GroupMe & Other Dangerous Teen Apps Parents Should Know

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Do you struggle with keeping track of all the popular apps that teens use? It seems like there’s a new, trendy app every day and a slew of apps you haven’t heard about. Some apps are helpful, fun and even educational, but there are also lots of apps out there that are concerning, annoying or downright not safe for preteens and teens to use.

See an app you’re unfamiliar with? Search our App Advisor, a comprehensive database of apps with reviews written by real parents, to give you all the information you need to know about which apps are safe for your kids.

What Parents Need to Know About Teen Apps

The first step in pinpointing dangerous teen apps is familiarizing yourself with the types of apps teens tend to gravitate towards. Iffy apps that teens tend to flock to, and that are often the most problematic, are typically found in the following categories:  

  • Group chat apps
  • Friend finder & social media apps
  • Hookup or dating apps
  • Video chat apps
  • Live streaming apps

To help, we’ve compiled a list of some popular apps teens are using today that should be on every parent’s radar. 

Group Chat Apps

Group chat apps allow multiple people to take part in a real-time conversation stream via messaging platform.   

GroupMe

GroupMe is an app used to create group chats. Accounts are linked to email or phone number and can be accessed on a phone, tablet, or computer. As with any large group chat, kids need to be careful about who is in the group and responsible with what they say.

Alive with Me

Alive with me is a relatively new anonymous chat app. It requires users to have their phone’s battery charged to 95% or higher. Users, who must be 17 or older, choose a username and can join anonymous group chats. Alive with me is intended to be a positive chatting environment, but any app that connects users anonymously can be concerning for parents.

Messenger

Messenger is a texting and communication app, developed by, and connected to Facebook. The Messenger app allows users to send photos, videos, voice, and text messages to a single recipient or an entire group. Users must be 13 years or older and have an active Facebook account to use the Messenger app.

WeChat

WeChat is an app-based calling and messaging service, that allows users to transmit information over Wi-Fi, rather than using their cellular network data. In addition to a location-sharing feature, WeChat features a “Friend Radar,” which allows users to connect with other WeChat users in the area.  

 

Friend Finder & Social Media Apps

Friend finder apps facilitate in matching strangers from across the world, which can be dangerous for minors. All of the apps listed below involve matching strangers with one another, and parents should definitely have them on their radar. 

Nextdoor

Nextdoor is a private social network for people in the same neighborhood. It is designed to help neighbors communicate and keep up to date about neighborhood happenings and issues, such as yard sales, lost pets, and need for babysitters. Being a private network, it is open only to users in the same neighborhood, which can be either good or bad, depending on how well you know and trust your neighbors.

Skout

With Skout, users can meet people nearby or around the world, chat with them, and even share locations, if they so choose. For obvious reasons, parents should be wary of apps like Skout.

Flamingo

Flamingo is a friend-finder app for use with Snapchat and Kik, two apps that should be on every parent’s radar, which also features an in-app video chat function. Flamingo allows users to search members by usernames, self-descriptions and common interests by performing a hashtag search. Flamingo users are able to use filters to perform a more targeted search for other members, setting filters for age, gender, location, and sexual orientation.  

Yubo

Yubo, which was formerly “Yellow”, has been called “Tinder for Teens.” It is a social networking and friend-finding app for kids 13-17 years old. Yubo is a troubling app for more than a few reasons. There is no way to verify your age or identity, it is location-based, and puts your kid in contact with strangers. The app’s messaging feature cannot be moderated and has made headlines for being a vehicle for sexting.

MeetMe

MeetMe is a thinly-veiled dating app that connects users with others locally and across the globe. All member profiles are public and within the MeetMe app users can send text messages and participate in video chats.

Chatous

Chatous is a social networking app that randomly matches people across the globe for chat sessions. Hashtags allow Chatous to matchmake, allowing users to meet and interact with like-minded people. While Chatous doesn’t position itself as a dating app, it would appear that many of the users on the platform are there to flirt with strangers. 

  

Hookup Apps

Designed to connect people romantically, most dating or hookup apps are based upon looks and are packed with fake accounts and catfishers. All of the following apps match strangers for romantic interests, often meant to match sexual partners, and are not appropriate for use by minors.

Blendr

Blendr is an app that allows users to message, exchange photos and videos, and rate the “hotness” of other users, based upon GPS location. Blendr is meant to connect like-minded people and was created by the developer of Grindr, a geo-social networking app for gay and bisexual users.

Grindr

Like Blendr, Grindr is a geo-social networking app that connects people, but is for gay, bi, trans, and queer users. Grindr includes a private chat area and has a feature that allows users to easily send their location for meetups.

