WACO, Texas – Living in the digital age, everything is conveniently at our fingertips with just a push of a button. But do you ever think of how dangerous the online world can be?
“We hear, ‘Snapchat’s evil.’ Or, ‘TikTok’s evil.’ And they get very into the individual apps themselves,” says Caryn Brown, owner of Digital Media Butterfly. “And that’s a very slippery slope, because any app can be dangerous if it’s not used well.”
Living in today’s world, people of all ages are gaining more access to social media and the online world. Many teenagers and preteens have been on for quite some time – as they grew up with the internet in front of them.
But what lies beneath the screen? Behind the blue of the Facebook logo, or the yellow and white of the Snapchat ghost?
“Every time you add somebody, you are also adding their circle of friends, which is going to ever increase the number of people you are exposed to on there,” says Sergeant Ian Karas, a Waco Police Detective in the Crimes Against Children Unit. “And any one of those could be a possible danger, or potential danger.”
With so many new social media and game apps with areas for users to chat digitally, it can be hard to keep up.
For those who belong to older generations, Brown understands it can be overwhelming – but taking the time to understand these apps can be a great help in keeping your children safe.
“There’s also some uncertainty,” Brown says. “I mean, these parents sometimes are getting on to social media just because their kids are on it. And so [if] they’re not familiar with it, they don’t.”
“It’s not so natural to them as it is to, maybe, the kids. And so, that’s the biggest thing that I encourage parents to do, is to get on them themselves and get familiar with them and see what’s going on,” she said. “Follow your kids. Make sure you have your kids’ access and passwords.”
But what can children do to keep wary of digital dangers while using the apps they love?
“Explaining the dangers to them. Making them aware of different things, and also letting them know that it’s okay that if something confuses you, or something doesn’t seem right to you, to come to your parent. To let them know that they saw something, and are worried about it or concerned,” Sergeant Karas said.
If you’re still unsure about how to approach the social media, talk with your children or friends, Brown ended with this comparison.
“When we were growing up, we had the conversations about ‘stranger danger’ and how to, you know, if somebody offers you candy in the back of his van, don’t get in. But so, have the same conversations with your kids of what does that look like,” she said. “You know, if it sounds too good to be true, or if it’s somebody that says they’re a friend of a friend of a friend, you know, be cautious.”
This all may seem a little scary, but the key is communication and understanding. If you have more questions about social media, feel free to reach out to Digital Media Butterfly here.
Written by Allison Fox O’Connor