Venmo: The Payment App of Today

By Morgan Rihn

Venmo is a money sharing app that your kids definitely know about (even if you don’t!)  With Venmo you can pay and request money from people you know. All they need is a Venmo account. Finding your friends’ accounts is super easy: you just sync your contact list from Facebook and it automatically finds them.

The app can be used for lots of things. It makes splitting the bill much simpler, for example. Or you can reimburse someone for buying you a drink. Your Venmo is account is funded by your Venmo balance (what other people have paid you), your credit or debit card, or a U.S. back account. When you connect with your bank account, you can transfer your Venmo balance to your bank account.

Right now Venmo is used by 66% of young Americans (according to expandedramblings.com). Its parent company is PayPal and it has 27 million users, and its growing.  Just in the second quarter of 2018 its payment volume was $14 billion! Venmo is really easy to use. You simply describe what the payment is for (or use emojis) and pick the amount and the person. Click! It’s done. (The names have been changed from the actual screen shot below.)

Purchasing with Venmo

There are companies that accept payment through Venmo. Companies like Uber, Grubhub, Forever 21, and more, use this service. Also, any store that has the PayPal button will take Venmo. And online companies are starting to display the Venmo logo on their payment pages.

Pricing: Is Venmo Actually Free?

Yes, it’s free. Most of the time. You can send money using your Venmo balance, bank account, or debit card, free of charge. There is a standard 3% fee applied to credit card transactions. Venmo’s transfer service (to your bank account) is also free to use, but a 1% fee is charged for each Instant Transfer. Venmo.com also has a Venmo Mastercard, check out https://venmo.com/about/fees/ for more information about it.

Safety Concerns

Like everything else connected to the Internet, safety is not 100% guaranteed, especially when your bank information is directly connected. Investopedia,com says “Venmo uses data encryption to protect users against unauthorized transactions, and stores user information on servers in secure locations. Venmo also allows users to set up a PIN code for mobile application use for additional security, though it does not compel users to set one up, by default.” Of course, there’s always the chance a hacker may break through Venmo’s security measures, but that’s true for your Visa card too.  What I can say is nearly all teens aren’t worried about. Venmo is growing in popularity.  

Oh, and what can you buy with it? Anything. You describe what to call it in the app. If you buy alcohol form a friend, or pot, you can call it a cookie or a soda. So even if your parents see the transaction, or later, someone investigates, there is no evidence of anything other a transfer of money. But we’ll talk about that more in a future blog.

Helpful links:

https://help.venmo.com/hc/en-us/articles/221011388-What-is-Venmo-

https://venmo.com/about/fees/

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/032415/how-safe-venmo-and-why-it-free.asp

Today’s technology makes your child’s FOMO even worse!

By Katie Mest

What’s FOMO?

FOMO is the feeling that everyone else is a part of something you’re not. FOMO is the “Fear Of Missing Out”.

It’s all your friends hanging out without you, maybe because you declined to go in the first place or maybe you weren’t even invited.

Parents, does it feel like your child is spending more time at their friends’ house than at yours? Does it seem like they value the opinion of their friends more than your parental advice?

That’s natural. Kids pull away from their parents and look to their peers for acceptance.

FOMO is nothing new. Why are we bringing it up now?

Because your kids are more connected now.

They make plans with their friends in their group text and can see the progression of the plans before their very eyes. If they decline to attend the plans, they are now sitting on the sidelines as the rest of their friends excitedly chatter along, blowing up the phone of those who opted out.

“But they chose not to go”, you say.

Sometimes kids want to be responsible. (Yes, it does still happen.) They know studying for the big test will benefit them more than seeing the newest blockbuster.

Sometimes they can’t go without a choice. Family obligations, sports practices, after school jobs. Maybe you even grounded them from going out. Many times, plans with a big group of friends just don’t fit in the schedule or the budget.

The point is, even if your child isn’t there in person, they still see what’s going on. That little thing called social media that keeps your kids glued to their phones all day is the king at creating FOMO.

Snapchat stories. Instagram posts. The group text. They are all constant reminders of the event your kid diddn’t attend. The fun they’re missing out on. The inside jokes they won’t be a part of because “you had to be there to understand.”

Check out this link for a teenager’s perspective on FOMO.

FOMO can make people (of any age, not just teenagers) anxious. We get low self-esteem from constantly seeing what everyone else is doing. It’s hard to sit at home while it seems like everyone else is doing something exciting and Instagram-worthy.

You’ve definitely experienced it, too.

