App Safety for Kids
Social media has become one of the main ways people connect and communicate with each other. For teens and tweens, social media is a great way to interact with their peers, discover new interests and foster creativity, but it also poses serious safety risks. To tip the scales in favour of positive online experiences and appropriate interactions, parents must take a proactive approach to understanding their children’s online behaviour.
An online platform owned by Google where anyone can upload and watch video content. A wide variety of content is uploaded and billions of people watch, rate and comment on it.
- Inappropriate content is easy to access: Any child with a Gmail account can sign into YouTube and access videos. Some content is flagged ‘age-restricted’, but the platform relies on self-verification, meaning that kids can get around the rules by using a fake date of birth.
- YouTube suggests related content: YouTube will often autoplay videos based on your child’s viewing habits. The aim is to show related content, but it may not always be age-appropriate.
- Challenge videos’ can go too far: Challenge videos refer to a stunt you’re encouraged to recreate and film. Some are dangerous and even life threatening, such as the Bird Box Challenge.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CHILD:
- Apply ‘Restricted Mode’: Restricted mode helps to hide any mature or unpleasant videos from your children. It uses YouTube’s own automated system and looks at what other users flag as inappropriate content.
- Create a ‘family’ Google account: This will allow you to monitor exactly what your child is watching, uploading and sharing.
- Get to know popular channels: It’s good to know which channels are most popular with your children. Some of the most popular channels right now are: PewDiePie, Zoella, KSI, JennaMarbles, Smosh, ThatcherJoe & Casper Lee.
Instagram is a hugely popular photo and video-sharing app with over a billion users worldwide. Images can be transformed with filters to edit the shot before sharing. Anyone with an account can see another’s ‘gallery’ if their account is not private.
- Direct messaging: Direct messages allow users to share posts, images, videos, voice messages and calls between each other privately. If the person is not on your child’s friends list, the message will still be sent to their inbox but the user has to accept their request to see the message.
- Damage to confidence, body image & mental health: Using filters on photos on Instagram can set unrealistic expectations and create feelings of inadequacy for children. Judging themselves against other users on the app might threaten their confidence or self-worth.
- Hijacked hashtags: Hashtags connect content so you can see related content from multiple users. One person may use a seemingly innocent hashtag with one thing in mind, and before you know it hundreds of people could be using the same hashtag for something inappropriate.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CHILD:
- Restrict direct messages: If your child receives a message from somebody they do not know, encourage them not to accept their message request and ‘block’ this person; this is the only way to stop them messaging your child again.
- Look out for #ADS: Influencers must clearly state that they have been paid for their posts, for example by using a hashtag like #ad or #sponsored. Teach your child to look out for the signs of a paid post/advert and discuss that not everything they see from celebrities is their personal choice or opinion.
- Use a private account: A private account means you have to accept a request from somebody who wants to follow you and only people you approve will see your posts and videos.
WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps in the world, with more than 1.5 billion people worldwide using it to send and receive text, photos, videos and documents, as well as make voice and video calls through an Internet or Wi-Fi connection.
- Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying is the act of sending threatening or taunting messages, pictures or videos with the aim of hurting and humiliating the receiver. The group chat feature provides the potential for people to hurt others with their comments or jokes.
- Connecting with strangers: To start a chat in WhatsApp, you just need to know the mobile number of the contact if they have the app on their phone. If your child has shared their mobile number with somebody they don’t know, they can use it to get in touch via WhatsApp.
- Live location sharing: The Live Location feature enables users to share their current location in real time to their contacts in a chat, allowing friends to follow their movement. However, if your child is in a group chat with people they do not know, they will be exposing their exact location.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CHILD:
- Create a safe profile: Your child can alter their profile settings to control who can see their profile photo and status. The options to choose from are ‘Everyone’, ‘My Contacts’ and ‘Nobody’. We suggest selecting ‘My Contacts’ or ‘Nobody’.
- Explain how to block people: If your child has received spam or offensive messages from a contact, they should block them. Messages sent from a blocked contact will not show up on the phone and stay undelivered.
- Leave a group: If your child is part of a group chat that makes them feel uncomfortable, use the group’s settings to show them how to leave. If someone leaves a group once, they can be added back by the group admin, if they leave again, they cannot be added back.
Snapchat is a photo sharing app for phones and tablets. It allows users to share images, videos and chat with friends through voice calls or text messages. Users can share images and videos directly to specific friends, or through a ‘story’ shared with their entire friend list.
- Sexting: While Snapchat’s gimmick is that all photos, videos and text disappear eventually, users can still screenshoot or save anything they have received. Users may forget this and send a compromising image or message to somebody who they think they trust. Once a photo/video has been screenshotted or recorded, this can open the door to blackmailing or cyberbullying.
- Damage to confidence: Snapchat’s selection of filters and lenses are a popular way to enhance selfies. Using the ‘beautify’ filters on photos can set unrealistic expectations and create feelings of inadequacy.
- Addictive snap streaks: ‘Snap streaks’ are gained when snaps have been sent back and forth consecutively between friends. Snapchat then rewards users who have achieved high snap streaks by gifting emojis. Children invest time into making their streaks as long as possible, putting pressure on themselves and their friendships.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CHILD:
- Discuss the risks of sexting: Talk to your children about the consequences of sexting and make sure that they are aware of the risks. Ensure your child knows that ‘Snaps’ can be screenshotted and the message, image or video can be shared further without their knowledge or permission.
- Turn off ‘quick add’: ‘Quick add’ helps friends find each other on the app based on mutual friends or if their number is in their phone book. This feature can open up their profile to strangers. Your child can switch this feature off in settings.
- Restrict story views: Your child can add videos and images to their ‘story’ throughout the day, which will last for 24 hours. By default, anyone in a user’s friends list can see their story. Check in the privacy settings that this has not been changed. The options to choose from are ‘My Friends’, ‘Everyone’ or ‘Custom’; we suggest that it is set to ‘My Friends’.
The above content is courtesy of National Online Safety, award-winning specialists in digital online safety training for schools and parents, working internationally towards a safer online world for children.
For more advice on cyberbullying click here.