Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Dangerous Apps Parents Should Know About...

In my work in education I've been asked multiple times to give parents information related to keeping kids safe online. The discussion ALWAYS includes questions about social media and apps. I find that parents are afraid of how much more their kids know than they do about social media. 

I put together a short list of apps that parents need to know about to help keep their kids safe. No list will ever be complete or exhaustive, but these are some of the current big ones. Any app that allows strangers to connect with children and teens is a big concern. Also, any of the "hidden file" apps that allow users to hide photos, videos and other apps from parents or others are problematic when we are talking about young people. 

Here's a short list of current apps (but it is not definitive):

Remember, a lot of times, as soon as parents know about an app, kids have already moved on to something new. 

Ultimately, most of the apps your child or teen has on their phone are going to be fine. You need to have conversation(s) with them about using social media, how it can affect them later in life, not sharing intimate photos/videos, and to not share personal information. Keep up with what your child is using and keep the communication open between you. There will always be another app or site that could be harmful, but by talking with them openly about the dangers on the internet we can help them make better choices about their on-line activity.

The best things we can do are inform them of the dangers and help to build their understanding, confidence and trust. When you have these conversations, you need to let your child know that if they make a mistake or find themselves in a troubling situation your first concern is for their well-being. Let them know that they can confide in you about things that happen without risk of repercussion or discipline. Now, you can still address their mistake in a calm manner at a later time, but first we have to handle the immediate issue of making sure they are protected and safe.

Our response should never be “Well, you shouldn’t have been doing this and you wouldn’t have ended up here.” That does not help. Not even in a sarcastic or joking tone. They have to know from the very start our main priority is protecting them.  

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