Spying on, monitoring, checking in on, or as my daughter likes to call it ‘stalking’ my kids on their social media accounts has become one of my priorities. I didn’t place that much importance on it until my niece and my daughter became the victims of online bullies.
With so many apps out there that kids can easily download and use, it’s hard to keep up with them. But you have to get your head out of the sand and understand how these apps work and use them yourself. If your child has an iPhone or iPod then you need one too, plain and simple. It’s the only way to keep on top of what they are up too.
My daughter is aged 11 (going on 16!) and is in year 6. My son is nearly 14 and is year 8. My son isn’t huge on social media other than checking out soccer updates on Facebook. My daughter on the other hand is obsessed and this happened so quickly – in a matter of weeks! This made me start to wonder about the target markets of some of these applications.
When you read through the terms and conditions of many applications they state that you need to be over 13 to use them. In reality, kids much younger than that are using them. And if you think they aren’t, think again!
The main applications my daughter uses are Instagram, Ask.fm and Kik. Instagram is a Facebook type of app that they post photos on too. Whatever they post and whoever comments, the username is shown. Ask.fm is a question based application that allows users to send other users any question they like either anonymously (or as they refer to as ‘anon’) or with their username shown. Kik is an application that allows them to send text-like messages to other users that they invite into either personal conversations between them or as a group. Then, of course, there is Facebook, which my daughter isn’t allowed to have until next year when she starts high school.
At first my daughter had these apps on her iPad and I would just pinch it every now and then and sneak a quick read through her stuff. At this stage all she had was Instagram and Kik. Everything was quite innocent.
A few months ago I happened to pick up the iPad and realised that she was logged into an Ask.fm account. I had heard of it, but didn’t know much about it. I started to read through some of the messages and was absolutely shocked. I didn’t understand how the app worked so couldn’t work out whether the messages were to or from my daughter or not related to her at all. As ‘app savvy’ as I thought I was, I began to realise I actually wasn’t and that things had moved along much more quickly than I had ever anticipated. Knowing my way around Facebook was no longer enough.
So it was time to learn. I Googled the apps she used and got a quick ‘how to’ lesson on each of the things she was using. At first my reaction to the Ask.fm account was to close it down, but I relented when she showed me the questions she was being asked were quite innocent. What’s your favourite colour, what’s your favourite TV show... No harm in that right?