Social Media and Our Kids

social-media-iconsI know. It’s overwhelming. It’s always changing, but guess what? It’s here to stay and it has become a big part of our children’s lives. If it hasn’t yet in yours, it will, eventually. You can try to keep them away, but the more you do, the more they are going to want to try it. Just like every other forbidden fruit. Someone, somewhere will give them access and the next thing you know, your child(ren) will be exposed to the world of social media.

Not all social media is bad. It depends on how it is used and the content your child(ren) post and/or read. It’s something you, as a parent, need to monitor.

It’s a different world we live in these days and instead of ignoring it, hoping it goes away, or not paying attention to it, I highly suggest you get familiarized with it.

That’s what I hope to be able to bring to you – information, tips, tricks and cheats on how to navigate through this ever-changing world of social media and the internet.

In Case You Missed It [ICYMI] – Articles to Read

rewind-logoThere’s a term buzzing around the internet and social media sites called “ICYMI”. Admittedly, I had to look it up myself to find out what that stood for. It’s basically anything you may have missed in the news and buzz of social media for the day, week, month. So, I’m going to give you a wrap up of some popular articles I’ve been sharing on Facebook, just in case you missed it.

“Snapchat and 6 Other Messaging Apps That Let Teens Share (Iffy) Secrets” by Common Sense Media

This article goes over 6 popular “temporary apps” (messages and images that self-destruct). It explains what they are, why they are popular and what parents need to know. Lots of useful information and what to be aware of.

Article: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/snapchat-and-6-other-messaging-apps-that-let-teens-share-iffy-secrets

Teens are officially over Facebook” by the Washington Post

Teens are over Facebook. Most are on Instagram and Twitter….

Article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/10/08/teens-are-officially-over-facebook/

Making a case for spying on kids’ online activities” from CBS News

I keep saying and encouraging parents to check their children’s phones. This is advice from a mother last year who lost her daughter. Every parent should know where their kids are – especially online. A powerful statement of hers “It’s not spying. It is parenting.”

Article: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/making-a-case-for-spying-on-kids-online-activities/

How to find out if your kids are sexting on Snapchat” by CNN

Want to see what your kids are doing on their phone? This app/software allows you to monitor what they are doing. Including Snapchat! Would you use it? It’s called “MSpy“.

Article: http://money.cnn.com/2014/09/03/technology/social/spy-on-snapchat/index.html

Features of MSpy: http://www.mspy.com/features.html

Apps That Parents Should Worry About

 

dangerphone

It seems like every week, there is another app being developed that parents need to be aware of. I hope to be able to share those with you as I investigate and find out more myself.

Here are a few great articles you should read that outline some of the dangerous apps kids and teenagers are using.

http://www.checkupnewsroom.com/7-dangerous-apps-that-parents-need-to-know-about/

http://www.newsnet5.com/news/local-news/oh-cuyahoga/apps-that-teenagers-love-but-parents-need-to-worry-about

http://www.education.com/magazine/article/worst-apps-kids/

My summary is below of the ones I feel cause the biggest problems…

Yik Yak

This is a newer app now available and probably the most dangerous. You can post anonymously, potentially causing cyber-bullying but even worse, it lets anyone (strangers) in the area view your posts. The app uses the device’s GPS signal to let those strangers know that you are close by.

SnapChat

I hate this app. I knew as soon as it was created, it would cause problems. The app lets you send a photo or video to another member and after 10 seconds, it disappears from the receiver’s inbox. Kids and teenagers have a false sense of privacy when it comes to this app. Problem is…nothing is “deleted” in cyberspace. It goes somewhere and if they are sexting or sending inappropriate photos, the legal ramifications can destroy their future.

KiK Messenger

Even though this app is rated for people 17 and over, the 11-15 year olds are the ones using it the most. Teenagers are moving away from Facebook where their parents can view what they say. Instead, they take to group text messages or messaging services like Kik to hold conversations with their friends. With Kik Messenger, the kids don’t need a phone line. It’s all done over Wifi so anyone on an iPod Touch or iPad can sign up and use it as well. Kids tend to promote their Kik Messenger username on public social media outlets like Vine and Instagram where anyone (including a pedophile) could start chatting with them. Make sure to check your child’s device for this app and if they are using it, monitor the conversations going on.

 Omegle

This app is definitely not for kids or anyone under 18. It’s a video chat app that links you up with complete strangers to talk to one-on-one. Enough said, right? Delete it if you find it on your child’s device and have a serious conversation about the risks in talking to strangers over the internet/mobile device.

 Whisper

This app promotes users to share secrets, gossip or feelings anonymously with the people around them. It shows your location but not your name.  It’s an app the kids just don’t need.

Ask.fm

I saved the best (worst!) for last. Ask.fm. It can be used through the app or online through their website. It’s a question and answer format that tweens and teens are using more and more. It is being used more and more for cyberbullying. Unfortunately, users can ask questions anonymously which has caused bullying to occur. Content is not monitored. Find out if your child has an “ask.fm” profile or search for them yourself. You may be surprised. If you’re not worried about this app/website, I highly suggest reading this article on 10 frightening facts that all parents should know about Ask.fm:  http://www.chicagonow.com/tween-us/2013/10/facts-about-ask-fm-parents/

I know it’s tough to keep up and try and monitor what your kids are doing online and with their devices. You can’t ban them from every app or website out there but you can talk to them about it. Parents need to set boundaries and teach their children what is right and wrong in this ever changing digital world. It’s not going away so educate yourself and your children.

