How to monitor your kids online while preserving their privacy

pic of Megan D
By Megan Donny

When I was growing up, there were not many online safety practices available to my parents to help protect me online. 

Today, we have many more options to help protect children who use mobile devices and computers. 

Bark is a proactive dashboard that monitors your children’s text messages as well as 24 different social media websites like Youtube. 

Many parents don’t have the time or ability to search through their child’s texts, social media accounts and emails for alarming content. 

Bark watches what your children are doing online and reports back to you if it happens to find alarming signs such as cyberbullying, depression, sexting, online predators, adult content and more. 

Not knowing who your children are interacting with online and how they are interacting can be a scary thought. With Bark, your child’s activity is monitored without you having to go through their phones to find information. 

The program even sends alerts to your phone about your child’s online activity along with suggestions on how to help from psychologists. 

The dashboard has prevented 16 school shootings and has detected 20,000 severe self-harm situations since it was developed by a father of two in 2015.

Bark also extends its services to all K-12 public and private schools in the U.S. for no cost and has helped protect children in 1,700 school districts. 

 A lot of children, especially older ones, try to keep their parents out of their business as much as possible. I think that children would prefer this method of monitoring compared to their parents scrolling through all of their messages and content themselves. Bark will protect your children’s privacy by only alerting parents to information that may be concerning. 

I would suggest that parents take advantage of this new technology. I think that it can help you keep up with your kids, without having to sneakily snoop through your child’s phone.

Links:

https://www.bark.us

Shocking Vaping Stats to Know Going into 2020

By Katie Mest

As we head into 2020, vapes are everywhere.

Your family members and friends might have already substituted their cigarettes for the latest in smoking technology. Instead of walking down the sidewalk and being hit in the face with a cloud of tobacco smell, you’re now greeted with scents like cotton candy or bubblegum.

Kids certainly seem to find vaping to be a preferred form of smoking. JUUL proved that. I’m sure you’ve encountered plenty of JUUL pods on the ground in lieu of cigarette butts.

And vaping is still on the rise. Here’s what you need to know about vaping as we head into a new year.

Vapes Make It Easier Than Ever For Your Kid To Smoke Marijuana

Picture this: A kid is sitting in the park with his friends smoking a cigarette. You and many others would pass by without giving it a second thought. It’s not necessarily an unusual occurrence.

Now, consider this: A kid and his friends are sitting in the park passing a joint between them. It’s far more obvious they’re smoking marijuana because of their behavior and the distinct smell. They’re more likely to get in trouble for this scenario either with their parents, the law, or both.

There’s a thin line between these two circumstances. Vapes can completely erase that line.

Regardless of the substance in the vape, odds are you’re going to smell something delightful, not tobacco or marijuana. Unless you get up close and personal with the cartridge in the vape, you’re not going to be able to tell what’s in it unless you’re super familiar with the substances and cartridge brands.

Not shockingly, kids are taking advantage of this.

Kids Are Vaping Marijuana (THC)

A survey from the University of Michigan (posted in the Journal of the American Medicine Association) found that 1 in 5 high school students have vaped marijuana in the past year.

While more kids are still vaping nicotine (1 in 4 said they had done it in the past year), the number of kids vaping marijuana has taken a huge leap from the previous year.

The survey showed that 1 in 7 kids are considered to be current users of marijuana vaping (meaning that they had vaped it sometime in the month before the survey), while the previous year showed only 1 in 13 were current users. Almost double the amount of kids are taking up marijuana (THC) vaping.

Vaping is making it easier than ever before to take up smoking marijuana. It’s convenient. It takes away some of the paranoia that you’re going to get caught since people near you can’t tell what substance is in the vape.

But black market THC cartridges aren’t just causing your kids to get high. They’re posing some serious health risks for users.

With Vaping-Related Hospitalizations Going Up, Officials Are Cracking Down

More than 2,400 people have been hospitalized for vaping-related lung illnesses since the beginning of the summer, and vitamin E acetate is to blame in most cases, according to the CDC.

