Dangerous Online Trends for Teens
Teenagers don’t always use their developing brain in the best ways. They like to push boundaries, and unfortunately, social media encourages them. Some of the latest online trends can place teens in danger. Parents should talk to their teens about some of these more disturbing fads:
Exercise gurus may advocate planks, but this latest trend takes it to a new level. Youth that “plank” lie face down, like a board, in an unexpected place and on any, and every, surface. Participants snap a photo and upload it to the internet. In many cases, planking is harmless and humorous. Unfortunately, there are planking groups online that “award” the most daring or silliest pictures. Some teens have pushed the limits, planking in dangerous places, resulting in numerous injuries. Most famously, a 20-yr-old Australian boy died when he tried to plank on a balcony and plummeted seven stories. It may seem silly to even have to mention, but parents should remind teens to use common sense and safety if they choose to engage in planking. Rooftops, escalators, balconies, and bridges are not good choices.
Vining Smack Cams
A newer social media app, called Vine, is encouraging a new form of bullying by having teens physically injure, and publicly humiliate, each other. The new viral trend is for friends to sneak up on unsuspecting victims, smack them in the face violently and record their shocked and mortified reactions to Vine using the hashtag #smackcam. Parents should be clear that this type of activity is clearly a form of bullying and will not be tolerated.
In this new Facebook fad, teens are stripping down and posing in provocative photos in the snow. Teens seem to think it’s funny and harmless, but this is another reason for parents to discuss the pitfalls of posting inappropriate images online by reinforcing the permanence of their electronic activities and the possibility it could impact their future. Anything sent or posted in cyberspace never truly goes away, even when deleted. A naked or suggestive picture taken and sent can never be taken back. It may seem fun and flirty at the time, but once someone else has it, it is impossible to control. Any online photo can be later seen by potential employers, college recruiters, teachers, coaches, family, friends, enemies, and strangers. Additionally, some states are actively prosecuting teens that posted inappropriate images as pornography.
Teen Shaming is yet another form of cyber bullying. The perpetrator “steals” photos of the victim by copying photos from their website, Facebook or other social media accounts. The perpetrator then uses image editing software to alter the photos to include insulting captions and reposts them online. It’s a humiliating practice to the victim and potentially illegal to the perpetrator. Tell your teen to absolutely not participate in this fad and to tell you if they are the victim of teen shaming.
Another trend on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumbler is for girls to tweet pictures of their boobs barely covered in a sports team shirt as “good luck” before games. Tell your daughters there are better ways to support their favorite sports team.
Snap Chat is a smartphone app that allows users to send photos and videos that the app promises “disappears within seconds.” While this app may sound harmless, teens are using the app to send sexually explicit pictures and clips thinking it will immediately be deleted. The problem is that the recipient can easily grab screen shots before the image disappears, and regardless of the app’s promise, servers are still managing those images, so they are never really gone. The FBI searches the database for illegal images.
Teens climb on top of the roof or trunk of a moving car and pretend they are surfing. They videotape all of the action to post online. Obviously, the unrestrained surfer is in danger of serious injury if they fall. Just the slightest turn can throw someone off the car. A 16-year-old Florida girl recently suffered a massive brain injury while attempting it.
ChatRoulette.com is a website that automatically pairs you with a stranger to chat with when you log on. It requires a videocam and is a way for kids to video chat online with a stranger without any security blocks or filters. The site is easy to use and doesn’t protect kids from adult content. Many users have complained about being connected with someone only to discover that person is showing inappropriate content. Parents should simply block this site using their computer’s security settings. There is no safe way for teens to use this site.
Teens are not always able to see the consequences of their actions and act quickly and spontaneously to impress their friends. Speaking to your teen about some of these latest fads will hopefully deter their participation.