New social media apps are born just about every day. Some of them explode in popularity, while others end up on the discard heap with the other “never was” or out of date applications. It is difficult for parents to keep up with what apps their kids are using on a regular basis. Not only should parents always know what apps their children are using, but they also should create a profile on those apps and utilize them frequently.
Some of these apps are extremely difficult to navigate for parents who did not grow up with smartphones. For example, even though I am highly involved in technology, I still have a hard time understanding Snapchat. I had to sit down with my niece and have her explain how to use the features. Who knew that to find filters you had to tap on your face first? Not me.
However, it is essential for parents to understand the features, limitations, and uses of each app that their children use to help keep them safe. When I see stories of parents who had no clue that their child even had a social media account, I die a little inside. The information is out there, you just need to understand how to find it and then have conversations with your kids about it.
Figure Out What They Use
Parental control apps like Boomerang offer reporting on what applications are in use on your child’s device and how long your children spend in those applications each day. Staying up to date on the apps that your children use on a regular basis is extremely important. You may be monitoring them more on one social media platform, and find out that they don’t even use that one.
Control The Installation of Apps
A great way to have a conversation about a new app that your child wants to install is to restrict the installation of new apps. When your child installs the app on their phone, they will immediately be restricted from accessing the app until you approve it. Once you see the notification, it is a perfect time to first do some research about the application, and then sit down with your child and discuss how the app works and how they intend to use it. Allowing them to show you the application and how it works can help you both understand each other a little better. Always be sure to follow rules of the social platform, and make sure your child understands what those rules are. Most social media platforms do not allow children under the age of 13 to have an account.
Set Up Your Own Account
While you are discussing a particular application with your teen, and you have both determined you will allow your child to use the app, install the app on your own device. You can even have your child help you set up your account, while they show you how to use it. Once your account is set up, make sure your child knows that one of the requirements to having the app is that you will be added as a contact through the app and that communication through the app will be monitored.
Keep Up With the App
Once its installed on your own device, and you have added your child as a contact, don’t just forget that the application exists. Use the app on a regular basis. Check in on what your child and their friends are doing on the app, and stay up to date on how it is used. I always say, “Be where your kids are sharing”. This way you can see first hand the kinds of things they post about, and correct them when they have posted something they shouldn’t.
When you are up to date on what applications your children are using, you are able to get a glimpse into their world. Things they post about during the day can spark fun conversations at the dinner table. Instead of conversations like “How was your day?” with the standard “Fine.” response, you can say “Hey, I saw that you played dodgeball during PE today! How did you do?” Because you can be sure that these kids are sharing their every waking moment on social media… even while they are at school.