Facebook and Beyond
Just yesterday, my daughter Kristen changed my Facebook profile photo because she didn’t like it. No, it wasn’t a bratty or disrespectful thing to do if you know the story behind it, but it got me thinking: could I do the same to her FB page? The answer is yes, but that might not be the case with so many parents out there and even with you, my dear readers. Do you know your child’s passwords? ALL their passwords? Are you familiar with the vast array of social media sites kids are using today?
First of all, it’s important to know that Facebook is just one social site that kids today are logging onto. What’s even more important to know is that Facebook is not deemed the coolest of sites by those same kids. As reported by the Associated Press recently, Facebook is considered the “school-sanctioned prom” to teenagers and all the others apps are the “much cooler after party.” No, Facebook hasn’t gone the way of MySpace, but it’s certainly feeling the heat from rivals such as Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, Kik Messenger and even YouTube and Pinterest. Haven’t heard of them? Read on…
I think most of you have an idea of what YouTube and Pinterest are, but here’s a breakdown of some of the other sites your kids may be using:
Facebook: I won’t go into any detail on this popular site because you’re more than likely on it yourself or at least familiar with it, but did you know a user (your child!) can use custom settings on their FB account to control who sees what on their profile? In other words, I probably don’t see as much on my daughter’s friends’ sites as she does, even though I am “friends” with them.
Twitter: Twitter is an online social networking service that enables users to send and receive text-based messages of up to 140 characters, known as “tweets.” To me, “tweets” are very similar to Facebook status updates, except that they are done much more often. Users seem to tweet everything they do and think and love the fact that they have “followers,” those invited to “follow” their tweets. Today it’s estimated there are more than 500 million registered Twitter users, including many celebs, and more than 340 million tweets are generated daily. Unregistered users on the popular website can read tweets, but only registered users can post tweets. It is extremely popular with college students.
Instagram: Instagram is free software that digitally enhances photos and posts them to an online account. It is considered fairly safe as long as users keep their privacy settings very limited and don’t post any questionable pics. Problems tend to arise once those Instagrammed photos are posted on sites like Facebook, which ironically bought Instagram last year.
Flickr: “Flicker” is a photo and video hosting website and online community owned by Yahoo. In addition to being a popular website for users to share and embed personal photographs, the service is widely used by bloggers like me as a source of photos and images. There are reportedly more than 6 billion images and videos available, which can be accessed without an account but an account is needed to upload content onto the website. Widely used on computers, Flickr also has a popular mobile app.
Snapchat: One of IPhone’s top 10 most popular free apps, Snapchat lets users send a text, photo, or video that self-destructs within 10 seconds of being opened, leaving no room for tracking or tracing. But, users need to keep in mind that anyone who receives their Snapchat post can use those 10 seconds to take a “screenshot” of it and save it indefinitely.
Kik Messenger: The most inviting thing about “Kik” is that it permits anonymity to its users. It also allows unlimited texting and is a free app. Use a random nickname or user name and a person’s real name, identity, or phone number may never revealed.
Sound scary? They are, especially when you consider that fact that many mobile apps don’t require a cellphone or credit card. They’re all free as long as there is a wireless connection available. Some parents are opting to shut off their home’s Wi-Fi after certain hours but many of those same parents admit they are not the sharpest tools in the high tech shed when it comes to social media. In many ways, today’s “tech talk” is yesterday’s “sex talk” with your children…it’s that important. In the same vein, technology education for parents is comparable to sex education. Study it. Learn it. Live it.
It’s a tough thing to stay on top of though, and I’m right there with you. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are more than 800,000 apps available through Apple and nearly that many available on Google Play. Many parents aren’t even aware that their children use any or all of these sites until something goes wrong and trouble comes calling.
So, just because you don’t see racy pics or posts on your child’s Facebook page, don’t stop there. And no, it’s not a matter of control or privacy. It’s a matter of safety and care. If you’re doing it just to be nosey, stop right there. But if you’re worried about something in particular, check it out. They could be tweeting or Snapchatting as you read this!