By Katie Omohundro, LCSW- January 27, 2021-

The World Wide Web (WWW) sounds like a place I’m not sure I want my kids to visit. It makes me think of a spider using her web to catch the day’s lunch.

As usage of online platforms has become a necessity in today’s society, how do we protect our children from the dangers lurking around the corners of the internet? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my fair share of Facebook (Okay, Boomer), using Google, etc. But what impact do these habits have on our children?

Unfortunately, there are some negatives to doing everything online. There can definitely be feelings of FOMO. Fear of missing out, or FOMO, is a feeling our children can have, especially when seeing their friends on a variety of social media sites.

People are quick to post their best days and don’t often show their worst. This can make it seem as though friends never have a bad day, which of course is not true. This can cause comparisons that are often unrealistic. Children simply feel left out of all the fun.

Another negative aspect to the World Wide Web includes children being exposed to predators. This can be easy to forget, but when children have access to the internet or even those apps that seem like they’re “for kids,” we are giving complete strangers the ability to communicate with our children day and night. Increased access to inappropriate content becomes a concern as well.

Sleep disturbances are another major issue with social media use. Sleep problems can lead to failing grades, moodiness, irritability, unhappiness, overeating, and an increased risk of getting sick due to a poor immune system. Teens, for example, need more sleep than adults as their brains are still developing.

Communication can also be challenging in an increasingly digital world. So much of communication is lost when we sit behind a computer screen. Body language cannot be gauged through an email. Misinterpreting a text can increase the likelihood of miscommunication and hurt feelings.

This is especially detrimental for kids who are in the process of developing important communication skills. The internet can easily muddy those waters. These instances of miscommunication can lead to feelings of isolation and an increase in anxiety and depression.

Thinking of the topics mentioned thus far, one can guess how increased internet usage can negatively impact the mental health of today’s youth. Effects of social isolation can heighten children’s concern for their friends.

As a school social worker, I have spoken with a number of kids who have stayed up all night communicating online with a friend considering suicide. How frightening! Imagine being young (or any age, for that matter) and feeling it is up to you to keep another person alive.

After considering the harmful effects of too much time online, I believe one of the most straightforward ways to help children find balance is to set boundaries. You don’t even have to be a tech savvy computer programmer to implement them!

Have your child leave all electronics in your bedroom to charge at night. That’s it!  Set a time for devices to be turned in. This helps you ensure that electronics are not only getting charged but also that your child is not up at all hours of the night texting with friends.

Not all things online are bad. It is important to be mindful of how often we are online in front of our children so we can be good models of appropriate online use. Keeping ourselves in check with how often we are on the World Wide Web also keeps us accountable and enables us to be more actively involved with our growing children.

By Jordan Beach, MSW – Courier & Press – April 24, 2018 –

As a school social worker, I work with kids every day. I like to think that I’m pretty up-to-date on all the newest apps that students at my school use.

I want to be in tune with the ever-changing social media aspects that fill our children’s lives, but if I’m being honest with myself, I know that’s not true.  By the time I figure out what I believe to be the “newest” app, my students are telling me they aren’t using that one anymore and they have moved on to something new.

So what can you do to ensure your child is being responsible online, especially if you find it difficult to even keep up with the apps they are using?

For starters, do your research. Know what apps are popular. Most parents know the basics: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Musically…but what are we missing?

  • Yik Yak: Yik Yak is an anonymous social media site that takes zero personal information to create. Every post from every user is anonymous. This is especially concerning in the hands of younger students who often struggle with using social media in a positive way.
  • Ask f.m.: This app is set up in a question/answer format.  This again is troubling for younger users who tend to use social media for validation. Questions and answers can be posted either using a name or anonymously.
  • Kik: Kik is essentially another way for kids to text each other. It thrives on giving a more “face to face” feeling by using images, and pictures are part of its allure. However, this app is easily accessible and often times used as a way to meet strangers. This app certainly puts your child at risk to predators.
  • Voxer: Voxer turns your phone into a walkie-talkie style device. Youth enjoy the app for this diversity in communication styles but it also poses a concern to parents.  Messages on this app can be saved and replayed.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  Again, this app is concerning when used inappropriately to put people down.
  • Other Programs to be aware of: Programs or instructions to “jailbreak” a phone are easy to find. This means the phone is free of limitations imposed on it by its manufacturer and carrier. Once your child’s phone has been “jailbroken” they can add apps that don’t come directly from an app store.  Most commonly apps being utilized in this way are used to hide other apps from the main screen.  Do some research about these jailbreak apps so you can see what the icon looks like.  This will help you identify if one of these apps is being used on your child’s device.

So what steps can you take to keep your child safe online without being the type of parent that is watching every move they make? As our kids get older we want to give them some additional freedom to learn and make mistakes, but we also need to know they’re safe.

Here are some tips to ensure your child is safe online:

  1. Talk about it. Know what apps they’re using and ask them to be transparent.
  2. Have active accounts and befriend them on major social media accounts.
  3. Have their passwords. Don’t abuse this, but letting them know you have the ability to log in and see what they’re doing at any time can be helpful.