Popular Apps Parents at Your School Should Know About

Popular Apps Parents at Your School Should Know About

Empower your school's parents to have regular conversations with their kids about tech and how to use it safely.

by Kerri Beauchesne


Life on the Internet changes quickly, and kids (and us parents, TBH) are more connected than ever. Tech is now a part of our lives for good, so the best thing we can do as parents, caregivers, and changemakers in our communities is to educate ourselves so that we can help children use it safely. Below, we round up popular apps that you might see (or want to seek out) on your kids’ devices. This is a great reference to share with your school community and a good conversation starter for your own family (though your tween might be mortified at what you know! 🫢).

Our FREE Family Tech Talk program is a parent education event for schools from PTO Today and Trend Micro that helps parents learn how to use tech, tools, and conversation to set their kids up to be good digital citizens. Offered both over Zoom and in-person in select cities, Family Tech Talk is a great opportunity for your parent group to prioritize Internet safety in your school community.


Family Tech Talk: 15 Apps Parents Should Know About social media graphic by PTO Today



Discord allows users to talk to friends or strangers in real-time via voice, text, or video chat. While Discord used to be for gamers only, users now include those with interests like anime, music, and more. It is also used as a group-chat tool for friends and a way for gamers to chat with friends while they play together. Discord also has NSFW channels that require users to be 18 or older, but it's easy to click through the verification. 



TikTok is a popular social media app that allows users to watch and create videos. Users are also able to view all content without creating an account. TikTok features multiple feeds, including "For You," which generates a stream of videos using the algorithm, and "Following," which features content from the accounts you follow. It's easy to encounter inappropriate content on the public feed, even with a private account. 



Snapchat is a messaging app that lets users exchange pictures and videos, called snaps, that are meant to disappear after they're viewed. Users can also add filters, lenses, or other effects to media and share it with friends. Snapchat also allows users to see your location and offers group chats that everyone in a group can contribute to. “Snap Map” displays your location on a map in real time to your Snapchat friends, which is problematic if Snapchat contacts are not real friends. This feature can be turned off or used in “Ghost Mode”.



Omegle is a free online chat website that encourages users to "Talk with Strangers".  You do not need to register to use it, either. Omegle randomly pairs users one-on-one chat sessions where they chat anonymously using the names "You" and "Stranger". Video chats can be recorded and used to blackmail for additional content. While Omegle does offer a monitored video chat, an unmonitored version is still available for minors to use.



BeReal is a social media app that gives users 2 minutes to upload real content of themselves. At a random time each day, all users receive a notification that it’s time to "be real" and have 2 minutes to take a photo of what they are doing in that instant. All photos are unedited. Users can choose to publish their photo privately, for friends ojnly, or for all BeReal users around the world.



ChatGPT is a very powerful generative AI tool that uses natural language processing to create humanlike conversational dialogue. 



With the tagline "Meet and date with over 411 million people",  Ask.fm is a question-and-answer site that is popular among 13- to 17-year olds. Users must be at least 13 years old and can ask other users questions with the option of anonymity, which can lead to cruel behavior and cyberbullying. Ask.fm content is not monitored. 


Hot or Not

Designed to rate your popularity based on how others rate your profile (which includes a picture), Hot or Not allows users to check out people in their area and chat with strangers. The website states, “Hot or Not is the original game that lets you check people out, be checked out, and see the Hottest people around. Hot or Not will show you how popular you and your friends are, as well as a list of the hottest people nearby, wherever you may be; at a music festival, on college campus, or hanging out in the city.” While users must be 13 or older (and users 13-17 can't chat or share photos with users older than 17), there is no age verification process, making it easy for predators to target unsuspecting teenagers.



Reddit is a social news site and app where users create and share content without any identity verification. Within the site, there are communities called subreddits for different interests and any user can create a subreddit. It's easy for users to find exactly what they want, but this means they may come across communities that could potentially shape how they think in a negative or extreme way. Reddit also has a section that contains pornographic content.  



The Calculator% app icon looks like a typical calculator. However, when a user opens it and types in a passcode, it opens a hidden vault of photos that do not show up anywhere else on the user's device, making it easy for kids to hide things from parents who may be checking their child's device.  



HOLLA is free, live video chat app that randomly matches people across the globe. Users swipe left or right on profiles to accept or decline live chats (if two users both swipe right, they’re a “match” and can connect via text chat, voice call, or a live video call).  HOLLA’s terms of service state that they can monitor for nudity, weapons, etc., but there is little control over what can happen during a live video chat.



KIK is an anonymous instant messenger app (that caters to teens) that allows anyone to contact and direct message your child. Kik allows users to send texts, videos and photos anonymously, making sharing of sexually explicit material and cyberbulling rampant within this app. Once messages are deleted, they are irretrievable. 



MeetMe is a social media dating app that connects users with people based on geographic proximity, making the predator risk very real. Users can create an account by using an email address or an existing Facebook account, and once registered, can create a profile and message other MeetMe members. Users can also browse through the newsfeed of nearby people.   



Clubhouse is an audio-only chat app for group messages between friends, featuring chat rooms where users can drop in to listen to live conversation (like a voicemail that’s open to anybody you allow to join in). Users record a voice message and send that chat to friends, who can then add their own voice recordings to create a voice-only conversation. Chats can be set to “friends only” or “friends-of-friends” to expand the group.



With the tagline "Share, Express, Meet," Whisper is an anonymous social network that encourages users to share secrets with strangers.  Whisper can be used without an account, reveals a user's location so people can meet up, and allows sexually explicit content.



Known as "the ultimate organizer for busy high school life", Saturn is meant to help students organize their courses and schedule, receive school updates, and connect with other students in their classes. Despite recent security enhancements meant to help keep non-students out of the app, it's still possible for someone to claim to be a student and receive access to detailed information that can be used to target other students.


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