What is my child doing with that app?

January 19 2016


  • Hilary Smith, Guest Blogger
    Hilary Smith
    Guest Blogger

Have you heard the phrase, “There’s an app for that?”

Chances are that you have muttered the words yourself or overheard someone mentioning it in passing. Honestly, there are times when it feels like apps have overtaken our children’s technology. They download amazing formula calculators for trigonometry, they use messaging services to save their phone’s data, they find cool photography apps to make gorgeous snapshots, and they order pizza or movie tickets with a tap of the screen.

The trend for downloading apps isn’t new, but our parental awareness is evolving to include these new threats. Two-thirds of all parents are expressing worries about potential negative effects of the programs our children are downloading. Too make matters worse, a recent study estimates that 70% of our teens take some precautions and measures to hide their online activity from their parents. This secrecy and the prevalence of cyberbullying, identity theft, and sexting have parents raising questions about what children are doing with app technology.

Why Parents Need To Understand Social Media Apps

Apps are generally created to better our lives in some way. Unfortunately, apps often appear innocent and fun at first. We rationalize that they are creative ways for children to communicate or stay connected, but this isn’t always true. Parents often find themselves embraced in a power struggle with technology and their children.

This struggle boils down to the influences our teens are exposed to while utilizing apps. Parents need to realize that our children are introduced to sex, drugs, and lewd acts in ways never before seen. In the past, it was easier to control what media or ideas a child was exposed to. Today, many apps rely on anonymous and temporary qualities to invite inappropriate subjects and conduct into our homes.

Dangerous Apps Children Utilize

So what exactly are our children doing with all those apps? Here is a list of six apps our teens utilize that goes beyond popular Facebook and Instagram:

  • YikYak- This anonymous app relies on location tracking to determine who can view posts. Up to 500 people within a certain radius of your child’s position can view your child’s posts. This site often boosts sexual posts, abusive language, and cyberbullying.
  • Snapchat- This popular messaging app allows users to send images that disappear after a time limit. When the time is expired, the messages disappear. The fleeting tendency of this app might promote more authentic communication, but it also sends the message that sexting and cyberbullying is alright due to the fact that message will destruct.
  • Slingshot- This disappearing messaging app shows your child’s location, but also requires a receiver to snap and share a photo before they are allowed to see the picture sent. This app has the potential to take “I’ll show you mine, you show me yours” to another level.
  • Whisper- This anonymous app embraces posting secrets or confessions. Naturally, secret confessions harbor inappropriate conduct, sexual conversations, and cyberbullying.
  • Omegle- This app is basically a chat room what is anonymous and anything can be topic. Many users encounter solicitation for sexual acts or people seeking a sexting partner.
  • StreetChat App- This app uses a “bulletin board” format that registers users by school. Anonymous users often encounter gossip and bullying.

4 Positive Ways To Keep Children Safe

While many parents trust their children, the same cannot be said for the millions of other users of social media apps. Listed below are 4 tips for parents to stay informed about their children’s app activity:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting the amount of time a child spends in front of a screen to less than one or two hours per day. They also suggest that parent’s model a healthy relationship with their own technology use.
  • Limit device use to certain rooms like the family room and avoid bedrooms, bathrooms, and the dinner table.
  • Teach social media safety and offer advice when asked.
  • Monitor a teen’s app use. Know their passwords, sites frequented, and follow them online. Utilize apps that allow you access to their activity in one location to simplify this process and protect our children. Yes, there’s an app for that!

Helping our children navigate the online world will keep them informed. This risk of negative peer communication can be very frightening and real in our children’s lives. However, if we were to isolate children from technology they would not develop the skills needed to keep them safe. Technology is here to stay and our teens will need to know how to navigate the digital landscape to succeed in school and many careers.

Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a free-lance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent she now enjoys writing about family and parenting related topics.

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