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Mobile Social Networks

Smartphones have made keeping in touch on the go easier than ever. Social media platforms often have apps developed specifically to function on mobile phones, even if they have a site you can access on an internet browser. There are some social media apps that function solely on smartphones, with either limited or no functionality on a computer. These apps are also generally centered around features, such as picture and video sharing, that are more readily useable on smartphones.

All of the apps may have different features and capabilities, or may highlight a different method of social interaction, but at their core they allow for easy communication on your mobile device.

Social media focused around pictures or video.
Smartphone cameras and microphones have improved tremendously over the past decade. Your phone is always just a few clicks away from being a powerful camera or video recording device, which makes sharing photos and video clips easier than ever. Many smartphone-exclusive social media apps are centered around sharing content through these mediums.
The fast and casual nature of sharing photos to these platforms, whether as a post to many followers or directly to a few friends, means you may put less thought into what you’re sharing. Be mindful of the details in your photos and videos, and that you aren’t giving away too much information about yourself or others.

Disappearing photos/videos don’t necessarily vanish.
Some social media apps allow you to send photos and video that can only be viewed for a limited time. Afterwards, the content is no longer viewable by the recipient. This can be useful for sharing pictures/videos of casual events that you and your followers may not want to keep, such as what you ate at brunch or an interesting finding while out shopping. You might consider using this option to send other personal content, with the thought that because it disappears, so does the record of what you sent. Keep in mind that whoever receives your picture or video can easily screenshot (that is, take a photo of what is visible on their screen, using a feature on the phone) what you send. Some apps will notify you if someone takes a screenshot of what you sent, but most apps don’t block the feature entirely. Always assume that someone could take a picture or make a copy of what you sent, one way or another. It is also likely that the social media company itself may have a copy of it and everything else you’ve sent on their servers, as is needed to comply with data retention policies.

Read the terms and the privacy statement of any social media app you use. Protect your information.
Website-based social media platforms are not the only ones with privacy settings and terms of use. Before you start posting, snapping, sending, or messaging, take a look at the platform’s terms of use, which will tell you about acceptable use of the app’s services. Also, check your privacy settings. While these platforms don’t necessarily let you find other profiles in the same way as larger, more traditional platforms, you may still be searchable and what you post may be viewable to anyone. Make sure your settings only allow for your friends to see what you post. Additionally, check to make sure the app isn’t tracking your location and tagging your pictures to any sort of map. This is a feature you may have to opt-out of, rather than opt-in. Finding the settings can be trickier in some of these apps, so be sure you fully explore all of the features available to you before you use it for the first time.
Lastly, research the parent company of the social media app and where they are located. If they are located outside of the United States, laws in their respective countries could give other entities access to your information and images. Even if they are located in the US, check to see what rights they have over your images. If you do not agree to the terms, do not use the app.

How can you monitor a child’s activity on these apps?
There are a number of ways to monitor a child’s usage depending on the type of site, including friending or following them. Be mindful that some sites may have different features on a web browser version of the site than on the mobile app. For these reasons, it’s important to keep an open line of communication with your child about the risks and dangers of sharing sensitive information through these apps, if you choose to let them use it. Remind them that pictures, videos, and chat logs can be saved and shared and that they can also always come talk to you about content and interactions that make them uncomfortable. Just because pictures, videos, and messages may disappear after a short time¬†does not¬†mean they should to give in to requests that make them feel uneasy.