Snapchat – Causing Dilemmas For Parents Since 2011

We wrote a post last year titled “Is Snapchat Safe for 10, 11 and 12 Year Olds?

Official age limit aside, our conclusion in that post was, “if you are allowing a tween to download and use Snapchat, you are trusting that she is mature enough to keep herself safe from predators and cyberbullies, and to stick to age appropriate behavior.” While it wasn’t the topic of that post, the same goes for 13 and 14-year olds.

We stick by that conclusion for the most part, but we were struck by a comment left by a reader under that post, which you can read below (emphasis added):
snapchat-logo

“My parents still won’t let me get it. I am 13 and I never get in trouble. They don’t understand how much I don’t get included into [because] nobody uses text messages anymore. I just hope they understand how much I get picked on at school for being the only one in the whole grade without it. And to be honest everyone just uses it to text and connect with people it would be weird to just randomly text.”

We’ll be the first to say that “everybody else is doing it” is never enough reason for parents to say yes to something. However, we acknowledge that the pressure is on this girl’s parents to do just that. If as this girl asserts, she is the only one in her group of friends who is not using Snapchat, her parents have put her in an unfortunate situation.

From what we’ve seen, there are groups of 8th graders where every kid has a smartphone and is using Snapchat. We have no doubt that some of them are using it inappropriately, and there is no foolproof way for parents to guard against an impromptu gaffe.

If this girl is as responsible as she says she is (we admit there’s no way of knowing that), we’d encourage the parents to let her use Snapchat.

That isn’t the end of our advice. Saying, “Yes” is just the beginning of parenting with respect to Snapchat, or any other social network or app.

Lay out firm guidelines: Be very specific as to what kind of behavior is appropriate. Sexting is never okay. Neither is cyberbullying. Talk about how she should react when she sees a friend being cyberbullied. Talk about which types of friend requests she should accept. Tell her to treat every post as if it’s public and permanent.

Agree what will happen if she violates the rules: If she runs afoul of your guidelines, will she lose her Snapchat privileges? Her phone? Spell it out beforehand, but try not to put her in a position where she will be reluctant to come to you with problems.

Monitor activity: You won’t be able to monitor all of her Snapchat activity. You should be able to get a good idea of how she’s using the app if you talk to her about it often, and you should.

Do some research: There is plenty of content on the web about how teens are actually using Snapchat. By learning a little about Snapchat, you can greatly increase the meaning in the conversations you have with your teen.

Smartphones are definitely here to stay, and Snapchat looks like it is as well. Saying yes to Snapchat can increase your parenting workload an your stress level, but at some point it is the right thing to do.

 

 

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Peeple App is Back, And It’s Terrible

A new people-rating app called Peeple was signaling a debut last fall but it was met with press that was almost exclusively negative. It looked like a bad idea that wasn’t going to get off the ground, which would have been fine with us. We wrote at the time, “Peeple might be the worst app ever.”

Sure enough, the app went into hibernation and was quickly forgotten.

Peeple app logoThe folks behind Peeple decided to relaunch the app last week and the press are again completely unforgiving.

USA Today: Peeple app [is a] new low for online comments

Neurogadget: Peeple App is the New Yelp for People, and it’s Scary

Chrissy Teigen via CBS News, “In an age where both truth and gossip on the Internet can literally ruin lives, this #peeple app is horrible AND scary.”

The idea behind the app is that new users connect using their Facebook account, then can write a review for any person, positive or negative. You don’t have to be Facebook friends to write a review. If the person you review is not yet a Peeple user, you can invite them to join and see your review.

Imagine your teen getting the following message via Facebook: “Person X has reviewed you. Download the Peeple app to see what they said about you.” There aren’t many teens who would ignore a message like that.

If Peeple takes off, you can expect a new wave of cyberbullying, teacher bashing and random trolling.

To be fair, Peeple users do have some protections, but only if they’re willing to join Peeple. For example, after joining, new users can decide which reviews appear in their profile. If you do choose to join to see the reviews, and make the negative ones hidden, they aren’t deleted, they are just hidden. Only the reviewer can delete a review. And as TechCruch reports, the company plans to open all reviews to paying members at some point in the future.

