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Special Report: Where Your Kids Socialize

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TYLER (KYTX) - If you have kids, chances are they have a Facebook page and Twitter account. What you might not know is that they're really not using them much, anymore. They're opting for lesser-known social media sites, that their parents don't know much about, and are less likely to monitor.

CBS 19's Courtney Friedman breaks down which social media apps your kids are using, and why they could be opening themselves up to online predators or bullying.

The question was simple. Which social media apps do you use and why? The answer was equally as simple, but surprising. The young people we talked to say they're moving to lesser known social media apps to avoid monitoring by their parents. This worries some parents, who want to make sure their kids are safe, when they socialize online.

"This is my friend's mom and this is also my friends mom and my Sunday school teacher," said Grace Community High School 11th grader Reagan Richardson, as she scrolls through her Facebook page. It's a site she rarely visits anymore.

"My parents are on Facebook but they're not on Twitter so I get on Twitter a lot more than I get on Facebook," Richardson says.

However, Twitter isn't the only place she's going to socialize with her friends.

"I get on Instagram almost every day and then I always check Twitter and sometimes I check Vine and I always Snapchat."

Instagram seems to be the most popular.

"I love Instagram because you can take lots of pictures and you can edit them later when you put them on, and I guess it makes you feel really good when someone likes your picture," Richardson said.

It's that emotional response to these apps, online predators look to take advantage of, especially if your kids don't use their privacy settings.

"Instagram defaults to sharing your photos with the world, and it's one little click to keep it private," says Christina Jontra. She's is the Grace High School librarian, and she's also a parent.

"I have two kids, a 12 year old and a 15 year old."

She sees first hand how out of touch parents can get with what their kids are doing on their phones.

"It scares me because kids go to whatever the new medium is and they don't think about the privacy settings," Jontra says.

That's why she organized seminars for East Texas parents.

"How to manage the technology that's already in your house , how to set up restrictions on i-devices, how to put a filter on your router to try to keep the bad stuff out of your house" Jontra said.

She also says it's about knowing which apps your kids are using, like a relatively new and popular one called Snapchat.

"You take a picture, basically a selfie of yourself and you can set the timer and you can do up to ten seconds," Richardson said.

"Snapchat is just dangerous," Jontra said.

"It's the scariest because when you send it, within 30-50 seconds it's gone," said U.S. Federal Marshal Dan Phillips. He explained to East Texas parents, that messages you can't look at twice, are the perfect tools for cyber bullies, or predators.

The app that started this conversation among East Texas parents is called Kik. It's a free instant messaging, texting app. The problem with it, is it's extremely easy to make a fake profile.

"We had a incident where a student was harassing some girls," Jontra said.

She looked into the incident and eventually found out that student had been framed. Someone made a Kik profile pretending to be him, but because Kik is like Snapchat and messages are not saved, they couldn't find out who did it.

"There's nothing we can do but outlaw the app on any school devices," Jontra said.

That's why she's taking the time to educate parents.

"Educate your kids on what to share online and what not to share," she suggests.

Posting pictures of the type of car you drive, or listing your work schedule can give predators too much information. Also, be sure to check your child's privacy settings.

"If you don't have your privacy settings set correctly, it's between you and the world," Jontra wants parents to know.

Jontra says a friend of hers recently checked her son's Instagram privacy settings.

"He had 1,200 followers, and some of them were 30-year-olds in New York City and Chicago following a 14-year-old boy in Tyler Texas. That's creepy," she said.

Her point? as the world of technology continues to develop, be a part of it. Take that extra time to know what's new and popular and to be on the same page as your child. It may not be what they want, but it could be what saves them from dangers they don't even realize are there.

Jontra suggests an action plan for East Texas parents. It involves talking openly to your kids about the apps they use, and then setting up guidelines. Some ideas are making sure you have access to their log-ins and passwords, and maybe setting up a technology curfew for them.

Jontra and other experts say technology will continue to develop and your kids will always find new apps and sites. The best thing you can do is educate yourself and educate your children.

To see videos of the first two parent meetings or for more information about how to get involved and learn about these apps, click here: https://smore.com/31f7

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