Saturday, February 23, 2013

Skout - The Social Network that Focuses on Sex, Hooking up and Flirting

Skout – What Parents Need to Know

 Reprinted from January 30, 2013
Skout is a social networking site that’s become popular in the past couple months. From the outside it looks like any other Facebook wannabe site, however, once you start poking around inside it becomes obvious that this isn’t like any other social network.

Skout is a dating/hookup site with several social network elements such as photos, status updates, and virtual gifts. The site has gotten in trouble before when two girls, ages 12 and 15, and a 13 year old boy, who downloaded the app, were allegedly raped by adults who were using the app to meet children. The article, written by Dan Lyons at Newsweek’s The Daily Beast, can be read here. The company has subsequently closed the app and only publishes the adult version, however, there isn’t any difference between the two versions except that the adult version “requires” that you’re 18 or older to join. It’s a fairly arbitrary hurdle for children and is more of a symbolic gesture on the part of Skout than an actual commitment to change.

What makes the site dangerous is that there aren’t any safeguards in place to verify users’ ages or to filter out inappropriate content. That combined with the fact that the site pushes users to upload pictures of themselves means underage children could be chatting and sharing pictures of themselves with adult users.
Skout Inappropriate Image
When our editorial team created an account, one of the things that stood out was the ability to see who was viewing their profile (positioned as “who’s checked me out”). You can also receive a chat request from any user, not just users on your friends list.
Skout Menu
When you first create an account the site asks you for some information such as your sex and if you’re interested in men or women. Once you answer those questions it populates your page with users who meet your criteria, and in our case the team created a male user and Skout started pushing female users to the page. This is the very definition of a hook-up/dating/flirting website.
Skout Users
To help users get noticed, Skout has a “Look at me” function where users can bid with virtual credits and the winners get featured on all users profiles. The rationale behind it is that users who get lots of exposure will also have a better chance of “getting lucky” and making friends.
Skout bid
Skout perpetuates the “meat market” mentality that is affecting children today. It’s the idea that you have to have risqué pictures of yourself on social networks in order to have friends. Don’t let your children get caught up in this social network, it’s unsafe and clearly isn’t a place meant for kids and young teens.

For more information about how to connect and communicate with your kids, contact our website at:
Al Menconi, Al Menconi Ministries, Parenting, Parenting help, Christian parenting, Christian parenting help, Parenting advice, Christian Parenting advice, Parenting tips, Christian parenting tips, Entertainment advice for parents, Entertainment advice, Christian conference speaker, Christian counselor, Keeping Kids Safe In the digital age, Keeping Kids Safe in the Internet age, The Christian Music Diet, It Doesn’t Affect Me

Mashup of Stars and Whales Singing God's Praise by Louie Giglio

"The whole universe praises God.  Shouldn't we?  This video is about 14 minutes, but it is worth every second of your time.  It changed my understanding of God.  Honest!"

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Where there's a will, there's a social network: Instagram is the new Facebook for tweens and teens

By Shannan, October 22, 2012

You may have decided that your tween or teen isn't ready for Facebook. The world of social networking may be a bit more than they can handle right now. But have you allowed Instagram, the free photo sharing app that can be cute or artistic? Instagram and photos are different, right?

Actually, maybe not.

It seems that Instagram is the new Facebook.

Instagram users have the ability to comment on photos and post status updates. With those capabilities, Instagram is really not all the different from Facebook, and many kids are using it in the same way they would Facebook or another social network. Instagram requires that users be 13 years old to have an account, the same age requirement for a Facebook account.

Instagram is the top photography site among teens ages 12 to 17, with 1 million teens visiting the site during July. (For adults, the top photo site was Flickr.) There are more than 80 million Instagram users. Facebook purchased Instagram last month, and said that Instragram isn't going anywhere.

Like any social network, there are risks. Those run the gamut, from hurt feelings when seeing images of a party to which they weren't invited to pornography. (Yes, there are sexually explicit imagespictures on Instagram, as well as other disturbing images, including those related to drug use.) There is the risk of your child oversharing information and the possibility that it could be a forum for cyberbullying. It is also an opportunistic for fraud, with users claiming to be modeling agencies contacting young Instragram users, but they turn out not to be from the agency they claimed.

Yoursphere, a website dedicating to family social networking and internet safety information, has a good overview of Instagramfor parents.

A fellow Chicago Now blogger, the Dean of Parents, shares the experience she has had with her tween using Instagram on her smartphone and the family rules they have implemented, including my favorite that Instagram can only be used on weekends and that the parents can block users. The weekend rule seems like an approach that does not ban it, but does limit usage in an appropriate way. Most importantly, in my opinion, is that parents have access to children's accounts on any website that is even remotely like social networking. I like the advice of "be where your kids are" online. If your child is on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, you need to be there, too, with your own account.

My tween has not asked for a Facebook or Instagram account, and she doesn't have a phone yet, so I'm just waiting for the day. I've read many parents that say that you can't ban social networking all together, as the tweens and teens will find a way around it. Do you agree?

I may not ban it, but I'm certainly not going to offer her accounts, especially because I have no interest in violating age requirements implemented by the companies. I'm planning to hold out until she's 13. But I'm not naive. (And I know that I've made other such comments regarding other parenting decisions and then realized how very, very wrong I was.) I recognize that the time is just around the corner when she wants these accounts, and I'll know that Instagram isn't just about her interest in photography. Guess I'd better go get an Instagram account now. Not only do I want to be where she is, I know that I'm going to need a head start to make sure I've got it figured out.

Is your tween on Facebook? Instagram? What rules do you have in place?