Smartphone app safety: Resources for parents

Want to know what's really on your kid's phone?

Killer App
Killer App 44:06

There are many organizations that are working tirelessly to help educate parents on the dangers of social media. 


  1. Stay up to date -- Make sure you install the latest software and app updates.
  2. Use strong passwords.
  3. Turn on two-factor authentication.
  4. Use a password manager.
  5. Take care with links in emails and texts.
  6. Don't give away too much information.

Tips from D.A. Pam Casey

Blount County, Alabama,  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 shared some of the risks associated with popular apps:  

  • An app called Yubo [formerly called Yellow], for example works though SnapChat and 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 to CBS News 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."

Tips for parents from social media companies

Most social media companies include a "tips for parents" or "safety center" on their websites.  It's important to learn what social media networks your child plugs into and understand how they work.  Some sites also offer email addresses you can reach out to with questions.  Here are just a few sites that provide tips for parents.

Parental control apps and websites

There are apps and websites parents can download to help monitor children's online activity.  Here are just a few of the many services, that come with a fee, that can help you detect cyber bullying, sexting, and contact with online predators.

Built-in parental controls on smartphones

Most smartphones have parental controls built in.  For example, here's Apple's page on how to quickly and easily put you, the parent, in control.  Parents can set a passcode that only they know, and limit access to a variety of features offered by the phone, such as visiting the web and downloading new apps

Android phones have parental control settings too.  If you're having trouble locating security settings, you can always bring the phone back to the store where you bought it so they can help you set up.

Monitoring services through your wireless provider

Many wireless providers offer monitoring services integrated right into your phone plan.  Some even allow you to pick certain "curfews" that restrict access to features on the phone at times of your choosing.  It may be hard to tell who your child is chatting with on social media, but if you instead provide your child access to a mobile text messaging plan, you can go on your phone provider's website or refer to a paper bill to see exactly what phone numbers your child has been communicating with.

Here are links to more information on parental controls offered by several of the major mobile providers.  Fees may apply.  You can also call your phone company to ask what services are available. 


Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force

A national network of more than 60 coordinated law enforcement task forces across the county. These agencies conduct investigations involving child abuse and exploitation online. 

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

A non-profit organization dedicated to helping find missing children, reduce child exploitation and prevent child victimization.

Project Safe Childhood

A nationwide initiative launched by the Department of Justice May of 2006 to fight the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.

UNH Crimes Against Children Research Center

An organization at the University of New Hampshire aimed at combatting crimes against children by offering a variety of research and tools.

National Cyber Security Alliance

A group dedicated to Internet safety and security.

Help Save the Next Girl

A non-profit organization that helps media and law enforcement spread urgent information about missing persons.