Back-to-school is a time of new experiences and new peer groups, on and off-line. Kids will be exposed to new apps and on-line hangouts, where there is always the risk of bad actors taking advantage of vulnerable youth. And banning kids from mobile connectivity and social media is not going to keep them safe, because they can keep their access a secret – making them even more vulnerable.
There will be drama. It is a part of growing up. But certain apps truly stir drama into cyberbully experiences that can inspire hopelessness and secrets. According to a recent article in the Idaho Statesman, the following three apps get a lot of credit for stirring up trouble among teens, and especially middle school teens.
- YikYak – Anonymous and shares information in or near your geographical location. It is a place where threats and bullying can happen. Some schools have banned it from use on campus. (Related: AfterSchool, Burnbook, and StreetChat)
- Ask.FM – An anonymous question and answer website, which lends itself to bullying when youth ask questions like, “Am I pretty?” Use of this site has been linked to youth suicide. (Related: Whisper)
- SnapChat – Image-centric instant messaging app which promises to destroy the image and message after a number of seconds, and is considered a “sexting app”. Third party app providers allow people to capture and redistribute images. (Related: BurnNote and SlingShot)
(Source: 3 Social media apps stir up trouble in schools, by Caroline Knorr)
Cyber safety tips for choosing the right “digital hangout” and using it correctly
First, check your own motivation. If your honest desire is to be in control of your child and their circumstances on and off line, then your communication is misguided. The level of communication required for cyber-safety is heart-to-heart, which can only happen when you are motivated by Divine Love (which puts your trust in the thoughts that come from the heart of God).If your honest desire is to be in control of your child, your child will sense your fear, and their shields will go up. Their response is to not share openly for fear of disappointing or meeting with disapproval.
Secondly, get interested in what your child is learning, on and off –line. Your child’s childhood is informing him or her very differently than that of your own. So it is important that you first seek to gather information and insights that your child has to offer – especially about the “digital hangouts” or the social media apps that kids in their school community are using to stay connected.
Third, investigate the new “digital hangouts” (or social media apps) with your child. If your child has expressed an interest in an app that their friends are using, do the homework together on the app. What is it all about? You can learn a lot by doing some searches with news alerts. And check out resources like Common Sense Media which gives detailed information and warnings about different apps. You will want to educate your child about why anonymous apps are not desirable, because it is easy to be mean and to lie.
Fourth, impart your wisdom. You have an opportunity to share your wisdom by offering your thoughts about a situation or a decision regarding where your child chooses to spend their time, on-line. When you ask your child “do you want to know my thoughts about this app?” the chances are great that they will want to know. It is when we start in with the lecturing and sharing a fearful response to what interests them that is when communication shields go up. And the chances are greater that your child, if they have a desire to be present on SnapChat or whatever app that is popular among their friends, chances are great that it will be done in secret without your guidance.
ABOUT: Banana Moments Foundation is a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. The BMF mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God grants every human being intelligence and free will and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all BMF proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your Donations are greatly appreciated.
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.
- Cyber safety for kids and families on TheFish103.9FM (videos)
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- Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner
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- Email: Jullien@surewest.net
Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and recovery from addiction. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.