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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

The Dangers of Social Discovery Apps

By Darren Laur, The Digital Sheepdog

Many people have heard about the Girls Around Me app, but have you also heard about Skout, Highlight, Banjo, Grindr, Sonar and Kismet ? These are the newest and most popular “social discovery apps” that are trending with teens and young adults.

Social discovery apps utilize the GPS chip in smartphones to transmit a user’s location to people nearby, which can include friends, friends of friends, people with similar interests, or complete strangers. When another user has signed into the same app, not only will the app alert you to this fact, but it will also allow you to communicate via text messaging and share personal information, including name, age, gender, relationship status, general location and even a picture.

As these social discovery apps become more widely used,  it’s easy to imagine how such sensitive information might fall into the wrong hands. In fact, earlier this month the owners of Skout suspended its teen social discovery service after three youths aged 12, 13 and 15, were targeted by sexual predators.

Given that social discovery is a relative new technology, we have to remember that developers are still working their way through all the privacy and security nuances. However, our kids don’t heed warnings about over-sharing and they don’t stop to read the terms of service. All they want to do is push the download button, bring up the cool, trending app and start using it right away.

As always, knowledge and the understanding and application of that knowledge is power. As parents, guardians and caregivers, we need to talk to our kids about the concerns surrounding the use of social discovery apps and the inherent dangers. Arming our children with the proper information can go a long way to keeping them safe.

The above article is reproduced from Kiwi Commons, a news, and information weblog dedicated to providing readers with the most relevant and up-to-date resources available on Internet safety, cyberbullying, social media and digital legacy.

Comment by Darren Laur, posted 6/28/2012, 12:56 AM:

Hi, my name is Darren Laur and I am the author of the above noted article and I want to thank you for publishing it on your site. As both a law enforcement professional and an Internet and Social Media safety advocate, I believe that information to be useful must be shared !!!! I would also share with you and your readers that I too have an on-line safety blog called "The Digital Sheepdog" that can be located at : http://www.personalprotectionsystems.ca/the-digital-sheepdog/
Comment by Philip Quintas, posted 6/25/2012, 12:18 AM:

Thanks for the heads up about new technology that has the capacity to put my children at risk. It can be a constant battle to stay ahead of unhealthy trends, I accept all the help I can get!
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