Come on, parents. You’ve had your friends ask if you and your significant other want to join them for dinner. Maybe a sporting event. And you’ve had to remind them that being a parent means you can’t always go somewhere at the drop of a hat. So you politely decline because it’s easier than figuring out who’s going to watch the kids and the pet. Then you come across your friend’s pictures of the dinner or game on Facebook and you feel a twinge of jealousy because they found someone else to take your place.

F. O. M. O.

But it’s constant for your kid. Their friends post way more than your friends do. And, of course, their teenagers. So they’re not always as polite about it as grown ups are.

They said “no” to plans. How can you help relieve some of the FOMO?

These tips might help.

  1. Distract them. Keep them off their phones while the plans are going on. If they’re studying, encourage a snack break and use the time to catch up with them about what’s going on in their life.
  2. Sit down with them and reinforce the idea that they won’t always be able to drop everything to go have fun. Remind them of the reason they can’t go out, like maybe sports or homework. This reason will be more beneficial to them down the line than whatever their friends chose to do that night.
  3. In the same manner as #2, have a real adult conversation with them if the problem is finances. Finances is a tricky topic to talk about with kids and teenagers. They are most likely still depending on you for the money they use to go out. Maybe they’re too young to realize that you have actual expenses that don’t allow for you to give 50% of what you make to your kid’s entertainment fund. It will get easier as they get older. Start teaching them how to manage their own money, and they will quickly learn how easy it is to spend money on frivolous things when more important things need your attention and earnings – and yet they can’t do that.

More great information on FOMO can be found at:

https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-fomo-impacts-teens-and-young-adults-4174625

If you like this article on DecodingTodaysYouth.com, check out the harm Instagram is causing your teens.

In a world of perfectionism, Instagram proves large self-esteem crusher

By Katie Mest

Instagram fabulously documents a teenager’s life. It shows the highs of every event: the laughs, the candid moments, the wide smiles.

What could better serve as the diary for an adolescent, impressionable young soul?

The answer? Just about anything else. Because while Instagram looks fun on the surface, the need for “the perfect looking life” takes a terrible toll on the self-esteem of teenagers (and let’s be honest, adults, too).

For those of you who may not be aware of a typical night scrolling through the Instagram Explore page, I’ll go through it for you.

The Explore page is catered toward your personal interests. The more you search something – say a television show – the more you will see actors associated with the show and clips showing small parts of the show. It’s meant to be harmless.

Until your searches get the better of you.

Since beginning my college break, I’ve decided to spend my time trying to get back in shape. This past semester didn’t leave me with a lot of time to keep up with a good workout regimen, so I’ve used the free time to go for a couple of runs. Now, I find myself clicking on more posts on Instagram that have to do with fitness.

The only problem is that the people who run Instagram fitness accounts look FANTASTIC. Seriously, I don’t understand how some of these girls look so good when they’re working out.

I’ve learned that a lot of people my age, especially women, fall into this hole. The so-called “Instagram models”. They acquire enough followers to get sponsorships to promote items like slimming tea and hair vitamins. They also display their perfectly thin waists and impeccable sense of style that no normal teenager or young adult would be able to maintain or afford.

I wanted to look up new workouts or get some fitness inspiration. And I found that. But what I also found was a sense of self-hatred and inadequacy.

And I’m not the only person who thinks like this.

“I’ll never look like that.”

“I’m not good enough.”

“I don’t look like her, so I must be inadequate.”

And probably the worst thing to think while trying to better yourself:

“I’ll never look like her, so why even bother trying?”

Why? Because fitness should be for health reasons not for appearances!!

But I digress.

With New Years resolutions in full swing, I urge you to reach out to your children if they’ve expressed an interest in improving themselves via health and fitness. I guarantee they will find themselves on the Instagram Explore page sooner or later.

Want to hear some more thoughts on this? Look here.

You can help. Here are some things to keep in mind when discussing this with your kids:

1. Instagram is not real life. Yes, those might be real people, but picture-editing apps make up a large part of the Instagram experience, and that should not be forgotten.

2. Your child’s personal journey should not try to match anyone else’s. That fitness model has been training for years, and there’s no way you’ll be able to do as many reps/have those abs right away/look as effortless as that model does. If they really want to have someone to workout with, help them find an able friend who can be their workout buddy.

3. They should separate social media from any form of bettering themselves. Maybe try a social media cleanse. Help them manage their time on social media. It will help their goals in the long run.

