Alarming Online Trends Among Teens Including Code Words for Dangerous Content

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.- In the upcoming summer months, your kids might have some more freedom and spend a lot of time on their phones. Experts say it’s important for parents to check in, especially with what kids are doing online.

According to research, 75 percent of teens own or have access to a smartphone. Apps are marketed to teens using fun filters and and silly content, giving them an outlet to express themselves, but what’s hidden within these apps can be dangerous or inappropriate.

“Parents need to keep track of all the standard ones. You know the Facebook, the Instagram, Twitter all the ones we know about, but there’s always new stuff coming out, said Robert Draeger, Lincoln High School Resource Officer.

Experts say one trending app Musical.ly has disturbing videos hidden within the app showing things like sexually explicit content and images depicting people with eating disorders. By using certain abbreviations or code words on Musical.ly or other social media platforms, teens could be searching for this content without their parents knowing.

“Maybe a seemingly-innocent looking hashtag, “Sue,” could take you into an area where a lot of people are talking about suicide,” said Officer Draeger.

Teens may also have multiple social media accounts, one for their parents to see and one that’s secret.

“If a child has a second account that they’re actively trying to hide things from parent that can be a red flag,” said Officer Draeger.

It’s not just content parents need to worry about, but the people using these apps as well. Many of them have a chat feature. School counselors say this is one way for kids to experience online bullying, which they’re seeing an increase of in general.

“It’s very easy online to anonymously call someone a names or spread rumors,” said Matt Meyers, Lincoln High School Counselor.

Parents are encouraged to check these message threads for signs of bullying and to make sure kids aren’t talking to strangers.

“Maybe educating your kids on what they’re going to so they know how to keep themselves safe,” said Officer Draeger.

Officer Draeger says the best thing for parents to do is download social media apps and try them out for themselves. That way they are aware of what their child could be doing.

 

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