One way to know what your children are doing online is to download the apps they use and do some parental exploration and investigation. When Pokémon Go was introduced recently, I downloaded the app and walked around my neighborhood with my son, which got him out of the house and got us talking. But, the best part was that he felt valued because I took an interest in what he was doing; it brought us closer. I saw some potential safety dangers, such as accidents and invasion of privacy; therefore, the experience provided a platform for a meaningful conversation.
It’s also important to be aware of “ghost” apps. These apps may look benign, like a calculator, for example, but are actually something very different purposely disguised to fool parents. It may be a good idea to look at the apps your child has in his or her phone. If there are redundant apps, like two calculators, this should be a red flag. It could also be important to note what apps have access to the phone’s camera. There is a delicate balance between appropriate boundaries and privacy. I do not want my children to feel they are being spied upon; I want them to feel safe, protected, and that I have their back. Clear communication about the privileges of having a phone rather than their ‘right’ helps to establish this boundary.
To find out about apps your children may be using, search “popular apps for teens,” and a number of helpful sites will come up. Another approach is to simply go to your phone’s application search – the current top 10 will miraculously appear. It may also be beneficial to talk to a trusted young relative or a friend’s child who can provide more real-time, first-hand intelligence about popular apps.
Keeping up with the times and understanding your child’s use of social media is important because it may help you recognize warning signs, especially when it comes to substance abuse and addiction. Here are some questions that may be indicators for concern: Are they posting pictures with new groups of friends you haven’t met? Are they holding Solo cups in pictures, which may indicate alcohol use? Are they somewhere they shouldn’t be? Has the tone of their posts changed? If you notice any of these, talk to your kids about it. Studies have shown that parents can heavily influence their children’s behavior. The more conversations you have about these important issues, the better off they’ll be.
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