Updated: Jul 7
In light of the Momo Challenge I felt it was time to refresh an old Blog Post written on August 2016 and later updated on March 2018. The topic Parental Controls and Technology.
If you are a Parent, Aunt, Uncle or Grandparent I urge... NO I BEG YOU to read this entire post, watch the videos and direct your attention to the resources I provide to you at no cost. I am talking about the safety and well-being of YOUR CHILD(REN). I know we live in a busy world and we often put things on the back burner that we don't understand or think aren't important.
I'm telling you now - IT IS IMPORTANT.
What is Momo?
So whether Momo is real thing or just a ploy to drive network traffic, YouTube views or Social Media buzz it has done something that needed to occur a long time ago. That is to raise awareness of what was accessible to your family when the first 14.4 kbit/s AOL Dial-Up Modem was used in households across the country. (If you're a millennial you may have no idea what AOL is and that's fine).
o Why It's Important?
There are a lot of things that are accessible via the internet
Sharing of Private Information
Downloading Malicious Content like Malware/Viruses
So what do we do about it? Well it depends on what types of devices are being used:
Microsoft Windows Computers w/ Windows 10
Google Chrome Books
Apple OSX Computers
Google Android Tablets and Smart Phones
Apple iPads and iPhones w/ iOS XX
Now There's this update about Tik Tok (03-05-2019)
TikTok just got SLAMMED by the FTC for collecting data on your children. AND its also why you may hear kids saying their accounts were just deleted.
What about Messaging Apps?
Kidnapping, rape, child pornography, murder; these are the stories we see, all too frequently, involving our children. Even more alarming is that our kids’ smartphones, and more specifically the apps on their phones, are the gateway through which child predators get into their lives. The best way to protect your children is to arm yourself with information, so let’s take a look at some of the most dangerous apps for kids.
kik: One of the most dangerous apps for teens, and one continually making headlines, is kik. Messaging app kik allows your kids to send messages that you can’t see, and verifying the identity of both sender and receiver is very difficult. A popular app for kids under age 18, kik’s also very popular with sexual predators; this app should be deleted from your child’s phone.
Snapchat: Many adults are already using Snapchat, so you may already know the basics of using the app. Snapchat allows you to send a photo or video from your phone and determine how long the person on the other end can see the image until it self-destructs. What you may not realize is that teen users are bypassing the “self-destruct” aspect by capturing screenshots of interactions. This can be potentially devastating, as well as fuel for cyberbullying, should your teen share intimate information about themselves with friends. For this reason alone, Snapchat makes our list of the most dangerous apps for kids.
Ask.fm: A social networking site in question and answer format, Ask.fm caused enough problems in the U.K. for former Prime Minister, David Cameron, to urge parents not to let their children use the app. Seemingly innocuous, Ask.fm is being used by teens to abuse and bully others, made easier by the fact that there is no third party moderation of the content posted. Without adequate privacy settings, the absence of content moderations, and the ability to be used anonymously, Ask.fm has been linked to teen suicides around the globe.
Whisper: Another anonymous messaging app, Whisper allows users to connect in groups based upon their interests and location, and is used for “telling secrets”. While the app is rated 17+, the application allows 15-17 year olds to use the platform. Posts are “whispers” and users can search under topics and then reply publicly or open a personal chat. What makes Whisper one of the most dangerous apps for kids is that the anonymous aspect of the platform, paired with the location-based grouping, can easily connect your child with a predator.
Blendr: On Blendr, kids can message, exchange photos and videos, and rate the “hotness” of other users, based upon GPS location -- this, alone, poses an obvious issue with teens and tweens who are basing their identity and self-esteem on the feedback they receive from their peers. There is no age restriction, so your children can potentially be having exchanges with adults through this app.
WhatsApp: WhatsApp is a messaging service that lets users exchange unlimited text, audio, photo and video messages over the Internet. What makes WhatsApp one of the most dangerous apps for teens is that interactions and exchanges are on a platform other than their phone, meaning teens can have messaging interactions and exchanges that are not saved on their phones (and reviewed by parents). WhatsApp appeals to teens for the privacy and freedom to exchange any messages they want, with whomever they want.
While you may consider yourself a pro at navigating Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram, these are relatively safe places for your children to spend time, as attested by this list of dangerous apps for kids. Again, arm yourself with information to stay “in-the-know” with the apps your child may be drawn to, but can very well be harmful to them. Install a parental control software that includes a report when new apps are downloaded by anyone in your family.
What about YouTube, It's Safe Right?
