Parents Need An Education In Social Media Sites Their Kids Favor

"Incoming freshman advice: First one to get pregnant wins."

Gems like this —- plus ridiculously inappropriate comments about specific kids in your town —- are what Yik Yak is all about. The free app allows people to post anonymously and by location. It's turning kids in your neighborhood into a bunch of online terrorists.

Oh, but that's not the only thing that falls into the category of Stuff Parents Don't Know. You've likely heard of Snapchat —- an app that allows one to send photos with a limited lifespan. Obviously, kids use this to send racy pictures to friends, knowing that they'll disappear in a few seconds. But, of course, the ability to take a screen shot pretty much negates the temporary nature of the photo. And now, there's a new app called SnapBox, which automatically saves every Snapchat one receives.

Are you dizzy yet? We're just getting started.

Remember the good old days when you could "friend" your teenager on Facebook and feel confident that you knew what he or she was up to on line? Yeah, those days are over. It's only us old people using Facebook now. Kids are now into Instagram (mostly pictures), Vine (six-second videos), Omegle (Talk to strangers! Troll minors!), Tumblr (I'm still not really sure what this is), Chatroulette (super-creepy), Hot or Not (rating people's looks) and several teen dating sites. Yep. What a wonderful world.

Oh, but there's more. Ask.fm allows anonymous users to ask questions of actual people with profiles on the site. It's basically asking to be bullied. The site has been linked to seven teenagers' suicides.

And White Van connects teens with creepy older guys who drive sketchy white vans. Just kidding.

If you're like me, and I truly hope you're not, you have no idea what your kids are up to. Of course, as kids get older, we parents no longer have control over everything they do. And that's a good thing. Freedom teaches them to be independent thinkers and to learn from their mistakes.

But this generation of teens is experiencing something unique because of the impact of social media, and we old people are not even remotely equipped to handle it.

But Carolyn Clement, a social media consultant who teaches —- primarily adults —- how to navigate the digital world, says burying our heads in the sand is not the solution. Clement, a mom of college students and a high schooler, says parents need to actually engage in social media, not just monitor what their kids are doing with it.

"You can say 'I'm going to look at your phone and know all of your passwords,' but many kids are good at hiding things," she says. "If you're using social media yourself they know you understand it. They trust that you're not going to have a knee-jerk reaction and take away their phone if they say a creepy guy is trying to contact them."

Clement uses Snapchat with her kids as a way to stay connected. (Oh, so it's not just for mildly inappropriate pictures?)

"Because it's a temporary content creator, it's less posed, and can capture very funny, interesting moments," she says. "My daughter might send me a picture of a butterfly she thinks I'd like or just something silly. It's a great way to stay connected."

Clement obviously acknowledges the dangers of connecting with strangers through social media, but is very clear on the importance of keeping an open dialog among parents and children of all ages.

"Parents who are unaware of what's going on in social media have no way of providing guidance on how to interrelate with the world," she says. "To say 'I just can't figure out all of that technology' is irresponsible parenting."

Teresa M. Pelham is a freelance writer living in Farmington and is co-blogger for the Courant's Mommy Minute blog. Teresa is author of the children's books "Roxy's Forever Home" and "Roxy and Her Annoying Little Brother, Stuey." For more information, visit http://www.roxysforeverhome.com.

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