Of all the Teen Apps, Kik Messenger is the one parents google most! Parents want to know how to control Kik, how to find out what their kids are texting, and who is texting their kids. Kik Messenger, put simply, is a free text messaging service but you don’t have to have a mobile phone to use it. Mix a tween, an ipod, an itunes account and wifi together and you have an instant messaging service. Teens tend to download the app onto their phones. Once the app is installed you can text, send pics and have group conversations. It combines texting with social networking!
Why do teens love it?
Number one - It is free!! Number 2 – It is private and Number 3 they can download to their own individual ipods, ipads and phones. Statistics currently put teens at sending 100 texts a day and that can become very costly if you are paying for it. With wifi you can text to your heart’s content on Kik. Kik, like other apps, is customized to the user’s mobile device so unlike FB you can’t find a Kik account online. Kik flies below a parent’s radar. Just as parents feel that they are up to speed with Face Book, Apps such as Kik appear and leave them confused.
Why should parents be concerned?
Kik Messenger recently upgraded the age limit from 13 to 17. Parents need to consider why that has occurred. Why is Kik worried about younger users? I’d be worried about the type of pics that teens might post and the pedophiles trawling the web for such pics. Think too much skin, think pouty selfies. Kids tend also to post their ‘Kik Address’ on other sites such as Tumblr or Instagram and this is how strangers access them on Kik. The usual phrase is: ‘Kik me @…….followed by their address. If Kik is the first text message service your child has used some basic lessons in what to text and what to not are in order!
What can parents do?
Talk to your teens about how, what and what not to text. Bad news should NEVER be texted. That’s a pretty standard rule. Bad language should NEVER be texted. Sending pics should be carefully thought through. Do you want those pics sent on to others? Does your friend know that you have sent those pics of him? Engage in a conversation about what they think about Kik. Consider using iMessage instead – it is more private and protected. Remind them of keeping their digital reputation tidy and clean. Talk about their privacy settings – they should ensure that only people they know can message them. Talk to them about what to do if someone they don’t know texts them or asks them to send them pics. This is NOT a rare occurrence unfortunately.
Top 2 App as promised and more to follow. Snap Chat was Number 1. Instagram is like a public, mobile photo album. You can post your own pics, copy pics from the internet, share your friend’s pics and use filters to create interesting, artistic designs. You can ‘Follow’ others and your pics can be liked and commented on by your ‘Followers’. This is new terminology - not ‘Friends’ as in Face Book but ‘Followers’ as in Twitter and Instagram. Just the term itself lends a legitimacy to having people you don’t know, watching what you do! The App was launched in 2010, and was #1 in the App store 24 hours later.
Why do teens love it? Teens are an often infuriating mix of wanting to be different and craving to the be the same! They love to know what others think of what they like but they also like to push the boundaries. Instagram allows for both. They can put themselves out there by posting all sorts of pics and at the same time test for acceptance by seeing how many ‘Followers’ and ‘Likes’ they get. There is a sense of individuality and independence about Instagram. You choose the pics to share and hashtag (#)them so others interested in a topic can view them. For example if you take a cool pic of your cat you can load it on #cats. Currently there are 12 million pics of cats posted from around the world and you can add to this! There is the cool, artistic factor of using the filters to jazz up a pic, and turning your pic into a work of art. Then there is the ego boost teens get when their pics are ‘liked’ or ‘commented on’. They post lots of selfies, pics of their friends, and of images they feel encapsulate their public persona. Instagram is an App, so again it is easy to sign up to: just an email address will get you started and it is floats under parents’ radar. It’s interactive and socially connective – perfect for teens. It’s spontaneous – you can take a pic wherever you are an upload it in a few second for the world to see! Lastly, so far at least, there are no advertisements. This makes it feel less corporate and more edgy!
Why should parents be concerned?
I’d be worried about the type of pics that teens might post. Think too much skin. Has your teen set their account to Private meaning that only those ‘Following’ them can see their pics? Have they accepted Followers who they don’t know? There is quite a competitive edge to Instagram. I have seen teens post comments such as ‘Follow me, I am trying to get 1000 by Saturday’. Now these are not 1000 friends! There is also no way of knowing who a ‘Follower’ might be. I have seen Teen accounts being followed by hundreds of ‘gorgeous looking muscular 15 year olds’ and I had to wonder if they were really who they purported to be. The ‘Likes’ and Comment facility open themselves to nasty comments or the withholding of ‘Likes’ both could be used to cyberbully.
What can parents do?
