It’s a question that I get asked a lot, how do I learn all these social media apps that my kids are using? There’s so many of them and by the time I learn one, my child is using a different one and I can’t keep up with them all. We need to simplify it down because at the end of the day, social media apps are so easy to understand.
Let’s look at social media apps like breakfast cereal. You know when you go to the breakfast cereal aisle in the shopping center, in the grocery store and there’s like 50 meters, in a massive shopping center, there’s 50 meters of shelves stacked up four high of different breakfast cereal. At the end of the day, all breakfast cereal is the same. It’s corn, oats, wheat or bran, that’s it.
The difference with all those different breakfast cereals is the branding and the packaging. Some might be long, little tubes, others might be little round-like doughnut-shaped things. At the end of the day, breakfast cereal is fundamentally corn, oat, wheat or bran, it’s all the same. It’s the packaging and all the nutritional information that confuses us.
Social media apps are kind of like breakfast cereal in the sense that there’s hundreds and thousands of different social media apps out there, but at the end of the day they’re fundamentally posting a picture or posting a comment or posting a status update, you like it, you follow them, or you reply with another comment—that’s all social media is. Dumb it right down. The difference is all the different branding and all the different packaging. There’s all different branding and packaging because they need to compete with each other.
Social media apps aren’t there for bringing people together and flower power and bringing the masses free love and all that sort of stuff. They’re there because there’s an awful lot of money to be made if they can hit the right market, if they can make it big and they can make it popular, look at Facebook. I honestly don’t think Facebook is there just to bring people together. At the end of the day, it’s about marketing, advertising and making money, it’s a business.
So fundamentally, if you look at a social media app, it’s really, really simple. It’s the branding and the packaging that’s different, that looks really confusing. Once you get a handle on one social media app, they’re all pretty much the same thing. The key thing to remember with social media apps is there’s no such thing as privacy. They all have these privacy settings in them, but basically social media, it’s called “social” media for a reason, because everyone can see it if it’s in that sort of environment that people can share.
There are privacy settings in a lot of these apps; however, it only takes one person to forward a message or a picture or a comment to somebody else and that person can share it with hundreds of other people, before you know it, it can go viral. Remember, social media is pictures or photos, posting status updates or comments, liking them, following them, or posting another comment, replying to something. Just keep it simple. Obviously there are different types of social media apps; I’m dumbing it down so you can understand it.
So how do you understand the particular app your child is using? How do you know if it’s appropriate or not? There are two things to look for. The first thing is have a look at the app ratings. In the Google Play Store or the iTunes Store, if you scroll down below the description, you’ll see a rating. The rating is a rough guideline as to the appropriateness of that app for your child. So it might say 4+, meaning anybody above the age of 4 could use it. It might say 17+, which means you probably should be 17 years or older to use it.
Now, these ratings are not governed by any particular body. The app developers determine these ratings, so it’s at their discretion or it comes down to their understanding of what the descriptions are. You can’t use those on their own.
You look at the ratings, secondly, install the app yourself. Then tap and play around with it for at least six minutes, you can’t break anything. Just play around, tap it and decide for yourself, is this appropriate for my child? Compare it to the rating. If it is, then sure, you can let your child use it, if it’s not, then you’re not just another parent saying, “No, you can’t use this app,” you’ve actually had a go of it and you’ve actually played with it and you can determine and say to them, “No, you can’t use this app because I’ve used it myself and I don’t find it appropriate.” You’re going to gain so much more respect from your child if you’ve actually given it a go.
So remember, social media apps are really simple, it’s just breakfast cereal.