The Los Angeles Times reports that mobile app Skout has shut down its forum for teenagers after adults used the forums to pose as teens in order to sexually assault two teenaged girls and one teenaged boy. The incidents are indicative of the potential dangers that mobile social networking apps pose to young users, which due to the fact that they combine profile information with mobile devices’ GPS information, can make them potentially more susceptible to abuse than non-mobile social networks. Skout provides a forum for users to not only share photos and messages, but also make plans to meet up, a saftey aspect teenagers may not think twice about doing.
With social networking and and mobile apps becoming more common and more accessible to teenagers and children, parents have a responsibility to educate themselves and talk to their children about media literacy. Companies behind these apps and networks also need to be more vigilant about monitoring their forums for potential predators. Skout claims that a quarter of its staffers are responsible for monitoring the forums, but police say they failed nonetheless to catch the adults who gained access to teenaged users.
The Christian Science Monitor says Internet Safety Education should shift its focus from avoidance to literacy. According to their findings, many teenagers are well aware of the dangers of sharing information online and are very active in social media. Parents should start a dialogue with their children rather than rely on constantly monitoring their behavior in order to better protect their safety.