6 apps all parents should know about

Children and teens can access a bewildering number of apps, but which ones should parents be most aware of?

Whether it’s for gaming or communicating, kids and teens tend to be voracious users of apps – and given the sheer number hitting the market, it can be hard to keep up with which ones do what.

But some more than others can leave kids open to harm such as bullying, scams and privacy breaches.

Which means it’s important that parents and carers are as involved in their children’s online lives as they are in their everyday lives, says eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman.

“This means knowing the apps, games and sites they’re using. Whenever we hand a connected device to a child, we are potentially allowing strangers into their life,” she says.

Julie says apps that include chat or common functions can potentially expose a child to cyberbullying, with eSafety Commission research finding one in five young people have experienced cyberbullying.

“Apps popular among young people surge and ebb with the ‘coolness’ tide, and what is popular today may be uncool tomorrow,” says Julie.

So which apps should parents know about right now, and how can you help make them safer for kids?


Formerly known as Musical.ly, this social media app allows users to create and share short videos lasting three to 15 seconds.

“Parents may think it’s all about miming to songs and dancing, but some videos that are easily available to users to view include vile language, drug references and dangerous acts, and children can see inappropriate material,” says Sam Macaulay, co-founder of Cyber Safety Project, which runs educational programs in schools.

Users should be aged 13-plus. Default settings are public – so anything your child posts can be found by other TikTok users. Keep accounts private.


This is where children share photos and video and get likes and comments. They can follow other profiles and people can follow their profiles.

Instagram Stories allows people to post photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours.

Safety tools include being able to delete comments on your posts, turning off the commenting option and blocking people from your Instagram account.


This messaging app lets children send images, video or texts to friends that are only available for a short time.

“It has a Snap Map location feature and if users choose for their ‘Ghost Mode’ to be switched off, each time they use Snapchat their location is updated,” says Sam.

“Every ‘friend’ that follows you on Snapchat can see where you are on Snap Map if Ghost Mode is switched off.”

Sam recommends using “Ghost Mode” to prevent your location being revealed.

Hot or Not

This app began by allowing users to rate the attractiveness of people who posted photos. But the amount of bullying that arose saw the app store remove it.

It has since become a website where people can “meet and chat” to people and has more of a dating focus.


This anonymous messaging app is an add-on to Snapchat. It works like other anonymous messaging apps, such as ASKfm and Tellonym.

Users invite anonymous people to ask them a question anonymously using an “ask me anything sticker” on their Snapchat Story. The issue is that questions can be inappropriate.

“If you answer the anonymous questions, the answers are then visible to that persons ‘friends’ through their Snapchat Story. The concern is the type of questions that are asked. Bullying can be impossible to trace because of the anonymity,” says Sam.

Fake calculator and folders

When parents pick up their child’s phone or iPad, they see a standard calculator, folder or weather icon.

“But when you click on this fake icon that looks like a calculator, it opens a secret vault where you can store images privately,” says Sam.

The risk is that the images that live on those secret vault apps are stored on unknown servers, often overseas, and could be misused.

Safer Internet Day on Tuesday, February 11, helps raise awareness about the importance of online safety. Get more information about internet safety at the eSafety Commissioner or Cyber Safety Project.

Written by Sarah Marinos.