Experts encourage parents to talk to children about potentially dangerous apps

Children have more time to use technology in summer

By Karen Drew - Reporter/Anchor, Derick Hutchinson

DETROIT - It's summertime, and that gives children more free time to use technology.

It's difficult to keep track of all the apps they're using, but security experts warn parents to make sure they know what the apps can do.

Children can broadcast from their own bedrooms and get paid for it, which causes a major concern.

The number of apps available on smartphones is hard to keep up with, but that shouldn't stop parents from being aware of the latest trends and what the apps can do. Parents should be aware that children can put themselves in serious danger.

A young girl in Metro Detroit broadcast her day on the LiveMe app, which showed her making breakfast in the kitchen and playing with her cat. At some point, there were 135 people watching her.

Another Metro Detroit girl broadcast herself smoking something on the same app.

"That person could be in their living room, could be in their bedroom, could be cooking in the kitchen, could be doing anything and you can follow them and you can watch them," said Scott Bailey, of N1 Discovery. "The additional scary part to that app is you can now also pay that person."

The person can be paid by viewers for what they decide to broadcast. Security experts worry it could set up children to do things they might not otherwise do, just to make money.

"Think about all the negative things that that could be used for now," Bailey said.

Bailey is a managing partner with N1 Discovery, a digital forensics and security company.

"We can't keep up, but at least if we're aware of what some of the things are right now and to watch out for, I think we're taking a step in the right direction," Bailey said.

Erin McNeil, 18, and Mitchell Piazza, 18, offered an interesting perspective. They're N1 Discovery interns, college students, and well aware of young people using the apps.

"There's a lot of things like selling drugs, like, 'Hey, meet up at this park,' and, like, 'Looking for bud,'" Piazza said.

"I think the biggest problem is they want their kids to stop using these apps altogether, and that's not realistic," McNeil said. "The bigger key would be to actually have a talk with your kids about how to use them safely."

Whisper is another popular app parents should know about.

"You can just post an anonymous statement out on this app," Bailey said. "But it is also tied to your geographical area."

One Whisper from Rochester Hills said, "Anyone wanna get high and go to the movies?" One from Auburn Hills said, "Just want to have a Nerf gun fight with a cute chick in our underwear. Is that too much to ask?"

"If you dig deeper into the app, you have the ability to chat and to, now, directly connect with that person," Bailey said. "All of a sudden, the anonymity is gone."

The app is tied to a user's Snapchat account, and when information is entered into it, the app finds people to connect with. Users can also do a 15-second screen sharing.

"Obviously that screen sharing is a live feed," Bailey said.

That's concerning for parents because their children could be putting something on a live feed for strangers.

"Just getting to connect with strangers online is pretty popular for teens at the moment," Bailey said.

TextFree is another app to be aware of. It allows users to get a phone number for free and text from that number anonymously. Parents are concerned it could encourage bullying, as someone can start sending texts to others without them knowing who it is.

It's difficult for parents to keep up with all the apps, but they can start having conversations with their children.

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