Teens must be wary of these two social media platforms, warns cybersecurity expert

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A cybersecurity expert has warned teenagers to be wary when using their phones. (Getty Images)

Teenagers should steer clear of certain online services to avoid their private data being mined for profit, a cybersecurity expert has warned.

Oversharing information on certain platforms could also potentially lead to data leaking online and it is crucial parents educate children about these risks, the expert said.

Tom Gaffney, from cybersecurity firm F-Secure, says that almost all online services are "data hungry" and that teenagers should either avoid them or be extremely careful around several in particular.

Gaffney said that recent F-Secure research found that just 17% of 16 to 24-year-olds worry about their data leaking, despite 23% having had data leak within the past year.

Parents and teenagers should be extremely careful around social media – and two services in particular posing problems, TikTok and Snapchat – Gaffney says.

Teenagers should question which apps they use for privacy reasons. (Getty Images)
Teenagers should question which apps they use for privacy reasons. (Getty Images)

Why do apps target young people?

"From a privacy perspective, when apps target teens and younger people as they are more likely to overshare and provide a wealth of their personal information willingly," said Gaffney.

"The main driver for this level of data capture is monetisation. Providers ask for lots of data, collect it and often monetise it for advertising purposes.

"While adults are more hesitant to overshare their personal details, younger people and teens are more likely to offer up their personal information with online service and apps, especially when there is peer pressure to be part of an online group."

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How can you educate children about data risks?

Gaffney believes it's important to educate young people about data security.

He said: "Explain why passwords should be unique and changed often and introduce them to a password manager to manage their security.

"Get your teens to regularly check if their data has been compromised using an identity theft checker tool, which can be particularly helpful as new services and apps are often used by teens with little consideration for safety."

Tom Gaffney of F-Secure (F-Secure)
Cybersecurity expert Tom Gaffney warned teenagers to be aware of what they do with their data when online. (F-Secure)

Is TikTok safe for teens?

TikTok has introduced safety measures, such as ensuring that accounts for 13 to 15-year-olds are set to private by default – but concerns remain.

"TikTok, which is particularly popular among teens, has been fined by both UK and EU regulators over data privacy and processing concerns," Gaffney says.

"Although they have subsequently taken action to tackle the issues raised by regulators, teenagers and young people should proceed with caution when using platforms and take an interest in the privacy settings of all the apps they use."

Why should parents be wary about Snapchat?

Snapchat's "disappearing" messages may give young people a false sense of security, Gaffney warns.

"Snapchat is another go-to messaging platform for teens," he said. "It's appeal is that messages and pictures can be set to disappear after a certain time, giving users a sense that the platform is more private than others.

"But images and messages can be easily screen-grabbed so it’s still important to be cautious about what is shared.

"Anything people share online should be considered as open to the world. Snapchat was one of the last messaging platforms to introduce encryption and only does so for pictures, not chat."