19 December 2014
If you’re searching the internet for advice about staying safe online, you probably already know about the potential dangers of sexting, web cams and strangers getting in touch on social media.
However, even the most tech savvy young people often overlook the dangers of apps. And with apps like Snapchat and Kik becoming increasingly popular – Snapchat alone now has over 100 million active monthly users – knowing exactly where your photos, messages and information are ending up is more important than ever.
Why can apps be dangerous?
Apps like Snapchat and Kik have been designed to allow users to quickly and easily share pictures, videos and messages. Aimed at young people (around 71% of Snapchat users are under 25-years old), all you generally need to know is someone’s username and you can send them whatever you like, whenever you like.
If someone has your username, they can easily get in touch with you. As you never see these people face to face, they can lie about who they are, how old they are and even whether they are a boy or girl and you’ll never know.
This can lead to inappropriate contact with people you don’t know, with other users asking you to share images or information you’re not comfortable with or that could cause you problems in the future.
Doesn’t Snapshat delete messages straight away?
A lot of people use Snapshat to send explicit images and videos because they think the messages are deleted for good pretty much straight away.
However, this isn’t always true. Some users are able to take photos of your messages using screen grab or recover them afterwards using specialist technology.
This could mean that the photos, videos and messages you send aren’t deleted as you’d expect and are instead stored and shared again in the future. Remember once something’s online it’s online forever. Like SMS messages and emails, once you’ve sent information via an app, you have no control over how it’s used or who it’s shared with.
How can you stay safe when using apps?
To stay safe when using apps, just stick to the same rules you’d use when texting or emailing.
This means never send anything that you wouldn’t want to be made public, never send anything to anyone you don’t know and if someone asks you for naked or explicit photos or videos of yourself, block them and, if necessary, report them to the app or tell a parent, a friend or someone else you trust.
Never meet up with anyone who contacts you through apps as there’s no way to tell who they really are and if you’re ever made to feel uncomfortable by another user, block them straight away.
With apps fast becoming one of the main ways young people communicated, banning them or staying off them completely isn’t always possible. However, by sticking to a few simple rules and being careful what you send and who you talk to, you can keep yourself and your friends safe. If you would like support or to chat to someone about these issues call us on our confidential helpline 0808 800 1037 or use our live chat function that can be found at the bottom right hand corner of your screen.