Need to know how to French Braid, tie your shoes or speak a different language? How about some entertainment like adorable animal videos or music videos? You can find all this and SO much more on YouTube!
It’s that SO much more that every parent needs to know about! While YouTube can be a wonderful wealth of knowledge and entertainment, it can also be a wealth of inappropriate content as well for your child.
Here are 4 things every parent needs to know about YouTube
There is inappropriate content on YouTube - just like they may inadvertently stumble across internet porn or other inappropriate content on an internet search, you child could come across that on YouTube as well.
Setting Up a Google Account for your Child as opposed to letting them use your account is advised. You can take it one step further and set the child's account up through Google Family by checking out https://safety.google/families/
Most YouTube videos allow comments - when you have the conversation with your child about how to behave on social media, be sure to also include YouTube and incorporate some “best practices”.
YouTube Kids - YouTube has become so popular among children and teenagers that Google came out with a kid friendly version geared towards those ages 13 and under. This site is designed to censor any inappropriate content.
The popularity of YouTube is undeniable and can offer some exciting, educational and entertaining options for children, teens and adults! Like most things in today’s technology driven culture, it needs to be used responsibly, with discretion and parental supervision. Parental control software allows your child to have independence as they explore YouTube but with boundaries parents set to block or warn of inappropriate content. Our children and teens are exposed to a lot today and with this exposure also comes the opportunity and parental responsibility to teach them how to manage it appropriately.
How about other forms of Social Media?
The data is in, kids enjoy social media. The studies confirm it.
n fact, 89% of teens ages 13 to 17, according to Pew Research, reported using at least one social media site and 71% reported use of more than one site. Did you know that Just about every social media site allows users to sign up when they reach 13 years of age?. Your child's friends are on the websites, talking about media they saw on the websites, sharing their experiences and stories on the websites. The “happening” stuff is happening online, and kids want to be a part of the hub. Naturally, kids under the age of 13 want to engage in this as well. And they are. A study by knowthenet.org.uk found that about 59% of children have used a social network by the age of 10. Signing up for platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram underage is not difficult. Birthdays are easily faked to inflate ages and companies very rarely monitor this or even do anything about it.
Parents may pause at the thought of their younger children using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and rightly so. A child tapping into a network shared by billions of people worldwide and trying to navigate safely is an intimidating thought.
WHY ARE AGE RESTRICTIONS NEEDED?
There is a biological importance to age restrictions. One could raise the question, are we ever developed enough to have our words and actions cemented into a history book accessible to the whole world? I doubt very many people are. But before the age 13, the implications of being exposed to this, living history book called the internet are amplified. At around age 12, biologically, most kids have not developed robust enough cognitive functions for impulse control or ethical thinking.
Understanding the effect of a post on social media is beyond the cognitive grasp of a young mind, and any mistake or misjudgment cannot be wiped from the online slate thereby potentially effecting their future. Moreover, if a child is targeted by harassers or predators, their limited ability to handle such a situation at a young age may put them in danger, both mentally and physically.
Along with issues of kid’s undeveloped brains and responsibility, there are legal ramifications when kids falsify their age to create a social media account. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is designed to protect the personal information of children under 13 online. Companies are required to notify and receive permission from parents to collect personal information from kids. The act also bars companies from collecting images or video that could identify the child. The protections outlined in COPPA are not extended to children under the age of 13 but claiming they are 13 to open an account. When a child signs up for an account with a falsified birth date, they are outside the reach of protection offered by the act and their personal information is at risk.
KEEPING KIDS SAFE
Age restrictions on social media platforms are in place to keep kids safe. Unfortunately, violating these restrictions is simple and easy. When young kids falsify their age and use social media, they are often too young to understand the implications of their posts or effectively handle dangerous situations, and cannot be protected by laws directed at the safety of youth online.
Thought it was just an app to add filters and edit photos on the go? Oh no, it is much more than that!
With the rise of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, it has also sparked new types of photo sharing apps that have evolved into a whole new field of Social Media on their own. Mobile photo sharing apps like Instagram began with the idea that it allowed users to share photos and videos of their daily lives on the go from their mobile device. As a young adult myself, I use Instagram as a way to capture unique shots of what is going on around me and to network with others in the creative field. But, as Instagram has evolved and was now recently acquired by Facebook, it has to compete in the bigger world of Social Media. It has done so by adding some unique features to its app, which parents of young children should be aware of.
