We’ve all seen the headlines, “7 Scary Apps Parents Need to Know About”, “Dangerous Apps to Delete from Your Child’s Phone Now!”.
I am often asked which social media apps are the most “dangerous” for kids. Here’s my new answer:
All of them.
Every single app, every corner of the internet holds the possibility of mean-scary-stranger-dangerousness. If we allow our kids to play here, we need to keep a watchful eye.
I do, however, feel some are worse than others because of allowances for anonymous posting. I am definitely not a fan of kids using new live streaming video apps like Meerkat and Periscope.
In reality, the bad guys can hide behind whatever profile they choose to make up on pretty much any site. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, the internet is a pedophile’s paradise and an perpetual free-for-all for cyberbullying trolls.
I see young people who, to the envy of all of their friends, have thousands of followers on Instagram. The average adult doesn’t know thousands of people personally, let alone a sixth grade kid. Has it ever occurred to anyone that one or two of those thousands of people who appear through their profile and posts to be a peer, might just be a creepy fifty year old guy sitting around in his underwear, mining through your son or daughter’s pictures for use (e.g., starting pornographic conversations) on other websites? I know, gross, disgusting – no one wants to think about it, but it happens. One of the most important “rules” in my book – Protect Your Privacy.
So, what is a worried parent to do? No hand wringing necessary. Very simply, communicate with your kids and be aware of who your kids are communicating with online.
I strongly suggest that kids not be connected online with people they don’t know in real life.
Of course our kids want to follow their favorite pop stars or movie idols, and parents can make their own decisions with their kids about what and who is appropriate. There are plenty of positive role models and causes to follow and support if they are interested. A couple of my favorites, which have been very fun to get involved with as a family, are No Kid Hungry and Secret’s “Mean Stinks” campaign.
We need to stop blaming and being afraid of social media apps and take control. We as parents are supposed to be the responsible party and deciders of what our kids are doing online. The apps are not the problem. People are the problem. No one holds us down and forces us to download SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter, Ask.fm, YouNow, Whisper, Tinder, Kik, Meerkat, YikYak or any other app.
If this horse hasn’t already left the barn at your house and you’re considering allowing your child to become socially active, I suggest starting out with one age appropriate app, establishing boundaries before they create a profile anywhere. Remind them that trust is earned, not given.
Don’t be left out of the equation.
Have a question? Ask J. J.
Thanks for stopping by,
ox J. J.