SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WTSP) — Following the arrests of 23 men accused of traveling to meet people they thought were children for sex, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office in Florida has updated its widely-circulated list of apps parents should know about.
The new list includes 21 apps — as opposed to the original 15.
During its latest operation, the sheriff’s office said men connected with people they thought were 14-year-old boys and girls through apps including Plenty of Fish, HILY, MocoSpace and Zoosk.
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Another new addition to the list is an app called “Monkey.” Deputies say it is rated for people 12 and older but also has “mild sexual content and nudity.”
Law enforcement officers encourage parents to monitor their children’s phones and keep an eye on what mobile apps they are using.
App parents should know about, according to law enforcement
- Plenty of Fish: A popular free dating app and website that encourages chatting with strangers. It allows users to browse profiles based on location.
- HILY: A dating app where users can browse photos, engage in chats, send private videos and more. Based on the GPS location of a mobile device, strangers can arrange to meet up locally.
- Zoosk: A location-based dating app and website similar to many others. The app is available in 80 countries and utilized a ‘carousel’ feature which matches users with random strangers.
- Mocospace: A free social networking and dating app. Users can connect with strangers worldwide via text messages or voice calls.
- Best Secret Folder: Specifically meant to hide photos and videos. According to app store descriptions, it features password protection, decoy videos and alarm settings.
- Monkey: A live video chat app that connects users to random strangers worldwide, offering group chat and private message options. It claims to be rated for ages 12 and up but has “mild sexual content and nudity.”
- MeetMe: A dating social media app that connects people based on location. Users are encouraged to meet in person.
- WhatsApp: A messaging app that allows texts, video calls, photo sharing and voicemails with users worldwide.
- Bumble: Similar to Tinder, but requires women to make the first contact. Law enforcement says kids and teens can create fake accounts and falsify their age.
- Live.Me: A live-streaming app that uses geolocation to share videos. The sheriff’s office said users can earn “coins” to “pay” minors for photos.
- Ask.FM: The sheriff’s office said this app lets users ask anonymous questions and is known for cyberbullying.
- Grindr: A dating app geared toward the LGBTQ community based on user location.
- TikTok: A new app popular with kids lets users create and share short videos. Law enforcement said the app has “very limited privacy controls” and users can be exposed to cyberbullying and explicit content.
- Snapchat: One of the most popular social media apps in the world, Snapchat lets users take and share photos and videos. The app also lets people see your location.
- Holla: This self-proclaimed “addicting” video chat app lets users meet people in seconds. Law enforcement said users have seen racial slurs and explicit content.
- Calculator+: Police say this is one of several apps that are used to hide photos, videos, files and browser history.
- Skout: A location-based dating app that is supposed to prohibit people under 17 from sharing private photos. However, police say kids can easily create an account with a different age.
- Badoo: A dating and social media app where users can chat and share photos and videos based on location. Police say the app is supposed to be for adults only, but they’ve seen teens create accounts.
- Kik: Police say kids can bypass traditional text messaging features using this app. Kik “gives users unlimited access to anyone, anywhere, anytime,” the sheriff’s office said. The Kik app is actually going away, although there’s no clear date for when it will shut down.
- Whisper: An anonymous social network that lets users share secrets with strangers. Police say it also shows users’ location so people can meet up.
- Hot or Not: The app lets users rate profiles, check out people in their area and chat with strangers. Police say the goal of the app is to hook up.
Back in May, Apple and Google removed three dating apps from their stores after reports of the apps allowing children as young as 12 to access them. The Federal Trade Commission said apps Meet24, FastMeet and Meet4U appeared to violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and the FTC Act.
The apps are operated by Wildec LLC, a Ukranian company, according to the FTC. They collect a user’s birthdate, email address, photos and real-time location data. The FTC claims the apps failed to block users under the age of 13 from using the apps or from being contacted by other users.
Earlier this year, 10News reporter Jenny Dean spoke with Sgt. Pat Voit with the Tampa Police Cyber Crimes Unit about keeping teens safe online and social media.
Police said parents and teens should know two things:
1. Once a picture or video leaves your phone and is sent to someone else, it is out of your control.
2. Someone can use that picture or video against you.
Voit also recommends parents and teens check out the website Netsmartz for some guidelines to follow.