Tinder

Tinder is a geo-social networking app that allows others to choose whether they like or dislike local matches by swiping right or left on their profile. When two people swipe right on each other in Tinder, they’re a match and are able to begin communicating through the app.

Down

Down is a hookup app that uses Facebook friends and friends of friends to make matches. Like Tinder, Down has users rate profiles by those they’d be interested dating, hooking up, or bypassing altogether. While there’s some comfort in knowing that potential matches are loosely in one’s circle, the fact that Down matches strangers still makes it a no-go for teens. 

Badoo

Badoo is a geo-social networking app that connects users in similar locales, who’ve crossed paths but never met. Like dating app Tinder, Badoo relies on location data to serve matches to members and also features a similar swipe feature. Badoo developers claim that the app is a social network for making real-life connections with people nearby, but the reality is that most users are there to scout hookups.  

 

Video Chat Apps

Video chat apps allow people to use their mobile devices to set up live conversations with people all over the world. Some apps are meant to facilitate conversation with people you know, but others use video chat as a way to connect strangers. The apps below are ones parents want to keep an eye out for, as they can be dangerous for their teens.

OmeTV

OmeTV is an Omegle copycat app that functions in exactly the same way, pairing strangers for video chats. If you search online for OmeTV, you’ll see a headline about a man exposing himself on camera to a group of middle schoolers when they accessed the video chat on a class computer.

Houseparty

Houseparty is a group video chat app where users can video chat with multiple friends at the same time. A users' friends are notified when they log in, giving everyone the chance to join a live group video chatroom. Rooms can be locked or left open for more friends to join. Houseparty does feature a “stranger alert,” alerting users if someone who isn't directly their friend enters the room.

imo

The imo app provides a platform for users of the app on any device to video chat, make voice calls, send messages, and create group chats with friends and other users. Imo accounts are linked to a phone number, much like many other messaging apps. This app isn't necessarily dangerous, but parents may want to keep an eye on any messaging apps their kids are using.

Holla

Holla is a video chat app that connects users at random to chat with other users across the globe. Users are connected at random and have the option to swipe to find a new person to chat. This is not a safe app for kids to be using without supervision from parents.

Boo!

Much like Snapchat, Boo! allows users to chat and instantly send videos with filters, animations, and drawings. Users choose their Boo! friends, and only chat with those people. Parents will want to keep an eye out if their kids are using this app, as it's not safe for children. 

Airtime

The Airtime app is a group video chat app that allows users to watch YouTube videos, live message, listen to music on Spotify, and chat in real-time. Groups in Airtime are referred to as rooms and can be both public and private. You should know that YouTube’s restricted mode is unavailable when used with the Airtime app, so you may not want younger children using the app for video screenings with friends.

Tango

Tango is an interactive video call and chat app that allows users to create videos to share and interact with other members. Because it features live video chats with strangers and does not have filters or restrictions, Tango is not a safe app for kids.

 

Live Streaming Apps

Live streaming apps allow users to broadcast directly from their mobile app to an audience in real-time. Whenever you’re dealing with live streaming, there’s the potential for minors to be exposed to inappropriate content.

Live.me

Broadcasting is very popular and continuing to grow. Live.me is one of the largest live broadcasting apps, where users can watch their favorite streams and interact with other viewers, or even start a stream themselves. Parents should know which online communities kids are taking part in & lay down ground rules before allowing live streaming.

TikTok

TikTok is a music-based video creation app, recently merged with Musical.ly and Live.ly, that encourages users to create and share with users across the globe. A range of editing tools allows users to create unique videos and lay music tracks for a complete experience in the TikTok app. While user-generated content populates the platform, it’s the live video broadcasting feature that should concerns parents, as anything can happen live.

Monkey

Monkey is a video chat app that randomly pairs strangers from across the world for brief, introductory video calls. If users wish to continue their conversation, they can either add time to their call or connect on the popular social media platform, Snapchat. Despite being developed by teens, Monkey is not an appropriate app for kids, with users reporting video matches laced with crude behavior, profane language, racial slurs, and negative comments about appearance.

Bigo

Bigo is a live streaming app that allows users to vlog about their lives, stream video game play, host their own shows, and interact with other users on the platform. The objective of Bigo is to allow users to create a platform for a following and make money in the process. One aspect that sets Bigo apart from other live video streaming apps is the ability to connect with local users, which is a red flag for parents to take note.

Cake

Cake is a live video streaming app that allows users to join chat parties or be randomly matched with people in video chats across the globe. Users are randomly matched with other online users for video chat sessions, with the option to tap “Next” to proceed to the next match. Cake is like Tinder with video and is definitely not for kids.

Periscope

Periscope is the perfect app for the “live in the moment” generation, who feel the need to document every part of their lives. Rather than posting pictures from an event, Periscope users can go live anywhere with their mobile device, documenting events in real-time for their friends and followers. Those following a live stream have the ability to interact with the broadcaster by posting questions and comments in a real-time feed.

