The Internet can be a wonderful resource for kids. They can use it to research school reports, communicate with teachers and other kids, and play interactive games. Kids who are old enough to swipe a screen can have access to the world.
Getting Involved in Kids' Online Activities
Aside from these tools, it's wise to take an active role in protecting your kids from Internet dangers. To do that:
- Become computer literate and learn how to block objectionable material.
- Keep the computer in a common area, not in individual bedrooms, where you can watch and monitor its use. Monitor any time spend on smartphones or tablets.
- Share an email or social media account with your child so you can monitor messages.
- Bookmark kids' favorite sites for easy access.
- Spend time online together to teach your kids appropriate online behavior.
- Forbid your child from entering private forums; block them with safety features provided by your Internet service provider or with special filtering software. Be aware that posting messages to forums reveals a user's email address to others.
Popular Social Media Apps and Sites
Many school counselors across the country have put together a list of the most popular social media apps and sites so we can all be aware of what our students are finding online. It is important to remember that technology is constantly changing. What may be popular one week, is not necessarily popular the next and is often replaced with a new app or site. At CLV, our goal is to teach students how to use technology in a safe and responsible way. It is our hope that this list will prompt a discussion of online safety. If you would like more information on, please go to www.commonsensemedia.org.
Kik Messenger- a free texting app with no message limits, character limits, or fees. The texts do not show up on the phone’s messaging service. It is loaded with ads and in-app purchases and also promotes communication with strangers who share their usernames. There is also a Kik blog where uses can submit photos of themselves to contests.
OoVoo- a free voice, video, and messaging app. You can only chat with approved friends but can have chats with up to 12 people for free.
WhatsApp- another free texting app for users 16 and over. After the first year it charges .99 cents per year. It accesses the user’s phone contact list and location services.
Instagram- lets users snap, edit, and share photos and videos either publicly or privately. Anyone who follows you (if your account is private) can “like” a picture. When you sign up, public is the default unless you adjust your settings. If the account is public, users can search through hashtags and location information to see other’s photos. There is also a direct messaging option to send “private” pictures and messages to up to 15 people.
Tumblr- a cross between a blog and Twitter. Users create short blogs that are similar to a scrapbook of text, photos, and/or video clips. Privacy is hard to create and not the first option when creating an account. Posts can be inappropriate and are often copied and shared.
Twitter- a site where users post 140- character messages and follow other’s activities. Public tweets are the norm, though you can choose to have a private setting, and updates appear immediately.
Meerkat- allows Twitter users to live stream video. A “Here, come with me” not “look what I did” app.
Vine- an app that lets users post 6 second video clips that loop. It like many other apps is public by default and often hosts inappropriate material.
Burn Note- a messaging app that erases messages after a set period of time. It is limited to text messages but you do not have to have the app to receive a message.
Snapchat- a messaging app that lets users put a time limit on pictures and videos they send before they disappear. SnapChats can be used for embarrassing or inappropriate photos, but users should know that the Shapchats do not go away forever. Snapchats can be screenshotted or recovered.
(Slingshot is the Facebook version of Shapchat)
Whisper- a confessional app that allows users to post anything that comes to mind along with a picture. There is a “Meet Up” section that encourages users to share personal information. Confessional topics often include inappropriate material that can be leaked and become public.
Yik Yak- is essentially Twitter by location. It lets users post brief comments to the geographically nearest 500 users. It does reveal the location of the user by default and can contain explicit information.
MeetMe- their tag is “Chat and Meet New People”. It is not specifically a dating site, but has a function where uses can secretly admire others.
Omegle- “Chat with Strangers”. The premise of the app is to link users together based on common interest. It does not require registration- just a username and password and you can search for people to chat with based on age and gender specifications. The front page of the website states that predators have been known to use Omegle.
Skout- is a flirting app for teens and adults. Users are placed in the appropriate peer group and share, comment, and post pictures and text. Users get notification when someone near their geographic area joins and receives notification when someone “checks out” their page.
LINE- a messaging app that allows users to send videos, texts, and voice messages for free. LINE does include a hidden chat similar to Snapchat and encourages in app purchases. It requires “minors” to have parental permission before signing up but does not provide a place to monitor parental permission.
Ask.fm- a site that lets kids ask questions and answer those posted by others, with an anonymous option. Bullying has been linked to this site with several stories reported in the news.
Cloaq- a site that assigns users random usernames and doesn’t collect any personal information. It is an anonymous posting site that can contain inappropriate and personal material. It claims that no information on the site is collected or kept, but that is never a guarantee with the internet.
Periscope- a live video app that allows users to stream from their phone and anyone that uses the app can watch them live. There is an option for private broadcast but by default it is public.
Riff- allows users to create a video that others can add onto and publish on Facebook.
YouNow- a live-streaming site that lets users broadcast for viewers all over the world through cameras on their computers, tablets, and smartphones. This app encourages long-form streaming for hours at a time with hashtags like #sleepingsquad and #truthordare.