A Summary of Social Networking Sites and Settings for Parents: how to keep kids safe

Every day there seems to be a new app, social media site or forum for our kids to ‘hangout’ online.  Last week I talked about the control our kids have over their content on Facebook and how the default and custom settings determine this information sharing.  Here I will have a look at a few more sites that our kids are using and some of the settings that can help make them  a safer ‘hangout’.  Again I will stress that it will be very difficult to keep up with every app and site our kids are using and keep tabs on their privacy settings and such, however if we can have some idea, it certainly helps with the teaching of skills that they will need to safely ‘play’ online.

Instagram

How it Works

This seems to be a popular one for people of all ages. Instagram is basically a photo sharing app available on an ipod touch/ipads and smart phones.

Friends and Followers

You may follow people and have people follow you which allows you to see the feed of photos they put up, including all comments and connections.

The default setting is public, which means anyone can follow you or access your photos, comment on them or view them via following hashtags or a geolocator map.

If you want to restrict who sees your photos, you need to become a private user. When people want to follow your feed, you have the ability to accept them or not. This is certainly recommended for any kids using this app. particularly if posting photos that give away information about where they live, go to school, hang out with etc.

The Good

Great way for kids to connect, share photos and be creative.

The Not So Good

Default Setting is a public user which means you must deliberately go to the settings and change it to Private user. Something kids probably wouldn’t bother doing unless they are prompted.

Twitter

 

How it Works

Twitter gives the account holder 140 characters to make a statement, attach a photo, post or article and follow the twitter feed of all their followers.

Friends and followers

Twitter allows you to follow others whilst anyone can follow you. There is no need to accept or request friendships, you simply click and follow. (There is the ability to block people from your feed if you need to).

The Good

Useful for finding people with similiar interests by use of Hashtags for certain topics etc. Great for networking, getting information quickly and raising awareness of issues.

The Not So Good

Like many social media sites, once something is ‘said’ on Twitter it can never be erased, and there is always the chance of bullying and trolling.

Tumblr

 

How it Works

Tumblr is very popular with older kids and teens as another way to share content and connect with others. It is like having your own blog but you can reblog other peoples content onto your wall. You can post and share photos, articles, videos, audio and links and even snippets of conversation.

Friends and Followers

Followers are fellow Tumblr users who subsribe to your blog.  Whatever you post will be seen on their dashboard and likewise the posts of the Tumblr blogs you follow will appear on your dashboard. Again you can block someone from following you if you need to.

The Good

Tumblr is another way for kids to get creative and have their ideas and work shared by others. You can find themes and interests to explore and connect with other like minded bloggers.

The  Not so Good

There is not a lot of privacy on Tumblr and it does create an online profile of all the things you like. (which has been a big surprise to many parents when they discover their kids Tumblr account).

There is also access to all sorts of information and pictures that are not always appropriate for those using the site.

You can also receive questions from people known and unknown via the ‘Ask Box’, and all answers are visible on your wall.

Kik Messenger

How it Works

This is one my kids have recently discovered and they use it on their Ipod Touch when connected to the home wireless network. Kik allows them to talk to their friends, much like a phone SMS but without the phone connection. You can also attach photos to privately send to people.  As kids seem to be on this at quite a young age, there is a definite need for some involvement to be sure that they know all the people they are talking to.

Friends and Followers

For those with a iphone, Kik searches your email contacts and finds people for you to connect with. If you are connecting via your ipod Touch or iPad you can simply search for the peoples usernames that you want to connect with and then they must accept you as a ‘friend’.

This one I keep close tabs on as all the talking can be done in ‘private’ so I want to be sure that I know everyone on  my kids list of connections.

The Good

Fun way for kids to chat to their friends.

The Bad

Many parents (myself included) didn’t realise their kids were chatting via their pod touch when they thought they were only good for games and music!  This means monitoring of iPods at night if they are left in the bedroom.

