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How Technology Helps Parents Talk Tough Issues

Meerkat and Periscope are the hottest new social media tools that broadcast what we’re doing in real time thanks to live video streaming capabilities but they’re not without their issues. These apps may help today’s teens overcome FOMO (fear of missing out) by watching their friend’s streams but Cool Mom Tech calls them a way kids can “be an unknowing star of a live broadcast for which they did not give permission” and conversations are budding about them being a legal nightmare due to privacy issues.

Chances are if you have teens, they might already be broadcasting parts of their lives with friends and strangers. Don’t worry if you’re just learning about these apps. Here’s what you need to know in order to have a conversation about how to be responsible when using social media.

Just like any app, Meerkat and Periscope are easy to set up and use. Download the app, tap to grant permission for it to access to your phone’s camera, and you’re ready to broadcast. Tapping a button allows what you’re seeing to be seen by the masses, whether you’re friends or not.

What are savvy early adopters broadcasting? Everything.

While progressive teachers are beginning to use them to share their lectures, others are sharing concerts, providing a peek at parties, or as Beth Jackson with The National Children’s Advocacy Center in Huntsville explained on WHNT News 19, “Even the best kid can have another kid dare them and say, ‘Oh do that, I just dare you to do it;’ and there’s always that little impulse of part of the brain that says that’s like, ‘yeah, why not?’.”

From a parental perspective, live video streaming is a scary possibility when it comes to our kids. It’s easy to let our minds spiral out of control with scary possibilities as parts of our kids’s lives that should remain private become public. It’s even worse to think about predators grooming via comments and geotagged video clips that let anyone watching know where our kids are and what they’re doing.

The bottom line is that kids are kids. They’re going to want to be using new social platforms just like their friends. We can get alerts sharing what our kids have downloaded from iTunes or Google Play but how do we how they’re using the tools that they have? It can be difficult to keep an eye on them 24/7 especially when they have such powerful tools in their hands.

Yes, it’s important to monitor but it’s just as important to have conversations about these new apps and how they’re being used. Starting a conversation about Meerkat and Periscope can be as simple as, “Hey, these two new apps have been all over the news recently. Have you heard of Meerkat and Periscope? Can you tell me a bit about how they work?”

An open-ended question that makes your child the expert opens the door to a conversation. Having your child describe these new social media tools empowers them as the expert but allows you to get a sense of how much they know and their perspective on these new live streaming apps. It also serves as a way that you can have a conversation about responsible use together.

As parents, we want the best for our kids and we can only hope that we’ve empowered them make good decisions about the difficult situations they could encounter. The ability to make good decisions about what is being shared about new social media tools is just as critical as having the mental fortitude to be responsible in other aspects of their lives.

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Leticia Barr, founder of Tech Savvy Mama, a site that assists parents in navigating the ever-changing world of technology, is a member of our Educational Advisory Board, and a wife and mother of two children.

*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) or any Responsibility.org member.*

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