Parental Monitoring Limits: WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Snapchat

Limits of parental monitoring of their children’s communication via WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Snapchat and Co. (according to RiOLG Rake in FamRZ 2018, 1717). The use of new media by our children and adolescents – whether via PC or smartphone – involves certain dangers.  Parents must provide special support for their children in the sense of their duty to promote and educate them (Section 1626 (1) of the German Civil Code).

First and foremost, children and young people must therefore be equipped with a basic level of media competence that allows them to deal with the content they are exposed to in a self-determined and responsible manner. This also applies to contact offers from third parties. This can also mean encouraging the children to “switch off” for a change.

The older ones among us inevitably think of a funny man with nickel glasses, dungarees and the first name “Peter”, who has unfortunately died in the meantime. However, what is forbidden in terms of the right to supervise the child from the point of view of fundamental rights is the unrestricted and comprehensive control and monitoring of the child’s communication channels, especially with advancing age. I.e. reading WhatsApp communication with mSpy Plus, studying the YouTube history or Facebook communication is an absolute “NO GO”.

Correspondence via email, chat messages and messenger services, such as WhatsApp, is regularly limited to an exchange between two or a certain circle of communication partners and is thus non-public and therefore to be treated confidentially. This communication is subject to the privacy of the child, which is protected by fundamental rights, and therefore does not make it any less worthy of protection in principle just because this communication may be conducted by – and with – our child.What is interesting in this context is that the control rights of the parents are not restricted by the personality rights of the communication partner – i.e. usually the other child, the friend or the other parent or similar. are restricted. 

Even if the use of an electronic medium may well be associated with the expectation that messages and content exchanged between the participants remain confidential as a matter of principle, the user only has a claim against the network operator to the transmission or provision of the messages and content for the user account located on the other side. However, the claim does not extend to the transmission or provision to a specific person. It is therefore only guaranteed that the message can be transmitted and accessed on the specified end device. Who ultimately retrieves this message is not subject to the responsibility of the network operator. 

This means that it must also be clear to the sender that authority over the message ends when it is sent. This then also includes the decision as to whom the content is made known. This can then also be -unintentionally by the sending child- the parent -or parents- of the other child, be it as the first, when the message/content arrives, or when “reading up” later in the evening, when the child has already gone to bed and in a negligent manner or even -in the worst case- under duress has passed on his password to the “investigating parents”. Presumably, concerned parents will now echauffectedly retort that they only want to protect the child from endangering itself or others through disturbing content, bullying or pedophilic attacks. All these concerned parents should be told that they should rather pay attention to concrete indications in their children. For behavioral conspicuities in the form of social withdrawal, dejection, loss of appetite and sleep disturbance or mental instability. The fact that parents may only become aware of all these circumstances at a time when his damage has already occurred because of the restriction of the right to control, may indeed give cause for concern, but does not justify the granting of unconditional and unprovoked control of the digital activities of their children.The phrase “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” also applies here.”

Why should you monitor your kids’ Snapchat activity?

If you haven’t heard – we recently added Snapchat monitoring to the list of available information. We did this primarily due to frequent requests and interest from our parent community, who wanted to be in on the trend that has taken hold in kids’ social media habits. In the past, we tried a roundabout way by providing you with live screenshots. We advised that you should remotely take screenshots of your child’s phone when they were active on Snapchat. While this was temporary monitoring, we wanted to create something lasting and purposeful for Snapchat monitoring. So we are extremely excited to now bring you this long-awaited feature.

For parents who are new to the hype around Snapchat, let me summarize.

Snapchat is a mobile app that allows users to send photos and videos. These photos or videos can be sent to individuals or groups, similar to how you can privately message a single person on Facebook or status everyone. What’s unique about this app? The photos or videos self-destruct after an allotted time. For example, if you set the photo self-destruct timer to 15 seconds, the photo will be gone forever after that.  Moreover, the recipient cannot download the photo (although it is possible after all). You can take a screenshot, but the recipient will be informed about it immediately.

