Chat to us online now
It seems that almost every week there is a new app or website that kids are using to IM (instant message) each other and it can be hard to keep up. It’s important for parents to know how these work, and how old your child should be to use them, usually 13 or over, to help avoid cyberbullying and sexting.
It’s important to talk to your child about what is and is not appropriate to share online and the dangers of sexting, especially as with most of these apps they can send images or videos free of charge. Also ensure they know what to do if they receive bullying messages or images that are inappropriate, ie to tell you and block the user.
There are also some basic rules to talk to your child about such as not using your real name on your profile when it is available publicly, never adding your location to your messages or photos, and never accept a follower or friend who you don't actually know in real life.
Children should be over 13 to have an account on ask.fm. People join this site and then others can ask them questions (this can be anonymously). All too often people use the site to ask inappropriate questions or post sexual comments. Anything posted is visible publicly and you don’t really have any control over where else this information can appear.
You can change whether you allow people to ask you questions anonymously in your privacy settings. If someone asks a question you don’t like or think is inappropriate or they are bullying, you can block that user so they can't contact you again. It is important to talk to your child so that they know how to do this and let them know to tell you about any abuse or inappropriate comments. There is also a ‘report abuse’ button.
Essentially if your child is on this website there are no restrictions about the type of content they are seeing so we would recommend you maintain a close eye on what your child is doing online and talk to them about the dangers of posting information about themselves.
Snapchat is a free app where you can take a picture or video and send it to your friends. Kids like it because the image isn’t permanent and because it feels spontaneous. You get to decide how long a photo will "live," from 1 to 10 seconds, after it’s viewed. It’s important that users realise that this doesn’t mean the image can’t be captured by the receiver by taking a screenshot or other method. Unlike social network sites and other photo-sharing apps, you can't post publicly. You can only share with friends and you get to decide who to share with each time you send a photo.
Snapchat runs on iPhone, Android, iPad, Android tablets and iPod Touch. You have to be age 13 or over to use Snapchat although they offer a limited version called Snapkidz which allows images to be created but not sent or received. Once you have set up an account, by default, anyone who knows your username or phone number can send you a message.
You can configure Snapchat to only accept messages from users on your “My Friends” list in the settings menu in the application, select “Who can send me snaps...”, then select “My Friends” instead of “Everyone.”
To block a user, tap the Menu icon, select “My Friends,” locate their name in the list and swipe right across their name (or in Android, long-press the name). Press “Edit” and then “Block.” If you would like to delete a friend from your contacts, press “Delete.” Even if you haven’t added the user as a friend, their name will still appear in the “My Friends” list under “Recent” if they have sent you a message recently.
If a child receives inappropriate photos or someone's harassing him or her, contact Snapchat via firstname.lastname@example.org or by going to Snapchat.com and clicking on Support. You can delete the account as long as you have the username and password. If you wish to delete the account and your child won't give you his or her password, you can submit a deletion request.
WhatsApp Messenger lets teens send text messages, videos, photos, and short audio messages to one or many people with no message limits or fees (after paying for the app). Messages can only be sent to other smartphone users who also have WhatsApp. Once you install the app, it checks your address book to see if anyone else you know is already using WhatsApp, and connects you automatically. You have to be over 16 to use Whatsapp legally. There are ways to send messages anonymously so it is always essential to make sure you talk to your child about what is and isn't appropriate to send and receive.
Instagram is a photo editing and sharing ‘app’ that allows users to edit photos taken on their phone and post them to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with the click of a button. Instagram photos are open to the public by default and Instagram lets users browse public photos posted by others and by people whom they follow. You have to be over 13 to use Instagram.
This started in 2010 as a photo-sharing platform viewable only amongst its user base. In April 2012 Facebook acquired Instagram and its use has since exploded. Now those photos can go almost anywhere and you can browse through all of them in a few brief moment by going to Instagram.com/[USER NAME ].
Once an Instagram profile has been created, anyone can browse them and follow other Instagram users. There is an option to make an Instagram profile private, and similar to Facebook, users have to send a request to connect to that person.
Ensure that the photo sharing is set to Private this will prevent the photos from going out publicly where anyone can view them. You can set the Privacy setting through the Instagram interface by going to Settings and scrolling down to the setting labelled “Photos are Private” or “ Photo Privacy” and ensuring it is turned on. Work with your teen to select an appropriate profile photo that you can both agree on. It’s best to avoid using an actual photo of your teen and instead find something that best represents your teen or their interests. Turn off the Geo-tagging or Location of photos, that way even if a photo gets out to the public, hopefully no one knows where your child is.
BBM allows anyone who has a Blackberry to connect to one network, share information and chat with friends in real time. It is an always-on application and does not require a whole load of battery power to run, although you need to pay and be connected to the Blackberry server to have access to it. BBM is free to use, which means that unlike text messages, there is no charge regardless of how many messages are sent – or for picture messages. Unlike normal text messages, BBM messages can be sent free to a number of people at once, allowing large group conversations.