A look into the some of the scariest Apps for your kids

I work in public relations at Cook Children's. It’s my job to be on social networking sites, peruse the internet and keep up with the latest Apps offered on smartphones. It’s a great job and I love what I do, but over the last couple years, I have learned so much about the dangers of Smart Phone Apps. It’s downright scary.

Technology, especially if you’re a little behind the times, can be very deceptive. Your kids may be downloading Apps that you think are innocent and just a simple way for them to keep in contact with their buddies, but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

To keep your children safe, it’s best that you monitor their phone. Look through their apps, texts and pictures. They may feel that you’re invading their privacy, but let’s be honest… You’re paying the phone bill, so you can do whatever you want! So, as you monitor your kid’s phone, keep an eye out for these 7 apps you may not be aware of, that in my opinion are very dangerous:

  • Yik Yak – This App is one of the newest and one of the most dangerous. It allows users to post text-only Yaks of up to 200 characters. The messages can be viewed by the 500 Yakkers who are closest to the person who wrote the Yak, as determined by GPS tracking. Users are exposed to – and contributing -sexually explicit content, abusive language and personal attacks so severe that schools are starting to block the App on their Wi-Fi. Although the posts are anonymous, kids start revealing personal information as they get more comfortable with other users.
  • SnapChat – This App allows users to send photos that will disappear after 10 seconds. Once the recipient opens the picture, the timer starts. Then it’s gone. From both the sender's phone and the recipient’s phone. However, the recipient can take a screen shot of the photo and have it to share with others. This App enables kids to feel more comfortable “sexting” with peers.
  • KiK Messenger – This is a private messenger app and is coveted by those under 18 for a number of reasons. The App allows kids to send private messages that their parents can’t see. There is very little you can do to verify the identity of someone on Kik, which obviously poses the risk of sexual predators chatting with your child. And again, this is an easy tool for sexting.
  • Poof –The Poof App allows users to make Apps disappear on their phone with one touch. Kids can hide every app they don’t want you to see on their phone. All they have to do is open the App and select the ones they don’t want you to see. Very scary! The good news about this App is it is no longer available, which isn't uncommon for these types of Apps. But, if it was downloaded before it was deleted from the App store, your child may still have it. Keep in mind that Apps like this are created and then terminated pretty quickly by Android and Apple stores, but there are similar ones being created constantly. Some other names include: Hidden Apps, App Lock and Hide It Pro.
  • Omegle – This App has been around since 2008, with video chat added in 2009.  When you use Omegle you do not identify yourself through the service – chat participants are only identified as “You” and “Stranger”. You don't have to register for the App. However, you can connect Omegle to your Facebook account to find chat partners with similar interests.  When choosing this feature, an Omegle Facebook App will receive your Facebook “likes” and try to match you with a stranger with similar likes. This is not okay for children. There is a high risk of sexual predators and you don’t want your kids giving out their personal information, much less even talking to strangers.
  • Whisper – This is a meeting App that encourages users to post secrets. You post anonymously, but it displays the area you are posting from. You can search for users posting within a mile from you. A quick look at the App and you can see that online relationships are forming constantly on this App, but you never know the person behind the computer or phone. One man in Washington was convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl he met on this App just last year.
  • Down – This application, which used to be called “Bang with Friends,” is connected to Facebook. Users can categorize their Facebook friends in one of two ways: they can indicate whether or not a friend is someone they'd like to hang with or someone they are "down" to hook up with. The slogan for the App: “The anonymous, simple, fun way to find friends who are down for the night.” If that alone doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will!

I know it's overwhelming to keep up with your kids and their online habits. But just remember to check their phones often, and even more importantly have real life conversations with them. Discuss the dangers of the Apps and make sure they understand the need to keep personal information private.

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John Pinette was found dead on April 6. The comedian was discovered in his Pittsburgh hotel room around 2:30 p.m., according to the Allegheny County medical examiner's office.

TMZ reports that Pinette was suffering from liver and heart disease. Though no autopsy has been performed, his manager, Larry Schapiro, told the Hollywood Reporter that Pinette died from a pulmonary embolism.

In August of 2013, Pinette cancelled a standup routine and checked into rehab for prescription pill addiction. He was currently on tour from April to June, with set dates scheduled through the U.S. and Canada.

Pinette's resume includes films such as "The Punisher" (2004) and "The Last Godfather" (2010). He is best known for his 1998 role in "Seinfeld," as the man who was mugged in the final episode of the show (see video below).

