Built-in chat can easily turn everything from Google Docs to Roblox, in to a social media platform
You may be fine with your kid doing a little online socialising. But what if they're chatting on sites and in apps that never occurred to you to spot-check or discuss because you thought your kid was just using them for homework, playing games, or watching videos? Now, direct messaging is the rule -- not the exception -- on many platforms. And, as usual, parents seem to be the last ones to know.
Not that chatting is necessarily all bad. Kids -- social creatures that they are -- will almost always find a way to connect with others. And that connection can be great so long as the kids they're interacting with are, in fact, kids and they're generally supportive of each other. But you can't protect and guide your kids when you don't know what they're doing. And direct messaging carries some risks, which are potentially greater in apps and on sites technically designed for other purposes. So, once you find out your kid is using their homework time or daily allotment of game time for chatting, you'll want to make sure they're using the platforms safely and responsibly, balancing their screen time with other activities, and using appropriate settings (which differ from platform to platform) to protect their privacy and safety.
Here are some of the popular platforms you may not have realised kids are using to chat.
Animal Jam. To sign up for this virtual world, a kid only needs to enter a username and password -- no parent approval required -- and they can chat immediately after creating a login.
Google Docs. Although teachers have been aware of the problem, using Google Docs as a covert messaging app has finally gotten popular enough to get on parents' radar. If your kid needs to use Google Docs for homework, they only need to share the document with someone to start chatting.
Instagram. If you're wondering why your kid is spending so much time on Instagram, maybe they're using it to chat. Users only have to click the Send icon (it looks like a paper airplane) at the top of the app or within any message to start chatting.
LinkedIn. Network-minded students love making connections to potential employers, connectors, and influencers on LinkedIn. In addition to sharing your résumé and other details of your work history, you can message anyone you're connected to.
Roblox. With 90 million monthly users, Roblox is a pretty happenin' hangout spot. The developer encourages collaboration and connection and offers chat for all members.
Snapchat. Yes, "chat" is in the name, but this app got popular more for its disappearing messages, cool photo filters, and Snapstreaks than its chatting. Messages in Snapchat are automatically deleted after the recipient views them, unless the sender taps on them to save them.
Waze. Waze is a mapping app, but it relies on people as well as traffic data to help you find routes to places, avoid congestion, and, yes, chat -- and not just about the traffic. Waze connects through Facebook and allows you to see where your friends are and coordinate arrival times to your destination. Because it reveals your kid's location -- and not all of their Facebook friends are actual buddies -- there's a risk kids can expose their whereabouts to people who really don't need to know.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
It’s really not easy to keep up with every new app out there and this is the first generation of parents who are raising children who are more digitally and socially savvy than they are. Whilst there are a number of tools on the market, the team of Cyber Experts at Family Zone continue to conduct extensive research on all platforms in use by kids today and keep up with the latest trends. This means that if you’ve installed the Family Zone app from the App Store or Google Play, parents will get notified if or when their kids try to access one of these gaming apps and provide them with support and advice on how to manage it.