This Week in Social Media News For Parents

Stories for the week ending 12/16/2016

We’ll be on break for the holidays. See you in the New Year.

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Facebook has announced that they have a new Parent’s Portal, a resource for parents to help deal with issues including their kids being cyberbullied.

Social media giant Facebook launches ‘Parent’s Portal’

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In other news, Facebook has been running an initiative to enlist college students to help combat extremism on the site. No word yet on whether it’s working.

Facebook is tapping college students to fight trolls and extremists

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New research reveals that 1 in 25 Americans have been either threatened with the prospect of having intimate images of them posted online, or had it happen. Unfortunately, these numbers will probably be moving higher. Meet the lawyer who is making a career out of fighting for revenge porn victims.

This badass lawyer fights for victims of revenge porn

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Nudity is not permitted at all on Instagram, so of course an enterprising young woman developed an app to help women get around the rules. It’s called Nood and it’s a nope. Rejected by the app stores.

Female nudity app rejected in App Store and the Google Play Store

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“I will never get Twitter. I’m not very good on phone or technology. I cannot really keep up with emails so the idea of Twitter is so unthinkable to me. I don’t really understand what it is. It’s like this weird enigma that people talk about.”
Megastar Jennifer Lawrence talking about Twitter

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Snapchat – already the most addictive app for many teens – now offers group messaging. Now your teen may never get off her phone.

Snapchat Groups are finally here

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Speaking of Snapchat, when you have the app open and a song comes on that really gets you going, you can now Shazam it without leaving the app.

You can now Shazam a song from within Snapchat

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The year in 2016 Google search highlights a number of untimely deaths and a big surprise – Pokémon GO was more popular than Donald Trump. Snorlax in 2020?

Google’s Year in Search makes 2016 seem even more heartbreaking

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Kind of related – we reviewed the Houseparty group video messaging app.

IS THE HOUSEPARTY APP SAFE FOR TEENS?

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Yahoo is the worst custodian of user personal information in the history of the internet. Be right back – I need to go change my password again.

Yahoo discloses hack of 1 billion accounts

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This Week in Social Media News For Parents

Stories for the week ending 12/9/2016

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Two companies are being sued in the U.S. and Europe over new internet-connected toys that are collecting an alarming amount of kids’ personal information. That data collection looks to us like a clear violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

Privacy groups urge investigation of ‘internet of toys’

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More toy problems, just in time for Christmas – Motherboard is reporting that the parental controls on one tablet designed for kids just don’t work.

It’s Trivially Easy to Watch Porn On a Restricted Tablet Made For Kids

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A Russian startup has developed facial recognition technology that promises to allow anyone with a picture of you to find you on social media. It doesn’t exactly work that way, but makes for some juicy, clickbaity headlines.

The Russian App That Has Destroyed Privacy Forever

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A petition on Change.org to ban the use of the Yik Yak app on U. Conn. campus has gotten a whopping total of 9 signatures. The petitioner claims that “The majority of our herd’s community has proven time and time again that they cannot use this app in a positive/non-abusive way.” Sigh.

Petition to disable U. Conn’s Yik Yak receives lukewarm reception

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Meanwhile, Yik Yak has laid off more than half of its staff. It’s probably dying all on its own.

Anonymous social app Yik Yak slashes workforce

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As many as 5% of American gamer kids may be addicted to video games, and some of their stories are a horror show for parents.

Video games are more addictive than ever. This is what happens when kids can’t turn them off.

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Never content with its already massive piece of the online activity pie, Facebook has launched its own handheld gaming suite via Facebook Messenger Instant Games.

Facebook Messenger launches Instant Games

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Locations filters (thanks Snapchat!) may be coming to Facebook.

Another Snapchat feature is coming to Facebook

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This Week in Social Media News For Parents

Stories for the week ending 12/2/2016

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Young Snapchat users are among the most dedicated social media users interns of user engagement stats. It’s the go-to method of communication for many teens. University of Wisconsin Green Bay gets it, and has begun sending acceptance offers via the little yellow ghost.

University accepting students using Snapchat

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Snapchat’s popularity and fantastic user engagement aren’t lost on Instagram, whose product team continues to copy Snapchat’s key features.

Instagram is adding live video and Snapchat-style disappearing messages

And

Just like Snapchat! Instagram’s new update will notify you if friends takes screenshots of DMs 

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Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 11.27.22 AMMeanwhile, two UK 17-year olds did their part to lower our opinion of teens, if just a little. They Snapchatted themselves urinating on a WW1 Memorial.

