How to protect your kids from risky smartphone apps

Author: CBS News

Nearly three-fourths of American teenagers own smartphones — many filled with social media apps. Thirty-one percent of teens are connected to friends they have not met in person, and 32 percent have been contacted online by a complete stranger, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

Alabama’s Blount County District Attorney Pamela Casey is raising awareness about smartphone dangers for children. Casey joined “CBS This Morning” to discuss the risks and how parents can protect their kids by changing the settings on their phones.

Casey’s interest in the subject began with an upset phone call from one of her friends whose daughter had been taking inappropriate photos.

“She said she found them in a vault app which is basically like a calculator but you put in a certain pass code it took you to a vault that she had hidden all these photos that she had been sharing,” Casey said.

Screenshots of a calculator “vault” app which uses a password to privately store photos and videos. CBS NEWS

The mother told Casey, “You’ve got to tell everybody.”

So, she did. The district attorney made a video about it and it went viral.

“As a result of that it’s become my new mission to educate parents,” Casey said.

Despite that fact that she is in law enforcement, the district attorney admits it’s hard for even her to keep up with the new technology.

“There will always be a new app every day with the same dangers,” Casey said.

Casey shared some of the risks associated with popular apps.

An app called Yellow, for example, allows users to find new friends and chat. Casey calls it “Tinder for Teens” and noted the dangers of the default settings which share the user’s location and phone number. is a live video streaming app that also concerns Casey because lets strangers view each other’s videos and also allows users to share their location.’s parent company issued a statement that reads, “We strongly encourage parents to review and adjust privacy settings.”

There is an Apple rating associated with every app to help determine whether it’s safe for your child to use or not. For example, a 17+ rating means it’s rated for people 17 years or older.

However, Casey warned, “There’s nothing that keeps you or makes you prove that you’re 17 or older.”

“A lot of parents don’t realize you can actually go into the iPhone and turn off your child’s ability to even download an app. You can turn off the camera and you can turn off installing.”

*This report was originally published on CBS News. 

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