Talk to your teens about being courteous and respectful on Instagram. Have they asked their friend if they can post that pic of them? Ask them to tell you and show you how it works, engage them in a conversation about what they think about it and why. Remind them of keeping their digital reputation tidy and clean. Has anyone they know done anything on it that they think is inappropriate. Talk about their privacy settings – they should ensure that only people they know can ’Follow’ them and that they are only ‘Following’ those they know. They should feel that they can report cyber bullying if they see it happen or step in and put a stop to it. Never assume a teen as thought of all the consequences – they usually haven’t.
Number 1 App today as promised and the rest to follow. This cute, innocuous little fellow is the symbol of Snapchat! Snapchat is an app that allows users to take pics and send them to others. You can do this on your phone without the app, so what is the difference? With Snapchat before you send the pic you set a timer which allows the receiver to view the pic for a set time, anywhere between 1 and 10 seconds. Once viewed the pic supposedly disappears.
Why do teens love it?
It is a fun little app and produces lots of laughs. There is a sense of mystery and ‘naughtiness’ as pics disappear as if by magic. Teens send lots of cheeky, crazy pics of themselves to each other! Snapchat captured the teen’s need to be just outside the boundaries with their slogan, ‘It ain’t Facebook’ just at a time when teens were feeling the squeeze with everyone and anyone getting on the Facebook train. It’s easy to get started, no more filling out forms to register, just an email address will get you started. And it has a creative edge. You are taking the pic and deciding who to send it to, and for how long. It gives you control but is safe from judgment because the pic vanishes right before your eyes. It’s interactive and socially connective – perfect for teens. It’s spontaneous and ‘a bit out there’ and Mums and Dads don’t do it! Lastly there are no advertisements. This makes it feel less corporate and more edgy!
Why should parents be concerned?
It is the type of pics that teens might send without thinking that can be a worry. Think sexting. It seems ideal doesn’t it. You can send those pics and with no regrets! But be warned there are ways around the ‘vanishing pic’ claim that the app is premised on. If you screenshot the pic immediately it arrives, you have a copy of the pic on your camera roll forever. If you take a pic of the shot with another phone you again capture the pic. You can save these pics, or send them on or post them on Instagram or Facebook. There is also no way of knowing who might be with the person at the time you are sending the snapchat. In other words who else might see it?
What can parents do?
Talk to your teens about the pitfalls. Take every opportunity that you can to engage them in a conversation about the possibilities and the consequences. Resist telling them what to do or how to do it. Teens switch off when parents lecture. Steer them towards information about Snapchat. Ask them about it, what they think about it, what they know about it. Talk about their privacy settings – they should ensure that only people they know can send them snapchats and they in turn should only send to those they know.Don’t be put off when they brush you off with, ‘It’s okay Mum, I know all about it.’ – unfortunately they usually don’t!
Tired of prying adult eyes scanning their Facebook pages, teens are turning more and more to Apps which they download to their phones or other mobile devices and then use them to communicate in private. Just as parents thought that they had mastered the foreign land of web based social media, such as Facebook, they have been undercut by this new software! If you think they are just texting when you see them on their phones you couldn’t be further from the truth!
The Top 5 Teen and Tween favoured Apps are Instagram, Kik Messenger, Snapchat, Ask.fm and Whisper. They allow, in order, pics to be stored, posted, shared and liked, free texting, magically vanishing pics, (or so they say!) anonymous questions to be asked and, answers to be given and rumour spreading! All within the privacy of a smart phone. Mum and Dad (or even Aunty) can no longer join up, be friends and keep an eye on things.
Over the next week I will write a post on each of the Top 5 Teen Apps. What teens love about each app, what they are using them for – the good and the bad, why you need to be aware of them and what you can do to keep your eye on things and keep the conversation open.
The war of words continued yesterday moving from the daughters to the mothers. After one Mum posted an Instagram message to her daughter from another 12 year old on her FB page, the other Mum took to FB also to vent her concerns. The Instagram message called Ms S’s 12 year old daughter, ‘a “b*tch” and said “I dont (sic) care if anyone tells her”.
As suggested by this site yesterday it is unwise to try and thrash these things out with other parents without a mediator such as a School. And never do it via social media! It just gets messy. In the heraldsun article, expert Michael Carr-Gregg, told parents to encourage children to ignore bullies, and block them from their social media sites, rather than to become directly involved. He warned that both taking direct action via social media and parental involvement could escalate bullying rather than solve it.
