These days, spending time with friends face-to-face still isn’t always an option for teens. So, finding a fun, new app can be a little like discovering your own private beach where you can chill out, connect with friends, and be thoroughly entertained. Keeping them safe on that digital beach? That’s where parents can make a difference.
With all the popular, increasingly sophisticated video apps available, it’s easy to understand why safety ends up being the last thing on our kids’ minds. I get it. My daughter and I recently sat for hours watching Tik Tok videos and laughing until we cried.
However, October is National Cybersecurity Month and the perfect time to hit pause and talk about how to stay safe on all the apps vying for our attention.
Popular Apps to Monitor
Triller. The Triller app is a video-based platform, much like Tik Tok, that has been around since 2015. Triller has a variety of filters, and music kids can use with the videos they create.
What to monitor: Triller’s content may not always be appropriate, and because viewers can leave comments on videos, there’s a risk of cyberbullying. Also, Triller has some privacy loopholes such as data collection, location tracking, and a public account default — all of which can be modified in Settings.
HouseParty is a group video chat platform nicknamed the “Quarantine App” since its popularity increased by an additional 10 million users during the COVID lockdown. Houseparty allows users to invite friends and “friends of friends” into group video-chat sessions — much like a party. The app displays up to eight live streams on the screen at a time, creating an instant sense of community.
What to monitor. Because the app allows “friends of friends” to livestream in a group, that unknown element opens the door to a number of safety issues. Encourage kids to deny join requests from unknown people. While some users leave rooms unlocked while live streaming their party, encourage your child to use the padlock function to limit conversations to people who know each other.
Yubo. The Yubo app (formerly Yellow) is also called the “Tinder for Teens.” Kids can connect and live stream with people they know — and easily connect with people they don’t. If two users swipe right, Yubo will match them, and they can share Snapchat or Instagram names. Another app very similar to Yubo is the Hoop app.
What to monitor. Content on Yubo can be explicit and cyberbullying can arise more often since fake accounts are common. Yubo’s swipe format promotes a appearance driven match standard may not be healthy for some teens.
Byte. Another app similar to Tik Tok, Byte, features short-form videos. Byte, created by the Founders of the now defunct Vine app, lacks the filters and music of other video apps, but that’s okay; the simplicity is a plus for Byte fans.
What to monitor: Be aware of inappropriate content, cyberbullying in comments, and unknown “friends” who may be part of your child’s Byte community. Online predators have been known to reach out to kids on this app. While unwanted followers can be blocked, surprisingly, Byte doesn’t give you the ability to make your account private.
App Safety Basics
Practice personal responsibility. The theme for Cybersecurity Month 2020 is Do Your Part #BeCyberSmart. With this in mind, discuss the responsibility that comes with owning technology, be it a smartphone, a game system, a smartwatch, or any other connected device. The goal, says The National Cyber Security Alliance,
“If you connect it, protect it.”
Privacy settings. To protect privacy and keep unknown people from connecting with minors, maximize privacy Settings on each new app.
Increase safeguards. Apps can be addictive and siphon family time, study time, and sleep. A comprehensive security solution can help parents limit device time, monitor activity, and block risky content and apps.
Share wisely. Even a 15-second video shared with “close friends only” can end up in the public stream. Advise your child to only share videos or photos they’d feel good sharing with the world.
Protect personal information. Remind your child not to share private details about themselves or their family members with anyone online. This includes emails, full names, phone numbers, pet names, school names, or location.
Block and report. Talk with your child about what you consider appropriate versus inappropriate content, how to block strangers, and how to report cyberbullying and scams.
Finally, keep talking with your kids — about everything. Ultimately, it will be your consistency in having honest, ongoing dialogue with your child that will be your most valuable tool in keeping them safe online.