Technology is a tricky thing; we need it but there are exponential harms if misused. Like every other tool, social media can be a valuable tool to bond and communicate with others or can be used as a weapon to bully, stalk, or harm your child. Even the most unintentional slip-ups can have long lasting, and very painful, public consequences. Read on for tips to keep your kids safe when using social media.
Check your social media savvy with the following quiz:
- Who can communicate with your child on Instagram?
- What is Yik-Yak?
- How long can a Snapchat message last?
- Do you understand the Tinder app?
- What is the difference between texting and Kik?
- What is Pheed?
- Who can see tweets sent from a personal Twitter account?
- What is Whisper and how is it used?
- How is fm.Ask used?
- What are use parameters for Voxer?
- Can a teen have a Facebook profile?
If you were able to answer all of these questions, you are a whiz and knew a lot more than most of the writers from the Daily Mom team. For most parents, the Tinder, Yik Yak, Voxer, and Whisper apps are rarely known. Social media is regularly revamping and recycling itself, and requires regular education. Literally, many new apps on children’s phones slide past parents based on sheer anonymity; who in the world can recognize all of those icons? The only real answer to social media safety is a double edge approach; get educated and equip your children.
The Skinny on the “It” Apps
Knowledge is Power.
Getting familiarized with the apps currently headlining the social media scene is the first step to getting equipped. Take some time to read their description below, but also go find out more about the apps and get a visual on the icons so you can be more aware if they are loaded onto your child’s mobile device.
Facebook – Most of us are aware of Facebook’s pros and cons. This app, more widely known, has security and safety pitfalls that can be easily managed with security settings and being sure that you are also “friends” with your child to increase visibility. Like other social media apps, safety will be mostly covered by your physical oversight of monitoring your child’s posts and list of “friends” with permission to view and comment.
fm.Ask – This web-based app is a “question and answer” platform, allowing a host page to receive questions, which can be sent anonymously. Each host must “answer” a question for it to be posted for public viewing. The true danger of this app is, even if unpublished for the world to see, things can be sent to your child anonymously. Likewise, the “host” has no idea who is “following” or viewing their page since there are no viewing safety settings. All fm.Ask pages are public and you can easily view your child’s page, as can anyone else.
Instagram – Another better-known app, Instagram, is more about documenting your life through images. This app can be safer if changing privacy settings to make your child’s page “private” so only approved “followers” can view content posted by your child. While others can tag you in their photos, you can choose to remove the tag if you do not approve of the digital connection. As with any other app, you will want to closely monitor connections, as well as the private messages that are allowed through this application.
Kik – Kik is widely known as a texting app, but what seems to be a relatively harmless app can become more dangerous because it is not as easily monitored as other means of electronic communication. In fact, this app is typically used as a work-around for communicating when a child is too young for a telephone or when a child wants an untraceable means of communication. The chat logs on Kik are not recorded and they are also less commonly noticed because they do not show up on a phone bill or get captured in your iCloud.
Pheed – While this app is new to the scene, iPhone popularity has launched it to a new level. Pheed combines “Twitter” and “Facebook” for a social media platform that is specifically meant for privacy from parents and grandparents (because they are monitoring Facebook). This gives Pheed a more dense teen demographic and also makes for a veritable smorgasbord for those seeking teens out, like sexual predators and “catfish.”
Snapchat – One of the (socially) deadliest of apps, this was created to send photographs that would only last for a few seconds after a message was opened. This grossly mislead children into thinking they could send images that would never be seen by anyone else. Most kids did not catch on until too late that whomever received the photo can take a screen capture. Snapchat allows a child to communicate with a mass group and to be communicated with as part of a group. So often, close moderation is needed by a parent. You will definitely want to secure a password for this app.
Tinder – This application, coined the “Hook-up App,” has really launched lately with high schoolers because there is absolutely no age restriction for use. So, unlike other dating sites, this app opens the floodgates for those looking for a “date” without a minimum age requirement. The dangers of this site are apparent because it is easy for a child to set up a profile; information is pulled directly from Facebook, and then matching is as easy as swiping. There is a messaging function within the app, so there are absolutely no inhibitors for very quick and non-secured meetings. Make sure to check for this one! Apps like MeetMe and Skout, along with MyLol and OurTeenNetwork are others worth looking out for.
Twitter – Like most well-known apps, this one might seem very low on the risk scale, but the danger of this platform comes with a very public means of open communication. While there is a limit for use of characters when tweeting, absolutely everyone who follows you can easily see your open communication, so it is like shouting in a room jammed with all of your joint social circles. No matter what social media platform, children need to understand that once communicated, “tweeted” in this case, it cannot be fully rescinded – even if deleted. You might also want to incrementally check the cache of your child’s private messages within this platform as well.
Voxer – This push-to-talk app basically turns your child’s phone into a walkie talkie. While this is certainly useful if you want to get in touch quickly with your latchkey kid, it could be terribly hurtful if others might be using it to mercilessly taunt your child. Since this app also has a replay function on it, all messages could be replayed over and over, which certainly opens up liability issues if your child shares a private message from another child.
Whisper – The primary function of Whisper is to open a platform where subscribers “share secrets.” This confessional type of atmosphere breeds a sharing of information that not only is inappropriate for your child but reinforces secret keeping. Every mother knows there is no need to keep a secret if there is nothing to hide.
Yik-Yak – This app searches your location and connects you with a localized, totally anonymous message board. While this board is mostly used for teens to remain shielded while talking junk on teachers and rival sports teams, it has also become a magnet for those who want to virtually throw stones without repercussion. We would suggest you load this free app to simply be able to see what your child does and do some parental snooping.
But What About Privacy?
As scary as it might seem, if your child has a mobile device or access to the internet, they are the only one who can truly keep themselves safe. That said, you can create a “safer” space for them by being sure they are educated about the harms of the internet if misused and also by following the tips below:
- Monitor Activity and Apps
- Get educated on Social Media Sites
- Consider installing a “web security system” (ex., TeenSafe)
- Do not pass on the Passwords!
Your child is just that: a child. If you would not feel comfortable setting them loose in LaGuardia airport to go meet people and strike up conversations, then odds are they are not ready to traipse through the world wide web without a good amount of guidance and supervision. Talk to your child today about the importance of social media safety!
Photo credit: That Basic Chic