boy on cell phone

Giving kids rattlesnakes—sex, predators, and apps (Part II)

Cell phones are like venomous snakes for children. Even so, a lot of kids have them or will soon have them. What’s the threat and how can you help understand the threat in order to best protect them?

Warning: For those who are victims or who have experienced primary or vicarious trauma, this article may trigger some strong emotions. Getting professional help and counseling is an important way to heal.

This article has two main parts: What are kids doing and what are they doing with their phones? What apps are prevalent and dangerous? 

What’s happening? 

Some kids are going to sex parties and are engaging in some kind of sex act with anyone and everyone who’s there, regardless of gender. Some kids are randomly “hooking up” with strangers online just to have sex or engage in a sex act.

Kids are FaceTiming each other while showering. They’re making, sending, and receiving pornographic images of themselves and/or their peers—kids under 18 years old! Some are videoing sex acts in school buildings, school parking lots, and other locations and then sending it to others. When someone watches a video, it can be recorded by the viewer and subsequently published almost anywhere online.

Both pressures to send nude pictures and blackmailing kids once they send nude images happens far too often. This blackmailing, called sextortion, leads to kids feeling forced to perform sex acts “or else,” for example, those pictures/videos of them naked or having sex will be published or sent to others.

When a person receives a naked image of another person who is under 18 years of age, that is considered child pornography. Every single image can be considered a felony—a criminal charge that includes both jail time and fees. If someone takes a picture of a kid (or themselves) and sends it, even if the nude or partially nude image(s) is of a peer, that’s considered production of child pornography.

When the image(s) is sent, that’s considered distribution of child porn. Both production and distribution of child porn are felonies. Furthermore, in Utah, an additional charge of child endangerment can occur against those who are culpable of the criminal elements.

Kids are often sending nude pictures to each other. Kids are getting pressured to send pictures of themselves before going on dates. Sometimes images are made that show the face of a person but the naked body of another person through photograph manipulation. These are non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

Many states are making this illegal. (Note: Kids—minors—cannot give consent.) When children are involved or children use photoshop-type programs to create nude pictures, this can and does lead to a host of problems and issues, too. 

Additionally, there’s also far too much catfishing happening. Catfishing is when someone poses as someone they’re not. For instance, a creepy old man living in his mother’s basement could be posing as a 15-year-old boy using stolen images from other kids online. These predators end up chatting with young, ignorant, and naïve girls and/or boys.

The next thing that happens is complete and total danger, especially if any personal information is given out or if they meet up. By the way, it’s easy to get a lot of personal information via a brief internet or social media search.

While there are dangerous predators who do evil things, some kids are just curious about sex and naked bodies. We are sexual beings, so there’s a natural curiosity when maturation begins. However, pornography ruins love,[1] distorts reality, and can crush healthy sexual relationships. Additionally, porn can turn a natural curiosity into a poisonous addiction.

Apps and the internet provide a sea of filth for children who are often victims to such images long before understanding what real love is. In fact, some images can make sex shocking and inhibitive instead of sparking curiosity. Years ago, a young person would have to search out nude images, now millions of images and/or videos can be accessed literally anywhere with the touch of a finger.

Popular dangerous apps

Tech-savvy kids can access porn or engage in hook-ups from just about anywhere. There are so-called dating or networking apps that allow kids to link up—or “hook up” and have sex—with other app users who are within a certain radius. Catfishing happens with these apps too. A young, curious, and vulnerable child can get into real trouble, real fast—kidnapping, sextortion, sex trafficking, etc. 

New apps appear almost daily so it’s difficult to keep up to date, but here are some popular ones:

·  Instagram is full of adult content and now has a vanish mode. 

·  KIK is an instant messaging app free from parental controls.

·  Vine has 6-second video clips. 

·  Snapchat has photo and video messaging. Snapchat continues to be one of the most popular and dangerous apps for sexting, porn, and so forth.

·  Secret Calculator. This app looks like a normal calculator, but a quick password allows users to unlock secret videos and photos.

·  KEEK gives users a chance to upload video content through major social media networks.

·  Tinder is an online dating app that allows users who are 12-years-old, even though anyone could lie about their age anyway. This and some other matchmaking sites—including homosexual sites—are known for casual sex “hook ups.”

·  POOF allows users to hide apps from their screens.

· is often used in cyber bullying. Unfortunately, bullying revolves around sex, rumors, and sexual parts, too.

·  Down. This app was rebranded after it was removed from the App Store. It was intended to link up people on Facebook for casual sexual encounters. 

·  Omegle & ChatRoulette is a chat service that allows anonymous users to randomly chat with total strangers using instant messaging and video. As mentioned, these video chats (or video nudes) can be easily recorded by the viewer and then posted online.

·  Whisper. With this app, the user submits anonymous questions and/or confessions as a photo or text, allowing others to reply or comment.

·  Jott is a messaging app that works without WiFi and within a 100-foot area.

·  Tumblr has a high amount of pornographic material and allows users to microblog content.

·  MeetMe is an online flirting social network site formerly called MyYearbook. Much of the communication has “flirty” overtones.

·  Twitter has adult content and other inappropriate content that can be easily accessed.

·  Yik Yak allows users to post anonymous comments to other users within 10 miles.[2]

Internet games like Roblox and/or Minecraft have message boards where any random stranger can strike up a conversation with young kids. Of course, this can lead—and has led—to devastating tragedies. 

In part III, I’ll outline some things that parents can do to stop the dangerous precedence of poisoning our youth. 

[1] Perry, S. L. (2020). Pornography and relationship quality: Establishing the dominant pattern by examining pornography use and 31 measures of relationship quality in 30 national surveys. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49(4), 1199–1213. 

[2] Utah Attorney General Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. (n.d.). Apps: Where the kids live

Jeffrey Denning

Jeffrey has written award-winning articles for the Washington Times,, and other publications. He is the author of seven books, including Warrior SOS: Military Veterans’ Stories of Faith, Emotional Survival and Living with PTSD. He teaches courses on peer support, suicide prevention, and other mental wellness and resilience to public safety professionals. If you would like Jeff to speak at your event or training please contact him HERE.

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