With social media here to stay, and the subject of so much scrutiny, its become clear the frontline for poor teen behavior has moved away from drug use, alcohol or even the trendy “sexting” phase of the early part of this decade.
Now, more than ever, it’s more important to monitor those tricky little things called “Apps,” or applications designed for tablets, smart phones and even computers used by kids across the country, and specifically here at home.
Wednesday was a huge day for the “App” world here in the Twin Cities, as two, “I’ve never even heard of that before” apps made headlines both in St. Michael-Albertville and around the metro.
The first was the app “Omegle,” a chat application designed to allow anyone who uses it to chat with complete strangers.
Seriously? Who green lights this stuff? We spend our entire parenting lives talking to our 6, 7 and 8-year-olds reminding them never to talk to strangers, or “stranger danger” or any sort of other tactic we can use to ward off dealing with people in white vans.
Yet, here we are, giving our kids, essentially, the permission to talk with anyone in the world via those smart phones everyone carries from age 14 and up.
So, two 13-year-olds used Omegle, according to criminal complaints filed in court, to meet a man from Burnsville. Eventually, they agreed to meet him in person, were picked up near their homes in Andover, and taken to his home. Wait, his parents’ home. He kept them in the basement overnight, as the girls’ parents reported the duo missing, and performed sexual acts with them. They were found crying by authorities, hiding behind a couch in said basement.
Closer to home, kids in St. Michael-Albertville are using a different app – Yik Yak – to post disparaging things about STMA High School, its teachers, staff, administrators and even fellow classmates. The problem was so widespread Principal Robert Driver sent a letter via e-mail to parents, imploring them to explore what apps kids are using on their phones/tablets/computers, and hoping parents would eliminate this one.
Facebook and Twitter are here to stay. Instagram is changing the way we look at photos. Even Snapchat is changing the way we instantly communicate with friends and kids.
The truth is, some of these app designers – shocking, I know – don’t have your best interests at heart. Imagine some socially awkward programmer looking for a way to disparage a former employer, and you probably have your Yik Yak creator. Some guy who can’t talk to women in a bar? That’s your guy for Omegle.
The point is, it’s up to us, as parents, to put our kids on a bit of a leash when it comes to this kind of stuff. Many of us work hard to gain our kids’ trust. To do that, you have to place some sort of trust in your kid. However, lines, especially when it comes to technology, need to be drawn.
Grab their phone once in a while (ask politely, and when they refuse maybe threaten to take the car keys or drop their data plan entirely). Check out those little tiles. Because you won’t know what the heck half of them do. Trust me. And then decide which ones are appropriate.
It’s OK to participate in the wonder that is social media. The majority of the time, it’s an amazing tool that makes our world smaller, and brings friends together.
But there is that sector that’s designed to do nothing, well, good. And together, we can turn that tide back, and go back to TP’ing the assistant principal’s house (I DON’T CONDONE THAT) like we used to.