What Parents Should Know About Kids’ Social Networking

On April 7, 2014 by Rebecca Whyte
Three Teens Use Facebook, April 2014

Three Teens Use Facebook, April 2014

Posts, status updates, comments, instant messages, video uploads, tweets, and texts! Are your kids engaged in more social networking than you are? We wouldn’t be surprised if you said, “Yes!”

In today’s 24/7 digital world kids spend a great deal of time online, gaining access via smartphones, gaming devices, and tablets. And while the internet and social networking applications can be great tools for learning, collaborating, expressing creativity, and experimenting with identity, some allow kids to feel invisible and as if they will have no consequences for their behavior. This can sometimes lead them to do or say things they normally wouldn’t – things that they know might be wrong.

Real problems can arise when kids use unsafe online environments to share their private thoughts, photos, videos, or personal information. These revealing posts can become very public – and can last a long time. A provocative photo or a blurb promoting misconduct could end up damaging a kid’s reputation. Even more troubling are the privacy and safety issues that come with social networking – and now with the ability to easily post your location, actual physical safety becomes a concern!

Pew Research Center, May 2013

Pew Research Center, May 2013

Many parents today simply aren’t staying abreast of all the new arrivals in social networking, and may have no clue what their kids are doing – or how they are behaving – online. There are a number of new social networking applications that fall under the ‘temporary’ and ‘anonymous’ app categories which parents should be aware of. Read on to learn more about these apps – and determine whether or not you think they are appropriate for your kids.

  1. Snapchat: A messaging app that lets users put a time limit on the pictures and videos they send before they disappear. Most teens use this for sending goofy or embarrassing photos to one another. Remember, it’s a myth that Snapchats go away forever. Data is data.
  2. Burn Note: A texting-only app that erases messages after a set period of time. Teens use this app to more closely monitor their digital trails. Snapchat claims unread messages self-destruct after 30 days. But again – data is data.
  3. Whisper: A social “confessional” app that allows users to post whatever’s on their minds. Teens can type a confession, add a background image, and share it with the entire Whisper community. It’s intended for users age 17 and older, and the content is often explicit.
  4. Secret – Speak Freely: A social-media app that’s designed to let people voice whatever’s on their minds anonymously. Secrets let people vent, confess, and share freely – without anyone knowing who said what. Despite the fact that Secrets promotes user anonymity, this app requires the users email address and phone number.
  5. Ask.fm: A social site that lets kids ask questions and answer those posted by other users, sometimes anonymously. Teens may come across some friendly interactions, as well as mean comments, and the content is often inappropriate.
  6. Omegle: An anonymous chat app that lets users discuss anything they’d like. The whole premise of the app is that users get paired up with strangers – who may have ulterior motives. Omegle is not a place for kids or teens.

What’s the best way to approach the internet and social networking with your kids? Try talking to them about their online reputations – not in terms of “getting caught” or “being in trouble,” but as a matter of being the best person they can possibly be. Acknowledge that they may come across, extreme, Inappropriate, or hurtful content online… and let them know that it’s ok for them to talk to you about it. Remind them that character and ethics exist online, as well – and that their safety and wellbeing is what’s most important.

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