If I asked you what the top 5 apps your child uses daily could you tell me?
If I asked you the average time spent on social media that your child says they use, could you tell me?
One last question, do you know how old your child needs to be to create an account on these apps?
Upper School students were recently invited to complete an optional anonymous survey about social media interest and usage. The results were eye-opening: between the hours per day that they said they spend on social media and the percentage of their followers who they actually know, we have a lot to understand about what our children are doing online. If you think about it, this generation accesses a majority of their information from school, conversations at home, and social media. A social media influencer’s sole purpose is to influence their viewers to think a certain way. Marketing departments worldwide love this because influencers start trends that skyrocket products. The flipside of this is that an influencer can directly influence your child's social-emotional well-being. Knowing what your child is viewing can go a long way for their well-being.
Let’s review the most popular apps among FH’s Upper School Students (in order of popularity):
This app was created and designed for music videos, dances, and lip-syncing but has evolved into a video content app with video topics far beyond music. At any given time, a viewer can watch a video about making mac and cheese, switch to a video posted by Kim Kardashian, to a video encouraging school property destruction in less than a half-hour.
This app started as a platform to share a photo or video that could be viewed for a few moments and never saved. However, now the photos and videos can be saved, chats can now be pinned, and video chatting is available. A positive about Snapchat is that users are less likely to receive a Snapchat from someone they aren’t already “friends” with. However, the user can save “Hidden Stories,” so it is important for parents to know the ins and outs of this app.
This platform has been around for 11 years, starting as a photo posting hub, and now features short videos. Instagram is a spot for users to post items to their story and comment on someone else’s. It gives life to the saying “everyone has a story,” and this is the tool to share it. Similar to TikTok, the range of content you find on Instagram is endless.
This app is used for text messaging, calling, and video calling. This app really broke out as an alternative to an international data plan. With WhatsApp, you just need WiFi, and you can text anyone anywhere without data or roaming charge. WhatsApp has also evolved. It’s now commonly used as a way to have text messages recorded or tracked, but that information is collected through the app, not your phone service provider.
This platform is probably the oldest of the group. It was developed to keep in touch, post photos, and share thoughts. Now users can post videos, photos, sell items, video chat, message, and even live stream activity. Facebook recently launched Meta, where you can buy a headset and be immersed in the metaverse or simply play virtual reality games.
Now that we have an idea of where your children are and what they’re doing and seeing in those platforms, here are some tips to help you as the parent guide your child in safe social media use:
- Know the app. Do your research and learn the ins and outs of what your child can access and share and who they can interact with.
- When you show your child that you know the app well, they will think twice before liking, commenting, or posting questionable content.
- Get the app.
- Follow your child so you can see what they’re sharing and how they’re interacting with others.
- Check your child’s settings and make sure their social media account is set to private.
- This means that only people who know your child or your child reach out to can connect online.
- Limit screen time.
- That’s right, even the Director of Technology recommends limiting screen time! Too much screen time can make you miss some pretty incredible events that happen offline.
- Screens emit something called blue light. Exposing your eyes to blue light within 1-2 hours of sleep has been said to affect sleep negatively.
- Know your child’s account credentials.
- You have every right to know what is on your child’s device.
- Look into a parental control or guide program.
- Parental controls can be as relaxed as content filtering extreme content or as strict as device allowable screen time. The way you set up your parental controls should coincide with your ideals and principles.
I mentioned parental control programs, so let's explore your options to keep your children safe online.
This robust application is set up on your child’s device. You can filter the web while also getting instant alerts when inappropriate or dangerous content is searched. Instead of blocking apps or allowing them at 100%, you can customize and guide your child to being a safe digital citizen.
Kaspersky Safe Kids
Similar to Net Nanny, Kaspersky Safe Kids will support you as the parent on Macs, PC, and smartphones, providing content filtering, time management, and app management. App blocking is limited in this program, as it will block apps that have an age restriction.
This app has geofencing features that allow you to know exactly when your children leave or enter a location Qustodio features a panic button that immediately alerts you and shares their location with you. Yes, every phone has an SOS feature now, but you would never get the alert if your child were in danger. While Qustodio can tell you when, where, and for how long your child was on a social media app, it won’t be able to tell you what was viewed or posted.
Head of School Georgia Zaiser’s favorite! Mobicip can manage multiple devices, track locations, and supervise videos. This software seems to work on iOS, Android, Windows, Chromebooks, Mac, and Kindle on any device. You can customize devices depending on your child and their age so you can filter for each child accordingly.
This name may sound familiar to you because it’s the same company that runs one of—if not the—largest antivirus companies. While this program can support android iOS and Windows, most of its features are geared towards Android or Windows. Norton Family’s geofencing, content filtering, time management, and app management work 100% on Android and Windows but don’t work with Macs. Norton will bundle a deal with one of their more expensive antivirus software products and throw in a free Norton Family plan for cheaper or free.
As its name sounds, it alerts parents of potential danger. Bark will filter your child’s texts, emails, and photos and alert you if it finds something potentially dangerous. This app will provide real-time suggestions from child psychologists on dealing with the situation.
Content filtering at home can be helpful to parents and children. Sometimes, it even comes with the router or modem you purchase. It’s usually something you need to activate, so reach out to your cable provider to find out more.
My hope is that you take away two things from what I’ve shared here:
1. Knowledge is the key.
Know what is on your child’s device, know what they are into, and know how the app works.
2. Set yourself up for success by monitoring or guiding your child’s digital footprint. \
Your child will make mistakes and learn from them, but that doesn’t mean we can’t guide them on the right path along the way.
This just scratches the surface of what our children see and do online. I invite you to join Head of School Georiga Zaiser and me on Thursday, March 3, 2022, 6:30–8 p.m. for “Teens in the Digital Atmosphere: What You Need to Know and Where You Need to Step In.” We’ll take a closer look at some of these platforms, what you need to be aware of (did you know your children can even hide apps on their devices?), and how we can support our children. Register to attend and let us know if there are any specific topics or questions you’d like us to address.
If you have any questions feel free to reach out either directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to my very knowledgeable team at email@example.com
Disclaimer: Far Hills Country Day School and Oliver Forsythe have no affiliation with any of these apps, platforms, or software programs mentioned in this post. Oliver Forsythe researched each one to provide the information to you.
About Oliver Forsythe
Oliver Forsythe became our Director of Technology at Far Hills Country Day School in July 2021. With over ten years of experience, Oliver is leading the Technology Department with conviction and tackles technology updates and challenges with patience and care. Oliver has modernized our approach to technology in the classroom for our students and updated the user experience for our faculty, staff, and parent communities.
Oliver first entered the Far Hills Country Day School community in 2009 when he signed up to be a substitute teacher. He then officially started as an intern in the technology department and has worked his way up to becoming the Director. While on his path to becoming Director, he has worked part-time in the Business Office running reports and spreadsheets, part-time in the Maintenance Department on snow cleanup duty, as well as coached three seasons of athletics (most notably coaching the hockey team to an undefeated season in 2018—Go Falcons!). You could say Oliver has taken the necessary steps to learn the many aspects that make Far Hills great.
Oliver is a member of the NJAIS Tech Steering committee which supports member schools by working on best practices, ed-tech tools, and focusing on professional development to increase teaching and learning using technology.
Oliver also serves on the Faculty and Staff Belay team, working with the students on Far Hills Country Day School’s ever-popular Ropes Course.
At home, you can find Oliver outside with his wife and daughter doing numerous activities or searching for the web for the next tech gadget that will assist in the classroom.