I’ve been mulling over this topic for quite some time, but this morning it became increasingly clear to me that I must say something. Folks, stranger danger is a real thing. And even more real today than it was 10 years ago thanks to, you guessed it, the Internet.
Strangers on The Internet
I speak specifically to the parents of kids old enough to be on social media. Of course, I am no such parent, but I am a teacher of those kids. I am also only six to 10 years older than the high school students I teach. Maybe that makes me unqualified to speak out, but maybe it makes me the most qualified candidate. Many of my colleagues and the parents of my students are old enough to be my own parents, so I tend to share a camaraderie with my students. And yet, I am far enough removed to be able to speak in ways that they cannot yet speak for themselves.
Apps Teens Use
You may be thinking, “I’m smarter than that. I have a Facebook and I watch my kids online.” You might have a Facebook. So do I. And so does my mom and my grandma and all of her friends. But you know who doesn’t have a Facebook? Your kid’s friends. I took an informal poll of my 150 students at the beginning of the year, and 60-80 percent of my students don’t even have a Facebook. They connect with each other on Kik, an app that allows users to text each other without exchanging phone numbers. They use Snapchat, an app that allows users to send pictures that supposedly disappear forever after 10 seconds. They use Whisper, an app on which a user can “anonymously” tell their deepest secrets to a vast community of other secret sharers. They use Yik Yak, Tumblr, Twitter (do you know about subtweeting? you should.), Instagram, Oovoo, WhatsApp, Meerkat and sometimes even dating apps, like Tinder.
The problem with thinking you’re smart is that I would almost guarantee that there is at least one of those apps you’ve never heard of. And if you aren’t on it, your kids probably will be.