India might have a solution. A Global Youth Online Behaviour Survey released by Microsoft found that instances of children being harassed by cyber bullying are on the increase in countries like China, Singapore and India. Globally, India is third behind China and Singapore. In fact over half (53 per cent) of children in India have been bullied online. The Corporate world in India is taking its responsibility seriously and attacking the situation in a thought provoking way with its attitude that it is ‘better to be safe than sorry’. Many companies have put processes and policies in place, as have Schools, but in India they have gone one step further. For instance, one company uses software tools — boardreader and socialmention — to trawl the net, especially Forums and Discussion Boards and Social media sites, conducting random checks on #hashtags and/or words and phrases that could indicate that cyberbullying is taking place. This allows them to be proactive before things get worse.
Should parents and schools consider doing the same or is it an invasion of privacy?
The Herald Sun has reported that, ‘An Australian mum has named and shamed a 12-year-old cyber bully who has been tormenting her daughter. Anne-Marie Schmidt posted a screen shot on her Facebook page of the girl’s Instagram post, which incites other grade sixes to call her daughter Mackenzie a “b*tch”. The post from the girl reads: “Question – does anyone like Mackenzie? She’s being a b*tch to me, check my photo of all my friends… She commented on it. I HATE HER AND I DONT CARE IF ANYONE TELLS HER!!! HeHe” A number of other children – some of whom are mutual friends of the pair – replied and agreed. One even posted: “She is a b*tch alright”.’ Click on the link below to read more.
Nasty indeed! And while I understand the anger that a Mum can feel when her child is attacked there are at least three problems with her reaction. Firstly ,Mum probably has only one side of the story. I have been in the business of sorting out fights between girls for a long, long time and I know that there are always at least 2 sides to a story and often many more. None of our daughters are squeaky clean, no matter what you think! Secondly, posting a screen shot on Facebook is buying into the cyberbullying paradigm. Two wrongs don’t make a right however satisfying it feels. Thirdly, in posting the screenshot, the name of the girl who wrote the post has been displayed. This opens her up to ridicule (which Mum might feel she deserves) but she is a 12 year old child and needs education more than humiliation.
If it were during school time I would ask the school to help mediate this situation and I think most schools would willingly help parents with this predicament. I know I have been asked for help before. With school out, unless you are on good terms with the parents and can discuss the matter in an adult way, accepting that both girls have probably said and done the wrong thing, it is probably best to simply delete the app, remembering that Instagram is for over 13 year olds, and stop the conversation in its tracks.
I have found that where there is no audience there is usually no performance!
This tactic is similar to, the now old fashioned trend, of ’friending’ your child on Facebook. As tweens and teens leave Facebook in droves you can no longer keep a strategic eye on them from afar in the old way. So new approaches are needed! Kik and iMessage in particular are quite private and cannot be seen publicly. If you have Apple computers, ipods, ipads and or iphones, use the link below to sync your mobile device with your child’s mobile device whenever they download from the iTunes Store. If you have Android devices I am sure there are ways to sync them too – Google it!
The favourite teen means of communication are Kik and Instagram. Both are free but need to be downloaded via iTunes. Once syncing has taken place, you can, if you wish keep an eye on the conversations that are taking place.
I particularly endorse this for Tweens. Many, most unbeknownst to their parents, are on Kik. Many are as young as 8 or 9. These tweens are at the age where they need teaching the most. Many are too polite or too scared to reject unknown people who ask to join up with them on Kik. Some say inappropriate things on Kik to seem cool. Some share personal information, some post photos with location tagging or with information in them that locate the child, some will send pics to those who ask.
Perhaps, as you feel they develop maturity, you can scale back but in the meantime it is a great teaching tool and insurance that they are safe under your watchful eye.
What is Kik Messenger?? Is it safe? Do you know if you child is using it? Most parents don’t! Last week, a 14 year old, Year 8 girl, went missing from her home with a 17 year old boy she met through Kik Messenger. Yesterday she was found. The pair drove to Colac in Victoria where they camped out overnight. Kik Messenger is a social media app that is free and can be easily downloaded from the Itunes App Store. To put it simply, it is like texting on a phone but it is free and can be installed on a smart phone, or an ipod or ipad. Parents are often not aware that their tweens and teens are on it and, as it is a private messaging service its use can be hidden or go unnoticed. In itself, like most apps, there is nothing wrong with it however away from the scrutiny and guidance of Mum and Dad, tweens and teens can stray into worlds that are not safe.
This is precisely what Krystal seems to have done. Upset, stressed and angry, as reported in, the Sydney Morning Herald article, Krystal Muhieddine found safe, was scared, Krystal met this boy, went to the movies with him and decided the next week to disappear with him.
As teens move away from Facebook and into more private realms such as Kik and Instagram I challenge parents to be more and more involved in the conversation of where their children are and who they are communicating with!
