Connecting with peers on social media is a key part of most teen's (and tween's) life. To help your children stay safe in their online interactions, it's important to keep the lines of communication open. Ask your child about their online interactions and social media use.
Below are two popular apps used by teens and tweens with a few highlights of what parents need to know about them.
What is SnapChat?
SnapChat is the most popular social media and communication tool used by teens today. It is both a messaging platform and a social network.
SnapChat can only be accessed on mobile devices through the SnapChat app. You can instant message with friends by sending pictures or short videos. These are called 'snaps'. The main difference with SnapChat is that the images and videos disappear a few seconds after being viewed by the recipient. When friends message for consecutive days on SnapChat, it is called a 'streak'. Friends often do not want to break their streaks as this can be seen as a form of social ranking.
SnapChat 'stories' are similar to Facebook's news feed feature. You can post photos and videos that can be viewed by all of your friends as a highlight reel of your day. SnapChat stories are posted for 24 hours before they disappear.
What do parents need to know about SnapChat?
It's important to note that most communication on SnapChat is innocent and friendly. However, since SnapChat photos and videos disappear after they have been viewed by the message recipient, teens often take risks in the type of photos they will share via SnapChat. It's important to remind your child that eventhough those photos disappear, others can take screenshots of them and further share these photos. It's also possible to save them to the SnapChat memories vault which can be password protected.
Encourage your child to report any inappropriate content viewed on SnapChat. You can do this through SnapChat's Support menu.
SnapChat Privacy Settings
By default, only friends can send you Snaps. If someone who isn't your friend tries to send you a Snap, you'll receive a notification that they've added you. You will only receive their Snap when you add them to your friends list.
To change or check who can send you Snaps and View My Story:
Click on the profile icon in SnapChat. Click on the Settings gear. Scroll down to the Who Can... section. 'Everyone' means anyone can send you Snaps (including strangers). 'My Friends' means only your friends are able to see your Snaps.
Encourage your child to set this to 'My Friends'.
SnapChat users can also block or delete friends to prevent people from sending them Snaps, or viewing your stories. To block a contact, go to the My Contacts page, tap on the gear icon next to the person's name and select Block.
When enabled, SnapChat uses the device's location services to track the user's location in real time. Encourage your child to use 'Ghost Mode' so their location is not being tracked. To turn on ghost mode, enter the settings and scroll down to Who Can. Tap on My Location and enable Ghost Mode.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a popular social network for sharing videos. Most of the videos are of people lip-synching to songs. Users can upload their own videos as well as browse and interact with other user's content.
What do parents need to know about TikTok?
When you sign up for a TikTok account, the account is public by default. This means anyone can see your videos, send you messages, and use your location information. Parents should encourage children to have private accounts or to adjust their settings so they can interact with only people they know. To change the settings, tap on the three dots in the top right corner of the profile page and select Privacy and Security. Here you can change it to "Friends" or "Off".
What is Instagram?
Instagram is a popular photo sharing app. Hashtags(#) are used on this platform as a way to group together ideas and topics as well as provide a way to follow other users with similar interests.
Instagram Stories are photos and videos that users share to the story for their followers to view. Stories are like a highlight reel of the day and disappear after 24 hours.
Instagram Live allows users to live stream video to their users.
What parents need to know about Instagram:
Instagram users can have either a public or private account, where only approved followers can see and comment on your posts, stories and Instagram Live videos. Talk to your child about the privacy settings of their Instagram account and the implications of having a public account.
On the Instagram profile page, you can adjust your privacy settings. It’s important to review the Story Settings as well as the type of account that your child has. You can turn on Private Account to control who can see your photos and videos. In the Story Settings, you can control who can comment on your stories as well as who can share your stories.