Contrary to all the scary stories and salacious news reports most kids aren’t being inappropriate or jerks online. I have watched my kids social media accounts, apps, etc. for years and while I have asked them to take posts down on occasion (usually because of a curse word) for the most what they post is perfectly normal and ok. I may not like everything, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be posting it. They are teens and they need to be able to behave like teens.
Top Apps You Need To Know About
I asked my teens, friends of my teens, my friends and online community of parents of teens what their teens’ favorite apps were and I was surprised to learn that there wasn’t some sneaky app I had never heard of. Below are the most popular five apps your teens are using, aside from the obvious Facebook and Twitter, and what you should know about each one.
Of all the crowdsourcing I did, no one mentioned this app. That tells me either teens aren’t using it or we parents just aren’t aware of it because they don’t want us to be. One teen I asked about the app said, “Only the kids who are attention hungry,” use this app.
When I pressed by asking, “So does that mean quite a lot of teens use it but not you and your closest friends or you don’t know hardly any that do?”
The teen responded with, “I mean yeah there’s a decent amount that use it.”
This app has been linked to several suicides and has come under fire for rampant cyberbullying. The basic premise is that you user asks a question or answers one of the Ask.fm random questions of the day and then everyone responds. One of the things I found most interesting is this face via webwise, “…a user can never find out who is following them and can only know the overall number of followers he/she has.” Clearly that kind of anonymity makes this app dangerous. For more info on what exactly Ask.Fm is I highly recommned reading the entire webwise article, Ask.fm: A Guide for Parents and Teachers. Also worth reading is this Huffington Post article, 10 frightening facts about Ask.fm parents should know.
I follow both of my kids on this photo app. They don’t mind that I do. While it used to be something they posted to daily (or hourly depending on the person), with the creation of Snapchat that has been greatly reduced. Like Facebook who owns Instagram, kids just aren’t using it as much. Partly because Snapchat is WAY more fun and also because parents can’t see your Snapchat photos & videos.
TV Schmeevee. Who needs it when you can watch YouTube. Kids are constantly watching videos online. Sports clips, comedy, tutorials. You name it, they are watching it.
This one concerns me because there is no way to monitor it. If you aren’t familiar with it, here is a complete breakdown. The short story is you take a photo, click on the people you want to send the photo to, decide how long those people will have to view the photo and then send the photo or video. Once the person at the other end clicks on the photo or video, they have the designated amount of seconds to see the photo or video and then it disappears. You can see how this could be dangerous. As I stated on my Ooph Snapchat post, Snapchat gives teens a false sense of security about the privacy of what they are sending.
Just in case you haven’t heard of this app, Vine is owned by Twitter and the premise is to create six second videos that are shown in loop. My oldest loves this app. He posts the most inappropriately hilarious videos. He’s 18 and I am ok with that. If he was posting those at 16 I would have been horrified. I highly recommend you find your kids Vine account and follow it. Like everything else, from a distance, but always watching and making sure they are behaving appropriately.
The key here is not in forbidding the apps, it’s in watching them as a bystander. It’s like everything with parenting, you choose your battles. You may not like everything they post but you have to ask yourself:
- Is this post/video something that will cause them to lose something?
- Is this a teaching moment?
- Is this a TAKE THAT DOWN IMMEDIATELY moment?
- Is this just a teen being a teen and I am overreacting?
Your own family values will tell you which you can live with and which you can’t.The internet is here to stay, its your job to teach them how to use it in a respectful way.
About the Author:
Stefanie Mullen is the co-author of Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend’s Soul and owner and founder of Ooph.com, a site devoted to the parenting of tweens and teens. She is the co-host of Your Family Matters on WSRadio.com. Stefanie has been featured in the New York Times and has appeared on NBC, Fox, KUSI and NPR. Connect with Stefanie on Twitter @Ooph.