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Monitoring your Kids on Social Apps

Monitoring your Kids on Social Apps

Editor’s Note

We’re pleased to introduce this guest post from Amy Williams. Amy is a mother of two and a former social worker. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.

Today’s children are digital natives and they can’t remember a time without wifi or social media. It’s no secret that they gravitate towards all things tech, resulting in countless hours bent over Smartphones, tablets, and other devices. In fact, it is an ongoing joke in many families that our kids are connected to their devices; where one goes, so does the other.

All of this swiping, snapping selfies, and messaging can leave us wondering exactly what our children are doing online for hours at a time. While we understand they are sending silly photos or commenting about episodes of their favorite shows, the reality is that we don’t know for sure what our kids are really doing on social apps.

Children, Communication, And Social Media Trends

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently published findings that stated today’s children, between the ages of 8 to 18 years, are spending almost 8 hours a day logged on to an electronic device. This is a significant increase from 2011, with experts crediting the spike to the advent of Smartphones. This theory is supported by the Pew Research Center’s data that shows 88 percent of all teens own cell phones or have access to one.

It should be no surprise that our children are spending an increasing amount of time interacting online. The average teens send or receive 30 texts every day and frequent messaging apps daily. In fact, many teens often prefer communicating with their devices over face to face interactions or picking up the telephone to make a call.

5 Popular Social Media Apps Among Kids

As parents join the social media giant, Facebook, our kids are quickly exiting from the scene. To fill the gap, they are spending more and more time on lesser known apps. For many parents, this can leave us wondering what social media apps our children are utilizing and who they are interacting with.

Listed below are 5 popular social apps among kids that should be on our radar:

    • Snapchat. This popular disappearing messaging app allows kids to send photos or messages that disappear after the receiver views the message. While it is intended to promote authentic communication, it can quickly become the perfect vehicle for cyberbullying and sexting.
    • Kik. Many parents haven’t heard of this messaging app, but it’s used by 40 percent of all teens. It uses anonymous id’s and allows teens to send messages without using a cell plan’s limited texts. Many stories about predators contacting our kids with Kik has surfaced raising concern about this app’s safety.
    • Yik Yak. Is an anonymous message board that sorts users based on location. This is a great way to stay informed of the best concerts or eateries, but cyberbullying is rampant on these boards.
    • Dubsmash. Users simply create short lip syncing videos to sound clips from shows, movies, or songs. For the most part this is a fun little app, but some concerns about copyright infringement have surfaced.
    • Instagram. This app is a visual potluck that allows teens to create memes, share images, and more. Unfortunately, this app has been known for cyberbullying and buying drugs.

How Children Hide Online Activity From Us

It is believed that 70 percent of our children actively seek ways to hide their activity from us the following ways:

    • Dimming screens
    • Closing tabs or windows
    • Downloading fake icons to hide questionable apps
    • Deleting messages
    • Erasing browser history
    • Avoiding using technology in common areas
    • Using disappearing messaging apps

Moderating The Digital Risks Facing Our Children

Social media apps may have changed the communication methods among our kids, but our sons and daughters still face traditional childhood dilemmas. These pitfalls often include bullying, sexual exploitation, and cliques. In a strange twist of fate, the devices our children love have become a new outlet for these debilitating behaviors. If you are in doubt, simply read all the headlines regarding sexting mishaps, cyberbullying, and suicides impacting our youngest family members.

As our kids increasingly turn to social apps for a majority of their peer interactions and take to hiding their online activity from us, it is essential that we stay involved. Listed below are 3 suggestions to help moderate our children’s use on these apps:

Monitor a child’s Internet presence.

This can be as simple as following or friending our children on social media or it can involve downloading software allowing access to emails, social media, deleted messages, and more. Choose what works the best for your child, family, and circumstances. Stress that anything they post on social media will be seen by others, including us.

Begin an ongoing conversation about digital interactions.

Start when a child is young and slowly build on that foundation as they age to include sexting, cyberbullying, digital reputation, and more. Children need to understand how their actions online can hurt others and even their own future. A good rule of thumb is to only post items that Grandma would find acceptable. Revisit these subjects every now and then to keep the talk going.

Instill strong social media skills.

Living in the digital age makes this step crucial so our kids can succeed. Teach them about oversharing, ways for adjusting privacy settings, and understanding the dangers of talking to strangers. Look for practical ways they can protect themselves online that includes: ignoring bullying comments, avoiding sexting, bypassing gossip, oversharing schedules, forwarding addresses, and thinking twice before posting negative photos on their social media accounts.

Looking Ahead

Our children might be considered digital natives, but we still play an important role in their upbringing. It shouldn’t matter what new apps or sites our children are using, as long as we have taught them strong social media skills. Thankfully, by being aware of the fads and trends our children are embracing, we can help prepare our sons and daughters to avoid potential dangers they may encounter online.

What steps do you take to protect your child online?

At Mercy Home we have conversations with the boys and girls about what they use their phones for and what the presence they are creating online for themselves. We do our best to ensure our kids are making good choices. We restrict phone use during program activities and events which would include dinner, group activities and other similar events. 

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