You may be wondering what your kids are doing on their smartphones these days as schools reopen. The answer is: everything.
That's why experts from the global cybersecurity company ESET summarize some trends to give you an idea of how your children can use their phones to interact, communicate or - unfortunately - create problems for their classmates.
It all revolves around Instagram, TikTok and YouTube
For children, there are social networking platforms, followed by the most popular applications: Instagram (or "IG"), TikTok and YouTube. You've probably noticed that kids use the first two to share short videos and other multimedia content with friends, family and followers. However, both IG and TikTok have evolved and offer countless ways for your kids to share and create content.
When it comes to YouTube, you are more likely to find your kids sharing videos of their favorite YouTube stars with their friends or watching and mimicking a viral video. However, YouTube also allows you to post videos as well as live streams. And of course, the comment section is known for its verbal conflicts and uncontrollable toxicity.
Here are some things to keep in mind about today's top social networking platforms:
• Most children use social media on their mobile phones to take photos and videos and post them at the same time.
• Everything is a story. Have you ever seen your children walking down the street and gesturing on their smartphone? Most likely at that time they are creating "stories", "Instagram Reels" or "TikToks" - short, consumable content that they share with their followers.
• On these platforms children do not only post content. They use them to communicate, build relationships and even to bully at school. Most of these platforms also have messaging capabilities.
• The section that includes the "comments" of the following is a… jungle. It can include fun and positive reviews, for sure. It can, however, host toxic and degrading bullying content that can affect a child's self-esteem.
• Age filters can be easily bypassed and all of these platforms host at least some content that is inappropriate for children.
What do you know about DMs?
If you have heard the phrase "Send me DM" again, you know that "DM" is the abbreviation for "Direct Message". Most of the mobile apps that children use to interact with their classmates, including social networking platforms, have DM functionality. Depending on the platform and account security settings, some users may receive unsolicited messages in their inbox from strangers.
That's why this is a problem for kids coming back to school.
First after all, if you follow the public profile on the child's social networks from your device, you can not see his DM, because they are personal and can be seen only by the logged in user. This means that children can use DM to communicate privately with a follower without the slightest supervision.
Second, DMs can be dangerous. For example, Instagram was forced to take new measures to prevent teens from receiving DMs from random people. In other words, teens can communicate with strangers through DM, often without their parents' knowledge. This is a real security issue on a platform that most parents believe is only used for photo sharing.
Do you play Fortnite?
Fortnite is one of the many popular games that children play on their smartphones. Some others are Minecraft, Animal Crossing and Pokémon Go.
The first thing parents are usually worried about with smartphone games is that their children spend a lot of time playing with them. Given the addictive nature of these games, this is indeed a very good cause for concern.
However, as your children return to school, you should know that in these games, children form social groups, as many of them are group. Also, these games have built-in interactivity, ie they have a microphone for conversation between users, etc. One more thing to know is that most applications now include purchases.
Be realistic and get the help that is offered to you
The use of smartphones by children and teenagers is now the norm. The ways in which children use these devices, both for the better and for the worse, are evolving faster than parents can watch.
One thing parents can do is rely on mobile security technologies, such as parental controls, to monitor their children's behavior when they are not around.
You may not know everything that is going on, but it is a step in the right direction for a safer school year.
More about the dangers that children face on the internet as well as the ways in which - apart from technology - we can mitigate them can be found on the English language website Safer Kids Online created by the global cybersecurity company ESET.