Can a Service Like TeenSafe Protect Your Teens From Social Media?

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Can a Service Like TeenSafe Protect Your Teens From Social Media?

Advances in technology have helped contribute to a greater quality of life for many people in the modern era. Arguably one of the most impactful technologies to emerge recently has been the internet, and along with that, social media. Through these innovations, we have been able to learn, share, and connect in ways we would never have deemed imaginable just a short time ago. However, along with these benefits have come some significant downsides, many of which are often felt most acutely by children and teens. That is the focus of the leading parental monitoring service, TeenSafe.

The service was created to help parents better track how their children use technology, specifically through the use of smartphones. Along with that functionality, the service has developed numerous informational resources to help guide parents in their goal of achieving the safe use of technology, such as social media, by their children. Read on for a look at this info and the ways in which the service works to help keep kids safe.

 

Service Overview

 

TeenSafe can be used to monitor a wide variety of smartphone functions, one of which is the sending and receiving of text messages. Through the use of the service, parents can see not only incoming and outgoing messages but also those that have been deleted. It can also be used to monitor messages sent via third-party apps, such as Kik or WhatsApp. The monitoring of messages is limited to text-based content exclusively and does not include any photos or videos that may have been exchanged.

In addition to the above features, the service can also be used to monitor a phone’s location. This feature can be used to view a phone’s current location as well as past locations a phone has been. This allows parents to create a more complete picture of their child’s daily whereabouts which can be useful in ensuring they are engaging in safe practices.

Additional functionality includes monitoring of call logs to see who children are speaking with. This functionality includes the ability to view contact lists as well in order to see whose contact information children have saved to their phone. Parents can also use the service to monitor web browsing history. This feature not only allows parents to see which website their child is visiting, but also the websites they have bookmarked for repeat viewing.

 

Developing Judgement

 

One of the chief reasons that children and teens can benefit from the type of monitoring offered by the service stems from the nature of how brains develop. There are a variety of distinct regions of the brain that develop at different rates than one another. The region of the brain that is most responsible for judgement and self-control is known as the frontal lobe. This lobe is actually the last region to mature in the brain, not becoming fully mature until a person reaches the age of twenty-five. Before it reaches this final stage of development, the frontal lobe has difficulty making disciplined or rational decisions. For a fuller picture of how a child’s brain develops, take a look at some of the below facts.

 

Brain Facts:

 

  • A teenager’s brain is approximately eighty percent developed
    • One of the underdeveloped portions of the teenage brain is responsible for risk assessment, leading to an incomplete ability to engage in rational thinking
  • The prefrontal cortex, one of the last portions of the brain to develop, is utilized in a variety of emotionally-related functions
    • The incomplete ability to control these functions can leave teens especially susceptible to:
      • Risky behavior
      • Impulsive behavior
      • Peer pressure
    • Studies have shown that teenagers use fifty percent less of their prefrontal cortex than adults when trying to read the emotional state of others
      • This can contribute to an impaired ability to recognize potentially dangerous emotions in others including those that are associated with:
        • Harmful behavior
        • Illegal activities
        • Inappropriate relationships with others

 

Brain Chemistry Implications

 

The above look at brain chemistry shows that a teenager’s brain is not the same as a fully developed adult brain. It is not just lacking experience, it is also lacking fundamental architecture that helps adults engage in rational and safe decision making. Without the full functionality of an adult brain, teenagers are left with less of an ability to experience emotion in a mature way or to exercise productive judgment.

In addition, teenage brains are susceptible to outside stimuli in a way that many adult brains are not. These stimuli can be as seemingly innocuous as sleep deprivation or sensory overload. Where a typical adult may be able to handle a certain amount of these types of external stimuli and still go about their daily tasks, a teen may have a much harder time. That’s not to mention some of the more serious situations that can affect a teenager in their life, such as alcohol or drug use, mental illness, or interaction with dangerous individuals.

 

Potential Harm from Social Media

 

Due to a teenager’s incomplete ability to exercise rational judgment, one particularly dangerous area in which they can find themselves in trouble is through their activities on social media. With a wide range of potential threats accessible via online content, teens can find themselves viewing material that is inappropriate for their age, such as that of a sexual or violent nature. In part because of the elevated nature of risks on social media, the TeenSafe service was created with a suite of tools to help parents monitor their child’s online activity.

Beyond merely making inappropriate content available, social media also presents an elevated danger to kids due to its interactive nature. The ability of social media platforms to connect people can put a child in touch with others who may intend to do them harm. Without a fully formed ability to recognize this threat, a child may find themselves engaging in conversations or activities that those with an elevated maturity level would be better equipped to avoid. Furthermore, if this type of technology is left unmonitored, these activities can all take place without the knowledge of a parent or guardian.

 

Threat of Cyberbullying

 

One of the major dangers that teens may encounter online is the threat presented by cyberbullying. The practice is defined by Merriam-Webster as the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person (such as a student) often done anonymously. Though bullying in the past was not taken seriously by society, modern studies have shown that it is much more harmful than previously thought. Not only has bullying been the cause of many concerns relating to mental health issues, it also seems to be much more prevalent in the modern online landscape.

Though many parents believe that they have a firm grasp on the day to day life of their child, many are startled to find out how integrated cyberbullying has become in the lives of a modern teen. Below are some facts uncovered by recent studies that may come as a surprise.

