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The Most Popular Social Media Sites Parents Need to Know About

Not too long ago Facebook was the most well-known social media site, and most often the only one in use- but those days are long over. Back then it was easier for a parent to keep track of their child’s online activity, but with new apps and sites popping up every day it is getting more and more difficult for parents to know what the heck their kids are up to on their phones and computers. Even for someone who is familiar with various social media platforms and good with technology it can get pretty confusing. With all of the changes and new additions to social media, as a parent it is a waste of time to try and become an expert with all of them, however, being familiar with what is popular right now and how different apps and social media networks are used can make a huge difference in helping your child be safe and smart online. Polly Conway has done half the work for you already by creating a list of all the most popular apps and sites right now that kids and teens are using and explained what they all are- and what to watch out for.

1. Kik MessengerThis is a free texting app with no message or character limits and no fees. What parents should know:

  • It’s loaded with ads and in-app-purchases. Kik specializes in “promoted chats” — basically, conversations between brands and users. It also offers specially designed apps (accessible only through the main app), many of which offer products for sale.
  • There’s some stranger danger. An app named OinkText, linked to Kik, allows communication with strangers who share their Kik usernames to find people to chat with. There’s also a Kik community blog where users can submit photos of themselves and screenshots of messages (sometimes displaying users’ full names) to contests.

2. InstagramThis lets users snap, edit, and share photos and 15-second videos, either publicly or with a private network of followers. It unites the most popular features of social media sites: sharing, seeing, and commenting on photos. It also lets you apply fun filters and effects to your photos, making them look high quality and artistic.

What parents should know:

  • Teens are on the lookout for “likes.” Similar to the way they use Facebook, teens may measure the “success” of their photos — even their self-worth — by the number of likes or comments they receive. Posting a photo or video can be problematic if teens post it to validate their popularity.
  • Public photos are the default. Photos and videos shared on Instagram are public unless privacy settings are adjusted. Hashtags and location information can make photos even more visible to communities beyond a teen’s followers if his or her account is public.
  • Private messaging is now an option. Instagram Direct allows users to send “private messages” to up to 15 mutual friends. These pictures don’t show up on their public feeds. Although there’s nothing wrong with group chats, kids may be more likely to share inappropriate stuff with their inner circles.

3. TumblrThis site is like a cross between a blog and Twitter: It’s a streaming scrapbook of text, photos, and/or videos and audio clips. Users create and follow short blogs, or “tumblelogs,” that can be seen by anyone online (if made public). Many teens have tumblelogs for personal use: sharing photos, videos, musings, and things they find funny with their friends.

What parents should know:

  • Porn is easy to find. This online hangout is hip and creative but sometimes raunchy. Pornographic images and videos and depictions of violence, self-harm, drug use, and offensive language are easily searchable.
  • Privacy can be guarded but only through an awkward workaround. The first profile a member creates is public and viewable by anyone on the Internet. Members who desire full privacy have to create a second profile, which they’re able to password-protect.
  • Posts are often copied and shared. Reblogging on Tumblr is similar to re-tweeting: A post is reblogged from one tumblelog to another. Many teens like — and, in fact, want — their posts reblogged. But do you really want your kids’ words and photos on someone else’s page?

4. Vine This is a social media app that lets users post and watch looping six-second video clips. This Twitter-owned service has developed a unique community of people who post videos that are often creative, funny, and sometimes thought-provoking. Teens usually use Vine to create and share silly videos of themselves and/or their friends and families.

What parents should know:

  • It’s full of inappropriate videos. In three minutes of random searching, we came across a clip full of full-frontal male nudity, a woman in a fishnet shirt with her breasts exposed, and people blowing marijuana smoke into each other’s mouths.
  • There are significant privacy concerns. The videos you post, the accounts you follow, and the comments you make on videos all are public by default. But you can adjust your settings to protect your posts; only followers will see them, and you have to approve new followers.

5. WhisperWhisper is a social “confessional” app that allows users to post whatever’s on their minds, paired with an image. With all the emotions running through teens, anonymous outlets give them the freedom to share their feelings without fear of judgment.

What parents should know:

  • Whispers are often sexual in nature. Some users use the app to try to hook up with people nearby, while others post “confessions” of desire. Lots of eye-catching nearly nude pics accompany these shared secrets.
  • Content can be dark. People normally don’t confess sunshine and rainbows; common Whisper topics include insecurity, depression, substance abuse, and various lies told to employers and teachers.
  • Although it’s anonymous to start, it may not stay that way. The app encourages users to exchange personal information in the “Meet Up” section.

6. Secret- Speak FreelyThis is a social-media app that’s designed to let people voice whatever’s on their minds anonymously. Similar to Whisper, Secret lets people vent, confess, and share freely — without anyone knowing who said what.

What parents should know:

  • It tries to prevent users from defaming others. When Secret first launched in Silicon Valley, its adult users started using it to smack-talk their coworkers and bosses. Secret now detects when you mention someone by name (most of the time) and sends you a warning about it.
  • It requires some private information. Despite the fact that it promises anonymity, it requires your email address and phone number.
  • Kids may encounter strong language. We came across “hell” and “f–k” almost immediately.

To read the rest of the 15 apps and sites on Polly’s list, click here

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker. Click here to find her acclaimed books