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The last decade has seen a boom in social media. We’ve seen the rise and fall of once-popular apps like Vine. We watched Google Plus shudder after it was projected to rival Facebook. We’ve seen Facebook reinvent its messaging feature as its own app and gobble up potential rivals by acquiring Instagram and WhatsApp. We’ve even watched Twitter echo chambers influence an entire presidential campaign. In the early 2000s, many of us balked at the idea of using Facebook well into our 30s. But the 2010s proved that even with scandal and headlines about predators, social media isn’t going anywhere.
While Facebook remains the juggernaut of social media, there are several other apps that parents need to look out for in the coming decade.
The Pervasiveness of Social Media Use
Social Media companies can sometimes lull people into a false sense of security. With push notifications and emails containing buzzwords like “privacy settings update”, it can be easy for the young and old, alike, to feel secure on social media. App developers continue to find new ways for society’s digital immersion. Unfortunately, this means the avenues in which predators gain access to your children continue to grow and evolve.
These days, kids are getting internet-ready mobile devices at earlier ages. Consequently, as we move further into the Information Age, kids are spending more time on mobile devices than ever before. In fact, a report from Common Sense Media found that kids younger than eight consume 35% of their media on mobile devices. Many people recognize the benefits of children being tech-savvy at younger ages. But the Internet is still a web of unknowns.
Social media is one of the more pervasive forms of media that teens are using. Studies show that 95% of teens are online and 80% of those teens belong to at least one social media website.
What apps will kids be using in 2020?
No matter what kind of device you use, there are thousands of apps within the app stores. As a result, young people are no longer limited to the social media staples on their parents’ phones like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
VSCO — “sksksksk”, “and I oop.”
If you’ve got young daughters, you may be aware of the “VSCO girl”. However, what you may not be aware of is that the VSCO girl name comes from a photo-editing app called, well, VSCO. In 2019, young people flocked to VSCO looking for an alternative photosharing app to Instagram. The VSCO app has turned basic social media interaction on its head. Within VSCO, users cannot like or comment on posts and follower metrics are not public. Instead, users are privately notified if a photo is favorited or shares an image to a ‘Collection.’
What is the downside of the VSCO app?
The VSCO app does allow direct messaging, which allows users to text and share image links with other users. All profiles are public and all location information is included on all content uploaded to the platform.
Vero — True Social
Vero bills itself as the app that’s free from advertisements, data mining and algorithms. Like the motivation for most new apps today, the app was launched as an alternative to Facebook and Instagram. Vero grew in popularity in March 2018 after the Facebook Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal. The cosplay community was the first to adopt Vero and it quickly spread to other creative communities. Vero doesn’t rely on algorithms to show what you may be interested in. Instead, the app relies on users to make recommendations to their friends. Users can break their friends into four categories:
- Close Friends
Anyone listed as a follower cannot send a direct message to an account that they follow. Only connections can send DMs to each on Vero.
What is the downside of Vero?
To sign up for a Vero account, users have to input their phone numbers. Additionally, no one is sure what the app does with your phone number and other information it collects. Finally, the app was made the intention of becoming subscription-based in the future.
Steemit pays users in bitcoin for creating good content, as well as those who curate good content. Anytime a post is upvoted, users get their share of daily rewards pool of cryptocurrency. Currently, the app boasts more than one million users and is one of the most-visited websites in the world. At its core, Steemit functions much like Reddit. However, it differentiates itself by paying its users. Steemit uses a blockchain for content. For example, if you want to share an image, you’ll need to use a third-party hosting site like Imgur.
What is the downside of Steemit?
Steemit requires users to sign up using their email and phone number for what it says is to verify that you are a real person. Otherwise, the site charges a fee to set up an account. Additionally, Steemit accounts can not be deactivated or deleted. All activity on the site is permanent. The social media site also has no official rules, which can make a toxic online community.
If your child is into Fortnite, Caffeine is an app that you need to watch in 2020. Sign up for Caffeine is simple, just input your email, pick a username and password, and you’re good to browse the site. Once on the site, users can create a profile and add a description of yourself. The app allows users to live stream and watch live stream videos for gamers, entertainers and athletes. Caffeine leverages itself through its proximity to celebrities. The app was founded by a former designer for Apple and its sleek website is proof of that.
What is the downside of Caffeine?
For parents, the downside of Caffeine is the downside to any live stream: it shows your children in real-time.
The Rise of TikTok and what it means for your kids
The death of Vine in 2016 left a vacuum for short-form mobile videos. We cannot talk about new apps to look out for in 2020 and not mention TikTok. Once called Musical.ly, the app has quickly risen to the top of app store downloads. Between 2010 and 2019, TikTok was the 7th most downloaded app of the decade. It has become especially popular among young kids. The app allows users to create mash-up songs, lip-synching and watch videos made by other users. In essence, kids can create short, fun videos and share them with the world. The app allows you to connect with friends and admirers through likes, comments and duets.
