The School’s Guide to Apps Students Are Using: Top 10 Most Popular & Dangerous

Technology plays a significant role in today’s classrooms. Unfortunately, anonymous messaging apps, random video chats, and other platforms that lock or hide other apps raise…

Technology plays a significant role in today’s classrooms. Unfortunately, anonymous messaging apps, random video chats, and other platforms that lock or hide other apps raise safety and security concerns for educators.  Despite efforts to educate students, they don’t always exercise good judgment. Some of the more commonly used apps among students exhibit safety concerns that educators must be aware of. It might surprise you to know they include Discord, Kik, TikTok, and more. 

A recent study shows 23% of registered apps in the US are likely non-compliant with COPPA. 

Most Popular (And Often Dangerous) Apps Students Use 


Discord is a messaging platform very similar to Slack and features chatrooms, direct messaging, voice chat, and video calls. Users can join different “servers,” and within each server are different “channels,” a bit like chat rooms, which can be used for anything, from huge public video game servers to small, private groups of friends.  

So, why is Discord considered one of many dangerous apps? Because it can expose children to various types of inappropriate content, from hate speech and porn to bullying and online predators. Bark’s 2022 annual reportfound Discord consistently ranked in the top five platforms for bullying, suicidal ideation, body image, and more. Even though it’s popular among teens, Discord is used by more than just kids, which means adult content is accessible everywhere on the app. It can be easy for kids to get involved in a Discord server, make “friends,” and then be influenced by adult abusers. 


Zoomerang is one of the most popular apps right now. It’s a simple video creator that can capture short videos, apply filters, and add special effects and background music. Users can share these videos on social media. It’s a popular tool for Instagram and TikTok and is known for its simplified tutorials, making video creation and editing accessible to almost everyone. One concerning feature is location tracking. This can allow online predators to see the user’s location when using the app. The Zoomerang app is rated E for Everyone. However, risk is involved anywhere a child can share videos of themselves. It’s easy to screenshot portions of a video to manipulate them and to take brief moments out of context. Cyberbullying does occur regularly utilizing this tactic.  

Among Us 

Among Us is an online multiplayer social deduction game. It takes place in a space-themed setting and players take on one of two roles. They then try to determine who the imposters are. It requires four to ten players to start a game. In 2020, the game was hacked, and the hacker messaged players with promotions to visit his YouTube channel and server. They both contained racist language, gore, pornography, and extremist political views. The hacker also sent disturbing messages right within the game. In addition, parents might be concerned about their children playing multiplayer games with strangers as you never know who these players might be and what they may share throughout the game.  


TikTok is an app for creating and sharing short videos. Users can create short music videos of 3 to 15 seconds and short looping videos of 3 seconds to 10 minutes. It encourages users to express themselves creatively through video. Special effects can be added to the videos. Thirteen is the minimum age, but there isn’t a real way to validate age, so anyone can download the app. Many parents have expressed concern there is a lot of inappropriate language and content in certain videos. Lastly, all accounts are set to public by default so strangers can contact your students.  


YouTube is a place to house and share your videos. You can control privacy settings. It’s also an excellent resource for educational videos and entertainment. Inappropriate content has been sliced into both all-ages content and children’s content. Comments on videos can be extremely inappropriate and hurtful. YouTube also has a known pedophile problem, which is a major cause for concern.  

YouTube is an interesting app because it also includes a wide variety of educational content, so blocking the site completely can have a detrimental effect on learning. Learn more about granular domain controls offered by ContentKeeper so you can provide safe access to websites like YouTube.  


Bigo is a live streaming app. It is rated for teens 17 and up. Users can vlog about their lives, live stream video gameplay, and host their own shows. There is no age verification and users must provide personal info like their age and location. This is where bullying, nudity, violence, and profanity are common.  


IMVU is a virtual world game like SIMS. Users interact with each other as avatars. IMVU stands for Instant Messaging Virtual Universe. There is nudity and sexual encounters in areas that are for 18+, but there is sexual discussion and behaviors in the regular area of IMVU as well. There is also a Chat Now feature that randomly pairs users with other users and can lead to inappropriate pairings and interactions. All profiles are public and there can be bullying and predators trying to get other users to share their phone numbers and send pictures.  


Tinder developers describe the app as “the fun way to connect with new and interesting people around you.” But it’s mainly used as a dating app or an anonymous hook-up (read: one-night stand) locator by 20-somethings, college students, and even younger teens and tweens. The app is rated 17+, but Tinder’s privacy policy allows 13-year-olds to register. The geo-location features and anonymous nature of the app put kids at risk for catfishing, sexual harassment, stalking, and worse.  


