All About Apps: Advice for Parents About the Video-Sharing iPhone App VINE

Vine: the video version of Instagram, because pictures just aren’t enough anymore.

Vine is Twitter’s new video sharing app for the iPhone. It’s still fairly new and, judging by the lack of certain important features (like, say, privacy settings), you should expect to see many updates and enhancements to this app in the near future.

But, hey, I saw it on Ellen a few days ago so clearly it’s a hit and we should talk about it.

How the app works:

1. Create account.

The set up is the same as every other social media app. You set up an account, create a username, and find friends.

This app is a little tricky in the safety department. And by “tricky” I mean that it has zero privacy settings to protect accounts. I would guess that the developers will add in those features soon, but in the meantime, all videos and profiles are public.

2. Make a video.

Vine videos are created using the in-app camera, and are anywhere from 3 to 6 seconds long. Just a short 6-second-max snippet of life

The fun part of Vine is the way the videos are created: the camera only records while the screen is being pressed. So within your 6 second video, you can have several tiny clips. Think stop-motion video style, if you’re familiar with that. Better yet, I’ll just show you my favorite stop-motion Vine:

(To hear the sound, unmute the video in the top left corner.)

3. Share with friends.

Once a video is uploaded to Vine, a copy is saved to the iPhone’s Camera Roll.

Vine users can tag friends using @username, create #hashtags, and “like”/comment on others’ videos. (In other words, your kids can communicate with each other on Vine just like they can on Instagram or Twitter.)

A quick note about hashtags…

A hashtag is a hyperlink designed to group information together. It is basically a way to join in on a public conversation. On Twitter it groups tweets, on Instagram it groups photos, and on Vine it groups videos. (On Facebook it does nothing. So stop hashtagging there.)

When enough individuals have adapted a certain hashtag, it might show up under the “trending” section, allowing even more people to join in on the conversation.

For example, here are the trending Vine topics for today:

Seeing the trending topics, I might want to join in with a video of my own last day of school. I’ll create my video and use #lastdayofschool in my video caption. A quick search of that hashtag will pull up any and all videos using that tag (including mine). Make sense?

So, in a nutshell, Vine is 6 seconds of video clips, on a loop, with sound, shared with the world at large.

Parents: what concerns should you have about this app?

For starters, the lack of privacy controls. This is sketchy, especially if you have younger kids and are a protected-account-only family.

Also, stumbling upon raunchy messages and/or porn is always a risk in social media. With this app, I feel like I’ve seen a lot more filthy stuff than usual. I’m not just talking about naked people – I’m talking about more “f” words in 6 seconds than I’ve ever heard in my life. Part of it, I’m sure, is because video is more offensive to watch and hear than text is to read, but still. If your kids are on Vine, I would strongly encourage them to stick to their newsfeed to watch friends’ videos only, not do a whole lot of exploring. Videos from the Vine world at large are 1 part funny, 9 parts nasty.

There are a few types of Vine users: the girl making boring videos of every day life (me), the guy trying to record and edit a 6-second masterpiece (the flying broom guy), and the gross dude who should be voted off the internet forever (the one who favors the “f” word).

Still, concerns aside, Vine is unique and pretty entertaining. It has more of a creative element to it than other sites.

And, if your kids are on Vine, just like every other decision in life, they get to decide who they want to represent and who they want to follow. Their Vines can contribute to the filth, or they can showcase their creativity by flying around your living room on a broomstick.

Let’s encourage them towards the latter.

Because, really, Vine can be a fun place:

What do you think, parents? To Vine or not to Vine?

More Reading:

Sarah explains SnapChat here

Sarah explains Instagram here. The comments on her original Instagram post are here. 

Sarah’s follow up post on Instagram is here

Rebecca on explains why she Dumped Facebook.

Rebecca’s followup: Breaking Up with Facebook Feels so Right 

Rebecca two months later: Frankly, I’m Shocked at the Difference it’s Made. 

Check out Sarah’s blog, Life as of Late,  follow her on Twitter, or, yes, check out her Instagram account. 

Phone Apps Explained for Parents: Should Your Kid SnapChat?

The delightful blogger Sarah Brooks sent this in:

As if the internet doesn’t freak parents out enough, along comes a little smartphone app called SnapChat.

If you are familiar with SnapChat, you probably hate its guts. If you aren’t familiar with it, I’ll try to enlighten you, and then you’ll probably hate its guts.

I didn’t even want to write about this app because a) it’s very controversial and b) the amount of selfies I had to take to give you an idea of how your kids are using it is unnerving. But, alas, some parents have asked me about it and it is certainly worth discussing if you haven’t already done your research on it.

Here’s how the app works:

1. Set up an account and find friends.

Really important: the privacy on SnapChat is found under settings. Set to “My Friends” only, unless you want your child picture-messaging with strangers off the street.

