The Most Dangerous Apps of 2021
By K. Parker and Melody Bergman
As parents in the digital age, keeping our kids safe on technology is just part of the job description. But with so many screens, games, apps, and devices right at their fingertips, how is an exhausted parent supposed to keep up?! We’ve got you covered!
Each year, we compile a list of the most dangerous apps that families need to watch out for. Here are a few of those posts:
This year, we are focusing on just a few apps—but they are by far the most dangerous apps for children and teens! They are prime locations for bullying, sexually predatory behavior, sexting, and grooming. They are the popular social media apps we use every day.
WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA APPS?
Are you surprised? Not what you expected? It’s a little discomforting knowing that the greatest dangers to our children are found in common apps like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and others, where both kids and adults are spending so much time. Many of us don’t even realize how entrenched our lives are in these platforms. Especially during these years of pandemic with so much of our lives being moved online, social media has become a bigger part of our lives than it has ever been in the past.
Much to our chagrin, social distancing has resulted in our kids being glued to their screens through social media, gaming, and entertainment of all sorts. As parents, we need to know what kind of an effect this is having on our children. Is it dangerous? Is it damaging? These are things we want to know!
The answer is: Yes! Spending so much time on technology CAN increase the likelihood that our kids will be exposed to danger. Many of these dangers are external dangers—threats that target children purposefully. But there are also internal dangers, like those they may encounter through social media exposure. Many of these internal dangers are based on the hyper-fixation that sucks in our children in the first place, gluing them to their screens. People of all ages struggle with this, not just children.But when it comes to media addiction, it’s better to be aware earlier rather than later. Then we’re better equipped to fight against it.
LOSING TOUCH WITH REALITY
As an example of how dangerous these internal dangers can be, I will briefly share an experience I went through when I was younger. I made friends with a girl online through shared interest in a television show. She was merely sixteen years old, and she was so deep into her hyper-fixation on her media image and presence that when she didn’t receive the attention she’d been expecting, she became depressed to the point of wanting to take her own life. When she came to me with her struggles, my advice to her was to delete her Twitter account, get off her Discord servers, stop looking at social media apps, and talk to her parents and other people who were physically present in her life. She felt so alone because she felt the people on the internet didn’t care about her, and she didn’t believe she could find that same joy and care from her own personal life.
For kids in this generation, it can be tempting to let their digital reality become their whole world. This can be very dangerous. When their entire focus begins revolving around the attention, feedback, and popularity gained through a media following, it tends to erase the importance of reality and their own personal life and connections. As parents, it is crucial that we stay connected with our children and that we are able to recognize the signs if they are losing touch and disconnecting from reality. We ALL need to keep a healthy balance between digital interactions and true human connections. Not just kids—parents too! .
CREATING OPEN COMMUNICATION
When our children don’t know what’s out there, and how dangerous it can be, the risk is so much greater. Family rules and filters are a good start, but they aren’t enough on their own. We also need clear communication about the dangers out there, and how damaging they can be.
Our book Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age is a great tool to help. When we have open conversations and our kids understand the reasons behind the rules, we have much safer families. Children and teens prepared to see warning signs and stay away from them of their own accord are so much safer than curious children pushing against the rules because they want to know what’s out there. Here are some guidelines to help get you talking:
- Start early to create close bonds with your kids, both teaching and learning how to communicate openly. (If you have older kids, don’t worry. You haven’t missed your window. Just start now!)
- Set boundaries and explain the reasons for those boundaries.
- Explain the importance having a firm grasp of their reality has on their mental health, Help them understand that what they see and how they are viewed by others online isn’t everything.
- Talk about bullying and what to do if your child comes across it, whether your child is the victim or the perpetrator, or if your child witnesses someone else being bullied.
- Have a frank discussion about grooming and sexual predators with your children. Teach them the warning signs, and tell them to inform you if they are being contacted in an inappropriate way.
Keeping our kids safe and happy in a digital world is no easy task. But with a little vigilance and open communication, we can handle it! In the end, our efforts will help immeasurably in the mental and physical wellbeing of our children.
K. Parker is an editor and writer for Educate and Empower Kids, and is currently studying at Brigham Young University – Idaho to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in English. She is working towards a career in copyediting.
Melody Bergman is a mother and step-mom of three boys, Marketing Director at HPi Certified Training Academy, co-creator of the Media Savvy Moms Podcast by Parents Aware, and former coalition coordinator for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and 20 years in the field as a writer and editor. In her spare time, she teaches martial arts and self-defense at Defend Yourself Virginia. Her mission is to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect kids. Follow Melody’s adventures on her blog at Mama Crossroads.