How can I keep tabs on my teen in a digital world? Fear no more- I have some helpful information! Recently , I attended a seminar that discussed the difference between digital natives and digital immigrants. I had never heard this before, but found it pretty interesting and figured it might be of interest to parents that have teenagers.

Teenagers and anyone born after the invention of the internet is considered a digital native. Digital natives are more savvy at the use of technology and know the ins and outs better than a digital immigrant. Digital immigrants are the group of people who grew up before internet and without the use of new technology such as new forms of communication or smart phones. Some people can also be on the edge of being an immigrant and a native. Apparently, I missed the boat because this concept has been around for a quite awhile.

I would consider myself a technological immigrant and native, somewhere in the middle. When Facebook first came out I was saying things like, “who needs Facebook when you can just call your friend?” Or “Why do people need to know all of this information about me?  I don’t care what they ate for breakfast! I don’t care about internet friends!” Then I realized, that there is more to Facebook than just logging the amount of friends one has. A wide range of information is on facebook, like activity groups, important news, fundraising groups and so on.  I am still resistant, but I am giving Linked In a try….

Bla bla, what is the point of all of this, Sam? Well, let me tell you. The last informational blog I wrote was about parents spying on their kids through apps, which for the most part, I support. Obviously, it is important to have a degree of privacy but- safety is first and foremost. So, with prefacing the difference between a technological native and immigrant- most parents are immigrants to the world of technology and behind on app trends. Meanwhile, teen’s breathe technology. I decided to explore the different apps that can be high risk for teens – ones that parents should be aware of.

Common Apps That Can Be High-Risk To Teens

Yik Yak

Yik Yak is an app that creates an anonymous spot for people within a 5 mile radius to discuss things or post things in their community as it was originally meant for college campus information. So in a perfect world, one would say, “hey check out the garage sale down the road at ______. ” But it of course, took a turn for the worst. It is now a concerning forum for people to bully people or stir up problems in an area. People can say negative things about other people anonymously. And given the problems with digital bullying, I can see what kinds of stress this can cause a teen if the whole neighborhood OR school- knows whats going on via Yik Yak.


Whisper is an anonymous app/site that lets you share secrets without ever being found out. At first sight you think, huh funny. But then it gets odd. People can post all kinds of things, and some can be really inappropriate.


At first, Whats App made no sense to me. Why wouldn’t I just text? Well, you can text anyone anywhere and not have to pay for it! Which is awesome if my friend is traveling and I can’t talk with her because her phone won’t work in another place or get service. It is also across the world, so you can use Whats App with anyone anywhere. Which in most cases can be awesome, for some kids its a way for them to get around their parents seeing their texts… Unfortunately, people also use it for criminal things too.


Tinder is a dating app but it can be dangerous for teens considering you can vote on people, talk with people and connect with people all through the app- it’s also based off of current location. And- you don’t always know who you are really talking to on the other end.

Also look at High There– a drug-related dating app.

Burn Note

Burn Note is another app like Whisper where information can be sent off and it is destroyed after opened. Another app like this is Snapchat or Snap Save, where people can send texts with images and they are only seen for a minute or 2- sometimes seconds and then it is gone. So anything inappropriate or funny can be sent or received.

Weight-loss Apps

Any weight loss apps or apps associated with health can also be something to be alert to. There are tons of websites out there that are ‘pro ana’ sites and they don’t just limit themselves to websites. Teens with eating disorders can get their hands on many apps that support weight loss and connect with other users.

Visual Blogs

Tumblr & Instagram are used as a visual blog. Although it can be used for really fun and interesting things, it can also be ugly. I place this just below the concept of weight loss apps because historically people have used this app to post pro anorexia information and images- and images of self harm, sexually inappropriate pictures, drug use pictures etc.

And of course, Facebook, twitter and the usual. These are all common place apps now, but kids can create more than one Facebook, have full control of the passwords and it isn’t uncommon to have a parent saying, “we closed the Facebook account, but she has a new one.” And most of all- Facebook never goes away. If you want to delete it, it just sits and waits to be re-activated… did you know that?!

What Can A Parent Do To Keep Their Teen Safe Online?

Also let’s just stop and process this for a moment. You are a digital immigrant. Your son or daughter will more than likely be a digital native, and you know dramatically less than them. This is painful! How is it that we are supposed to keep up with all of these potential social and emotional threats when we have no idea what technological secret they are into? Well, sorry to tell ya, you have to “Google it” or also look into safety apps or keep alert to trends through some organizations such as: Wired Safety, Connect Safely & Ikeepsafe.  Last, I thought it would be helpful to point out that most of these apps listed have been around for a couple years- sorry.

A few more to research:


Thanks! Please share any ones that I might have missed!