Do you know what your kids are doing on their smartphones?
There are a whole slew of new apps that parents need to be aware of. These are beyond the usual Facebook and Twitter things. Instagram is the latest one that you need to know about.
This photo-sharing site poses one particular danger: With GPS technology, the user can pinpoint where they're taking a picture on a map. That's not good news because predators and stalkers can easily locate your kids.
Fortunately, the default setting is that pictures are not tagged with location without your explicit permission.
From the Instagram site: "When you take a photo while connected via Wi-Fi or 3G, your device logs the coordinates where the photo was taken. Utilizing that information, you now have the ability to add that photo to a Photo Map! It's an easy way to add context to photos, document travels, and see pictures other Instagrammers have taken nearby."
"By default, adding location, or adding to your Photo Map, is turned off for all photos you upload to Instagram. This means that no photos will appear on your Photo Map without your explicit permission."
So the takeaway here is just be sure this featured is not enabled on your kids' phones.
While you may have heard of Instagram, but have you heard of SnapChat?
SnapChat is among the Top 10 most popular apps available for the iPhone. It lets you send text, photo, or video that supposedly self-destructs within 10 seconds of being opened. That makes it possible for teens to send inappropriate content to other teens and think it's going to vanish. But a simple screen capture preserves it for posterity, providing great embarrassment down the road and maybe even a rejection letter from a desired college.
Kik Messenger, meanwhile, allows unlimited texting with anonymity.
Any of these things can be perfectly innocent. Unfortunately, teens don't always have the best judgment. You as a parent can't hide from this. You need to be a coach, an intrusive coach, in the life of your kids.
Some parents pretend it's not happening with their kids. Others don't allow their kids to have phones. But most parents are somewhere in between. Make sure you know what's going on if your kid has access to a media device. Download these apps and play with them yourself so you can figure out how to steer your kids.