Vitamin E acetate is used as a thickening agent in illicit THC vape cartridges. You can read more about it in this blog post.

The FDA and the DEA have since shut down 44 sites claiming to sell illegal cartridges. This Associated Press article names Stoners Marketplace and Anonymous Meds as two now-shutdown sites. Investigators were led to some of these sites through interviews with patients. Other websites were shut down because they were scam sites that took money without delivering products.

While studies show that high school kids are decreasing their average usage of alcohol and cigarettes, there has been a slight increase in daily marijuana usage overall and a concerningly large increase in marijuana vaping.

Public health officials are worried about this, and you should be, too.

Links:

https://apnews.com/fc4d6d53d0e722de5cb7be850743d138

https://apnews.com/91b897691ec0b201b912247fd573ff02

Disney hits a home run with “Hero Project”

By Seth Woolcock

Parents, with winter break approaching, chances are your kids will have additional screen time over the holiday. 

So how about this year, instead of letting them scroll endlessly on YouTube or Netflix, watching meaningless, sub-par content, why not suggest something that could actually be worth their time? 

I’m talking about Marvel’s “Hero Project,” streaming exclusively on Disney+.

A Short Series Overview

Marvel’s “Hero Project” is a Disney+’s original series shot in documentary-style. It follows young real-life heroes as they show courage and kindness. These teens inspire positivity and change across their communities. 

Each kid featured in the show will have a comic book written about them – inspired by their real-life acts of heroism. 

It is a 20-episode production and currently has six episodes released, with a new episode debuting every Friday. 

To let you know what you can expect, here’s a quick review of Episode 1: “Sensational Jordan.”

Episode 1: “Sensational Jordan” Review

As most Marvel motion-pictures do, “Hero Project” does a great job of introducing the show. It begins with a voiceover from a Marvel editor who says how they are continuing to be inspired every day by real-life heroes. 

Jordan Reeves is a 13-year old girl with a limb difference – her left arm stops just above the elbow. In the first scene, she is seen cheerleading at a junior high sporting event. Unlike most tweens who struggle with imperfection, Jordan embraces what makes her different. Stubborn and hard-headed from an early age, she comes across as a confident and intelligent teenager. 

Growing up having to learn how to do things a little different than most people, Jordan always had a fascination with design and how things worked. After attending a design workshop in San Francisco, Jordan began working weekly with Sam Hobish, a design mentor, on a glitter gun for her dismembered arm. 

Eventually, because of how serious Jordan took her invention, she went viral – appearing on the “Rachael Ray Show” and later pitching her idea to the cast of “Shark Tank.” 

After her climb into the spotlight, Jordan wanted to do more to help others. She began holding workshops with other kids to help build things that played off their disabilities. She became an activist for more consideration for accessibility in the design community – eventually creating her own non-profit foundation, “Born Just Right”. 

At the end of the episode, Marvel presents her with her own comic book and makes her an official member of the “Hero Project” because of her charitable and forward-thinking work.

Overall Impressions

Altogether, I think Disney does a great job moving an audience with such an inspirational story in just a brief 25 minutes. Even as an adult, I felt a swing of emotions throughout the short documentary, and it left me feeling positive and joyful. There were also some absolutely stunning shots in this episode. 

I’m not a particularly huge Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, but I was blown away by the show’s overall concept and the beautiful execution in episode one. 

In a world where there is so much pointless and commercialized content out there, that target kids specifically, I think “Hero project” is a great way to combat that. It promotes both critical thinking and positive change. 

It’s a home-run for me and I think it will be with most parents struggling to find good content for their children.

What Parents Are Saying

Mom bloggers and entertainment critics Patty Holiday of No-Guilt Fangirl and Andrea Updyke of Theme Park Parents collaborate on the podcast “Now Streaming Disney Plus”. They break down all the latest Disney Plus news in addition to reviewing the different series from a tween-parent perspective. The two moms also loved the first episode and offer some great insight. You can check that out here.

