Reportedly, teens spend 7.5 hours a day connected to digital services. And did you know that a rising number of kids are ‘sexting’?
But don’t blame Facebook. Recent studies show that teens aged 16-18 are easily sharing inappropriate content on newer social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and Kik.
So what are these trending social media apps, and what exactly are our kids doing on them? Here is a quick run-down:
In a quick and simple way to interact, Snapchat is popular among teens because it allows them to send photos that disappear within 10 seconds.
On the surface, this seems like a ‘safe’ way for kids to share photos on social media. However, the recipient can easily take a screen shot of these allegedly temporary images, which can be saved and shared in the future, making this fertile ground for bullies.
As well, Snapchat has become a popular platform for teen sexting. According to Snapchat, 350 million photos or ‘Snaps’ are sent daily across the network.
Like Snapchat, Instagram is another photo-sharing app where teens can post photos. And while Instagram is supposed to be used by children over 13 (like Facebook), many of our kids are tech-savvy enough to overcome that obstacle.
Of particular concern is the feature that enables users to share the photo’s location – which essentially broadcasts your child’s whereabouts.
Additionally, Instagram recently allowed users to send photos privately as direct messages, which makes sending racy or inappropriate pics that much easier.
Integrating some of the features that social networking sites offer, Kik is an instant-messaging app that is similar to texting.
Teens are using Kik to send photos, files and participate in group chat as an alternative to email or text messaging because it allows them to avoid expensive data charges.
While it is free as long as you have WiFi, the Kik app has no parental controls and the comments posted are private, making it the perfect platform for sexting.
Vine is Twitter’s video-sharing app that allows users to record and share 6-second videos that are on a continuous loop. With just one click, the Vine community shares with Twitter and Facebook.
Once teens download the Vine app, they have access to all kinds of videos, including ones that are sexually explicit. As such, teens can create and share inappropriate videos of their own.
Not only that, the app has a geo-locator function, making Vine a potential playground for predators.
OK, who else is freaked out right now? My three kids are still young, but I know the teen years are quickly approaching.
What can a parent do?
A few examples, as outlined by Internet safety expert Russ Warner, CEO of ContentWatch, makers of parental control software Net Nanny, shares some helpful tips:
- Talk with your child. Only 50 percent of kids say parents talk with them about online risks. (Source)
- Monitor your child’ time online. And 44 percent of kids say parents monitor their time spent online. (Source)
- Check your child’s social media sites. Only 30 percent of parents check on a child’s social network profile. (Source)
- Set ground rules. About 90 percent of kids think it’s OK for parents to set rules for phone use. (Source)
- If your child is being bullied, take quick action.