Snapchat More Common Than Dating Apps Among Teens

It’s a well known fact that teens use the Internet for accessing content which is not appropriate for their age group. Computer screens and smartphones have become more like interactive televisions as web surfers focus their gaze to media which caters to any whim at any time. Traditional movies and television shows are usually labeled with maturity ratings and parents can quickly identify content which is not suitable for their children. But for children with Internet access, it is not always simple to determine which sites are appropriate and which ones should be considered ill-advised.

Many websites present terms of service which state that their services should only be accessed by certain age groups. The problem is that children become tech-savvy at an early age and figure out ways to bypass terms of service to join online groups meant for adults only. There are thousands of dating websites, online applications and social media services which restrict access based on age, but it is difficult for the websites to determine the actual age of any particular visitor. This leaves parents to wonder if their children are accessing sites illegitimately and what kinds of tendencies they have while interacting with others.

A scary thought for parents is that their children might join an adult dating site or download applications to their phones which could jeopardize their safety. Many applications are able to access and share location data from a smartphone’s GPS. Some applications are designed so that messages and other media are kept secret, concealing activity which the parent would not knowingly allow. According to a recent survey titled State of Technology: Class of 2015, parents need not worry about their children accessing adult dating sites, but should be more focused on the social media and messaging apps which their children use.

10,000 college-bound high school graduates of 2015 were asked questions about their use of technology. Three-quarters of the teens polled have watched movies and shows through conventional cable or Netflix, while a whopping 95% have watched videos on YouTube throughout their high school tenure. Content can be posted on YouTube from almost any source and there are many instructional videos that give almost a hands-on experience for their viewers. The fact that more teens have watched videos on YouTube than they have watched higher-cost productions is evidence of a growing trend of using Internet services more in their everyday life.

Teenage Internet activity still indicates that popular social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are widely used among teens to share their latest antics or emotions. This is comforting for parents because the activities which their teens engage in via social media can be reviewed as they are shared and parents can take note of their children’s public presentations. What concerns parents are the different off-shoots of social media which allow for secret or private messaging with unknown individuals.

With the conception of the smartphone, hundreds of dating apps have sprung up which allow users to post their pictures along with descriptions and a general location of where they would like to meet others. These online apps have become digital playgrounds for those seeking to hook-up with strangers without needing to leave the house to meet them. Teens may be naively lured into using these apps when there are rating systems which provide feedback about an individual’s attractiveness. These apps have been known to present dangers as users will post false information with hopes of tricking others into meeting them. Fortunately for parents, studies have shown that most teens shy away from these types of websites and applications in lieu of conversing with people they already know in real life.

Roughly 1 out of 10 teens has used the Internet to connect with strangers online, while over three-quarters of those surveyed admitted to using top secret messaging apps such as Snapchat, which will erase pictures and messages once the recipient has reviewed them. Self destructing messaging apps have been known to cause problems with teens as the service is found to have vulnerabilities or messages are sometimes duplicated through devious means. Self-destructive or secretive messaging apps are also known portals for cyberbullying. Teenagers can be especially susceptible to cyberbullying attacks, and when done in secret, they are less likely to reach out for help when they are in need.

Parents who provide their children with smartphones and tablets should remain proactive in understanding how their children are using the devices. Often, children will install applications with names that do not readily identify what types of behavior they are facilitating. Sometimes applications are installed with good intentions but there are unforeseen risks associated with allowing a child to use the application. By talking with their children about how smartphones and tablets are being used, parents can establish a set of guidelines and provide supervision for their teens as they use advanced technology and web services.

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