A socially-distanced summer has left plenty of time for mindless activities on electronic devices. I used the time to re-watch “New Girl” on Netflix, and I just started watching “Avatar: The Last Airbender” at the recommendation of the Internet.
I also downloaded TikTok to see what all the fuss was about. Long story short: I like it a lot. However, this Chinese-owned social media app has taken a lot of heat lately.
India just banned 59 Chinese apps last week, including TikTok, due to security concerns related to geopolitics. You may know that recently Chinese and Indian militaries clashed at the border, leaving 20 Indian soldiers dead.
On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. is considering banning TikTok as well as some other Chinese social media apps. This is designed to protect against threats to national security. The fear is that apps are mining data and Tik Tok might be pressured to give it to the Chinese government.
AA TikTok representative responded saying, “TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”
Why the fear? Why now?
U.S. lawmakers questioning TikTok’s safety is nothing new. The government opened a national security investigation into the app in November 2019.
This Hong Kong law was created to crack down on those protesting in opposition to Beijing. The law leaves room for lots of questions, like if Hong Kong will now fall under Beijing’s jurisdiction.
What does this all mean for users (i.e., your kid)?
We don’t know the answer to that yet.
TikTok certainly has taken over the world, and I wouldn’t want to be the one to break the news of the ban to the 65 million U.S. monthly app users. I would also miss my daily art and animal videos.
The biggest advice I can give to parents is to do your research.
Know the apps your kids are interacting with and inform them and yourself on the possible ways apps store and/or use your data. Read the different options each app has for privacy and take action. Turn some of the privacy features on.
I would also recommend ConnectSafely.org It provides a great guide for parents on navigating TikTok and keeping kids safe.
It is a confusing and strange time we find ourselves
in. COVID-19 has essentially put a pause on all of our regular activities and
pastimes, pushing everyone to use the internet. Whether it’s using Zoom everyday
like us college kids or binge-watching shows on Netflix, everyone is using the
internet for something. However, the most significant users of internet
bandwidth at the moment are gamers, and that could be a concern for parents.
With millions of kids staying at home with no clear
indication of when they will return to in-person classes, many parents are
struggling to keep their kids from playing games all day, every day during this
crisis. Gaming addiction, which has been recently confirmed as a mental
disorder by the DSM-5, has been the subject of extensive discussions by those
in both the medical field and the gaming industry. We all know it is essential that
kids and teens take adequate breaks when playing games. But it’s also essential
to look for signs of dependence on video gaming, as opposed to real-world
relationships or interactions.
A recent article from the Bloomberg news service warns
people about the uptick in gaming addiction. Experts say every risk factor for gaming
addiction is on the rise. And many call-in centers have seen a rise in calls,
including an increase in gaming addiction patients by psychiatrists. It’s
created a real problem for health officials, but right now, combating COVID-19
is the bigger issue. But many expect a big wave in gaming addiction as this
The American Addictions Centers website lists a set of
behaviors to be on the lookout for if you are concerned about gaming addiction.
Poor performance in school, work, and other responsibilities.
Neglect of other hobbies or friendships
Ignoring basic hygiene
Irritable mood when not playing or forced to stop
Playing games with increased intensity or length to reach enjoyment
Symptoms of withdrawal when the game is removed; sleeplessness, loss of appetite, emotional
I offer these up as helpful suggestions to all of you
parents out there. But, honestly, I don’t think gaming is as addicting as
people make it out to be. When I play, I do find it hard to break away from at
times, but only because I’m so engaged in what I’m. But I think gaming is a
great pastime. There are countless games and storylines to play through. For
many, gaming acts as a way to escape. Whether winning a battle royale or
goofing around online with some friends, gaming can be useful in a variety of ways.
