Hello there, parents. It’s 2014, and by now you probably have a Facebook account, and odds are that you are Facebook friends with your teen. The same might be true for your parents and in laws. Because of this, if your teen is up to anything questionable online, it’s probably not happening on Facebook.
Based on our experience doing audits on teens’ internet profiles and activity, the above premise is true for the most part. Not 100% of the time, but it is certainly moving in that direction. Luckily for teens looking to push the envelope, there are plenty of places online that their parents aren’t frequenting. Let’s take a look at where the hot spots for bad online behavior are – the apps and networks where teens’ good graces are often checked at the door.
We do need to start by saying that no network is all bad, but some because of how they’re designed, monitored or not monitored, lend themselves to bad behavior or enable teens to get away with it.
Instagram – The photo sharing and messaging app is very hot with teens. Unfortunately, teens are also using Instagram for hurtful popularity contests (#hotornot, #rateme), cyberbullying, illegal drug sales and some users engage in various forms of self-harm enablement.
Twitter – Sure, lots of people use Twitter to consume information – it’s a great source, and it’s real-time. The trouble teens run into on Twitter generally occurs when they have too much to say. Twitter is a great forum for cyberbullying, trash talking, racism, homophobia and other forms of hate speech. Oh, and they allow nudity and porn.
Tumblr – Tumblr is typically frequented by creative types – it’s effectively a blogging platform that makes it easy to post and curate not only text but also pictures and video. Parents should be aware that teens using Tumblr as a creative outlet could be in for a rude awakening.
Cyberbullying is common, and as with Twitter, nudity and porn are allowed. Tumblr is also the home to large numbers of user accounts that support eating disorders and other negative behaviors.
Ask.fm – Since being acquired by a larger company, Ask.fm seems a little less rough around the edges. The fact remains, though, that there is too much cyberbullying on Ask.fm. The most common example: good kid/real name asks honest question -> mean spirited anonymous kid answers with a scathing retort. Other kids pile on.
YouTube – While YouTube video content is rigorously monitored, the comments section below videos, particularly those popular with teens, can feature some of the harshest behavior online. It’s possible to browse YouTube with comments disabled, and that’s what we recommend for teens.
Yik Yak – The bosses at Yik Yak claim that they’ve blocked the app at most high schools, but according to our research that’s not the case. Or maybe they can’t find New Jersey. Yik Yak claims to be anonymous, but a lot of teens seem to know who’s who. Since users seem to believe they’re anonymous, there is frequent bragging about drug and alcohol use, cyberbullying and frequent teacher bashing. This is one of our least favorite apps. Oh, and did you read about the time that a friend’s teen daughter had a secret party, and one of her not-friends used Yik Yak to invite the whole town.
We’re not telling you to forbid your teens using these apps or sites (except Yik Yak, go ahead and ban that). For example, Instagram isn’t bad per se, and telling a teen girl not to use Instagram would be like telling her not to talk to her friends.
Nor are we saying that you have to try to track your teen 24×7 on every one of these networks – that would be a huge undertaking. Rather, be aware of where the potential trouble spots are, and what kinds of negative behaviors are possible. Work some of these into your conversations with your teens about appropriate online activity, and have those conversations often.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.