Social Media Alert #ptchat

In the ever-changing world of social media, your child may be engaging in online interactions with friends and strangers alike.  As quickly as you can learn about what apps your child may be using, new ones may appear.  Therefore, it is important you regularly examine your child’s electronic device and speak to him/her about making safe and responsible decisions and words – both online and offline.   It is crucial to engage with students about responsible and wise behavior, communication and interactions - not just restricting access to the Internet or to specific websites and apps.  Certainly, there needs to be supervision;  supporting adolescents is all about providing a safety net - but engaging in online communication is now part of becoming an adult.  Let's help students traverse this world, instead of allowing them to dive into it alone.

Remember, kids may have access to these apps on his/her phone, droid, tablet, handheld device, computer – or that of the friend or anywhere there is internet access.  Having open and honest conversations with your child about this topic is a good place to start.  

Please note: these applications are frequently both free apps, downloaded onto just about any electronic device with wifi, as well as websites accessed using a web browser.

  • Yik Yak and Ask.fm – Both of these apps encourage anonymous postings, frequently sexual and hurtful in nature.  YikYak requires users to anonymously post text-only notes (yaks) of up to 200 characters – anonymously. The messages can be viewed by the 500 users who are closest to the person who wrote the Yak, as determined by GPS tracking.  Users and viewers are frequently exposed to sexually explicit content, abusive language and personal attacks.  Ask.fm similarly allows users to remain anonymous, though it is not required to be anonymous like YikYak.
  • SnapChat – This app allows users to send photos that disappear after 10 seconds to fellow SnapChat users.  Once the recipient opens
    Snapchat icon

    Snapchat icon

    the picture, a timer begins, and then the picture disappears from both the sender’s device and the recipient’s device.  Adolescents are made vulnerable by the belief that any photo they send via SnapChat will be gone forever, but a recipient can easily take a screen shot of a photo and make it permanent.  You may have recently heard about 200,000 SnapChat photos that were hacked and made public.  To read about it, you can go here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/10/13/snapchat-leak/17184855/.

  • KiK Messenger – This is a private messenger app, similar to text messaging and iMessages.  The app allows users to send private messages that adults cannot view.  There is very little you can do to verify the identity of someone on Kik, which puts your child in harm’s way to be communicating with a stranger.
  • ChatRouletteMeowWhisperWhatsApp, and Omegle – These apps are similar in that they encourage users to connect with anonymous users that may or may not be in their geographic area.  Users are able to connect with other random users that they do not know, anonymously.  Whisper allows users to search geographically for users within one mile, making it particularly dangerous from a physical safety standpoint.  Omegle connects via Facebook, again connecting users with strangers with similar interests and likes.  These apps encourage adolescents to engage in negative and risky behavior by connecting with strangers online.
  • Poof -The Poof app allows users to make apps disappear on their device with one touch. Your child can hide every app they don’t want you to see on their phone – all they have to do is open the app and select the ones they don’t want to be viewed.  This app is no longer available, but if it was downloaded before it was deleted from the app store, your child may still have it. Keep in mind that apps like this are created and then terminated pretty quickly by Android and Apple stores, but there are similar ones being created constantly. Some other names include: Hidden Apps, App Lock and Hide It Pro.
  • StreetChat – This new app uses GPS coordinates to populate a list of local schools, and allows users to anonymous post messages, organized by school.  By connecting anonymous postings with the GPS coordinates of schools, adolescents are put at risk.

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