Have your kids ever turned “everybody” into four separate words? With my son it went a little something like this: “Everybody’s on this app, Mom. Ev-ry-bo-dy!” FOMO is real for our kids when they learn about popular apps, and I get it. I know they are a huge part of how kids socialize today, but there are so many bad apps for kids and I have to put safety first. So sometimes, ev-ry-bo-dy isn’t going to include my kid.
I wish I could trust the age rating or the fact that classmates’ parents allow their kids to use a particular app, but it’s just not enough. Every mom has to use her own judgment, and if you need a hand, I’ve done some research. Here are 10 bad apps for kids that we’re staying away from.
1. Bigo Live
Like TikTok, Bigo Live is a free app that lets users make video blogs or livestream their activities with the object of monetizing their videos. But it’s different in that it gives its users the opportunity to collaborate in a joint livestream. The focus of the app is status and users level up and improve their ranking by logging in every day and sending gifts.
Bigo Live is a bad app for kids because personal info is required to open an account and the user’s age isn’t verified. There have been reports of bullying, nudity, violence, and predatory comments. And the focus on status and leveling up creates a very self-centered, shallow environment.
This one’s a text-based app that starts you as a random character at birth and then allows you to make choices as you age in your virtual life. As your character gets older, the questions and answers become more mature in nature.
The Q and A includes one-night stands, threesomes, illegal drugs, and murder. If users tap on “Bitlife Community,” they’re taken to links like a related YouTube channel, a forum on Reddit, and a TikTok account.
3. Game Pigeon
Game Pigeon is an iMessage extension that allows people to play two-player games via the iMessage app. So in theory, Game Pigeon can be used for your kid to play checkers with Grandma because they have each other’s phone numbers or Apple IDs.
The reason Game Pigeon is a bad app for kids is that predators who meet kids in one place can suggest playing a GamePigeon game, and then they have access to your child’s phone number and can interact in a private text.
Use iMOM’s free printable App Request Form to track what apps your kids want to download.
Houseparty is a social networking app that allows up to eight people to video chat at once in a “room.” Users can have infinite rooms and move between rooms. It surged in popularity during the pandemic.
The video is live, and users can send links and take screenshots. And if you get invited to a room with one friend, there’s no guarantee you’ll know anyone else in that space.
IMVU stands for Instant Messaging Virtual Universe. Players dress up their avatars, place them in public or private rooms and chat with other players. That’s the entire goal of the game and much like in real life, with nothing to do, trouble ensues.
Sexual encounters and nudity are common in the 18+ areas, but most avatars are dressed in revealing clothing and mature language is used throughout the entire game. All profiles are public and there is a “Chat Now” feature that randomly pairs users with other users.
6. Socratic by Google
Socratic is a homework-help app that uses text-recognition technology to search the web for answers. Kids just have to snap a shot of a question, crop it, and hit search.
A well-meaning child could use Socratic for research and to gain knowledge, but let’s be real here—it’s a cheating app.
The name is derived from “tell” and “anonymous.” Tellonym allows users to send messages through the platform anonymously (or not, if the user so chooses).
The site says, “It’s not important what you look like, how many likes you get, or how exciting your everyday life is.” While all that’s true, the veil of anonymity has led to the posting of racist comments, threats of violence, and bullying. Similar apps (that are also not good for kids) are Ask.fm, YOLO, and Lipsi.
Alright, you know what YouTube is. I hate that it’s a bad app for kids (and a bad website, in this case) because my kids love stuff like art tutorials and “Top 10 Roller Coaster” videos. But if you’re not sitting next to them watching videos with them, YouTube is not safe for kids.
If you’re not sitting next to them watching videos with them, YouTube is not safe for kids.
Even age-appropriate content can have inappropriate images inserted and the related videos can easily take your child from something harmless to something graphic. Plus, YouTube has a disturbing relationship with pedophilia. Algorithms drive users to extreme content and predators curate playlists of children in compromising situations.
9. Yubo (Formerly Yellow)
Yubo mimics adult dating apps like Tinder with a swipe feature and has been called a dating app for teens. Similar “friend-making” apps include HOLLA and Kik.
Yubo has a livestream feature and strangers can view the stream, send questions, and interact via live text chat. If all this isn’t enough to qualify Yubo as a really bad app for kids, the user can connect the account to their other socials making it easier for a potential predator to track down and stalk them across platforms.
According to the app store, this video creation app will “help you make your video the star of TikTok and Instagram.” It uses one-button, step-by-step tutorials, so kids catch on quickly.
Zoomerang is rated E (for everyone), but don’t let your guard down. It uses location tracking which means online predators can see where your child is when the app is being used. Plus it’s easy to take screenshots of videos and manipulate them. Taking brief moments out of context can be used for cyberbullying.
Tell us in the comments if you’ve found an app that you don’t want your child using. Here’s iMOM’s take on TikTok and 5 resources for monitoring your child’s online activity.