THE MOST COMMON – AND DANGEROUS – MISCONCEPTION PARENTS HAVE ABOUT INSTAGRAM,  FACEBOOK , SNAPCHAT AND MUSICALY

THE MOST COMMON – AND DANGEROUS – MISCONCEPTION PARENTS HAVE ABOUT INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK , SNAPCHAT AND MUSICALY

Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Musicaly are engaging online spaces, and seen as a part of everyday life for many of us. They are also highly unregulated spaces where children can be exposed to adult content, predators, cyberbullying and unrealistic life expectations.

 

Many parents allow their children to create Instagram and Facebook accounts for their 13th birthdays, as this is the age when it is considered safe for teens to use these platforms – right?

 

WRONG.

 

This is the most common misconception parents have about social media.

 

The guideline 13+ was created because it complies with US law regarding the collection of children’s information. It’s the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and it prevents the collection and storage of personal information from a child under 13 years old.

 

The problem is, while this law sounds important and as though it makes things ‘safe’ for children, it doesn’t. It simply prevents companies from collecting your children’s names, email addresses and locations, probably for the purpose of trying to sell something!

 

IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SAFETY.

 

I’ll repeat that if you missed it.

 

The age limit of 13+ HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR CHILD’S SAFETY while using those platforms.

 

In fact, for young teens (13-15 years), these platforms can be anything BUT safe.

 

You see, kids and teens don’t use these platforms the same way that we do. They are more social, more inquisitive, and spend more time online.

 

For Instance, you probably upload pictures of your breakfast, a family day at the beach, or a fun quote onto your account #mumlife

 

But did you know that Instagram (one of the world’s largest image search engines) has porn on it? It has porn uploaded to it EVERY SECOND (quick test – search for #sex). You can read some other reasons why Instagram isn’t for young teens here

 

If there was porn channels on my TV, I would restrict access and monitor my child’s viewing, so why is this possible exposure acceptable online?

Children and young people need the same moral and ethical guidance and clear, appropriate boundaries for online behaviour as they do for offline behaviour (Spears et al., 2008)

 

I’ve chosen not to allow my daughter to use Instagram, however I know that some parents are happy to allow their child to have the app with regular monitoring of their child’s activity.

 

The best app I have found to monitor phone use is Smart Lagoon. It monitors social media, messaging app, and internet activity, and a whole lot more. You can read our review here.

 

The team at Safe Lagoon have given KidSpace Gold Coast families 20% off the app subscription – just enter code KSGC20 at checkout.

 

If your child has had Instagram for a while, and you’re only just learning that it’s not as innocent as it seems, it’s not too late to delete the app, or install monitoring software on your child’s phone.

 

Smartphone Safety  – Safe Lagoon Review

Smartphone Safety – Safe Lagoon Review

Our children’s safety is top of our priority list – car seats, child locks and safety guidelines – we see the danger and put steps in place to protect our little ones.

 

Online dangers are harder to see – pornography, violence, online predators, sexting, and bullying are all very real threats that our kids are exposed to when we give them a smart device.

 

If that wasn’t enough to worry about, parents also face problems such as excessive screen time, teens texting through the night, and devices eating up valuable face-to-face family time.

 

Giving your child a smartphone is a BIG DEAL!

 

Our daughter has owned a smartphone since she turned 13. That first day, I turned on as many parental controls as I could, gave her the talk about responsible use, and basically crossed my fingers.

 

I’d gone through all of the steps I believed were necessary. I’d spoken to her about image sharing, making sure you know who you are talking to, and let her know that I would make random checks of her phone (which I did).

 

I also let her have Instagram on her 13th birthday. This was against my better judgement and you can read my blog post about Instagram here. If you have a teen using Instagram, it is a must-read.

 

One day I found out my daughter had been bullied through Instagram.  I also realised my daughter was able to find adult content. It was a big wake-up call to me that I wasn’t doing enough as a parent to protect my daughter.

