What social network apps are kids using today? How can I make sure my kids are safe on these apps? How am I supposed to keep up? How can I say ‘no’ when supposedly every other child is allowed this social network?
These are some of the frequently asked questions I receive from parents when it comes to their kids starting out on social media. I always advocate that it is not the technology itself that puts kids at risk but rather the users of the technology and the behaviours when using these apps. I also always say that you will never keep up with every site or app your child visits so we need to arm them with the skills, the thinking and the behaviours to be safe wherever they find themselves online.
And this is certainly very true.
But we can also be aware of the apps kids are spending their time on in order to have a greater understanding of the types of ways kids are interacting. How the technology allows them to share content and how kids are using it to communicate. And of course, how are kids getting in to trouble on these apps.
When I give my workshops to primary age children I usually get a good sense of what apps the kids are using. Very often it comes as a surprise to the teachers or the parents I talk to following the student sessions. I thought therefore, it is a good idea to outline the 3 that I have found are the most popular right now for upper primary and lower secondary in Australia today.
For a PDF of the following click here: popular apps
Recently Musical.ly was linked to a young person being ‘groomed’ by someone claiming they were Justin Bieber. I have used this example in my workshops with kids before about how to decide if someone is who they say they are, coupled with the blunt reality that Justin Bieber has no reason to be chatting to a 10 year old from suburban Melbourne. So it is certainly a conversation we need to be having with our young people. Time and again the kids I work with have little idea about how to determine who they are actually talking to.
So a few more things to remember about these social networks, and any others for that matter…
- the world is littered with creeps
- unfortunately these creeps are hanging out on these apps where unsuspecting and often gullible kids are awaiting their attention
- just because you use an app safely and don’t get any advances or grooming doesn’t mean your kid won’t (they tend to be able to decipher between a 45 year old woman who has no interest talking to strangers and a young person keen to increase their following and in turn their social standing).
- aside from the creeps and pedophiles, there are people that are just nasty and live for the drama that can be created via online interactions.
- there are many great positive experiences kids can have using social networks. Kids can avoid the creeps & the nasty people.
- Parents need to be on board, understanding the technology and paying close attention to ensure their child does have the skills and thinking to have a good time on social networks.
- of course their are a gazilllion other apps out there that kids are using but these are the most popular right now.
Remember to talk to your kids about what they are using. Listen to other parents. Kids usually want to hang out where their mates are so it makes sense they will be on similar apps and social networks. There’s certainly lots of bad stuff out there, but there’s a whole lot of good as well.