The app’s stated age limit is 21, but don’t expect that to stop anybody. If your teen downloads Peeple, or is tempted to, we strongly suggest that you discourage them.

 

 

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Some Social Media Accounts Can’t Be Deleted

According to Pew Research, more than 2/3 of kids own their own smartphone by the age of 13. If you’re a parent reading this, chances are good that you have a teen in your house that fits into this category.

Same goes for many younger kids – one might assume that well over half of 12-year olds own their own smartphone. We focus here on the 12-13 year cohort because 13 is the age at which a kid can legally use social media sites and apps. 12-year olds shouldn’t be on social media, but often are. This is especially true in our experience of the under-13’s who have a smartphone.

Some parents have a tight rein on which apps their kids are allowed to download and when; others leave the kids to their own devices. While we certainly recommend that parents of younger users give permission before new apps are downloaded and accounts are created, what’s already on your child’s phone can cause problems, from cyberbullying to predator risk to all sorts of bad behavior.

One related problem is that if a parent tells a child to delete a problematic social app, and the child agrees, it may be difficult of impossible to delete the account entirely or all the content.account-killer

AccountKiller is a free service that gives helpful instructions on how to delete social accounts. It separates sites into white, grey and black categories. White means accounts are easy to delete, black means it is impossible (!) and grey means something in between.

Let’s pick on Ask.fm as an example, rated “grey” by AccountKiller. From their site:

“Publicly visible text/images often aren’t properly deleted even when you succeed in deleting an account. Try editing or deleting them manually before deleting the account itself. If you’re unsure what happens to your tracks: this can be found mostly in the Terms of Service/Privacy Policy; otherwise you can always contact Ask.FM and ask personally. By the way, deletion requests don’t necessarily mean your data will actually be deleted (e.g. due to legal obligations).”

Note to parents: Even for networks on the whitelist, deleting an account may not be instantaneous. For example, if you delete your Facebook account, they will “delay the deletion process a few days in case you change your mind”. You child can log in the next day and the account will be intact.

We encourage parents who have already given smartphones to their kids to give a lot of thought to which apps and social media accounts they are allowed to use. Consider the age and maturity of the child, the type of activity that happens on that site, and keep in mind that it may be impossible to delete the account should problems arise.

 

 

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Survey: How Teens and Young People Really Use Apps

App developer Testmunk did a survey last April to try to figure out how young people really use the apps on their phones. While the results are nine months old, we find that they are instructive for parents. The survey took the pulse of about 400 people aged 13 – 24 from across the country. 65% of respondents were aged 13 – 17, and the remaining 35% were aged 18 – 24. Some of the highlights and our thoughts:

most-popular-teen-apps
Source: Testmunk

Which social media app do you most frequently use?

  • Facebook – 27%
  • Instagram – 17%
  • YouTube – 14%
  • Tumblr – 12%
  • Snapchat – 12%
  • Twitter – 12%
  • Reddit – 2%
  • Pinterest – 2%

We’re surprised by a couple of these results: First, that Facebook is #1 on the list – more on Facebook below. Second, it’s curious to us that Tumblr rates so highly. Perhaps teen bloggers are making a comeback. For those with a lot to say, Twitter has certainly lost momentum.

When the survey takers compared Facebook time of use to the other apps combined, the other apps lead by approximately 3:1. Not surprisingly, Facebook doesn’t garner all the attention. The quotes from survey respondents paint a picture of Facebook as something you have to have (keeping up with family, creeping on romantic interests) but not really a social hub for teens, with the exception of FB Messenger.

“[Facebook] is becoming… a vestigial app… Everyone has it and is used to it, so we keep it, although Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Vine, have all essentially overcome it.” –Respondent, Male, 17

When asked how often respondents open their favorite app, almost 40% said nine times per day or more. Since Snapchat and Instagram for example are used for messaging, that number doesn’t surprise us. In the case of Snapchat, 52% of teens who favor it open it 9 times or more per day.

How many hours per day do you spend on your favorite app? Listed by app:

  • Facebook – 2.6
  • Instagram – 2.2
  • YouTube – 3.8
  • Tumblr – 4.0
  • Snapchat – 2.7
  • Twitter – 2.6

What do the survey results mean for parents? Well possibly a lot. One thing they do tell us speaks to something we hear for parents all the time:

“I’m friends with my teen on Facebook so I’m pretty sure that I know what she’s up to online. It’s all harmless.”

