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Teen Anxiety: Cyberbullying, Sextortion, and Pornography

There isn’t any question that anxiety is one of the worst mental illnesses out there next to depression, even if they frequently occur together. In teens who depend on mobile technology every day, it’s becoming a major problem. Statistics show 80% of all teens diagnosed with an anxiety disorder aren’t getting the treatment they need.

While this is a medical crisis on its own, knowing 25% of all teens suffer from anxiety is alarming enough. A lot of those causes may come from life events or brain chemistry, though a lot of it comes from what they experience online.

A recent report from CBS News showed teen anxiety rising due to daily cell phone use, giving rise to the correlation between mental health and what teens see online.

What they’re seeing there is certainly daunting if you’re a parent. Let’s examine issues like cyberbullying, sextortion, and online pornography to see how it could affect your child’s mental health. It’s not impossible to find a way to safeguard from these.

Anxiety and Cyberbullying

One of the most serious and ongoing issues in teen anxiety and suicide is cyberbullying. While it seems that social media channels continually try to find ways to combat cyberbullying, it’s something you can’t easily control. Plus, no matter what social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat do to combat abuse, it always seems to continue in one form or another.

When you see the list of social sites experiencing the most cyberbullying, Facebook still comes out on top at over 84%. Instagram is second at 23%, something more concerning considering the personal photos posted there.

In most cyberbullying cases, vicious threats by text or personal message are the most common form of abuse. These are hard to manage, especially since a lot of those messages are between teen friends in private online conversations.

It’s unfortunate this can also happen due to net anonymity. Someone who doesn’t even use a real name can still cyberbully teenagers and perhaps never get caught if they continually change their screen names.

If your own teen receives anonymous threats like this, you should always take immediate action. They may start feeling anxious and suicidal if close friends start bullying them based on their appearance or other lifestyle choices.

Anxiety and Sextortion CasesAnxiety Among Teens Using Smartphones

With cyberbullying still in crisis mode, sextortion cases just add more concern to what teens see online. These cases involve an anonymous sender taking photos of teenagers and Photoshopping them with sexually explicit imagery.

A lot of this occurs due to teens being tricked into clicking a link that downloads malware. This gives the culprit access to personal files like photos. Then they send an email with a subject line typically stating “Who hacked your account?” and asking for sick demands.

The above demands usually involve requesting the teen to make a sexually explicit video of themselves for the hacker. If refused, the sender threatens to publish the other explicit photos on the internet.

With this increasingly disturbing threat, you can see how bad things have become. Imagine your own teenagers getting a threat like this and having no power to stop it from happening. And, it only increases the potential for teen anxiety knowing what the repercussions are.

Anxiety From Accessing PornographyAnxiety From Accessing Pornography

The pornography industry is already so ubiquitous on the net, it’s almost inevitable that some of it is going to end up being seen by someone. No doubt you worry about your teens seeing it while still giving them autonomy on what they do on their smartphones.

What’s worse is teens may end up getting access to porn through their friends. It’s not always from hackers or inadvertent ads that pass on these explicit sexual images to teens. Once they become exposed, they may become addicted and start feeling signs of depression and anxiety.

Addiction Hope states these repercussions bluntly:

“Sadly, depression sets in when teens become beholden to a shameful, secretive and brain chemistry-altering stimulus.”

Since we’re living in such a sexually charged culture, exposure to online porn requires discussion with your teens as early as possible. Otherwise, they may seek it out on their own and end up facing anxiety they can’t control while trying to hide their addiction.

So what can you do to help control all of this for your teens? Ongoing discussions with your children can only go so far, despite always being the first good start. Next,  find an online trustworthy tool to make it easier for you to control some of these online dangers from your as much as possible.

Finding a Resource to Control What Your Kids See OnlineTeens and Anxiety Causes

It is always a good start for parents to start by establishing internet usage guidelines from the time your children are young, you can help them develop healthy habits in regards to their computers and mobile devices.

Enforcing these guidelines is always easier when you use trustworthy parental controls from the start.  However, it is never too late to start! You can work with your teens to establish boundaries as well as an internet schedule making time for homework and chores. You can even block certain apps or pause the entire internet, so that you can be sure your child is sleeping rather than checking to see what her friends are doing.

Even though life and the internet continually become an out of control carousel, it’s easy to bring back sanity when you’re in charge.

Unveiling Sarahah: What Parents Need to Know

You know that your children use Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. You might even be aware that these types of social media apps bring some inherent dangers, often leading to distractions and self-esteem issues.