Useful links:

Referenced in “A Short Series Overview”
Referenced in “What Parents are saying”

Parents: Gaming is all over America

Desmond Brown pic
By Desmond Brown

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) recently released a study on the nature of gaming in America. I’ll say upfront, the ESA is an association made up of the biggest gaming companies and therefore has an interest in portraying the gaming industry in a positive light. With that said, it is probably not surprising that they found that Americans of all ages and all races play video games.

What I found surprising in their report was that most gamers are not just the stereotypical teenage or college boy lying on a couch. It turns out many Gen X’ers (ages 35-45) and Baby Boomers (ages 55-64) play. Many of these having been playing for years or even decades.

What I also found interesting was the information about parents and their child gamers. ESA says that 87% of American parents are aware of the ESRB ratings. I recently wrote a blog post explaining the Entertainment Rating System Board. The Board’s rankings are supposed to help parents decide if a game is too mature for their kid. ESA says that most parents believe the ratings are accurate and that they regularly use these ratings.

The ESA also found that 50% of the surveyed parents limited the time their child could play video or computer games. This was a greater percentage of parents than those who limited their kid’s time browsing the Internet, streaming TV shows, using social media, or watching TV. I found this a bit surprising. However, I think the ESA might be trying to make parents feel safer about gaming. In another area of the report I did see that 9 of the top 20 best-selling games in 2018 were rated “mature.” Maybe the ESA knows parents are worried about the content of video games.  And maybe parents do have a reason to be concerned. “Mature” rated games are very, very popular, even though they are only 9% of all of the games released or available in 2018.

An encouraging statistic I thought was that 57% of parents report playing games with their kids at least once a week. Also, 74% believe video games can be educational. These are healthy numbers in my opinion, and I agree that playing games with your kids is great. I wrote a blog on that a few weeks back. Games can be educational and it is awesome when parents play with their kids.

Another statistic that stood out for me was that 75% of American households have at least one gamer in them. That tells me that gaming is very widespread and we should be paying attention to how parents are coping with child gamers. It doesn’t look like that stat is going to go down anytime soon.

Gaming is now mainstream and the report confirms that gamers come from all age groups. The ESA found that while 21% of gamers are under the age of 18 and 40% of gamers are between the ages of 18-35. This second cohort is the largest group and also the audience that buys the most hardware and software. Gamers between the ages of 36-49 make up 18% and the 50+ age group makes up 21%. Note, the age brackets are not equal – the second group spans a 17-year age range while the third only an 11-yr age range. Not sure why the ESA broke the data down that way, but it does say that less than a quarter of all gamers are high schoolers or younger.

While the ESA did break down the type of game each of the older three age brackets purchased or played, for some reason they did not do it for the under 18 category. This seems like a suspicious omission to me. In another part of the report they say that 26.9% of all games sold are “action” games, and another 20.9% are “shooter”. It stands to reason many of these players must be from the under 18 age bracket. And I’ve already mentioned that 9 of the top 20 games are rated “mature” by the ESRB. I’ll have to leave it to you parents about whether you are concerned by these stats.

What I am glad about is that there is some data about the diversity of American gaming. It’s a huge phenomenon and one that I participate in heavily. I hope that we can all navigate the growing popularity of gaming, including parents and their children. Gaming is going to be around for a long time, and though the ESA is clearly an industry support group, it’s statistics have to be considered when deciding how to react to the new gaming culture.

Links:

For more information about the study, visit this link:  https://www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/2019-Essential-Facts-About-the-Computer-and-Video-Game-Industry.pdf

For a more in-depth breakdown, this site has an extensive amount of statistics on different aspects in gaming but you’ll need to set up an account to view the charts: https://www.statista.com/topics/3070/us-gamers/

Are food advertisements targeting your kids?

By: Megan Donny

pic of Megan D

Every day, children access a wide variety of media platforms that are filled with advertisements through their phones, tablets and laptops. 

Food and beverage advertisements have been found to be the most viewed on apps such as YouTube and Snapchat. 

A Canadian study found that children view over 100 advertisements for food each week on apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube. 

These advertisements are specifically targeting younger viewers who have low impulse control and low healthy dieting behaviors. 

