Parental Controls: Discussing online safety through parental apps, monitoring

Through all of the tweets, snaps and posts, when is a good time to connect with your teen on online behavior?

Posted: Dec. 19, 2017 9:55 PM
Updated: Dec. 19, 2017 10:35 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, four simple apps that have made a great impact on today's society.

"How many times do we take one picture to get that Snapchat picture just right? Or whatever social media we're using," said Missy Burton, Child and Adolescent Services at The Hamilton Center.

Through all of the tweets, snaps and posts, when is a good time to connect with your teen on online behavior? 

"A lot of times that conversation needs to start before that child has their own device, before they get to download that very first app," Burton said, "and parents need to help the kids learn and establish trust in the little things before they really begin to give them more responsibility. So when a child uses the restroom and you say 'Did you wash your hands?' and they say yes, let's follow up to make sure they did that. So we're establishing trust in those little things and as they get older we're establishing trust in the bigger things."

However, sometimes establishing that early trust isn't enough when it comes to shielding off online dangers.

"Sometimes it's not you that I don't trust, it's the world around you," Burton said, "Cause you never know who's on social media pretending to be a teenager."

Some social media outlets are using apps to conduct parental controls. 

For example, on Facebook, you must be at least 13-years-old in order to have an account on the site. Recently, the social media giant released an app called Messenger Kids. 

The app is geared toward the younger audience, allowing parents to have control. Messenger Kids is considered an "extension" of the parent's account rather than a completely separate one for the child. Parents are in control of who the child can add, along with deleting or keeping messages. 

Burton says parental control related apps are a good way for parents to be hands-on in their child's online life. In some cases, she says it can also open parents eyes to real issues their child could be potentially facing like bullying and suicide.

"Now it follows them home," Burton said, "They're getting text messages, all the different apps they're getting 'You should kill yourself', 'You should die, 'You're not worthy' and then they're seeing what other people are posting and they're buying into some of that. So there's a lot of consequences on that."

Another alarming issue is people posing as someone else online, or "catfishing". It's a situation that happens daily, and the Wabash Valley, Burton says, is no exception.

"I've been a part of discussions with law enforcement, in particular there was one individual that was posing as a middle school student," she said, "They would get one person to accept their friend request, and then they would start friending that person's freinds. Pretty soon there were several girls, in multiple middle schools, who are now friends with somebody they really don't know, and it turned out to be an adult male."

If you don't consider yourself "tech savvy" enough to keep tabs on your child's online behavior, Burton says don't get discouraged and just ask for help.

"If you don't understand that next app that's coming out, go talk to someone at your kid's school," she said, "Find somebody else who is pretty comfortable. I've got a lot of friends who are much more tech savvy than I am, and so I'll go to one person in particular and say 'Hey, here's the app I'm looking at, what do you think about it?' and get some feedback on that. Just find that person to help you get connected to that resource."

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