Parents Need to Know about Snapchat

I realize that I’ve posted almost every month lately about dangerous uses of media.  But here’s another one.  Snapchat (and it’s rival, Poke).  These phone apps promise that any photo or video you send, “disintegrates” in seconds.  So guess what teens think they can do safely now?  Send sexual pictures.  I’ve even seen the term “safe sexting” used.  No worries, since no one can pass it on to be seen by others or live forever in cyberspace.  Or that’s what they think.  In fact, Snapchat gives a false sense of security.  Anyone can take a “screen shot” of what you send before it disappears, and then it can be passed on just like any other photo.  As with any sharing of information, Snapchat can be used for good, or for ill.  Here is an MSNBC video about this wildly popular app that will tell you more: LINK

Instagram; the New Facebook for Teens

Just when we think we’ve figured out what our teens are doing online, along comes something new.  The photo sharing app, Instagram, is now being used as an alternative (or in addition to) Facebook.  In fact, it’s the top photo sharing site among teens 12-17.  Because teens are commenting on the pictures, Instagram also functions much like Facebook.

As with any other social media, we parents need to be aware of what is being posted.  It’s not OK for teens to have privacy rights here.  You should be able to check out what they’re saying, and showing, from time to time, just so your daughter thinks twice before posing in her new hot bikini, for instance.  An article in shares with parents what we need to know about Instagram, and includes a link to one parent’s experience becoming a “follower” of her daughter’s Instagram, and the VERY helpful rules she’s implemented in her house about the use of this site.

How Teens Hide Online Behavior and Parents Trust Too Much

A 2012 McAfee study showed that 70% of teens admit to hiding their online behavior from parents, compared to just 45% two years earlier.  Meanwhile, almost 3/4 of parents (dare I say naive parents) say they trust their children not to access inappropriate content. With the consequences including emotional harm and dangerous and even illegal activities, it’s time we put the necessary effort into becoming tech savvy.  So let’s allow the teens to tell us how they’re hiding what they’re doing (from

  1. Clearing the browser history (53%)
  2. Close/minimize browser when parent walked in (46%)
  3. Hide or delete IMs or videos (34%)
  4. Lie or omit details about online activities (23%)
  5. Use a computer your parents don’t check (23%)
  6. Use an internet-enabled mobile device (21%)
  7. Use privacy settings to make certain content viewable only by friends (20%)
  8. Use private browsing modes (20%)
  9. Create private email address unknown to parents (15%)
  10. Create duplicate/fake social network profiles (9%)

Teens Freely Use Vulgar Slurs Online

Over the years, I have noticed the freedom with which teens seem to use bad language.  But what’s happening on Facebook,  Twitter and texting has gone way over some very serious lines that our generation would never have tolerated if said in person.  Young people are using words like “retard” or “fag” or the “n” word with shocking frequency.  According to an article I read, teens find it acceptable to use such derogatory slurs because “people are just trying to be funny or cool” or “people know we don’t mean it.”  I don’t know about you, but I was raised by a Dad who would not tolerate racist or demeaning language, and he would challenge anyone–visitors to our home, friends, ANYONE—if they used such words.  I have followed in his footsteps.

If your teen is throwing around these words under the impression that it’s how everyone talks, perhaps it’s time for a lesson in civility.   And yes, you have the right to see what they are saying on Facebook, Twitter or their phones; if they are using offensive language, a period of time without internet or phone privileges might be very instructive.