Social media has made it so much easier for marketers to target consumers. They can use digital tools like location settings, preferences and past purchasing data to more accurately grab the consumer’s attention. 

According to a study done at the University of Michigan, when children view these frequent, and sometimes persistent food advertisements, it makes them desire the reward of food. 

In the study, it shows that when adolescents see unhealthy food commercials, it activates the reward centers of the brain. This then causes the child to want to seek out any type of food related to what they saw in the advertisement. 

How you can limit your child’s advertisement exposure: 

While it’s practically impossible to completely remove all types of advertisements from your child’s life, there are ways to prevent food advertisements from appearing on their screens. 

Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime don’t rely on advertisements for revenue and your kids will not be exposed to any type of advertisements on these apps. 

Also through the settings section in apps like Instagram, you can see the advertisements that have been shown to your children as well as learn about what to do if you see an ad you wish to hide. Many of these also have parental control options.

Websites like Common Sense Media can help parents learn about the different apps and streaming services their children use as well. 

Helpful Links:

https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/canadian-kids-see-thousands-of-ads-for-unhealthy-foods-on-social-media-study-1.4154607

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/fast-food-marketing_l_5c890150e4b038892f493653

Disney+ is coming to your living room

By Seth Woolcock

Here at 2020 Parenting, we’ve touched a lot on streaming services, and how they’ve changed the way kids today consume television shows and movies.

By now, most parents are probably familiar with the major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. They’re probably also familiar with the streaming process as a whole. And how unlike cable, streaming service customers can handpick which content they want to watch when they want it.

For better or for worse, the already-crowded industry is about to get one more competitor – one that has the potential power to change the future of streaming forever and knock out cable television, as well as its other streaming competitors, for good.

Parents, I present you, Disney+.

What is Disney+?

Although Disney+ has been in the works for a little over two years, the new streaming service is set to launch on Nov. 12.

Like most of the major streaming services today, Disney+ subscribers will be able to stream using Roku, Apple and Android devices, in addition to being able to steam using gaming consoles like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

For $6.99 per month, or $69.99 a year, Disney+ customers will have access to an overwhelming amount of Disney-created and Disney-purchased content.

Unlike Netflix’s non-premium tier, Disney+ allows subscribers to stream to four devices simultaneously and have access to 4K content for no additional cost.

While most expect that the service will eventually increase their price, Disney has also said they will eventually offer a Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ for $13 a month, the same price as Netflix.

What’s all included?

While it’s hard to fully understand how much is currently owned and underneath the Disney umbrella, the graphic below can help break it down for you.

The Companies Disney Owns - TitleMax.com - Infographic

Developed by TitleMax.com

The main content featured in Disney+’s pitch is Disney content itself, (animated and live-action films, and television shows), Pixar Films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Star Wars and National Geographic.

 It will also feature Fox’s content such as the “X-Men” series, all 30 seasons of “The Simpsons” and “The Sound of Music.” It will also have classic Disney Vault films such as “The Fox and the Hound” and “Bambi,” and will continue to add new films not too long after they appear in theaters.  Think, “Captain Marvel” and the new live-action version of “Aladdin.”

 However, maybe the biggest appeal to life-long Disney fans, is the exclusive Disney+ Originals set to debut with the service next month. Some titles already released include: “Star Wars: The Mandalorian,” Marvel’s “Hero Project” and “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” These hyped-up exclusives will surely excite some kids.

How will this change streaming?

 In all honesty, Disney+ was built on the concept of nostalgia and recreating your childhood. If you grew up with Disney as a kid, check out this short trailer and tell me you don’t feel something?

 Personally, I grew up watching the Disney Channel and its films. Disney was constantly on in our house. Watching that trailer gave me the chills – even though today I prefer sports over animated series and films.     

According to JP Morgan, this nostalgia will lead Disney+ to quickly rivaling, and eventually even passing, Netflix’s 139 million subscriber count. JP Morgan is predicting Disney will get to 160 million subscribers fast.

