Due to the recent Vine controversy, I thought perhaps parents might want or need additional information about the applications children might be using with their smartphones. I am an iOS user, and this means my experiences are based on my options of what is accessible through the Apple app store and user options or processes for using the app for iphones.
I chose first to sign up for and research the most common apps beginning with Instagram. Overall, I liked the app. It was easy, fast and fun to use however, I’m not certain it’s safe enough for my teens. I study and use social media professionally and personally which means I have to be conscientious about my use and safety. Outside of those roles, do people or teens understand what and how they are sharing?
I gave it a full work out parents, and like many other social sites, the dangers here are the usual suspects of sexting, stranger access, and exposure to inappropriate content.
Here are the areas of the app I found most concerning for child use.
Upon signing up, I agreed that I was above the age of 13, but other than that, no real safety guards when using the application.
- Stranger access to my content
- My access to stranger content
- Multiple social network image sharing capability
- Geo-location tagging
- Exploration of sexual imagery
- Application access to child’s contact list
- Private sharing without parental knowledge
- Image copy and manipulation outside of application.
Here’s the quick and easy view of how your child might be using the app:
- Taking images through the application.
- Using an image already stored on their smartphone to share.
- The app will ask to pull in “Friends” from the child’s contact list stored on his/her phone.
- Instagram will suggest other “Users” for your child to follow. These suggestions aren’t obvious as to why they are suggested “Users”, but some are famous with many followers.
- Once an image has been taken or chosen, the subscriber can apply various borders or image filters for sprucing up the image before sharing.
- Once satisfied with the image after taking and adding borders or lighting filters, it’s all about the sharing. Images can be shared through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Email and Foursquare.
- Others from any of the social media sites the image has been shared on can comment or interact with the child, ESPECIALLY if someone is tagged in the image using a site such as Facebook when sharing.
- Geo-tagging while sharing an image is possible exposing exact location of the child who has posted the image.
- Using the “Explore” feature within the application, searches using “sexually explicit” terminology will bring an image compatible with the language often. Although I will not reveal the specific terminology used for my test searches, I can say that any terminology associated with sexuality is fair game.
- Utilizing the control filters, if shared on Facebook, any child can block a specific individual from viewing what has been shared on a page, including parents!
- If the image has been copied, there are no stamps or text that will appear on the image if the child wishes to take the image to social media sites outside of the application. Some photo-sharing websites place text stamps identifying where the image was originally taken and stored at and unless purchased, will use this text as a “copyrighted” image stamp. Instagram does no copyrighting. Any image taken and shared can be copied and shared at will.
- When sharing within the application, strangers can easily reach the child and attempt to interact.
- Messages are private if shared in the application between the child and his or her friends only. If the parent is not a friend on the application and the child isn’t sharing all photos onto a more public site such as Facebook, the parent may not know what images are being taken and shared or know all of the contacts a child has in his/her contact list.
What does Instagram say about the app?
The information provided within the app store rates the application for ages 12+ due to sexual, themes, drug/alcohol references, profanity, and infrequent/mild sexual content.
Help them with their settings!
From the Blog of Instagram – Privacy
Controlling Your Visibility – Privacy & Safety Center
Check out next week’s App Chat when I give a break down of Skype! It’s fun to connect with a real-life chat, but what are the dangers for child use?
Have an App you want to know more about, send me a message at feedback@EyeGuardian.com and I will do my best to give it a run through!
Stephy – EyeGuardian for Facebook Team member!