For your children, I think they act as something to
focus on while they’re sitting around the house. That’s not to say they should
sit in bed and play games all day. But gaming can be mentally stimulating. The “Independent,”
a British newspaper, recently cited a study of 1,000 gamers. It showed that most people who play games report
they feel gaming helps them relieve stress, make friends, and help them have a
feeling of accomplishment.
Now, you can argue that relationships made in games or
online cannot rival the ones made outside. However, connecting with friends, whether
indoors or outside, is still engagement. It still allows one to have a sense of
Given the circumstances that COVID-19 has placed under,
I feel that having a connection with friends online through gaming is a benefit
and not a detriment.
But – do be careful. If the medical community it
right, some will fall victim to the disorder of gaming addiction. You do want
to keep your kid safe.
Hey parents. As if you’re job of
monitoring and limiting screen time wasn’t hard enough, it just got a whole lot
tougher with 42 states closing K-12 schools in response to COVID-19.
We here at 2020 Parenting will
leave it up to you how much screen time is right for your kid in these
unprecedented times. But maybe we can help you make that screen time more
beneficial to them.
Today we’re going to look at five applications
that can help your kid make the most of their screen time.
Marco Polo (Available
on iTunes & Google Play Store)
One of the most difficult things about social distancing is not getting to see family and friends. “Marco Polo” is an app that helps keep family and friend groups close, no matter how different their lives and schedules may be.
The app combines elements of texting, social media & video chat. Groups communicate by sending videos & photos to the group. The beauty of Marco Polo is that, though the videos and images stay in the group, they can be watched and responded to whenever it’s convenient.
Overall, “Marco Polo” is user friendly and can help your kid, you and your entire family stay in touch and keep morale high during these uncertain times.
Here’s what one mom had to say about it:
“Scrabble Go” or “Words
with Friends 2” (Available on iTunes & Google Play Store)
Since we really don’t know when schools will open again, this could be a perfect time to have them brush up on their vocabulary.
“Scrabble Go” is the mobile version of the classic board game. It has the same feel as the game you knew from childhood. You can play online with friends or against the computer. There are also some new game modes like “Word Drop,” “Tumbler” and “Rush” that offer a refreshing twist to classic Scrabble.
For more competitive players, there are even leagues and tournaments to take someone’s game to the next level.
“Words with Friends 2” is a newer and trendier take on “Scrabble.” It focuses almost as much on socializing as on word crafting. The game is not overly time-consuming, but I think it is thought-provoking.
Either one allows you to download the game yourself and show them who’s boss.
on iTunes & Google Play Store)
What could be better than a kid using their screen time to expand their knowledge of the English language? How about learning another language.
I present “DuoLingo” – an iTunes’ Editor’s Choice that specializes in teaching anyone a new language in only 10 minutes per day.
“Duolingo” allows users to study any of 30 different languages. Users can select how intense they want the learning – or how relaxed. It also offers a placement test for those who have some experience in a language.
It has daily notifications to
remind users to do their “Duolingo” for the day. The free version is excellent,
but for about $64.00 a year, you can upgrade to the “Pro” version and get rid
of the ads and get access to advanced features. By the way, did I mention it is
probably the largest, most-downloaded language learning app in the world? It’s
a no brainer.
“Driving Academy 2020
Car Simulator” (Available on iTunes & Google Play Store)
One day, when your kid turns 16 and
the DMV returns to business, they’ll want to get behind the wheel. Well, why
not begin their driver education from the comfort of your own living room with
“Driving Academy 2020 Car Simulator?”
It seems like a pretty sharp
looking app to me. It puts teens behind a virtual wheel to help them master
parking and driving skills. But don’t worry – this isn’t another “Grand Theft
Auto” game. The simulator challenges
drivers to follow real road signs and the rules of the road.
The game has 250 levels, more than
135 different cars to choose from, and even a night driving mode.
(Available on iTunes)
The classic Mac app, “Garage Band,”
is now a popular app on most iPhones. Most likely it’s already installed on
your IOS device. I think Garage Band has the potential to unlock a whole new
side of your kid.