While this is partially because of the attractiveness of Disney+’s model, it is also because Disney plans on removing all of its’ content from rival streaming services like Netflix.

Oh, and did I mention that Disney+ is going to allow users to download all of its’ available content for no additional charge. This means no matter where you are – even when you’re without Wi-Fi, you could be enjoying Disney content.

What do Parents need to know specifically?

While the launch of Disney+ could very well lead to even more kid streaming, some of the best news for parents is that the service will have parental controls. The website Deseret details some of this.

Because there will adult content like the “The Simpsons” on the service, Disney+ will encourage a little bit of peace of mind to parents by allowing them to block some content. (Though, how hard is it for a tween to get that password?)

In the end I think this is going to be a positive development for parents. You can get all of that wonderful Disney content all in one place, and if you don’t need much other television, you can get it all for one low price.

But don’t forget, folks. It’s still screen time. Monitor that closely and set boundaries to how much time your kid spends in front of a screen.

Until next time – here’s to keeping that Disney magic alive!

Other useful links:

Real Gambling Inside Your Kid’s Video Game

Desmond Brown pic
By Desmond Brown

A while ago, I posted a blog about how the ESRB can help you make better decisions about games your kids. However, I failed to look into how they actually rate their games. It turns out, the ESRB does not actually play the games. Instead they watch a trailer of the game produced by the video game maker. Per the ESRB’s official page, it must be “a video showing typical gameplay, missions, and cutscenes, including the most ‘extreme’ content. Unplayable content (i.e., ‘locked out’), if it is pertinent to a rating, must also be disclosed.”

Why is this important?

Because I think, based on the ESRB’s own review procedures, developers might slide features like gambling and pay-to-win loot boxes past the reviewers’ eyes. I’m not saying every game developer does this, but that doesn’t mean they won’t.

I think it’s a problem when raters don’t actually play the game. Recently, some games have been called out for having predatory practices towards a younger audience. NBA 2K20 revealed gambling style mini-game complete with roulette and slot machines to win certain items in-game through a trailer prior to release. 

This game was rated E for Everyone. 

If children play this game and have access to a credit card, they can spend real-world money to gamble for items with in-game currency. While this may come down to a parent’s decision, I wanted to bring this to your attention. You may want to be even more careful about what games your kid plays than just relying on the ESRB rating. 

Personally,I don’t think gambling should be allowed at all. It has no place in a game that allows real-world money to be used. And I think any game that is rated “E for Everyone” should not require parental oversight. 

If you would like to read more about how the ESRB reviews their games you can read their FAQ page here: https://www.esrb.org/faqs/#do-esrb-raters-play-the-games-they-rate

For a more in-depth look at why loot boxes are so addicting, check out this video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xu6pXCxiRxU

Links:

Teasing your kids at home might turn them into bullies says this study

By Katie Mest

The problem of bullying in schools stretches across generations, and though there are new media through which kids can now bully their peers, bullying itself is nothing new.

A study from Florida Atlantic University suggests that how parents interact with their child at home might have a lot to do with the way their child then treats their classmates. You probably know that mean parents lead to mean kids, but just how mean do they have to be to make an impact?

This study says it can be as small as just belittling or not praising your kid.

We know parenting isn’t easy. That’s why we’ve built this blog about how your kid’s world is different from the one you grew up in. But this study says to take a hard look at how you’re interacting with your child. Are you telling them you’re proud of them even for small accomplishments? Do you zone out when they’re talking about their interests, or are you actively listening?

If they feel frustrated by some of their interactions at home, they might go to school and take it out on other students since they can’t say anything to you. How bad is bullying in today’s schools?

National Statistics on Bullying

  • About 20% percent of kids aged 12-18 report that they have experienced bullying, according to the 2017 School Crime Supplement from the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice (https://nces.ed.gov/programs/crimeindicators/ind_10.asp).
  • 70.6% of kids say they’ve seen bullying in their schools, and 70.4% of school staff say they’ve witnessed bullying. Note, 62% of school staff say they witnessed bullying two or more times in the month prior to the survey, and 41% say they witnessed bullying every week.
  • Middle school students report they’ve been bullied a variety of ways, including name-calling (44.2 %), teasing (43.3 %), spreading rumors or lies (36.3%), pushing or shoving (32.4%), hitting, slapping, or kicking (29.2%), being left out (28.5%), threatened (27.4%), stolen belongings (27.3%), sexual comments or gestures (23.7%), targeted in e-mail or blog (9.9%).

