Do You Know What Your Kids Are Downloading?

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by Detective Aaron Yarnell, Knox County Sheriff’s Office

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Snap Chat me, shoot me an I.M., don’t forget it’s #tbt (Throw back Thursday) and get your guy picked out for #MCM (man crush Monday).  If these phrases are unfamiliar to you, then this article you are reading now should spark an interest in getting involved with the digital lives your children are living. The digital life I refer to is social media. 

#Hashtags, @references, and text messaging are all examples of digital terminology your children are using just as common as us old school communicators may say “Cool” or “Awesome.”  Social media is not a fad.  Social media is a change in the way we communicate. Do we want our children communicating in a language we don’t understand?

The growth of social media can be directly related back to technology, with mobile devices becoming more common.  The money generated from social media is another motivator. So, let’s start with the first reason social media has become such an integral part of our lives.  Kids are being introduced to technology at such a young age, that over half of middle school kids have some kind of cellular device. How do you blame parents for that? A way to help your child reach out to you in case there is a need?  For less than it would cost for a new outfit, you can purchase a cell phone for safety purposes for your child.  But, remember, safety works in different ways.  It’s nice to have a method of reaching your children any time you need, but don’t neglect to protect them from predators who are using social media in your communities as a way to find children.

There will be times when kids will make mistakes and download apps or visit websites you will be unsure of. I encourage you to follow my blog at www.socialsafetypatrol.com where I review popular social media sites and applications your children are being exposed to.

The second reason for the massive growth is money in advertisements. Pinterest alone generates over 40 percent of social media purchases online, and half of the people reading this article don’t even use Pinterest.  Imagine the money generated by more popular social media sites!  These kinds of numbers explain why there are over 800 social media apps alone on the Apple market, each one trying to be the next Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. This is not mentioning the data texting apps, such as Kik, or the photo sharing social media apps, such as Snap Chat or Instagram.  In recent news, Snap Chat turned down a nearly 4 billion dollar Facebook buy out.  How much money might owners think their companies are going to be worth to turn down 4 billion dollars?

A lot.

Social media can be a fun way to keep in touch with friends and family, but bad guys are there, too, just like in “real life.”  I enjoy social media and what it can offer if used responsibly.  The most concerning problem for parents is not knowing what their own children are doing online with social media today.

We have to first accept that there is a generation gap between us, our children and technology. Accept the fact that you are going to have to put a strong effort into educating yourself about social media.  If you are going to allow your child to be online, understand what they are doing and the dangers behind it.  I encourage parents to set up social media sites on themselves to be able to have access to their accounts at anytime.  Also, set some ground rules: be the first friend to get an invite from them, and show them the dangers of the social media site you are allowing them to use.  Most young teens will want to start with an Instagram account and possibly a data text messaging app such as Kik.  Be able to communicate with them about the sites they are visiting and what the potential dangers might be. You want them to come home from school and ask you about a free app they heard about, or a website they were made aware of.  Once you do your own research, then determine if the app is appropriate or not for your child to use.  We do not want our children relying on other children to explain social media apps.

Once you have decided which social media sites you are going to allow your child to use, don’t take for granted that your child will understand it completely. Monitor your child’s posts daily, and make sure they understand that anything they post or send out can never be deleted. We have to be responsible for our children until they are old enough to be responsible for themselves.

There will be times when kids will make mistakes and download apps or visit websites you will be unsure of. I encourage you to follow my blog at www.socialsafetypatrol.com where I review popular social media sites and applications your children are being exposed to. Never forget that education is the key to safety for your children on the Internet.

Detective Aaron Yarnell works with the Major Crimes and Family Crisis unit of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. In addition, Aaron instructs local citizens on the growing social media world along with the technology that follows it. His SMART Initiative helps educate parents on keeping children safe in a growing social media and technology filled world. Aaron also maintains SocialSafetyPatrol.com, a blog that rates social media apps. Detective Yarnell has been with KCSO since May 1995.

One comment on “Do You Know What Your Kids Are Downloading?

  1. Ambler Brown says:

    This is an excellent article to help parents understand better the trials and tribulations of raising a teenager in the ever changing world of social media and the internet. I commend Det. Sgt. Aaron Yarnell for his insight and guidance along with Knoxville Parent Magazine for making this available.

    This article dovetails very well with training I provide called Stewards of Children, geared toward helping adults recognize and prevent child sexual abuse. My next session is open to the public at South College on March 25 from 6:30-8:30 PM. There is no cost to attend but reservations are required. Contact me: abrown@tncac.org for more information or to RSVP.

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