What Parents Need to Know About Mobile Social Apps


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It was probably inevitable. Now that 70 percent of teens are friends with their parents on Facebook, some are looking for less supervised places to socialize. A recent report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that even though most teens feel obligated to maintain a presence on Facebook, many expressed “waning enthusiasm.” Their reasons? The site has been “colonized” by adults, and there’s too much drama.

“Teens are looking for a place they can call their own,” says Danah Boyd, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. “Rather than all flocking en masse to a different site, they’re fragmenting across apps.”

Since teens use a variety of social media apps, supervision becomes more difficult. The classic advice — “keep the computer in a public space” — is hopelessly quaint, especially for teens who socialize on cellphones or smartphones. One response is to use monitoring software that will alert parents anytime a child sends or receives an inappropriate message.

Although surveillance may be a good short-term fix for some kids, it can obscure a long-term goal: raising kids who use good judgment about social media. These kids resist the temptation to behave poorly just because they are online, and they know how to protect themselves when they encounter bullies, trolls and other online predators. How do you equip your child with those essential life skills? Here are a few suggestions:

- Limit social networking of any kind for middle school students. Pre-adolescents are learning how to manage relationships and the process isn’t always pretty. Middle school kids are very aware of themselves and not very aware of others. Even the nicest kids say mean things — and are devastated if someone says something mean to them. Being part of social media compounds the damage since clumsy comments, ill-advised fashion choices and failed attempts at humor are permanent and more widely available.

- Check the apps on your child’s phone. Review the apps on your child’s phone every time you pay the phone bill. Ask questions that will help your child think critically about social apps: How did you find out about the app? Does it do what you want it to do? What information does it collect about you? Does it broadcast your location? How much time do you spend using it? How could it be improved? What kind of community does it create?

- Be aware of the connection between social media and self esteem. For many young people, social media intensifies the pressure to be popular. They may obsess about how many followers they have, how many likes a particular post attracts or parties they didn’t attend. Parents can’t micromanage this part of a child’s life. Teens learn by making social mistakes. At the same time, parents can buffer the impact of social media by giving kids plenty of positive attention, supporting healthy offline friendships and pointing out popularity’s limited shelf life.

- Teach self-protection strategies. Talk to your child about how he or she can respond to mean or crude comments with tactics similar to those he or she would use offline. If possible, ignore bad behavior. The other person may just be having a really terrible day. Don’t respond in kind because that is likely to escalate the problem. Whenever possible, use humor to defuse conflict. Take advantage of privacy settings to block people who are always mean or negative. If a post is threatening, save a copy and share it with a trusted adult.

- Be sure your child knows you have his back. Many teens don’t talk to their parents about social media problems for fear that parents will overreact. Let your children know you have confidence in them to handle most situations, but you want to know about any online interactions that feel scary or overwhelming. If a child comes to you with an online problem, resist the urge to take charge. Instead, help your child think through how he or she wants to handle the situation. What is motivating the person who is causing the problem? Is this a relationship that matters to your child? Does he or she have offline contact with the person? Most important, listen!

The social skills young people need to succeed with social media aren’t all that different from the social skills they will need in the offline world. As a parent, you can help your children stay focused on the big picture. What kind of person does your child want to be and what kinds of friends will support him or her in becoming that type of person? For kids who keep those goals clearly in mind, the app they are using at the moment won’t much matter.

A Dozen Social Apps that Should be on Every Parent’s Radar

All of these social media apps can be downloaded on smartphones. They allow users to upload photos, videos and/or messages, which can, in turn, attract approval or comments from other people. Most apps have some sort of privacy system that allows users to make their posts public or available only to approved followers. Teens should be encouraged to use these controls with the understanding that as soon as something is online, it’s no longer private.

 

Gifboom: Very short videos.

Instagram: Photos and videos.

Keek. Limits audience for videos to 36 friends.

Kik. Messaging with photos and videos.

Path. Limits audience to 150 friends.

Pheed. A social network for the ”wild at heart.”

Reddit. Links and texts. Especially popular with teenage boys.

Snapchat. Photos self-destruct after a few seconds.

Tumblr. Blogging with photos, audio and videos.

Twitter. A way to post updates in 140 characters or less.

Viddy. Videos in 15 seconds or less.

 Vine. 6-second videos.

 

Carolyn Jabs raised three computer savvy kids, including one with special needs, and is working on a book about constructive responses to conflict. Learn more at growing-up-online.com.

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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Must register in advance. Space is limited. Parents, bring your...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
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Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
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Calling all Black tech leaders and visionaries! Are you looking to spur future collaborations, discover new business and career opportunities, and invest in this community? Join us for T.H.E. State...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Durham Convention Center
301 W Morgan St
Durham, NC  27701
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Contact Name: Tarryn Henry
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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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The 16th Annual (Virtual) Beaver Queen Pageant, Beavers in the Stream! The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-423-1502
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
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The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion,...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-698-9729
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
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