During the recent Navigate 2021 conference, Brenton Butcher, minister of junior high/senior high students at First Baptist Church Benton, Arkansas, led a breakout session titled, “In the Know.” He highlighted the top five social media apps children and youth use today — and what parents need to know about them.
Here are some insights Butcher provided for parents regarding how best to allow and monitor usage:
- Messages disappear within 10 seconds unless saved, and “stories” are only available for 24 hours. This can create a false sense of security for users and embolden students to say things they otherwise might not.
- The SnapMap feature shows the user’s location unless set to private.
- The Discovery page can include edgy/inappropriate content.
- Difficult to monitor with online safety tools.
Parents: Use extreme caution. Recommended for kids age 16 or older only. Set account to private and monitor “friends” closely. A high level of user maturity is necessary.
2) Tik Tok
- Focuses on funny viral videos that cater to short attention spans (15 seconds to three minutes).
- Content can often be highly sexual, even R-rated.
- Tik Tok has access to your information and has settled multiple lawsuits recently for selling information to Chinese businesses without user consent.
Parents: Set accounts to private, utilize family safety and restricted modes and screen time management options. Only allow use with strict supervision for younger teens. (Recommended for ages 14 or older.)
- Used mostly by children and young adults — those who believe Facebook is for “old people.”
- Photos and short videos can be shared; many users only post content that portrays them in the best light possible, which can lead many to base their self-esteem on the number of “likes” they receive for posts.
- Beware of stalkers who use Instagram as a tool to prey on people.
Parents: Instagram can be easily monitored and is a fairly safe app best utilized with kids 13 years old or older. While it may be a great first social media app for teens, it still requires regular monitoring for a safe experience.
- Two-thirds of Americans and 85% of teens use YouTube. It has content on nearly every subject, including lots of great educational resources.
- YouTube also has a lot of R-rated content kids may access unless their experience is properly monitored by parents.
Parents: YouTube can be checked easily through the use of monitoring apps. YouTube itself also offers many tools for monitoring use.
- Users can share thoughts and opinions with the world in 280 characters or less, as well as interact with the thoughts and opinions of others.
- Nearly instantaneous resource for news and information.
- Accounts can easily be set to private.
- Twitter can be a toxic environment, becoming a stage for hateful rhetoric and argument.
- Twitter’s algorithm tends to create a vacuum that leads to the perception that what is most likeable is the truth, regardless of what the truth actually is.
- It’s easy to tweet without fully understanding what you’re tweeting, which can be harmful to self and others.
Parents: Twitter is a fairly safe option compared to some other apps, but still requires regular monitoring. It is best utilized with students 13 years old or older.
“When it comes to allowing your children on these apps, it’s best not to think of it like restrictions on the roller coaster, but more like restrictions in the gym,” Butcher noted.
“There may be age requirements in a gym, but that’s just one limiting factor. In most cases, you must be trained on how to use the equipment carefully with a trainer or another responsible and educated adult.
“With these apps, there’s a process of growing in maturity and responsibility that should be taken in strides, with a parent or mentor walking alongside through it all,” Butcher encouraged.
“However, the end result for app usage and gym usage is the same. A teen should eventually be able to enter the gym and the app store without parental guidance and make smart, safe and wise decisions. Typically, this is around the age of 18.”
Learn more about monitoring your child’s online engagement here.