I remember when I was in the eighth grade and Facebook had just lowered its requirement for a “.edu” email address and suddenly everyone had a Facebook profile but me. It was awful. My friends were discussing Facebook stickers and Facebook pins (remember those?) and I was the loser who only had an AOL IM account. I didn’t even have a MySpace. This problem stemmed from my parent’s control over my internet footprint, and the fact that we shared a family computer. But all that changed when my older sister gave me her old MacBook. Suddenly when I was supposed to be researching tooth decay for science class, I was crafting the perfect Facebook profile, and my parents had no idea. Fast forward 9 years and suddenly most everyone over the age of 6 has a smart phone, which is really just a tiny portable computer. And on each of these devices is 100 more dangerous applications that can ensnare and harm the youth of today.
In light of the recent events concerning Nicole Lovell, Rebecca Sedwick, and the incident in Ohio where a 15 year old girl was abducted by a 41 year old man, Curcio Law felt it necessary to discuss social media and our children’s safety. Obviously, in all children’s lives from all generations there are risks, but with the influx of technology, especially when it bombards us at such a young age, the risks have grown more common and sinister. When my parents were young the adage was “Stranger Danger”, when I was younger it was, “don’t put your information on the internet”, and now it’s, “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain”. Like in the Chamber of Secrets our phones are becoming horcruxes, sucking the life from us and leading us down dark paths to danger.
Here is a list of some of the most commonly used applications by young people with the highest potential of dangerous activity:
Kik is an application that focuses on anonymous messaging. One merely needs to make a username to communicate with others. People can send pictures and videos and due to the anonymous nature, one can build a fake identity.
Most popular of the dating apps, Tinder uses geolocation services to put you in contact with whichever gender and whatever age-range you choose. All you need is a Facebook to access Tinder so anyone from 13 and up can use it.
Originally created for the use of “sexting” (sexy texting), Snapchat is an app where you can send a picture or video that will be “deleted” once viewed. Users can chat each other and replay one snap per 24 hours. Users can also screenshot snaps but the application will inform the sender that a screenshot was taken/attempted.
An anonymous Q&A app where users create profiles where anyone can ask the user any question they like. While not an app that usually leads to a meet up it is used heavily to bully users.
Used mostly on college campuses, YikYak is an anonymous twitter where anyone who has the app can post a message for anyone in that location to see. Users can vote messages off if they are offensive.
The biggest difference from when I was younger to now is that people were worried about their information being found out. It was enough to keep my parents awake at night to think, “what if my [idiot] daughter put our address on her Facebook and now some stalker/robber/murderer is going to come to our home?” Unfortunately, in today’s world, information is easily given and accessible. Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat/Tinder/etc. geotags pictures and statuses, and uses your location radius to put you in contact with others. Now, the issue isn’t finding a person, the issue is getting a person to come out.
Regrettably, all children and teenagers believe they are invincible. “It won’t happen to me,” we all think daily. We know best. We know more. We know, we know, we know. “I knoooooow Mom, don’t drink and drive.” “I knooow Dad, keep jumper cables in the car.” “I knooooow parents, don’t get in a stranger’s car.” Yet how often does that sage advice that we know, go in one ear and out the other, or is completely disregarded?
Parents, it’s hard. I’m glad I’m not one of your ranks yet because in today’s day and age you have to protect your know-it-all, age-of-information, millennial children from more dangers that hit closer to home. Our advice is to sit down and talk with your children about the applications they are using on their phones, the websites they’re visiting, and who they are talking to/exchanging information with. They might not be forthcoming with this information, especially the older they get. Remember that you are the parents, you control the phone bill and the wifi. I can’t tell you how many times my dad changed the wifi password on me because I wasn’t answering his questions honestly regarding my social media alliances. Try to impress upon your children that your intention is not to pry but to protect. However, do not fall to technophobia. Bad things happen every day, and if you push against the millennial’s lifeblood too much you may just push them to act even more recklessly. Instead of telling them to delete Kik or Tinder, impress upon them the potential for danger (i.e. catfishing, predators, etc.) and offer an alternative. One such alternative is an application called Companion, an app designed to keep people safe when walking home or going to unfamiliar places. Have your children download this in conjunction with Kik or anything else. This way, if your child is meeting up with a new friend or going to a party they can designate “Companions” to monitor their safety. These “Companions” could be their parents or their friends. Either way it offers a safety blanket for your nerves and their well-being.
At the end of the day, children and teenagers are going to be reckless and stupid. It’s a time in our lives where we can be, with little to no responsibility or repercussions. However, the age of information has made even stepping a toe out of line comparable to playing on train tracks blindfolded. It isn’t easy, but parents desperately need to communicate with their children on a regular basis to know the kind of mischief their children are getting into. So whether it be Kik or an illicit Facebook profile, you can keep up with them, and if all else fails, pull a Vin Diesel in The Pacifier and put an ankle bracelet on your kids.
Tom Curcio, the driving force behind Curcio Law, is a dedicated trial lawyer with more than 35 years of experience in Northern Virginia. He has dedicated his career to representing people who have been seriously injured through no fault of their own. He works tirelessly to obtain the compensation his clients are legally entitled to…
Rakin Hamad is a recent graduate of the George Mason Law School and joined Curcio Law as an associate in August 2018. Rakin works closely with Tom Curcio and staff in preparing cases from the initial client meeting through trial and has been a perfect fit for the firm. During law school, Rakin interned at…
Julia Martinez, a Florida native, joined Curcio Law as a paralegal in 2013. She began her legal career in 1998 working at a personal injury firm that primarily handled automobile accidents, slip and falls, and products liability cases. Then, in 2008 she expanded her knowledge by working at two other law firms. She obtained her…
As the firm’s office manager, Kathy McAfee is dedicated to making sure the office runs smoothly and that the team has what it needs by way of resources, technology, and supplies to best serve our clients. Kathy graduated with a B.A. in Sociology from Roanoke College in 1986 and afterward, returned to Alexandria. She began…
Maureen Burke was born and raised in the Boston, Massachusetts area and relocated to the Alexandria area in 1984 where she and her husband raised their three children. Maureen graduated with a BS in Nursing from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire and an MS in Nursing from George Mason University. Maureen has worked at…
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