YouNow

YouNow is an app that lets users watch and stream live video. Users can comment and chat while they watch live streams, as well as catch up on what they’ve missed from favorite users. The YouNow app lets users chat with other creators to help grow fan bases.

 

Other Dangerous Apps & Websites

Some apps blur the lines between categories, while others have been followed by controversy since launch. These are a few websites and other apps we think you should know about:

Omegle

The Omegle app connects users with others via a type of chatroulette, randomly pairing people for chats. On the Omegle website, users are picked and paired at random, allowing them to have one-on-one chats with each other, via video. Anonymity is a selling point for Omegle, making it even more dangerous for kids to use.

4Chan

Developed to function like an anonymous message board or discussion forum, 4chan is a place where anything goes. Discussion topics run the gamut, but parents should know that topics include pornography, drug and alcohol use and abuse, suicide, death, and pretty much any other topic a parent would with to limit their minor accessing. 4chan is referred to as a “shock post” site.

ChatRoulette

The app extension of an established webcam site, ChatRoulette pairs strangers for video conversations. A little like the AOL chat room of the early internet days, ChatRoulette pairs members with others who are on at the same time. The live aspect of ChatRoulette, and pairing with strangers, are what make this site dangerous for teens.  

Reddit

Reddit is a discussion app that takes top news and events and opens them up to the community for candid discussion. A voting system helps keep hot and popular topics at the top of the Reddit app and cuts down the number of nonsensical commentators. Reddit is geared towards a mature user base, and parents should note that discussions can and do include topics such as suicide, drug use, and a slew of other adult topics.

Red Onion

With Red Onion, a tor-powered internet server, users can browse the web anonymously, bypass school and public internet filters, and access the dark net, which is a network of anonymous sites accessible only by tor servers. Rightly so, Red Onion is only available to users 17 and up and is not safe for kids at all. 

PrankDial

PrankDial is an app that makes prank calls to contacts of the users choosing from a disguised phone number. The prankster selects a call prompt and the contact to call, and PrankDial makes the call and records the conversation to return to and laugh at again and again. 

FriendO

FriendO is a quiz game that tests how well friends know each other. Users answer questions and send them to their friends to see if they can guess their answer correctly. Some of the questions are perfectly appropriate and ask about TV show and sports preferences.  However, there are also some NSFW question categories labeled as “Mature” that anyone can unlock, since there is no age verification. The mature categories include “Dirty,” “My Love Life,” and “Dating.”

Whisper

Whisper is an online community where users can anonymously share their thoughts with pictures and videos. Users can reply to posts publicly or direct message other people. You can search for posts in Groups (like schools), Popular, Nearby, and Latest with no way to filter content. There's no way to know exactly what kids will read or see on Whisper. The app encourages teens to share their personal information online, which can make them vulnerable to online strangers and predators. Whisper posts are not always as anonymous as they are supposed to be and it can be easy for people to figure out who wrote a Whisper when they are in Groups for specific schools and posting locally.


Two Types of Teen Apps to Watch Out For

Two types of apps you especially want to be on the lookout for on your child’s phone include vault apps and dangerous messaging apps.

Vault Apps

Vault apps are camouflage-type apps used to store personal messages, photos, and videos. Meant to keep items away from prying eyes, secret vault apps often masquerade as a different app altogether, like a calculator, that will function normally when used. Little does a parent know, behind that calculator lies data their child doesn’t want them to see.   

How exactly do you spot a secret vault app? Look for secretive behavior with your child, quickly turning off their phone when you come near or a reluctance to let you look at their phone, which can often indicate that they’re hiding something. Another way to spot a vault app is to look for duplicate apps on your child’s phone. Since most vault apps act as decoy apps to hide what’s inside, they often take the form of commonly used apps. If you spot a duplicate app, definitely look into it.

Messaging Apps

New social messaging apps seem to pop up each day, many of which seem like a fun concept but are actually a parent’s worst nightmare. Anytime a social app mingles minors with adults or provides a platform for private chats, parents need to extra vigilant. Some lesser-known messaging apps that are dangerous for kids include MeetMe, Airtime, Threema, Oovoo, WeChat, and Viber

We know it’s difficult to keep up with apps that are currently trending among teens, which is why we do the research to make it easier for digital parents. The digital world is a large one, but if you can easily monitor your child’s online activity with a parental control app, you can stay a step ahead of the game.

Search our App Advisor for more information.

About Lauren B. Stevens

Lauren B. Stevens is a writer, editor & digital parent, whose pieces have been published across the internet and featured in several print anthologies. Lauren lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and son, and enjoys spending her family time hiking and traveling.

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