Social media is a vital part of teenager’s lives. Social media offers connections to friends, classmates and the rest of the world.  School resource officers, Paul Payne, and James Martin often investigate issues of bullying, harassment, and sexual offenses that occur social media.

Some of the most common social media platforms at Sycamore High School and Sycamore Junior High include:

There are some more obscure applications as well.

These social media apps are not inherently bad, but appeal to young people who want to be engaged in illicit behavior. Even if the app is used for its intended purpose, young people can become the unwitting victim of a predator.

At one time, Facebook and Instagram were the dominant social media apps for teenagers. Recently, SnapChat has replaced them as teens realize parents and grandparents are not on SnapChat.   SnapChat allows users to send and receive disappearing messages, videos, and photos. This prevents even the most vigilant parent from discovering the communication.

Teenagers are always migrating to spaces where they can be alone with friends outside of their parents’ watchful eyes. Years ago, this was limited by the length of the phone cord. Now, it is limited by how knowledgeable the parent is willing to become when it comes to their children’s social media playground.

Another technique that children and teens often use is to create multiple profiles or usernames on the same platform. The child keeps one profile “clean” so they can show their parents should they ask to see it. They often stay logged in to this profile and only use the others when it is safe to do so. Most social media apps only verify phone numbers.  We stress to students that unless you have met a friend in person, you truly have no idea who is at the other end of the social media communication.  Predators troll online for insecure teens looking for acceptance and take advantage of their desire to be accepted.

There are several parental monitoring applications that help limit who, when and how kids can communicate. There are several popular parental monitoring apps.

These apps can copy all messages to your device, block access to websites and flag searches from a list of unsafe keywords. They can also locate your child using GPS, limit screen time, and monitor driving habits. Most apps have a free downloadable version.

Our best advice for parents is to be intrusive. Let your child or grandchild know that their phone or computer can and will be searched at any time.

Teach them to protect their personal information such as their address, date of birth, phone number, school name, and places they like to go.

Discourage them from connecting with people they do not know. Scrutinize the contacts and friends in their phone and online. Our children will continue to find new ways to communicate so stay proactive and reach out to Officers Payne and Martin for assistance at 513-985-1600.