Social media has many positive attributes but there’s no denying potential dangers such as reputation damage and exposure to predators, identity thieves and cyber bullies. New social media sites crop up regularly and it’s challenging keeping up with them, let alone worrying about what children are doing on them. Below are some popular sites that kids (and adults) are using these days that parents should know about:
Instagram is a photo-sharing service that allows photos to be enhanced with filters and then easily posted from smart phones to the web. Dangers exist when inappropriate photos are posted, strangers are followed or inappropriate comments are made or received.
Snapchat lets users send photos and videos that disappear in 2 to 10 seconds after being accessed. However, Snapchats can be captured via screenshots and cameras and shared on other social media sites therefore users counting on disappearance have a false sense of security.
Burn Note is like a text version of Snapchat. Messages are posted on the site and sent to specific email addresses. Recipients have 60 seconds to read messages before they are deleted from the server. A false sense of security is provided because messages can be captured via screenshots.
Textfree is one of many smart phone applications that allow texting within the app rather than through the phone. Texts are free and don’t show up in texting records which means parents cannot review or monitor them. The lack of parental supervision is conducive to sexting, texting at school and to other inappropriate text conversations.
Spillit lets users post questions for family, friends, and strangers to answer openly or anonymously. Facebook and smart phone apps increase the range of people that can provide answers. The anonymous commenting feature of Spillit is conducive to cyber bullying because comments are not posted in commenters’ profiles and tracking of history is challenging.
Vine is a mobile phone app that allows users to record and easily upload 6 second videos to social networking sites. Sites such as Twitter do not ban pornography so Vine can encourage posting of sexually explicit videos. Using Vine can also lead to posting of inappropriate behavior such as bullying, drinking and drug use.
Ask.fm is a popular question and answer site that allows users to post questions about numerous topics. Ask.fm is conducive to cyber bullying because kids often post questions regarding physical appearance and they sometimes use their own or their friends’ names in posts. Kids can inadvertently tarnish their reputations and put themselves at risk by asking questions about illegal or illicit activities. “Where can I purchase a fake ID to buy alcohol?” is an example of a question that can jeopardize college acceptance.
Tumblr is a “microblogging” site known for short posts. It is easy to post updates, photos and videos and users can create sites for specific purposes such as a site dedicated to a cause or a celebrity. Tumblr can also be conducive to cyber bullying because a site can be dedicated to making fun of another child, for example. There are no age limits on Tumblr and its ease of use makes impulsive and questionable posts more common than on traditional websites. Tumblr does not allow users to make their blogs private, however, there are options to lock individual posts.
Keek is an application for posting brief videos and it requires Twitter or Facebook access. Videos appear as status updates and like Vine, Keek can encourage impulsive and inappropriate posting, including sexually explicit content which is not banned on Twitter. Privacy is minimal because having private Twitter or Facebook accounts does not prevent others from re-posting or re-tweeting videos. Keek can be used to network with strangers across the world and it provides opportunity for cyber predators and bullies to seek out and target victims.
WHAT DANGERS LURK IN SOCIAL MEDIA SITES AND APPS?
Kids and adults become vulnerable when they provide personal information such as full names, birthdays and addresses on social media. Users are also at risk when posting, commenting on or forwarding inappropriate photos, videos, texts and posts including those that are sexually explicit, those that show drinking or drug use and those that are of illegal or unethical activity such as bullying or rape.
Regardless of privacy settings and promises of self-destruction or manual deletion, inappropriate posts can be seen and shared by others. Snapchats and Burn Notes are supposed to disappear but can be dangerous because they can be saved permanently via cameras or screenshots even though they are deleted from servers. In fact, any social media post that is deleted can come back and haunt once it has been shared or captured by a single person.
In spite of anonymity promises of apps such as Spillit, advanced technology and savvy users can track and identify users when they’re not supposed to be able to do this. This is valuable in cases associated with crimes and bullying. In addition to innocent or naive users, social media troublemakers or criminals can also endanger themselves by inadvertently revealing their own identities.
In a few days, the follow up to this article will provide a variety of tactics to reduce and eliminate many of the dangers associated with social media sites and apps. In the meantime, general tips and guidelines can be found in the article, How To Protect Your Child on Social Networks.
Until next time,… Stay Cyber Safe!