This medium of sharing is a whole new world to try and navigate, especially for parents who are trying to adjust themselves to the tech world. It can be difficult to sift through the many articles about this new and exciting app, but hopefully this simple explanation can clarify what parents need to know about Instagram. Here are 5 features and settings that parents should be aware of in order to keep your children out of sticky situations while using the Instagram App:
1. DIRECT MESSAGING
Keeping in Touch with Friends: Instagram's new Direct Messaging feature is a great way for kids to keep in touch with large groups of friends, through the process of creating "group messages." Originally, this feature was intended for the purpose of sending and sharing photos among friends and being able to comment on them. Now in order to compete with other social messaging and networking sites, this feature has evolved into this generation's new form of instant messenger. For kids on Instagram, it provides quick an easy access to messaging among their large circles of friends, which is always available on the go on their mobile devices.
2. PRIVACY SETTINGS
Public Vs. Private Profiles: As a young 20 year old entering the professional world, I switched my Instagram profile to public about a year or two ago in order to have more reach when it comes to social networking. This means that anyone can view my entire profile, including many future employers or businesses. Knowing this I am usually very careful about what I post to Instagram.
It is recommended that many younger Instagram users keep their profile set to "private." This means that only certain people can see their posts and full profile. And in order for someone to become a follower of your child's profile, they must send a request and your child can either accept or deny this request.
3. COMPETITION FOR "LIKES" & FOLLOWERS
Unlike other social networking sites that are all about written statuses or "tweets" that express kid's ideas, Instagram features solely an image and a small caption to capture other user's attention. This unique platform allows kids to use their creativity and imagination to create attention-grabbing images as a form of self-expression. Other users who are followers can "like" the photo if they find it creative or interesting as well.
Parental encouragement of their child's creative form of self-expression is great for their young minds. But, competition for the most "likes" on a photo or followers on your child's profile can cause them to sometimes push it too far to the point of acting inappropriately and sharing images that can be detrimental in the future of these users.
Parents should keep an eye on the content that their children are posting on their account to make sure it stays age appropriate and safe. Also, having a discussion about not always having to have to most popular photo is a smart way to remind kids that they should not be influenced by what everyone else is posting, but should stay focused on what they are interested in.
4. GEO-TAGGING & HASHTAGS
Just like many other social media sites, Instagram users have the ability to "Add a Location" to their photos. This form of check-in feature can pose a potentially dangerous threat to the safety of your entire family. By posting a vacation photo with a Geo-tag, it can alert dangerous individuals that you are not at home, which creates a situation where your home and family could fall victim to criminals. This practice could also alert child predators to your child's location, making them a potential victim. This feature can be disabled to prevent future use in "Location Services."
Ever hear a young kid refer to the pound symbol as a "hashtag", and think "Huh, what?" Instagram, like Twitter and other social networking sites, features searchable picture tagging. By using the "#" symbol and a unique catch phrase or word, it enables new viewers and attention to be drawn to your kid's posts. Although mostly positive, these hashtags can pose a safety threat and draw unwanted attention to your kid's posts. Discussing the consequences of using inappropriate or suggestive hashtags can help kids learn how to be more responsible on social media platforms in the future.
5. POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS SITUATIONS
Cyber-Bullying: Although Instagram's new direct messaging feature is a great way to connect and share opinions; it also opens the door for a new form of cyber-bullying. Other kids now have the power to gang-up on their peers by sharing cruel words and opinions, which can quickly turn into malicious harassment. Comments on photos are an even more public way of expressing potentially harassing messages. According to a joint survey by Facebook and Seventeen Magazine, 51% of girls saw hurtful posts about other girls online at least once a week. Proper monitoring of your child's online conversations is key to preventing these situations. Also, talking to your child about what to do if they find themselves in a similar situation is essential to making sure everyone in your family is being safe while online.
Please note that Instagram does have an in-app reporting feature to report bullying.
"Sexting": With Instagram's new direct messaging feature young users are now able to send not just text messages, but photos in private messages as well. Kids have tried to use this method to send inappropriate or revealing photos to friends and even strangers, as they believe these private messages will remain "private." This is simply not the case, as many of these photos can be saved and sent elsewhere. Monitoring whom your children are talking to and what they are sending is vital for avoiding such dangerous situations.
With the proper guidance, Instagram has the potential to be a great mobile app that allows your children to creatively share their personal views and interests. But, making sure they know how to use it responsibly is key to maintaining your families Internet safety. As a parent, if you find yourself having difficulty with starting these conversations with your children there are some great tools available to help you.
At the end of the day, what is most important is allowing your children to learn how to safely and responsibly share their original content. Encourage your children to post and connect with their peers safely.
I hope this information is helpful and informative and puts you on the right path of securing your child(ren)'s device(s).