4. Posting their own pictures isn’t always a bad thing, especially if they have an amazing group of friends as a support system. Friends love to hype up their friends. Just make sure your child is doing it through confidence and not the need for validation and likes. (Note: This is a very slippery slope.)

5. Going off No. 4, making a group chat with friends can be a good alternative. Teenagers rely on their friend’s opinions for everything, so creating a chat with the main purpose of restoring each other’s self-esteem could play to all of the friends’ benefit.

The worst thing that can happen is your child loses motivation to reach their goals or surrenders their self-esteem. Once that is lost, social media has an even greater grasp on the child. Don’t let your child fall into the pattern of looking at themselves as subordinate.

For more information about Instagram and social media pressure, check out these links. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/instagram-can-lower-self-esteem-make-you-unproductive-heres-how-to-break-away/articleshow/66130212.cms

For more of our commentary on social media, check out http://www.decodingtodaysyouth.com/cyberbullying-or-cyberbullied/

Or

http://www.decodingtodaysyouth.com/finsta-a-fake-instagram/

Finsta? A Fake Instagram

by Morgan Rihn

It is very unlikely that you as a parent know about finsta’s. What is a finsta? A “fake” Instagram account used for posting content that your children don’t want on their “real” Instagram page. From personal experience I can tell you that content usually includes random unedited pictures and captions of their life. Often pretty harmless stuff.

But might (and have) strayed to posting inappropriate pictures involving nudity and drugs/alcohol. Typically girls have finstas, although boys can have them too. They typically set them to “private” and give them an unusual name so only their closest friends can see what they post. Finstas have been around for a while.

Why do teens have finstas?

Recently, USATODAY.com talked about how older teens and college students have a finsta because of the fear that employers monitor what their employee does on social media. I think that probably does not apply that often. Maybe that’s why people with finstas from their high school life keep them. But most people I know that have a finsta have one because they don’t want boys or their parents to see what their posting.

Interestingly, finstas are kind of the opposite of people’s real Instagram account. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution observed, “Everyone kind of knows that no one’s Instagram life is their real life… You’re really tailoring all the photos and editing them and making sure that they look perfect. On your Finstagram, it’s supposed to be like the complete opposite.”

This tendency to let your finsta be more raw and unedited may be the reason sometimes inappropriate content appears.

Should you as a parent be concerned?

One source, Blog.hubspot.com doesn’t think finstas are all bad. They recently wrote about how finstas might allow your child an opportunity to express the unedited side of their life with their trusted friends. Maybe its a good way from to practice expressing themselves. I think if your child is using their finsta for fun, instead of hiding inappropriate things, you may have nothing to worry about. But of course, how would you know, is the big question.

I CAN report that my friends seem to post random photos of themselves on their finstas with captions about boy troubles, stressing out about school, etc…. Most do not post anything inappropriate. It is more of a “spam account” where they can rant about daily struggles to close friends.

So the bottom line is, like any social media account your child has, you may want to keep on eye it. The trouble they can get in to is just too big to ignore. But hopefully, if things are within bounds, you’ll respect their privacy. In their eyes it might be like reading their diary. Want to raise that question with them?Maybe you can explain that, unlike a diary, people don’t usually post any inappropriate pictures in their diary. And a diary really is private. Unlike a finsta.

Check out these links for more on finstas:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/talkingtech/2017/10/20/does-your-kid-have-finsta-account-why-its-big-deal/783424001/

https://www.ajc.com/news/national/what-finsta-teens-and-their-secret-instagram-accounts/2l2ZJwcVj0rLfxPzkApkTK/

https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/finsta

Cyberbullying or Cyberbullied? (Both are bad…)

 By Morgan Rihn

Odds are your child will become part of a cyberbullying scheme at some point in their young life. It’s unfortunately just one of the consequences of the new “digital age”.   The only question that is relevant is: will they be on the giving end or the receiving end?
(I’ll admit for the moment there may be a few in the middle just “watching”.)

So what is cyberbullying?

By definition it is bullying that takes place over the internet, cellphones, or social media. Yes, these things overlap. Social media is on their phone, etc… Cyberbullying is posting or sending inappropriate, negative, or private information about someone to threaten, harass, or embarrass them.

My personal story about cyberbullying

I was in middle school and a new girl moved to my school. That girl and I were similar in ways and I became envious of her. I accused her of stealing my friends. Of course, I now realize my friends liked her because she was just like me. I can now confess we both did our share of cyberbullying each other. Usually on social media or via text message. A lot of hurtful things were said, and because of it, we both lost some friends.  We did not get along for quite a while and we did get in trouble with our parents for the way we were acting.

