Tweens and Technology: What Parents Should Know About Apps

Authorities warn features of some apps could put kids at risk.

ByABC News
April 1, 2016, 7:23 AM

— -- Apps keep kids engaged and social but authorities warn that some features of those apps could put teens at risk.

The family of Gia Scavo Abgarian -- one of three young women killed last December in a Philadelphia car crash -- believes the filter that allows you to clock your speed on the Snapchat app played a role in her death.

“One friend said she was snapchatting all night,” Abgarian’s uncle, Jimmy Abgarian, said of his niece, who was a passenger. “In the car they were showing their speed, how fast they were going.”

Snapchat -- an app in which videos and messages quickly disappear – told ABC News it takes distracted driving “seriously.”

"Our hearts go out to these three women and their friends and family," a Snapchat spokesman told ABC News in response to the Abgarian family. "We work hard to keep our community safe and take distracted driving seriously, including a 'Do NOT Snap and Drive' warning message when this Geofilter is first accessed."

Pamela Casey, the district attorney in Blount County, Alabama, has been outspoken about the dangers of social media.

“There is a lot of good that can come with social media but there is a lot of bad,” Casey said. “We have children being killed across the country by people who are luring them through social media.”

Casey did, however, call the app Kik "the devil."

Kik is a messenger app that allows users to be anonymous. It made headlines in February when 13-year-old Nicole Lovell was murdered in Virginia. Police say she met the suspects involved in her murder on Kik.

"We have zero tolerance for any behavior that potentially affects the safety of our users. As well as our 24/7 support team, we offer blocking and reporting tools to allow users to flag unwanted content or contact," Kik said in a statement to ABC News. "We are also reviewing all aspects of safety across the company in an effort to further improve the experience of our users, and to further address the concerns of parents. We continue to cooperate with law enforcement as needed anywhere in the world.”

Omegle -- another app gaining attention from law enforcement -- puts two users in an anonymous chat room. On the app’s own front page is the warning, “Predators have been known to use Omegle so be careful.”

Police in New Mexico are now investigating the case of a stranger who allegedly targeted a 13-year-old girl on the app. The girl’s mother, Kelly Kolody, told local ABC affiliate KOAT-TV her daughter received inappropriate messages and threats within minutes of using the app.

“First it was very innocent then all of a sudden the person on the other end started becoming vulgar,” Kolody said.

Omegle did not respond to multiple requests for comment from ABC News. The app explains on its homepage to users that, “The people you encounter on Omegle may not behave appropriately and they are solely responsible for their own behavior."

Casey tells parents that their kids’ phones expose them to the world.

“By giving your child a phone you are opening a door to the world and inviting them into your home,” she said.