There’s a common word thrown around with teens and most social apps: “safety.”
What’s safe for my child? Will they be safe on the Internet? Is this a safe app to use?
The reality is that nothing is safe – it’s how you use it that makes it safe.
Quick Contact Mobile Apps
Recent social apps tend to put a focus on brief, speedy, temporary communication these days, and many teenagers go into it blindly, not really knowing what to expect. Apps like Kik, Yik Yak, and Snapchat all have similar approaches to communication (but from different angles): they are somewhat disposable.
Kik is all about unlimited messaging via Internet and even browsing – no character limits (like that matters anymore), no data usage over Wifi, and realistically, no text records that parents can get from their provider.
Yik Yak (adorable yak logo featured above) focuses on anonymous communication. A user can post a message to the world which is distributed to 500 of their geographically closest friends. This could be used to arrange parties and hangouts, or more maliciously… rumors and cyberbullying.
Snapchat is all about sending brief images and messages that are deleted after a certain period of time. This period of time can range from mere seconds if sent directly to another user or 24 hours if posted publicly as the user’s “Story” (which is viewed much like the newsfeed on Facebook).
So when you get right down to it, all of these apps utilize fast conversation without much of a record. It’s about living in the here and now as opposed to saying, “I’ll respond later.”
What To Watch For On Kik, Yik Yak & Snapchat
So we know the intentions of these apps – great. But again, it’s all about how they are used. That said, there are ways the user’s privacy can be violated for each individual app. Some examples:
Kik allows individuals to make their own username, allowing for your teenager to use their real name if needed. This is seemingly not an issue with how Facebook works these days, but there are several ways for usernames to be accessed online by people. The Kik community blog also occasionally features user names and encourages user submissions of screenshots and photos.
Yik Yak kind of goes without saying. With anonymity, anyone can say anything, and this could certainly lead to nasty rumors being spread with few consequences. There’s also the horrible possibility of delinquents suggesting people meet them at a certain location for fun… only to be met with something much worse.
Snapchat boasts about its disposability of messages. Well, the fact is that those messages and photos have to be stored somewhere, and any user could more than easily take a screenshot, saving images forever. It’s also an open door to reckless sexting due to the whole “low risk” side of it, but since images can be saved… your teen’s unwanted photos could be spread around. Snapchat also allows for money transfers now, so it’s also important to stay careful with that.
Snapchat’s “Stories” are pretty interesting. Here’s a video that displays the feature in more detail (and quite creatively):
Better Usage Of Mobile Social Apps
Rather than just banning your kids from these apps, it might be better to figure out workarounds on how to handle them. Besides, you can’t avoid social interaction in the real world, right? Else, you will end up with a lot of cats. It’s sometimes a good idea to apply problem solving to apps you don’t want to avoid as well.
Kik isn’t that bad an app when you get right down to it. It’s smart, even – no data usage and the ability to interact with anyone regardless of service or country? Pretty great. It’s just important to use it with only people you know, block anyone you don’t, and avoid posting anything relating to it on the Internet in a way that everyone can see.
Yik Yak is fun to use, but it’s a wide open door for cyberbullying. While you can’t control others’ actions, it may be good to remind your teen not to foster that type of activity when using it. Also, an obvious measure to protect them would be to completely avoid meeting up with people they don’t know! Instead, posting goofy messages about interesting sightings in town and even something like geocaching (in groups) could be fun.
Snapchat can be entertaining to use for the visual aspect – the catch is to never send anything you wouldn’t want to be around forever. Also, as for the money thing… just don’t be stupid. It’s far too easy to type in a dollar sign and a few numbers, thus allowing it to be directly pulled from your bank account.
Which Social Apps Worry You?
What other apps are you worried about your teens using? Have you encountered anything negative with these types of apps? Do you consider these apps to be safe?
Image Credit: Kat N.L.M.