At one stage, it seemed everyone lived on Facebook. We knew it was important to keep an eye on what our children were up to online, and it didn’t seem too difficult when we knew where they were virtually hanging out. If they weren’t there, they were probably on Twitter.
But times have changed. The number of social networking apps has mushroomed and teenagers love nothing more than to hop between them, catching up with different groups of friends and making new ones all over the world.
As a parent, it’s worrying – so we’ve put together a list of some you might not be aware of, with details to help you ensure your kids make good choices and stay safe online.
Allows people to text or video chat for free, although there are charges for advanced features. Kik is supposed to be for over-13s, but there’s no effective check to prevent a child lying about their age when signing up.
Kik offers a way to meet new friends with similar interests; you pick a username and are free to explore public groups, as well as being able to start your own. The danger is you don’t really know who you’re talking to.
Users can send messages, images, and videos, as well as make calls and video calls. You can also set up group chats in Whatsapp.
It’s free of charge, apart from regular data fees, which makes it especially popular with those on holiday or who need to keep in touch with overseas friends and family. Once you’ve signed up, it automatically adds everyone in your phone’s address book; some users don’t like this.
One of the most popular and fastest-growing apps. Users snap, edit and share pictures and videos, and the focus is on getting as many followers and ‘likes’ for their posts as possible. This can cause problems if teens use the app to gauge their popularity.
Instagram accounts are public unless settings are deliberately adjusted, and posts can be shared quickly – so once something is out there, it stays there.
The use of searchable hashtags means it’s easy to connect with people all over the world – and for them to find you. There is also the option to send a private message.
Similar: Musical.ly, a platform for sharing and making videos.
Texts, photos, videos, audio clips – it’s a bit like a blog but in a never-ending stream, making Tumblr a very ‘instant’ platform.
Teens share content with friends and post their own thoughts about life, the universe, and everything. Content can be viewed by everyone, unless the creator chooses to make it private. It’s easy to share and re-blog posts on your own account – which means what your child posts could end up anywhere.
An app for streaming and watching live video broadcasts. As with other platforms, the aim of YouNow is to gain as many viewers and fans as possible – which could lead to poor choices. Content is moderated, but the ‘live’ aspect means anything can happen.
It’s easy for strangers to connect and chat. Teens might share personal information by accident or, if broadcasting from their rooms for example, inadvertently have personal items on display.
The appeal of Snapchat for many is the time limit on how long pictures and videos are available for before they disappear.
The reality is it’s quick and easy to save a ‘snap’, so content never really goes away. Users need to be aware that content doesn’t necessarily vanish forever.
Young people can share images and videos with friends or on a public ‘story’, and there are plenty of funny filters and special effects. However, its popularity has declined in recent times – with many users heading to Instagram instead.
Users post thoughts and share whatever’s on their mind, along with an image. Other people can ‘like’ or reply, or even start to chat with the poster. There’s also an option to share posts.
While it’s an anonymous place to offload, this does mean there’s a lot of sexual and inappropriate content for teenagers. It’s also location-based – images show how far away from you the poster is. As a result, there are many requests for meetings and relationships.
Other apps to be aware of, are those primarily promoting personal chats, meetings and dates. The clue is in the name with MeetMe, while Tinder is one of the most popular.
It’s hard to track your teenager’s online activity, but most will appreciate you are trying to keep them safe. A conversation about which apps they are using – and then checking out what they involve – is a good place to start.