Bullying is no longer limited to the classroom or playground, and online harassment via social networks, video sharing sites and forums has become a real concern for parents. SafetyWeb – the online resource that provides parents with real time alerts about their children’s online activity – has put together a list of “Top 5 Websites You’ve Never Heard Of That Your Kids Are On.”
Note: It’s important for parents to be aware of the latest Internet trends among teens because this is the world in which kids live and interact. Some of the most popular sites can be potentially dangerous to children and teenagers. Parents should do their best to create an open dialogue with their child about Internet safety, and add these sites to their “watch list.”
Here are the top 5 sites your kids may be visiting:
This is a social networking site in which users can anonymously post comments about other people. In essence, it is an open invitation for insults and gossip. Formspring is a breeding ground for cyberbullying and has been linked to a case on Long Island where 17-year-old Alexis Pilkington committed suicide. Due to the site’s anonymity, it can be particularly cruel and fall below parental radar.
2. Chat Roulette
This is a social networking site in which users are randomly matched with strangers around the world to engage in webcam-based conversations. According to a March 2010 survey conducted by RJMetrics, 13% of its users are either nude or appear to be engaging in a lewd act. Celebrities like Kelly Osbourne, Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton have all admitted publicly that they’ve tried site. Parents should be aware of a similar, popular site called Omegle.
Stickam is a site that features live-streaming video, audio, images and video chat. With over 4 million members and content from networks like MTV, G4 and CBS, the site seems to be reputable, however, kids can easily access inappropriate content and sexual predators are abound. In October of 2009, The New York Times reported 3 predator arrests linked to the site.
4chan is a digital bulletin board in which users can anonymously post comments and share images. The site made headlines in 2008 when one of its members allegedly hacked into then-Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s email account. 4chan’s members also organized an “attack” against YouTube by posting hundreds of sexually explicit videos within a short period of time. Along with teen gossip site StickyDrama, 4chan is also credited with the recent popularity of Jessi Slaughter, the 11 year old girl who endured extreme forms of cyberbullying after posting a slew of emotional YouTube videos.
This is a location-based game in which users identify where they’re located in return for virtual badges like “Mayor” and “Super Mayor.” Foursquare (and a similar site called Gowalla) are apps that are primarily accessed via cell phones. They can be addictive and dangerous, since your kids could be revealing their physical locations to strangers. If your child is on a family phone plan, you can set up restrictions to disable their cell phones from downloading any apps like this one.