Name-calling and teasing are the most common. Maybe not surprising, these are also two of the types of bullying that can occur at home.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to tease your own kid. Maybe it feels like you’re teasing yourself. You probably share characteristics. Do you feel like you’re too short, have big ears, or can’t do math? Maybe you’re just repeating what you’ve heard before.

Or maybe you think your comments are harmless, but your kid sees them as serious: “You missed a couple goals today in the game. Maybe we should be paying more attention at practice instead of talking with our friends the whole time.” Or “You spend a lot of time in your room. Try socializing with the rest of the family every once in a while.”

Each kid is different, and just because they came from you doesn’t mean they think exactly like you. Heck, they’re not even your age. If you’re going to poke fun at them (every great once in a while), make sure it’s lighthearted and not hurtful. Watch their reaction. Make it obvious you don’t mind if they tease you back. There is a fine line between mutual teasing and one-sided, being-picked-on.

Regrettably, the study suggests if kids are teased daily, they transfer that behavior into other areas of their lives. If it’s acceptable at home, then it’s acceptable at school or practice, right?

And I have to point out: kids can’t lash out at their parents every time they feel they’ve been insulted or belittled.  It’s obviously easier to take it out on kids their own age.

I don’t know a clear path to stopping bullying but understanding some of the risk factors that go into it must help. If parents are name-calling and teasing their kids, and these are the number one and number two most frequent ways kids are getting bullied at school…?  There has to be a connection.  

I suggest talking to your kids the same way you want them talking to their peers. Ask yourself: Is what I’m about to say going to make the other person feel bad? If my parent said this to me when I was a kid, would I be hurt?

And ask them for feedback. Let them know that they can tell you if you’ve gone too far. Did they take that as the joke you intended, or did you offend them. Meanwhile, tell them if they’ve gone too far. You’re training them in conversation and human relations. Make sure they know how to communicate effectively – and nicely.  

Links:

https://nces.ed.gov/programs/crimeindicators/ind_10.asp

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190709110230.htm

Does your daughter access birth control online?

By Megan Donny

pic of Megan D

“Easy” and “affordable.” 

Those are the two words you see when you open any of the multiple websites that offer online birth control prescriptions. 

While this method of obtaining birth control may be helpful for women trying to renew their previous prescriptions, it’s also an easy way for young tweens to bypass a doctor’s trip to obtain a prescription. 

Websites like “The Pill Club” and “Nurx” offer first-time birth control prescriptions to women as young as 13 years old. Girls under 18 do not need parental approval to get a birth control prescription.  

These websites offer birth control options such as the pill, the ring and the patch. They also offer emergency contraception pills and at home HIV and HPV screening tests. 

The process for obtaining a prescription is simple: you provide information about yourself, select the kind of medication you want, a doctor reviews your request, fills the prescription, and your new medication gets mailed right to you. 

It is very easy to bypass questions in the process that are important, like if you’ve had your blood pressure measured in the last 6 months and the current medications you may be on. However, if you don’t answer the questions as accurately as possible, you may be prescribed a medication that negativily affects your health.  

Insurance information is not required to obtain a prescription from these websites. Nurx, one of the most popular online contraceptive websites, says that you will pay as little as $15 without insurance. 

Many young women dread telling their parents when they have become sexually active. The process can be awkward for both the child and parent. But it is necessary for the child to know the dangers that come with sexual activity. 

Online birth control websites give young women the opportunity to skip the awkward talk and get a prescription without their parent’s knowledge. 

The problem with getting birth control online for a first-time prescription is that many young women do not get informed about different methods of birth control and the side effects that may occur. 

