Let’s call it the One App Challenge.
If you’re the parent of teens or tweens and are on social media today, you might see some reference to Safer Internet Day 2015, which happens to be today. Of course, since it’s a feel-good topic, internet companies and internet safety organizations will rally around it, whereas teens will largely ignore it, unless it’s being covered in school. All but the most diligent, involved parents will likely ignore it too.
We’d like (always) parents to be more involved in the internet lives of their kids, which is why we’re suggesting the One App Challenge. Here’s how it can go:
Make some time today, perhaps at dinner, to ask your teen which one app she uses the most on her phone, or is most popular among her peer group. If she says that it’s Facebook, she is most likely humoring you, since you are likely a Facebook user. Keep gently prodding until the answer is Instagram or Snapchat or Kik or WhatsApp, because that’s probably the real answer.
You can then pretend to be interested, perhaps by saying something like, “Oh, I’ve heard a lot about Instagram, I’m going to try it. Can you help me?”
Don’t ask to “friend” your daughter once you’ve downloaded it; just start using it yourself. Don’t pretend; actually use it.
Ask a few friends if they already use it, and of the answer is no, ask them to join you, and keep it up for a couple of weeks. Really use and get to know the app. Consider what kind of friend requests you get (make your account public to start) and check out the privacy settings and ask your self if they make sense. Go online and read some articles on young people using Instagram safely, such as, “Instagram Geotags Pose a Risk for Teens”. Actually figure out what makes Instagram tick, and why and how people are using it.
We’re not suggesting that parents do this for every social app on their kids’ phones – that would take forever. Rather, if you do it for one app, you’ll have a profoundly stronger base from which to discuss online safety and responsibility without having to rely on vague pleas like, “I hope what you’re doing on that phone is safe”, which is the 2015 equivalent of, “Don’t talk to strangers” without any follow up.
Get involved, parents. Today is as good a day as any, and a better day than most.
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