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Social Media

Teens and Apps: What’s Trending Now

Posted by Sue Scheff on April 15, 2016  /   Posted in Internet Safety, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

TeenonTabletIt’s no secret that keeping our children safe is a full time job. In the past we could simply baby proof our homes and hold our child’s hands when they crossed the street. Now, today’s children have the world at their fingertips with the countless devices and forms of technology we have come to rely on. While this invasion of social media and the Internet offers our families countless benefits, it can also expose our kids to a variety of unforeseen dangers.

Many parents find it can be difficult to make sense of the apps our children are using on a daily basis, because new trends and apps on the market are constantly changing at rapid paces. In an effort to keep our sons and daughters safely snapping selfies and sending messages, we have compiled the following guide for parents that highlight seven popular apps and possible problems areas teens commonly encounter using this app.

Dubsmash. This fun app allows users to develop short videos that feature themselves lip syncing to movie and song sound clips. The possibilities are endlessly entertaining, with celebrities even enjoying in the fun.

Things for parents to know:  A few questions have been raised about copyright laws and this app. If possible, children should be encouraged to use sounds that are public domain to avoid infringing someone’s intellectual property. Lawyers suggest only privately sharing videos with close friends and keep them off “public forums such as Facebook or Instagram”.

Whisper. This favored anonymous app allows our teens and fellow users to share secrets and confessions. Users place the words of their confession over funny or related images to post and people scroll through the post “hearting” the ones they enjoy.

Things for parents to know: This app is definitely entertaining, but behind these confessions lurks a dark side of cyberbullying and slandering. The anonymity of this social media application is perfect for spreading lies or posing as others.

Meet Me. This app, formerly known as MyYearbook, allows users to meet new people that are located nearby. It is meant to encourage new friendships with other users who share similar interests.

Things for parents to know: The FBI warns that there are 500,000 child predators online everyday seeking new victims. This app is the perfect vehicle for grooming and contacting new prey, because often the predators create fake profiles or share interests that kids enjoy to lure them into their traps.

Ask.fm. This is another anonymous app, but it relies on a question and answer format. Users simply pose a question and other users answer.

Things for parents to know: We need to know that this app has a checkered past associated with extreme cases of cyberbullying resulting in suicides and even has been used as a communication method for terrorists.

Burn Note. This disappearing app self destructs all messages after the receiver views the message. It was created to keep sensitive material and emails in the workplace from falling into the wrong hands. One feature people enjoy is the “spotlight” that highlights a certain section of the text as it is being read to prevent screenshots and prying eyes from reading the content.

Things for parents to know: All Burn Notes disappear leaving no evidence behind. This provides bullies a wonderful outlet for sending hateful messages, because there is no trail of the cruelty.

Tinder. This site is often associated with adult dating and hookups, but the site admits that 7 percent of its users are are between the ages of 13 and 17 years old. Users simply scroll through profile images to look for attractive people they want to meet.

Things for parents to know: Tinder has a dedicated section for teen dating, but many teens lie about their true age on social media apps exposing them to much older, wiser, and experienced people. It also allows children to quickly judge others on appearance alone.

Down. This app was formerly known as “Bang With Friends”. It allows people to sort through Facebook friends and ‘friends of friends’ to mark someone they are interested in getting “down” with for a one night stand. If two people like each other, a message is sent to both parties so they can contact one another.

Things for parents to know: Yes this app reduces the awkwardness of finding friends with benefits. However, it can promote unhealthy relationships and sexual encounters.

TeensonCell

What sites and apps do your children frequently use?

Contributor: Hilary Smith

About Hilary Smith: 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. @HilaryS33

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Social Media & Drug Abuse: How Can You Help Your Teen Stay Straight?

Posted by Sue Scheff on August 26, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

TeenLaptopAccess to technology means solicitations to try drugs are no longer confined to school yards and parties. Ninety-two percent of teens go online daily,Pew Research Center reports, and social networks provide myriad opportunities for your teen to be exposed to nicotine, alcohol, marijuana and other controlled substances. A study conducted in 2014 by the Journal of Medical Internet Research concluded young people are especially responsive to influences via social media and often establish substance abuse habits during these formative years.

For teens who already struggle with substance abuse, social networking may prevent them from recovering. A 2012 study of teens receiving substance abuse treatment at a behavioral health services center found 66 percent reported that drug-related content on social networking sites made them want to use drugs, as reported by Psychiatric Times. With Pew Research Center finding 71 percent of teens use more than one social networking site, it’s vital for parents to monitor their teens’ social media behavior, while also giving children the ability for self-exploration and personal growth. Here are ways to be proactive without being overbearing.

Create a Digital Contract

Determining when your teen is ready for social media is dictated both by your comfort and by social network guidelines, since most social networks don’t allow users younger than 13. Before your children get online, discuss what their goals are with the networks, and run through scenarios they may encounter that would have you concerned. Talk with them about how you want them to handle those situations and set up guidelines for what they need to keep you aware of. The Family Online Safety Institute suggests visiting drug abuse websites with your teens so they are aware of the dangers of drugs. You could also speak with a parent specialist at 1-855-DRUGFREE to get tips for talking with your teens about drugs before they enter the online sphere.

Make sure your expectations are clearly outlined by creating a digital contract you and your teen understand, with consequences for breaking guidelines. Explain to your teen just like you get to know their offline friends, you also want to get to know their online contacts. Pew Research Center reports the average teen on Facebook has 145 friends, which means lots of opportunities for your teen to learn about drugs via photos, articles and messages their friends share.

Keep your teen’s computer in a central location in the house to keep their interactions open, and determine whether they’ll have access to their mobile phone only when they’re away from you to use in emergencies, and if you’ll have control of it at home. Consider requiring approval for all mobile device applications your teen downloads, since applications such as Snapchat destroy messages after a certain amount of time and prevent you from being aware of what it being discussed. The Dish Insider’s Guide suggests constantly evolving your guidelines based on your teen’s age and level of responsibility; while strict monitoring may work for you and your teen during the early teen years, an older teen may insist communication between them and their significant other or best friend are off-limits. Transparency and clear expectations are key to maintaining trust between you and your teen.

Tools for Parents

If discussing your teen’s social media usage isn’t enough to assuage your concerns, there are technological tools that can help you monitor and control what your teen is exposed to. A program such as NetNanny filters offensive material, gives you access to parental controls on your teen’s device, sends you email alerts when your teen visits inappropriate sites and enables you to monitor your teen’s Facebook posts and chats. For mobile devices, applications such as My Mobile Watchdog can bring you peace of mind and allow you to address concerns based on your teen’s interactions.

Learn about the technologies your teen has access to, since hidden dangers may fall in the realm of video game devices with Web browsers or in online games your teen may be playing with chat functionality. Delve into the parental control capabilities of the devices your teen is using, and establish usage boundaries and expectations on how your teen will use their devices and social media.

In all your communications with your teens, talk to them from a source of empathy and caring. Tell them you have their health and best interests in mind. Encourage them to talk with you about whatever questions they have, and make drug education something you and your teen work on together.

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Disclosure:  We do not endorse or promote any digital products, apps or services.  This article is for educational purposes only.

If you believe your teen is struggling with Internet addiction or substance abuse, and you have exhausted your local resources for help, contact us for options on therapeutic boarding schools. These have been extremely successful when parent’s have reached their wit’s end at home.

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