When you were growing up, there were most probably no iPads, Facebook or Snapchat. Your worries were confined to falling from trees or burning the house down and not whether your identity might be stolen, or the possibility of a cyber bully attacking you. Today, you are responsible for raising a child whose life will revolve around digital technology and it becomes increasingly important to be able to raise tech savvy and tech-safe children.
By Mariza Halliday
Many of the same rules that apply to keep your child safe in the real world apply on the Internet. Make it clear to your children that they should keep online interactions limited to only people they really know. Explain the consequences of sharing personal information and make them feel comfortable to come to talk to you should anything make them feel uncomfortable or uncertain.
Here is an introduction to some of the most popular apps that kids are using today:
What is it? Snapchat is an app used to share photos, videos, text and drawings. There is one feature that makes Snapchat different from other forms of texting and photo sharing: messages or snaps disappear seconds after they’re viewed—the sender gets to decide how long a photo will “live,” from one to 10 seconds after it’s viewed. What parents should know: For parents who monitor their children’s smartphone use, Snapchat doesn’t save pictures and messages sent so you can’t see them later. If you have a software package that allows you to see the content of your child’s phone remotely online, you won’t be able to see what was sent and then automatically deleted. Even though the photo message disappears from the phone after a few seconds, it does not prevent the receiver from taking a screenshot while it’s live. Parents who allow their children to have Snapchat need to have a serious discussion with their kids to discuss the risks associated with the false sense of security that Snapchat may provide.
What is it? Instagram is an app used to share photos, videos and messages. Whether it’s through Stories, Feed, Live, IGTV (an app from Instagram that lets users share longer videos) or Direct. People use Instagram for visual marketing of their products or businesses, to share everyday moments, keep in touch with friends and family and build supportive communities. It is a great platform to meet others who share your interests and
What parents should know: Instagram lets you follow people and be followed by them, but unlike Facebook, it’s not necessarily a two-way street. You can follow someone even if they don’t follow you and vice versa.
Users with a private account can control who can follow them. Unless you change the default to private, anyone can see what you post.
What is it? People film clips of themselves lip-syncing or acting out comedy sketches. The video clips can be up to 15 seconds long and users can choose from a database of songs, effects, or sound bites.
What parents should know:
Because of TikTok’s emphasis on popular music, many videos include swearing and sexual lyrics, so it may not b age appropriate for kids to use on their own. In 2019, due to all the children under 13 on the site, the developers created a separate section of the app for kids that only allows them to access curated, clean videos:
They can’t comment, search, or post their own videos based on the birth date entered upon signup. It is every parent’s responsibility to stay up to date with the different apps and how to use them. Simply saying no or avoiding technology because you don’t know how to use it, will not encourage conversation.
SIGNS OF CYBERBULLYING
Most of the time teens who are cyber-bullied don’t want to tell a parent about it, often because they feel ashamed of the social stigma or fear their screen time will be taken away.
Signs of cyberbullying vary, but may include:
• being emotionally upset during or after using the Internet or the phone
• being very secretive or protective of one’s digital life
• withdrawal from family members, friends, and activities
• avoiding school or group gatherings
• slipping grades and “acting out” in anger at home
• changes in mood, behaviour, sleep, or appetite
• wanting to stop using the computer or cell phone
• being nervous or jumpy when getting an instant message, text, or email
• avoiding discussions about computer or cell phone activities