As with any innovation, it can be used for good or not good. Motive matters. A recent arrest of a University of Missouri science and technology student for posting threats to the students and faculty via YikYak, a social media app that allows you to post comments anonymously, illustrates this point. The threats were reported to the authorities who were able to trace the source of the comments through GPS metadata. The news feature issued the following warnings to parents:
- YikYak and other anonymous apps like Wisper, Rumr, and AfterSchool, make it easy to lose inhibitions. If you do not believe you will be accountable for what you say and do on-line the temptation can be great to express frustrations and become uncivil.
- YikYak, for example, contains sexually explicit content from individuals seeking sexual encounters and directions on how to engage in various sexual acts.
- Technology innovation is outpacing parent education and parents need to pay more attention to their child’s on-line activities.
- And because the potential stressful and traumatic impact of being exposed to so much raw, unedited content can lead to bullying and other mental health issues, parents are encouraged pay attention to changes in their child’s mood, grades and friendships.
In addition to these warnings, below are some tips for educating the cyber-powered tween and teen that have been gleaned from over ten years of this examiner’s fieldwork and personal experience.
- Get interested in who your child is and their interests, on and off line without judging or insisting on expressing your opinion.
- Learn as much as you can about who your child is and set expectations around the qualities of the character of the person you are raising: intelligent, kind, compassionate, honest, reliable, loyal, etc. These are the qualities that make a person trustworthy.
- Explain to your child that anonymous social media is not safe because it is easy to be cruel and mean. Most kids are seeking authenticity and trustworthy relationships. Encourage your child to rely on social media apps that authenticate the person behind the post and photo. Facebook is a common app that allows families and friends to connect on line. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, is a popular app among youth. Many youth use multiple media platforms including SnapChat and Twitter.
- Set age-appropriate boundaries for the use of mobile devices and apps and insist on transparency. No secrets, no surprises.
- Be prepared to have family conversations about internet porn and sex to demystify sex, and edify your child’s sense of worth and their sexuality as a gift.