Although the app does have a slight
learning curve, once your kid understands how to make different tracks and
loops they can really start making music. It even allows them to use several different
instruments, including a guitar, bass, piano and more.
If they don’t know how to play any
of these instruments, “Garage Band” has a smart version of each instrument,
making it easy to create great music.
Garage Band also has a Sound
Library which allows them to pull in third-party loops and soundtracks. And of
course, they can record their voice or other audio. When they eventually have some
tracks and loops created, they can throw them in the app’s editing bay and
create their own amazing content.
Whether it’s just making some
sample music or an entire podcast, these are real skills that could be used
down the road, especially in the media industry.
Again, as parents, you’re going to
have some really tough decisions to make when it comes to your kid’s screen time
over the next few months. My thought is if they’re going to have it, they might
as well use some it to their advantage.
TikTok, one of the most popular content-creating apps children and teens use today, is full of security concerns that parents may not be aware of.
According to Australian ‘Cyber Cop’ Susan McLean, the app has been known to fail to remove suspicious accounts, even after complaints and warnings have been filed against them.
These accounts could be run by possible stalkers and child predators. And the minimum age to create an account is 13 years old. This is a low age compared to other popular content-sharing apps.
TikTok’s whole premise is video creating and sharing. Unlike Snapchat, these videos do not disappear after 24 hours. And TikTok has over 500 million monthly active users.
The app relies on content from children and teens, who make up a majority of the users and content creators.
While adults understand that we need to look out for our online safety, children as young as 13 might not comprehend the idea that there could be people on TikTok watching their singing and dancing videos inappropriately.
For example, an investigation by BBC News in the UK found that children were receiving inappropriate, sexually explicit messages and that the platform was full of bullying. The Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK is now investigating the video sharing app, according to The Guardian.
“Like any social media platform that has a direct message or commenting feature, there’s always the possibility that your child could be chatting with anyone, including strangers,” said Titania Jordan, chief parenting officer of parental-control app Bark.
According to BBC News, even though most of the sexually explicit comments disappear within 24 hours after being reported, most of the users who posted the comments are not removed from the app.
“Even if you set your own account to private, you may still be exposed to sexual or violent content posted to the public feed,” Jordan said. “Ranging from overtly sexual TikToks to physically dangerous stunts that kids may want to recreate, to overtly racist and discriminatory commentary, there is a wide range of concerning content on the platform.”
The app recently launched a new set of parental controls settings in the UK, following the investigations into their app. The new setting, called “Family Safety Mode,” allows parents to be able to manage their child’s screen time, limit viewable content and limit or even shut off the messaging feature on the app.
If you can’t access the new “Family Safety Mode”, I at a minimum advise that you make your child’s TikTok account private. Common Sense Media advises parents to make sure to turn on all privacy settings for accounts kids are using, so only people you know can interact with their videos or messages on the app. Parents should also teach their children about the possible effects that posting their personal information can have in the long run.
Your kids are all over YouTube. (But aren’t we all?)
We blog about how your kid might be using YouTube here, but there have been some recent changes in YouTube’s privacy policies and they impact your kids. Don’t worry, though. This time it’s actually good news.
Back in September, the video media giant got into hot water
when regulators said it was collecting the personal information of children and
using it to target them with ads. To settle the case with the FTC, YouTube’s
parent company, Google, paid a $170 million fine ($136 million to the FTC and $34
million for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule.)
This was the largest fine collected from the act since it came into existence.
Enacted in 1998, COPPA prohibits online services doing certain things when the user is under 13 years of age. YouTube violated this by collecting data without the consent of the kids’ parents. YouTube also earned millions of dollars by mining this data and targeting ads toward those kids.
YouTube tried to get around this by saying that users cannot be under 13 because in order to have an account, you must be 13 and over…probably to avoid this very occurrence. However, you and I both know that YouTube is where kids spend a lot of their time regardless of that requirement.
