Parenting

10 apps every parent should look out for on their tween’s or teen’s cell phone

As I mentioned in my post about monitoring kids social media, it is very important to look at your kids’ devices for various applications that may not be the most user friendly for kids, tweens and teens. Following is a (partial) list of apps you should question and/ or monitor closely on your child’s device.

KIK– A mobile texting app that allows users to quickly message with friends and other users at high speed, while feeling more like face to face because of pictures appearing in the chat. The app is rated for 17+ but the lack of age verification allows anyone to download and use it. The disturbing part of this app is how it allows users to chat with others simply based on username, no cell phone number needed. This seems like a bad idea, because should kids really be messaging with people they don’t know? Reviews reveal that many users use KIK for sexting with strangers sending up another huge red flag.

SnapChat– HUGELY popular with tweens and teens, this is an app to keep a close eye on. This app allows users to send texts and pictures that “disappear” within 10 seconds of being received. Users use it to send racy photos believing that the photo will disappear, however like everything posted online, we know that NOTHING truly disappears. Snapchat allows users to take screen shots which can then be redistributed. Experts worry that the “disappearing” aspect may embolden users to say or share things they may not in a traditional chat environment.

Yik Yak– This anonymous “social wall for anything and everything” relies heavily on users to do the monitoring making it a hotbed for misuse. The TOC says this app is for 17+ but when did that ever stop a younger user from downloading or using such an app especially when no personal info is required to sign up?  This app is known for making is easy to bully and post hurtful comments and rumors about others. In addition it has been used to post “threats” against schools.

Ask.fm- While seemingly innocent on the surface, this interactive question and answer format app has been linked to numerous cases of cyber bullying and even suicide. While this app is more popular in Europe it has been gaining traction in the States.

Tinder– Nearly all mobile device users know Tinder; the swipe for likes “dating” app which is mainly used for hook ups. Tinder helps unite people by geographical location (danger) allowing users to find and communicate with others in their area once they have each liked the others photo. The geo-location feature and anonymity of the app put youngsters at risk of sexual harassment, cat-fishing, stalking, and more. Numerous articles and parenting sites have posted articles about the danger of this app. Definitely block this from your kids’ phones.

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Instagram– As tweens and teens venture away from Facebook, leaving it more to older generations, many are heading to Instagram, a photo sharing app owned by Facebook. While filters are stronger than those on Tumblr, users may still be exposed to inappropriate content and comments. The biggest issue here appears to be “trolls” or anonymous people making hurtful or vicious comments on posts. Many “kid” users have “spam” accounts with fake names used to post content they may not want Mom, Dad or Grandma to see. Geotagging can be turned off and specific users can be blocked but users need to be sure to take advantage of these features.

Tumblr– A photo sharing/ micro-blogging app much like Instagram, Tumblr allows sharing of photos, videos and chatting. The 17+ app is often used by kids under that age which is alarming because filtering is lax making it easy to access pornographic, violent or otherwise inappropriate images. Mental health experts warn that Tumblr can be harmful to adolescents self-esteem and mental health because it shows images that glorify self-harm and eating disorders. While “safe browsing” setting are available they are not easily accessed.

Omegle/ ChatRoulette– These apps allow users to video chat with strangers and despite attempts by developers to warn users when others are using fake web cam software, users DO still slip under the radar. This could lead to a 50 year old man posing as a good looking 15 year old boy in order to try to coax inappropriate pictures or even location information from young users.

Whisper– This chat app allows users to post secrets anonymously and also allows you to chat with others in your geographical area. Obviously this is dangerous in that users, i.e. your child, may be convinced to share info with someone unknown to them by geographically very close, allowing anonymity to be easily lost.

Poof– Poof is an app designed to “clear clutter” from phone screens but in reality many teens are using it to HIDE questionable apps from Mom & Dad.
Bottom line.. parents should be looking at their kids phones regularly and if you see an icon you don’t recognize, research it! You should be using (or monitoring) the apps that your kids are using so you can keep an eye on them. You may think your kid is honest and “well trained” in internet safety but they are kids.. they stretch boundaries and make mistakes. It’s up to US as parents to guide them through this mine field.

www.brushandbarnwood.com

More resources:

connectsafely.org

SafeKids.com

Commonsensemedia.org

https://www.webwise.ie

bewebsmart.com

Parenting

10 Tips for monitoring your Tween/ Teens Social Media

 

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Raising a child in this digital time is certainly a challenge. It seems that apps change faster than parents can keep up. But keep up we MUST in order to protect our kids from cyber bullies, predators and even themselves.