 

It was also a wake-up call that the current advice we are given about kids and smartphones just isn’t enough.

 

Sure, there is an age where kids need to be taught responsible use and set free, but I don’t believe 13 is that age. I still believe (as a parent, and a teacher) that children don’t really mature as teenagers until they turn 15.

In fact teachers who teach teens know that grade nine students go home for the summer holidays and come back in grade ten, much more mature. It’s my feeling, that 15 years is the age we can use the current advice to educate, release, trust and build resilience.

 

But 13 is too young.

 

So I set about finding a tool that would give me control, oversight and peace of mind. Heck! I’m the adult! I’m paying the phone bill and I can do whatever I like to protect my child. In fact, it’s probably my responsibility to do so.

 

So I found a great product called Safe Lagoon. It is a subscription app (approx $5 AUD per month) that installs parental controls on any phone. It is installed on my daughter’s phone, and I use a control panel on my phone to view, and manage her account.

 

For those wondering, my daughter was happy to have the app installed as opposed to losing her phone privileges. I’m also a firm believer that boundaries and rules make kids feel safe – and that children should have the same rules online as they do in the real world.

 

So back to the app…

 

It is BRILLIANT. I can control almost every feature of my child’s phone.

Safe Lagoon allows parents to:

 

  • Turn off all web browsers, except for the safe browser, and have complete visibility of all searches and results.
  • Prevent app downloads, and see all downloads
  • Schedule screen time  (Set time limits! Enforce bedtime!)
  • Manage your child’s phone remotely, including scheduling
  • Read messages sent on messenger apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook and more
  • Read text messages and monitor phone calls
  • See your child’s location and receive notifications when they leave set locations
  • See all images they take with the camera
  • Add multiple family members
  • Prevent uninstalling of app

My experience using the Safe Lagoon app has been great – which is why I’m recommending it. I am confident that I have oversight of my child’s digital life, her social interactions online, and that I can intervene when necessary to educate and most importantly protect her.

 

It’s taken a lot of anxiety out of the digital world for me.

If you’re nervous about your child having a smartphone, you battle with your child over screen time, or your teen is awake texting late at night, this app is for you!

 

It comes with a free version (web filtering) and then a subscription version for just a little more than a cup of coffee per month! I used the free version for a few days before I realised this is an awesome app and upgraded.

 

Special Offer! I’m super proud that Safe Lagoon has offered KidSpace Gold Coast families 20% off their subscription with the code: KSGC20

 

You can download Safe Lagoon, and get started now:

Google Play 

iTunes

 

To get started:

Download the app to your phone, create an account, and then download the app on your child’s phone, logging in with your username and password. Once installed, follow the prompts to give the app access to different aspects of your child’s phone. Set some schedules and create some ‘places’, and then sit back and let the app send you notifications, and check content when you wish.

Please let me know what you think of Safe Lagoon, and don’t forget to leave a positive review if you love it too!

 

Disclaimer: I trialled and subscribed to the paid app in August. I was contacted by the owner of Safe Lagoon and asked to write a review on Google – which I did. I told him that I also had a website and would love to share the app with my readers, and the owner unexpectedly refunded the month and has given me 6 months free. He has also generously offered to give you a discount if you choose to subscribe (and I make $0 from that). I would absolutely be telling you about this product without being given a refund and free period.

Is Instagram safe for kids and teens? Absolutely not.

Is Instagram safe for kids and teens? Absolutely not.

Your child has probably been begging you for Instagram since forever. You know how Instagram works because you have your own account and have heard that the best way to keep kids safe is to make sure their account is private and to be their friend or know their login details.

Unfortunately Instagram is just not safe for kids and teens, and this approach doesn’t take into account the three major dangers that they are faced with when using the platform.

  • R and X-rated content
  • Personal information and location shared with ‘friends’
  • Cyber-bulling and mental health

These dangers are evident on many social media platforms, but Instagram is one of the most popular amongst young people and there is a misconception amongst parents that it is one of the safer platforms. Let’s have a look at the three dangers more closely….