But beyond the most commonly available social media apps, today lies a layer of platforms that might be even more harmful to your children. Anonymous apps allow tweens and teens to freely share their thoughts and message each other, without ever having to attach their name. The newest example, Sarahah, is now making waves across the United States since making its way to the app store this past summer.

What is Sarahah?Sarahah Parents Info

The set up is simple. Users set up a personal profile page, similar to but simpler than Facebook, that describes them. Once that page exist, anyone can leave comments and feedback to the person who created the profile.

Digitally savvy parents will recognize this format as an early version of Facebook, before the existence of a news feed that collected thoughts and posts from all users. However, there is a significant difference: Sarahah promotes and encourages anonymity.

The origin story of this app is relatively interesting. It was developed by Saudi Arabian developer Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq, who created it as a tool for employees to provide open feedback to their bosses. In Arabic, Sarahah means “frankness” or “honesty.”

Had it stayed with its original use, it might have actually lived a good life as a productivity, workplace culture-enhancing app. But that’s far from the case. Today, its rapid rise has made Sarahah one of the most popular apps in the world. Today, it’s the #1 app in Apple’s app store in most major economies, and #5 in Google’s Play Store. It attracts more than 20 million users each day, many of whom are children and teenagers.

Understanding the Dangers of Anonymous Apps like Sarahah

Sarahah Parents Info

At this point, every parent should be paying attention. An app that allows teenagers to anonymously post feedback about their peers carries inherent dangers that cannot be mentioned enough. The app, as BuzzFeed details, is completely anonymous; in other words, not even the creator could unearth who writes what comments. Of course, that also means no oversight against bullying or other problematic content.

In that way, Sarahah follows directly in the footsteps of other anonymous apps before it, like Ask.fm and Yik Yak. All of them have come under scrutiny for the negative effects they can have on children; in fact, Yik Yak is now shut down for the harm it caused tweens and teenagers. Sarahah takes the concept one step further, by allowing aggregation of comments on individual profile pages.

Don’t take it from us. The app store reviews for Sarahah speak for themselves:

“My son signed up for an account and within 24 hrs someone posted a horrible racist comment on his page including saying that he should be lynched,” read one review re-posted by Business Insider. “The site is a breeding ground for hate.”

“Parents, don’t allow your kids to get this app,” another wrote. “This is an app breeding suicides.” A third suggested: “I don’t recommend going on here unless you wish to be bullied”. 

Parents are not the only ones sounding the alarm. In addition, teenagers themselves are speaking out. In an interview with Pittsburgh-based WPXI, 17-year old Autumn Heim detailed her experience with Sarahah:

I got a lot of inappropriate messages. There’s a couple messages, like bullying. But most of the time it’s kinda sexual. I think that it can be like, kind of dangerous. Because I know other people, they’ve gotten some pretty mean messages and they’re like, that it rolls off their back. But like, most of the time it can be kind of damaging.

The complete anonymity provided by the app, in other words, gives children free reign to impose dangerous thoughts about their peers. With no oversight, the results can be uncomfortable at best and harmful at worst, ranging from sexual harassment to cyberbullying. With no way to trace these comments back to their creator, the limits are almost endless.

And it doesn’t end there. The app actually harvests the contact information from all users to make initial connections. In other words, it’s much easier to find people you already know, and focus your comments on them. This practice also invites security concerns, as Sarahah does not disclose what all it does with these contact lists.

How Can I Protect My Children From Dangerous Apps?Block Apps Using Netsanity Parental Controls

Your first step as a parent should be highlighting the dangers that these types of apps can bring. As mentioned above, your children may already be seeing the negative effects of anonymity on their own but might need an adult voice to support them in their decision to not give in to peer pressure.

If your teenager insists on using the app, and you trust them to use it responsibly, make sure they understand the opt-out possibilities. For instance, users are able to prevent their profile from being searchable, which means that they have more control over who writes comments. With this type of control mechanism, the app’s original purpose – to provide positive, open feedback – may be more attainable.

Finally, especially for younger children, the best step may be to simply prevent access to apps like Sarahah. If apps like this become a problem for your children of any age they are easy to block when you use a trustworthy parental control. Netsanity, you can regulate the types of apps your children are able to download, allowing you to act as a gatekeeper and protect your kids from harm.