While most teens and young adults have a Facebook account, it is far from the only show in town. And since teens know that most parents and lots of grandparents are on Facebook, that’s the app where the least bad or unsafe behavior is taking place.

You can use the framework of the survey to have a meaningful conversation with your teen about what he is doing online. Ask questions like, “What is your favorite app” “How many times per day do you open it?” “How many hours per day are you on it?” The answers, if honest, should give you some good insight into what is going on inside your teen’s phone – and social life.

 

 

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Top Apps for Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas folks. We hope everyone had a safe and relaxing holiday and enjoyed it with loved ones. Today, we thought we’d look at the App Store charts and see what’s trending this Christmas. If one of top-app-12-2015-1your kids got a new phone or iPod for Christmas, no doubt some of these apps are already on his home screen.

 

First for the paid apps: As you can see the top 4 are games, indicating perhaps that kids with new devices or extra downtime were the top downloaders over the last couple of days.

If you’re a parent with kids who are around 10, you won’t be surprised to see that Minecraft has two of the top five spots. One of my teen boys has been playing Minecraft for years, and still plays, and my 8-year old daughter is begging to get it. We’re holding off for now with the 8-year old because there is some bullying that goes on during gameplay.

Coming in 5th place is Kim Kardashian’s emoji app. Not much to say there other than it is obvious that Americans love texting, emojis and celebrity.top-app-12-2015-2

 

Next for the free apps: Frankly, we’re surprised that there aren’t more games here. The top spot is one for the adults (the Fitbit app) and indicates that the exercise-tracking bracelet was probably under a lot of Christmas trees this year.

Dominating the top ten are social media apps, with Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook (plus Facebook Messenger) all appearing in the top 10.

The big shock in the top 10? For us, that would have to be iTunes U – a homework management app. We don’t have a lot of experience with iTunes U, but if kids en masse are downloading it the their tablets or phones, maybe they are using their electronics to do homework.

top-apps-12-2015-3Rounding out the top 10 are Pandora, a free music streaming app, Piano Tiles 2, the lone game on the list, and of course Netflix. A word to parents: If your child just got his first phone, make sure to warn him to only stream Netflix movies and TV shows when he is on a Wi-Fi connection. You data bills could go through the roof if he is streaming away your family’s cellular data.

Are you a parent who just gave a child their first cell phone? We have tips here for how to enable and set parental restrictions. If you’re not sure what rules you might want to implement you can click here. Finally, if you haven’t implemented rules and want to get an idea of what your child is doing on that phone, you can click here.

Enjoy the holidays!

 

 

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This Week in Social Media News For Parents

Stories for the week ending 12/18/2015

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A proposed EU law would effectively ban teens under 16 from social media. The law would ban websites and networks from collecting personal data from kids under 16, not 13 as in the case of the current law. This is a bad idea; kids will ignore it and the networks won’t be able to enforce it. We shall see.

European teens under 16 need to have parental consent for using social media under EU law

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We don’t have all the data, but odd are that if you think that 16 – 18 year old boys are behind most school gun and bomb threats posted online, you’re not alone. A 13-year old Colorado girl got into the act this week, posting a Facebook threat to take a gun to her middle school.

Palisade girl, 13, arrested after posting threat to social media

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WhatsApp_logo93% of Brazil’s internet users are on the popular messaging app WhatsApp, but they weren’t for a few hours on Thursday. Brazilian courts ordered that the app, which is owned by Facebook, be shut down for 48 hours after failing to cooperate in a criminal investigation. Is WhatsApp too big to fail? In Brazil, it may be. As users took to Twitter to protest, a judge ordered the ban be lifted just hours later.

Brazil judge lifts WhatsApp suspension

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Yeti Campus Stories, an app similar to Snapchat is becoming popular on college campuses. It has a reputation for being home to some pretty racy content, but this month a user might have posted an actual sexual assault.

Video of possible rape brings attention to app where college students share their sexual exploits

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If you aren’t a fan of anonymous social apps now, you probably won’t be in the future either. As was inevitable, the ads are coming.

The next opportunity for app developers: turning anonymous data into ad sales

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Did we miss an interesting story? Please let us know.

