Earlier this month, I went to a seminar about social media and kids. It was presented by a counselor from one of our area middle schools.
Now, my kids don’t have cell phones, but they do have iPads that have WiFi ability, so they could have access to some of these apps (though they don’t). Also Jase will be starting fifth grade in August, so I figured it would be a good idea to find out what apps and social media kids are into nowadays and what the dangers associated with them.
The counselor stressed open communication with your child. She suggested using the available apps and social media as a way to start a conversation about what they put online. You know…the whole “Whatever you put on the Internet is out there forever” and such.
Her recommendation was to allow your kids to have some of the safer apps but require they give you their login and password information rather than you just friending or following them on the social media sites. This way you can check to make sure they are behaving in a safe manner.
She put the apps and social media into three categories: green (safe), grey (could go either way) and red (bad/stay away). (I may have missed some in my note taking. She listed them by their icons rather than their names.)
Green Apps: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Linked In, YouTube
Grey Apps: Snap Chat, Vine, Personate, Facetime, Texting, Messenger
Red Apps: Kik, Yik Yak, Omegle, Whisper, After School App, Secret, Ask.fm
Many of the Red Apps let users set up anonymous accounts – which means users can post things without their comments being traced back to them. This often leads users into making mean comments (cyber bullying) or posting things sexual in nature. (Kik doesn’t even link your account to your cell phone number.
Many of the red apps are rated for kids age 17+, but that doesn’t mean kids younger than that are not downloading and using them. She also suggested checking their phones for a “Secret Calculator” app. This app looks like a regular calculator to friends or parents but actually once the passcode is entered it is a place to store photos and videos. This is just one way that kids get around any parental rules.
And just because you forbid them to use a particular app or perhaps don’t even get them a phone, they find ways around it such as setting up an account on a friend’s phone. In the speaker’s opinion,(and I agree with her) it is better to have supervision rather than no knowledge of their behavior. (In other words, allow them some freedom but still monitor their activities and keep communication open.)
Another way of hiding things is to have a Finstagram account on Instagram. This is generally a second fake account usually used for only close friends where users share funny or embarrassing photos. Even though Instragram posts only show for 10 minutes or less, it doesn’t stop others from taking a screen shot of the image and sharing it elsewhere. So if your kid has a Finstagram account, they need to remember that what is posted is no longer private. It can go anywhere.
Overall, the course was an eye-opener, and it gave me a lot of things to think about. Here is the link to her go-to website for staying up-to-date on the latest apps and their dangers.