It’s Up to Parents to Teach Their Children Responsible Smartphone Use

With the wide variety of dangers awaiting kids online, it might seem easier to simply ban smartphones and internet access altogether.

Unfortunately, forbidding your children and teens from using a smartphone isn’t a practical solution. There are so many hours when they’re not under your watchful eye, and they can access the internet at school or at a friend’s house, which they’re likely to do if it’s the only opportunity they have to go online.

Aside from those logistical considerations, remember this: we really wouldn’t want to prevent them from using the internet. Like it or not, the world is online now, and kids need to be online with it. They need to learn how to interact online in a safe and appropriate way because that’s where they’ll find much of their school, work, and social life.

The key, then, is not about preventing internet use. It’s in education and monitoring to ensure your children use their smartphones responsibly. This is where to start to teach responsible smartphone use:

When Is Your Child Ready for a Smartphone?Teach Responsible Smartphone Use

It’s hard to pinpoint a specific age at which it’s appropriate to give a child a smartphone. This depends largely on the individual: some younger children are mature enough for their own mobile device, while some older children are not.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that children younger than 18 months should not be using screens except for occasional video chatting. From 18 to 24 months, parents can introduce children to high-quality programming on a mobile device. As the children grow, screentime should be limited and monitored. The best way to monitor? The good old fashioned way of having smartphone/tablet spot checks because children can easily have secret or multiple accounts that you do not know about.

This National Public Radio article notes that parents have different opinions about when a child should have a smartphone. Some have pledged not to give their children their own phones until eighth grade, while other parents want their kids to have one at a younger age, often for safety reasons. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal points out that kids often start pressuring their parents to give them a smartphone at a young age.

You should ask yourself some of the following questions when deciding whether or not your child is ready for a smartphone:

  • Does he demonstrate responsibility, such as getting ready on time and arriving when he says he will?
  • Does she regularly lose her possessions?
  • Is his ability to get in touch with you a safety concern?
  • Would a smartphone be good for her friendships and social life?
  • Can he understand internet dangers?
  • Can she follow the guidelines you set regarding smartphone use?

Talking About SafetyA Dad Teaching Responsible Smartphone Use

Discuss some of the risks and problems with using the internet in a way your child can understand, which may depend upon his age. For example:

  • Respect: Teach him how to have respectful discussions, avoid name-calling (even if someone else starts it), and to never post anything that would hurt or embarrass someone else.
  • Highlight Reels: Help them to understand that not everything she sees online is true (or completely true). On social media, people often share the best parts of their lives. Make sure she understands that everyone has challenges and sad days–they just rarely talk about them publicly. Discuss the digital altering of photos, as well.
  • Information Sharing: Make it clear that they should never share their personal information online.
  • Predators: Explain that not everyone on the internet is who they say they are. If anyone, including friends from school, sends inappropriate or cruel messages, your child should tell you about it immediately.

This talk should happen before the phone is given to the child, but make it clear that it’s an ongoing conversation. The internet changes every day. New information, new trends, and new social media sites are constantly catching your child’s attention, so it’s important that you both feel you can approach each other with questions and concerns.

Keeping Up-to-DateHow To Teach Responsible Smartphone Use

As if you need another task as a parent: it’s essential to stay up-to-date about the latest internet and social media trends. Certain peer challenges, hashtags, and sites can prove dangerous for children, so it’s important for you to hear about these things as your kids do.

Just like you ask your child how their day was or what they are doing in school, ask about what they’re doing online, too. Watch the news for updates about social media and what’s popular among kids. If you hear a term or a hashtag you don’t understand, look it up. It might seem harmless, but it could indicate a serious behavior you would want to know about. For example, the hashtag #annie refers to anxiety while #cat can refer to cutting (self-mutilation). In this way, seemingly harmless hashtags actually link people who have some serious problems or engage in risky behaviors.

Setting Guidelines for Internet UseSetting Guidelines For Internet Use

In addition to the safety talk, you should also set clear guidelines for smartphone use and discuss that with your child before he gets the device. It’s easier to set rules and give more slack as you go along than it is to bring in new restrictions, so give it plenty of thought. Some considerations:

  • For what is he allowed to use his smartphone? To stay in touch with family? Family and friends? To do schoolwork? To play games? What social media sites are allowed?
  • When can she use the phone? Is it okay to have it during school? At what time does your child need to put it away at night? Can they listen to music in bed?
  • With whom can they use the device? Is it okay to use while other people are trying to talk to them, like at the dinner table?
  • Who sets the passwords? Are you, as the parent, allowed to access her phone? Should you require her to be friends with you on social media?

