Read an interesting article the other day called "Dear Well-Meaning (But Ignorant) Parents: This What Your Teens Are Really Doing On The Internet." Written by a young high school teacher, it lists a bunch of apps and services that many of her teenaged students are using and goes on to say that she'd almost guarantee most parents haven't even heard of one or more of them. Granted, my eldest is 11, but she's right...a couple of them were news to me entirely and most are only peripherally on my radar.
It's unrealistic to expect even preteens like Thing One to be completely off social media these days, so we're easing him in. He has an email account (linked to my iPad so I can monitor all messages) and the ability to text (but we have the passcode for his phone and the right to inspect his texts at any time.) Most of his friends use Instagram, but I think I inadvertently put the fear of God into him with the discussion about pictures lasting forever in cyberspace and he decided on his own that he doesn't want that responsibility yet. Fair enough. So, I thought we were doing okay with the first tentative forays into social media...all text and email monitoring was coming up clear except that I lose brain cells every time I look at his text messages with his buddies, all of which are dingbat boy stuff and full of emojis. But then I happened to look at his email inbox last night and saw five messages in a row from an app called Kamcord, which I'd never heard of and wasn't mentioned in that article, either. Most disturbingly, every one of the five was an email informing him that somebody else whose name I didn't recognize was now following him on an account I didn't know he had.
As you might expect, we had a conversation first thing this morning. There is a game he loves playing called Goat Simulator (yes, you get to go around the world controlling a goat--don't ask, just see above regarding dingbat boy stuff.) Apparently you have the ability to record the things that your goat does in this game and post videos of this (Kamcord is the service) for the amusement of other people whose idea of fun is watching animated goats wreak havoc online. We clarified that none of these videos are inappropriate and that none of his personal or identifiable information is available on this service. We also had a long chat about the need to talk to a parent before establishing accounts of this sort. This particular one seems harmless enough, but my radar is now *really* up, and my resolve to continue all monitoring is redoubled. I'm glad that this stuff wasn't even around when I was a kid, but protecting mine while they develop good judgment of their own is clearly going to be a big job.