Interests & Risks

Youth 11–12 years of age

During this age range, children become more sensitive to social judgement. Peer acceptance and belonging holds greater influence over how they see themselves and their behaviour.

Apps

Apps not only provide youth with entertainment (gaming, music, videos, etc.), but at this age, chat, messaging and texting apps become the primary way tweens connect with friends and family. As a parent/guardian it’s important to understand the purpose of apps and how your child may be negatively impacted by using them.

  • Some apps give the user a sense of security that their information, images or videos are only being shared temporarily. However, there are ways for other users to capture shared information (i.e. screenshot on Snapchat®).
  • Many apps use location services when enabled on the device to identify the location of the user of the app through GPS technology. Some apps encourage the user to “check in” or share their location, while others may share location without asking for user input each time.
  • Apps can be hidden on a device. Icons can be arranged discreetly, or placed into a folder on a user’s device so they are no longer visible at a quick glance.
  • While some apps are free to download, they may also feature in-app purchases (i.e. items that will aid in a game, special photo filters, etc.) that can add up quickly.
  • Apps should be downloaded from official stores like iTunes and Google Play. Illegitimate versions of the apps named the same or similar on other sites may contain malware or viruses.
  • More specific risks related to gaming, chat, messaging and social networking apps can be found under the headings for these types of services below.
  • Become familiar with popular apps your tween is interested in downloading. Understand their purpose, how information is shared, what information is needed to sign up for an account and the app’s terms of agreement. Some apps require users to be 13 years old to sign up for an account.
  • Review the content of the app. Is it age-appropriate? Is there an option to report inappropriate content?
  • Become familiar with parental controls on phones and tablets. Some devices allow parents to limit access to specific apps, social media sites, Internet content and features available within the device. For example, on iPhones and iPads, parents can “Enable Restrictions” under the “Settings” icon.
  • Know your child’s username/character name and password, as well as the email address used, for the apps they use. Ensure that this login information doesn’t provide identifying characteristics about your child.
  • Set the expectation you will monitor your child’s online activities, and work together to establish guidelines around texting, social media and gaming (who your child can do these things with and on what apps).
  • Reinforce the idea not everyone is who they say they are online. People can pretend to be older or younger than they actually are.
  • Remind your tween it is easy to lose control over what happens to texts, photos and videos sent through apps, and they should be careful about what they choose to share and consider if it could be misused.
  • Explain apps should be downloaded from official stores like iTunes and Google Play. Illegitimate versions of the apps (named the same or similar) on other sites may contain malware or viruses.

Cameras

Whether it’s a quick selfie or video of the perfect bottle flip, cameras are used to capture both a tween’s personal perspective and what they’re seeing in the world around them. While it’s fun to share experiences, parents and tweens also need to understand they could be sharing content with more people than just their friends.

  • Some apps/services that utilize a device’s camera may give users a sense of security that their pictures and/or videos are only temporarily shared, but these apps/services may not be as secure as users believe they are. Shared pictures and/or videos can be captured and forwarded to others.
  • Content shared through a device’s camera on live-streaming services can still be recorded, though youth may be unaware that someone is recording.
  • Unless youth know the other person, there is no way of verifying who is on the other end. Pre-recorded content can be streamed in place of live content, giving the appearance that youth are speaking with someone “live.”
  • Enable controls and privacy settings on apps/services that limit who can see posted photos or videos. Many times, default settings in apps are on “public.” Switching a profile to “private” makes posts only available to an approved list of people, “friends,” or “followers.”
  • Monitor your tween’s use of cameras on their devices, as well as the posting and exchanging of pictures/videos online.
  • Explain to tweens people can save pictures of someone they are video chatting with. Once a picture is sent or saved by someone else, control over what happens to the picture is lost.
  • Teach your tween it is illegal for people to make, possess or distribute naked or sexually explicit pictures of children under 18 years of age, even if it’s shared between peers.
  • Explain if someone tries to get your tween to send a picture or to video chat and do things that are inappropriate or seem “weird,” they should stop talking to the person and tell a safe adult about it.
  • Have regular conversations about who your tween is video chatting with online.
  • Reassure your child if they ever feel like they are “in over their head” in a situation, or they have made mistakes they can always come to you for help and you will work through the situation together.

