Digital Parenting: Understanding the Risk of Snapchat

Snapchat started as a college course project, but has grown exponentially in the last year. Now available, for free, through app stores, the application allows people to send and receive pictures and videos directly to their phone.

The "Snap" is only available for a set period of time (about 10 seconds), then it is deleted from the phone and the server. Snapchat seems like a fun enough venture, but for those trying to parent in the digital age, it can be problematic. 

Potential for Sexting

Because Snapchat only keeps photos for 10 seconds or less, parents have no way of really knowing what content their child is swapping. For many years, Snapchat has been dubbed the "sexting app". Although not every person using Snapchat is sexting away, the app didn't get their nickname for no reason.

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Why Sexting Through Apps Will Never Go Away

Smartphones are amazing devices which have opened up so many opportunities for people ages three to 100, unfortunately they have also brought their own challenges. One such challenge is the issue of teens and tweens sexting through apps

We would like to think this is a phase, but the safe bet is that this type of behavior will never disappear. The good news is that there are ways to inform your kids about the dangers of sexting and hopefully they will make the smart decision to abstain from such actions. 

First of all, it is important to understand that sexting will always continue to be a smartphone risk, and waging a war on it will just be a waste of time and resources. When a child receives a smartphone they are given more power than they know what to do with and unfortunately teenagers can be very persuasive (especially when hormones are involved).

While there are surely measures parents can take to keep track of what their kids are texting, sexting can occur through so many devices and apps that it's difficult to monitor. A mixture between raging hormones, at-hand technology, and the perception that this behavior is cool guarantees that sexting will remain as common place in our society as make out spots were in the 1950s.

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6 Seconds of Life-Altering Video: What You Need to Know About Vine

Though innovative media platforms bring new ways for kids to express themselves and share their lives with their friends, they also bring exposure, attract bad influences, and introduce brand new ways to have unwise youthful decisions preserved on the Internet. Parents should keep a particular eye out for their tween or teen's participation on Vine, a video service purchased by Twitter in 2012.

For the uninitiated, Vine is an app allows users to create and share six-second, silent looping video clips on Vine or to Twitter or Facebook. According to Wired magazine, it's one of the top apps in the iOS download ratings, even after the introduction of video for Instagram. It's popular because of its informal, unfiltered, uncensored culture, and is uniquely positioned in the marketplace because of its popularity among young people. As tech journalist Mat Honan writes:

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Teen Video Sexting, What is it?

Sexting used to mean sending nude or racy pictures to someone else's cell phone, but today's teens are upping the stakes with a new kind of sexting. Sexting is evolving from pictures to video – and video sexting can be twice as dangerous and twice as risky.

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Dangers of Online Pornography for Kids, Tweens, and Teens

kids on computerLike most families today, our family sees the Internet is an indispensable part of life as we know it. Letters written laboriously with a pen or pencil? Looking up phone numbers in a 3-inch thick Yellow Pages? Opening up a bound encyclopedia for information? Honestly, I couldn’t imagine going a day without the Internet.

Even with all its charm and convenience, I have to say that seeing my oldest child reach the age where she’s starting to get online makes me more than a little apprehensive.

As a parent, I try to shield her from things that could be dangerous for her, and right now I have complete control over what comes into my home. But when she starts using the Internet, I know that there are lots of sexually explicit or violent images that she could potentially be exposed to.

The boundary between kids and online pornography is dangerously transparent. And it doesn’t just affect kids who are actively seeking out graphic material online. According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, 25% of children have had unwanted exposure to sexual pictures in the last year.

Kids with their own email accounts, particularly free ones like Hotmail and Yahoo, inevitably get lots of spam ads for penis enlargement and “lonely girls who want to chat with you” delivered right to their inboxes.

Or they could be doing their homework and be exposed to graphic images online by accident. Try it yourself – type a female celebrity’s name into Google and click the “images” link on the upper righthand corner. The odds are pretty good that at least one suggestive or inappropriate image will come up – or more, depending on the celebrity. And Google images does not censor its pictures. Full-frontal nudity and graphic acts show up in image searches, regardless of the age of the child at the computer screen.

To compound the problem, Internet pornography is often much worse than the magazines kids a few decades ago might have passed around at school. Ernie Allen, CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, explains that online porn “is not your father’s pornography. It is graphic, it is explicit, it is deviant. It is aberrant. Kids are seeing content that no 12 or 13 year old is mentally, psychologically, or emotionally prepared to deal with.”

If you’re like me, at this point you’re wondering if just shutting off the Internet altogether isn’t such a crazy idea, after all. But it’s not feasible in the long run, and it’s failing to address the real problem. Even if kids aren’t exposed to online pornography in your own home, they could accidentally see it in a friend’s house or even at the computers in the school library. Teach them how to react when it happens: close the browser window and tell you that they’ve seen an explicit image online.

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We are pleased to announce that Bark will be taking over where we leave off. The uKnowKids mission to protect digital kids will live on with Bark. Our team will be working closely with Bark’s team in the future, so that we can continue making the digital world a safer, better place for kids and their families. While we are disappointed we could not complete this mission independently, we are also pleased to hand the uKnowKids baton to Bark.
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