As a school administrator, I have to stay up to date on the latest and not so greatest in the teen world. This includes music, movies, lingo, and phone apps. This allows me to be aware of the dangers facing our students, as well as to keep parents informed of what is going on in the teen world. Parenting a teenager is not easy, but parenting a teen in today’s technology generation is even harder. Hard to navigate, hard to understand, hard to stay up to date on the dangerous social media apps…...so how do you navigate?
Here are some apps that parents need to be aware of and how to navigate them:
Marco Polo advertises itself as a Video Walkie Talkie App that brings friends and family closer than ever. This is a fun app that I even use with friends and family. What teens don’t realize is that the information can be kept by the server for an undetermined amount of time.
This app allows users to interact in a question and answer format. This is usually done with friends and peers, but can also be done with anonymous contributors. The app is rated for ages 13 and up and is starting to catch on in the US after a popular run in Europe. The most worrisome aspect of this app is the potential for cyberbullying. There is very little monitoring on this site even with the report abuse tab.
On your phone, it appears as a calculator icon, but it is a disguise for a secret vault for photos, videos, and browser information. This is only one example of an app that disguises inappropriate behavior behind a more innocent looking app. If you are a parent that tries to monitor your child’s browser history, you need to be aware of this app and others like it.
Teenagers use this app to type at high speeds using a more “face to face feel.” The app is rated 17+ but there is no age verification when signing up for the app. This app allows teens to text or communicate with others outside of their circle. Should teens be communicating with those that are not in their phone contacts? If you look at the reviews for this app, it states that many teens use this app to meet strangers for sexting.
This app allows you to compare “anything” your heart desires. This app not only allows teens to compare people, celebrities, music, and peers, but also allows users to rate each other on a side by side scale. Most of the comparisons are pop culture related, but it doesn’t always stop here. Cyberbullying has happened using this app, as well as making unhealthy comparisons amongst each other.
This is a secret Instagram account (fake + Instagram). Teenagers sign up for a second Instagram under a fake name to post inappropriate pictures and/or videos, as well as to post funny videos they don’t want adults to see.
As a parent, how can I help my teenager?
We want our kids to learn how to coexist with technology; not to let technology rule our teen. We do this by showing our teenagers that having a phone is a responsibility, not a right of passage. With responsibility comes rules and boundaries. As a parent, our job is to set the boundaries and help our child navigate through the technology world. This is true not just for apps on a phone but for video games, movies and more.
Start with a discussion with your teenager about the use of the phone. Having a discussion about the dangerous people on the other end of the applications, rather than focusing on you not trusting your teenager, is a good first step. Ask your teenager what apps they are using and have downloaded. If you notice other apps being used, ask them again about the apps downloaded on their phone. Allow them the opportunity to be honest with you. You can also have a phone use agreement. This can be difficult to follow and maintain but is a good way for you to set expectations for your teen and their phone. Lastly, you can get a tracking app for your teen’s phone. CyberSafetyCop.com is a good site for cyber safety and has recommendations for tracking apps.
Technology has brought huge benefits to us all, but there’s no question it has made parenting teens trickier. It is imperative that we stay up to date on what they’re viewing and how to navigate it. Let’s help keep one another informed!
Meet the Author!
Tammy Jensen is mother, wife and school administrator. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Recreational Therapy and a Master’s Degree in Education. She is the mom of three children over the age of 19 with one being multiple special needs and an adopted son. She has been married to her husband, John for 23 years. Her mission field is education as she gets to impact students lives through the love of Christ. Currently she serves as Dean of Students, Spirit Coordinator and Activities Director at Crossings Christian School.