Some medications can affect young women suffering from mental and physical health problems. It is very important for anyone considering filling an online prescription for birth control to get well-informed. 

Useful Links:

https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/birth-control-methods

https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/birth-control-for-teens

Two Very Popular Apps Your Kid Might Have Going Back to School

by Seth Woolcock

As your kid heads back to school this year with their new blue jeans and Nikes, they may also be taking two new apps along with them.

One is “TikTok,” a popular short-form video sharing app that is currently #1 on the Apple App Store. The other is “YOLO,” a new anonymous question and answer app students can use as a plug-in with Snapchat. It is #18 on the app store.

While these apps might help your kid pass time on their bus ride home or during lunch, there are also some real dangers that parents need to be aware of.

TikTok and Sharing Private Information

TikTok is a social media service that is designed to let users watch, create and share videos. Often times these videos are filled with today’s top music hits, which users have access to for free.

Originally known as “musical.ly,” before that app merged with TikTok in August 2018, this social media channel combines several key concepts from other popular apps.

It has the feel of “Vine,” a former, popular video sharing service that was known for its hilarious 6-second videos. But unfortunately, due to a lack of revenue, Twitter shut down Vine in January 2017.

When I was a tween myself, Vine was insanely popular for a summer. While I didn’t have a smart phone at the time, all my friends were using it. And from what I remember of the app, it was mostly filled with people doing dumb stunts in order to get likes.

TikTok uses the same rabbit-hole tactic that YouTube uses to hook young users. It pre-loads the next video to keep you from leaving the app.

But just like any social media, the real concern is the amount of private information your kid could be sharing with the world. TikTok makes it easy to share too much information with strangers. In fact, by default, TikTok accounts are set to public, which allows ANYONE to see your videos and location information, and it allows anyone to direct message you.

To learn how to change your kid’s TikTok settings to private, check out this short video. It literally only takes a minute. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgrGwn60yyE

By the way, TikTok had to make a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission this year for illegally obtaining children’s personal information. In response, the app created a section just for children. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2019/02/video-social-networking-app-musically-agrees-settle-ftc  However, this can easily be bypassed by providing a false birth date.

Of course, the other major issue with this app is the content kids are watching. Because popular music has a large amount of foul and sexualized language today, your kid might be exposing themselves to this language as well as watching people dance in suggestive ways. Maybe you’re not ready for your kid to watch this.

YOLO and the Danger or Anonymous Apps

When I was growing up, the acronym “YOLO” became popular. It meant “You Only Live Once”.  Pretty tame, I guess, but the app is potentially more dangerous, I think.

The app YOLO encourages users to “get anonymous answers” as soon as they are logged into the app. You can either create your own question to ask, or use the “dice” that will prompt a pre-made question. The app then encourages you to post the answers on your Snapchat story.

I have seen a lot of people say some fairly inappropriate things to others using this app. My big concern is cyber bullying. The app is popular enough that a lot of kids could be targeted by these anonymous comments.

According to, the Pew Research Center (https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/09/27/a-majority-of-teens-have-experienced-some-form-of-cyberbullying/), last year at this time, more than 59 percent of teens said they experienced some sort of cyber bullying.

Former anonymous social media apps, like “Ask.FM,” “Sarahah” and “YikYak,” created social havoc in my high school, in my opinion. There was such an outcry that a letter was sent home to parents asking them to get their children to stop using these apps. If I remember correctly, iTunes and the Google Play store actually kicked off Sarahah from their platforms in 2018, after they received enormous amounts of backlash because of cyber bullying.  https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-43174619

Ironically, I believe tweens use these anonymous social media apps so they can get acceptance from their peers. However, they often get the inverse.

I think it’s crucial that kids grow up slowly with these apps. You will want to have a serious conversation with your kid about these apps. Sharing personal information and getting caught up in cyber bullying are just two of the issues you should discuss. Try some of our links if you want to learn more.

More helpful Links:

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/parents-ultimate-guide-to-musically

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2019/06/18/yolo-app-raises-bullying-concerns/1292307001/