ONLINE RISKS: Expect social media surge over summer - KMSP-TV

ONLINE RISKS: Expect social media surge over summer

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Summer break means most kids will be keeping in touch with friends online, but parents should know that there are some risky apps that could allow strangers to get sensitive information from children.

With no more hellos in the hallway, apps can help bridge the gap between friends. Some tech-savvy teens will openly admit to texting, tweeting and chatting for hours.

Yet, with kids suddenly facing a lot of free time, there are a few apps that could fill the void -- even if they're often best avoided.

"Snapchat, that's a big one," said sophomore Jake Kielly. "That gets a couple kids in trouble here at Eden Prairie High School."

New chat rooms and sharing sites seem to pop up daily, from Kik to Omegle and Tinder. Chatroullette is a big hit, but it is often described as a disaster.

"It's entirely inappropriate," said sophomore Jenny Bren. "There are no other words to describe that."

"It's like, older people that are nowhere near your age. It's very, like, stalkish," sophomore Marc Sullivan added. "It's not what you want."

Anyone who thinks their kids aren't engaging in some risky communication online may be surprised to know that 50 percent frequently communicate with someone they've never met through the Internet. Furthermore, 42 percent admit posting information about themselves so others may contact them and 30 percent have talked about meeting someone they've only met online. Furthermore, teens who spoke with FOX 9 News say they are constantly contacted by people they don't know.

Yet, experts say trying to name all the dangerous sites or apps is pointless because the numbers are simply exploding.

"Even while we sit here and talk, 5, 10, 15 -- who knows how many -- new applications or apps or chat rooms or social networking sites are created and developed," said Karine Berzins, an education coordinator with Internet Crimes Against Children.

So, instead of telling kids to simply stay out of certain chat rooms or sites, expert say it's best to communicate about the risks and play the "what if" game.

"You could ask your kids, 'What would you do?' Or, 'What if somebody you don't know in real life asks what your address was?'" Berzins suggested.

Online gaming is another arena where kids spend a lot of time, often playing with people they do not know online. Usually, there is a way for an opponent or teammate to make contact and chat, and experts say parents should be aware of that as well.

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