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Snapchat Takes Aim at Misinformation

Snapchat is taking aim at misinformation with some unconventional changes to the design of the app (which for many parents is an app that has been associated with cyberbullying and sexting in the past). While the app will still initially open to the phone camera, allowing users to make and share photos that disappear with friends, the new design will try to separate personal (social) side of the app from what is produced by outside media sources. The media part will also be vetted and approved by Snap, the parent company, by humans, not by algorithms. The use of human curators will allow Snapchat to also program content to make sure that users’ preferences are not keeping them from seeing a wide array of opinions and ideas. In addition to winnowing out fake news, this may keep Snapchat from becoming a place that reinforces narrow sets of thinking. This approach is in contrast to Facebook and Google, who have not vetted much of the hate speech, fake news, and even disturbing videos aimed at children that has been proliferated on those platforms over time.

How to Get Someone to Stop Sexting You

In a recent Pew Research study on online harassment, about half of female respondents ages 18-29 reported that someone had sent them explicit images they did not ask for. Parents of teens should consider having a discussion about what to do if this kind of situation arises, because chances are it is happening with younger teens as well. One place to start with getting the information you need is the Wikihow entry on How to Get Someone to Stop Sexting YouIt is broken up into four sections with step-by-step directions for each section. The four sections are: Getting Help if You’re a Minor, Blocking Their Message, Confronting the Person and Contacting an Authority Figure. These sections are followed by a very helpful Community Q&A touching on many of the issues faced by both parents and teens.

Digital Dating Abuse – Gender Matters

Although both young men and women in high school are affected by digital dating abuse, researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of California Santa Barbara have found that girls suffer more issues such as being pressured to sext, receiving threatening messages, and having someone monitor their whereabouts and activities. Both girls and boys, however, also reported they respond to direct aggression by blocking communication.

Social Media Wellness

As the retraction of acceptance offers to potential Harvard students because of their online activity reminds us, there are real-life consequences for virtual actions. What can parents do? Ana Homayoun, the author of a forthcoming book called  “Social Media Wellness: Helping Teens and Tweens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World” in a piece in The New York Times reminds parents that they need to shift the conversation around teens’ social media use away from a fear of getting caught and more toward healthy socialization, effective self-regulation and overall safety. This could become all the more important if a bill that was just overwhelmingly passed in the House becomes law. The bill could make it a felony — punishable by 15 years in jail — if teens send consensual nude photos of themselves.

Snapchat Primer for Parents

Numerous surveys show that Snapchat is one of the most used messaging apps by teens, but many parents have never used the app. In case you are not aware, Snapchat is an application for mobile devices, where photo and video messages disappear after they are viewed by the recipient. To help parents get up to speed on the app, USA Today has created a primer, or a Snapchat 101 for parents. The primer covers what the app is, what it does and why it is so popular. It also covers why many parents are concerned about this app (the disappearing content has been known to foster sexting and cyberbullying) and suggests ways to protect teens who use the app. If you find the article useful, you might also want to check out USA Today’s intro for parents to Musical.ly, an ultra addictive lip syncing app.

Resource List on Cyberbullying and Digital Safety

A newly updated list of resources on cyberbullying and digital safety is available on the web site of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Washington. A wide range of topics is included such as sexting, cyberbullying and family background resources.

Sexting Penalties

You probably already know that there are both federal and state laws in place for adults who engage in sexting with minors, but did you know that many states have adopted sexting laws that address sexting between teens? A recent article reviews the specifics of teen sexting laws, including a break down by state so you can see the specific law that applies to you. It’s a good idea to review with your teen so they understand the laws and what the legal consequences are if they do not follow them.  

“Secret Conversations” On Facebook

Recently, Facebook started rolling out a beta version of a new feature in their Messenger app that they're calling "secret conversations." Basically, it is end-to-end encrypted messaging that, in theory, doesn't allow anyone — not even Facebook — to intercept the messages. It's Facebook's attempt to compete with other messaging apps like WhatsApp, which provides a very high level of security and is attractive to global audiences, especially young people.

At first, the feature will only be available to a small percentage of users for testing, but everyone else should get it in the late summer or early fall. Of course, there's a catch: users will have to "opt-in" to the service, meaning for most people, Facebook will still be able to rifle through your info and deliver those personalized ads which sometimes come across as kind of creepy. It is also be interesting to see if these “secret conversations” play a part in cyberbullying and sexting.

Sexting Explained

Sexting is becoming more and more normalized in the media, with the consequences often minimized, but in real life the aftermath is usually far from normal or desirable.

Texting and American Girls

It probably comes as no surprise to any parent these days that social media is disrupting the lives of teenagers, but Nancy Jo Sales has a new book coming out called American Girls: Social Medi

11 Facts About Sexting

Trying to get a discussion about sexting started with your kids but don’t know how to broach the subject?

The Why of Sexting

According to research on teen sexting, approximately 39% of teens between the ages of 13-19 have sent at least one s

Send This Instead

To sext or not to sext is an uncomfortable question that one out of every six teens say they face.

Keeping Sexts a Secret

Sadly, sexting doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. With the growth in mobile devices, sexting has become even more prevalent than when it first received widespread attention.

Cyberdating Abuse an Emerging Concern Among Teens

While “sexting” and texting are well known as being part of the high school dating scene these days, data in a new study is showing the connection between cyberdating and physical and sexual violence in relationships. This study is the first clinically based look at cyberdating abuse among young people...