Responding To Stealth Social Media Apps

Most of us know the impact that social media has had on our culture.  Some of it’s great and some has really led us down a slippery slope. One aspect has parents learning of a secret struggle their kids have been dealing with through stealth apps essentially with strangers.

While parents certainly can display behavior that is destructive, an increasing trend among young people is becoming both disturbing and difficult to expose.  Social media hashtags are a platform that kids are using because it immediately connects them with others with like minds or that are engaged in a similar interest or activity.  Splintering off of that though are more stealth hashtags that look either harmless or so ambiguous that they would attract little attention.  #cat is a social dialogue thread that refers to cutting behavior…it drew 44 million searches in 2014 and about 55 million in 2015 according to The Journal of Adolescent Health.  Other forums include #selfHarmm, #SecretSociety123, #MySecretFamily or #blithe.

#cat is a social dialogue thread that refers to cutting behavior…it drew 44 million searches in 2014 and about 55 million in 2015

Phone apps that disguise themselves as a useful phone tool like a calculator or recorder were outed by the recent sexting scandal in the Canon Colorado high school. That app looked like a calculator until you held down a specific button long enough. A log in page then popped up to sign in. That opened up a vault of lewd pictures that were being shared among a number of students.  Other apps like Snapchat are used because they are a picture sharing tool that typically makes the pictures viewable for only a short period of time.  But there are other ways those pictures can take on a longer or more permanent form…either within the app or by simply taking a screenshot of the picture and keeping it or passing it on to someone else.  Not a comforting thought.  Scenarios that sometimes kids don’t think about.

The important thing, like so many other teen issues, is communication with them.  In order to have that, the relationship has to be there.  No, it doesn’t have to be a best friend sort of thing, but they need to have someone they feel can be their advocate as well as their guardrail.  Love with limits is the daily goal.  When there is that relationship, learning what is bothering them, what someone said to them, what pictures were sent to them is more possible. When you are that tuned in to your child, you can likely also detect when some of those moments happen before they even tell you.

Here’s a tool that is meant for parents to monitor their child’s phone traffic. Check out the iPhone Spy App.  It comes in iPhone or Android form.

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