Secret Apps: A look into potentially dangerous cell phone apps - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Secret Apps: A look into potentially dangerous cell phone apps

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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

There's another app parents should be concerned about. It's called "Whisper," and police say it could get your child in trouble. It's just the latest in dozens of apps that work the same way, and they should all be on your radar.

Whisper users can anonymously post pictures and chat with other "whisperers." But authorities caution those users often hide behind fake pictures and information.

"We feel it's very dangerous. There are predators out there that are also opportunists and they try to take advantage of individuals when they meet them on these sites and they get them to come to different locations and they try to take advantage of them," Cpl. L'Jean Mckneely said.

Earlier this month detectives near Seattle, Washington say the person accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl admitted to using Whisper to communicate with the victim.

Whisper has not come up in any cases in Baton Rouge, but the use of social apps by predators is not uncommon.

"You never know, they'll be there to rob you, they'll be there to kidnap you or harm you in any type of way," Mckneely said.

"Ask.fm" and "Kik" are other anonymous chat apps that seems harmless, but can easily be used to bully. Ask.fm has been implicated as a factor in five teen suicides, including the September death of a 12-year-old girl in Florida who was sent messages saying she deserved to die.

"We're having a very difficult time with Ask.fm and Kik getting information. We've had to go through the Office of International Affairs in Washington, and file data with them," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

In that case another 12-year-old and a 14-year-old girl were arrested, but charges were later dropped.

Another feature to watch out for is the use of passwords. Some apps - like Whisper - require a pin to look through the history. Also look out for apps that share location information, which Whisper can do as well. Dating apps like "Tinder" also match users based on location, and it's advertised in Apple's App Store as appropriate for ages 12 and up.

Cpl. Mckneely said that just makes it easier for predators to contact underage teens and kids that are close by.

"With all these apps that they have on the phones we want parents to pay attention to what their kids are doing on the phones and what apps they're downloading. Because there are predators out there and they're looking for easy targets or victims they can go after," he said.

Many apps offer Help Centers or even guides for parents - like "Snapchat" - an app that lets users exchange pictures that supposedly automatically delete themselves. But when in doubt a simple Google search of the app's name will likely tell you everything you need to know.

Police also recommend using a family account to download from app stores. Only the parents should have the password and that way downloads can only be done with the parents consent.

Copyright WAFB 2013. All rights reserved.

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