 

 

 

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More Problems with the After School App

after-school-appWe wrote last week about the anonymous After School app that caters to high school students. We have a number of issues with the app, not the least of which is that anonymous communications tend to be very popular with cyberbullies.

In the article last week we focused on, among other things, the fact that I was able to sign up to the page of a local high school despite the fact that the app is supposed to be for students only.

In any anonymous community, one might assume there is a risk that other members of the community aren’t who they claim to be. In the worst-case scenario, some users might be cyberbullies or worse, predators looking to do real harm. That risk has been downplayed by the reviews of the After School that we’ve seen. For example, in their review of the app, Common Sense media writes:

“The age controls are tight, too, which not only means that non-teen predators will have difficulty getting in, but it also means parents can’t monitor teens’ postings themselves.”

That seems to be consensus – that it is nearly impossible for non high school students to join a school network. That was not the case in our experience. After I selected the local high school from a list, the app asked to connect with Facebook to verify student status. I didn’t lie about my status, just clicked “OK” and was quickly connected.after-school-facebook

That brings up a second issue with the app. While After School did make the following claim, “This does not let the app post to Facebook”, it said nothing else about what else it might do with my Facebook information. I returned to the app the following day and noticed that After School has posted for me, and included my first name and my Facebook profile photo. I didn’t sign up for that, and didn’t know it was a possibility.

Our third issue with the app is a more minor one. Users who want to access the “mature” content on the app are supposed to scan their student ID card to verify that they are an upperclassman. I have a son who is 17-year old high school student at a large school. I asked him to try it and the scan was not compatible with the code on his student I.D. Also, if he was able to scan it, there is no way to verify that it was his I.D. he was scanning.

Since that app’s introduction last year, they have made some positive changes. Some of them are described well in an article this week at ChicagoNow.

We have a number of questions:

  • In theory, how is the Facebook link supposed to confirm high school student status?
  • Why didn’t it work in my case?
  • Shouldn’t After School clearly disclose if they are going to use my Facebook info and post for me?

For now, we strongly caution parents to keep their teens off After School. We’d like to see some answers.

 

 

 

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After School App | Anonymous and Problematic

after-school-appWe first took a look at the anonymous After School app last year. At the time, we didn’t write a review for two reasons, the first being that it didn’t seem to be taking off nationally. The second, less good reason was that we couldn’t log into the app.

The app itself claims to be only for high school students, and if I remember correctly, you needed a .edu email address to log in, which I obviously don’t have. I deleted the app and promised myself that I’d come back to it if there was an indication that it was taking off.

This morning there’s a new buzz around the app thanks to an excellent Washington Post article titled Millions of teens are using a new app to post anonymous thoughts, and most parents have no idea. We decided to take another look.

If you’re a parent, the first paragraph is all you need to know about whether the After School app should be on your teen’s phone:

“Millions of teenagers in high schools nationwide are using a smartphone app to anonymously share their deepest anxieties, secret crushes, vulgar assessments of their classmates and even violent threats, all without adults being able to look in.”

after-schoolWe’ll have a full review in the upcoming weeks but thought we’d focus on the last part of the quoted paragraph above – “without adults being able to look in”.

After re-downloading the app, I got a message saying that is it only for students and offered a list of local schools. I chose the local high school and was directed to connect to my Facebook account to confirm that I am in fact a student. I clicked the button to connect to Facebook and after a few moments was a proud member of the Hunterdon Central Regional High School After School community. I’m not a high school student and there is no information in Facebook or elsewhere that indicates I am one. This looks like faux verification to us.

That’s kind of a big deal. The teens interacting on the app assume that they’re talking to their peers. As it turns out, they could be talking to anyone – including a predator. It’s not safe.

What has improved from the earlier iteration of the app is that they do a better job gating the adult content. The default setting is that content that is sexual or drug related is blocked from view. You need to scan the barcode (or something) on your school ID tp unlock the adult content. We’re not sure how this works – more on that later.

after-school-adult-content

As we said, you can look for our full review in the coming weeks, but if your teen is already using After School, you might want to point out that everyone on there may not be who they are pretending to be.