 


2. Take a picture or video and add a caption or drawing.
(Or mustache and eyebrows in this case.)

Tapping on the picture opens up the keyboard to send a short line of text, as well.

 

3. Set the time expiration on the photo and send. (The most time allowed on each picture/video is 10 seconds.)


4. Friends open the message and view the photo until the time expires.


5. Photo disappears forever, never to be seen again.

According to SnapChat’s website,

Snapchat is a new way to share moments with friends. Snap an ugly selfie or a video, add a caption, and send it to a friend (or maybe a few). They’ll receive it, laugh, and then the snap disappears.

In a nutshell, the app is designed to be fun way for your kids to text with pictures. And, for the most part, that’s how they’re using it.

So…what’s the problem?

The problem is in the disappearing photo part.

When you’re a teenager alone in your room armed with a smartphone and a cute boy or girl on the other line, you might not just be sending “ugly selfies”. You might be more inclined to send selfies of the half-naked variety, especially when the photo evidence disappears into cyberspace.

The fine folks at SnapChat have also designed the app in such a way that taking a screenshot of a photo is next to impossible. It’s a circus act that requires all of your fingers, plus a few of your friends’. Even then you probably can’t get it.

The photo is gone. Any evidence of inappropriate usage is deleted.

“Well that settles it. My kid is never allowed to have this app.”

Fair enough. From a safety standpoint, this app is a parent’s worst nightmare.

That said, it’s worth pointing out that your child will send and receive half-naked pictures if he or she decides to, SnapChat or not. It’s depressing, but it’s reality. The app can certainly make doing so easier, but SnapChat isn’t to blame. Teenage hormones are. Or something.

I got this app a while ago to see how the teens in our youth group are using it – I snap, they snap, we all snap – and I’ve discovered a sliver of silver lining in all of this. From what I’ve seen (and heard), most of our kids aren’t using the app in a suspect way.

From 6th grade to college student to 25 year old mom, most are using SnapChat for good, clean fun.

An example convo might be:

 

Harmless texting with facial expressions attached. A way to send hilariously unfortunate selfies to your friends.

Is there room for this app to be used inappropriately? Absolutely, as is the case with all forms of communication.

Is every kid on SnapChat sexting (that phrase is the worst)? Absolutely not.

Should your child have a SnapChat account? Tough call.

This app should definitely give you pause, but I can’t answer that question for you.

All I can do is offer a little insider information on how I see/watch/hear most of our kids using it and hope that knowledge brings about great conversations with your own kids.

More questions about the app? Snap me anytime.

Check out Sarah’s blog, Life as of Late,  follow her on Twitter, or, yes, check out her Instagram account. 

More Reading:

Sarah explains Instagram here. The comments on her original post are here. 

Sarah’s follow up post on Instagram is here

Rebecca on explains why she Dumped Facebook.

Rebecca’s followup: Breaking Up with Facebook Feels so Right 

Rebecca two months later: Frankly, I’m Shocked at the Difference it’s Made. 

Instagram and Your Kids: Advice for Protecting Their Safety and Their Self-Image

Sarah Brooks posted about the picture-sharing phone app Instagram and her blog lit up. To date, she’s gotten 185 comments from parents and teens weighing in! I think she’s on to something! Here is her follow-up post in which she replies and explores the issue more. Look for more from Sarah in the weeks to come on other apps such as Vine and SnapChat. 

Um. Wow. I had NO idea the last post would hit such a nerve, but I’m so thankful some very important conversations have stemmed from it!

Thank you for all of your feedback, comments, suggestions, and shares. It’s humbling, to say the least.

A few things:

One resounding comment I heard was, “This topic isn’t just for middle schoolers.”

You’re absolutely right.

The topic is for everyone.

It’s human nature to always be on the lookout for someone/something to validate us; social media just happens to be our current medicine of choice. (Don’t pretend like you haven’t been disappointed when people didn’t think your status update was as funny as you thought it was.)

The difference is that we as adults should have the ability to keep it in perspective. It’s a little harder for our middle schoolers who tend to see black and white. Numbers don’t lie, right?

Some have asked, “What’s the deal with Instagram? Don’t our kids do the same on Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and Vine?”

Yes. 100 times yes. I brought up Instagram specifically because that’s what most of our middle school kids are on, but it doesn’t matter what social site it is. The temptation and tendency to get caught up in the number game is always present.

I have to confess that as I was writing the last post I thought, “My 6th graders are going to hate me. They’re going to think I’m trying to out them to their parents.”

The reaction I got was quite the opposite.

