February 2017
Youth Matters

4-H Extension Corner: Parents, be app savvy to keep your kids safe.

Pokémon Go is taking the world by storm. It has soared to the top of app charts as people engage in nostalgia for the original Pokémon games and play games in public.

In addition to Pokémon Go, teens are also online playing games, posting, commenting and sending images. While the internet can be a fun way to occupy time, there are some apps parents should be aware of to keep their children safe.

According to Dr. Adrienne Duke, an Alabama Extension specialist in Adolescent Development and assistant professor in Human Development and Family Studies at Auburn University, social media app gurus have found that Snapchat is one of the most popular apps for teens. Snapchat is a messaging app that lets users put a time limit on the picture and videos they send before the images disappear. It is popular because it’s a way to share moments through a video or picture without the risk of having them go public. Teens who send and receive Snapchats know they will disappear in seconds.

Unfortunately, Snapchats are data and data never truly disappears. The receiver can screen shot Snapchats and now there are apps to save Snapchat pics. Telling teens that data (pictures, video and text) can always be recovered will help them be more careful with what they post and send.

Another app called Vaulty will not only store photos and videos but will also snap a photo of anyone who tried to access the vault with the wrong password.

"Parents who find Vaulty on their teen’s phone can conclude there is something being hidden from them," Duke added.

Playing online games on the internet is an increasingly popular form of entertainment.

"While you may think youth are playing a game in isolation, many youth are gaming and chatting with friends and strangers online," Duke said. "It is important to remind youths not to give out personal information like their name, address, school they attend, phone number or social media names. Using initials in place of a name is always a better option. If youth are spending long hours playing games online, it would be ideal to get them to take a break and do something else to provide them with positive social interaction with others."

As teens go out with their friends this summer, Duke advises parents to discourage children from checking in through Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter or other apps that give others their exact location.

Even if your teens don’t use those apps, every phone has a geo tag option in the photo app. When teens take a picture and send it via text or post through Instagram, anyone can click and see exactly where the picture was taken. Turning the geo tag option off will protect your child so pictures and videos cannot be pinpointed through the phone’s GPS system by others.

Teens enjoy using apps and being connected through social media. Therefore, it is important for parents to be aware of ways to help teens stay safe as they enjoy staying connected with others.

 

Donna Reynolds is the communication editor of news and public affairs with ACES in Auburn.