MamaBear’s Most Popular Posts in 2014

MamaBear Most Popular 2014 Posts

2014 was the biggest year yet for kids and parents experiencing life in the digital world. To help parents navigate their families across all the challenges, MamaBear published dozens of articles for parents looking for online safety tips, teenage social media trends, and advice about digital parenting. Among all the great content, following are the 5 most popular posts our readers loved the most.

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1. MamaBear’s List of Apps Parents Should Ban

It may seem like an oxymoron, but in 2014, the big trend in social media apps was secrecy.

Multiple apps that allowed users to create anonymous accounts became popular with tweens and teens — which created a problem for parents.

The anonymity offered by apps like Whisper, Secret, Ask.fm and others put many youths at risk for being bullied, harassed, or approached by dangerous strangers. Parents used MamaBear’s List of Apps Parents Should Ban to get them in the know.

2. Top Five Messaging Apps for Tweens and Teens

The post gave parents a look at the popular apps kids are using to communicate with their friends (and possibly even strangers).

  1. WhatsApp Messenger
  2. Kik
  3. LINE
  4. SnapChat
  5. Viber

We heard a lot about SnapChat this year and most recently about a hack of third party SnapChat apps leading to hundreds of thousands of photos leaked online. We covered some highpoints about the media coined “Snappening.”

3. The Best Apps for Parents in 2014

Last year wasn’t all about apps for kids. Our MamaBear parents appreciated The Best Apps for Parents in 2014 throughout the year with helpful,  time-saving and fun apps that parents could enjoy.

  • iReward Chart
  • Evite
  • Cozi Family Organizer
  • Open Table
  • Fandango
  • Great Clips
  • Splice
  • Allrecipes Dinner Spinner
  • Fav Today
  • MamaBear

Looking for even more apps for parents? Stay tuned. MamaBear will be releasing the 2015 list of the best apps for moms in our next blog post.

4. Tips For Giving Your Child Their First Smartphone For the Holidays

Giving the responsibility of a cell phone to a child is a nerve-racking experience for most parents. So it’s no surprise that our post Tips For Giving Your Child Their First Smartphone For the Holidays was one of the year’s most popular.

The post explains how a cell phone for your child can be beneficial to both child and parent when the proper steps are followed. Read details of our recommended process to include:

  1. Setting Parental Controls
  2. Discussing Usage and Set Limits
  3. Reviewing Social Media Guidelines, Privacy, and Rules
  4. Creating Your Own Cell Phone Contract
  5. Installing an App that Connects and Protects

This article isn’t just a holiday read. It’s an excellent resource for parents who are about to give phones to their kids any time of the year.

5. Dangers of Talking to Strangers Online

Learning that nearly 60% of teens have received an email or instant message from a stranger online made the Dangers of Talking to Strangers Online an important topic for 2014.

Parents used the article to learn about a new list of chat apps and common chat slang that kids use to hide the meaning of their messages from their parents.

These are just a few of the family safety and digital parenting resources MamaBear created this year. We have way more where that came from!

Check out archived posts, look out for new ones, and download the MamaBear Family Safety App (available for both iPhones and Androids) so we can help make protecting and parenting your family easier in 2015.

 

The Dangers of Messaging Apps

dangers messaging app

In a recent MamaBear Blog post, we identified some of the top messaging apps. Most parents are aware of the prominence of social messaging apps and the way they have captivated tweens. While messaging apps can be harmless in most cases, it is important for parents to not only stay in the know about which apps are being used but also to monitor them as closely as possible to ensure their children’s safety.

The Dangers of Messaging Apps

While kids may simply be using messaging apps like Kik and SnapChat to share trivial messages and a range of goofy emoticons with their school friends, there are some hidden dangers associated with messaging app use that would strike fear into the heart of any parent.

According to this Fox 4 article, in one week the app Kik was linked to three serious crimes involving teen victims in Southwest Florida. The apps are being used by predators to prey on young victims as well as by kids engaging in sexting and cyberbullying.

See Also: Taking Responsibility for Kids and Sexting

Designed for Young Adults, Usurped by Tweens

Parents should take note. Most kids who have smartphones use these apps on a daily basis and throughout the day and night. Originally designed for much older youths, messaging and social media apps have been usurped by young kids who lack the maturity to understand how much damage they can do.

See this article for an interesting perspective on what happens when apps designed for more mature college students fall into the hands of tweens:

See Also: Yik Yak App Makers Do the Right Thing

More alarming is the way different social apps are being used together by young kids in dangerous ways. For example, one blogger describes how the photo sharing social network Instagram and the messaging app Kik were used together to allow a pedophile to target a young teenager.

Safety Measures

What can parents do?

First, talk to your kids. Without taking too prying of a tone, ask them questions about the apps they use most. Try to make the questions positive, rather than negative, in order to get a foot in the door with kids reluctant to share. What are their favorite messaging apps? Who do they like to talk to? Have they made any new friends? Asking questions but keeping the dialog light and conversational can build trust and help kids to be more open to sharing with their parents.

Second, install a family safety app like MamaBear on all family members’ phones so that you can monitor your kids’ behavior on social media like Instagram and Twitter. This way you will know who they are making friends with and be able to keep tabs on any troublesome behaviors.

