So your child’s Facebook page has gone silent since becoming their ‘friend’? Let us tell you why.
After highlighting the issues surrounding keeping your children safe on social networking sites, you may not be surprised to hear your kids are already finding alternative methods of discreetly contacting their friends, and in some cases, even strangers. If your child has access to a smartphone (including those fortunate enough to have iPads and/or tablets) then you need to make yourself familiar of the latest apps popular with children and young adults – designed to keep your children’s online conversations as private as possible and away from the prying eyes of concerned parents.
Check out the top five apps your kids don’t want you to know they’re using:
Popular with individuals under the age of 18, this photo/video sharing app actually deletes the photos and videos once shared after a period of up to ten seconds. The “self-destructing” feature has the potential to give your child a false sense of security that their ’embarrassing’ picture won’t be shared once viewed – however there is nothing that prevents the receiver from taking a screenshot of the image (although the creators allege they are able to warn senders if this happens).
Risk of: Cyberbullying and/or sexting – the sending or receiving of texts, photos, or videos of a sexual nature.
Safe use: Snapchat offers privacy settings which allows you to receive images from everyone, or only your friends. If you can’t prevent your child from downloading this app, at the very least educate them on the dangers of sexting and ensure they remove any unknown friends from their list and set their privacy settings to receive messages from their friends only.
Rated in the app store for individuals aged 17+, the reality is this free app is highly popular with school students between 12-16. Strangers can interact with anyone provided they enter their ‘kik username” and given there are an estimated 30 million users of this app, it isn’t hard to find someone by randomly typing in a name. Previously highlighted from a mothers own experience at finding her son sending explicit photographs, this app not only increases the risk of sexting, but also the interaction of your child with unknown strangers.
Risk of: Online grooming by unwanted individuals and sexting.
Safe use: To prevent the download of this app by users under the age of 17, ensure your smartphone has download restrictions based on their content rating. (This can be done on an iphone via Settings > General > Restrictions > Allowed Content > Apps).
Risk of: Sexting
Safe use: For parents who feel educating their children about the dangers of online networking is not enough, a new product released by StealthGenie allows concerned parents to remotely and discreetly view all messages and media files sent via the Whatsapp product.
With the ability access this service both online and via the app, Instagram has certainly proven itself to be the image sharing equivalent of the more popular social networking sites. With the numbers of individuals (particularly in the tween/teenager age group) utilising this service to share their favourite images of themselves and their friends, as highlighted by one mother, there is an added concern these images and additional private information are also being easily accessed and shared by complete strangers. An additional concern for Parents is the fact Instagram allows searching for images without the fear of these searches being shown in your Internet’s browser history.
Risk of: Sexting, privacy concerns
Safe use: If you can’t beat ’em, join them. Much like the ability to friend them on sites such as Facebook, there’s nothing stopping you from doing this on their Instagram profile. This can also be accessed from a computer so Parents do not necessarily need to have access via the app. At the very least, get on the site and search under your child’s name – allowing you to effectively see “public” information being posted by or about your child.
Similar to the Whatsapp product, this product allows users to send unlimited photos, messages and videos to anyone on their accepted list of friends. Of course just one look at their Facebook page located at http://www.facebook.com/LiveProfile provides an extensive lists of individuals of all ages and nationality’s providing their user ID’s and asking to be ‘added’ to anyones list of friends. With the option to interact as a group, this certainly opens the ability for multiple individuals to cyber-gang up on one individual – otherwise known as a “Digital Pile on”.
Risk of: Cyberbullying, online grooming by unwanted individuals and sexting
Safe use: Educate, educate, educate! Parents may not be able to stop their children from downloading these apps, but it is important to be able to understand the risks involved and know how to deal with these issues if their child comes to them. In the instance of a “Digital Pile On” the simplest way to deal with this is for your child to either save or print out the group chat and immediately leave the group.
Is there an app we haven’t included? Please help other parents and share it with us below!