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Social media – the good, the bad and the ugly: A parent’s guide Part III

proactive parenting social media parents guide


This app is not password protected. This means that anyone who has access to the child’s phone can send messages that appear to be from the child or adolescent.

  • ADVICE: Teach your child about password protecting their phone and only sharing that password with you.

The default settings allow any WhatsApp user to see the user profile and status. Additionally, it is easy to share contact information and locations in messages.

  • ADVICE: Change the share settings to “my contacts only” and turn off the location feature.

The app is for teens 16 and above, but is widely used by both younger teens and children because parents can’t see the number of texts nor their content.

  • ADVICE: Since the app isn’t password protected, parents can review all their contacts and message history. Talk to children about inappropriate content.


Accounts are based on usernames so a child does not need a phone number to use this app. It also means that users remain anonymous. Users are supposed to be 13 and older with parental permission, but there is no enforcement.

  • ADVICE: If your child doesn’t have a phone number, or you have taken away their phone, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t online. You can watch for the app on computers and tablets.

Accounts are password protected.

  • ADVICE: Speak to younger teens about the importance sharing passwords to all electronic accounts with you to ensure their safety.

Journalist reporters have used this app to show how child predators interact with unknowing victims by pretending to be younger than they are.

  • ADVICE: Educate children about online predators and to NEVER share personal information with ANYONE.


“Snaps” can be screen shot or recorded to capture the information permanently. The disappearing feature of the snaps can give teens a false sense of security and may encourage them to share inappropriate or explicit content.

  • ADVICE: Talk to teens about the permanence of everything on Internet. A few simple clicks and information is copied and re-shared.

Beginning in June 2017, Snapchat added a location option to their app that shows the user’s location on an integrated map. This real-time location service visibly shows where your child is anytime they have Snapchat open to anyone they are Snapchat friends.

  • ADVICE: Tap the button that looks like a gear in the top-right corner of the Map screen. Then choose which level of location sharing options are best for your child – ghost mode (no one can see them), select friends (only specifically chosen friends can see them on the map), or my friends (everyone, including future friends).

Although the site is restricted to users age 17 and above, there is loose enforcement.

  • ADVICE: If you have a younger teen, check out their phone for Snapchat. If they have it, speak to them about the dangers, teach them good habits or erase the app.


This app can become a virtual popularity contest as users (usually girls) compete for the most “loves.”

  • ADVICE: Talk to teens about what “love” and “followers” really mean. Help them focus on their real, living selves rather than virtual friends.

The default setting allows all information to be shared publicly. And, if geotagging is on, users may be letting everyone know where they are.

  • ADVICE: Be sure to change user settings to share information only with known contacts and turn off geotagging permanently.

Messages can be captured with a screenshot or recorded to save the information permanently.

  • ADVICE: Educate your child about this fact and teach them to ask themselves “will I want everyone to see this?” before posting pictures or writing comments.

The Instagram app is available tablets and iPods too. The terms of service are for teens 13 years and older, but not enforced.

  • ADVICE: Even if your child doesn’t have a phone, they may be using the app on other electronic devices.

There are no filters for explicit content.

  • ADVICE: Teach your child to talk to you if they see something online that makes them feel uncomfortable or scared.


The app does not allow editing of “tweets,” only deletion. However others can capture the tweets and re-share them even if the owner of the content deletes the posting.

  • ADVICE: Teach children and teens not to over share. Keep private issues private.

The app is mostly anonymous which means that others can create Twitter accounts pretending to be someone else.

  • ADVICE: Teach kids not to share personal identity information (e.g. age, birthdate, address, phone number, school, etc.) with random users.


 This app has been shut down for new postings but previously posted videos still live-on in Vine Camera that began on January 17, 2017.

The app is for teens 17 years and older, but not strictly enforced. Videos of silly, potentially harmful, or risky behaviors get lots of “shares.”

  • ADVICE: Younger children and teens are more easily swayed by peer pressure and may be motivated to record their own Vine recreating a risky behavior.

The app could be linked to Facebook and Twitter accounts that may inadvertently share personal information.

  • ADVICE: Encourage all users, especially younger ones, to avoid allowing the app to automatically sync with other platforms.


The videos are live streaming and watched in real time with immediate feedback from viewers. Video streamers see real-time comments from viewers.

  • ADVICE: Kids may do things that they would normally not do in order to gain “likes” or approval from the viewing community.

There are icons on the bottom of the screen to choose to show the location, to broadcast a private video, allow only users who are followers to chat, or to share a live link on Twitter.

  • ADVICE: Teach kids not to turn on location services, to only broadcast in private streams, and to avoid sharing on Twitter to maintain more control of their content.

These recommendations are general and as app platforms update, some or all of these may need to be modified. The most important action parents can take to help kids stay safe while using social media is to create an open, honest home environment so they feel they can come to you when they need help.

Encourage children and teens to talk to you if they see something that makes them upset, they are scared, they feel threatened or just don’t know what to do. Online, kids are navigating a large virtual world while lacking life experience and still maturing. It is normal that they run into situations they are unsure about. Even though you may not understand the app that their issue happens in, you do have the experience, love, and patience to help them find an appropriate solution.

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Friday, 24 May 2019

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