To some degree, you must trust your child to follow the rules you set regarding internet use. However, the lure of social media and peer pressure can influence your child to break those rules at times, which is why trustworthy mobile parental controls can provide some peace of mind. With parental controls, you can disable internet access to your child’s device at night, during school, and at the dinner table to ensure they stay focused on the real-world tasks at hand: sleeping, studying, and connecting with the family.

You may also want to block certain apps and even categories to eliminate some risk. For example, if you only want your child using Facebook and Instagram, you can block Tinder, Snapchat, Kik, Tumblr, and any other site or app you deem inappropriate for your child.

Today’s kids are smart. If they can learn to use their devices so quickly, they can certainly learn to use them safely and responsibly.

Teens and the”Constant Pressure” of Social Media

Growing up has always been a little stressful. Between household rules, peer pressure, and the new world of dating, the life of a teenager is stereotypically dramatic for a reason.

However, teens today are faced with a constant pressure their parents never knew as children: the pressure of social media. Social networking sites have become a force of their own, driving teens to stay online and attempt to keep up with how they perceive others to be living their lives. For teens, social media is a different world than it is for many adults.

The Pressure to Be Available All the TimeTeens and Social Media

The first type of pressure teenagers feel with social media was addressed by this article in 2015:

“Teenagers spoke about the pressure they felt to make themselves available 24/7, and the resulting anxiety if they did not respond immediately to texts or posts. Teens are so emotionally invested in social media that a fifth of secondary school pupils will wake up at night and log on, just to make sure they don’t miss out.”

That fear of missing out, popularly referred to as FOMO, drives teenagers to obsessively check their devices to keep up with what their friends are doing. Not only does that increase anxiety, it gets in the way of healthy sleep as the teens stay up late, or even intentionally wake up in the night, in an effort to stay online. Not getting enough sleep can affect your teen’s ability to learn, leading to a decline in academic performance. Poor sleep can also lead to mood swings, poor judgment, and health issues like obesity and diabetes.

The Pressure to Live the Best LifePressures for teens on social media

An Instagram feed is a highlight reel: it’s the best of the best in the profile owner’s life. Sometimes, those “bests” hide what’s really going on, as in the case of Madison Holleran, a college student who committed suicide. Her Instagram profile showed no signs of the severe depression she was suffering.

Children and teens don’t always realize that what they’re seeing on a social media profile isn’t an accurate representation of someone’s life. They feel pressure to live up to that image of a “perfect life”; when they fall short, they suffer from anxiety and depression. This isn’t the first time social media use has been linked to depression.

The Pressure to Engage in Certain BehaviorsTeens Behavior On Social Media

This can start innocently enough, with a desire to show your own best life by taking and sharing a flattering selfie. Positive feedback might lead to more sexualized images, which can attract even more attention. A girl (or a boy) in a typical teenage romantic relationship might be encouraged or pressured to share nude or otherwise sexual images with her partner, which of course can easily be used against her as blackmail or public humiliation if the relationship turns sour.

Sometimes, certain social media “games” or trends invite participation. Dangerous behavior, like cutting or extreme dieting, can be glorified, and teens who engage in those behaviors find a community that supports them and even encourages them. Hashtags like #selfharmmm and #SecretSociety123 link teens who are interested in self-destructive behavior.

(An interesting note: if you search for the hashtag “selfharmmm” on Instagram, for example, it comes with a warning and an offer to help: “If you’re going through something difficult, we’d like to help.” You have the option to click “Get Support,” “See Posts Anyway,” or to “Cancel.”)

The Pressure of CyberbullyingCyberbullying through social media

As defined by the Cyberbullying Research Center, cyberbullying is “…willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” This type of pressure can leave your teen anxious, depressed, or disinterested in social events or school, and the effects of bullying don’t stop there. A bullied teen might also experience:

  • Loneliness
  • Sadness
  • Changes in Sleep Patterns
  • Changes in Eating Patterns
  • Health Issues
  • Loss of Interest in Previously Enjoyable Activities
  • Decreased Academic Performance

The effects of bullying can last into adulthood, and there is a link between bullying and teen suicide. In addition to forcing the bullied teen into isolation, a cyberbully could also force your teen to do things he or she wouldn’t otherwise do, out of fear of rejection, violence, or humiliation.

