We all have secrets. Whether is was the time you went somewhere you weren’t supposed to, had a crush on a classmate, or did something you regret––we all have secrets from our past. Most of them are things we did eons ago that we sit around with our friends laughing about now. But for our children the tech world is bringing those secrets out in the open.
When Snapchat with its “disappearing” shared photos was launched three years ago, teenagers and young adults flocked to use it making it the number one social media app in the younger age bracket. Initially, Snapchat was created to share photos one on one, but last year they introduced “group share” where any teenager can share their self-destructible photo with the masses.
The sheer amount of objectionable material on Snapchat should move it to the “no-go” column of every parents app list. As bad as this app can be, there are several others that have taken the idea of sharing secret information to another level. If your teen is going to use Snapchat, I would recommend there be a greater degree of transparency and clear communication from you of what is allowed.
The average texting teenager sends more than 3300 text messages each month. Thanks to the popular apps Confide and CyberDust your teen can now share text messages that leave no history. CyberDust works very similarly to Snapchat in that you can set a timer on your text messages. Confide is the newest entry to the private messaging world. When you receive a text from a user it only shows a series of blocks where the words should be. As you swipe your finger over the blocks the words are revealed. This keep the user from taking a screenshot of the whole message.
In the truest form of sharing secrets, app users are turning to Whisper and Secret. Think of Whisper and Secret as your own online confessional except no one ever knows who is sharing the tawdry information. Users don’t use their real name or picture which leads users to become as inappropriate as possible with sharing their desires or secrets that they would never said out loud. A cursory look at each app shows that more than half of the “secrets” being shared are sexual in nature. Both of these have been in top ten apps used by teens.
Where there is no accountability, we will always fall into a trap of oversharing our lives or become prying voyeurs into someone else’s life. As a parent, it is important to always be aware of what apps are installed on your child’s phone or handheld devices. Take a few minutes at least once a month to, unannounced, look at their screens. This will help create healthy boundaries, as they never know when mom or dad will be coming to check up on them. Also, talk with your child about the responsibility of information. Nothing shared online ever truly disappears. Just as Snapshot who was fined by the FTC for not deleting those private messages that teens were sharing. The things we share with others reflect our character and intention and can have long term consequences for the future when applying to college or seeking a job. Help you child to live life in the open, free from secrets.