03/03/2015 11:18 am ET Updated May 03, 2015

The Four-Letter Word Parents Have for Social Media

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Digital parenting isn't for sissies. Nothing's prepared us for Kik, Yik Yak , Vine,, Whisper, Secret, Instagram, Omegle, Tumblr or whatever other social media app lurks in the mind of the barely-adult person who's about to create it.

So, all of you app-makers and future app-makers out there: Parents have a four-letter word for you... HELP.

  1. Help us get a quick education. We don't have time (patience) to learn how to tell a Snapchat story or tag followers on Instagram. It's just not gonna happen. All we want is a quick 101: How does it work (in language we understand) and what do we need to look out for? And, sorry, but burying this info in a "safety center" deep within an app we don't even know exists doesn't count. We need it in places we frequent, like the grocery store checkout, pediatrician's office or even the DMV. Seriously. If I have to wait in line for two hours to get my 16-year old a driver's license, I would gladly spend five minutes of that time learning how to keep her safe when she's traveling the Info Highway using Instagram or Vine. She's bound to spend more time cruising there anyway.
  2. Help us spot trouble before it happens. It's heartbreaking for us to read about a teen suicide or school shooting that might have been avoided had someone paid attention to the clues spread around social media like bread crumbs. Isn't there some technical wizardry out there that could spot these warning signs and alert us to them before something horrible happens? This certainly can't be any more of a technical challenge than, say, creating a new video feature on Twitter.
  3. Help us know about your age requirements. We're no experts, but hiding your minimum age requirements in "Terms of Use" that no one reads or understands (especially not kids) just makes it look like you really don't take them very seriously at all, so why should our kids? It can't be that hard to publicize the fact that you have to be 13 to use Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, or 17 to use, Vine or Yik Yak (I just signed up for one of these apps and it let me select 2002 as my birth year). Heck, you're the social media experts. Couldn't you help spread the word on your policies so we can keep 8-year olds off of your sites?
  4. Help us teach our kids. Granted, most of you app makers are barely out of school yourselves, so it's understandable that education is the last thing you want to spend your day thinking about. But your current, and future, target markets can be found in a classroom for a good part of the day, so what better time and place for them to learn how to use your products positively and productively? Sounds like an opportunity screaming for some creative partnerships. Maybe next funding round you could consider sprinkling a couple million in the direction of education. Schools could certainly use the money. And, frankly, you could use the positive P.R. There are some great organizations working tirelessly on just this very thing (like the National Association for Media Literacy Education and Media Literacy Now in the U.S., and Media Smarts in Canada). I bet by working together you could solve many of the problems that are sullying your online reputations (you know how important those are to protect!).

Plus, this would make digital parenting a whole lot easier.