Instagram is a huge image search engine that hosts R and X-Rated porn and violence.

 

You may have heard that Instagram filters out inappropriate content –  but this ignores the fact that Instagram works by providing the most recent content first. Like many Australian parents, you probably didn’t realise that Instagram has porn.

Just try this test. If you have Instagram, search for the hashtag #sex and view some of the content. You are automatically given the most recently uploaded images AND videos. They’re so recent that explicit content including porn and violent content hasn’t yet been reported and blocked.

This is explicit pornography that is demeaning, highly sexualised and inappropriate for teenage girls and boys under 18. It can’t be unseen.

And if you think your kids aren’t curious and looking at more innocent hashtags… #thinkagain It’s just too easy to access. Even innocent hashtags such as #goldcoast can bring up porn – it’s hard to keep it clean on Insta.

This feature of Instagram alone tells me that this app isn’t suitable for my 13 year daughter. But there are also other dangers…and they apply to most social networking platforms.

Kids just aren’t savvy enough to protect their personal information or think critically about their interactions with ‘friends’ online

 

American data tells us that 65% of teen profiles online include information that can lead to their home, school or both. Through shared information (such as the child goes to netball training on Fridays, and the name of the team they play for) predators can determine a child’s schedule and location.

Predators online find vulnerable children and target them for grooming online. One in 5 US teenagers report receiving unwanted sexual attention online, and only 25% told a parent.

There are a number of horror stories where Australian kids have been targetted,  and most recently a Sydney school girl was found in a basement in the USA after she was lured there by a man she met on Snapchat. She had caught a flight to LA before her parents even realised she was missing.

Australian teenager Carly Ryan was killed by a man who pretended to be a teenage boy. Carly’s Law now exists to protect children online making it illegal for an adult to lie about their age to a child online.

In fact a man was arrested under this law TODAY.

 

24/7 bullying and anxiety

 

When we were bullied at school, home was our sanctuary. Now, bullying is 24/7 and in our child’s pocket.

In a recent survey in the UK, 10 000 kids between the ages of 12 and 20 were surveyed and 42% said they had been bullied on Instagram.

Kids can be bullied on Instagram when embarrassing photos are posted, cruel comments are made, they are tagged on a photo meant to embarrass or shame, bullies create an account in your child’s name and defame them,  they post screenshots of private conversations, and, by exclusion.

Recently, a Gold Coast school had to shut down a ‘roast page’; a page set up to shame fellow students with crude images and comments. These pages are anonymous and can be devastating for the kids involved. Imagine an anonymous workmate posting a nasty image or comment about you online, and going to work not knowing who created it and who saw it.

I recently read an article that suggested parents allow their children to deal with online bullying alone ”to build resilience’. As an IT teacher and cyber-safety advocate, I was appalled. Our kids need guidance, involved parents, parents strong enough to say ‘no’ and parents that are nosy about their kids online habits.

In January,  a 14 year old boy killed himself after being relentlessly bullied on Snapchat.  His parents didn’t know the extent of the bullying (and will never know due to the encrypted nature of the messages) before it was too late. 

In addition to ’dangers’, Instagram itself has been found to be the worst social media platform for young people’s mental health. Unrealistic body image and lifestyle expectations (Kardashians anyone?) are making kids unsatisfied with their own lives.

What’s the solution?

 

Don’t have it. There I said it.

Restrictions and filters set up on a smartphone don’t apply to apps like Instagram. The R and X-rated content will always be there. Children can use the app to hide conversations from parents who check text messages (there is an app for that!) and expose themselves to cyber crime, bullying and poor mental health.

The tween and teen years are already vulnerable times and protecting our children is more important than allowing them free reign on platforms where we can be bypassed as gatekeepers of our children’s wellbeing.

