Kids, pre-teens specifically, are jumping on Mappen to connect with friends nearby and, as the app’s tagline encourages, “Make Things Happen.” The location-based app allows friends to see each other’s location, what they are doing, and make it easy to meet up. Sounds like fun except for the fact that the app is brimming with potential security flaws.
How It Works
Anyone who downloads the Mappen app can send a friend request to anyone else and begin sharing his or her location (and data) immediately. While on Mappen, friends can share updates and photos much like any other social network. Personal data that can be shared: names, birthdates, location, likes, dislikes, photos, and friend lists.
Once a user installs the app (icon, right), he or she is asked to turn on location services that must remain on to share location, see others, and post content updates. The app also asks to access a user’s full contact list before it can be used.
Likewise, the location requirement to use the app poses a safety risk. This feature means anyone on your child’s friend list can see your child’s location at any time. As your child’s Mappen circle grows, so too might the chance of your child sharing his or her location and personal information with an unsafe “friend.”
Tips to Help Boost App Safety
Stay connected with your kids. The greatest risk to your child’s online safety is a strained relationship. Every family dynamic and circumstance varies, but consider doing all you can to make your relationship with your child a priority. When communication and trust are strong with your child, you will better know what’s going on in his or her life, whom their friends are, and if there’s a situation in which they might need help.
Monitor apps! The best way to know which apps your kids use and how they use them is to routinely monitor their phones. How do you do this? You do this physically and with technology. About once a week, look at your child’s phone and laptop or tablet (preferably with your
son or daughter next to you), look at the display screen, examine the app icons, and ask questions. If you don’t recognize an app, click it open, or ask questions. Also, if there’s an app icon you click that asks for a password, it may be a vault app that requires a few more clicks or a conversation. Another way to monitor apps is using technology such as filtering software that will help you filter and track the content that comes into your home via your child’s devices.
Do your research, stay aware. Stay on top of trends in apps by reading this and other technology or family blogs. New apps come out all the time, and word-of-mouth among teens quickly spreads. One of the best ways to keep your kids safe online is to understand where they connect online and what risks those digital spaces may present. Potential risks to be aware of that some apps may carry potential privacy infringements, cyberbullying, pornography, phishing scams, malware, predators, and sex-related crimes.
Turn off location. Mappen, as well as other apps such as Facebook, Kik, and Snapchat, access a user’s location while using the app and even when the app is not in use. To ensure your location isn’t shared randomly, turn off location when apps are not in use. Depending on the age of your child, you may consider not allowing the use of location-based apps at all.
Say NO to random friend requests. It’s easy for criminals to create a fake profile and gain access into your child’s life. An attractive peer from a nearby town who wants to “connect” may be a catfish using another person’s identity or a predator looking to groom a vulnerable tween or teen.
Guard your child’s privacy. When your child shares personal information through an unsafe app, it opens up them up, and it opens up your entire family to risk. Often kids get comfortable online and forget — or don’t fully understand — the problem with sharing personal details. Review the importance of keeping details such as full name, school, birthdates, address, personal photos, and other family information private.