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The average teenager spends about eight hours online each day. Although online safety is a critical part of living in modern society, many parents don’t exactly know what this security entails. Let’s get into the top online safety tips before we get into the social media apps parents should watch for.

How Parents Can Address Online Safety

1. Create and Enforce Internet Rules

The structure can help kids stay safe online. Some common rules include:

  • Distinguishing which sites are permissible and which ones are off-limits
  • Requiring that your child shares their log-in information with you
  • Monitoring their social media activity
  • Agreeing on how to manage personal information
  • Setting time limits for online activity

By making rules clear and enforcing them, kids and parents can be on the same page. Consistency is key—don't set rules you're not going to enforce or kids won't take any of them seriously. 

Related: 5 Signs Your Child is Overusing Technology 

2. Show an Interest in Their Online Activity

Showing an interest doesn't have to mean interrogating kids about what they're doing online. Kids can become secretive when they feel afraid of being judged or rejected. Instead, aim to keep an optimistic and open mind when it comes to their online habits. Ask about their favorite apps and websites, and encourage them to share what they’re learning or working on.

When this topic is open and you are genuinely interested in what your children are interested in, there's less secrecy, meaning kids won't feel the need to hide what they're doing and you won't feel suspicious. 

3. Teach Your Child to Think Critically

Remind your child that anyone can post anything on the internet and encourage them to practice caution when interacting with someone. Furthermore, encourage them to think twice before they post or share content themselves. 

Critical thinking skills are crucial for safe internet usage, and those skills will be important for the rest of their lives. Helping kids understand the long-term consequences of their online actions, having discussions about how to evaluate what they see online, and reminding them that who they interact with matters are just a few ways to approach critical thinking. 

4. Discuss the Risks of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a dangerous phenomenon that can spiral out of control quickly. In extreme cases, it can lead to devastating consequences. If you suspect your child is being cyber-bullied, have a direct conversation with them about what’s going on. 

It's also important to define cyberbullying and help kids see how their actions could be considered cyberbullying. No one wants to believe that their child could be the bully, but the nature of cyberbullying means that nearly anyone can bully or be bullied. 

Related: Social Media Dangers and the Effects of Cyberbullying

Final Thoughts on Online Safety

Online safety is an active, ongoing process. As technology evolves, safety needs will also change. Therefore, it’s important to stay informed of your child’s online behaviors.

Learn more about social media's impact on self-esteem. 

12 Social Media Apps to Watch Out For

In a world of ever-evolving technology and media, it is becoming increasingly difficult for parents to stay savvy about the newest apps and, more importantly, which ones are dangerous for their kids. Below you will find a list of popular apps that are dangerous or are tools used by online predators to reach out to young people.

1. Poof

Poof shows up on a smartphone as a clear box into which you can drop other apps, causing them to temporarily disappear. For example, if you are a parent who does not want your child to have any of the other dangerous apps on this list, your teenager or child could simply download the Poof app and hide them.

2. Whisper

Whisper allows you to anonymously post secrets and chat with others close to your geographical area. Many children are drawn to the idea of communicating with strangers, feeling that their secrets are safer with them than with their friends. It is an ideal tool for dangerous people online looking to connect with young people, because it allows them to exchange messages with the people nearest to you. Additionally, it is very easy to lose anonymity.

3. Snapchat

Snapchat is one of the more popular forms of social media today. Snapchat allows you to capture an image or a video and make it available to a recipient for a specific amount of time before it disappears. You can also post pictures and videos to a “story.” However, there are a few things about this app that many parents may not realize: There is a setting in the app that shows your exact location; which means if your child is posting from their bedroom, they are posting your home address out for the world to see; additionally, many people use Snapchat to send sexually inappropriate photos. Teenagers can use this to send photos, believing that the photo will disappear after a short period of time. However, people can screenshot the photo and have access to it even after it “disappears” on the app.

4. Tinder

Tinder is an online dating app that allows users to post photos and scroll through images of other users. When they think someone is attractive, they can flag an image; likewise, the app will try to connect you with other people who find you attractive. The danger of this apps and others like it is that they are generally used for “hookups.” It is also very easy to create fake accounts, which can lure unsuspecting young people into dangerous situations. Tinder also allows for private chatting, which could expose young people and teenagers to sexually explicit content and photos. Other similar dating apps to be on the look out for include, Plenty of Fish, Bumble, and Hinge.

5. Yik Yak

Yik Yak is an anonymous platform where users can post comments that are accessible to the nearest 500 people within a one- to five-mile radius. Yik Yak can essentially turn a school into a virtual chat room because users can comments anonymously without rebuke. If Johnny were to start a rumor that Suzie has an STD – there would be nothing to stop him and no recourse for Suzie. This is an ideal app for cyberbullying.

6. Kik

Kik is a text messaging app that essentially allows you to send images and text without it being logged in the phone’s history. This is an ideal way for young people to text with strangers in a way that their parents will not catch on too easily.

7. Dubsmash

Dubsmash is a highly popular app that allows users to lip-sync over popular songs. The sound files in Dubsmash include topics for language that can be very inappropriate for tweens and teens. Dubsmash is rated 12+ because it has mature themes, including alcohol and drug references, mild sexual content and nudity, as well as profanity and crude humor. There’s not a great way to filter within the app to keep content specific to younger kids.

8. Chatroulette

Chatroulette is a chatting app that randomly matches users with someone from anywhere around the globe to have a video chat. This app is popular for sexually explicit content and it is not uncommon to be matched with a chat partner who is completely nude in front of their webcam. There is nothing to stop the person you’re chatting with from recording the video chat and posting it elsewhere. This is among one of the more dangerous apps on this list.

9. Ask.fm

This is a popular question-and-answer social networking site used almost exclusively by kids. It’s dangerous because it is a completely anonymous question-asking platform which can lead to extreme cyberbullying. There are nine documented suicide cases linked to Ask.fm in the United Kingdom to date.

10. MeetMe

MeetMe is an app that uses GPS to allow users to meet new people who live nearby, but there’s no age verification and your account is linked to Facebook. This means you and your location are easily identifiable to predators.

11. Down

Down is a dating app connected to Facebook that allows you to classify your friends into people you would be “down” to hook up with, which creates normalcy for a sexual hookup for young people.

12. Blendr

Blendr is a flirting app that allows users to send photos or videos to anyone on their friends list and rate their “hotness.” Because the app uses GPS and is not authenticated, predators can use it to find minors or anyone else they’re looking for. It’s also popular for sexting, and the “hotness” rating allows for bullying.

It is possible to allow young people to use some apps to connect with their friends, but it is also important that parents stay involved in what their kids are consuming by using phone monitoring apps such as those included with most Apple devices or by using apps such as Bark.Us. When parents choose to allow young people to engage with social media, they should take the time to research the platform and, if they choose to allow their child to have an account, to keep the account on their own phone. This allows the parent to supervise the type of content being consumed by the child and any messages that might be coming through.


Common Sense Research | Common Sense Media. (2020). Commonsensemedia.org. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research