by Tonya Cherry, Eliza Huie, Megan Herdt and Sarah Burgoon*
In this post we are continuing the topic of helping parents become more informed about the potential dangers of commonly used social media websites and apps. In part 1 we looked why parents need to be informed and explored Snapchat® and Instagram®, two commonly used apps among teens (Read part 1 HERE). In this post we will look at a few more apps and hope to give parents a new understanding as to why it is so important to be aware of how these apps and websites can be used.
Twitter® is another social media website containing both public and private profiles. Twitter also has a DM (direct message) feature, in which two users following each other can send private DMs and pictures. Twitter is host to many large and popular profiles of celebrities, fan pages, comedy pages, and pages devoted to the lives and thoughts of teenagers. Many teenagers follow these pages, and while these pages themselves might not be inappropriate, but some things that they retweet and share with their audiences are. For example, one page might be dedicated to cute puppies, but they could retweet a pornographic image, and anyone who follows the cute puppies page will now see the pornographic image. Kids also can use twitter as a means to bully others directly and indirectly (sub-tweet). Hashtags are another way kids can access porn through twitter. If a parent feels they are covered because they can see who their kids follow on twitter that may not be enough. They need to know what kind of hashtags they are following as well. Hashtags are unmoderated and can be as obvious as #porn or as non threatening as common words anyone would use. Hashtags are becoming one of the most common ways to access porn.
Hot-or-Not® is an app where kids make profiles and upload photos of themselves and other people and rate them Hot (good looking) or Not (unattractive). One popular feature of this app is called “Meet Me”. This is a matchmaking feature where the site sets you up with another individual who has the same rating as you. Users can chat with each other, meet each other, and rate each other. The two most dangerous features of this app are the possibility of meeting strangers through MeetMe and the rating system. Besides the dangers of potential meet ups with people you do not know, the very principle of rating someone can cause kids to struggle with insecurities and leave them feeling like they do not measure up. It is also an easy way for children to become obsessed with appearance and reputation, and also provides cyber-bullies with an easy opportunity to attack others.
Kik® is a free messaging app. Users can text other people with kik accounts and send them messages or pictures. It allows people to create accounts based on usernames rather than phone numbers. Because it uses wifi rather than carrier networks, there is unlimited texting with no fees for sending pictures. Kik seems harmless, but many younger kids with ipods use it to send naked pictures, talk to strangers and have sexually inappropriate conversations.
Tumblr® is a photo blogging website that users can post and repost pictures on their personal page to create a collage of photos with a certain subject matter or interest theme. While this can be a great way to express creativity it is a prime means for creating a stream of sexual content and this is exactly what some users have done. Tumblr has been known to have significantly explicit themes of sexual content including gay-porn and how-to guides for sexual interactions. Tumblr is an online collection of contemporary teen culture and a user can find anything from favorite teen hobbies to hardcore porn. In addition tag searches make is simple to search for specific content. Much like hashtags, sexual content is often searched by using tags.
As a parent, it is important that you know what apps your kids are using and have discussions with them about who they are talking to and what they are saying/sending. If they know that you are aware of the misuses, it can help them from making poor choices. The temptations and exposure that they have with the internet at their fingertips is enormous. We need to help them stand firm against this.
To better equip parents for this task Life Counseling Center will be hosting a workshop for parents of teens next month. We invite you to join us for this helpful workshop. Please see the events page on our website for more information on the PG13 workshop by clicking on the photo below..
*Sarah and Megan are both seniors at Mount Airy Christian Academy. They were interning at Life Counseling Center with Tonya Cherry for a week in December to gain a better understanding of what a counselor does. Megan wants to be a child psychologist and Sarah wants to be a teacher.