By Patricia Singer
Children today want a cell phone and a tablet. As a parent you feel obliged to get them one. How are they going to keep up with their friends? They insist that “all of their friends have one!” How can you use yours if your kids are on them all the time? So we give in. We give them the phones and the tablets and now they spend their entire days on these devices. Do you check what your kids are doing on these devices? Do you monitor who they are talking to and what apps they are using?
Stuff happens all the time on the internet, social media and apps , and it is not all fun and games. There is bullying. There is sexting. There are predators disguised as cute boys or girls. You need to take charge and know what your kids are doing on their phones. Of course they are going to roll their eyes and tell you that you are invading their privacy but you need to monitor what they are doing NOW! They will thank you one day.
Here are five apps that you need to monitor on your children’s phones. Make sure you know all their passwords, know who they are talking to. Before your children downloads an app be sure to check it out. A good resource to check apps is Bewebsmart.com. Now onto the list.
Snapchat is a video messaging application. Users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. These sent photographs and videos are known as "Snaps". Users set a time limit for how long recipients can view their Snaps, from 1 to 10 seconds, after which Snapchat claims they will be deleted from the company's servers. Snapchat makes it very easy for your children to connect with others using a phone number, username or location. Kids think it is safe to send mean, rude, obnoxious or sexual photos or videos because they will be deleted. What they are finding out is that screen captures can be taken of these things and shared with others. They need to learn that what is posted on the internet, stays on the internet!
Tinder is a location-based dating and social discovery application that facilitates communication between mutually interested users, allowing matched users to chat and potentially hook-up. You need to join Tinder through Facebook with a profile of a person over the age of 18, but as every kid knows, you can just go in and make your birthday whatever you want on Facebook. Kids would be dealing with people well over their age as well as predators, scammers and creeps.
Whisper is an anonymous social networking app. Users post confessions and secrets, either fact or fiction, by super imposing text on a picture. Whisper’s unique selling point is that it is completely anonymous. Users are suppose to be over 17 years of age. The downside to Whisper is that is based on geographic location, once again alerting people who, may want to take advantage of your child or bully them, know exactly where they are.
Kik is an instant messenger app that lets you connect with friends, groups, and the world around you through chat. This app is used almost exclusively by kids. Special Agent Michael Bowman of the Virginia State Police High Tech Crimes Division states that the only adults using Kik were predators trolling for their next victim. What will happen is that a predator will make contact with a teen using another form of social media like Facebook or Twitter and ask them to take their conversations over to the less monitored, less secure Kik. Also, kids will use Kik for “sexting”, which is the sending or receiving of sexually explicit messages.
Yik Yak is an app that allows people pseudo-anonymously to create and view discussion threads within a 5-mile radius. These discussions are called “yaks”. Originally designed for college campuses, it is becoming more popular with the younger set. Yakkers can post anonymous messages that will be seen by all users in a general vicinity. Not just nice messages but also cruel, untruthful, unkind, and downright mean messages aimed at a certain person. The perfect platform for bullies everywhere, leaving some user to defend themselves and restore their reputation.
Phew. Scary stuff. There are also app lockers which will hide apps on a phone as well as an app called Smart Hide Calculator . The Smart Hide Calculator’s icon looks like a regular calculator app but it hides the apps that your kids don’t want you to see. Of course not all kids are bad, bullies or mean and rotten, but you, as a parent, need to make sure that your children are safe using any form of electronic device. Always be open to conversations with your kids. Let them know you are trying to protect them. You may end up being the most despised parent in your neighborhood but your children will be safer for it. Stick to your guns and monitor your child’s activity!
Patricia Singer is the owner of Follow Me Social Media Consulting. She works with individuals, small and mid-sized businesses, helping them navigate and market using the numerous social media platforms. www.BestToFollowMe.com
Stacey Krout Minor, PhD(c), MSN, RN