One day our kids are collecting dolls or baseball cards or dinosaurs and the next morning they wake up wanting tablets and cell phones. It’s not unreasonable, after all, they are using our devices and watching us scroll through screens every day. For many of us, our children have already discovered the fast paced and instant communication wonderland digital devices offer. In fact, a majority of young kids, around the age of 3, are already active media users.
All of this clicking and swiping can result in our children consuming a steady diet of social media, leaving us in the dark trying to understand the ins and outs of what our sons and daughters are really doing with their devices. Even though our young children and teens are in the beginning stages of using apps and social media, we need to understand the possible apps and sites they will encounter online.
Disappearing apps are very popular among our kids for a variety of reasons. One of the main features that entice users is the fact that messages, photos, or videos sent will automatically delete after being viewed and a certain amount of time has elapsed. This ephemeral quality draws in our kids, because this outlet allows a more authentic way to communicate among peers without fears they are leaving a negative digital footprint.
This brings us to Snapchat, now considered one of the fastest growing social media apps, favoured by children for it’s disappearing messages and fun atmosphere. People using Snapchat send messages and after the receiver views the message they self destruct leaving no trace behind. It was developed by students from Stanford University to allow individuals “self expression” while enjoying a safe experience.
The false sense of security provided by disappearing messaging apps can encourage children to take risks and make poor judgment calls. Many of our children have discovered the fleeting nature of these apps are the perfect vehicle for snapping sexts or cyber-bullying.
It’s easy to be in denial and think that cyber-bullying won’t happen to our children, but we must consider recent data shows cyber-bullying rates have tripled with 87 percent of our kids encountering digital bullying in some form. Disappearing messages offer bullies plenty of opportunities to harass and inflict harm on their victims, because there is little chance that someone will document the cruelty.
Sexting is another area of concern for parents, because the promise of disappearing messages allows children to send intimate photos more freely. This is disheartening for parents on many levels, but sexting does come with it’s own host of dangers. Even though the messages disappear, the apps don’t prevent someone from screenshotting images to save or share with friends. To compound these matters, the FBI has even issued warnings in regards to child predators using these apps as a means to contact and receive sensitive images from our children.
Staying up to date on trending technology can be difficult, but with a little effort we can be informed to raise our children with the tools necessary to live in a digital world. To help our children and teens make smart choices when it comes to social media, listed below are five pointers to empower our sons and daughters:
1. Teach children social media etiquette at an early age and build on that foundation as a child ages- make sure to include cyber-bullying, sexting, and over-sharing when appropriate. If children are informed, they will be able to make better choices.
2. Stress that it is alright to ignore requests for sexts or items that make them feel uncomfortable.
3. Monitor a child’s technology use (devices, phones, computers, etc.) and know what sites they visit, who their friends are, and how they behave online.
4. Encourage kids to tell someone if they witness or experience cyber-bullying. Surprisingly, only 10 percent of our children will get help!
5. Keep technology in common living areas and out of bedrooms to reduce the temptation for bullying or sexting.
How do you keep your children safe on disappearing messaging apps?