Given that social media is constantly being updated, it is important to have an understanding of what social media is, what are the benefits and what are the risks. Social media is any online platform that is used to connect with others, to share information and to establish networks. People who use social media generally upload and share content, such as online profiles, comments, photos, videos and links.
It is an important part of a teenagers life and there are many benefits. These include connecting with friends and family, having fun, forming friendships with people who share similar interests, engaging in support networks, being creative with photos and videos and some have even reported improvements in mental health and wellbeing.
Unfortunately, there are also many risks associated with social media including exposure to inappropriate content, sharing personal information with strangers, cyberbullying and possible data breaches like identity theft. You can, however, take steps to protect your child online. Talk openly with your child/ren about social media, understand the risks and set guidelines as to how you want your child to behave online, as well as how they behave towards others. Know what platforms your child is on and keep up to date with the latest apps that are released. Understand the risks and teach your child how to manage their digital footprint. Learn about the social media platforms your child is using and find out if they are age-appropriate.
Some examples of current social media platforms that children are accessing include:
MeetMe: A dating social media app that connects people based on location. Users are encouraged to meet in person.
WhatsApp: A messaging app that allows texts, video calls, photo sharing and voicemails with users worldwide.
Bumble: Similar to Tinder, but requires women to make the first contact. Law enforcement says kids and teens can create fake accounts and falsify their age.
Live.Me: A live-streaming app that uses geolocation to share videos. Users can earn “coins” to “pay” minors for photos.
Ask.FM: This app lets users ask anonymous questions and is known for cyberbullying.
Grindr: A dating app geared toward the LGBTQI+ community based on user location.
TikTok: Lets users create and share short videos. The app has “very limited privacy controls” and users can be exposed to cyberbullying and explicit content.
Snapchat: One of the most popular social media apps in the world, Snapchat lets users take and share photos and videos. The app also lets people see your location.
Holla: This self-proclaimed “addicting” video chat app lets users meet people in seconds. Users have seen racial slurs and explicit content.
Calculator+: Police say this is one of several apps that are used to hide photos, videos, files and browser history.
Skout: A location-based dating app that is supposed to prohibit people under 17 from sharing private photos. However, kids can easily create an account with a different age.
Badoo: A dating and social media app where users can chat and share photos and videos based on location. The app is supposed to be for adults only, but teens are able to create accounts.
Kik: Kids can bypass traditional text messaging features using this app. Kik “gives users unlimited access to anyone, anywhere, anytime,”.
Whisper: An anonymous social network that lets users share secrets with strangers. It also shows users’ location so people can meet up.
Hot or Not: The app lets users rate profiles, check out people in their area and chat with strangers. The goal of the app is to hook up.
If you are concerned about the social media platforms your child is using, encourage them to block and report people who post upsetting comments and content, avoid clicking on pop-ups (which can potentially lead to inappropriate sites), only accept friend requests from people they know and take screenshots if they receive any content that is inappropriate and report it to a trusted adult.
Head of Middle School