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Mickey Rooney, an award-winning actor and Hollywood legend who appeared in more than 300 films and TV programs, died on April 6, Variety reported. Cause of death was not released. He was 93.

Born Joe Yule Jr. in Brooklyn, N.Y., Rooney was only 17 months old when he took the stage in his parents' vaudeville act. After adopting the stage name of Mickey Rooney at the age of 7, he appeared in his first film, launching a career that would span nearly his entire life.

Rooney was still a teenager when he played Andy Hardy in the 1937 film "A Family Affair." The popular character, as played by Rooney, would appear in 14 more films and make him a top star at the box office. During Hollywood's golden years, the five-foot-three cherubic-faced actor worked with many of the silver screen's greatest leading ladies, including Elizabeth Taylor in "National Velvet," Judy Garland in "Thoroughbreds Don't Cry" and "Babes In Arms" and Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast At Tiffany's."

Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in a scene from the film "Andy Hardy Meets Debutante," 1940. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

Rooney was the first teenager to be nominated for an Oscar in a leading role andreceived a special juvenile Academy Award in 1938 after appearing in "Boys Town" with Spencer Tracy. He would earn four additional Oscar nominations for his work in "Babes In Arms," "The Human Comedy," "The Bold and the Brave" and "The Black Stallion," and receive an Academy Honorary Award "in recognition of his 50 years of versatility" in film. More recently, he appeared in "Night At The Museum" (2006) with Ben Stiller, and "The Muppets" (2011) starring Amy Adams and Jason Segel.

Rooney's work in television was no less lauded. He appeared in dozens of programs from 1954 to 2009, received two Golden Globe Awards and won an Emmy for his tender performance as a mentally challenged man in the 1981 TV movie "Bill."

According to USA Today, Laurence Olivier called Rooney "the greatest actor of them all."

Spencer Tracy grabbing the shirt of Mickey Rooney in a scene from the film "Boys Town," 1938. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

During World War II, Rooney served for more than 21 months, working as a radio personality on the American Forces Network and entertaining more than 2 million troops. His efforts earned him a Bronze Star, Parade reported.

Rooney's personal life was was no less notable. Contract disputes with MGM, a bankruptcy and eight failed marriages, including one union to movie star Ava Gardner, made him fodder for the tabloids. And when he filed elder abuse and fraud charges against his stepson Christopher Aber and Aber's wife in 2011, his name appeared in headlines again. This incident also prompted him to testify before a special Senate committee  considering legislation to curb abuses of senior citizens.

Rooney's autobiography "Life Is Too Short" was published in 1993. The following year he penned the murder mystery "The Search for Sonny Skies." Rooney was also the father of 12 children.

Mickey Rooney died on April 6. He was 93.

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“Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.” ~ Cicero

“I don’t know what to do.”

“I can’t figure it out.”

“How do I know which choice to make?”

“Which one is right for me?”

Sound like someone you know? Here’s one thing I know for sure: You’ve got the power. You’ve got the love.

You’ve got the innate talent—your gorgeous, loveable soul—to know without a doubt what is right for you. You’ve got the power to know what to do, to figure it out, to know which choice to make. Your soul is calling. And all you need to do is listen.

At one time not so long ago my innate talent was ignoring my soul. I had developed an acute ability for lasering ahead no matter what my essential self was saying—even when it was “Wrong way!”

I set goals and made plans and went for it no matter what—and soon I was a stressed-out, exhausted insomniac. So that was fun.

In fact, fun was exactly what was missing from my life. I put external touchstones ahead of inner happiness. I let my ego tell me what to do, based on what I thought the standards for success were.

I bought into the mantra: Work, work, work and then work more. You can enjoy your life when you’re retired. It was no wonder my entire system went into revolt; it’s no wonder our systems do that. They’re designed to tell us when we’re off track.

They’re designed to tell us when we’re on track, too. It’s like magic—except scientifically-proven. The verbal part of our brain processes about forty bits of information per second. That’s pretty impressive.

The non-verbal part of our brain processes about eight to eleven million bits of information per second. Eight to eleven million!

That means that the thoughts we hear from the verbal part of our brain actually know less than the physical sensations and emotions that we feel coming from the non-verbal part of our brain.

So if “I don’t want to make this one choice but everyone tells me I should” seems logical, but every physical sensation or emotion about it just feels so wrong, it probably is. Wrong, that is.