My daughter is a freshman in high school and got her first cell phone at age 12, when she was starting middle school and taking part in more activities independently. Despite whining and carrying on “that all her friends had phones” even earlier than that, we stuck to our guns until a more appropriate (in our opinion) age. When we gave her the phone, we also set a bunch of ground rules, some of which have evolved but all of which I feel are in line with what “experts” recommend for kids with digital devices.  Here are the Top Ten:

  1. LOOK THROUGH THEIR DEVICES.  This is not an invasion of their privacy.. they are CHILDREN and not known for making the best decisions. See what apps they have, READ their posts and texts, LOOK at their pictures! Be aware of what your children are posting and seeing!
  2. MONITOR APPS. You decide what apps a child can and cannot have on their device. LOOK into those apps. Seemingly “innocent” apps like Music.ly, are unable to keep up with technology and have been linked to kids being exposed to pornography and other inappropriate content.
  3. REVIEW PRIVACY. In alignment with the Child Privacy Act social media sites require kids to be aged 13 or older to join so that their information is protected. If your child is under that age and has a social media account, you must be aware that that account was obtained using false information.
    Be sure to check all privacy features of allowed apps to make sure profiles which may include personal information are private and not open to the general public.
    In addition, check your HOME internet privacy settings to help limit what kinds of content kids and teens can access.
  4. SET BOUNDARIES. Once your child has access to social media, it is important that you discuss WHAT is acceptable to share. Be sure kids know that it is NOT ok to share last name (sign up with middle name or fake last name) location, phone number. Be aware that some apps with geotagging may inadvertently share locations, making it easy to pinpoint where a child lives, attends school or hangs out. Be sure this feature is turned off. Be aware of WHO is looking at and liking your child’s photos. I was shocked to see some of my daughter’s friends Instagram accounts with thousands of followers. These are STRANGERS and many of them are strange MEN. This shouldn’t be a popularity contest. Teach your child that their self-esteem should not be wrapped in on how many LIKES, FRIENDS or FOLLOWERS they have on Social Media.
  5. MONITOR ACTIVITY. Make sure you are a contact/ friend with your child (and their friends) on ALL social media apps. Check what they post, read the comments, watch the activity on their accounts. If there is little to no activity on an account there is a good chance your child may have a secondary/ secret account. Check their devices!
  6. CONTENT. As mentioned above, monitor content. LOOK to see what is being posted. Talk to your kids about the image they are conveying. Would they want You to see it? Grandma? A potential employer?
    Posts that are provocative, portray a lot of partying, drug use, criminal behavior, or other “unsavory” images can come back to haunt the poster later. The Internet, while digital, is permanent and these kinds of posts have been known to affect college applications, employment, and more.
  7. LIMIT ACCESS. It is not unusual to sit down in a restaurant and look around and see entire families with faces glued to phones. Kids seem less able to carry on an actual conversation these days. Do yourself a favor a LIMIT the time they (and you) can have their phones. Most carriers offer options for you turn off internet to devices during certain times such as school hours, after bed time or other times. Set rules about putting phones away during dinner time, homework time, family time or whatever works in your household.
  8.  PUBLIC. Put computers and devices in public areas. Allowing your child to hide away in their room is just asking for them to push the boundaries of what is appropriate to view or engage in. They’re teens, pushing boundaries is their game!!
  9. TALK ABOUT BULLYING. Cyber bullying has taken bullying to a whole new level. It is a real and growing problem for both kids and adults alike. Talk to your kids about what it is and what to do if they encounter it or witness it.
  10. PLAN. Let’s face it, it’s not always the easiest to talk to your tween/ teen and vice versa. Stuff happens.. have a plan for “stuff”. Make sure your child knows where to go for help in the event that things get out of hand they don’t want to come to you. Identify school staff,, coaches, family members or other trusted adults that your child can talk to if they get into an uncomfortable situation online. Make sure they know you support them and are there when they need you.

In my next post I will cover some of the more popular apps for teens and why they may or may not be safe.

Kids_Social_Media

Parenting

Why I support my daughter walking out of school…

On Wednesday, March 14 there is scheduled to be a national school walk outnot only in remembrance of the 17 shooting victims from Parkland, FL, but also as a call to action for Congress to pass tighter gun control laws.

