Educators say they have seen kids using their mobile devices to circulate videos of school drug searches to students sending nude images to girlfriends or boyfriends. Most parents, they say, have no idea.
A stay-at-home mom of eight kids in Burke, Va., Eileen Patterson said she used to consider herself fairly tech savvy and frequently spends time on Facebook. But she was shocked to learn her kids could message their friends with just an iPod Touch mp3 player. She counts nine wireless devices in her home and has taken to shutting off her home's Wi-Fi after 9 p.m., but she describes her attempt to keep tabs on her kids' online activity "a war I'm slowly losing every day."
"I find myself throwing up my hands every now and again," Patterson said. "Then I'll see something on TV or read an article in the paper about some horrible thing that happened to some poor child and their family, and then I try to be more vigilant."
Mobile apps refer to the software applications that can be downloaded to a mobile device through an online store such as Apple's iTunes. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are some 800,000 apps available through Apple and 700,000 apps on Google Play.
Among the most popular mobile apps among kids is Instagram, free software that can digitally enhance photos and post them to your account online. Kids on Instagram whose parents closely monitor their text messages, Facebook posts or emails can also chat with their friends using the service. Their photos can also be shared on other social media sites such as Facebook, which bought Instagram last year.
Then there's Snapchat, among the top 10 free iPhone apps available. Snapchat lets a user send a text, photo or video that purportedly self-destructs within 10 seconds of being opened - or warns a user if the recipient takes steps to quickly capture it for posterity before it disappears.