Two disrespectful teenagers urinate on a war memorial and film it for Snapchat – leaving veterans outraged

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Does your teen use Uber? If so, you might want to read the latest update to their Terms of Service. Starting this week, Uber will collect passenger location information, even after the trip has ended.

Uber Now Tracks Passengers’ Locations Even After They’re Dropped Off

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The CEO of Reddit got himself in hot water last week after he revealed that he had altered some users’ comments, an act that the called “trolling the trolls”. He is out this week with an apology, and a promise to get tougher on abusive users.

Reddit is finally cracking down on its most abusive members after its CEO was targeted

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A school in Ottawa has rules for teachers about what they shouldn’t post on social media. Pictures of drugs and alcohol are on the list, which seems reasonable to us. The list also prohibits “scantily clad photos on the beach”. Maybe they should rethink that last one.

Should teachers be banned from posting ‘scantily clad’ photos? Ottawa board seems to think so

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If your teen is using anonymous browsing platform Tor to use the internet, that alone could be grounds for the FBI to hack into his account, according to a new law passed this week. One opponent describes it as, “unprecedented authority to hack into Americans’ personal phones, computers and other devices.” They’ll still need to get a warrant, though.

FBI to gain expanded hacking powers as Senate effort to block fails

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Oops – Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had his Twitter account suspended last weekend. Internal mistakes were made.

Twitter mistakenly suspended its own CEO’s Twitter account

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This Week in Social Media News For Parents

Stories for the week ending 11/18/2016

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Facebook has expanded its definition of hate speech to include pretty much any attack on anybody for anything, but excludes things that it deems to be jokes, even if they are in bad taste. They haven’t, however, given any additional details about how they are going to enforce those rules, or how they are going to train staff to support users who are victims.

What does Facebook consider to be hate speech?

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Twitter is also getting more serious about abuse, again. It has expanded its mute function and promises that employees will be retrained to recognize and deal with trolls. Let’s hope for some results.

Twitter announces more tools for dealing with abuse

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Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 11.27.22 AMYik Yak’s best days appear to be behind it. Could the reason for the decline be that they recently stopped allowing anonymous accounts and posts? Probably not, but they are bringing optional full anonymity anyway.

We messed up. Here’s why we’re making handles optional again and bringing back the Hot feed.

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We assume that teen depression has been a thing for as long as there have been teens. The transition from being a child to being an adult can be a difficult one – a lot of changes are crammed into a seven-year period. Since 2005, cases of teen depression have risen 17%, and researchers are pointing to the rise of social media as the culprit.

More U.S. teenagers are battling major depression in cyber bullying era, study finds

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Thanks to a new law passed in the UK this week, your browsing history is fair game to law enforcement, and any other branch of the government that wants it under some circumstances. ISPs will now be required to store your browsing history for the last 12 months, and make it available to the authorities in any investigation. Seems like bad policy to us.

Britain has passed the ‘most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy’

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When it comes to social media, it’s not just teens behaving badly. An assistant professor at Oberlin College has been fired after her anti Semitic social media posts were reported to school officials – posts that claimed that Jews were responsible for the 9/11 and the Paris terrorist attacks.

Oberlin College Fires Professor Over Anti-Semitic Social-Media Posts

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If your daughter sees a post like this on Snapchat – an account looking to hire young models – she should be very wary:

“We are offering between £450 and £55,000 a shoot depending on who we put you forward for. In terms of different types of modeling we literally do every single type you could think of. Obviously the more you are interested in the better chance you have of getting jobs. This is a one-off opportunity and we are looking for 30 new models. This is purely based on a first come, first served basis. If you are interested, then please give me a message asap. Bear in mind the reason why we have added you to our company Snapchat account is because we are interested in you as well.”

Sinister social media account posing as Irish modelling agency targeting teen girls

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This Week in Social Media News For Parents

Stories for the week ending 11/4/2016

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If you’ve spent much time thinking about the facial recognition technology being used by Facebook and Google, you might have concluded that it is either fascinating or an incredible invasion of privacy. The latter could be true depending on how they are planning to use it, which is unknown right now. Whether it is an illegal invasion of privacy will be decided by the courts, maybe soon.

Facebook says users can’t stop it from using biometric data

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Prince William wants tech and social media companies to get tougher on cyberbullying. He’s thinking about flying to Silicon Valley to take his message to the bigwigs in person.

Prince William is expected to hold talks with Facebook and Apple about online trolling

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Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 11.27.22 AMA UK insurance company wants to access your Facebook account to determine whether you’re likely to be a safe driver, and therefore eligible to receive discounts. Not so fast, says Facebook. That sort of screening is against their developer rules.

