Welcome to Tech Tuesday, Tween Us readers! Today we're addressing what parents need to know about Voxer, the app that turns a smartphone into a walkie talkie. In addition to sending voice messages back and forth, Voxer users can also send texts, photos, or location info.
Here's what parents need to know about the Voxer app:
* Like most message apps, it can be and has been used for cyberbullying. In fact, it was one of the apps (in addition to Ask.fm and Kik) that bullies harassed 12 year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick, the Florida tween who committed suicide this fall.
* Review with kids that "delete" on this app and on the internet in general is a relative term. "Delete" is not always permanent, on Voxer or anywhere else on the net. Voice messages and images sent through Voxer could be posted by the recipient or sent to other users.
* Similarly, parents also need to discuss with young Voxer users that nothing on a smartphone is truly private, including messages and images sent through Voxer. They can be posted publicly for the entire internet to see.
* Speaking of privacy, parents need to check both privacy settings and location settings on Voxer. According to McAfee.com, "By default, the Voxer app enables 'Share Location' and disables the 'Privacy Mode'." Your kid can be revealing his/her location and other personal information to strangers without even knowing it.
* You don't have a way of verifying who is on the other end of a Voxer account. People have been known to set up fake accounts, which makes cyberbullying and other inappropriate behavior easier. This is why parents need to ask the question about all the connections
* Group messages are possible - not necessarily a bad thing, just something parents need to know and need to discuss with kids how to extricate themselves from such conversations. One bad apple can send a group conversation south, quickly.
* Kids count on parents not monitoring Voxer and the has been used to further criminal behavior. In Pennsylvania, police warned parents about Voxer after a 49-year-old man was charged with statutory sexual assault for an alleged illicit relationship with a teenage girl. They could communicate via the app without the teens parents known.
* Parents need to be where their tweens are online, and in this case, that's not a bad thing. Some parents really like Voxer as a way to communicate with kids. A writer on CoolMomTech said, "[I]t’s perfect for parents who travel too. There are times I’ve been in a different time zone and want to leave a good morning message for my girls while they’re asleep. And the best part is that it’s so easy for them to leave one right back when they get up, without incurring the phone charges." It's a great example of technology isn't good or bad, it's who is using it and how that can be bad.
Be where your kids are online. Some of the parents on Voxer are making the most of it, which is awesome.
As always, parents should ask their child the one question about any and all of their children's online connections: Do you know this person in real life?
There are several other apps that are popular with tweens but not always safe. Check out the Tween Us guides for parents:
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