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'Bird Box' and '48-hour missing' challenges confronting teens on social media

OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) -  As dangerous social media challenges continue to confront our kids, News 3 is 'On Your Side' speaking with an East Alabama psychologist about techniques parents can use to keep their children and teens safe.

We sat down with family and child psychologist Polly Dunn who says the worst thing a parent can do is assume their kids know better.

"I think the Facebook challenges are pretty scary, as a parent when you see those challenges you worry is my child going to do something like that and do they know right from wrong," said Dunn.  

Dunn is a mother of four who finds herself continually educating her children on the dangers of social media including the challenges.

"Recently I have heard about the '48-hour challenge' where people are supposed to go missing for 48-hours. I have certainly seen the 'Bird Box challenge,' videos of people doing things blindfolded and the 'Tide Pod challenge'  something from one or two years ago that was very scary," said Dunn.

Dunn says the worst thing parents can do is assume their kids are too smart to participate.   
     
"You definitely don't want to ignore it because sometimes what we think our children know is not actually what they know. I think talking openly and honestly about the challenges and the dangers especially with younger children and more impressionable children is the best policy," suggested Dunn.
     
Dunn says on top of constant communication parents need to be on top of social media.  Parents have to be active on all platforms and not just Facebook.
     
"Children see it on other sites, like Snap Chat, Instagram, Tic Toc, there are so many platforms out there. Parents need to open accounts and follow their children. You will know what they are posting and sharing.  Also, you have a window into what is being shown to them on that particular platform," said Dunn.

Dunn believes banning kids from using social media is unrealistic. She says using social media is another safety skill parents have to teach, much like driving. She suggests allowing age-appropriate activity with strict parental oversight. Parents, you should have their passwords, be able to take their phone at anytime a look through it and be linked into their accounts from your phones.    
 
"I think it's important to know as a kid it's not a right to have an Instagram account, it's a privilege. If we grant that privilege in our house, some rules come with it, and the first one is I have all access to it," said Dunn.

Recently, this January, several teens have gone missing from the East Alabama area. Most have returned safely to their families. Police can't say if any of the cases involved the 48-hours challenge, but it's something parents need to be aware of.

There are a ton of online books to help parents help their kids navigate social media.  The most important theme, is your kids need to know you're interested and active in their social media lives.  

'Bird Box' and '48-hour missing' challenges confronting teens on social media


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