Kids and Online Dangers

middle school female student using the internet

Keep Your Kids Safe in the Digital Age: Safeguarding App Use

The internet offers advantages for critical learning and skills development opportunities. As society advances, computer and internet skills are essential for success. As adults, friends, parents, relatives, or even older siblings, we must help teach children how to navigate and use the internet appropriately. Just as teaching a child how to cook is an important life lesson to prevent a child from danger, our role is to teach them how to safely and responsibly utilize the internet and associated applications.

Today, computers can be found everywhere, from the home to the classroom and even in your hand. As children increasingly access the internet on laptops or mobile devices, many dangerous applications become available at children’s fingertips. Continue reading below to learn what makes an app dangerous, the three most dangerous types of apps, and some tips to protect your child.

student at computer
young person on the internet

What Makes an App Dangerous?

The Google Play Store and the Apple Apps Stores host millions of apps. Every day, the range of apps and websites available to children, tweens, and teens constantly evolves. While many provide an enjoyable and harmless experience, many create risky situations. Are you able to spot an app that could potentially harm your child? Additionally, what about an application makes it harmful?

When discussing or researching harmful apps, it is easy to learn about applications that contain viruses, worms, or malware that could steal your personal information. While this is massively concerning, apps open the possibility of unwanted communication with strangers while introducing your child to content and characters best avoided. The three constant concerns individuals encounter with apps are:

1. Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is a form of online bullying that has become increasingly common among tweens and teens. In cyberbullying, individuals send, post, or share harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. Additionally, cyberbullying can quickly progress into or may even have begun as bullying IRL (in real life). Many children may not tell their parents when they are bullied or cyberbullied as they suffer from shame or embarrassment. This is why it is essential to have open communication with your child, and if you discover your child is suffering from being bullied or cyberbullied, take immediate action.
Under Florida law, cyberbullying is strictly prohibited, and many schools have Anti-Bullying policies. Further, cyberbullying can grow into cyberstalking. Cyberstalking is defined as a pattern of electronic communication that is willfully malicious and classified as repeated harassment. Cyberstalking charges can lead to a misdemeanor conviction; however, if the victim is under the age of 16, the offense becomes a third-degree felony.

2. Identity Theft
Online activity and the dangerous sharing of personal information can easily lead to others intruding on someone’s privacy and, in worse situations, identity theft. Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information to commit fraud or other crimes. Children are vulnerable targets for identity theft as they have no credit reports and are blank slates for fraudsters.

3. Adult/harmful content
One of the most dangerous threats parents are concerned about is their children coming across harmful content and online predators. This is a valid concern, as many apps do not have sufficient restrictions to prevent your child from receiving anonymous messages or content that could lead to violent or inappropriate activity.

3 Most Dangerous Types of Apps

1. Social Media Apps
Social Media apps are among some of the most popular applications that your child probably frequents. Many apps can fall under the category of social media apps. Social media apps are classified as web applications designed for social interaction and include sharing messages, photos, and other interactive content. As an example of a social media application, Instagram allows for open connection with anyone, which raises various potential dangers. Recent studies revealed in the 2021 Meta leak revealed that Instagram greatly affects youth, especially girls between the ages of 12-18, as it presents an unrealistic body image.

Other examples of dangerous social media apps are Facebook, Reddit, and YikYak.

2. Chat & Video Chat Apps
Chat and Video Chat apps create a location that allows children to connect with others with similar interests. These apps make it easier, simpler, and faster to connect with everyone, and the design is easy to use. For example, Discord is a voice, video, and text chat app created for ages 13 and up to hang out with fan communities and friends. However, the main purpose of the app is to connect with strangers. It is easy for children to come across inappropriate content, like graphic language and images. Further, the platform makes it easy to share private information, which can make your child a target for various online predators.

Other examples of chat and video chat apps are Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Whisper.

3. Streaming Apps
When users think of streaming apps, applications like Netflix or Disney+ pop into their minds; however, various other streaming apps allow users to upload videos or live-stream content for others to view. One of the most popular streaming apps is YouTube. On this application, users can create and upload videos. However, this poses a risk of children viewing inappropriate content as a loose content guideline, and lack of screening prior to publication occurs often.

Other examples of steaming apps include TikTok, Twitch, and Live.Me.

Tips For Protecting Your Children Online

In order to use apps safely, we have a double responsibility. There must be a cooperative effort between children and their parents. To ensure that your children are safe online, we have outlined three tips below.

1. Remain Educated
Children need to be protected, and parents can do this by first educating themselves about the different sites that their child visit and by ensuring they have a reliable solution that protects their children from being harmed. Additionally, parents and children can work together to learn and understand the different types of dangers that the various applications pose.

2. Control Family Digital Footprint
Your digital footprint refers to one’s unique set of traceable digital activities, actions, and communications that occurs on various digital devices. This can include your search history, text messages, likes, loves, and comments on various accounts and platforms. Controlling your and your family’s digital footprint requires everyone to be aware of what they share and to realize that things placed online is permanent. Encourage selectivity, as well as the use of privacy settings and parental control apps.

3. Talk About Online Activity
The last but most important tip is to talk to your child. Creating an open dialogue about what your child does online or in apps is extremely important to their protection. Talk to them about what they post, what they read or watch, and who they talk to. Additionally, you must listen to your child and reach an understanding of what is right for you and your family.

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