Chat, messaging and texting

Chat, messaging and texting apps are a quick, fun and creative way tweens communicate directly with peers. However, many of these apps require users to be at least 13 years old. This form of communication, while fun, removes the social limits deemed normal in face-to-face interactions. Without these limits, personal boundaries can be crossed earlier and easier, creating the potential for hurtful, inappropriate or intimate information to be shared.

  • Tweens may engage in private conversations or share private information or photos, unaware of the lasting consequences.
  • Tweens may accept friend/buddy requests from people they don’t know in person.
  • Some anonymous messaging apps allow tweens to engage in conversations with strangers easily.
  • The history of the communication through some apps may not be saved. Some chat and messaging apps may log the conversations but allow them to be easily deleted with the swipe of a finger.
  • Review the app or messaging program’s terms of use to see what the legal age for usage is, as well as where to report inappropriate content/messages.
  • Check to see that your tween’s chat or messaging program is set up so that no one can begin speaking to them without their permission.
  • Know your tween’s passwords, screen names and the friends they’re communicating with online.
  • Monitor who your tween is contacting, and the functions/applications being used to text and message with others.
  • Ensure your tween always uses a screen name and profile image that doesn’t reflect their age, location or interests.
  • Reinforce the idea not everyone is who they say they are online. People can pretend to be older or younger than they actually are or they can misuse information, photos or videos you share with them.
  • Discuss the importance of not responding to harassing, harmful or unsolicited messages and to save these types of messages.
  • Explain to your tween they should trust their instincts and block anyone who asks questions online that make them feel uncomfortable. Add they can tell you or a safe adult about the conversation without fear of getting into trouble.
  • Teach your tween how to get out of unwanted conversations. Some direct ways of getting out of uncomfortable situations include refusing to do something by saying, “I don’t want to” or discontinuing contact by not responding to messages, and deleting or blocking the person as a contact. Indirect ways of ending a conversation include making excuses such as, “I have to go out with my family” or blaming parents, “My mom checks my computer randomly and would ground me.”

Social networking

Social networking starts to become extremely important to tweens because it connects them to their world and allows them to share their personality with like-minded peers. Scrolling through friends’ feeds, liking (or double tapping) their favourite photos and posting memes are just some of the ways social networking can be fun. But this virtual world also blurs social limits and personal boundaries, allowing them to be crossed more easily, and creating the potential for hurtful, inappropriate or intimate information to be shared. It also opens tweens up to a larger, potentially public audience where their “friends” may not be the person they claim to be.

  • When creating a profile, some services require certain fields be completed but allow users to choose the information entered into others. In most cases, there are no restrictions on what can be added to a profile, including personal information and photos/videos.
  • An adolescent may accept friend requests from individuals they have not met in person. Adults looking to victimize adolescents can quickly turn conversations sexual.
  • An adolescent may be bullied or stalked by peers or other users on social networking sites.
  • Once a message is sent or a post is made, control over that message or post is lost. Personal information, pictures and videos can be easily saved and/or shared with others.
  • Become familiar with popular social networks your tween is using. Understand their purpose, how information is shared and what information is needed to sign up for the account. Many social networking sites require users to be at least 13 years old.
  • If you agree to allow your tween to use a social networking site, assist in the profile creation and only fill out what’s necessary, leaving out identifying information.
  • Follow your tween or add them as a friend on the social media app as a condition of being able to use the service.
  • Enable controls and privacy settings on social networks in order to limit who can see posts, photos or videos. Many times, default settings in apps are on “public.” Switching a profile to “private” makes posts only available to an approved list of people, “friends,” or “followers.”
  • Know your tween’s passwords, screen names and the friends they’re communicating with online.
  • Set the expectation that you will monitor your tween’s online activities, and work together to establish guidelines around social media (who they can do these things with and on what apps).
  • Remind your tween not to post anything they don’t want to be permanently online and that it’s easy to lose control over what happens to texts, photos and videos on social media.
  • Discuss being kind online and that bullying in real life and in the cyber world will not be tolerated. Explain they need to tell a trusted adult if they see someone being bullied online or are being bullied themselves.
  • Remind your tween to only follow or friend people they know in real life, and to check with a safe adult when they’re sent a request from someone they don’t know.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. It is important to remind tweens they can always come to you for help without fear of getting into trouble, and reinforce it’s never too late to ask for help.