Wondering how to tap into your own innate talent for knowing how to live the life that’s right for you and be who you want to be? Start small.

7 Steps for Hearing Your Own Inner Wisdom

1. Start small.

Begin with simply noticing physical sensations. Check in with your body from time to time. What physical sensations are you noticing right now?

2. Fine tune.

Once you start to check in with your body, you’ll probably also notice emotions, and associations with whether or not the emotions you’re feeling are good or bad. It’s normal—but in this case it’s not all that helpful. Keep on fine-tuning your radar until you’re paying attention to only physical sensations.

3. Benchmark your “yes.”

Make a list of times that you knew things were right for you, or felt that things were exactly as they were meant to be, really great, going well, etc. Then do a body scan: What physical sensations do you feel? Write ‘em down and then label them.

4. Benchmark your “no.”

Make a list of times that you knew things were not right for you, or felt that things were not as they were meant to be, not going great or well, etc. Then do a body scan: What physical sensations do you feel? Write ‘em down and then label them.

5. Practice.

You’ve just created your body compass. Using it is fun. Orange or apple? Imagine making each choice and then see what physical sensations come up—closer to “yes” or closer to “no”?

6. Trust.

The verbal part of your brain might come up with all sorts of reasons why you shouldn’t trust your body compass. Practicing on the little things helps to build up enough trust to use it on the big decisions.

7. Live it in the moment.

Once you’ve got your compass down pat, keep on using it. Living it in the moment is about remembering your innate talent for knowing, and using it with reckless abandon and firm intention.

What’s your inner wisdom telling you?

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Nobody in his right mind would buy a cell phone for a child who’s still learning how to tie his shoes. But you might buy him a FiLIP.

The $200 FiLIP is a clever way for parents to keep a closer eye on their wee ones without having to buy them mobile phones or GPS tracking devices that they will inevitably lose, break, or cover in peanut butter.

Calling all kids

If you’re old enough to remember Dick Tracy’s Two-Way Wrist Radio, you know nearly everything you need to know about the FiLIP. It’s a watch that doubles as an extremely basic phone, made from colorful high-impact rubber and designed to fit the wrists of kids from 4 to 8. It’s water resistant and sturdy enough to take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.

There are just two buttons: a big red one to make calls, and a smaller green one to cycle through the child’s list of contacts. Using a smartphone app, you can add up to five contacts that your nubbin can call via the FiLIP; these are also the only numbers that can call it. To make a call, your child selects a contact and speaks into a small mic below the watch face. Using the app, you can also send a text message of up to 24 characters to your child, which displays on the screen. There’s no way for him to send a text back, however.

FiLIP uses GPS, cell towers, and open WiFi hotspots to locate your child on a map; you can view up to the last 48 hours of his locations on your phone. You can create up to five SafeZones and get alerts when your child enters or leaves one.

The phone’s big red button also doubles as a panic button. Hold it down for three seconds, and it connects to an automated operator, who then proceeds to call each contact on the list until it reaches someone, and then connects that person via voice to the child’s watch. It does not connect your child to 911 services.

And, oh yeah—it also tells time.

Not in Kansas anymore

Which is not to say that the FiLIP is an absolutely flawless mobile companion for your pre-tween. In my limited testing, location accuracy was spotty, sometimes two or three blocks from the device’s actual spot.

Due to a glitch in the Android interface, the FiLIP app kept creating SafeZones in the middle of Kansas—not a place I visit very often. It took a few calls to tech support to straighten that one out. (The company says it will be updating the interface to fix that.)

To use FiLIP, you’ll have to pony up $10 a month to AT&T for its wireless service. For reasons that remain unclear, I had difficulty activating the watch with my Android phone (which is on a different AT&T plan). Your mileage may vary.

Finally, the FiLIP wristband is small and not at all adjustable. It will fit most small children just fine; a hefty 8- or 9-year-old, probably not. FiLIP Technologies CEO Jonathan Peachey says the company is exploring new designs that will fit larger wrists but has no timetable for when these might arrive.

On the right track

Putting a location tracking device on a small child may seem excessive, but you don’t have to be a helicopter parent to appreciate the peace of mind FiLIP can bring.

The company was created, in fact, after founder Sten Kirkbak lost his then-3-year-old son inside a mall. He found him 30 minutes later, at which point Kirkbak decided to invent a device that would ensure that that kind of wild parental panic never had to happen to him or anyone else, ever again.

His son’s name? Filip, of course. 

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