Here’s a comment I got from a middle school girl:

“I am a 13 year old girl in 7th grade. My mom showed me the thing you wrote about instagram. I really enjoyed it and took a lot from what you said. … I think what you did was great an I hope that a lot of parents will show that to their kids because it was true and made me think about it from a whole new perspective. I will admit I am guilty of many of the things you talked about, but after I read it, it made me not care anymore. Thank you for what you did and hopefully many other teens will take stuff from it too.”

And another:

“I’m 13 years old, and I wish that other kids my age would read this. I have an Instagram, but I don’t spend a lot of time on it, because honestly, it makes me feel bad. The popular kids always have to most followers, they always have the most likes,and sometimes I think that the only reason they actually post “selfies” is for reasurance and for the comments saying things like “You’re so pretty!!” Thank you for writing this. I hope it opens up more parents eyes to what kids are posting on the internet, and the real reason they are posting these things.

Ok and maybe one more. From my new friend, Courtney:

im 14 and in 8th grade. I read what you wrote.. it made me realize I have part of ny identity invested in social media. not in where it should be, which is The Lord! it showed me where my priorities should actually be at. thank you so much.”

Courtney even went on to suggest a future post for me about a different social site. (!!!)

I want to repeat that last sentence about 5 times because it is the very reason I’m passionate about these conversations.

Courtney, age 14, suggested additional material for me to talk about with you, her parents.

She wants you to know, but she may not be the one to tell you. She wants you to be in the loop and understand the pressure she and her friends can feel. She wants your advice and craves your guidance, despite the 137 eye rolls.

So…how does that work?

Well, if you read the first post and got panicky, go back through and read the comments. Those mommas/dads/youth ministers have some excellent, practical advice.

In fact, can I just share a few of their thoughts with you?

Click Here to Read More.

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Protecting Kids’ Heart-Deep Identity: A Note to Parents about Instagram

I found this post by Sarah Brooks on her delightful blog Life as of Late. She graciously allowed us to repost it. 

To the parents of middle-schoolers on Instagram:

 

There is so much information out there about internet safety and you should definitely read up on that, but that’s not what I want to talk about.

Over the past several months, I’ve been noticing some interesting stuff on Instagram from your kids that I want to share with you.

“Hey, weirdo, why are you following my kids?” Good question, and I’ll get to that.

I am 25 years old, which is not just a fun fact, but important in the history of social media. MySpace started during my high school years, and Facebook started the year I went to college (when it was still just a site just for college students). So while my generation didn’t grow up with it, we were the first to use it. We’re bilingual, in a sense.

Your kids, on the other hand, don’t know a life without it and you’re doing your best to learn and keep up with it. So would you mind too terribly much if I acted as a bridge for a second? Give you some thinking material?

Let me back up.

My husband and I, along with our friends Kylie and Trenton, help in the youth ministry at our church. (Shoutout to the GREATEST 6TH GRADERS EVER!)

Several months ago, Kylie and I were asked to talk to the 8th graders at the middle school girls’ sleepover.

The topic was “Finding your identity in Christ“.

I would have much rather talked to them about sex or drugs or something, because those are pretty concrete topics. We’d stand up and say, “Don’t do it.” End of talk. It would be so moving we’d be asked back to speak at every event, naturally.

Instead, we were tasked with talking about something that a lot of adults I know don’t even know how to apply in their own lives.

What even is identity? And how do you talk to a group of middle school girls about finding their identity in an invisible God? And if they aren’t finding their identity in Him, where are they finding it?

After much thought and prayer, we decided to talk about something we know: social media. We talked about Instagram specifically, since a lot of these girls aren’t on Facebook yet and think Twitter is stupid.

I’m sure you’re aware of Instagram if your kids are on it, but if not, here’s a rundown of the app:

1. Your child gets an account and starts following other users.
2. In return, other users follow your child.
3. Your child posts a picture to his or her account.
4. Other users comment or “like” the picture.
5. Repeat. 87 times a day.

an example: left is my Instagram profile; right is the photo feed of all posted pictures

I love the app. It’s a lot of fun, but there are some components to it that I’m not sure we’ve thought all the way through.

Think back to when you were in junior high. How did you know you were “cool”? A popular girl probably wrote you a note and put it in your locker or asked you to sit with her at lunch, right? There were a few eyewitnesses and it was pure joy.

Do you remember back-to-school shopping? You bought the trendiest new shirts and shoes. But how did you know if your new shirt was cute? Someone told you, probably. How did you know if your new shirt was hideous? Again, someone probably told you. Or made fun of you, but luckily it was just between you and that person. Or – worst case scenario – between you and that person and their posse. Still, not life altering.

That was then.

This is now:

Your middle schooler buys a new shirt and what’s the first thing she does? Takes a selfie (self-portrait, for those out of the loop) and posts it on Instagram.

Think I’m joking?