Facebook blocks UK insurer Admiral from profiling users for discounts

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Prediction: Instagram shopping is going to be a big hit.

Instagram Wants to Ease Its Users into Shopping

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Good news, of sorts. Ryan Collins, one of the hackers behind the brutally widespread celebrity hacking incident of 2014 has been sentenced to 18 months in jail. The married father of two worked tirelessly over a two-year period to hack into more than 100 celebrity Gmail and Apple iCloud accounts. Now he’s going to pay.

Celeb nude photo thief Ryan Collins sentenced to 18 months in jail

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A young woman from Maryland has gone viral on Facebook after she aggressively called out a stranger threatening to post nude videos of her that he obtained illegally. Maryland police and the FBI are investigating.

Her response to ‘cyber bully’ who threatened to release naked video? Go public

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Prediction 2: This will end quickly. Facebook allows advertisers to profile which users they target with ads based on “ethnic affinity.” And Facebook decides which race you’re aligned with.

Facebook draws criticism for ‘ethnic affinity’ ad targeting

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This Week in Social Media News For Parents

Stories for the week ending 10/28/2016

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$33 million idea – create a video sharing platform and app where videos are limited to 6 seconds. That sounds silly, but Vine worked just fine for years. Twitter bought them for around $33 million in 2012. Now they’re shutting it down. Thanks Snapchat.

A eulogy for Vine, the best place on the internet

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The American Academy of Pediatrics really, really wants kids to have less screen time. That’s not happening from what we can see. Our digital babysitters are here to stay, until something better comes along.

Kids need less screen time, says American Academy of Pediatrics

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Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 11.27.22 AMTwo teenage girls from Syracuse, NY have been arrested after posting a Facebook video of them attacking a defenseless old man was posted to Facebook. It looks like they were doing it for kicks. We fail to see the humor.

Two teen girls arrested after 62-year-old man attacked in Facebook video

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A Twitter account dedicated to showing fights at New Jersey’s Neptune High School has been shut down.

Neptune High School ‘wilding’ fights shut down online

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A 19-year old Texas A&M student has her picture prominently featured on newspapers across the Lone Star State this week and she probably isn’t happy about it. Driving, sexting and Snapchat don’t mix, especially when that combination has you rear ending a cop car.

POLICE: TEXAS STUDENT TRIES TO SEND TOPLESS PHOTO VIA SNAPCHAT, SLAMS INTO COP CAR

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An Australian teen is suing a number of online publications including the Daily Mail for publishing images and photoshops of his epic mullet. Before the real media got involved, it appeals that the youth was going viral on social media because of the bad hairdo. A judge is allowing the case to continue, for now.

A teenager is suing websites for making fun of his mullet with memes

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This Week in Social Media News For Parents

Stories for the week ending 10/21/2016

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Facebook reads your messages – even the private messages sent via FB Messenger – in order to decide which ads to serve you. Who knows what else they’re doing with your info. Despite that, Amnesty International gives Facebook Messenger the highest grades for messaging privacy.

Which messaging apps best protect your privacy?

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Google also uses almost everything it knows about you to target ads to you. They are happy to share with advertisers that you drive a Toyota, like Diet Coke and the NY Giants and went to Jamaica last winter. So far they have stopped short of attaching your name (or other info that they glean from your Gmail account) to your advertising profile, but it looks like they are going to start. In the words of one tech critic:

“Why is Google doing this? To make even more money? Or because they need to do this to keep making the same amount of money? Either way it’s gross.”

Google Has Quietly Dropped Ban on Personally Identifiable Web Tracking

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Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 11.27.22 AMIt appears that Twitter thinks that their lack of user growth is their biggest problem They have been looking to sell the company, and reports are circulating this week that interested buyers have passed because they’re turned off by Twitter’s problem with harassment and abuse. Maybe Twitter’s inability to silence the trolls is the bigger problem.

Disney Dropped Twitter Pursuit Partly Over Image

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Doctors told a Michigan man that it might take 5 years for him to get the kidney transplant he sorely needed. His daughter started a Facebook page for the cause and found a donor in weeks.

Daughter Finds Kidney for Her Dad Through Facebook Page

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100 million users, most of them teen and tween girls, are already using the Musical.ly app. My daughter is one of them. That’s a good start, but the app now faces the very tall task of transforming from a one trick pony (lip sync GIFs) to a full-fledged social network. GLWT

The Chinese Music App That Wants to Be the Next Facebook

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If at any point in the future your plans might include being a fugitive from the police, you might want to curtail your selfie activity. The Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown U. thinks that the FBI already has a database of over 117 million Americans’ faces, and that number is only going higher from here.

