Every time I think about my daughter hitting teendom, my face does this:
It gets worse when I think about how social media will be a major part of her teenage years. And while I don’t believe in banning kids from social media land altogether, I do think (as do most parents) there needs to be limits.
And it’s not only Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter that we need to be aware of.
There is a boatload of apps that many parents (including myself until recently) don’t know about. I know a lot of moms and dads will get their hackles up over the suggestion that they don’t know what their kids are doing online. But let’s face it, kids can be naïve, sneaky, and risk-taking – a perfect storm for terrible social media choices.
I am not a helicopter parent. I think the idea of “stranger danger” is completely blown out of proportion. And I don’t coddle my child. But I really think social media has the potential to be really harmful if parents and kids don’t understand it or know how to use it responsibly.
Here are just a few of the apps that give me the shudders. None of them are directly aimed at the under-aged, but because it’s impossible to verify ages when registering, kids can easily use them.
If you’re a grown-up, go for it. If you’re still in grade school, nope. This app describes itself as a new and interesting way to meet people, which really means a new way to hook up. And there is nothing to stop kids from using this app. Its anonymous nature can lead to cyber-bullying and the geo-location feature puts kids at real risk.
A very weird website where anyone can make their webcam live so that others can watch them do mundane, everyday things and comment on it. Enough said.
This app allows users to “yak” anonymously to the people closest around them (based on geo-location). Obviously, this can lead to some really harsh stuff that teens and young kids may not be able to handle.
Used almost exclusively by kids, this app lets users ask anonymous questions about anything to other users. Again, this kind of app can open the door to harassment and cyber-bullying.
I love social media. Social networks and mobile apps are incredible ways to make connections and become a part of a community. But things can turn on a dime and kids can quickly get caught up in something ugly.
So what can parents do? I can’t give the best advice because my daughter is only two. Her social network is a gaggle of stuffed animals. They don’t say much.
But for parents of older kids, I think the best thing is to know what’s out there and insist on keeping the lines of communications open, even if it drives them up the wall.
What are your social media safety tips for kids?