Periscope is not a good idea for kids.

Right before I sat down to write this, I went to Periscope’s site and I was shocked. I did not create an account, I did not log in, I did not need to use my email address, I did not need to verify my age.

One of the first live videos that popped onto my screen was of two young teenagers (14-15 year olds) live streaming from a bedroom in France. They were simulating oral sex. The boy was inserting his finger into the girl’s mouth while she licked it, making sounds that might go with, said activity. Others were watching, commenting, and little hearts flew up the side of the broadcast, indicating that those watching “liked” the live broadcast. The comments were in French and in this case, I am happy not to be fluent in French.

Periscope is a mobile app that works with android, Iphone and some tablets. Users create an account using their phone number or their Twitter account. So, anyone who can find or knows your Twitter handle, can watch you broadcast live and they can message you.

Four things every parent should know:

  • Periscope allows anyone to watch real time videos from other users all around the world. All a user needs to broadcast live is mobile device and an internet connection.
  • As users watch other users’ videos, they can interact with them by sending messages and hearts. The more hearts you get, the higher they flutter on the screen.
  • If you really like a user, you can follow them and each time they go live, you will get a notification inviting you to tune in.
  • Periscope is location based app, it is easy to find out where users live, where they work or where they go to school.

Periscope has made National news over the past few years with troubling incidents involving teens and tweens live streaming. For example, in Franklin, Ohio, a 17 year old girl was accused of live streaming on Periscope while a 29 year old man raped her 17 year old friend.

Imagine if your child had just been cruising around Periscope and came across that live stream?

The reason she live streamed the rape? One of the police officers on the case suggested that the teen was caught up in her stream doing well.

“She got, I guess, taken up with all the ‘likes’ that her live stream was getting and therefore continued to do it, and did nothing to aid the victim,” officer O’Brien said.

Is Educating Your Child Enough?

While it is important to educate your child about online stranger danger, that alone is not enough, and here is why.

The adolescent brain is not yet fully developed. Specifically, the prefrontal cortex, responsible for reasoning, grows during the pre-teen years but is less active during the teen years, increasing risk-taking and impulsivity. Teens are hard-wired for thrill seeking experiences, believe they are invincible, and their actions are influenced more by emotion and immediate gratification than logic and consideration of long term consequences.

So you, as a parent, may believe that your child understands your expectations and would not engage in certain behaviors, but when your teen or tween is in an intense emotional situation, affected by peer pressure and social media, the logical information they have will likely be muted by the intense emotions they are feeling.

Educating your child about safety in cyberspace is the first step, and using a parenting tool to ensure that your child is following your expectations is the next. Remember, until your tween or teen demonstrates the developmental maturity to keep themselves safe, it is your responsibility to do so. Imagine if, during each developmental stage, your only parental strategy was talking with your child about risks and expectations? “OK Johnny, (5 year old) now look both ways before you cross the street…..now go have fun at Sam’s house, see you at dinner.”

Your parenting approach in the tween and teen years should be the same as it was during each previous development stage, and the same as it is in every other space where you parent your child. Cyberspace should’t be any different, and in order to parent there, you need information.

You need to know if your child is talking to strangers, talking about sex, sexting, or using profanity. You need to know if your child is downloading apps that you may not think are age appropriate, and you need to know your child’s physical location in the case of an emergency. Social Judo will give you this information in real time.

Smarter parents are using Social Judo, it is the only way you can know what is going on in your child’s digital world without spying, scrolling, or trolling.