Parents, Be Aware: Invisible but Dangerous Online Activities

teen sitting at table using ipad

While many mock alarmist moms and media, most sensible parents realize that there are dangers lurking online that can strongly impact their teens’ innocence, reputation, and safety. Many savvy moms and dads check phones for intimate texting (a.k.a. sexting) and adding kids as a Facebook friend — or even requiring access to all social media passwords. But some online activities are gaining popularity and are pretty much invisible — or so kids think.

Yik Yak Is Yucky!

This “gossip app” allows people to basically post anonymously within a certain geographic radius. As you can imagine, schools already dealing with cyber bullying are prime targets. Unlike more typical social networking outlets, though, this one is a social equalizer, with a high capacity for “anonymous, targeted destruction” like the saga described by one high school senior who spoke — or, rather, wrote — out against it.

While the app may have no handles to identify those posting, anyone can be a victim, and real pain and social ramifications result, just like from low-tech gossip (Proverbs 16:28). If you see this app on your teen’s phone, you’ll want to make sure it’s deleted right away.

girl too busy on smartphone

Why Are They Whispering?

Secret-sharing sites such as Whisper attract those who want to know secrets, as well as those who want to tell their own. Even the most innocent teens can be lured by the sexual confessions and unwittingly become exposed to all kinds of unsafe, unhealthy practices they wouldn’t otherwise know about.

While we all like the idea of being in the know and can enjoy the cathartic impact of confession without potential fallout, there are price tags that come with such knowledge, and there are no restored relationships or help where confession is so secret.

As in the Garden of Eden, we all desire the feeling of power that comes with knowledge, but teens need to have trusted adults explain how they can’t un-know something once they’ve heard or seen it. And a loving parent can explain the benefits of biblical confession (Proverbs 28:13).

smartphone addict

Snapchat and the Like

In an attempt to avoid the longstanding potential damage that can come through racy or threatening text messages or photos via Instagram or Twitter, teens can opt for a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t option via Snapchat. Despite the many lured by claims that their text messages, photos, and videos would “disappear forever” after the allotted number of seconds, Snapchat’s CEO has admitted that they still technically exist.

A number of similar apps have emerged, as a result, making it more difficult to spot such an app. Regardless of the veracity of an app’s claims, though, recipients can always take a screen shot of the disappearing image or text, and then share it via whatever medium they choose. Once it’s out there, teens need to know they can’t control who ends up seeing it (Numbers 32:23).

Ultimately, it’s not just their reputations teens need to value, but their standing before a Holy God who sees even secret things (Luke 8:17).

Image credits: Top © Monkey Business/Fotolia; 2nd © David Pereiras/Fotolia; 3rd © Astrosystem/Fotolia

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