FOX23 Investigates: Predator proofing apps

Predator-proofing your apps

TULSA, Okla. — Quick Facts:

  • Do you know the risks your kids face from apps?
  • Safety experts say there are two threats: accidental exposure to things like pornography or targeted threats from a predator
  • FOX23's Michelle Linn learned there are two types of protection: using technical controls, like restricting access to content, or using strong privacy settings and behavioral controls
  • WATCH her full report on how to keep your kids safe on their favorite apps in the video above.

Are kids safe playing on apps?

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Safety experts told FOX23 that children face two threats on apps.

They can be accidentally exposed to things like pornography or could be targeted by a predator

Experts said there are two types of protection parents can implement to keep kids safe. Restricting access to content and using strong privacy settings and behavioral controls will help keep kids safe online but aren't foolproof.

Security consultant Nathan Sweaney told FOX23 that behavioral controls are more effective, because by the time parents hear about an app, children have moved on to another one.

He said it is impossible to stay on top of the latest trends. He also said children quickly learn how to bypass technical controls, so it is crucial for parents to know what games and apps their children are using and who they are talking to on those apps.

He said a predator will likely be disguised as one of their children's peers and will strike up what seems like an innocent friendship before exhibiting any inappropriate behavior.

Sweaney said he created a profile on the popular site musical.ly, using a profile picture of a teenage boy. He said in no time, what appeared to be several teen girls were following his profile.

FOX23 reached out to musical.ly to find out what they do to protect children. They sent this statement:

"musical.ly prioritizes the safety of our users and strives to ensure that all musical.ly users can enjoy our application without abuse or threats from any other user.

We take appropriate measures to expeditiously remove offensive or inappropriate content from the
musical.ly app and have protocols in place to block a range of content that violate our terms of service including phrases deemed to be inappropriate.

When a user flags content as inappropriate, it is reviewed and analyzed to determine if it violates our strict policies within 15 minutes. We also have technology in place that can block spam and inappropriate content.

Account holders can adjust their privacy settings so that only approved followers can send them messages.

In addition, messages from friends are clearly identified and visibly different than those from unknown senders so users can tell who is contacting them and can decide whether to engage. Our users can also block any other user from contacting them and they can report abusive users or communications to us through the application.

We strongly encourage parents to review and adjust privacy settings.

Like with other apps, we also encourage parents to monitor their teenager's account, report inappropriate behavior, and have an open dialogue about responsible and safe behaviors for all online activity.

For additional information and resources for parents, please visit: http://musicallyapp.tumblr.com/parents."