I like to think myself a pretty social media savvy parent.
I'm on Twitter, Instagram, have and have had various blogs, and part of various online communities.
Until a couple of days ago I didn't know of Snapchat. And I had no idea about Wanelo, Gifboom, Versagram and I'm positive now there are lots of other apps and ways teens, tweens and younger are using to communicate with each other.
(NB. each of those links to those app names takes you to articles about them and things we should know as parents).
Now, I'm no angel. I let my eldest on Facebook when she was only 12 (with lots of rules though, see below) and the reason I'm beginning to learn everything I am (after frequently being shocked at what I'm seeing) is I have let my 10 year old on Instagram after weeks of "but Mum, all my friends are on it".
My rules for both my now 15 year old (now on Deviant Art, she's dropped Facebook, it's "boring"...she also uses KIK, Tumblr....and probably others I need to check out) and 10 year old (only allowed on Instagram) are:
- no personal info. to be put online
- real names are not to be used, for themselves or in descriptions or tagging photos
- nothing is to be posted (photos, comments, info.) that might give away where we live
- the tween is only allowed to follow people she knows
- the teen is advised to be careful who she follows on Deviant Art....but the whole point is she likes to see others art and share her art/animations etc
- both are told not to post anything they'd be embarrassed to show her Grandma
- I had to be allowed to be their follower so I get to see what they post (and others' comments) in my stream
- that we do and will continue to sit down every so often and have a look through their accounts and think about online safety.
Watching Melchett's (the 10 year old) instagram photos, followers and comments on her photos this last week has made be realise how much her friends and classmates aren't quite as careful about their personal info. and risk giving away information that could endanger themselves and others. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not an uptight busy body....I let and have let my kids on social media before the 'must be 13' and I know what kids are like, but, this week alone I've found:
- kids we know putting their full names on the instagram profiles......there for the whole world to see,
- kids using a username for the account, but who've clearly used their real names to open the account.....so that shows up in their profile description, visible to whole world (talking to some of them, they had no idea people who didn't follow them could see this),
- the same kids putting tons of 'selfies', photos of themselves on instagram alongside their full names....
- their ages,
- THE SCHOOL THEY GO TO,
- photos of the outsides of restaurants they're about to eat in...with names in photo descriptions, helping narrow down their location,
- details of the local outdoor swimming pool they go to etc,
- appeals that they want as many followers as possible, "turn that blue button green" or "follow me, I'll follow back" etc.
I've contacted our school and the Principal is getting information from the school district's technology department on online safety to share this with parents and our class teacher had a long and serious talk with his 9-10 year olds about the dangers they're putting themselves in (including how someone could create a false account and pretend to know them using all the personal information and names they're giving out).
Even I was shocked to hear that of a class of 28 nine and ten year olds, all but 3 have Instagram accounts.
But it's not just that, quite a few of them use Snapchat, Vine, KIK, Tumblr....and share their usernames for these on their instagram public profiles.
So, what have I learned? What am I going to do?
- Well, I don't feel I can approach parents directly....they might be annoyed that I'm sticking my nose into their parenting, this is why I approached the school, especially as 6+ of the kids say they go to our school in their public profiles on instagram....I'm reassured looking this morning that most of the kids in Melchett's class who had the class discussion with our teacher have now removed this at least and other personal info.
- I've learned that I need to do more homework (some of the resources I'm reading/implementing are in list below or most of the pics in this post are links to the sites you see on online/internet safety).
- I've decided that Melchett's Instagram account is going to made private....we've come to a compromise that she can keep it open a little longer whilst she's getting friends (ONLY) to follow her, but then we're making it private. And soon. I'm going to get her to change her profile pic to one that doesn't clearly show her face or instead could be something she likes, unicorns, kittens, cupcakes etc).
- I'm absolutely positive I need to sit down with Goth Child, my 15 year old, and get more involved in what she uses and how she uses it.
If you want to do similar homework to be able to help keep your tweens and teens safe, here's some good stuff I've found:
Click the pic above or here for Netsmartz.org (by the National Center for Missing or Exploited Children), great advice for parents, teachers and links to interactive sites with activites and videos for teens, tweens and kids to learn more about online safety etc.
Here's a video from the UK's Think U Know that will help you think about online safety and you might want to watch with your tween/teen:
Think U Know also has a whole wealth of information for parents and 5-7s, 8-10s and 11-16s.
Here's good advice and a checklist to work through if you have tweens on Instagram from Scott Shamberg in the Huffington Post: Tweens and Instagram: How To Do It Right
Here's a quiz (and luckily the answers too) from Holly Actman Becker: Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader on Instagram....worthwhile reading to gen yourself up on the tween lingo!
What Parents Need To Know About Instagram and Cyberbullying on What You Tink Daddy.
ABC News report on Snapchat - how some teens say "the fun of it's to send embarrassing pictures" thinking they then disappear....but don't realise others can take screenshots of it...and you can also take video with snapchat.
Hope that helps you as much as it has me.