The Howell household was not out of the ordinary. Santa delivered Mackenzie her very own television, and Nana and Papa collaborated with him to equip it with the new Apple TV. And because I allowed her to have these devices, I must be willing to monitor them. Especially when you consider the following:
- 1 in 4 teenage girls and 1 in 7 teenage boys have engaged in some kind of sexting. 86 % of tween and teen sexters are never caught. Cox Communications Teen Online and Wireless Safety Survey in Partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
- 73% of kids are exposed to pornography before 18 and 42% of kids first view pornography before age 13. 67% of internet users under the age of 18 admit to clearing their browser history to hide Internet use from their parents. Covenant Eyes, Protect Your Family Online E-book.
- Every year over 2,000 adults are arrested for Internet sex crimes against minors that involved social networking sites, such as Facebook. Journal of Adolescent Health
If you're like me these statistics surprise you, but you don't believe they would ever describe your child or your family. The truth is three-fourths of us reading this have children who have already been exposed to the world of internet pornography and over half of us have children who are erasing things on their phone or computer so we don't see them.
Even as I write this blog post, my cell phone just rang. It was my father calling, but he did not want to speak with me. He wanted to talk to Mackenzie. He got an Apple TV for my mom for Christmas too, and he wanted help setting it up. After all my preteen knows more about technology than me, my mom and my dad put together! But I'm learning!
While none of us may be as tech savvy as our kiddos, your children expect your loving protection too. And with the speed of technology changing faster than our thirty or forty something brains can process we have to stick together! Here are some things I think you may want to know...
A Word on Internet Usage
When you consider that 37% of internet sites contain pornographic material (Mark Ward, BBC News), you cannot afford not to have some type of internet filter. My family uses Covenant Eyes (www.covenanteyes.com). For just $14 a month we receive invaluable filtering and accountability software that helps protect our family, allows us to see where our kids go online and reduces internet temptations to protect our marriage.
Help with that New Apple TV
This article provided Lance and I with some helpful insight into setting up some Parental Controls on Mackenzie's new Apple TV. http://www.macworld.com/article/3000493/streaming-hardware/how-to-set-restrictions-on-the-new-apple-tv.html
A Little About Facebook
If your child is under 13 years old, he or she must lie about his age in order to get a Facebook account, which has an age restriction of 13 years and older. Nevertheless, according to Consumer Reports, 38% of Facebook users are under the age of 13.
If you do allow your child to have a social networking account, know their password and user id information. And please be their friend on Facebook! They should never post something they don't want you to see.
There are also some security settings on Facebook that can help protect your child. Visit this website if you would like to know more about how to set your child's Facebook privacy settings. http://personalweb.about.com/od/makefriendsonfacebook/a/faceteenprivacy.htm
A Tidbit on Apps
Most of the top apps downloaded by tweens and teens in 2015 are really not appropriate for their age at all! Here are seven popular apps that are restricted from our devices:
- Ask.fm - Their slogan is "be curious with your friends." Really, do I even need to go on? Users of this app can anonymously ask other users questions of any nature. Because of the anonymity behind the questions, most of them are very personal or controversial in nature.
- Down - Users of this app select Facebook friends who they find "sexy" and are told, "they won't know until they select you, too. Once we know you're both interested, we'll send a notification." Under no circumstances do I want my child to receive a notification designed to "get dates or get down."
- Fess - This app is known as "your high school's own confessions app." It's an anonymous user app, which usually spells trouble of the cyberbullying kind. Why else would it be anonymous?
- Omegle - Kids connect Omegle to their Facebook account to find chat partners with similar interests. When a tween or teen selects this feature, an Omegle Facebook App will receive their Facebook "likes" and match them with a stranger with similar likes. Can you say haven for sexual predators?!?
- Periscope - When a tween or teen hits record, anyone that uses this app can watch them live. The potential for posting or viewing inappropriate content is too high for me to take the risk with this one! (There are other similar apps to avoid called MeerKat and YouNow).
- Snapchat - Due to the popularity of this app, I imagine many of you will find it on some device your child owns. Did you know this is known among tweens and teens as "the sexting app?" This app allows kids to send photos and videos. The images theoretically disappear within seconds; however, a screenshot capture can be taken easily and the image can go viral quickly.
- Yik Yak - Yik Yak has made the news recently because of its anonymous cyberbullying capabilities and use. Users are able to chat anonymously with people in their geographic vicinity by enabling the GPS feature of this app. This was not the intention of the developers, but unfortunately middle-schoolers and high-schoolers have used it for this purpose.
A Few More Important Guidelines
Lance and I have a few additional rules that we are hoping will help Mackenzie navigate the good and avoid the bad & the ugly when it comes to technology.
- We set and keep her Apple ID password so that all downloads must be approved and completed by us.
- She is not allowed to FaceTime with her door closed.
- She is only allowed to search the Internet in our living room.
- She is not allowed to respond to texts from people she does not know.
- She is not allowed to use any electronic device after bedtime. If she ever violates this rule, the consequence will be that we will store all devices in our bedroom every night.
I trust my daughter, but I also love her too much to be ignorant, apathetic or lazy. I won't be left behind by the fast-moving train of technology! And I'm calling parents everywhere "All Aboard!"