Staying on top of the apps your child uses isn’t easy.
“The technology just moves so fast,” Manheim Township police Sgt. Michael Piacentino said.
Piacentino attended training sessions on social media where he learned about some disturbing trends.
“There are ways that it can look like one thing, but it really is something else,” he said.
Certain apps will allow users to hide messages in pictures.
“When you open up the image, it just looks like a flower, but if you were to access the metadata, you can actually embed information in there,” Piacentino said. “If you are the parent, you look at the phone and think, oh, my daughter got a photo of a flower from a friend, who cares?”
The message could be about the latest party or it could be something worse.
“There is a lot of cyberbullying that goes on,” Piacentino said.
Hidden messages can also be hidden in emails and text messages that look like random numbers and letters.
“What they are supposed to be doing is, every so many letters they piece it together and there are actually apps out there that will do that. It’s like an encryption,” Piacentino said.
“A lot of parents are really afraid of the internet,” said Josh Ochs, a social media safety speaker.
Ochs works with Smart Social, a website that offers free online resources for parents, from explaining and rating apps to how you can create a positive online profile for your kids. That starts with Googling your kid’s name.
“Once you search for your kids online, take those Google results to your kids. Ask your kid, how do we improve those results, what do you want to be known for?” said Ochs.
Ochs says changing your kid’s mindset about how social media can be used will change what they post.
“Start to develop a website and start to shine online. Build those social media profiles in a way that lets your kids, in an authentic and fun way, be someone that is going to impress that college or future employer. This will help them behave better online when you are not around,” Ochs said.