With the continuous popularity of social media apps, a new challenge has risen for parents as tech savvy teenagers have taken to living “secret lives” on the Internet.
According to an article by the Associated Press, experts are warning about the double lives kids are living through social media apps such as Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Houseparty and Musical.ly.
Pundits worry about the consequences of allowing teenagers to have so much freedom online and away from parental supervision, as many of them are unaware that their kids are active on social media.
What Are They Doing?
This growing trend has seen teenagers using these apps to send hidden photos, messages and even meeting strangers online while remaining under their parent’s radar.
Some teenagers are going as far as obtaining burner phones, or using apps in disguise (such as Vault) to avoid parental detection. Vault may look like a simple calculator, but it is actually an app that teenagers are using to hide and store risqué photos.
Teenagers have also taken on the task of creating ‘fake’ Instagram accounts called finstagrams, or finsta for short. These accounts are specifically made to add photos and videos that may be more private in nature, but only made available to a close circle of friends.
An example of a photo posted to a finstagram account.
It is not rare to see a teenager maintaining a public and a private social media presence at the same time.
“I cannot even imagine how much is going on that we have no clue and I’m saying that as someone who works with kids and is decent with technology” said Dawn Iles-Gomez, Nathan Hale Elementary School Principal to the Associated Press.
What Do I Do Now?
Parents face an uphill battle as they attempt to keep up with technology against their more tech savvy children as exposure to smartphones and tablets continues to increase at an early age. Experts suggest that parents should keep an eye on what their kids are doing online, recommending to monitor younger kids while slowly giving them more freedom as they get older and proven they can be trusted.
Experts warn that cutting kids off from social media would only force them to look for more alternatives. Social media accounts are easy to create and discard, crafty kids would only open another account when forced to delete a current one, making them practically invisible.
Instead experts suggest that they should look for “teachable moments,” finding moments to educate children on the dangers they could be exposing themselves to on social media.
While keeping up with all the social media activity can be overwhelming, keeping a close watch on kids can be relatively easy. Tech experts suggest taking advantage of parental control apps to monitor those apps.
Android phones now offer parental restriction options that allow parents to set screen time limits and also gives them the ability to block apps through the Google Family Link service. On the other side of the spectrum, Apple offers a similar parental approval app that works across all of their products.
Parents should be looking for ways to stay on top of what their kids are doing online, even when they feel that technology is getting away from them. With many tools available for them to monitor their activity, like Screen Time, it is a matter of parents finding how they can better protect their kids in an online environment.
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