Raising kids in the digital age brings a unique set of challenges for parents. Social media, smartphone and tablet use, and a myriad of other digital realities, are in your kid’s life to stay. It can be overwhelming to have to keep up with your kids’ online habits and get parental control for apps. But, ultimately it’s up to you to keep them safe.
Have regular conversations about the dangers of online activities and be sure to monitor all their Internet usage. Tell them about keeping their most personal information private, and that no matter what they can come to you with any concerns or questions. Communication and transparency is key when helping kids navigate this massive technological world.
If your child has their own tablet or smartphone, make sure they share the password that “unlocks” it with you, and check it frequently and randomly to see what kinds of texts and pictures they are sharing with their friends. Most likely, they won’t like this, so get ready for some whining. But, you pay the bill, so it’s not really an invasion of their privacy. It’s responsible parenting. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
When it comes to “apps” (applications), you might think they are safe and cute. Who doesn’t love Angry Birds? But, the reality is that apps may not always be what they appear. There are a few apps on my Do Not Download list—here is the roundup.
Snapchat. Yikes. This one scares me the most. It allows users to send photos that will disappear from both the sender’s phone and the recipient’s phone after 10 seconds. This app enables “sexting” with peers. The app is designed to allow for these photos to be temporary, however, there are a variety of ways the photos can be preserved by the recipient; from apps that offer a Snapchat work around to simply utilizing the screen shot functionality on a phone. Kids think that there will be no consequences to their actions, so make sure you explain to your kids that once they send something they will have no control over who sees it, and that it’s never appropriate to send risqué “selfies” to anyone. The app Poke also falls into this category.
KiK Messenger. On the instant messaging side, KiK allows kids to send private messages that their parents can’t see. It’s difficult to verify the identity of someone on KiK. This poses the risk of sexual predators chatting with your child. This is also another easy tool for sexting. The app WhatsApp falls into the same category.
Whisper. This app allows you to post secrets anonymously and also allows you to chat with other users in your geographic area. This is a tool for ill-intentioned strangers looking to connect with young people because it allows them to anonymously exchange messages with people who may live or go to school nearby.
Vine. Vine can be a lot of fun. It allows users to post and watch six second videos. There is so much creativity on Vine! However, porn videos do pop up in the “feed.” It’s easy to search for/access porn videos on this app. Sexual predators may use this app to search a child’s location. Once they have the child’s information they can connect with them via other messaging apps. If your child wants to use Vine, make sure you are involved in every video they create, and monitor the videos they watch. This goes for YouTube as well, of course.
The National Center For Missing & Exploited Children has a very useful website to help you navigate the world of digital apps. Communication between parents and children is the key, so hang in there and make sure you are constantly involved in your kids’ internet usage and picking and choosing apps for their digital devices.
Keep Your Family Safe From Identity Theft
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Image courtesy of Flickr user Philippe Put.