Information about apps your child might use
Apps are part of children's lives and they provide great opportunities for learning and communicating with others. However, technology is moving very quickly and so are the apps currently popular with children. The ones we recognise as adults are often not the ones our children are using - Facebook is now considered by many young people as being for "oldies"!
Many apps now contain location devices which, when your child is logged in or live, can pinpoint their exact location and share this publically if your settings are not correct.
Live streaming apps can be fun but children must be aware of the risks involved. Many stream in the public domain exposing children to risk. In addition, many of these apps offer virtual gifts and children can be lured into doing things on line with the promise of rewards.
Following recent online safety training for staff and parents, we have been made aware of some new developments around Youtube and WhatsApp.
YouTube Shorts is a new feature within the YouTube app that allows users to create short videos (lasting no longer than 60 seconds) on their phones. The content of these videos can be anything. YouTube is aiming to make Shorts a feature that will bring overnight fame to users. There are already stories of creators increasing their following using the feature, which suggests YouTube’s algorithms are benefiting those creators. Incentives like this make Shorts more appealing to creators of all ages, who may feel they will have a better chance of being an influencer on a newer platform.
Due to the relaxed privacy settings, the YouTube Shorts feature poses several potential safeguarding risks to children and young people.
If a child or young person uploads a public video to YouTube, the audio can be used in a Shorts video by anyone. This means strangers may attempt to engage in interaction with them as their YouTube profile will be referenced in shorts that use it.
Young people may be drawn in by YouTube’s eagerness for creators to become famous using Shorts.
The Shorts feature is purposefully designed to be addictive. It may encourage excessive screen time in your child or young person.
There is an increased risk of inappropriate or harmful content being posted to Shorts, as the shorter length and volume of videos may make it more difficult for moderators to check. TikTok has had this same issue, with inappropriate content often being looked over or “hinted” at by creators to obscure moderating algorithms.
Users are not able to control the types of videos that appear within the feed, meaning your child might be exposed to inappropriate content.
WhatsApp is one of the most popular instant messaging apps, used by over 2 billion people in 180 countries. It allows you to send and receive messages, as well as make voice and video calls. You can connect with people individually or join group chats where lots of people can contribute.
The age rating for WhatsApp is 16+
Some of the risks identified by the NSPCC are:
- To contact somebody on WhatsApp, all you need is their phone number. This means that your child could be at risk of receiving unwanted messages or calls from others.
- Features that allow other users to see when your child is online, if they have read a message or when they were last active on the app could make your child feel pressured to respond even when they don’t want to.
- The live location feature means that your child could reveal their current location to others. This feature can be used in groups as well as individual chats so your child could reveal this information to people that they don’t know if they are in the same group.
- WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted which means that the content cannot be monitored. This means that your child could see or hear harmful or upsetting content.
- WhatsApp groups can be controlled by an ‘admin’, who can change settings, such as the name of the group, who is allowed to send messages, as well as being able to invite and remove people from the chat. This could lead to children feeling left out or being deliberately excluded or removed from groups.
- Privacy features, such as disappearing and ‘view once’ messages, might mean that your child feels safe to reveal private information or images. However, there is always a risk that an unintended person might see what they have sent, for example if they are with the recipient.
Here are some of the apps our children are using at present.