Along with the rise and now-nearly universal usage of smartphones and mobile devices, there has also been a huge increase in the popularity of Instant Messaging (IM) platforms, especially among young people.
The strict definition of an IM is a platform designed to allow users to send and receive text messages instantly, but over the years the lines have become blurred between instant messaging apps and social media platforms, and the functionality of IM apps has also expanded to include the ability to send photos, videos and other multimedia content. Some IM platforms, such as Skype, also have video chat capabilities.
Instant messengers are wildly popular among teens, as a recent survey by the Pew Research Center shows. The report, titled “Teens, Social Media and Technology Overview 2015” includes some interesting statistics regarding teens and their usage of IM apps and social media for instant communication.
Here are a few of the statistics published in the report:
- 91% of teens use mobile devices to go online
- 33% of teens use messaging apps (such as WeChat and WhatsApp, etc.)
- The average teen sends and receives 30 text messages per day
- 47% of teens use video messaging apps (such as Skype and Facetime)
- 76% of teens use social media platforms capable of sending instant messages and other content (such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat)
These apps are a great way to keep up with friends and family, but there are risks associated with their use and often children and teens are either unaware of the dangers or they tend to ignore the warnings they have been given.
Dangers Associated with Teen and Preteen IM Usage
Cyberbullying - One out of five teens report that they have been the victims of online bullies. Unfortunately, there have always been schoolyard bullies, but in the digital age bullies can wreak even more havoc in a vulnerable child’s life by broadcasting their insults, threats and other antagonizing behavior far and wide by means of the internet, particularly through IM apps and social media platforms.
In far too many cases this has led to grave consequences, even suicide by children who were the victims of online bullies. Many children are afraid or reluctant to tell parents about instances of cyberbullying and in some instances, their lives have been destroyed without their parents being aware that there was a problem, until it was too late.
Sexual Predators - Pedophiles often use IM apps to disguise themselves and their intentions. A recent social experiment (see link) showed just how easily young people can be taken in by online imposters pretending to be peers. The experiment involved three young girls who were tricked into meeting with someone they thought was their own age and who had contacted them and befriended them through a fake Facebook profile set up to look like it was created by a 15-year-old boy.
This is one of the most frightening dangers associated with IM and social media apps and it underscores the need for parental monitoring of their children’s online activities.
Sexting - Sexting and the sharing of sexually-oriented content among teens is far more widespread than most parents imagine. 20% of teens have shared nude or semi-nude photos or videos over the internet. 39% of all teens admit to having sent sexually suggestive messages to others online.
These activities are not only risky and inappropriate in the short term - they can also come back to haunt a teen later in life, since virtually everything shared online will be there permanently. Even the photos shared over platforms such as Snapchat, which are theoretically deleted after a few seconds, can be captured and stored by others with little difficulty.
IM Monitoring Options for Parents
The above examples of the risks and dangers facing teens are just the most obvious and potentially threatening consequences associated with IM apps. One of the less frightening, but still significant problems is the fact that chatting on IM apps can become very addictive.
Often children neglect school work or up stay up late at night texting with their friends, to the detriment of their health and education.
It’s clear that some form of parental control over a child’s use of IM apps is necessary, but who has the time to constantly watch over their teens or preteens to make sure they aren’t behaving inappropriately or spending too much time online?
Luckily, mobile monitoring apps offer parents a practical and effective solution for keeping their kids safe online. Parental monitoring software packages such as those sold by reputable companies such as SpyStealth and mSpy give parents the ability to monitor a number of the most popular instant messaging apps.
mSpy, for instance, has IM and social network monitoring features for:
SpyStealth offers IM and social network monitoring features for:
Facebook / FB Messenger
Depending on your budget and which IM apps your child uses, one or the other may be preferable, but both work very well and are very easy to install and use.
It’s just too risky for parents to not pay attention to their children’s use of IM apps, although 20% of parents admit that they don’t monitor the kids’ online activities at all. Many of also them admit that they simply feel overwhelmed by the technology that their children have become so adept at using at an early age.
Parental monitoring apps such as SpyStealth and mSpy offer the best solution for even non-tech-savvy parents. They are relatively inexpensive and you don’t have to be a tech geek to install and use them.
More and more parents are realizing the need for such apps and any caring parent should strongly consider purchasing one for their own children.