Chloe was 15. Full of the vitality of life, with a beautiful family, including a gorgeous big sister. She was inundated via social media with nasty, petty, spiteful messages from teens who should know better and yet were either the perpetrators or stood by and watched as a hail of vitriolic and cruel comments were made about, and to her. Facebook, Kik MessengerInstagram and Ask.fm are all popular platforms amongst teens and all open to abuse. The final straw it seems, for Chloe, was a physical fight which was filmed and put on Youtube. Chloe decided to end her life rather than suffer this humiliation and indignity. Her sister is now fighting to ensure that a law is brought into all Australian states to make this sort of behaviour a crime. To read more: Tragic family’s crusade against bullying | The Mercury.
It hasn’t happened in Australia yet but it is only a matter of time. In the US police have arrested and charged a teen in Florida who sent hundreds of threatening text and computer messages to 3 other teen girls, telling one of them to commit suicide so she didn’t have to murder her. Over the course of eight days, police said, the girl sent hundreds of threats such as these: ‘You’re a pathetic piece of s—’…..nobody likes you…..I hate you so much….I hope to cut you b—-’ The girl used the messaging app Kik to send the texts.
After 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick killed herself last month, The Age reported that, ‘one of her tormenters continued to make comments about her online, even bragging about the bullying, a sheriff said on Tuesday. The especially callous remark hastened the arrest of a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl who were primarily responsible for bullying Rebecca, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. They were charged with stalking and released to their parents.
‘Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself but I don’t give a … and you can add the last word yourself.’
It was watching a Dad, with two under 7s and dog, cross a road glued to his phone that did it for me, but it could have been any number of other instances. I have been simmering ready to boil for some time over the current Invasion of the Phone crisis. Smart phones are enslaving us; we are under their spell and our obsessive compulsion to respond to them has led to, we the grown ups, not teens, allowing them to rule every aspect of our lives anywhere, any time, any place! On this particular occasion, I am driving. I see Dad begin to cross the road, head down, children laughing and depending on Dad to guide them – he is not there, buried instead in his email, or Instagram or whatever. I slow to a stop, Dad lifts his gaze for a millisecond, acknowledges me in a kind of vacant glazed way, and head goes down again. Kids cross the road, oblivious. My 12 year old, says witheringly, ‘And adults complain about our screen time!’
And she’s right! While this example may be an extreme, there do not seem to be any times, places or moments that are off limits. There are no agreed rules, no codes of etiquette, no accepted boundaries – it seems to me that it is pretty much open slather.
Is there anywhere we wouldn’t take out that phone!?
What about in a job interview, riding a bike, in church, at a funeral, on your honeymoon, at the theatre, in a meeting, at a dinner party, while someone is talking to you, in hospital, at a parent-teacher meeting, your child’s ballet concert, at breakfast with friends, watching your son play football, driving, in a lecture, in court, having a massage, at the movies, reading bedtime stories, on a run, hang gliding, skiing, giving birth? I could go on…..
Should we let this continue and possibly get worse? We complain about our teens’ screen obsession and yet we role model this very obsession. Can we stop it before it is too late?
I beg you to commit to make changes, – some I admit are radical - come band together, print these and stick them over the water cooler, the coffee machine, the staff room, on the fridge, in the boardroom and the bedroom……
The Ten Commandments for Good Mobile Phone Use
1. Thou shalt neither use a phone in the car, never, ever! Nor trick yourself into believing that it’s okay if it is hands free!
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee calls or take unto thee calls that interrupt a conversation
3. Thou shalt not take out your phone when you are eating or meeting with people
4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it wholly phone free
5. Honor thy son and thy daughter by living in the moment with them
6. Thou shalt not kill real life experiences by posting them as status updates on Facebook
7. Thou shalt commit to admiring sunsets and not posting them on Instagram
8. Thou shalt not steal life’s precious moments by answering email at the same time
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness when caught doing any of the above (if thou is, seek forgiveness)
10. Thou shalt not covet the latest iphone release date
I don’t know about you, but I always find it helpful to hear real life accounts from real life parents about their experiences keeping their children cybersafe. Below is the parent of a 12 year old, in response to the dangers of Kik Messenger. At least he has retained his sense of humour in the end! Please feel free to comment and add your own experiences.
‘I just found out that some grown man has been communicating with my 12 year old daughter. It hasn’t been going on long, but it’s clear that he was trying to build a progressive relationship. First it’s pretending to be concerned, calling her “baby” asking her to take pictures of her art or legs or “whatever else you want to”. I also saw some things about self cutting. Needless to say, I’ll be more involved in what/how she communicates in the future (that is if she ever gets the iPhone back.).’