We have discussed this issue with our teenage daughter many times over the past couple of weeks. Discussions have ranged from anxiety-fueled to calm. How do you convince your kid that they will be SAFE at school when you can’t be 100% sure? All we can do as parents is outline that the school has acknowledged the possibility of violence, and has prepared with drills and has a police officer on campus. How do you make your child feel secure and in control when they clearly are NOT??

I feel the walk out will give these kids, most of whom are too young to vote, A VOICE. This will be an opportunity to unite with other like-minded kids, raise their voices against gun violence, and demand better control from Congress. In this nationwide “protest”, these kids (and parents, teachers and administrators) will hopefully demonstrate their demand for SAFE EDUCATIONAL SPACES. This is the perfect way for students to show that.

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In addition to raising their voices, my hope for students, is that in coming together for these 17 minutes, it will be a powerful way to FEEL and express their emotions of fear, sadness, anger, strength, and to realize that they ARE NOT ALONE.

  • I just received an email from our principal stating that they are aware that many students on our high school campus plan to participate in this Nationwide School Walkout, and while they promote academic pursuits, they also recognize the need for student-led civic engagement and social emotional needs. My understanding is that students will be supported in a brief walk out as long as it remains peaceful and on campus. Yes!

For more info on the Nationwide School Walkout:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/national-school-walkout-march-14/story?id=53531886

https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/11/us/national-school-walkout-march-14/index.html

 

Parenting

We’re all in this together

This may not be a very PC post but my mama bear heart is bursting at the seams with too many emotions.

Yesterday a 12 year old boy in a neighboring city took a knife to school and stabbed another 12 year old boy. A few days ago my friend’s daughter’s school was placed in lock down when the office received a threat. Only days before that, another friend’s daughter was in her high school which was locked down for 2.5 hours because of threats found scrawled on a note. Things like this are happening DAILY across the nation. Kids are picking up weapons and taking them to school.. something is WRONG here and its not JUST lack of gun control.

I don’t want to get into the topic of gun control.. I am not anti-gun, but I am not anti-gun control either. Its a tough issue, but I think this issue with school shootings, violence and bullying boils down to something else…

WHAT happened to PARENTING??

IMG_0167Times have changed a lot from when I was in high school. I believe that parenting is harder now that ever because social media and digital devices allow our kids to be in touch with the world, the community and each other 24/7. If we as parents aren’t sticking our noses into their business, we aren’t doing our jobs. You can’t escape any newspaper or news site without SOME headline about school violence lately and so often the parents had NO CLUE about what was going on. Kids do NOT have any right to privacy, I’m sorry.. but they don’t. Maybe they can EARN a certain amount of privacy but as a parent we HAVE to know what is going on with them and their friends.

I’m sure many disagree with this. Heck, I KNOW many of my daughter’s “friends” parents don’t agree or don’t care, because I really don’t think their kids would act the way they do if the parents had a CLUE as to what their kids posted online. Our daughter knows that as long as we pay for the cell phone, we can access it ANY TIME. Likewise her computer, tablet, bedroom, etc. Have I gone into her room and nosed around, hell yes! Do I read texts and look at her Instagram feed? You betcha!  WHY? Because I want to know what is going on in her life…

Does she resent this? Maybe a little. But here’s the thing..  because she knows I might look at any time (and have) she TALKS to us. Maybe too much. LOL.. I laugh because I don’t really need to hear every little bit of gossip and drama going on between “A & B”, but she doesn’t hide stuff. Her friends still think I’m a cool Mom and they all talk in front of me.. even about the embarrassing stuff, the sad stuff and the scary stuff.

So, I think this is the starting point. We (society) need to stop worrying about being our kids friends and PARENT them. We need to not be concerned if our kid is mad at our decision or hate our rules, but be concerned with teaching our kids to be KIND, compassionate people. To be self confident and helpful and GOOD citizens. We need to teach boys that girls are equals and we need to teach girls that they deserve to be treated as such. We need to empower our kids to succeed and help them if they are reaching out for help, and we need to not be afraid to ask for and offer HELP when we see a child is struggling. And if someone is showing any kind of warning signals.. for god’s sake.. SAY SOMETHING!! Don’t wait.. we’re all in this together!