Dangerous Apps Parents Should Know About
Everyone loves social media. Many teens and tweens, in particular, use it regularly to connect with their friends, family members, and more. Others use it to make new friends, reaching out to people who share their interests and passions.
Social media is an excellent opportunity for teens or tweens who struggle to make friends at school to connect with people who are more like them.
Unfortunately, social media has its dark side–and sometimes, it can turn downright dangerous.
Many smart phone apps offer what a teen craves most: the ability to communicate privately with their peers, without their parents being able to check in on the conversation.
Unlike Facebook, which stores messages where they can easily be accessed long after they’ve been sent, or text messages, which can be accessed even without the device used to send them, some apps allow for complete anonymity.
As soon as the picture or message is seen, it’s deleted. Apps like Kik, for example, allow teens and tweens to message privately, and all someone needs is your child’s user name to friend request them. Sometimes kids feel that since these messages are completely private it is a safe place to send messages they might not share other places. They can easily get in over their heads.
Take the very sad case of Nicole Lovell, who was just thirteen years old when she was murdered. Nicole had been using Kik to chat with older teenagers who lured her out of her house. She snuck out without her parents’ knowledge–and three days later, they found her body.
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Hiding Behind a Screen
Many teens and tweens thrive on the behind-the-screen thrill of sharing racy pictures, discussing things they would never actually discuss in person, and sharing information they know would be better kept private.
While those behaviors have their own set of issues, predators also have the ability to hide behind a screen. It’s much easier to keep up a false personality when you can control every interaction that you have with a specific individual.
John Clark, discovered that his daughter had been groomed via Snapchat from the time she was sixteen by sex traffickers. Clark warned parents “never [to] worry about being overprotective. In our case, it all started with friends from high school.” She had been communicating with an older girl who had graduated from her high school! And here’s the clincher, something so important to remember, “We knew some of her friends were trouble and restricted access to them… I went face-to-face with a few of them and assertively demanded they stay away from my daughter. Unfortunately, my actions only reinforced the alienation strategy that was being used against us,” Clark wrote in one Facebook post.
Increasing Body Shaming
Body shaming has become increasingly common among young people in recent years. They’re too fat, too skinny, just “not right.” Social media platforms, like Instagram, play into this even harder: they allow posters to create the ideal picture, staging optical illusions that make them look “better” than they do in real life.
This false picture of reality can, at its worst, lead to extreme eating disorders, depression, and even suicidal thoughts as a result of the feeling that young girls and now just as often boys feel that they will never be able to measure up to those standards.
Other apps like Saraha allow you to even “rate” the person and UpLive allows people to live stream themselves showing off their body.
While there are plenty of apps out there that you know as a parent you should have your children avoid or you can at least monitor on their behalf, others might be a little murkier.
Phone apps geared towards children and teens can be dangerous in specific ways that you might not have even thought about.
Social media apps that are geared towards children might seem innocent enough but can lead to inappropriate behavior and even bullying.
Some games can have internal chat areas or sharing that you might not even be aware of as a parent.
What You Can Do as a Parent
There are reasons to own smart-phones or tablets. Many high school students need web-enabled devices to complete or access coursework. Parents can better communicate with their children when away from home. Kids can feel isolated from their peers without a phone since teens often make plans via texting or social media.
It’s really hard for parent’s to know where to draw the line, and damaging our relationship with our kids is a real possibility if we don’t work on this together. By talking with our kids about the boundaries, dangers and expectations, through the eye-rolls and crossed arms, we build a conversation that we can return to as we need it.
I believe that the most important thing a parent can do to prevent a child from making mistakes online is by having conversations about it – all the time. Parents need to set up expectations from the onset, and more importantly, stick to them. Like with this Cell Phone Contract.
I don’t believe in spying or sneaking your child’s phone out of their bedroom either — but I also don’t think handing over what’s basically a super-charged portal to the Internet is smart either.
Please feel free to Download our Apps guide here.