You can do other great things with Snapchat. One can draw over photos, give emoticons and captions over the photos. In addition, Snapchat always provides filters that you can use to give your photos that extra something. Kids have extraordinary fun with the filters. If you don’t believe us, give the dog filter a try (we’re still trying to understand why it’s so popular).

If sending a single picture to one person isn’t enough for you, then you can create a Snapchat story, which is similar to a Facebook status because everyone in your friends list can see it. It’s different, though, because it’s a collection of your photos and videos from an entire day… And it destroys itself within a 24-hour time span.

Many people (usually parents) don’t seem to understand the appeal of Snapchat’s “deleted forever” feature. The app is used to send photos and videos to people. In general, we think photos and videos should be kept. Something to look at again and again and remember. So it’s unusual that this app focuses on the temporary in instant messaging.  Therefore, parents worry that with this app, you can’t review the snaps and videos that their kids receive and send because they can’t be stored on the smartphones.

We fully understand this dilemma. After all, we ourselves advise parents to monitor multimedia files, don’t we? But with the “deleted forever” aspect, there is something else that is not immediately obvious. As we’ve mentioned many times before, when you do any activity on the Internet, a digital fingerprint is left behind. Nothing is always and truly deleted from the Internet. Your activities or postings are stored on several servers around the world, so you can’t be sure that they were deleted everywhere.

Further, the other person can take a screenshot. While the sender of the photo will be notified of this action, there is nothing you can do to prevent it.

In general, Snapchat is just a fun and instant way to communicate with friends and family. Millenials are into speed and instant gratification, and the app is interactive and exciting to use.

However, the “deleted forever” aspect of the app has been abused by teenagers and children. They believe it gives them a security blanket for sexting. The risk of their spicy photos being spread all over the Internet is lower, so they are less cautious about sending nude or aggressive photos to strangers.

As we mentioned earlier, the “deleted forever” aspect gives a false impression of safety. There is no reason why kids should be less careful with this app than with other apps.

And now parents have the opportunity to monitor Snapchat just like all other messaging apps! We really want to urge you to use your options for good. Snapchat is the fastest growing app in the social networking space. Kids prefer using it over Facebook or Twitter, so you should take advantage of all your options as a parent!

Set up Snapchat securely: What to watch out for with the popular app

The app Snapchat is becoming increasingly popular among children and young people. It makes it easy to edit and send pictures and clips that can disappear again. In the meantime, however, the app has significantly expanded and changed its functions. It is therefore important that parents are aware of these functions, talk to their child about the associated risks and agree on common rules.

Users must be aware that the snapshots are not necessarily removed. For example, recipients can take a screenshot and thus capture what is currently on their screen. In that case, the creator will be notified. With technical knowledge, however, it is also possible to circumvent this notification or to take a picture of the received image with a second device. Adolescents can then no longer control who sees their data and where it can be found.

Functions such as filters, geostickers or the snap map also tempt young people to carelessly disclose a lot of private information about themselves, such as private pictures or even their location.

In addition, the data is stored on servers in the USA, where more lax regulations apply than in Germany. In addition, the app has repeatedly had to deal with security vulnerabilities in the past, where users’ data was inexplicably leaked onto the Internet.

The current version of Snapchat is approved for users aged 13 and older, but this is not checked. Data from 13- to 16-year-olds is treated differently than that of young people who have reached the age of 16, according to the EU regulation.

Snapchat is already interesting for younger people, too. However, the provider has not set up any mechanisms to prevent young users from signing up.

Especially the reward system through friendship emojis can build social pressure on teenagers. For example, a grinning smiley next to a contact indicates that this friend sends the user particularly many snaps, but receives no response. On the Snapchat support page, it says, “You’re this person’s best friend, but they’re not your best friend.” Comparisons of this kind can play a major role in the social fabric of young users and, accordingly, influence young people’s self-esteem and self-perception when the value of a friendship is defined by a smiley face or the number of “Snapstreaks,” a flame emoji next to the chat.

It is best for parents to agree with their child that offers should be checked together before signing up or downloading. The T&Cs and privacy policies show what data the app accesses and how it uses it. Snapchat, for example, requires access to accounts and profile data, contacts, location, photos, camera, microphone and the device ID.

Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Times of Chennai journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.