Daily our kids are sending messages, leaving comments, and snapping selfies at unprecedented rates.
Our kids have begun to rely heavily on text messaging or social media giants, like Facebook, to follow, chat, and be in constant communication with our friends or ‘friends of friends’ at any given minute or hour of the day.
While this digital revolution is fascinating and promoting more authentic communication among the masses, our children are suddenly facing many challenges that were unimaginable during our own youth. Today, it can be difficult keeping track of the myriad of new applications and social media outlets that abound.
All of these new digital hangouts are perfect vehicles for allowing our children plenty of opportunities to hide away from the prying eyes of mom and dad. To do this, many of our kids are turning to the world of disappearing messaging apps.
Disappearing Messaging Apps and Our Kids
Disappearing messaging apps promise users that their posts will automatically delete after a certain amount of lapsed time or after they have been viewed.
The disappearing aspect of these apps are a major selling point to our kids, because unlike traditional social media sites there is not a record of every comment, photo, or like. This allows our children to enjoy social media without a fear of creating a long running and less than stellar digital footprint.
Understanding Disappearing Apps
To help make sense of the disappearing app market, we have compiled the following list of 4 popular apps teens use that we should be aware of and know how they work:
Snapchat is probably one of the more popular and favored disappearing apps at the moment. This fun app lets children send amusing messages, short videos, or silly photos that will ultimately disappear after a set time frame after being viewed.
Recently, this app has allowed users to create “Stories” that resemble a slide show (complete with a beginning, middle, and end) to narrate an event that is public to friends for 24 hours before self-destroying.
Wickr users can send information and photos that will last for up to six days before disappearing. This app relies on a cryptographic system that doesn’t collect email addresses, data on users, or other personal information. While this security is an added bonus for users, it can make it difficult for parents and children to document cases of cyberbullying or online harassment.
The app, Line, offers a variety of services ranging from voice chat to sending little videos. This app works across a wide variety of devices and platforms which makes it ideal for many users. However, hidden behind all these bells and whistles is “Hidden Chats”. This allows Line users to set time limits for messages to vanish from all devices and servers.
This app prides itself on the inability to document or share messages while being viewed. One standout feature of Burn Note, is the user’s ability to highlight bits of the message as it is being read.
It was intended to reduce the chances that the image will be viewed by unintended people or screenshot for prosperity. Similar to other disappearing apps, the fleeting quality of Burn Note makes it practically impossible to document cyberbullying or harassment.
If the bullying gets out of hand, it is practically impossible to prove the messages were recurring which is needed to build a case or seek help from authorities.
Parental Concerns about Disappearing Apps
While this freedom can be liberating, the fleeting nature of these apps may inadvertently encourage our kids to send hurtful or questionable materials because they have no accountability for their actions.
This electronic connectivity has opened the floodgates for cyberbullying, sexting, and online exploitation to become real threats to our son’s and daughter’s well-being. In fact, researchers have found that cyberbullying rates have tripled and sexting is now considered a normal part of adolescent development.
To add further insult to injury, our children’s sensitive information can be saved, forwarded, or retrieved. Yes, even with a disappearing app, content is not guaranteed to vanish. Users have mastered the art of screenshots to save images or to share with others and typically there is a digital link somewhere floating in technology’s abyss of servers and hardware.
Children who use disappearing messages need to understand that there is always potential that any item they sent digitally was never really destroyed.
While our kids may not be happy that we are monitoring what they are doing online, it is still our responsibility to keep them safe and to teach them how to navigate the opportunities and dangers of living part of their lives in cyberspace.
By Hilary Smith, free-lance journalist
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