By Christine Elgersma, Common Sense Media
It can be hard to keep up with the latest apps that kids are using. Just when you've figured out how to talk to your kids about Facebook, they've moved on to Instagram or Snapchat. But here's the deal: Even when new apps come along, adding new features such as the ability to disappear or track your location, they're often not that different from other apps. And if you know what to look for, you can help your kid avoid some common social media pitfalls such as drama, cyberbullying and oversharing.
Does a red flag mean your kid shouldn't use a particular app? Not at all. Most kids use social media apps safely -- and kids don't always use every feature of every app. Also, you can often disable certain features so they're no longer a problem. Finally, talking about using social media safely, responsibly, and respectfully is the best way to help your kid identify and avoid red flags. Here are the most common social media red flags, the apps they're found in, and tips for dealing with them.
Age-inappropriate content. Some examples: Ask.fm, Tumblr, Vine
Public default settings. Some examples: Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine, Ask.fm
- What to do: As soon as you download the app, go into the settings to check the defaults. If a kid is using the same program on a browser, check there, too.
Location tracking and sharing. Some examples: Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Messenger
- What to do: Turn off location settings on the phone AND in the app; check to see whether previous posts include location information, and delete it.
Real-time video streaming. Some examples: YouNow, Periscope, Meerkat, (Facebook soon)
- What to do: Talk to your kids about why they want to share video of themselves and what they should and shouldn't share. Talk about positive, constructive uses of video sharing, such as creating shorts using editing programs or creating an interest-based channel to funnel your teen's creativity.
Ads and in-app purchases. Some examples: Kik, Line, Snapchat, Facebook
- What to do: Know what's available in the app and set limits around purchases. Check out the types of ads coming at your kids, teach them to recognize all the kinds of digital marketing, and talk about what to do if they're approached online by someone trying to sell something.
"Temporary" pictures and videos. Some examples: Snapchat, Burn Note, Yik Yak, Line, Meerkat, Periscope, YouNow
- What to do: Let your kids know that nothing they send is truly temporary, and it's easy for others to share what you've sent. Because it's often hard for kids to really consider consequences, and they might think it won't happen to them, it might be worth sharing some of the recent cases of kids getting in legal trouble because of "disappearing" pictures.
Subpar reporting tools. Some examples: Yik Yak, Snapchat, Omegle, Yeti - Campus Stories
- What to do: Read the terms of service to get an idea of what's allowed and how much posts are moderated, and have your kids read it, too. Make sure they know how to report harassment and block other users when necessary.
Anonymity. Some examples: Yik Yak, Whisper, Ask.fm, Omegle
- What to do: Make sure your teen understands the risks involved and that they know how to block and report other users if necessary. Also, if they need connection but it's hard to talk about a problem (especially with you), give them opportunities to share with other safe, trusted people.
Cyberbullying. Some examples: Yik Yak, Ask.fm, Burnbook (only website right now)
- What to do: Ask around and pay attention to what parents, teachers, and other kids say about it to get a sense if it's stirring up trouble. Make sure your teen understands how to report and block other users, and check the school's policy about cyberbullying.
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