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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The 6 Worst Sites and Apps for Tween Cyberbullying

Fact: The average tween gets a cell phone by the time she’s 12-years old. The means that half of kids younger than 12 have a phone, and most of the time it’s a smartphone with internet access

Fact: The age limit for most social media networks and apps is 13-years old

Fact: Most parents of tweens find it difficult or impossible to monitor everything that their kids are doing online, especially on their phones

If your tween has a phone, one of the things you are probably concerned with is cyberbullying. We wrote a couple of years ago about which networks and apps are the worst for cyberbullying, but times changes so we thought we’d take another look, this time from a tween parenting perspective.

Based on our research and what we see day in and day out, the worst sites for tween cyberbullying are:

ask-fm-logoAsk.fm – The question and answer site has taken strides this year to be a safer space for young users, but in our opinion it has a long way to go. The user demographic skews very young, and the fact that users can ask questions anonymously means that harsh words are thrown around on a regular basis. Users can opt out of accepting anonymous questions, but since that cuts down on interaction, most kids do not opt out from what we’ve seen.

Read more: Two Weeks in the Life of a 13-Year Old Girl on Ask.fm

instagram-sq-logoInstagram – A wonderful app for posting or messaging pictures, Instagram is also a self-esteem wrecker for some kids. Many of the pics that kids post are selfies, and either to get a laugh or out of sheer meanness, other kids will often voice very harsh opinions. In some ways the kids are asking for it (not to blame the victim); participating in #HotOrNot or #RateMe contests is a great way to attract criticism.

yik-yak-logoYik Yak – The anonymous, location-based app claims that it is intended for college kids and older users only, and has taken steps to have access blocked for at least some high schools, but practically speaking the blocks don’t work. On Yik Yak, you’ll find plenty of cyberbullying, as well as teacher bashing and general bad behavior. In addition, users can now post pictures, which ups the ante significantly.

twitter-logoTwitter – We see lots of under-13s on Twitter, but not many of them are very active. For those who are, parents should be aware that any post could be met with vocal dissent, which can and does easily devolve into cyberbullying. Twitter is a great platform for people with a lot to say, and bullies are some of the most vocal.

4chan and 8chan – These anonymous, no holds barred message boards are really no place for kids under 13. Reasonable discourse is almost nonexistent, and anyone posting is a potential target.

Reddit – While the content on Reddit is often high quality, the interactions can be just the opposite. Reddit’s content is divided into silos called subreddits based on users’ interests, and people frequenting those subreddits often have very strong opinions and aren’t shy about sharing them. Unless your tween is very thick skinned and knows how to skirt the adult content, we recommend staying off Reddit.

In general, we don’t recommend ignoring the age limits for social media. Young, undeveloped minds need some protection from harsh online elements, and waiting until they’re more mature is one way to achieve that. If younger kids are venturing onto social media, particularly the platforms above, parents need to be extra vigilant.

 

 

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Peeple App Backs Off Original Positioning

Consider this a win for the good guys.

peeple-appIn case you missed it last week (see: Peeple Might Be the Worst Social App Ever), the Peeple app was previewed for a November launch and promised to offer a way for anyone to publicly do an online review of anyone else, as long as some conditions were met. The subject of the reviews would not be able to opt out, and many including us had serious questions about how they would monitor reviews and keep a lid on abuse.

After the initial backlash, it appears that the founders have had second thoughts. Founder Julia Cordray took to LinkedIn yesterday to announce some changes, claiming that the original mission of the app was misunderstood. Perhaps she was smarting from all the abuse that she was taking online. According to her post:

“That’s why Peeple is focused on the positive and ONLY THE POSITIVE as a 100% OPT-IN system. You will NOT be on our platform without your explicit permission. There is no 48-hour waiting period to remove negative comments. There is no way to even make negative comments. Simply stated, if you don’t explicitly say “approve recommendation”, it will not be visible on our platform.”

That is totally different from what was previewed last week, and most likely ensures that the app will not be a hit. Only users who opt in can now be reviewed, and reviews will only become public after the subject approves them.

We’re not saying that you don’t have the right to have a negative opinion of someone – you do. However, a platform that makes it as easy as possible to publicly post negative subjective reviews and cyberbullying is not something the online world needs. Looks like this app will be dead on arrival.

Edit: The website and the company’s social media accounts have gone dark, for now at least.

 

 

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