MINNEAPOLIS — As a parent, it can be overwhelming to keep tabs on what apps are populating your kids' phones and how they're using those apps. Experts at Bark Technologies, a parental control app that helps parents monitor their child's internet and screen habits, created a list of what they consider to be the 12 most dangerous apps based on indicators their software has flagged as inappropriate.
One of them is Discord, an app that is most popularly associated with gaming. However, kids and adults can delve into topics beyond gaming. Bark’s 2021 annual report found Discord consistently in the top five platforms for bullying, suicidal ideation, body image, and more.
Chief Marketing Officer Titania Jordan, who also assumes a dual title of "chief parenting officer," says it's because of the app's multiple channels for conversation.
"It’s based on the premise of gaming, but there are other groups and conversations that take place there," Jordan said. "It has chat rooms, it has direct messaging, it has voice chat, it has video calls. And there are so many different servers, which you can think about as channels. And...it can expose kids to all kinds of inappropriate content."
Yik Yak also made the Top 12 list. It's an app that allows people to post on public forums, connecting with people within five miles of their location. It relaunched in 2021.
According to Bark's website, "Yik Yak is also a breeding ground for bullying, especially when it becomes popular on school campuses. Rumors can be posted and spread like wildfire. Another threat to watch out for is content that promotes sexual assault and violence, an issue the app had back in 2017."
Aside from lesser-known apps like Yik Yak and Discord, but some familiar ones made the list, such as Snapchat and Instagram.
Jordan says while parents might think they know everything about these apps, there might be features that parents aren't clued in on.
"We know the premise behind the app is disappearing messages, disappearing photos," Jordan said, of Snapchat. "But what you might not know is that Snapchat has a feature called Snap Map that shows your child’s real time location to anybody that they are connected with, and you can zoom down to the very precise visual description of what the building looks like that they are in…their school, a friend’s house."
Jordan says it's best to open up a conversation with your kids about these apps, and maybe even spend some time on them.
"You cannot turn a blind eye to it," she said. "So you have to address mature themes with your children at a much younger age than you might think and at a more constant rate, a more frequent rate than you might think."
But she also says be sure to take it easy on yourself, and know there will be bumps in the road.
"No parent before our group of parents has had to deal with kids that have this much access at such a young age and at such a pervasive rate. We’re figuring it out as we go. So give yourselves some grace."