Wake up and smell the sexting, parents

By Kristen Thompson

For Blood, Sweat and Cheers!

Published: Monday, July 15 2013 12:00 p.m. MDT

I had a MySpace page before my kids even knew what it was. When my eldest turned 12, he asked to have one. His dad and I reluctantly agreed under several stipulations: We set it up with kid controls. We knew the password at all times. And we would be checking it. Weekly. Daily. Whenever we darn well pleased. Then Facebook came along, and Myspace disintegrated into cyber air. Like the rest of the world, he migrated over to Facebook, as did I. Same rules applied. Then Twitter came along. Kids left FB in their dust. This mom opened a Twitter account. Instagram followed. Mom followed. Notice the trend? But then things got tricky. Some of the open forum format changed to apps that you'd have to be invited to, to apps that were just between two people, to apps that take a quick photo and within seconds it disappears in cyber space to never be traced. That app? Snapchat. While I could somewhat regulate social networks (and sometimes not successfully. Mom-stalking isn't fool proof), these other apps had this mom stumped. While investigating on what I could see, I was dumbfounded by some of things kids were posting for the world to see. Where are these kids' parents? Do they know? Do they care? Am I breaking a mom-to-mom unsaid law by not informing them? I WANT to know. You better tell me, fellow parents! I will knock a Mann kid out. Look, I've seen things my kids have posted that have made me go "Woah! Oh no he didn't!!" They have had posts removed, comments removed, pictures removed, accounts deactivated, phones taken, iPods taken, phone service disconnected. Yes, we went there. They know what is acceptable and what is not.

Simply put: If you post something that you'd be embarrassed for your mom to see, don't post it. THAT's my rule. Like or not, you break it, we're going to rumble.

This leads me to alerting parents who are unaware of the unsaid convenience of not only texting but sharing pics, videos, etc. I'm not aiming usage of these at just teens but sadly preteens and children under the age of 10 as well. Many times they stumble upon something innocently, whether it's their peer cursing, borderline inappropriate content and even outright TRASH. My 10-year-old has a texting app on his iPod. He is not allowed to have a phone, but we agreed to let him have an app to text me, his dad, his brothers and his stepparents. If he wants to call a friend, he can use my phone. He also has an Instagram account where photos and now videos are shared. I can see who he follows and what they post. I've unfollowed a dozen or more of his older brothers' friends unbeknownst to him because of their inappropriate posting and language. I am THIS CLOSE to deleting everyone but family and his 10-year-old friends. My 13-, 15- and 19-year-olds have/had KIK, Vine, SnapChat, ooVoo and the usual suspects — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. At least if you're going to let your children have these apps, be informed:

Facebook and Twitter are social networks. If you don't know what they are, you need to be hit on the head with a hammer. Both social networks have inboxes. Check them regularly, parents. Don't assume your kid is making great decisions if you don't see anything on their "Wall." Word to the wise, have them access Twitter from your iPhone and now ALL notifications come to you automatically, even inbox messages. Know their passwords. Always.

Instagram: Pros — fun place to share videos and photos. No inbox feature, so everything is "out there."

Cons — if you don't keep up with who your kid is following, you're being naïve. My 10-year-old has 13-,15-, 19-year-old brothers who all have friends with Instagram accounts. The chances of him seeing or reading something above his 10-year-old sweet, innocent brain are great. Know their passwords and check Followers and what they post. Regularly. Unfollow, delete, block, unfollow, delete, block. Repeat.

Vine: Don't let the description — "The best way to share life in motion. Create short, beautiful looping videos in a simple and fun way" — mislead you. These looping videos can actually be a lot of fun to share. My oldest son has made some hilarious ones, but vine does not regulate rated G vs. rated X. If your kid has a Vine account or follows someone who posts Vine videos, WATCH THEM. Vine doesn't know or care if it's a 21-year-old adult or an 8-year-old kid on the receiving end. And remember, even if they don't have the Vine app, if the person posts them to Twitter and your kid follows them from their Twitter account, they can watch them there.

KIK: Instant Messenger. Basically if you don't know a person well enough to know their phone number to text or call them, you can KIK them. My mindset, if you don't know them "that well," you don't need to chat with them about anything. Ever.

User Reviews on Google for KIK:

"This app is awesome and cool my kik is ________. Kik me no guys jst girls from Detroit. I'm 15. Hit me up."

I purposely did not post this person's KIK name, but I can tell you if I see my 15-year-old's KIK name on FREAKING GOOGLE for someone to "hit him up" he's going to get "hit up" alright. Hit right upside the head with his iPhone before I crush it into 10,000 pieces. And who's to say this is a 15-year-old kid and not some 42-year-old creep living in his mother's basement preying on young girls? Yes, I may have watched one too many episodes of "20/20," but that stuff is real, folks!

"Definitely a great app if you don't like giving people your number. It's just like texting someone. 27-year-old woman looking for friends. KIK is _____________"

What if that 27-year-old woman "looking for friends" is KIKing your 11-year-old son?

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