“Knock, knock…” No, it’s not a joke, it’s the way my social media worked when I was a kid!
Someone either knocked on the door or rang the door bell. Neither is the case these days. Our kids flock to social media sites to stay connected, build community, hang out and find out what’s going on in their world.
I have taken a few surveys, asked a few questions, and did a little poking around to see what and where our kids have landed with their social media. Please understand that this post is not meant to alarm or scare any parent into locking down their child’s phone, tablet or computer. There’s a difference between being aware and being worried. I want you to be aware.
When I speak on the topic of Faith and the Modern Family I often get asked this question. “Are most social media apps bad for our kids? My answer is no. That being said, here is another question to consider. Are there some social media apps that seem to draw a more inappropriate crowd discussing or soliciting inappropriate behavior and topics? The answer is yes. And, that’s what I want us to be aware of.
5 Social Media Sites Parents Should Know About (Alphabetically)
A social site/app where anyone can ask anything they want or, answer anything they want, and remain anonymous.
The equation of a “child + asking whatever they want + wanting to remain anonymous = dangerous (My math). Questions can range from something bland and simple like, “What’s you favorite class?” And, “What’s your favorite color?” To, “Will anyone pose naked for me?” AskFM seems to be attracting more inappropriate behavior than appropriate and a site that should be on our radar as parents.
A platform for uploading and commenting on memes. What’s a “meme?” A meme is picture, phrase or piece of pop culture which is often edited or commented on to be funny. In Imgur’s world once an image is uploaded users take their best shot at writing a funny comment for the image. The community either votes those comments up or down.
In my opinion most users are “lookers” and not posters of the memes. However, that doesn’t stop the inappropriate pictures or comments from making their rounds on the site.
According to the KIK website, “Kik Messenger has become the simplest, fastest, most life-like chat experience you can get on a smartphone.” Kik is a one stop app that allows users to connect with pictures, video, and text. Kik is a way for people to stay connected to each other.
Based on reviews in both Google Play and iTunes the site has turned in to a “what’s worse” in social media behavior. Sexting, fake identities, naked pictures and blatant preditorial requests and solicitations are a large presence with this community. Kik continues to earn a reputation as the place to go for inappropriateness. I noticed that Kik recently moved it’s age for opening an account from 13 to 17 probably to move closer to protecting themselves rather than their users.
This picture sharing site was designed so users could share their “Snaps” (pictures) with others. A snap is usually a picture that is sent to a group of users with an expiration time set on it. Once the user opens the “snap” or picture it will disappear after a set amount of time.
My first question is why? Why do you want a picture to disappear? Are people sharing “embarrassing pictures” or “inappropriate pictures?” My bet is on the latter. I’m sure there are things in our past, as parents, we don’t want “out there” for others to see. We want those moments to “disappear” because they are moments we don’t necessarily want to remember. They may be embarrassing or humiliating.
We usually don’t want our past success to disappear, it’s the “not so pretty” times we would like to disappear, and that’s my point. The snare with this app is that it makes it easy to post inappropriate content, that after a certain amount of time, will disappear. However, it never really disappears. Can you say, “Screen Capture?”
WhatsApp is a cross platform mobile messaging service. The marquee feature of WhatsApp is its versatility. WhatsApp is available on iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia and those phones can all message each other. WhatsApp users can message each other regardless of the phone or operating system they are using and this translates into “popular” and “easy to use.” In fact, the site suggests that it processes more than 20 million messages a day.
The general consensus from most online reviews and other parents is there is that the WhatsApp community doesn’t attract a large volume of inappropriateness. If our kids are using WhatsApp to communicate to a group of friends in a community they put together then why not? It’s Cross platform, easy to use and simple. I found one review that said, “WhatsApp is similar to Kik. Same purpose and more popular.” Again, is it the app or who it’s attracting? Check it out for yourself.
Question: Now, what should we do?
We should, “Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master” Ephesians 6:4 (The Message). In this case, taking them by the hand may mean a calm conversation or exploring the sites listed above to see what they are really about.
Take a few minutes today to talk to your child/teen about what social media apps they are using, how they are using them and even why they are using them. Have the conversation in wise mind taking them by the hand and leading them in the easy of the Master.