Catfishing Apps Let Kids Fake Everything from Texts to Tweets

It can be hard to tell what's real when people use these apps. By Christine Elgersma
Catfishing Apps Let Kids Fake Everything from Texts to Tweets

From Shakespeare to TV sitcoms, the idea of pretending to be someone you're not never gets old. In the online world, there's a name for it -- "catfishing" -- and it's common enough to have inspired a movie and a TV show. But creating a false persona isn't the only bait-and-switch game out there. New apps let kids boost, create, or totally fabricate reality, tapping into the pressure kids feel to project a certain public image. Teens are especially vulnerable, since a lot of their social lives play out online, and they may be tempted to lie using tech. Learn more about helping your kids use social media safely and responsibly, and how to help them think through the consequences of creating fake profiles. Here's a sampling of the new tools that take catfishing to a whole new level. 

Fake Conversation
It's common to feel inadequate as a teen and want to impress. Apps like this one let you choose from a list of characters -- like "playboy" and "music producer" -- and set a time to receive a call from your new fabulous friend. When the character calls, you just listen to the recorded script, as if on a real call, and repeat what the recording says. Though it's mostly meant for pranks, it's also advertised as a means to impress, trick, or ditch people.

Fake GPS Location
Some parents rely on a kid's phone location to keep tabs, but it's not foolproof. Not only will this app let a user fake a location, it also tricks all the phone's other apps, so when a teen posts to social media it looks like they're somewhere they're not.

Gotta Go!
Sometimes we might make up an excuse to get out of an uncomfortable situation. However, this app -- created in conjunction with Chelsea Handler -- takes it a step further. It lets you create a fake contact who writes pretend text messages that get sent at a predetermined time. Since the text looks like it's from a real person, it's safe to show the phone as proof that you "gotta go." Users can also get a fake call if they can act their way through a one-sided conversation.

Imaginary Girlfriend and Invisible Boyfriend
If a teen is surrounded by paired-off couples, there might be some pressure to have a special someone. Imaginary Girlfriend and Invisible Boyfriend will send you texts to make it look like you've got one, too. Depending on the service, you can also get a picture to post on social media and a made-up "this is how we met" story.

Instafame - Get More Instagram Followers
For some, social media is all about the likes, and if you can't build a following fast enough, there are plenty of apps that can help -- for a price. With Instafame, you earn coins by liking other people's photos and then "spend" your coins on likes for your pics. Turbo Like for Instagram works similarly. 

Social Dummy - Create Fake Social Posts and Statuses
Want to pretend you posted something to social media? Use the templates available in the app (for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so on), create a fake post that looks like the real thing, and snap a screenshot to share. Because the templates look exactly like the formatting of different social media sites, they're pretty convincing. If you create more than a few, you can pay real money to make more.

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About Christine Elgersma

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Christine Elgersma works on learning and social media app reviews and parent talks as Senior Editor, Parent Education. Before coming to Common Sense, she helped cultivate and create ELA curriculum for a K-12 app and... Read more

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Comments (7)

Parent written by MomtoSensitveKiddo

Thank you for this post. You are one of the greatest tools in a parent's toolbox. The fake gps is pretty bad - the only reason to pretend to be some where else is if you are throwing a surprise party otherwise what up?!
Parent of a 9 year old written by Peppercini

Dbowker, I just want to point out that this article isn't an endorsement. This is so we as parents can be more aware of what is out there. I took it as more of a caution than anything else.
Parent of a 10 year old written by dbowker3d

I have to say, everything about this is pretty sad. Parents endorsing being fake "just to fit in". And what happens when "fitting in" is within reach, all except that your teen "just" needs to do this ONE thing: Like steal something from a store. Sleep with this or that popular kid. Try this drug, drink this booze. Hop in the car with a drunk driver. Help tease or bully that "weird/gay/dumb/uncool/poor/ugly kid... Oh, you mean suddenly they will show self direction and fortitude when it counts, but until then it's OK to practice having none? How? Parents: Have some spine! And then teach your teen(s) to have some too! How is it not obvious that EVERY step of the way you are not just raising a "kid" or a "teen" but a Future Adult. This process starts when they are a toddler with basic sharing, honesty, learning affection and how to cope with simple disappointments. There are no stages that get a free pass that will magically teach them what they need to know about coping with life: That is OUR job as parents. After 18+ years of being told it's OK to: lie to fit in, that appearances are more important than integrity, that Mom and Dad are there to make sure you are always entertained and to help make you happy, what sort of adult do you expect to see? Will you have a young adult that is resilient, self-motivated, is honest and who can stand up for not just themselves but others who are unable to? Or a risk-averse, self-involved child who still thinks the world was made for their pleasure and gratification (which BTW they should have stopped thinking around age 8).
Adult written by LBovee

I don't think she's endorsing this. I didn't get that from reading this. She's letting all of us know what's out there to protect our kids.
Parent of a 14 year old written by selden61

Thank you, helpful article. Only one problem, you don't offer any suggestions on how to determine what's real and/or verify where someone really is...
Kid, 11 years old

Wow... So many fakers! Gotta admit, though, the fake GPS location would be pretty useful. That doesn't mean it's okay, because lying to your parents is NOT okay. And seriously, Imaginary Girlfriend? Who is THAT desperate??

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