Back to School: Digital Diet cheat sheet for parents

What are they bingeing on?

Typically as parents, our digital diet consists of a nice healthy portion of Pinterest for starters, Facebook, Instagram and sprinkle of Twitter for the main course and if we’re having a cheat day we’ll throw in a cheeky Snapchat for dessert. A fairly balanced diet and one that you’re probably ok with your kids consuming. But do we really know what our kids are bingeing on? With so many apps and sites for texting, live streaming, secret self destructing images and even dating, this back to school season might be the perfect time to have a talk with your kids about their digital diets. it is very likely that with all the free time they’ve had during the break, your teens and tweens have picked up some unnecessary digital weight. It’s time for a digital audit to understand what they are consuming and what should be cut out.

Enough of the food analogies (side effect of writing whilst hungry). Let’s get into it.

We don’t know what we don’t know

You don’t need to know how each and every digital hangout works, but you do need to know what is out there. Some of these may be blocked in your country of residence but if you have travelled over the summer, this gives access to more digital tools and let’s not forget VPN’s and other hacks that can unblock apps. That said, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will get you familiar with the most popular social tools and equip you with enough information to start the conversation with your kids.

back to school, digital diet, digital natives

Better the devil you know: Digital Diet

Messaging apps

  • Kik
  • GroupMe
  • Viber
  • WhatsApp
  • Facebook Messenger

Parents Beware: 

  • WhatsApp automatically connects users to all the people in their address book and encourages them to add friends who haven’t signed up yet.
  • Kik allows communication with strangers and the app allegedly has been used in high-profile crimes.

Photo and Video sharing apps and sites

Photo and video sharing apps allow users  to photograph, edit, and share photos and videos, either publicly or within a private network of followers.

  • Instagram
  • weheartit
  • Flickr
  • Youtube 
  • Vevo
  • Vimeo

Parents Beware:

  • Teens may measure the “popularity” of their photos and videos by the number of likes or comments they receive. Gaining followers can become addictive and can be a dangerous metric for self worth
  • is a musical performance- and video-sharing social network with a mix of teen and adult users where swearing and sexual content are commonplace.

Self destructing apps

Secret/self destructing apps allow users to send and receive encrypted messages, disposable texts, video, pictures, audio files, and documents.

  • Snapchat:
  • Whisper :
  • Wickr:

Parents Beware: 

  • Most teens use the apps to share without the risk of going public, however, data is data: Whenever an image is sent, it never truly goes away.
  • Snapchat’s recent geolocation updates on snap map have raised some eyebrows. Parents are advised to turn this setting off on their children’s phones.
  • Whisper is a “confessional” app that allows users to post what’s on their minds, paired with an image. Whisper topics include insecurity, depression, substance abuse, and lies told to employers and teachers. The app encourages users to exchange personal information in the “Meet Up” section.

Microblogging apps and sites

  • Tumblr:
  • Twitter:

Parents Beware:

  • In Tumblr, pornographic images and videos and depictions of violence, self-harm, drug use, and offensive language are easily searchable.
  • The first profile a member creates is public and viewable by anyone on the app

Chatting, Dating, Meetup apps & sites

  • Omegle
  • Google Hangout
  • Monkey
  • Yellow
  • MeetMe

Parents Beware:

  • MeetMe is not marketed as a dating app, however, it has a “Match” feature. Users can “secretly admire” others, and its large user base allows for fast-paced communication and guaranteed attention.
  • It is known as Tinder for teens because it allows users to chat with whomever’s online, as well as search locally by swiping right or left to accept or reject the profiles of other users.
  • When a match is found, users can chat and hook up via Snapchat or Instagram.
  • For the app to work, you need to let it “geotag” you, and there are no private profiles, so the only option is to allow anyone to find you.

Live streaming video apps

Live streaming apps let users broadcast their live stream and tune in to what others are broadcasting all over the world. They can video chat live with people and on platforms like Youtube and Facebook. Video streaming allows anyone  from friends and public figures the user follows to appear in their news feed.

  • Facebook live
  • Streamago
  • Periscope
  • Younow:
  • Houseparty

Parents Beware: 

  • Anything goes with livestream apps because there is no moderation so users can be exposed to things that are not appropriate for their age.
  • With Younow, viewers buy bars and use them to purchase bar-based gifts that help them engage with broadcasters. Ultimately, the goal is to get lots of viewers, start trending, and grow your fan base which may leave kids to make poor decisions to gain popularity.

The uncomfortable truth

Now that you know what’s out there, you want to be mindful about how you approach the topic. Here are a few tips to bear in mind and get the ball rolling

  1. Be aware of what is out there:Use this list as a starting point for discussing your kids digital habits
  2. Be humble:Your kids can teach you a thing or two, so listen and learn about what’s trending in their world
  3. Be a role model:Practice good digital habits and be the change you want to see
  4. Digital audit:Find out what they are using, why they use it, how it works and who they are communicating with
  5. Clean up and clear out:Get rid of the clutter and only keep the safest, age appropriate and useful accounts and apps
  6. Set clear boundaries:Communicate terms of use clearly. Create guidelines for when and with whom they can interact with and remind them of the importance of social etiquette
  7. Check InAlways stay informed by dropping in to The Curator Lady for the latest scoop on technology in parenthood

Now you have one less thing to worry about in the new term! If you have toddlers, check out the series of Best apps for toddlers and their wranglers.

Till the next update,

Ciao for now

Sources: Common Sense Media

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *