Do you know which social media apps your teenager is using? Facebook? So last year. Twitter? Um, that was last week. In fact, some teenagers switch social media services as soon as the next new thing appears—or too many adults show up—making it tough, if not impossible, for parents to keep tabs.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and there are a few ways to do that. For starters, set the expectation with your teenager (ideally, when he or she first gets a phone or Internet-enabled device, but it’s never to late to start) that you will be checking the device from time to time to see what they’re up to.
Lay ground rules for how you expect the device to be used and what will happen if these rules are broken (like, perhaps, confiscating the phone for several days or a week or more, depending on the offense). Then follow through. Periodically, pick up the device, look at what apps are installed, and open them up to see what they are and how your teenager is using them. Familiarize yourself with the lingo of texting, so if you see something like “gnrn,” you’ll know it means “get naked right now.” Yep, we’re serious about that one.
Require your teenager to friend or accept your follow on social media, though this won’t help if your teenager is using a new social media app you don’t know about. Hint: if your teenager is suddenly rarely active on a social media platform where you’re friends, then that may be a clue she’s moved on to somewhere else.
Another option is to install parental control software in order to limit and/or track what your teenager is up to. Visit your carrier’s website to see what options are available, but understand that these capabilities vary by carrier and the type of device your teenager is using (Apple does not offer much for its mobile devices)—and that many teenagers are savvy enough to get around these restraints. Also note that your carrier’s controls won’t be in effect when your teenager’s device joins a wireless network at a friend’s house or in a public place.
So, what apps are popular these days that you may not know about. Well, there’s Kik, an app that lets your teens send all kinds of messages (including video, memes, and more); Vine, where users can create short, looping videos (think Instagram for video); Wanelo (stands for Want, Need, Love), a shopping app popular with teenage girls; and the vaporware apps, like Snapchat and Wickr, where messages disappear within seconds of being read. Many sites devoted to Internet safety keep a running tab on these apps, so if you encounter a new one, Google around to see what the downside (and upsides) might be.
Do you have ways to keep track of your teenagers app use? If so, let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear them!