Kik allows users to text with friends at high speed and with more of a “face-to-face feel” than regular texting. The app is rated 13+ and is most popular in Europe but is catching on in the U.S. Some kids have used the app for hurtful cyberbullying that has been linked to suicides, including the death of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick of Florida. There is the more recent issue where a young girl was lured to her death through the use of Kik app lets users interact with friends, peers, and anonymous users in a question-and-answer format. The app is rated 13+ and is most popular in Europe, but it has become popular in the U.S. Some kids have used the app for hurtful cyberbullying that has been linked to suicides 


Voxer walkie-talkie PTT (push-to-talk) app allows users to exchange short voice messages quickly. They can have chats with multiple people at a time and just have to tap the play button to hear any messages they receive. Although it has an adult following, including some people who use it for their jobs, it’s becoming popular among teens who enjoy its hybrid style of texting and talking. Hurtful messages from cyberbullies can be even more biting when they’re spoken and can be played repeatedly. Surprisingly, the app is rated ages 4+ in the App Store.  

The Danger of These Apps 

Accessing these apps on school devices poses many potential threats, such as: 

  • Student and Staff Safety Risk 
  • Distraction from Learning 
  • Cyberbullying 
  • Privacy Concerns 
  • Inappropriate Content 
  • Potential for Online Predators 
  • Reduced Face-to-Face Interaction 
  • Academic Dishonesty 
  • Device Security Risks 
  • Excessive Bandwidth 

The number one concern in all schools is keeping the students and staff safe. This can be at risk where there is an issue with a student who is bullying, being bullied, or worse. Social media and messaging apps can be breeding grounds for many types of abuse. Students use some to target their peers where the potential adverse emotional and psychological effects for the victims are endless. Many apps open new opportunities for harm. Additionally, these apps are a distraction during class time, leading to a decrease in focus and performance. 

Students may be unaware of the privacy implications when using certain apps, and they might inadvertently share sensitive information. This leads to issues like identity theft or inappropriate use of personal data. More importantly, they expose students to inappropriate content, which could be harmful or unsuitable for their age group. Exposure to explicit content can have devastating effects on children, who have no actual knowledge or the capacity to comprehend what they’re seeing fully. Finally, the anonymity provided by certain apps can create an environment where online predators may attempt to exploit or harm unsuspecting students. 

Consumes Massive Amounts of School’s Bandwidth 

While there is a severe risk to students and staff, there is also the issue of data consumption. The amount of data these apps need to function is shocking. Discord, for example, can take hundreds of gigabytes per user. Downloading and using unauthorized apps also exposes school devices to security risks, including malware and other cyber threats. 

It’s essential for teachers and school administrators to be aware of the apps students are using and to educate them about responsible and safe online behavior. Implementing appropriate policies and monitoring tools can help address these concerns and create a safer digital learning environment. Keep in mind that the popularity of apps can change rapidly, so it’s a good idea to stay informed about current trends and issues in the digital landscape. 

Taking Web Filtering Software to the Next Level  

To support effective control over access to these apps and maintain good bandwidth usage, schools like Frenship ISD are using Impero ContentKeeper’s App Defender.  

ContentKeeper is an award-winning powerful web filter currently being used across the globe and is one of the products under Impero’s umbrella of products. This security gateway helps prevent ransomware, with a critical security layer that: 

  • Identifies applications by signature  
  • Blocks apps that move from port to port  
  • Prevents Tor, x-VPN, BitTorrent, Crypto  
  • Reports on apps in your network so you know what’s in your environment 

By adding our unique App Defender to ContentKeeper, schools can detect over 100 apps by signature, with the ability to block websites and apps. Districts can keep pace with students’ eagerness to bypass filtering with a multi-layer security strategy that keeps student safety front and center.  

Take your security and control to the next level with Impero ContentKeeper’s App Defender and strengthen holistic defense-in-depth strategies. App Defender offers easy management and security for total network control over full sites, individual content and apps on managed and unmanaged devices. IT administrators can see a complete overview of all the reporting components, such as circumvention attempts, which can be viewed as an individual report to identify and block the source.   

Our award-winning innovative web filtering solution provides real-time visibility, granular controls, and age-appropriate policy management on any device and web browser. Students will have a positive and safe user experience, while administrators always have complete visibility into student and network activity. This includes their attempt at circumventing the filter. It allows you to stop over-blocking while providing secure access to valuable online educational content teachers need.   

ContentKeeper can easily be integrated with other Impero solutions, such as classroom-level support tools, for a wholly proactive and strategic approach. Impero Classroom, our classroom management solution and Impero Wellbeing’s robust keyword detection and succinct analytics can help teachers identify vulnerable students and keep them safe and on task.   

Discover how our products work together for the holistic approach you seek and book a demo today. And stay up to date on industry trends and product news by following us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.  

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