Facial recognition technology is taking over US, says privacy group

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4chan, widely regarded as one of the worst places on the internet, is rumored to be for sale. That’s a tough one. Does anyone want to be responsible for that cesspool? Maybe not, because now they’re asking for donations.

Donate to 4chan

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Some UK students were suspended after taking upskirt photos of their teacher and circulating them on Snapchat. The teacher, 23 years old, is understandably worried about keeping control of her classroom.

“My a$$ is all over Snapchat” Pupils take upskirt photos as teacher leans over

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This month’s Pokémon GO update is aimed squarely at users who are inclined to play while driving. Don’t do that.

‘POKÉMON GO’ JUST BECAME EVEN HARDER TO PLAY WHILE DRIVING

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This Week in Social Media News For Parents

Stories for the week ending 10/14/2016

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The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service has introduced new guidelines around how they are planning to prosecute cyberbullies and trolls. Sounds like they’re going to get tough.

UK’s chief troll hunter targets doxxing, virtual mobbing, and nasty images

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A Colorado group of teen Antisemites formed a private Facebook group to share their thoughts, which is bad from the get go. Police this week revealed that the “leader” of the group committed suicide to show solidarity. Five of the students were expelled.

Teenage ‘Fuhrer’ of neo-Nazi Facebook page where high school students talked about ‘hanging Jews on trees’ commits suicide ‘to show allegiance to the group’
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Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 11.27.22 AMRelated – Fusion takes a look at what may be behind the surge of racist social media posts by students.

Squad of high school students under investigation for racist, viral Instagram photo

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Snapchat continues to shake things up, making it difficult for old people to figure out how to use it and keeping competitors from catching up. Now they’re giving users more control to watch their friends’ stories first.

Snapchat launches post-roll ads, Story Playlist that loads favorites in bulk

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Messaging app Kik has been a fruitful hunting ground for predators and cyberbullies. As 60% of Kik’s 300 million users are teens, the app needs to take serious steps to protect its users. This week they announced that they are rolling out a host of measures to keep users safe – physically and mentally. One new feature is an AI-powered bot that will keep watch for users who might be hurting.

Kik steps up efforts to keep teen users safe

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Did you watch the second Presidential debate? 63 million people watched it on live TV. You might be surprised to hear that almost twice as many, 124 million, watched at least part of the debate on YouTube.

YouTube challenged TV in the second presidential debate

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An Aussie man caught his stepdaughter sexting and wanted to put a stop to it. He confiscated the girl’s phone, saved the offending images on a USB stick and went to the police. When the police searched his home later, they found the USB stick with the images and charged him with possession of child porn. He has been placed on the sex offender registry. Really.

Victorian man convicted after reporting stepdaughter’s sexting

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Why Teens Are Drawn to Social Media Challenges and Dares

Today’s children are digital natives, with nine in ten teens admitting openly that they regularly use social media to stay in touch with their friends and peers. With all of this clicking and liking comes a hidden danger often overlooked by parents, educators, and adults. This surprising pitfall is the prevalence of online social media challenges and the potential health and mental pitfalls they harbor.

Take for instance the wildly popular cinnamon challenge that encouraged viewers to attempt to swallow a spoonful of the dry spice without any liquid. Even though it appears harmless, within just a few months of 2012 nationwide poison centers had received 178 calls concerning cinnamon overdoses and over the years children have suffered asphyxiation or serious burns to the lungs that require medical attention.

Unfortunately, the cinnamon challenge is not unique. Whether it’s the Kylie Jenner lip challenge or the choking game, unknowingly, many of our kids are attempting to recreate challenges or dares they find online. These desires often outweigh good sense, compelling teens to try their hand at some very obvious dangers and risky behaviors.

Just a Sample: 3 Popular Challenges on Social Media

Listed below are a few current challenges making the rounds on social media:

dare-social.mediaThe Duct Tape Challenge. There’s not much that duct tape won’t fix, but boredom shouldn’t be one of them. In this challenge, children duct tape a willing participant to a pole and watch them break free. Unfortunately, there are documented cases of falls resulting in serious head injuries.

Butt Chugging or Eyeballing. Instead of traditional underage drinking antics, children funnel alcohol into their rectums or eyes to get drunk fast. For an added twist, some girls have begun inserting alcohol soaked tampons to achieve similar effects. These behaviors can lead to alcohol poisoning, damage of body tissue, blindness (eyeballing), and even death.

