Union School District parents this week received an email fact sheet containing several phone applications and their purposes.
Aaron Jones, assistant superintendent, said he felt parents should be aware of the apps “given that almost all of our kids have access to cellphones and tablets.”
A brief summary of the apps is as follows:
Vine — a “video diary” mobile app. Video clips can be viewed by anyone with a Vine account and can be shared, including inappropriate or dangerous content that can be posted anonymously.
ask.fm — a question and answer site for anyone, not just those with accounts. The handout called this app the “parent-free digital space where kids go to escape the built-in accountability of Facebook.”
Poof — an app that makes other apps “disappear” from parents.
Secret Phone — allows a private phone book that can’t be detected. Calls and texts, as well as Internet browsing history can be hidden.
ihookup — a “casual” hookup app that uses global positioning software to locate others looking for a “quick hookup.”
KiK Messenger — uses a smartphone’s data plan or Wi-Fi connection to transmit and receive messages, which allows users to avoid text messaging rates. The handout notes that because it’s impossible to verify someone’s identity it has the potential to attract online predators.
shapchat — often known as the “sexting” app. Photos and videos can be viewed for a max of 10 seconds before disappearing. Teens can have a false sense of security because screenshot can be taken and shared.
textspoof — allows user to send messages that appear to come from a different number.
Omegle — allows users to communicate with complete strangers without registration. The app randomly pairs users to chat anonymously.
Tumblr — a microblogging and social media app owned by Yahoo. Though there are privacy settings, there is an “especially large amount of pornographic material.”
The handout suggests MMGuardian as a parental control app that helps ensure that minors are using their devices responsibly.
Jones credited West County Psychological Associates with the information sent to parents, which also is used above.
Though Jones said he was wary about sending the information, he ultimately decided it might help parents in having thoughtful conversations with their children about their digital footprint.
Jones said digital citizenship is part of the developing curriculum at the middle and high schools.
“It’s important to talk to kids and to have open lines of communication,” Jones said, adding that there is always a possibility kids will come across things they shouldn’t online.
“It’s one of the side effects of having so much technology in school and opening access to certain research possibilities,” he said.
Jones said that it’s never too early to talk to children about Internet safety and appropriate use of their devices.
Even when apps tout that images and content “disappear” it can be forever, he noted.
“Parents can bring (the conversation) down to their maturity level and start trying to get it in their minds,” he said. “It’s a balancing act.”
Jones said that even with the Bring Your Own Device initiative, the district hasn’t had more discipline issues stemming from inappropriate usage than in the past and that he wants to be proactive about questionable apps.