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Chicago Public Schools Opposes Dangerous Apps for Children

Updated on September 15, 2014

As an educator, I applaud Chicago Public Schools' opposition to dangerous apps, and its desire to protect its students. It seems that, over the last few years, discipline issues with roots deeply embedded in misuse of social media and other forms of technology have skyrocketed, and, unfortunately, the ramifications are far reaching. There is not a week that goes by, in which our administration is not overwhelmed by printouts of pages and pages of comments made by students on Facebook or cell phones inundated by inappropriate text messaging. Thus, principals and assistant principals are spending inordinate amounts of time policing the actions of students, and in turn, students are missing huge blocks of integral instructional time.

The dangers of technology are something of which every parent needs to make themselves aware. It is a difficult task, as new apps are being created and utilized every day, but as daunting as it may seem..... we are talking about the safety of our children. MySpace was once ranked the most visited website in the world (2006) but experienced a huge decline after the advent of Facebook. To its credit, Facebook initially targeted college students; today, it is open to virtually anyone (13 years or older). Note, I cannot count the people I know who have created pages for children under thirteen..... because, well, we cannot let them feel left out...... can we?

Today, many of our students are daunted by the fact that their parents and grandparents have joined the ranks of "Facebook Friends." They do not want to be "watched" by old people, so those who wish to abuse the system are branching out into new horizons we have never even heard of, and, unfortunately, it is harder to keep track of their actions. These applications leave them open to perilous situations and make them all the more difficult to protect. None-the-less, that does not let the adults in their lives off the hook. As a parent, my most important job in the world is to protect and guide my children. My decision to work outside the home is not an excuse for neglecting my work inside my home. Children come first.

Obviously, apps are not always free. Downloading costs money, and the charges appear on our cell phone bills. Parents need to patrol their cell phone bills and supervise the apps their children are purchasing. There are no excuses for a parent's negligence in monitoring their children's actions, even if you are not technologically savvy, a little bit of research may just save you from a load of trouble. Apps you need to look for carefully include but are not limited to; Yik Yak, Snapchat, Poof, KiK Messenger, Down, Whisper and Omegle.

Yik Yak

The new kid on the block is Yik Yak, which according to the Cyberbullying Reseach Center is " gaining notoriety at the speed of light." [1] This application is virtually anonymous, and anyone can post comments (up to a total of 200 characters) and remain nameless. Posted comments are then released by location and distributed to the 500 nearest users within a five mile radius (determined by GPS). This application is particularly attractive to high school students, who can send out their "tweet" like messages and reach an enormous number of the student body in a matter of seconds. It is also responsible for the exposure and promotion of sexually explicit material, vicious personal attacks, and an abundance of abusive language. Yik Yak has become such a problem in some areas that schools have blocked the App on their Wi-Fi. On March 7, 2014, the Chicago Tribune reported that the company officials agreed to disable the app in the Chicago area while schools gain control over the problems it has created.

SnapChat

SnapChat ironically originated as a classroom project at Stanford University. Initially launched under the name Picaboo, SnapChat quickly became the ideal app for "sexting," allowing vulnerable, inquisitive teens to experiment with homemade pornography they believed would disappear within a mere ten seconds..... what could be safer than that? What these young men and women did not have the forethought to think about was the ease with which we can take pictures of pictures. Ten seconds might just seem like forever...... a lifetime in fact.

Kik Messenger

Kik Messenger, founded in 2009, is another phone app design, which allows children to send messages their parents are unable to see or track. In July 2012, it was named the number one downloaded application (social) on iTunes, and in April 2013 it was said to have fifty-million registered users. [2] Identifying a users identity on Kik is almost impossible, sexting is a prevalent practice, and there is a huge risk that your child just might become prey for a predator.

Poof

The fourth app on our list is Poof. Yes..... Poof! And though this app is no longer available, if your son or daughter downloaded it before its withdrawal, they probably still have it. With one quick swipe, your child can easily hide the existence of any application they do not want you to see. A variety of others have since copied this app, so keep on the look-out for downloads such as Hide It Pro, App Lock, and Hidden Apps.

Whisper

Whisper is for secrets and feeds off young people looking to connect. Its posts are created by area, so although teenagers are posting anonymously, the area in which they are located is posted. There is also an option that allows you to search for others posting within a one mile radius. A Washington man was arrested for the rape of a 12 year old girl this past October; he met the girl on Whisper. [3]

Omegle

Omegle arrived in 2008 and added video chat in 2009. Participants are only identified as "Stranger" or "You," there is no registration, and no requirement to identify yourself within this service. Facebook users can connect with Omegle through their page, and in turn, will happily match you with others who have similar "likes." This ability is an accident waiting to happen...... even Facebook is filled with false identities and deceivers.

Down

The last app on our list is Down. Also connected to Facebook, and formerly known as "Bang With Friends," this app allows you to organize your friends into groups..... one, those you would only like to hang out with, or two, those you are "down" with (meaning you would like to hook-up). The App's slogan says it all, "The anonymous, simple, fun way to find friends who are down for the night." [4} As a parent, I find this repulsive.

© 2014 Awdur

[1] "Yik Yak - Cyberbullying Research Center." Cyberbullying Research Center Yik Yak Comments . N.p., n.d. Web. 08 May 2014.

[2] "Kik Passes 50M Users as It Builds a Messaging-Centered HTML5 App Platform." TNW Network All Stories RSS . N.p., n.d. Web. 08 May 2014.

[3] "Whisper App Rape: Ronald Peterson III Arrested For Allegedly Raping Washington Tween He Met Through Whisper." International Business Times . N.p., n.d. Web. 08 May 2014.

[4] Peaks, Kristen. "7 Dangerous Apps That Parents Need to Know about." 7 Dangerous Apps That Parents Need to Know about . N.p., Apr.-May 2014. Web. 08 May 2014.

Rajwani, Naheed Rajwani, and Stacy St. Clair. "Yik Yak Disabled in Chicago as Principals Worry." Chicago Tribune . N.p., 07 Mar. 2014. Web. 08 May 2014.

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