YouTube has changed its policies to follow COPPA guidelines
and better protect your kid’s privacy.
YouTube will limit the collection of data from anyone watching videos directed toward children. It has also turned off some features from kid-directed channels. Comments, live chats, and saving videos to a playlist might be disabled depending on the content your child is watching.
Ads on these types of videos will be shown based on the content of the videos, not the web-browser and online data from the user watching. And if your kid is watching kid videos, they will more likely be recommended other kid videos.
Video producers posting on YouTube will now have to categorize their videos as specifically made for children. Doing so will help determine which videos to turn on data-collecting limitations. Officials also said they could override a producer’s decision if they feel it is incorrect. More info: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/9383587?hl=en.
That should make you feel a little safer for a while. It’s highly recommended that if your kid is under 13 they should use YouTube Kids for their content. It’s better regulated by age-appropriate content.
But if your kiddos are 13 and over…let’s just say you should
start having conversations about what information they put on the Internet and
how services use that information.
How Many Teens Are Using YouTube?
According to Forrester, 96% of teens online are using YouTube. It says 85% of boys ages 13-17 use YouTube daily, while 70% of girls ages 13-17 use it daily.
So, yeah, the short answer is that a lot of kids are using it.
And they’ll be watching anything from sports to beauty to gaming to humor to cute
I guess what you should take from all of this is to remind your kids over and over (and over and over) that EVERYTHING they do on their devices has an impact. It’s no coincidence that that ad popped up on their feed after having a conversation about the product.
Parents, have you ever
honestly thought about what your children are doing with the technology that’s
in their hands every day? Guess what: Chances are they’re doing the same things
You get up in the morning
and check your phone or the TV for the weather and traffic reports. If you have
an office job, the majority of the day is spent on a computer or laptop. If
not, you still use your phone when you go on break (or while you’re working, we
don’t judge here). And then you come home, turn on the TV, check your feed,
text your friends, or read some articles on your device of choice. If you’re
like me, you use your phone or TV until you pass out and go to sleep.
Let’s look at it from the
kids’ perspective. They wake up, check their phone to text their friends (or
call them if they are like my sister) and check the weather. Then on the school
bus ride over, everyone around them is either half asleep listening to music
from a device or still texting. When they’re at school, they use laptops to
work on projects and papers and read off of a projector screen to write down
notes. Then they go to lunch and text, or look at the latest YouTube craze, or
play Fortnite. Then after more lessons, they go home and text, talk, or play
with their friends until it is time to do it all over again the next school
Notice how similar their day
is to yours?
Newer generations are growing up with technology, but everyone says need protection from the dangerous and addictive nature of social media and “screen time”. The older generations need to be on the lookout and reduce kid’s exposure to screens.
But how much time do
adults spend on screens? How much time do
YOU spend looking at a screen each day?
Sure, there are things to
be worried about. And we’ve written about lots of them (see some links below or
just search our blog). We do recommend taking the time to learn how your kids
are using the Internet, their cellphones, various social media sites. Maybe
have them show you how they use it. That way you can understand why they use
certain social media and you can work on ways to limit their use, if necessary.
If you feel the need to
cut back their screen time, why not make it a family thing? Start a competition
and see who can stay off social media the longest. Suggest ways to keep people’s
attention away from the phones. It would be great if you role modeled how to
avoid “screen obsession” instead of not “practicing what you preach”.
Anyone a part of modern
society is surrounded by technology. There’s just no way around that. But I do
think how much time we spend with it is in our control.
I don’t think screen time
is “wrong”. Technology enables children
to interact with friends, and create unique experiences. When I was growing up,
some of the best times I had were when my friends and I on a Friday night would
play our favorite games together online. With technology, I was able to break
out of my shell and talk to my friends about anything and everything. Screens
are not a bad or good thing. They are necessary to our lifestyles in the 21st
century. So, rather than limiting a now normal part of the modern child’s life,
I think we should all learn to embrace and understand it. Teach them how to use
their time online for creative or productive tasks in addition to the social
Some of these ideas come from Director of Digital Civility, Laura Higgins. She gives tips to parents on what to do in their households. A link to that article can be found here.