Third, remind your children to take their own safety seriously. They should be aware of the kinds of things that really do happen with messaging apps and the types of predators who lurk behind deceiving screen names and profile images. It is important for the whole family – parents and children alike – to stay in the know about what these apps should be used for and what can make them go terribly, terribly wrong.

 

Taking Responsibility for Kids and Sexting

kids and sexting

As much as we don’t want to admit it, more and more kids are sexting. According to studies conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, The Pew Internet & American Life Project and the Cox Communications Teen Online & Wireless Safety Survey, 39 percent of all teens have sent sexually suggestive messages via text, email or instant messaging and 48 percent of teens say they have received such messages.

Naturally, kids don’t want their parents to find out about sexting behavior. So they try to stay one step ahead when it comes to keeping select content hidden from their parents. Part of this is developmentally normal. But sometimes it can lead to trouble – especially when social media apps are involved creating harm to your child’s digital reputation.

Even when parents use family safety apps like MamaBear to monitor their kids’ safety, talking about the consequences to sexting is an ongoing, important conversation. Be aware of new social and messaging apps your kids and their peers are using. Also, do your best to responsibly monitor their text messages.

POOF! GOES PARENTAL AWARENESS

Take, for example, the popular app Poof. “Another app to keep an eye on is Poof,” writes one blogger. “It’s an app that hides other apps. All your child has to do is open Poof and select which app they want hidden and mom and dad will never know it’s there.”

This video shows how the app works on Apple devices (note the types of sexually themed apps the commentator decides to hide with Poof!).

Poof also makes a texting app that allows text messages to disappear after they’ve been read. “POOF text messages are never stored on servers, and leave no text messaging footprint behind!” reads the app’s description at the Google Play store.

Taking Responsibility

Do your kids’ phones have Poof?  How would you know? So whose responsibility is it to monitor kids when they engage in this behavior? These days, many groups who work with youth are taking action to keep tabs on kids social media behavior, from schools instituting new social media policies to the police, who are known to have their own procedures now for monitoring the social media accounts of local teens. Some might argue that it is the responsibility of the social media companies themselves to keep tabs on what is going on with underage accounts. Others believe it is firmly the responsibility of parents to monitor their kids’ behavior and hold them accountable when they go astray.

See Also: Schools offer social media training to deter sexting, other dangerous online behavior

Top Five Messaging Apps Used by Teens that Parents Should Know About

TOP MESSAGING APPS

These days, it seems that SMS is quickly becoming “so 2013.” Once a mainstay of mobile communication for people of all ages – especially among tweens and teens — SMS or Short Message Service (AKA texting) is becoming secondary to social messaging apps that can be used to text extensively for free, rather than by fee.

According to one article, this year it is projected there will be 21 billion text messages sent as compared to almost 50 billion app-based messages.

Kids in particular are loving messaging apps, and an increasing number of software developers are catering to the upsurge in popularity of apps designed to allow people to message without texting fees.

Below are the top 5 messaging apps most popular with youth around the world that parents should be aware of and understand.

See Also: MamaBear Cell Phone Contract for Kids

  1. WhatsApp – WhatsApp Messenger, often referred to as the leader of the messaging apps, is used by millions of people worldwide. The Android app allows users to send and receive messages, pictures, audio notes and video messages. Group chat is also available. The first year is free, with a 99 cent annual charge every year after that. WhatsApp works with a user’s phone number, just like SMS, and integrates with an existing phone address book. You can also use the app to share location, exchange contacts, broadcast messages to contacts and more.  Facebook agreed to acquire WhatsApp for $16 billion.
  2. Kik – Kik is another smartphone messenger app. Unlike WhatsApp, Kik requires users to create and log in with a username, as opposed to using a phone number as an identity. According to Kik, this allows users to be “in complete control of who you talk to.” Kik touts itself as being “like a real conversation, where you know when your messages are delivered and read, and when the other person is typing back. This makes your conversations come to life.”
  3. LINE –Like other messaging apps, there are no limits to the number of messages that can be sent using the LINE app available for multiple operating systems. LINE also allows users to make free voice calls and  messages anywhere, anytime. The app also allows users to make video calls.  With LINE, users can send messages with icons, photos and location information. The app also includes a timeline feature.
  4. SnapChat – SnapChat is another popular messaging app for Android that allows users to share messages that include photos or videos (with a caption option), group chat and more. The app was designed to make messages brief and fleeting: users view it, laugh, and then the snap disappears from the screen – unless they take a screenshot! Another unique feature of this app is Snapchat Story, “a living narrative where each Snap lives for 24 hours until it disappears, making room for the new.”
  5. Viber- Viber allows people around the world to text, call and send photo and video messages with an Android, iOS, Windows devices and more for free. Viber Out can be used to make calls to non-Viber mobile and landline numbers at low rates. Like WhatsApp, on Viber, your phone number is your ID and the app syncs with a phone’s contact list. In addition to basic messaging services, Viber allows groups with up to 100 participants.

As tech trends shift with the winds, it’s crucial for parents to keep tabs on which apps their kids are using. Ask your kids if they are using messaging apps, and if so, which ones they like best. Be aware of how they are using these apps and as always, monitor. Keep an open line of dialog so you can make sure your kids are using messaging apps (and any apps on their mobile devices) safely.

photo credit: Summer Skyes 11 via photopin cc