TikTok is mostly harmless. However, as with everything on the internet, parents need to remain cautious. TikTok’s most prominent videos are of young people lip-synching in videos. Many of the videos are young people singing and dancing to their favorite songs. Unfortunately, these performances aren’t just watched by peers. Often, these teens will receive explicit messages from older men who lurk on the app and sexualize their performances. TikTok’s algorithm allows online predators to continuously find young targets.
How does TikTok work?
TikTok requires that your child be at least 13 years old before they sign up for the app. However, you can also use the app to watch videos that others have uploaded. In order to create content and interact with others, you have to create an account.
If your child is old enough to sign up for an account, they can do so through using their Facebook login, email or other social media accounts. TikTok will not allow users younger than 13 to create an account. Entering their birthdate is the only age verification process that TikTok has in place.
How can I keep my kids safe on TikTok?
Like its predecessor, Musical.ly, TikTok is aimed at kids younger than 16. In fact, the under 16 crowd is TikTok’s biggest audience. If you’re OK with your child having a TikTok account, consider the following safety tips:
Set your child’s account to private. A private account will prevent users from seeing your child’s videos unless they are an approved follower. To set a TikTok account to private:
- Go to your child’s profile page.
- Click the three dots in the top-right corner and select Privacy and Settings.
- Select the privacy and safety option.
- Toggle ‘Private Account’ to on.
Manage who can direct message your child. Direct messaging provides the kind of privacy for predatory behavior to take place on the internet. Setting controls about who can send your child messages is the first line of defense in keeping your child safe.
- Go to privacy and safety settings.
- Tap Who Can Send Messages to Me.
- Choose accordingly.
Manage comments. TikTok allows creators to manage comments on a global level. To restrict settings on who can send comments:
- Go to Privacy and Safety.
- Tap ‘Who Can Send Me Comments’.
- Select between: everyone, friends (mutual followers) or OFF.
Prevent duets. To keep people from creating duet videos with your child:
- Go to privacy and safety settings.
- Tap who can duet with me.
- Select between: everyone, friends (mutual followers), or OFF
Finally, if someone finds a way around your parental controls on TikTok, you can also block users. To do so, go to the offender’s profile, tap the three dots in the top-right corner and select block this user. You can also report users from the same menu.
Parental Blind Spots on Social Media
One obstacle for many parents is that the Internet and social media have many blind spots. New trends and challenges pop into your child’s newsfeeds and timelines every day. Often, parents become aware of dangerous social media challenges when driving their kids to the emergency room. Most young people are impulsive and don’t always understand the huge consequences their choices may carry.
In addition to dangerous challenges, parents must talk to their children about internet predators. In the summer of 2017, a Facebook post of a father warning other parents about a predator asking his seven-year-old daughter for nudes spread like wildfire across the social media platform. The parents believed that the app would serve as a way for their child to communicate with cousins or other friends. However, the app’s default setting is an open platform. The open platform allows for users all over the world to see videos posted by anyone. Thankfully, the young girl in this story was brave enough to tell her parents about the predatory user at the other end of her internet connection.
The age requirement for Musical.Ly is 13. However, many parents miss or ignore the age restrictions of social media. Predators can easily access your kids simply by sending a message to that device you got your child as a birthday present. Because of this, it is important for parents to remain vigilant.
Challenges of Parenting Teens in the Information Age
Unfortunately, meeting a social media age requirement doesn’t mean that they have aged out of danger. The teen years present a unique set of social media challenges for parents. As little ones grow, parents and guardians have to walk a delicate balance. We often have to choose between protecting our children while also respecting their growing need for privacy. Between the rise of cyberbullying and human traffickers using social media to contact teenagers, internet dangers presented to vulnerable teens are endless.
Traffickers were once limited to luring victims off the street. But now, they can access thousands of teens using apps like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Another source of teens is the rise of messaging apps like Snapchat where messages disappear. Additionally, traffickers can sometimes target their young victims on gaming consoles.
Most people use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family all over the world. Sadly, the app is also a favorite of human traffickers. Young girls with difficult lives, like those in foster care, are particularly vulnerable to being sold in the sex trade. Girls looking for love online or dating a person they met online are also at-risk for being trafficked. Social media has become an entry point for traffickers to manipulate teens into a forced labor situation.
Parents also need to realize that the schemes don’t end at emotional manipulation. Victims are tricked into meeting up with their predators with the promise of modeling jobs or other financially lucrative promises. The United Nations International Labour Organization estimates that nearly 21 million people are victims of human trafficking—a $150 billion industry that makes most of its money online. As more teens aspiring to become public figures use social media platforms like Instagram to book gigs, it’s easy for online predators to lure their victims in with the promise of large sums of money.
How The Carlson Law Firm Can Help
At The Carlson Law Firm, we represent victims of sex trafficking. If you or someone you love was lured into forced labor, our firm can help you hold the people who did this to you accountable. You have the right to civil remedies for the pain caused to you. Contact The Carlson Law Firm today for a free consultation. We are available 24/7 and ready to help you.