The fact is that our kids and teens are vunerable (because they’re kids and teens) and we need to stop pretending that social media platforms, like Instagram, are safe places for them (because they’re not). 

 

%

Percentage of kids and teens that say they've been bullied on Instagram

%

Percentage of kids who told their parents when they received unwanted sexual attention online

Parenting Children in a World of Technology

Parenting Children in a World of Technology

It has never been an easy job being a parent, but trying to shepherd kids through the perils of a society saturated with technology makes it particularly tough to be a parent today. With mobile phones, video games, computers, tablets and the Internet to worry about, your battle to carefully guide your child through the landmines of the Information Age is incredibly difficult. It is important that parents arm themselves with all the knowledge possible so that they can create an effective technology policy for their kids. To help you out, use the following guide to make technology a positive part of your children’s lives.

 

Compromising on Time Spent in Front of the Screen

 

The sad thing about bringing kids up today is that many of them will spend nearly every waking hour glued to a screen if you let them. To prevent this, you need to set firm limits on the amount of time they spend staring at screens each day. First, it is important to know that no children under the age of two should spend any time staring at screens. When kids are old enough to enjoy screen time, they should not spend any more than two hours a day of leisure time in front of a screen. The rest of their leisure time needs to be devoted to more wholesome activities such as reading, pursuing the arts, playing sports and exploring the great outdoors.

 

It is not fair to expect kids to shun their screens altogether, but there must be limits. They should only be able to use devices with screens for leisure activities if they take care of their other responsibilities like chores and schoolwork. Using screen time as an incentive is one of the most potent forms of motivation that parents can employ today. It is always good to have the use of technology as both carrot and stick to motivate positive behaviour in your children.

 

Encouraging Alternate Activities

 

When you set restrictions for entertainment screen time use to two hours per day for your kids, they are going to need to find positive ways to spend their newfound free time. The best thing you can do is to find ways to encourage your kids to engage in positive activities. With the rising obesity crisis in Australia, encouraging kids to engage in physical activities is especially important.

 

Setting a positive example is the best way to motivate your kids to be physically active. Get yourself and the kids some surfboards and hit the waves. Go on family walks every evening. Learn to rock climb together. If you are creative, there is no end to the ways you can have fun getting physically fit with your children.

 

If your kids exhibit any kind of passion for a sport, you should encourage that passion wholeheartedly. Even if it is a sport you do not like or understand, make sure you are there to support your child’s passion. Any blossoming of desire for physical fitness by kids in today’s technology-obsessed society should be nurtured.

 

Getting a Smartphone

 

If you are wondering what age you should give your child a mobile phone, perhaps you should take a page from Bill Gates. The man who gave us the modern PC world thinks kids are using too much technology today. In fact, Gates and his wife Melinda waited until their kids reached age 14 to allow them to use a smartphone. The Gates also restrict the amount of screen time their kids get each day. They set times during the day when their kids are prevented from using their gadgets, like during family dinner. Look to their example when your kids point out that their friends get to use smartphones already. When you do finally cave in and decide it’s the right time to get your youngster a smartphone, don’t go too crazy. Chances are, expensive phone will steal all their attention and end up getting broken anyway. Opt for a cheaper, more simple phone to test the waters – if your kid shows restraint and responsibility, you’ll easily upgrade. This cheap Alcatel worked great for me and it’s under 100$, but you might want to consider something that’s water & shock proof.

 

Bedtime Screen Restrictions

 

One of the most important times to prevent your children from using technology is before bedtime. Research shows that being exposed to glowing screens prevents the release of the melatonin necessary to get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is especially important for kids with their growing bodies. You should prevent your children from using their screens within an hour or two of bedtime to help them get a good night’s sleep.

 

Raising children in a world of smartphones, mobile phones and easy Internet access is not a simple task. You need to be firm with your guidelines and not let your children use their friends as reasons they need to use technology more. Restricting their use of technology early in life will allow kids to grow and have a better chance of success later in life.