The summer holidays are here! It is likely our young people will be spending more time on social media and playing online games over the summer break. Foster carers should be aware of some new apps and additions to existing apps which can pose a risk to young people, outlined below. There are also some simple ways that foster carers can make these apps safer for young people to use.
Pokemon Go has a new feature called ‘Pokemon Raids’ where up to 20 players meet in real life to defeat more powerful Pokemon called ‘Raid Bosses’. Players receive notifications of Raid Battles in their area and can search for raids in your area. You can choose to be automatically matched with players in your area or join an existing group by clicking ‘Join Privately’. This means players who do not know each other and are of different ages (and perhaps intentions) are brought together to meet. The ‘Raids’ feature of Pokemon makes real life meetings more likely than the basic Pokemon game. Foster carers should strongly discourage their young people from meeting anyone they don’t know in real life, make them aware of the dangers of doing so and if the young person insists on going to find Pokemon, why not do it together?
SnapChat has a new feature called ‘SnapMap’ which allows users to see all their contact’s locations on a real life map, and their contacts to see their location. The SnapMap is automatically part of the SnapChat app, meaning every user will have access to it. SnapMap can be found by pinching out the screen from the main SnapChat camera screen. The risk is that strangers (and potentially birth parents with whom contact has been restricted) will know where the young person is at any given time. Hiding the young person’s location through Snap Chat is easy:
1) From the home screen: click on the setting (cog) icon > click on ‘see my location’ > click on ‘Ghost Mode’
2) From the SnapMap: click on the settings (cog) icon in the top right of the map > click on ‘GhostMode’
GhostMode means only you can see where you are on the map, however if you submit a Snap to ‘Our Story’ this Snap may still be public and may reveal your location, even in ‘GhostMode’.
Yellow is a new app similar to Tinder (a dating app) but aimed at young people as a virtual flirting app. Yellow has been dubbed ‘Tinder for Teens’ as it matches unknown people together and who then ‘swipe right’ if they like the look of one another, or ‘swipe left’ if they don’t. If they both like the look of one another, they can chat through the site. The age restriction is 14 years or over, however there are no attempts to verify the users age. Most users are encouraged by other users to send nude pictures or chat sexually and are likely to receive unsolicited nude pictures. The nature of Yellow suggests that relationships are made quickly and at a glance, basing friendships or romance on a quick look at a profile picture. This is not a positive message for young people to receive at such a sensitive time in their development. Yellow enables adults (posing as young people) to view and interact with young people in a sexual manner. The NSPCC has expressed concerns about the Yellow app and currently all users of the app are exposed to sexual interest and advances form other users, in the best case scenario from other young people and in the worst case scenario, from paedophiles. There is no ‘safe’ or ‘innocent’ way to use this app without becoming involved in sexual conversations and sexting, therefore it is best avoided completely.
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