January 26, 2018

3 ways kids hide online from parents’ prying eyes

Parents often ask if we know of a good way 🕵️‍♀️ to monitor 🕵️‍♀️ what their child does online — from what apps they use to the content of their messages. The short answer is, No, we don’t. Eventually, and sooner than most parents realize, monitoring alone just gives them a false sense of control. Because the savvier the child is, the less possible it is to know everything they’re doing, especially when hiding is so easy. 

How do they do it?

There are lots of ways students can bypass what they know their parents may have access to. Here are just three common examples:

  • Decoy apps — Apps like Calculator% or Audio Manager are not what they seem; you can’t calculate or control volume on either. But after entering a PIN, you can hide photos and videos, make secret calls, and covertly message people. Read more about each in the Social Locker Room by following the links above.
  • Finstas — Fake Instagram accounts are so popular that even middle schoolers call their real Instagram accounts Rinstas. Their Finsta has a different username and bio than their real account, and it’s kept private so that they must approve those who want to follow the account. The audience is intentionally exclusive, and the content could be anything from super silly stuff 😜 to downright offensive stuff 🚫 . Some teens have multiple Finstas.
  • Facebook Messenger Secret Conversations — Though these encrypted and optionally disappearing messages are easy to send, they’re impossible to find once sent unless you know who the conversation was with. Want to get rid of the evidence? You can delete all of your Secret Conversations in Facebook Messenger at once, but those you’ve conversed with will retain a copy until they choose to delete it. Here’s how secret these conversations are: Even Facebook can’t see them.

What else could you do?

Now, anyone new to social media needs major coaching. If your child just got their first smartphone, let them know it’s fair game for you to read their texts and social media posts. If you choose to use a tool like Bark or Circle to keep tabs on their online activity, be upfront about it. Use this choice as an opportunity to huddle with your child — talk about why you are doing it. Here’s a great example of this conversation.

But no matter how long your child has been using social or what apps they’ve downloaded or what type of devices they can access, we strongly recommend huddling over helicoptering. (In emojis, that looks like this: 👩‍👩‍👧‍👧👨‍👩‍👦‍👦✅, 🚁🚫.)

What is huddling all about?

When you proactively huddle with your child, you build trust and prepare kids to make the most thoughtful, real-time decisions. Because, hey, winning at social takes some serious practice.

Proactively equip kids to navigate these social scenarios by using “what if” coaching: “Maria, what if this were to happen to you? What would be your next move?” In our Social Locker Room, you’ll find over 20 conversation starters with important talking points to make Huddling easier. Like, what to do when…

  • A stranger joins a group text
  • Friends have different tech rules
  • A crush asks for nude photos

Each Huddle has two sections:

  1. Coaching Tips — This is your 10,000-foot view of the Huddle, listing the most important tips, moves, and takeaways. All of the Coaching Tips are explained in detail in the next section.
  2. Conversation Guide — These are questions and answers to move the conversation along and build trust with your child. You won’t find a script to read 👓 , we don’t put words in your mouth 👄 ; You know how best to talk to your child. Use these Q&As as a guide. 

Huddling can happen parent-to-parent, too — it’s easier to win when you play as a team. Join our Facebook Group to huddle with other parents who want to empower their kids to use social media positively, too!

Don’t rely solely on monitoring. Kids will always be a step ahead.