Did Your Kids Get New Mobile Devices for the Holidays? Safety Tips for Parents

With many mobile devices being purchased as gifts for children this holiday season, the risk of cyber abuse and cyberbullying has never been greater.

Did you know that this past Thanksgiving day generated a record $639 million in sales of mobile devices, with Black Friday bringing in an additional $583 million?

With many mobile devices being purchased as gifts for children this holiday season, the risk of cyber abuse and cyberbullying has never been greater. In fact, more than 72 percent of teens said they were cyberbullied in the past year, and 45 percent of children admitted that they have interacted with strangers online–scary statistics.

Collectively, the social media industry is laser-focused on constantly innovating and changing to keep up with the times and trends–the worst thing that can happen to a once-popular platform is to be considered old and antiquated. As social media application consumers, it is important to continue to be mindful of individual app upgrades, including the addition of various new security features. Unfortunately, many new emerging trends on social media apps focus on making communication more accessible, geographically placed and media-focused–all major privacy issues for our children.

This holiday season, kids everywhere will be opening new (or, in some cases, their first) mobile devices. Whether it’s a phone or tablet, these WiFi-enabled, tech-forward “toys” are sure to dominate the popular holiday gifts lists this year. To help you understand what your children might be downloading to their new devices, we have compiled a list of the most popular social media platforms and apps, and provided tips on what they are and what to look for as a potential threat.

Instagram

With more than 400 million monthly active users, Instagram is both the fastest-growing social site and the most popular image-sharing app available. Millions of users take to Instagram daily to post pictures and videos to the masses.

To protect your children, make sure their location services are turned off and the photo map isn’t posting their location (learn how here). Make sure your children understand that they need to keep their profiles secure and private–don’t accept friend requests from strangers. Beware of hashtags–they take your private posts and make them searchable and, thus, accessible to the public (#stayprivate). Encourage a “spring cleaning,” where your children rid their profiles of unknown contacts, and advise your kids that the only way to get someone to “unfollow” them is to block them.

Snapchat

The most important things for users to understand about Snapchat is that the pictures and videos they snap do not actually disappear forever. Although your friends and followers can only view your material for a few seconds, every image and video is stored digitally on massive servers and, thus, is available to hackers.

What’s more, other apps like Snapsave and SnapGrab are available for download and enable recipients of “snaps” to save the material permanently within their personal devices. Be vigilant, parents.

Vine

Vine allows users to create and view six-second videos that run continuously on a loop. While this may seem harmless, Vine poses a dangerous threat–an ordinary search for a funny video on the platform can turn up sexual or violent footage, and any child with an imagination can search for inappropriate content. It’s also important to note that there are thousands of adult-entertainment stars that utilize the platform to gain followers using the hashtag #VineAfterDark.

Alternatively, Vine offers a platform specifically tailored to kids called “Vine Kids.” Urge your children to download this age-appropriate alternative, and rest assured that it only provides age-appropriate material.

Twitter

Twitter is a social networking platform that allows users to post “tweets,” images and videos to a broad audience. It provides open access to friends, famous people and a lot of unsuitable and searchable content from adult-film stars. A quick search for a specific hashtag can return barely monitored results from millions of users across the world.