• Social Media Dangers for Teens – and How to Prevent Them

    by  • November 27, 2017 • Internet Safety • 0 Comments

    Young Girls Operating Cell Phones with a Young Boy (10-14) Standing Behind Them

    A recent experiment shows the potential dangers of Snapchat.

    In a recent social media experiment by video blogger Coby Persin, a 14-year-old girl named Sasha was lured into a face-to-face meeting with an adult man via the social media platform Snapchat. In fact, the adult was Coby himself; the YouTube celebrity teamed up with mSpy, makers of parental control apps, to show in detail how online predators operate.

    Sasha, along with 12-year-old Daniel and 13-year-old Samantha, fell for the setup of strangers who create false identity profiles. Each teen agreed to meet up in person with a total stranger after only three days of communication on Snapchat. In this case, the false identites were created only for this experiment, and the children were actually safe; but the experiment demonstrates how easy it is to create fake identites and lure innocent children into meetings where they could be harmed.

    Here is a video presentation of the experiment. This video is a must-watch for parents whose children are active on social media:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fg-LhgZLB8M

    Both girls and young boy Daniel were easily lured into meeting the stranger. Daniel even brought a bottle of wine to the meeting. After the experiment, Daniel’s mother was furious at Daniel and upset at herself, wondering “Where did I go wrong as a parent?”

    How can parents be more aware of their childrens’ social media activities? The mSpy parental control software made the entire conversation on Snapchat visible to parents. This way, parents can see the entire luring process from the inside. Simply warning or talking to children does not always work, and some parents need the more practical approach which is parental control software use.

    In 2016, Snapchat entered the “Dirty Dozen” list of the 12 leading facilitators of sexual exploitation, according to The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (TNCOSE). Also, Snapchat is considered the most-used app for sexting. It ranked as the 4th most-used social media  by preteens and teens after Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Thus, paying attention to this particular app is a must for parents.

    Unfortunately, besides online predators, there are other pitfalls of the internet, such as sexting, cyberbullying, adult content, unauthorized in-app purchases, personal information exposure, etc. Here is an overview:

    Sexting

    Australia, the USA, and the UK have all passed laws putting sexters or their parents in jail. Why? Because sexting (spreading sexually explicit or pornographic material) are now considered sex crimes, and participants as sex offenders. Thus, sharing a  video with naked or half-naked body parts on Snapchat ,which disappears seconds later, can be deemed sexting.

    Cyberbullying

    Amanda Todd killed herself after months of online bullying. This taught the whole world that cyberbullying exists and causes suicides. Cyberbullying is not usually a direct offense; more often, is is unwanted pranking, teasing, and mocking. Many kids often do not see the line between jokes and bullying – until they become the target. There are also anonymous messaging apps which contribute to cyberbullying because they allow to post anonymous comments without filtering.

    Adult content

    This kind of content is much closer than parents think. The porn industry is targeting at mainstreaming media. Thus, “30% web content is porn”, said Sebastian Anthony, internet expert at Extreme Tech. Online, kids can see adult ads even while watching a cartoon.

    Unauthorized in-app purchases

    Back in 2014, Apple refunded $32.5 million for unauthorized online shopping by children. Amazon refunds up to $70M  for children’ unauthorized in-app purchases. There are in-built parental controls restricting shopping options. However, many parents do not use them.

    Personal information exposure

    Surveys have found that 93% of teens use their real names online; 21% post their phone numbers. Also, kids have become easily reachable when they turn on the “live location sharing” feature on social media apps. Thus, on Snapchat other people can see the exact whereabouts of a child, if that child has chosen to share their location with their friends. This is also true of other applications, such as WhatsApp.

    As a parent, you can prevent online dangers and turn the Internet into a safe space for entertainment and education. Teach your child the basics of e-safety, set up rules about screen time and the Internet use, and be a role model for your child. This complex approach will help prevent the Internet risks.

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    About

    Ava Sage is an internet technology coach for children and consultant on e-safety matters. She works in Chicago. Comments can be emailed to: aavaa.sage@gmail.com.

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