Smartphone Contract for My Teenage Son

contract

My son just finished middle school last week. For his graduation and good grades, I’m getting him a smartphone. He’s had a cell phone (old school, flip phone) for a few years but hardly ever uses it. He’s also got an iPod Touch which he’s taken care of for several years. With him going in to high school, I figured it was time. I didn’t just hand him over a new phone. I wrapped up an empty box and said it was “coming soon” along with a smartphone contract that he must sign before I get him the phone. None of this was a surprise to him. He already knows these rules apply and we’ve been using these rules for years now. I just wanted it in writing and a reminder of what to expect.

For the contract, I searched online for other cell phone contracts for kids. I found a few I liked, combined them in to my own and added what I needed to. Below was the final product.

 

Dear SON,

Congratulations on finishing middle school! You will be the proud recipient of a new iPhone 5s (coming soon). I am so very proud of you not only for all the work this year but in the past as well. You have shown such care with your iPod Touch(es) and I expect the same care for your new iPhone as well.  Please read through the following contract. I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well-rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone.

  1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you.
  2. YOU are responsible for any overage amount for going over the data plan.
  3. Your parents will always know the password.
  4. We can go through the contents of your phone at any time, with or without your knowledge. You agree to surrender your phone immediately, to any of us, if asked.
  5. You will not delete your texting history without permission, and you will fully cooperate in showing your parents the contents of your phone, including contacts, pictures, videos, text messages, etc.
  6. You will always respond to any of our  texts/calls, as soon as possible, in the given situation. You will not ignore our calls and texts.
  7. If the phone falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.
  8. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay out of the crossfire.
  9. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
  10. Do not text, email, or say anything that you wouldn’t say in person with your parents listening. Censor yourself.
  11. Do not use your phone to take pictures or video of nudity, violence or other unlawful activity. If you ever receive inappropriate photos from a stranger OR someone that you do know, you will immediately tell one of your parents. And, you will NOT respond to any such message.
  12. You will not use your phone for malicious purposes, i.e. bullying, spreading rumors/gossip, etc, nor will you send text messages that are vulgar, obscene, or sexual in nature.  You must understand that such messages are both highly inappropriate and potentially illegal.
  13. No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with any of us. If you have a question about anything, ask a person – preferably, one of your parents.
  14. Turn it off, silence it, and put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.
  15. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear — including a bad reputation.
  16. Do not download apps that are not age appropriate. You must ask permission before signing up for any social media accounts (like Instagram or Facebook).
  17. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO (fear of missing out).
  18. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Wonder without googling.
  19. You will obey all rules your school has regarding cell phones usage on school grounds.
  20. You understand that your phone may be taken away at ANY time for ANY reason that your parents see fit especially if you are not maintaining good grades, get in to trouble, fail to complete school assignments/homework or if you are disrespectful or disobedient.
  21. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You and I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.

It is my hope that you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the iPhone, but to life. You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine. I love you. I hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone.

xoxox,
Mom

______________________________________SON’s Signature

The Digital Footprint

Image

Never has there been a better time to get involved with your child and social media then now. Our children are growing up fast and in this digital age, it’s important to make sure they are following rules and being careful what they put out there online. We are all building our “digital footprint” which is explained best by the website, cyber(smart:)

 “One of the great things about being online is the ability to share videos and photos with your friends and seeing their response. Everything you post online combines to make your digital footprint. Remember that what you share with your friends may also be viewed by people you don’t know. And once it’s online, it could be there forever. So think before you post.”

What can you do as a parent? Get involved. Find out who they are talking to, what they are posting. Talk to your child about their online presence. The internet is to be used, not abused. There are consequences for posting something inappropriate on the internet – from not getting in to college, not getting a job you wanted or even to being arrested.

Here are some “Rules of the Road for Kids” shared by Common Sense Media.

1. Guard your privacy. What people know about you is up to you.

2. Protect your reputation. Self-reflect before you self-reveal. What’s funny or edgy today could cost you tomorrow.

3. Nothing is private online. Anything you say or do can be copied, pasted, and sent to gazillions of people without your permission.

4. Assume everyone is watching. There’s a huge, vast audience out there. If someone is your friend’s friend, they can see everything.

5. Apply the Golden Rule. If you don’t want it done to you, don’t do it to someone else.

6. Choose wisely. Not all content is appropriate. You know what we mean.

7. Don’t hide. Using anonymity to cloak your actions doesn’t turn you into a trustworthy, responsible human being.

8. Think about what you see. Just because it’s online doesn’t make it true.

9. Be smart, be safe. Not everyone is who they say they are. But you know that.

It’s never too late to talk to your child, big or small, about the internet. It’s a tool that is out there and will only grow no matter how much you resist or ban your kids from using it. Get informed and then talk to your children about it. You’ll probably be surprised what they already are doing online and what they know.  On another day, I’ll share what I found out about my son’s online presence when I Googled his name. Two blogs! Just last week? I had to make him take down a picture and comment snarking on one of his teachers.

Other useful articles to read:

 

Image: “Internet Footprint” by ContentConnect

Limitations for Kids by Doctors

Kids-Absorb-Twice-as-Much-Cellphone-Radiation-537x385(Photo © Flickr user apdk)

Below is a link to a story from our local TV station, KRON-4, about how parents should limit the amount of time kids spend online.  Doctors from the American Academy of Pediatrics say that parents need to know that unrestricted media use can have serious consequences.

I remember our parents limiting the number of hours we could watch TV back in the 80s. These days though, it needs to be the hours of screen time for kids which includes TV, computer , video games, phones and any other online device.

Read the full story here:

http://news.kron4.com/news/doctors-say-parents-should-limit-kids-texting-and-use-of-mobile-devices/