By Jason KuttnerMarch 9, 2016
Parenting an adolescent has never been easy, and keeping up with the technology that your children are using complicates parenting considerably. Children today are technology natives, having grown up with computers, smart phones, and other smart technologies- they are increasingly much more tech savvy than their parents. While this creates numerous opportunities for young people in ways that older generations may not yet be able to even imagine, it also creates some considerable hazards that are important for parents to be aware of.
Ask any adolescent and they will tell you- most bullying happens online. Numerous objectionable, unethical, and illegal behaviors including exposure to and producing sexually explicit content online are happening just under their parents' watch and outside of their parents' awareness. There have been numerous cases of children being emotionally damaged due to online bullying and harassment. Adolescents have been prosecuted for producing and distributing child pornography. In extreme cases adolescents have attempted suicide due to online bullying and sexual blackmail. And, predators are known to impersonate minors, stalk, and lure their victims online.
So what is a parent to do? Talk to your children about what they are doing online, and educate yourself about the sites and apps that your children may be using. Here is a brief introductory guide to some of the apps that adults and other children may be using to bully, prey on, harass, and exploit your child. And keep in mind, there are thousands of other apps out there, with more being developed, and popularized all of the time.
- Kakao talk (popular in Korea), rated 4+ (that's safe for 4 years old and up!)
- Facebook Messenger, rated 4+
- What's App (popular in US and Europe), rated 4+
Social networking and Microblogging apps:
- Facebook, rated 4+: Many teens are moving away from Facebook as it gets more popular with their parents and grandparents! But many still use it of course- and it is still the most popular social media site. Your child most likely keeps a profile on Facebook and at the same time is much more active on other social media sites.
- Twitter, rated 4+: An extremely popular micro-blogging site. Twitter can contain inappropriate links, images, and videos that can be shared privately or with groups. It is frequently used for cyber-bullying.
- Yik Yak, rated 17+: The producers of the app call it "the anonymous social wall for anything and everything." All users are anonymous. Posts can be used to spread gossip and rumors, and there have been some publicized cases of teens using it to make threats against their schools.
Photo/video sharing apps:
- Snapchat: Rated 12+.Snapchat is an app that allows users to send photos and videos that disappear from view within 10 seconds of being received. Some children use the app to send racy or sexually explicit selfies thinking that the images cannot be saved and shared. Users can take a screenshot of the photos and keep them and share with others as they choose.
- Instagram: Rated 12+. Photo-sharing site rated 12+. Trolling is common, as is some inappropriate content. Many users are casual about their privacy settings connecting with people they don't know in any other context.
- Vine: Rated 17+. App that allows users to shoot and share short videos of 6 seconds or less. Basic searching pulls up all sorts of age inappropriate content.
- Photo privacy apps can be used to hide questionable apps, illicit photos, and violent games beneath innocent looking calculator app icon or under a decoy photo collection.
Sit down with your child and find out which apps he or she is using, learn how they work, and ask whether or not he or she has experienced any issues such as cyberbullying or contact from strangers.
You can set age limits on your child's device so that they cannot lie about their age when downloading an app that is rated for an older age.
Make a rule that your child must ask permission before downloading any apps- just so that you are aware of them. When they join a new social media site, go through the security settings to choose the ones you are most comfortable with. Advise your child not to share their passwords with anyone.
Have regular conversation with your child and encourage them to talk with you about their lives and their online behavior. Let them know that they can talk to you if they are being cyberbullied, harassed, or otherwise made to feel uncomfortable by someone online, even if that person is acting anonymously.
If you have concerns about your teen, ASACS- Adolescent Support and Counseling Service- is here to help. We provide confidential counseling to adolescents and families for a variety of issues and concerns that young people and their families face today. Our counselors work with adolescents in grades 6-12 at Daegu American School, Daegu High School, Humphreys High School, Seoul American Middle School, and Seoul American High School.