HOUSTON – A young girl making her breakfast in the kitchen or playing with her cat. Strangers are watching her life play out in real time on the LiveMe app. Another girl is streaming her activities, including smoking something.
All of it, happening live for anyone to see.
"That person could be in their living room, could be in their bedroom, could be cooking in the kitchen, could be doing anything, and you can follow them and you can watch them. The additional scary part to that app is you can now also pay that person," cybersecurity expert Scott Bailey said.
Bailey said these apps could set up kids to do things they may not do otherwise, just to get paid.
LiveMe, Whisper, Monkey and Cheetah are just a few of the apps on Bailey's radar.
"We can't keep up, but at least if we're aware of what some of the things are right now and to watch out for. I think we're taking a step in the right direction," Bailey said.
Erin McNeil and Mitchell Piazza are college students who are studying cybersecurity.
"There's a lot of things like selling drugs, like, 'Hey, meet up at this park,' and like, 'Looking for bud,'" Piazza said.
McNeil has advice for parents.
"I think the biggest problem is they want their kids to stop using these apps altogether and that's not realistic. The bigger key would be to actually have a talk with your kids about how to use them safely," she said.
Whisper is another popular app parents need to know about.
"So you can just post an anonymous statement out on this app, but it is also tied to your geographical area," Bailey said.
KPRC 2 found one whisper that reads, "anyone wanna get high and go to the movies." Another one reads, "just want to have a nerf gun fight with a cute chick in our underwear is that too much to ask?"
"If you dig deeper into the app, you have the ability to chat and to now directly connect with that person. All of a sudden to anonymity is gone. It is tied to your Snapchat account and then it will find people for you to connect with and you can do a 15-second screen sharing," Bailey said.
The big concern is, what is your child putting on their live feed to strangers?
"Just getting to connect with strangers online is pretty popular for teens at the moment," McNeill said.
Another app to be aware of is called TextFree. It allows you to get a phone number for free and you can text from that number anonymously.
The concern here is bullying. Someone can start sending texts to others without them knowing who it is.
Here are resources for parents who want more control over their children’s devices:
- KIK - Safety resources for parents
- Facebook - Teen safety
- Instagram - Tips for parents
- Twitter - Safety on twitter
- Snapchat - Safety center
- Whisper - Community Safety