which is similar to Facebook and Twitter, but within some of these newer apps there are ways to hide items within the apps.

The five apps mentioned in the article included Kik Messenger, Snapchat, Vine, ChatRoulettte and Tinder. According to the article, Kik Messenger is an alternative texting service in which teens can chat and swap pictures and bypass the wireless provider’s SMS service, meaning parents checking a child’s texting history for anything bad won’t find anything. In order to see what’s on the app, take the child’s phone and launch the app. Other texting apps include WhatsApp, TextNow and Viber.

Davis explained that on Snapchat, photos disappear about 5 to 10 seconds after opening, but the receiver can take a screen shot of the photo and then do whatever they want with it, including posting the photo somewhere else or emailing it to others. The person who sent the photo via Snapchat will know if a screen shot was taken, but by then, the photo could be sent everywhere.

Vine features videos which can be shared and went through some criticism when porn was discovered on the site, but made efforts to remove adult hashtags as a means to search for them. ChatRoulette enables the user to video chat via a webcam with strangers, with users under 18 prohibited, but still able to get in. Tinder is a way to contact other people by scrolling through images of other members and communicate with them.

Davis said the problem with apps requiring a certain age is that teens can lie about how old they are. That’s where parents need to step in and take control by checking up on what’s on their child’s computer, tablet or phone.

Even if the child has security on the device, the parent should have the ability to access the phone and set down rules for usage. Many devices have parental controls.

He suggested that parents require children to use their same iTunes account so the parent can keep tabs on what apps the child is accessing. There are also ways that a parent can check a child’s text messages.

Davis said what’s scary about the apps is that they’re constantly changing. A way to keep up with what’s trending is to search for trending iPhone apps or teen apps and see what comes up. He said there are apps for normal everyday functions that can be used to hide photos or videos.

For parents who aren’t technically savvy, he suggested they talk to friends who have more knowledge and ask them for help.