A quick search of Instagram shows us… oh, look! – this was posted 18 minutes ago:

Ok, so not a big deal, this is how the world is. Your kids feel the need to share every single decision they ever make with the world at large. It’s just “kids these days”.

It’s true. It is “kids these days”. But does the feedback they receive on Instagram impact them? Do you think they base their identity in it?

What happens when your daughter’s new shirt picture didn’t get as many “likes” or comments as the picture her friend posted of her new shirt?

Do you think she even cares about that stuff?

Yea, I’d say so. Your sons do, too:

This guy specifically asks for comments AND a certain number of likes. 40, to be exact.

[Side note: don't forget to read what your kids post in the hashtags of their photos. (That's the # sign with a bunch of words crammed after it, like #40likesplease.) They use it as an aside comment, which, parents, is just as important to pay attention to as the photo caption.] 

We’re no longer in world of handwritten “circle yes or no” notes between two people; your kids are living social lives on a completely public forum.

This is not new information.

But, taking it a step further: have you considered that your child is given numerical valueson which to base his or her social standing? For the first time ever your children can determine their “worth” using actual numbers provided by their peers!

Let me explain…

Your daughter has 139 followers which is 23 less than Jessica, but 56 more than Beau. Your son’s photo had 38 likes which was 14 less than Travis’ photo, but 22 more than Spencer’s.

See what I mean? There’s a number attached to them. A ranking.

And if you think they don’t actually pay attention to this stuff, read the hashtags on these photos:

sorry for the ghetto circlage, but you get the point.

Do you see what’s happening? #3newfollowers, #77likes #i#am#so#popular, #morefollowersplease

They’re definitely paying attention. And it’s definitely affecting them.

It’s not just about assumed popularity anymore. It’s explicit. It’s quantifiable.

At arguably the most awkward time in their lives, a crucial time of development when they are trying to figure out who they are and where they belong, this is what they’re up against. A quantifiable popularity ranking.

So, back to the lesson we were supposed to teach. I started thinking about everything I’ve mentioned above and thought, “Maybe our girls are different. Maybe their faith buffers them from being caught up as deeply in this as their friends.”

Wrong.

In talking to our girls, I was blown away by their responses:

They know exactly – to the digit – how many followers they have (and who they follow that isn’t following them back). They get their feelings hurt when the popular kids “like” the pictures above and below theirs on the Instagram newsfeed, but not their picture. They delete pictures of themselves when they don’t get as many likes as they were hoping for. They don’t get invited to parties, but see all the fun they missed out on in every photo posted from it. They post ugly pictures of their friends to get revenge for some heinous act they committed (like saying Louis is their favorite One Direction member).

Whoa.

Before we all freak out and delete Instagram and all other social apps, may I just say (with approximately zero authority or expertise on the subject):

This is no cause for mass hysteria. My intent is not to scare you away from these sites, because I don’t think the solution is to write them off entirely. This is a part of your kids’ communication that is here to stay. (I don’t just mean Instagram – it could die tomorrow. But social media? It’s here for good, in some form or fashion.)

Remember: social media can be SO FUN. (I know you love you some Pinterest, girl.)

Plus, not all kids are the same. Some place an unhealthy amount of self worth in their social media accounts, some could care less about it. Regardless, it’s important to think about no matter where your children fall on the spectrum.

My intent is to dig a little deeper into the impact these sites can have on your kids. To start thinking about how to safeguard childrens’ hearts and minds against what appears to a 12 year old to be concrete numerical evidence about their value and popularity.

How do you regulate activity on these sites while keeping it fun for your kids? How do you talk to them about the numbers (likes, comments, followers) provided by their peers not being an accurate representation of their value and worth? How do you teach them to base their identity solely in Christ – to be confident daughters and sons of the King?

I have no idea.

I can tell you what we talked about with our 8th grade friends:

We talked about posting photos of things other than themselves, to avoid setting themselves up for insecurity about their appearance. We talked about guarding their hearts with scriptures from God’s Word and reminding themselves whose they were. We talked about inner beauty and encouraging their friends’ strengths and…a whole host of other stuff.

What we said isn’t really important. What’s important is where you come in, parents. You know your kids and you know the insecurities they face.

I hope this information is helpful for you, or at least gets you thinking. Or, if all else fails, got you to smile at my own Instagram picture of my son in his Little Tikes truck at Sonic. You know that’s cute.

I love your kids so, so much and I want them to know just how special and wonderful and unique they are. I don’t want a stupid thing like followers and likes to tell them any differently.

Check out Sarah’s blog, Life as of Late,  follow her on Twitter, or, yes, check out her Instagram account. 

Other posts from Sarah:

Detailed advice for protecting your kids on Instagram

Should your kid SnapChat? (And what is SnapChat?)

Everything You Need to Know About the Vine App that Lets Kids Share Video

 


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