With the explosion of mobile technology over the last decade, specifically smartphones, parents are having a tough time keeping up with the latest trends. It’s no longer cool to use Facebook or even Twitter. Teens are moving to less known social media platforms such as Tumblr and Instagram to communicate with friends to avoid the prying eyes of their parents. But educating our kids about technology and how best to use it is a challenge when parents are unaware of the dangers.
As if the smartphones themselves aren’t temptation enough with their easy-to-use cameras and instant communication mechanisms, now software developers are encouraging behaviors like sexting with apps including Snapchat and Facebook Poke.
Snapchat and Facebook Poke are mobile apps which let users share images or videos that disappear after a few seconds. The sender can choose how long the message will be visible — up to 10 seconds — before it self-destructs (or so they say).
Here are some sobering stats from the site GuardChild.com:
- 20% of teens have sent or posted nude or semi-nude photos or videos of themselves
- 39% of teens have sent sexually suggestive messages via text, email or instant messaging
- 48% of teens say they have received sexually suggestive messages via text, email or instant messaging
Snapchat has taken the app world by storm. At the time of this post, Snapchat is the 15 most popular app in the iTunes app store, ahead of Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. Teens and 20-somethings are downloading and using this app in record numbers.
Athough Snapchat claims naughty images will never come back to haunt users, people can still grab screenshots from their phones, even though both Snapchat and Facebook Poke notify the sender if the recipient snaps a screenshot. And these screenshots are being used to create Snapchat-themed Tumblr blogs featuring nude or semi-nude teens as well as a one completely dedicated to images of the male genitalia. Nice, huh?
So what can we as parents do to combat this? First, educate yourself. Your kids might think their videos and pics are deleted forever, but inform them that Zach Epstien with BGR.com has detailed a way to retrieve the deleted videos your kid receive. And the photos that vanish after 10 seconds? Nope, those are retrievable too. (TechCrunch wrote steps on how to do that here: retrieve Snapchat pics) The more YOU know, the less your kids can get away with. This includes keeping up with apps like these.
Second, communicate. Some of us at Smirk New Media are parents ourselves, and we want to keep our kids (and yours) safe as well as educate them about digital media. Our kids are exposed to more technology in their pocket than was used in the first Apollo rocket. The key is to set boundaries and talk to your kids. Explain that the “private” video your kid shot of her backside in a thong is not only unacceptable, it could also be viewed by authorities as child porn depending on who it was sent to. If you’re the recipient of those images (even if you THINK they are deleted), you could also get you in trouble with the law.
Lastly, consider using one iCloud account for app purchases, with a password that only you know. This can prevent teens from downloading such ridiculous apps like Snapchat or Facebook poke all together.
What are your thoughts on these apps? Are you familiar with them? We’re here to help.