After 13-year-old Virginia teen Nicole Lovell was found murdered this weekend, police discovered that she met up with her alleged killers using the messaging app Kik, sparking parental concern about how to keep kids safe on their phones.
On TODAY Thursday, Erica Hill talked with Matt Lauer about five apps that are potentially dangerous for kids, and what parents need to know about them.
"They have a great intent," Hill said, acknowledging the apps aren't always dangerous. "It's when people use it for nefarious intent."
Here are some of the apps that you should closely monitor if your child is using them.
- Kik is a messing app that does not require a phone number or email address. All the user needs to do is create a username.
- Users can chat widely with unknown people.
- There are apps within the app, which can make it difficult for parents to monitor.
- Yik Yak is an anonymous posting forum.
- The app uses a GPS locator that allows anyone within a certain radius to see your child's messages.
- Comments on posts can often start off innocently and escalate, exposing users to sexual content.
- The app uses a Q&A format, in which people are encouraged to post questions that anyone using the app can answer.
- There have been reports of bullying on the app.
- Anyone on the app has the ability to block other users.
- Whisper is an anonymous app on which users post any confessions they may have.
- Only those above the age of 17 are supposed to be using Whisper.
- The app can expose the user's location.
- Best Secret Folder is an app that helps hide content from parents.
- The app looks like a utility folder, so it is easy to overlook on kids' phones.
This list is not comprehensive, so Hill reminded parents that it is always important to monitor phone use, no matter what apps you see your child is using.
She said that experts suggest treating teens' cell phones the way parents used to treat the family computer.
"For years we were told you should keep the computer in the open. Don't let a child have it in a closed room," she said. "Don't let them take it to bed at night. Don't let them have it without your supervision."