Online gaming

Whether it’s collecting cats or building clans, online games provide a fun distraction for tweens and are another avenue to connect with friends. Online games can be played through a console, downloaded as an app for mobile devices or played directly on social networks. Many offer chat or multi-player functions that can expose tweens to other users who they may not know.

  • Many online games have a chat component where users can talk to people they do not know in person. Tweens can easily be exposed to inappropriate conversations and, in most cases, records of these chats are not saved.
  • Some gaming apps utilize the device’s GPS during gameplay, allowing the location of the user to be identified by other users.
  • While some games are free to download, they may also feature in-app purchases (i.e. items that will aid in a game, etc.) that can add up quickly.
  • Review the games your tween wants to download/play and see whether games feature chat functions, if they contain sexually explicit or violent material and if there’s an option to report inappropriate material and behaviour.
  • For consoles, setup parental controls and create passwords for the parental control features. You can control online access by using the block and/or restrict features available on most video game consoles.
  • Seek games that offer the ability to block or restrict individuals who can play with your tween.
  • Know your tween’s passwords, screen names and the friends they are playing against and chatting with online.
  • Explain to your tween that they should never meet in person with someone they’ve met in a game without a parent or guardian present.
  • Teach your tweens to ask you before they download a new game or accept a friend/game play request.
  • Discuss with your tween not to share their password with anyone, and not to enter any information into pop-up ads or websites they’ve been re-directed to.
  • Discuss how to get out of uncomfortable situations in games if someone starts talking to them inappropriately, such as stop talking to or playing with the person, block the person or report the person in the game.
  • Ensure your tween understands they can talk to you about anything they encounter online that makes them feel uncomfortable without fear of losing Internet or gaming privileges.

Video-sharing sites

Tweens want to post their latest gaming review or make-up tutorial with friends online, and video-sharing sites can be a positive place to showcase their creativity. They also enjoy browsing the thousands of clips uploaded by other users. Yet, on some video-sharing sites, tweens can also easily view or upload inappropriate videos, and comment sections can open them up to harassing statements.

  • Many video-sharing sites do not provide the option of restricting who may view certain video clips.
  • Tweens can inadvertently give out personal information. Backgrounds stating their school’s name or mentioning landmarks could allow someone to track where the tween lives.
  • Comment sections open up users to harassing and/or inappropriate responses to uploaded videos.
  • Review the site’s terms of use and privacy policy. Some video-sharing sites require users to be 13 years old.
  • Be aware of who’s connecting with your tween on the site and what information they are sharing in their videos.
  • Check out your tween’s favourite videos and the channels they’re subscribed to. These can give you clues about what they’re watching on the site.
  • Review where and how to report inappropriate content found on the site.
  • Learn about the video-sharing site’s comments section to see if comments can be turned off or if they need to be approved before they are posted.
  • Discuss what information your tween should and should not be revealing in their videos.
  • Encourage your tween to protect their privacy by setting personal videos to “private” or “unlisted” when possible.
  • Talk about what YouTube® sets out in their Teen Safety policy as the grandma rule: “Is what you’re filming or posting something you’d want your grandmother, boss, future employer, parents or future in-laws to see? If not, it’s probably not a great idea to post it.” Teen Safety, Policies, safety, and reporting. Available at: Youtube.ca
  • Explain if they are ever threatened to make or share videos, they should stop talking to the person and let you know right away. Do not ever comply with such requests.

For more information, see Additional Information.