Investigators, parents warn of potential dangers with Mappen app

On Your Side Investigation

Police warn about new location tracking app

(WBRC) - A popular app among teens is raising the alarm with law enforcement. Police say the Mappen app could be another vehicle for sexual predators.

Michele Cavenaugh keeps the potential threats her and her husband's four kids face on social media at the back of her mind.

"We even have accounts on most of their stuff, so we can spy on them,” Cavenaugh said.

And in the eyes of law enforcement, they're doing the right thing.

"The internet crimes against children is non-stop here. It's constantly happening,” Sgt. Daphne Lindsey with the Lee County, GA Sheriffs Office said.

Those who investigate crimes against children say one of the biggest dangers for kids on social media is the possibility of them talking and connecting with pedophiles.

"Social media apps like Snapchat, Instagram, none of them are safe. Children are not responsible enough for social media,” Lindsey said.

That includes an app that came out last October called Mappen. It tells the people you accept as “friends” where you’re at, all the time.

"You have some criminals out there that are looking for children and finding out where they are is their main purpose," Lindsey said.

The concern is that kids are trusting and may add people they don't know.

"They go by the name that they have on their handle, which could be unicorns and butterflies. And they just think automatically that they're a kid and that they're safe,” Cavenaugh said.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children published a study showing 46% of 10 to 17-year olds surveyed admitted to giving out their personal information to someone they didn't know.

“Our main concern and why we investigate these are for the pedophiles who are out there looking for children,” Lindsey said.

But in the face of these dangers, investigators say parents have complete and total control over keeping their children from falling victim. That includes keeping location services off on kids phones or tablets to keep from putting a target on your child's back.

And for Cavenaugh, all those things, among other steps, put her mind at ease.

"I go through their messages on their phone, and if there's people that message them that seem like kids and stuff, either I will message them back to see if they say anything or delete it,” Cavenaugh added.

We reached out to the creators of "Mappen" to hear their thoughts on what dangers law enforcement say come with apps that share locations. The app's CEO and Co-Founder, Jared Allgood, sent us a statement:

"Mappen was designed to combat increased feelings of isolation among people by giving them an easier way to find their friends and meet up in real life. We think a lot about safety.

We have teenagers ourselves and we built Mappen specifically to improve their wellbeing. Health and safety are the heart of our mission and the reasons we built the app. In addition to making it easy for real friends to get together in real life, we’ve built the app with safety in mind. This includes things like like one-tap access to your friend list, offline mode, not letting you search for users, and letting you know your friends got home safely after hanging out. Mappen also uses phone verification and algorithmic name verification to make sure users are who they say they are.

You must be over 13 to use Mappen (per Mappen Terms of Service).

You can only add friends if you have them in your phone contact list or they are a friend of a friend, so you won’t get requests from strangers.

On sign up you must verify your phone number and we algorithmically verify your name and show it to people you request.

Users can remove “friends” and go “offline” with a single tap.

Mappen encourages users to only add people they know and trust in real life.

Like all social media, parents should be involved in how their teens use Mappen." - Jared Allgood, Mappen CEO/Co-Founder

The statement also stated the app uses phone verification and algorithmic name verification, to make sure users are who they say they are.

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