Have you noticed your child glued to his or her smartphone? Do you ever wonder what they could possibly be spending so much time on? The short answer: apps. Here’s what parents need to know:
Apps like Periscope, Facebook Live and Meerkat allow individuals to watch users’ live videos and broadcast their own. Sexually explicit content can be found on these apps because there is no filter since everything is live. In fact, just recently, a teenager was accused of live streaming her friend’s rape on Periscope as thousands of people watched. Live-streaming apps can also show people, including kids, making bad decisions. One woman even used Periscope to brag about how she was driving home drunk, only to have users report her to the police. When using live-streaming apps, there is no time to second guess what you’re doing.
Apps such as Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr allow kids to post pictures, videos and microblogs about their lives and broadcast them to friends, followers and perhaps strangers, too. Parents should keep in mind that although many kids use these apps purely for fun, inappropriate content can be easily accessed and exchanged through private messaging.
One of the newest trends is using apps to exchange disappearing or self-destructing messages, such as the ones on Snapchat. Although the messages sent through these apps may disappear, users can easily take screenshots of photos or videos sent before they’re gone. Kids using these apps may get a false sense of security when they believe the messages that they send will be gone and feel comfortable sending messages that they normally wouldn’t.
There’s a blurry line between apps designed to bring people together in a friendly way and apps designed to bring users together romantically. Kids, however, are using both types of apps, including MeetMe, Omegle and Skout, to name a few. Many of these apps are location-based, meaning kids can be introduced to other users nearby and could easily make plans to meet other people in person. While these apps can be used legitimately, they could also be used by predators or others who pose as kids or friends and then lure users to meet face-to-face.
Now that you know the potential risks of many apps used by kids, how can you do your part to protect them?
If your kids use social media apps, go through their profiles with them to check their privacy settings and adjust as needed to help keep them and their personal information safe.
See what they’re hiding
Believe it or not, there are even apps that kids can use to hide other apps or media files on their phone. Poof, Vaulty and Hide it Pro are just three of these apps, but new ones will probably emerge as they grow in popularity. To determine if your child is hiding apps from you, look through the apps that you can see. If any of the apps don’t ring a bell, do a quick search to determine whether or not they can be used to hide other apps or content.
Help kids understand the consequences
Kids aren’t fully aware of the consequences of their actions, especially when it comes to their actions on apps. Many kids are under the impression that they’re protected when they communicate to other people or put their information out there through apps, but this may not be the case. Talk frequently to your child to make sure that he or she understands the importance of privacy.
Remember, the technological world is rapidly evolving, so it’s up to you as parents to stay on top of the latest trends and educate your children to use technology safely.
About the Author
Hillary Smith is a freelance journalist who specializes in telecommunications. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Hilary combines her love of technology, gadgets and children with a career in freelance writing to make the world of digital parenting a better place.