Looking back on the situation, it was ridiculous.  None of those things needed to be said/written, and all of those things are still out there – in/on the internet somewhere.

Of course, we eventually got over it and became good friends. Nobody changes as much as a teenager.

So isn’t it ironic that the ever-permanent internet is where today’s teens spend so much of their time?  Teens need to change. The internet is permanent. Not really a good match.

What should you be concerned about? Everything…

Anything your kid posts on the internet can become public and it might affect online reputation. Don’t believe them when they say “it will disappear in a few seconds on Snapchat”.  (Read our blog post about Snapchat  to learn more.)

Stopbullying.gov says cyberbullying is persistent, permanent and hard to notice. Dr. Lauber told us a story about when he left school, he was safe from bullying as a young kid. But his kids experienced even in his house because they were online. There’s no longer any safe place!

Did you know…

  • the 2015 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) indicates that, nationwide, about 21% of students ages 12-18 experience bullying?
  • the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) indicates an estimated 14.9% of high school students were electronically bullied in the 12 months prior to the survey?

Cyberbullying is not always easy to catch. Unless your child shows or tells you, or you’re very knowledgeable on their social life (texting, social media, etc…), you may be unaware of what is going on. Parents and children use technology differently. This makes it difficult to know when cyberbullying may be happening. Below is a graph from cyberbullying.org on cyberbullying victimization, along with some signs of cyberbullying and some helpful tips.

Is your child bullying or being bullied?

Cyberbullying happens to children of all ages at least once in their lives and at any time of any day.  KidsHealth.org  mentions some signs of cyberbullying:

  • being emotionally upset during or after using the internet or the phone
  • being very secretive or protective of one’s digital life
  • avoiding school or group gatherings
  • changes in mood, behavior, sleep or appetite
  • wanting to stop using the computer or cellphone
  • being nervous or jumpy when getting an instant message, text, or email
  • avoiding discussions about computer or cellphone activities

So what can you do?  I confess, I’m not a parent yet. And maybe my generation will be more prepared for it, since we’re the first generation to live through it. But here’s what I found (and Dr. Lauber endorses these tips!)

  1. Be open and honest with your child. Be someone they can come to for help.
  2. Offer your comfort and support.
  3. Praise them if they seek your help.
  4. Talk to someone like a principle or guidance counselor at their school.
  5. Encourage your child to “be the better person” and not retaliate.
  6. Keep evidence.
  7. Provide punishment for those who are bullying.
  8. Limit technology time and monitor it.
  9. Learn more about online safety.
  10. Set a good example yourself.

No one wants their child to be bullied or to bully others, but it happens. I believe it always has and always will. But I hope I’m wrong.

All you can do is try your best and help your child make good choices. The good news is I lived through it. Your child will to.

But start the conversation!

Some useful resources:

https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it/index.html

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/cyberbullying.html

See our blog post on family dinners.

Watch Out for Parent-Unfriendly Snapchat

  By Katie Mest and Erick Lauber

The whole point of social media is to interact with friends and share experiences. However, like many good things, some sites and apps can become dangerous if they are not used properly.

Snapchat is a popular photo/video sharing app that many, many teens have on their phones. It’s original appeal was that the photo would disappear within 1-10 seconds after viewing. This made kids think they could share photos without anyone (read: their parents) even knowing. Of course, other kids soon learned they could take a “screen grab” of the photo and store it that way. Or use someone else’s phone to take a picture of the picture. What kids don’t always understand is: there is no eraser function on the Internet. Once it’s out there, it’s out there.

Does your kid have this app?  According to recent research, 92 percent of 12-17 yr old American teens have this app. Seventy-nine percent of Snapchat users do so daily.  Yes, your kid has this app, or will soon. And they will use it.

So, if your child decides to make a Snapchat account, here are some things you can do:

Look at their friends list.

If you notice their friends are the same people they talk to on a daily basis, you are most likely OK. But that doesn’t mean they won’t send a nude or inappropriate photo at some point.

Most of the time, they won’t. Kids use Snapchat to hold normal conversations. Sending a picture instead of a text adds another dimension of emotion, like using facial expressions and filters that make them look funny.

On the other hand, if you don’t recognize some of the names on the list, or if the usernames contain inappropriate terms, ask your kid about it.  Make sure they know the other person in real life. Kids sometimes receive random “add account” requests from people they don’t know. Make sure your kid knows the dangers of interacting and exchanging pictures with strangers.

