Adult apps – the good and the bad
By Luke Aldred
A few weeks ago, we wrote about the increasing number of apps which are aimed at children and how they are creating new safeguarding challenges. Whilst most online grooming situations predominantly involve children, there are still numerous issues faced by practitioners working within adult services.
"Grooming is a form of abuse that involves manipulating someone until they’re isolated, dependent and more vulnerable to exploitation"
Source: Ann Craft Trust
According to the Ann Craft Trust (organisers of the Safeguarding Adults Week 2019), grooming can be directly related to many of the different types of harm listed within the Care Act. Grooming isn’t always about sexual abuse; it can also be related to financial abuse or even radicalisation. For practitioners working with vulnerable adults, the use of social media and online apps can play a big part in safeguarding procedures.
Platforms which could cause concern
This is a live streaming app, heavily linked to online gaming. Although it is aimed towards ages 17+, it has been heavily criticised because users must detail their location and there are often issues relating to bullying, nudity and violence. If you are working with a gaming fan, it could be one to be wary of.
For the most part, online gaming is a good way to encourage friendships with others who have similar interests but there are a variety of risks involved. These range from inadvertently giving away personal information, downloading a ‘cheat’ which may contain viruses or spyware or even accidentally racking up a large bill due to ‘in-game’ charges.
Online gaming also poses a risk of grooming or radicalisation as criminals may use the unfiltered and unmoderated discussions to target vulnerable people.
Whilst the dating app continues to be popular, there are concerns of issues relating to catfishing (whereby someone pretends to be someone else) as well as continual issues related to grooming. The geo-location tagging can also put users at risk of sexual harassment and stalking as well as the ongoing dangers of meeting a stranger in person.
Helpful apps which could improve social work practice
It’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to technology. There are many apps and programmes which have been developed and can be incredibly beneficial for practitioners working with adults. Here are a few suggestions of some useful apps (available on both Apple and Android) which you may wish to share with service users and their families.
If you are working with a vulnerable adult who requires complex daily medication, then this app could be a literal lifesaver. It is able to track your healthcare plan and send automatic reminders when medication is due or when you need a prescription refill. It can also sync up with your in-built Health app to monitor blood glucose, blood pressure, weight, pulse and temperature.
A common complaint amongst the ageing population is that it becomes increasingly difficult to type using a touch screen. SpeechNote does the hard work for you by allowing users to speak into their smartphone, where it automatically converts speech to text.
Although listening to the radio online isn’t a new concept, TuneIn can allow listeners to choose from hundreds of thousands of radio stations from across the globe. If you’re working with someone who perhaps grew up abroad, or maybe someone who simply enjoys listening to obscure music choices then they may enjoy this app.
When it comes to online safeguarding, please make sure that you have read BASW’s social media policy which outlines the roles and expectations of social workers.
If you are aware of any other apps which are cause for alarm, or you’ve discovered one that you have found beneficial, please get in touch. We have also written a selection of pieces around navigating your social work career.