School is back in session. And with it comes the now familiar struggle to manage kids' smartphone use, both in an out of school. A California high school has taken a page from comedians like Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, and Aziz Ansari. San Mateo High School, in Silicon Valley, is using low tech methods to return some focus to the classroom. Every morning students place their cellphones in a Yondr pouch, which closes with a magnetic lock. The kids keep the bag with them all day, and it is unlocked with a simple swipe by a master magnet at day's end. Comedians and music artists, trying to refocus audiences on the full experience of their concerts have been using this product for about two years. This is not the first application in a school setting. Yondr says it has partnered with "thousands" of schools in the United States, Canada, and Europe. There are exceptions for health and safety, and a few days into the school year the feedback has been positive.
By high school most kids have a smartphone with cell service, as opposed to simply living off of WiFi. In fact, lots of kids are there much earlier. A 2017 Nielsen survey reported that 45% of kids 10-12 had a smartphone with a data plan. I suspect that number has gone up since then.
With our kids so connected to friends and family ... and unfortunately, strangers, it's important to keep up with the apps they spend time with. We know about Youtube and Netflix. Instagram, VSCO, TicTok and Snapchat are familiar (or familiar sounding?). Facebook, of course, is only slightly less relevant to kids these days than Myspace. But there are a host of new apps that our kids must navigate. Knowing about them will help us help them.
In 2009 the Sarasota County (FL) Sheriff's Office started a program called "Operation Intercept." It's focused on protecting children from online predators and human trafficking. As part of that outreach, it complies a list of apps that are "frequently downloaded by children that can be utilized by predators for purposes of exploitation." They updated their list in July, identifying 15 concerning apps.
There are almost certainly more where these came from, but being aware of what apps your kids are using—and how they're using them—is an important part of keeping them safe from predators.
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