If you have kids or grandkids, check their phones for these three apps child predators use. The government just issued a warning about smartphone apps pedophiles are using to groom children online. It sounds too disturbing to be true, but these apps actually allowed children under 13 to create dating profiles.
Not only could sexual predators contact children through their profiles, but they could also search by age and location. If that’s not scary enough for parents, the apps also collected users’ real-time location data. This way, sexual predators could find nearby children, some as young as 12.
Thankfully, the apps have been removed from Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store. But take this as a warning that you should control your kids’ online activities. Scroll down for all the shocking details, plus a few online child safety tips all parents and guardians should know.
How kids’ dating apps work
FastMeet, Meet24 and Meet4U were created by Ukraine-based company Wildec. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent a warning letter to Wildec that said the company appeared to be violating both the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the FTC Act.
To create an account, FastMeet, Meet24 and Meet4U required users’ dates of birth, email addresses and photographs.
“In testing of Meet24, FTC staff was able to search for other users by age and location to find users near our location who indicated that they were as young as 12 years old,” according to the letter sent to Wildec.
What you need to know
The letter went on to say, “the ability to identify and communicate with children – even those over age 13 – poses a significant risk to children’s health and safety.”
The FTC said several individuals have faced criminal charges in the U.S. for “communicating or attempting to communicate with minors via Wildec’s apps.”
Last month, a 36-year-old man from upstate New York pled guilty to attempted coercion and enticement of a minor. The man thought he was talking online to a 13-year-old girl through FastMeet. He set up a meeting with the girl, who turned out to be an undercover New York State Police investigator.
The FTC told Wildec that in order to be compliant, the company must immediately remove personal information about children, seek parental consent before allowing minors to access its apps and eliminate features that allow users to search for other users who are minors.
These are just some of the many apps child predators use
There are many more dangerous apps that groomers use to hurt children. That’s why you need to monitor your child’s activity.
If your child has any of these apps on their phone, delete them immediately. You also can set your kids’ devices so they must get parental approval before they can purchase any apps.
A great way to make sure your child is safe while online is by using parental control apps and browser plugins. You can find and assess several of them on Apple or Google Play.
Depending on that app and which device you’re monitoring, you’ll see things like SMS and texts, deleted texts, screenshots, photos, website history, call log history, GPS location, social media activity, app usage and more.