LOS ANGELES – For Darcy Cobb, a mother of three kids, OurPact is a savior.
Her kids are allowed to use social media, as long as she can see everything they do. That's possible via the OurPact app, which acts as a monitor to mirror what her kids do on their screens. So if her 12-year-old son, Lachlan, opens Instagram and sends direct messages to friends, she sees every word of it. And they know it.
"I was always, I'm going to be in your Instagram when you're on it," she said, at a USA TODAY panel about parents, kids and tech in the Los Angeles USA TODAY bureau. "When I tell my friends about it, their kids freak about it. But for my kids, it was always a given."
Cobb, Jennifer Keller and Jackie Naidoo all talked about the challenges of raising pre-teens in the social media age.
"Thank God we didn't have this when we were growing up," said Cobb.
While many might accuse the moms of being overly involved, and helicopter parents even, "We have to," says Keller. "These kids can't make mistakes on their own, because they're captured for the world to see," in real time on social media. "We have to be on them all the time."
Naidoo's daughter, Ella, doesn't have social media accounts, or specifically, Instagram, Facebook or the YouTube app, because Ella is 12 years old. Internet services say you have to be at least 13 to use them, but that doesn't stop millions of kids from finding a way to join.
"If we're on YouTube, we're on it together," she says. "There are so many images that aren't appropriate." She told of looking up a video about organic bananas together on YouTube, and in the middle of the bunch popped up a shot of a male penis. "There are a lot of images out there. I want to be there with her. I'd rather her hear it from me than other 11-, 12-year-olds."
And the kids who are on social media, in-between the natural awkward phases of growing up and learning how to socialize as their bodies are changing, now have to contend with online social media popularity contests.
"How much social feedback is enough?" says Cobb. "It used to be enough for someone to call you on the phone. Now...it's not just how many likes you get, but comments are the new currency."
For Keller, the idea that her daughter, Cathy, can go onto social media and see where her friends are hanging out at that moment is disturbing.
"By nature, if you're on Snapchat, you'll wonder, my buddies are in Century City," and the message is, "I'm left out."
Not all is negative. Despite having a "no social media" rule in her home, Naidoo does let Ella use FaceTime for group video chat and is a big supporter.
When she was growing up, she spent hours on the phone twirling the cord and being locked to a central location. Now, with video, "this is their way of communicating," she says. "They're sitting there on the phone talking and laughing, and they need to have that. They have so much fun."