 

Cyberbullying in Modern Life:

 

  • Though it may seem to be a contained phenomenon, in actuality one in four children have been the victim of bullying online
  • In addition, more than sixty percent of kids have witnessed cyberbullying taking place
  • Despite its prevalence, ninety percent of children will not tell their parent or an adult when cyberbullying occurs
  • In fact, many kids will actively hide their online activity from their parents, with a recent study showing that seventy percent of teens have engaged in the practice
  • This number is on the rise, with only forty-five percent of teens having attested to the same practice in 2010

 

Cyberbullying Through Social Media

 

Though social media has provided many benefits in recent years and has served to bring many people closer together, it has also created a haven for bullies of all types to victimize others online. The potential for this type of activity only increases as more and more young people create social media profiles, a practice which is on the rise. To take just one example, currently more than fifty percent of kids between the ages of eight and seventeen have a Facebook profile.

In addition, the social media profiles of many young people contain sensitive information that can be used as additional points of contact when bullies are looking for victims. For instance, ninety-one percent of teens use their own name and photo when creating a profile. Almost one in four will list their phone number on their profile as well. And many teenage profiles are not fully hidden behind a service’s privacy protections, with about forty percent of teenage Facebook accounts having public or partially public privacy settings. This allows anyone on the internet to view the sensitive identifying information that teens post.

 

Recommendations From the Service

 

Though the tools provided by TeenSafe can help parents monitor their child’s online behavior to work towards a safe social media experience, there are additional steps the service recommends to help protect kids from cyberbullies. One thing they emphasize is the importance of communication between parents and kids. The usage of a monitoring service can serve as a jumping-off point to start this type of communication. Being able to highlight the reasons why monitoring can be beneficial, and the types of behavior to be avoided, can provide teens with insight into the good sense behind limiting online behavior.

Beyond communication, the service recommends setting boundaries and norms around phone and internet usage with young people. These boundaries may center around the amount of time that can be spent on a device, or the hours in which a device may be used. Boundaries may also include limits on the types of content that can be accessed, or who can be communicated with while online.

Though the tools provided by the service can be used to ensure that boundaries are being adhered to, it is best to get buy-in from the teen in order to ensure parents and their kids are working together towards the same ultimate goal. One way to get this type of buy-in is to utilize a “contract” with clearly defined usage guidelines for technology that both a parent and their child can agree to. In this way, expectations are explicit and the consequences for misuse of technology are spelled out ahead of time.

 

Online Predators

 

Another serious threat that young people encounter on the internet is the one posed by online predators. Unfortunately, this risk has become more prevalent with the ease of access to potential victims afforded by the internet. Unlike cyberbullying, which typically limits itself to online interaction, the goal of some predators is actually to meet up with young people in person. Though the risks associated with such a meeting are immediately recognizable, some of the more alarming information related to these types of practices may not be as familiar. Below is a brief rundown of some of the more pertinent facts about online predators and how they target teens and other children.

 

Dangers Posed By Predators:

 

  • Many parents are optimistic that the number of predators operating online is low, but this may not be the case
    • In fact, recent estimates show that over 500,000 predators are online in any given day
  • Though there are different types of predators, one particularly nefarious type is those that seek to sexually exploit children
    • Over fifty percent of sexual exploitation victims online are between the ages of twelve and fifteen years old
  • Many teens engage in risky behavior online that can serve to aid a predator in achieving their goals
    • Eighty-six percent of teens chat online without their parents knowing
    • Sixty percent admit to responding to messages they receive from strangers
    • Half of all teens post some type of personal information online, typically through social media
    • More than one third say they’ve sent personal information directly to strangers

 

Social Media Enables Predators

 

Though there are numerous methods that predators use to contact victims online, but one of the most prevalent methods of establishing contact is through the use of social media. Social media profiles often contain information that predators can use to create a relationship of trust between themselves and their victims in order to convince them to do things they might otherwise not. This can be especially effective with teens and children who lack the judgement skills of a fully mature adult. Examples of the type of information that can be used by a predator to gain trust include a child’s age and their hobbies. Predators can even use social media profiles that don’t contain personal information to find a potential young victim simply by seeking out usernames that appear to be child-oriented.

In addition to seeking out information to build a relationship of trust, predators use social media to engage in a variety of other practices to serve their ultimate goals. The messaging function on these platforms can serve as a method for making contact between a predator and a potential victim. This method can be made more effective if a predator’s social media profile makes it appear as if they have common interests with their victim. After contact is established, predators will often work to create a more intimate relationship with those they target by seeking to become a confidant or otherwise create a seemingly genuine connection.

 

Monitoring to Combat Predators

 

Though the previously mentioned methods advocated by TeenSafe to open lines of communication between parents and children can serve to fight predators online, they may not ultimately be fully effective if a predator has gained a child’s trust. In these cases, the monitoring tools offered by the service can act as a safety net to ensure that parents can safeguard their child’s online experience. By keeping track of the people they interact with on social media and through their phone, parents can help to make sure their child is not engaging in unsafe behavior.

This type of tracking can be achieved through the service’s ability to monitor text messages, phone calls, and third-party messaging apps. The service’s ability to monitor website history can also give parents a powerful tool in fighting online predators. Should a predator convince a child to meet in person, the ability for parents to track a phone’s present and past locations can also be an important asset in working to keep children safe from online threats that transition into real-life dangers.

Technological advances have brought numerous benefits to the modern age, including an increased ability to communicate and learn through social media. However, as with any technology, proper adherence to safe practices are necessary to help mitigate potential harm. Along with advocating for these practices through an open line of communication between parents and children, the TeenSafe service offers a suite of tools that help parents monitor their child’s technological usage. With a range of threats on the internet, from cyberbullying to online predators, the need for these types of tools have never been greater. The above information, as well as the numerous resources available from the service’s website, can serve as a jumping off point for parents seeking to balance the pros and cons of modern technology.

More about TeenSafe on Crunchbase

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