Smoking Alcohol. This challenge involves vaporizing and inhaling gases from alcohol to reduce calories. However, unfiltered vapors bee-line straight to the brain and lungs which elevates the chances for alcohol poisoning.

Risks Associated with Social Media Challenges

Besides the physical dangers, early high-risk behaviors can be powerful factors in brain development. A child’s environment and activities are hardwiring the brain, influencing which genes will be activated within a person’s genome. Research has demonstrated how adolescent brains undergo a dramatic growth surge that relies on genetics, environment, and experiences. Participating in social media challenges fulfills part of this equation.

The neural patterns and released hormones have the potential to cause patterns that trigger addiction, repeated high-risk behaviors, and more. Today’s children are making uninformed choices based on challenges that could physically or mentally affect them for years merely for a few “likes” or cool status update.

Understanding The Appeal of Social Media Challenges

It is no secret that the awkward stage of adolescence is greatly impacted by hormones- mainly estrogen and testosterone. Research has recently proven that there are receptors for these hormones in different parts of the body, including the organs and brain. These receptors allow other hormones and neurotransmitters like oxytocin, vasopressin, dopamine, and serotonin to influence brain development.

Dopamine, widely known for feelings of joy and pleasure, plays a powerful part in the development of the prefrontal cortex which leads adolescents to embrace greater risks to achieve happiness. In the beginning of maturation, dopamine circulates in the prefrontal cortex, but deep inside the reward center of the brain, dopamine levels are constantly evolving. These changing levels lead to needing increased levels of stimulation or excitement to reach similar levels of pleasure as their adult counterparts do. As a nasty side effect to this process, addictions easily form in teenagers.

teen-sextingAnother factor influencing the popularity of social media challenges, is how teens often overestimate risk. Teens often get lost in the details about specific risks, focusing heavily on the rewards involved. The reward at the end of the challenge is what matters. Whether it is the satisfaction of completing a goal, garnering more likes, or comparing oneself to their peers, the reward is only magnified when social media is the primary mode of communication.

Looking Ahead

Social media challenges prey and thrive on the driving forces of peer pressure, underdeveloped prefrontal cortexes, and the compulsion to fit in with their peers. It’s easy to say that only high-risk youth or thrill seeking youngsters are the only kids attempting these challenges. However, this study attributes these behaviors to a child’s limited self-regulation and development. It explains that these challenges have potential appeal to all children, boys and girls from every demographic. Granted, this thought can be frightening, leading many of us to imagine the worst-case scenario featuring our children experimenting with online challenges. Thankfully, awareness and education are powerful first deterrents when it comes to halting the lure online media challenges have toward our children.

 

This guest post was contributed by Amy Williams.

Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.

You can find Amy on Twitter @AmyKWilliams1

 

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This Week in Social Media News For Parents

Stories for the week ending 10/7/2016

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It’s 2016, the easiest time in history to make something go viral. Even clowns. They’re all over social media and have been spotted (or at least reported) in 28 states. We’ve been among the many people asking, “Why now? Why so many?” Vice has an explainer.

5 Questions You Were Too Embarrassed To Ask About America’s Clown Hysteria

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Singer Demi Lovato, who has suffered through an eating disorder, took issue with an image of her posted on Instagram. She sounds like she’s doing fine.

People Are Calling Out This Edited Picture Of Demi Lovato For Body-Shaming Her

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Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 11.27.22 AMWhen you’re browsing the web or using an app, do you ever get the feeling that someone is watching you. Well, someone is, and that someone is software running behind the scenes. Here’s how it works.

How web apps can watch your every move

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Yahoo has its eye on Reddit’s millions of users. In an effort that we are confident will be unsuccessful, they have launched Newsroom to tackle the same news and conversation space.

Yahoo’s new Newsroom social app is ‘Reddit for the masses,’ exec says
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Facebook this week launched person-to-person commerce functionality called Marketplace to take on Craigslist. And maybe Amazon. They tend to aim high.

Facebook launches Marketplace to let you buy and sell items with nearby users

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4chan is in financial trouble. The site has a lot of bad actors, and lots of people will be happy to see it go if it does. Unfortunately the bad actors will go somewhere else.

4chan Is On Death’s Door & That’s A Win For Feminism

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An Alabama teen suffered a broken skull after being attacked at a high school football game. A social media post related to Black Lives Matter is being reported as the cause of the attackers’ anger. It’s a dangerous time that we live in.

Teen allegedly beaten up over Black Lives Matter post

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Does your teen Google her symptoms to try to self-diagnose? In addition to whatever ailment she’s searching, she may be suffering from cyberchondria.

5 Ways to Tell if You Have Cyberchondria

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