WASHINGTON, April 25, 2014 – Internet and Internet-like features are a major reason why America’s children and young adults have a symbiotic relationship with their smartphones, user- and social media-friendly features on these devices constitute a two-edged sword.
Back in those ancient halcyon days when the Prudent Man was a child, our local friends and neighbors constituted the entirety of our social network for better or ill. And during the day, whether we were at school or at play, a substantial cadre of stay-at-home moms guarded their turf and our safety fiercely.
Moms knew all the neighborhood kids, including the nice, reliable ones and the ones they figured would eventually wind up in the State Pen upon achieving adulthood. Everyone was watched.
Likewise, those telephone calls, particularly when they involved adolescents speaking with a member of the opposite sex. To our chagrin, these calls were carefully monitored and assiduously overheard.
There was no sense of privacy in those days, because all phones at the time were tethered to landlines, with the single house phone, leased (believe it or not) from Ma Bell’s legal monopoly, were centrally located for convenience, either in a hallway or in the kitchen. So you had to be cautious.
Even if you somehow managed to stray from the norm, some mom would always catch you and report you to your parents who were certain to mete out some painfully clear retribution.
Kids always hate this sort of control, particularly when the hormones start to make teen metabolisms as well as common sense go haywire. There was little we could do about it in the ‘50s and ‘60s, though, so most of us grumbled and knuckled under.
Today, however, it’s way different. All kids seem to have their own cellphones/smartphones now, even those kids below the poverty line, which has always been a mystery to the Prudent Man.
In any event, kids love these things better than they loved their laptops a few years back. These devices are small, easy to conceal, easy to keep away from prying eyes. And above all, they can enable you to do the kinds of forbidden things we didn’t even know you could do in the 1950s.
We’re talking about surreptitious online bullying, stalking, and harassment for starters, via Facebook, Twitter, or whatever is in fashion this month. But we’re also talking about more dangerous activities. Like sexting. Particularly when it pertains to ‘tween and adolescent girls.
More and more kids are getting snared into this stuff not only by each other but also by very predatory and often murderous adult criminals and pederasts. What’s problematic is the absolute conviction, on the part of so many ‘tweens and adolescents, that they’re going to live forever, that they can do whatever they want, and that nothing bad will ever happen to them.
It’s become very hard for parents to police this kind of activity. When it comes to talking about what’s going on in this sub-rosa environment, the kids just won’t talk about it to an adult. The code of Omerta among today’s youth is stricter and more deadly than the old fashioned Mafia dons—who essentially invented it—would actually be shocked at its effectiveness.
The only thing you can do today to keep your kids from getting into temporary or permanent online trouble is to stay on top of their favorite subterfuges, realizing that in all likelihood, there’s probably something new around the corner that they’ll be able to exploit once you discover their current backdoor communication tools.
We just spotted a fantastic, up-to-date article on this problem at a public website run by the Cook Children’s Health Care System in Ft. Worth Texas. Writer Kristin Peaks highlights seven smartphone Apps that can be and indeed are extremely dangerous to your kids’ well being if they’ve downloaded them to their cellphones.
Worse still, at least a couple of these hide themselves, so even if you’re a tech savvy mom or dad, you might still be unable to find them. Omerta will do the rest, and your kid will still be in danger by continuing to use the hidden app.
For your convenience, we’ll give you a quick run-down on these Seven Deadly Apps right here. But by all means, link to Kristin Peaks’ swell article for the gory details, including suggestions for how to deal with the issue.
Cook Children’s Seven Deadly Apps:
- Yik Yak –It’s sort of like Twitter on mild steroids. Exploiting GPS like other dangerous apps, your kid’s Yak can be intercepted and read by up to 500 Yakkers in the immediate vicinity. It’s turning out that much of this Yakking has been involved with bullying and sexually explicit messaging.
- SnapChat – Now you see it, now you don’t. SnapChat lets you transmit photos that will disappear 10 seconds after they’re opened, sort of like those recorded instructions familiar to Mission Impossible fans. Achilles Heel: the recipient can take a quick screen capture and save the photo. And who knows what interesting body parts your daughter has included in that photo?
- KiK Messenger – This Omerta-friendly app lets kids send secret messages that their parents won’t be able to find. Sexual predators and pederasts will find this one irresistible as they troll the Net to make contact with your nubile and often clueless adolescent.
- Poof –Kristin Peaks’ opening description of this one, like the App’s name itself, says it all. “The Poof App,” she writes, “allows users to make Apps disappear on their phone with one touch. Kids can hide every app they don’t want you to see on their phone.”
- Omegle – A communications app you can link to Facebook to communicate anonymously, since you don’t use your name. Scarcely matters, though, as sexual predators can still set up contacts for a sexual encounter by establishing a meeting time and place.
- Whisper – Similar to the above, anonymous posting but with a twist. GPS lets recipients know the general area where your kid lives. Any enterprising predator can zero in on a target from this point.
- Down – Peaks says this app was formerly known as “Bang with Friends.” Tied in with Facebook, its former title tells you all you want to know. It’s allegedly anonymous, but its aim is clearly to set up quick hook ups. Appalling.
Again, for more details, please link to the website as we’ve suggested above. The site also contains a good bit of constantly updated information useful to parents of kids from both a social and a medical standpoint.
Tech is a wonderful thing and, for many, a great and useful business to be in. But it’s a business skill that’s also enabled a lot of young people to get badly hurt or worse. Keep an eye on your kids’ cellphones no matter how hard they resist. Like keeping your freedom in the 21st century, raising a kid successfully to adulthood requires eternal vigilance.