Kik and similiar messaging sites have also been known as hangouts for predators to try and connect with kids so they can talk privately. For example, somebody following your child on Instagram can ask to have their Kik username and suddenly private chats are possible with someone who may not be who they say they are.  Whilst comments on Instagram are public they are not on Kik and so the consequences could (and have been) disastrous for some unsuspecting users. Whilst this is the worst case scenario, it is still something to be mindful of particularly with younger kids having access to these types of sites.

Social media can be a great way for kids to connect with others. They can have a voice, they can be accepted when socially and geographically they are otherwise isolated, they can be creative, they can be engaged in a passion or interest and they can simply have some fun. But all social media sites pose a risk to our kids privacy, safety and digital reputation. By learning what we can about what is out there, we as parents have a greater chance at keeping the lines of communication open to ensure a mutual understanding of what is occurring online.

There are many more sites and apps out there, and there will be many more created in the years to come. Most of the social networking sites will be based on the same principles of sharing and connecting and the rules should always remain the same. Be careful what you post, think of your reputation, be consious of who your are connecting with, balance your time online and enjoy the social side of the online world.

 

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About Martine Oglethorpe

An educator, counsellor, speaker and mother to 5 boys. Passionate about helping families safely navigate their children through the online world. Realistic in her approach that successfully combines personal experience with professional work and research.

Comments

  1. what fabulous advice for all parents!!!

  2. Far out! I had no idea there were that many sites! And here I was, thinking I was up on everything!
    I actually didn’t know much about Tumblr, and never heard of KIK. I don’t think I would let my kids on twitter until they were much older. It will be Facebook and maybe instagram only for a long time. Having said that, we’re a few years off that yet.
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  3. Great list of apps and sites Martine. I hadn’t heard of Kik, and I wasn’t aware of Instagram’s privacy issues because I don’t use it. I’m pretty tech savvy, so I often think how in the dark some other parents must be. A great tip re Kik and ipods – I wonder how many parents know their child can chat with people simply with an ipod?
    Rachel @ The Kids Are All Right recently posted..Selective school of hard knocksMy Profile

    • I know, certainly when I have given talks nearly the whole room is unaware of that despite their kids using iPods nightly.Thanks Rachel for sharing this too x

  4. Thanks for putting these out there! Currently our kids don’t have their own electronic mobile devices, so knowing as much as I can before it happens is really helpful.
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  5. Perfect advice for us as we head into the pre-teen years! Thankyou x
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  6. This is fantastic Martine! My children aren’t at the age that I need to worry about this yet but I’ll find this useful for myself! I’ll confess that I’m not the most savvy when it comes to social media and I’m still trying to learn the ropes. Privacy is of a particular concern. So thank you, much appreciated x
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  8. GREAT summary of the various channels! As parents, we really need to start thinking more about how we educate our children on the use of social media. The more they are prepared to enter the digital world, the more prepared they will be to handle some of the yuckiness out there.

    Thanks for pulling this together!

    Cheers!
    –Sean
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  9. thanks for this enlightenment. I’m so grateful

  10. Thank you so much for all the valuable info.!! Speaking of “parental controls,” I found this post as well and think it’s important for parents to read. It offers additional tips as to how to ensure our kids are watching appropriate and safe videos online: http://www.real.com/resources/safe-video-parental-controls Continuing to spread the word is so important.

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  15. I am legal guardian to my niece (13) and nephew(11) and will not allow them to use kik for the very reasons you mentioned above. Atleast with a phone and text messages you can have a record of who they talk to and control the times of day they are chatting (ie. not during school). I monitor their phones very closely but there are ways that kids can delete conversations and hide them from their parents so knowing that means no Kik for them. Teens are too vulnerable to predators especially 13 year old girls with insecurity issues. It’s so hard to keep up with everything, it’s very hands on but parents need to be extra careful and educate themselves otherwise they are putting their kids in real danger!

    • Thanks Jamie, It really is about keeping ourselves educated. Knowing what apps are out there helps to get discussions going but we need to be mindful there will always be another app they can find. Even text messages can be easily deleted so we need to be alert to what is going on in their worlds both online and off.

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