Technology is a typical part of every teen’s day. They wake up and check messages, text with friends and post selfies throughout the day. While all this screen time may annoy parents, it is the center of their child’s social life. Keeping up with the latest ways kids are using technology is time consuming, but it’s our only way to keep our kids safe.
While speaking with a group of middle school parents, many parents admitted they were unsure what apps their own child is using or what each app does. My suggestion to all parents, check out the apps on your child’s phone and other devices, you may be surprised at what you find! Below is a list of apps all parents should know about and the reasons for concern.
1. Snapchat Teens use Snapchat to send pictures to their friends, assuming that it will disappear in seconds as it is marketed. The problem: the photos don’t go away forever, they can be saved on a 3rd party service which could be (and recently was) hacked. Snapchat has also been used for sexting, with screenshots being forwarded to others without the original sender being aware.
2. Yik Yak This app enables users to post comments anonymously and has been associated with cyberbullying. Posts can be shared on Twitter and Facebook, meaning posts in Yik Yak could very easily be spread to other social networks. Geolocation is used to share “yaks” with others in your area, but you can turn this feature off. (See Tips section below).
Users can post secrets and rumors anonymously. Teens use it as a way to share confessions, rumors or their most private thoughts, but the app shares the posts based on geographic location, meaning others in your area could be reading your child’s posts. If identifying information is shared, your teen could end up in contact with someone dangerous.
4. Tinder Users create a profile (including their pictures) then scroll through potential matches in their geological area. It allows people to chat through the app and possibly meet up. The potential for your teen to meet with a stranger should cause concern. Stories of preteens and teens meeting their “Tinder” match, only to end up in a dangerous situation are not uncommon.
5. Ask.fm Yet another anonymous posting site where bullying is rampant. Children as young as 13 are allowed to have an account (the same age restriction as Facebook and Twitter) and content is not screened or reviewed. Even if your teen blocks another user, the blocked person can still view what is on your teen’s profile. For more info see this article: http://www.chicagonow.com/tween-us/2013/10/facts-about-ask-fm-parents/
6. Keek Keek is a video sharing social network, think Facebook with videos instead of text posts. Privacy settings don’t exist, meaning any and every video posted can be seen by any other Keek user. Read more about Keekhere: http://www.bewebsmart.com/social-media/what-is-keek/
7. Omegle This site allows you to chat with strangers through either text or video modes. When choosing video mode for a chat it allows both monitored and unmonitored live chats, the latter coming with a warning that you are more likely to be exposed to sexual behavior. Omegle is NOT child or teen appropriate! More details are in this article from Be Web Smart: http://www.bewebsmart.com/internet-safety/what-is-omegle-is-it-okay-for-kids/
What you can do…
Be diligent in your conversations with your children regarding social media and general internet usage
When your child asks permission to use a new app, ask them why they want to use it, research the app and openly discuss your concerns. Some apps do allow for privacy settings and blocking unknown users.
Remind your child that “chat buddies” may not be whom they portray themselves to be and that they should never divulge personal information about themselves, their location or their family.
Be aware of the app’s ability to tie in with your child’s other accounts (such as Twitter and Facebook). Posts on one app could be shared on the other apps without your child’s knowledge or permission.
Turn off location features in apps. Here is an article with details: http://www.bewebsmart.com/ipod-ipad-iphone/keep-your-childs-location-private-how-to-turn-off-location-services/
Use parental control and monitoring software, set blocks for inappropriate websites and review your child’s web browser history.
Check out this link for tips and discussion topics for your family: http://www.nationalcac.org/prevention/internet-safety-kids.html For additional tips and strategies join us in our FB group! Check out our FREE pdf "5 Steps to Making Family Rules that Work" by clicking here.