Meanwhile, explore our numerous other blog posts on technology, including social media, video games, online gambling and more.
We’ve put our best stuff, plus a lot of new stuff, in our recently released book. Great as a gift for any caregiver that has to understand the world of our children and youth. In a clear and accessible way, it shines a light on the social and technological environment that parents find mystifying and frightening. It covers a host of important and up-to-date issues including social media, finances and gambling, television, health (alcohol, drugs, vaping, depression, suicide), relationships, bullying, gaming, and many others. The book’s organization into topical chapters allows the reader to quickly find well-researched information on a given issue. A salient feature of the book is that it is largely written by young people themselves who have experienced these challenges yet have done the hard work of thoroughly investigating and reporting each topic. Get it now in Kindle or paperback version at Amazon.com
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
In today’s always connected world, we have the means
to contact other people with the click of a button. But though we may be more connected
than ever, it doesn’t mean feelings of isolation are gone. For kids growing up in the modern “Internet
Age”, isolation may even be worse.
Unfortunately, a recent study at the University of
Pittsburgh in 2017 confirmed this. It found that young adults who are the most
frequent users of social media experience more social isolation compared to
those who use it the least. The authors believe this may be due to a variety of
factors. These include viewing friends online having fun and not being invited,
seeing people doing things that seem fun and sparking feelings of envy, and
spending more time online than having real life experiences. All of these, they
speculate, contribute to feelings of isolation.
Social isolation can have big effects
As children grow up today, I think this “social
isolation phenomenon” is something to watch out for. Maybe particularly during
the tumultuous time of adolescence. Kids are more susceptible to feelings of being
left out when their friends are doing things together without them.
One source says that the effects of social isolation
are very negative. They include less restful sleep, an increased stress
response by the body, more alcohol and drug use, and even a greater risk of
I remember feeling socially isolated at times when I
was in middle school and high school. My friends would post what they were
doing on Facebook (which had just started getting widely popular) and I would
see how happy they seemed. To teenage me, it was disheartening to see people
having fun without me. Sometimes they were meeting up with my friends in real
life I’d have to hear or see the stories later.
I’m old enough that this was before Instagram,
Twitter, or Snapchat blew up. Imagine how your teen might feel today with all
of these social media outlets at their disposal. They might see their friends
having fun. Maybe they’ll see other people doing an activity they wanted to do.
What can parents do?
One source suggests five things parents can do about
this. One is to encourage volunteering. This improves mental health and can be
very pleasurable. Does your kid like animals? Or small children? Can they help
out at an aging facility? The possibilities are endless.
Also, make exercise a priority. We all know about
endorphins and how they help our mood. Don’t just rely on physical ed at
school, or team sports. Encourage them to hike with you, or take a family bike
ride. Again, the possibilities are endless.
Third, schedule some “off screen” time. Eat a family
meal with no phones allowed. Watch a show together. Maybe game with your kid
(without the head set).
Also, get them outside. Nature has lots of good
effects on our mood and mental health. And finally, talk to your kid. Have
repeated meaningful conversations about their friends, about life, and about
their mental health. What are they thinking and feeling? Learn how to be
patient and helpful, not judgmental or authoritative.
The bottom line
The Internet is a wonderful tool to help connect with others,
but it has the potential to make us feel bad also. Parents, try to help your
child understand that social media interactions are not the only interactions they
can have. And that seeing other people having fun doesn’t mean you’ve been left
out. You’ll have that fun when you see them next time.
We have numerous posts that talk about activities you
could do with your kids, as well as what you should do to protect your child
online. Check out our links below.