If they accidentally add someone they don’t know, or if one of their friends starts sending inappropriate pictures, tell your child to “unadd” them and “block” them.  The best way to control Snapchat is to control who your kid connects with.

Pay attention to when and where they are Snapchatting.

It’s not always a red flag if your kid disappears to their room and gets on Snapchat. Kids – especially teenagers – just want a certain level of privacy. However, don’t let your young child have their phones at night. We’ll say more on that in another post.

The big problem is that your child may think their picture really does disappear and this might tempt them into taking an inappropriate picture. That’s what you really want to put a stop to.  Don’t let them take the phone into the bathroom, especially if you hear a picture-capturing *click*.

If you decide to make yourself a Snapchat account to keep an eye on them, know that they can block you from seeing their stories without you ever knowing it. Yes, Snapchat is sneaky like that.

You can go through the motions of making a Snapchat account, but your child can add you as a friend and still hide what they are posting from you.

They can do this in general or do it on a Snap-to-Snap basis. They can easily post their stories that you can see whenever its appropriate (like a puppy pic or a selfie), but block you from seeing other posts (like ones from that party you didn’t know they went to).

The best thing you can do in terms of Snapchat is have an open line of communication with your child. Discuss how they are using the app and let them know the dangers. This is not one of the more “parent-friendly” apps, but as long as your kid knows what to stay away from, they should be safe.

For basic information about Snapchat, look here

https://mycrazygoodlife.com/how-to-check-snapchat/

Heard of a similar app, VSCO?  Here’s our warning.

VSCO: Photography App Gone Wrong?

  By Morgan Rihn and Erick Lauber

OK parents. You’re a bit scared of social media, so you’ve been monitoring things. Maybe you’re using your account to “creep” on your kid’s Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest account. But have you tried VSCO?

You haven’t heard of VSCO?

Your children probably have. VSCO is another social media app but it used only for posting photos. Unlike Instagram, VSCO has limited social interaction. There is no commenting or instant messaging. Although you can republish (sharing), favorite (liking), take, import and edit photos, you cannot engage in conversation with your followers. VSCO has gained a tremendous amount in popularity and is used heavily by “artists” seeking to share their photography.

Is VSCO dangerous?

If there is a problem with VSCO, it is that anyone can see your profile and your photos. There are very limited security settings in VSCO. People can search you by your username and they can re-post your pictures very easily. A Google search can also bring up anyone’s VSCO profile (along with all their other social media). Basically, anyone can see anything you post.

One concern is that, unless your kid knows exactly what they are doing and has turned off several buttons, VSCO will share their location (if its generally available on their phone). This I am not happy about. I don’t want my teen or pre-teen letting others know where they are. Particularly if they are sharing photos of themselves.

And even though an initial account is kind of invisible – you’d need to know the account name to find it – kids today are linking their VSCO account to their other profiles. Therefore, their friends and others can go directly to the photos they upload.

VSCO has become very popular with teens.  But because it’s not as popular with parents and other adults, teens are sometimes (often times?)  using this platform to post pictures they don’t want their parents to see. Some of these contain nudity, drugs, and alcohol.

This is the real danger. Just like Snapchat and many other photo-sharing apps/websites, teens and pre-teens may be doing stupid things.

So, the bottom line is VSCO is another app you will have to monitor. Unfortunately, one of its newest security features is the ability to “block”. So… maybe you’ll get blocked.

Of course, the answer is not going to be “continue making fake accounts to monitor your kids’ activity”.  Your kid can just continue to make a new fake account for every account you find.

Instead, talk to your kids. Remind them that their digital footprint is forever.  They always have to be smart about what they are posting.  Explain the danger of posting inappropriate content. Maybe find some stories or examples that will drive the point home.

And, of course, make rules they have to follow. When they violate them, enforce your rules.

A positive perspective.

Of course, not everyone uses VSCO in a bad way. It is very artistic site. Many people use VSCO to practice their photography and editing skills, which is what the app was created for. If your kid seems able to handle themselves and really wants some exposure for their creative photographs, it is a pretty good site.

For more parenting reviews on VSCO, look at:

https://www.saferkid.com/app-reviews-for-parents/vsco-cam

https://www.fosi.org/good-digital-parenting/what-vsco/

For more information about VSCO, check out:

https://www.bewebsmart.com/app-review/what-is-vsco/

https://vsco.co/about/company

Heard of a very similar app, Snapchat? Here’s our post on it.