Social Media Sites for Parents
A brief overview of current popular social media sites
Twitter – sharing quick bits about their lives with friends and receiving breaking news, celebrity gossip, and such. Twitter does offer posting photos as a part of the tweets, so users must be aware of any personal information that may be included in the photo, especially the items in the background. Twitter account settings allow users to require a request and approval for any new followers, and it is recommended to only allow those who the user knows to follow and view the tweets.
Google+ – virtual gatherings among approved friends with real-time video chats in hangouts, or circles. Teens who register automatically get privacy settings to help control what they share with whom. Only friends that are personally known to the user should be added to their circle.
Wanelo – (Want, Need, Love) combines shopping and fashion blogging with social networking. Teens discover and share products they like and can make purchases by clicking on a product's original site. Users are required to follow at least three stores. Caution/Monitoring should be used with younger teens using Wanelo due to some mature styles of clothing/lingerie being advertised.
Ooovoo – an after-school and homework application that is free with up to 12 approved-only friends. Teens can use video, voice and messaging for group studying – receiving face-to-face homework help from classmates. The critical step with this app is the selecting/approving of “friends”. Approvals should only be given to friends the user physically knows.
WhatsApp – users can send text or audio messages, videos and photos to one or many people for free. When a teen signs up, the app automatically connects to all the people in the teen's address book who are also using WhatsApp. The terms of service for this app require users to be at least 16 years of age. The app also regularly suggests adding additional friends or sending requests to contacts who have not signed up for the service.
Yo. – sends a short text message to friends and family that reads “Yo”, and speaks the word aloud. Released in mid-2014, the app lets friends and family know you're thinking about them. That's it. However, the simple design makes it an easy target for hackers.
Instagram – users, who are at least 13 years old, can share photos and 15-second videos either publicly or with a network of followers. Terms of service states users should not post partially nude or sexually suggestive photos, however these photos can easily be found when searching posts. Additionally, it doesn't address violence, swear words or drugs. Another pitfall is that teens may measure their self-worth by the number of followers their account has, or the number of likes or comments they receive on their posts. Also, privacy settings need to be adjusted or photos and videos shared on Instagram will be public. Once the account is set to private, discretion should be used in accepting follower requests to ensure that only people personally known to the user are allowed to be a follower.
Red Flags and Alarm Bells
Snapchat – commonly referred to as the Sexting App. Snapchat has a set number of seconds for users to view pictures or short videos that are received from other users before the data is automatically erased. However, a recipient could keep a copy. Most teens use Snapchat as a way to share fun, light, goofy moments with one another without the risk of it going public. However, the person receiving the Snapchat can take a screenshot of the image before it disappears, and then could share that that photo at any time and in any type of social media venue. Also, the seemingly risk-free messaging encourages some users to share pictures containing inappropriate content. Even someone using Snapchat for completely innocent purposes could be perceived or rumored as sharing inappropriate content, based on the common perception of the app.
Tumblr – a way to share photos, videos, musings and things teens find funny with their friends. If made public, anyone online can see this streaming scrapbook of text, photos, videos or audio clips. Users create and follow short blogs, or Tumblelogs that can often go viral online. Many teens like -- and in fact, want -- their posts reblogged. However, pornographic images and videos, depictions of violence, self-harm, drug use and offensive language are easily searchable from this app.
Vine – lets users post and watch looping six-second video clips that are often creative and funny -- and sometimes thought-provoking. Teens usually use Vine to create and share silly videos of themselves and/or their friends and family. However, it does contain inappropriate videos such as nudity and marijuana smoking.
Kik Messenger – is a free texting app that is fast, has no message or character limits, has lots of ads and can be used only with those who also have the app. It's said to be more fun in many ways than SMS texting. There's also a community blog where users can also submit photos of themselves as well as screenshots of messages. However, there's some stranger danger. When an app named OinkText is linked to Kik, communication with strangers is allowed. Since Kik uses real names, teens shouldn't use their full real name as their username. When using Kik, the individual's username should be protected and not publically shared on other social media sites or boards.
Ask.fm – kids can anonymously ask questions as well as answer other users' questions. Questions can be friendly such as questions about favorite foods or crushes, but there can also be mean comments and sexual posts, given the users feeling of anonymity. This iffy content is part of Ask.fm's appeal for teens. Bullying is a major concern, and the site has been linked as a factor related to numerous suicides nationally.
Yik Yak – is a free, location-aware app that lets users anonymously post brief comments that are distributed geographically to the nearest 500 people who are also signed in to the app. Kids find out opinions, secrets and rumors from a 1.5 mile radius. The app's GPS updates the user's location every time it is turned on, revealing the user's location unless the toggle location sharing is turned off. Some teens use the app to threaten and be cruel to others. It contains cyberbullying, explicit sexual content, unintended location sharing and exposure to explicit information about drugs and alcohol. Some schools have banned access.
Omegle – an anonymous chat site that puts two strangers together in a text or video chat room. Chat partners can be filtered by shared interests, many of whom are searching for sexual chat. Some offer links to porn sites. Being anonymous can be very attractive to teens, and Omegle provides them a no-fuss opportunity to make connections. This is NOT an app for kids and teens.
Whisper – often sexual in nature, this app allows users to post whatever is on their minds anonymously and often accompanied by nearly-nude pictures. Teens think they can share their secret feelings without being judged. Some try to hook up with someone nearby, while others post confessions of desire. Topics include insecurity, depression, substance abuse, and various lies told to employers and teachers. The app encourages users to exchange personal information in the Meet Up section, so while it is anonymous to start, it may not stay anonymous. This is NOT an app for kids and teens.
Tinder – a dating app that creates a collection of Facebook photos and shows them to other interested parties in the area. Teens are using the app to match up with others for sexual relations. This is NOT an app for kids and teens.