Relieving the Pressure of Social MediaRelieving the pressure of social media

The first step is for your children and teens to spend less time online. By establishing internet usage guidelines from the time your children are young, you can help them develop healthy habits in regards to their computers and mobile devices.

It is always easier to set boundaries if you put guidelines into place from the start by using trustworthy parental controls. However, it is never too late to start! You can block certain apps in the evening or pause the entire internet, so you can be sure your child is sleeping rather than checking to see what her friends are doing. By blocking certain sites, like adult dating apps and pornography, you can help your child stay away from some of the internet’s unsavory material.

Another important step is communication with your teen. Like setting internet guidelines, this is more easily established when children are young, but it’s important enough to work through no matter how uncomfortable it might seem at first. Here are a few talking point to help you relieve the pressure of social media on your children:

  • Does this seem real? Point out images that are likely (or obviously) edited. Talk about what non-Instagrammable moments happen in your child’s life, and ask if it seems likely that other people are also leaving those awkward or sad moments out of their Instagram feeds, as well.
  • Who needs to know? Talk about maintaining a measure of privacy by not sharing certain information.
  • Do you feel safe? Discuss the tricks a stranger might use to solicit information or photos. Ask your children and teens to tell you if they ever feel bullied or threatened, and explain that you won’t jump into action about it without discussing it with them. Many children don’t report bullying because they’re embarrassed, they’re afraid of being a tattle-tale, or they’re afraid their parents can’t do anything to help or even worse that their parents may take away their phone.
  • What do you want to do today? By keeping your children involved in real-life interests and activities, you give them something positive to post about, and you help them enjoy life away from their screens.
Tumblr: What Parents Need to Know

As parents, your social media concerns are most likely centered around Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. These sites have lots of teenage users, and let’s be honest: keeping up with the trends and habits on three sites is more than enough work. Unfortunately, the internet is vast beyond comprehension, and your parental awareness has to extend a little further than those big three.

Let’s start with Tumblr.

What Is Tumblr?

Tumblr has been around since 2007, and Fast Company describes it like this:

“…a blogging platform that makes it easier to post video, audio, words, social bookmarks, photos, and even other people’s blog posts into your blog, and share it with other people. Instead of having to upload things to YouTube, Delicious or Flickr, or create your own WordPress database before posting things, you can put your media directly into Tumblr from your computer or mobile phone. It’s blogging, the way blogging was meant to be.”

Users create their own blogs and connect with other people by following and sharing their blog content and posting comments. The site has long appealed to the younger population.

What Do Tumblrs Blog About?Tumblr | Parents Info

The variety is as wide as the internet itself, but this 2013 article broke it down into three main categories:

  • Daily Life: This includes hanging out with friends, eating, shopping, and so on.
  • Memes and Gifs: These entertaining posts are easy to find and share.
  • Pornography

Teenagers and TumblrHow Teenagers Use Tumblr

Common Sense Media notes high levels of sex- and drug-related material as well as coarse language, much of which you might prefer your teen not be exposed to on a regular basis.

“Though the keyword search does block terms such as ‘porn,’ ‘F—‘ and ‘sex,’ curious kids could still stumble upon racy, and even raunchy, images and writings. (There’s really everything under the sun here — positive and negative.)”

They rate the app for users over the age of 15, while parents who reviewed it say 16, and the kids who reviewed it say 13. The Tumblr terms of service do not allow those under age 13 to use it (though it pays to note that this can often be bypassed by a younger child who lies about his or her birthday when creating an account).

This article on Very Well outlines some of the benefits of Tumblr for teenagers, including the exposure to ideas and concepts from around the world, the opportunity to network, and the space in which to explore and develop new interests.

However, the article also points out the risks:

  • Privacy: There is no option to have a totally private profile on Tumblr, though you can make certain posts private.
  • Scams: As with email and other social media sites, there are scams associated with Tumblr in which thieves try to lift passwords and other private information from users.
  • Pornography: “Tumblr allows sexually-explicit material to be posted to the site. Pornographic videos are not allowed to be posted directly to Tumblr but links to pornography are allowed.” Since profiles aren’t private, your child can easily come across this material, intentionally or unintentionally.
  • Unhealthy Behavior: As with other social sites, communities will form around extreme dieting and eating disorders, self-harm, and other destructive behavior.

New Developments: Safe ModeSafe Mode | Teens and Kids Tumblr Use | from netsanity.net

Over the summer, Tumblr users gained the option of setting the “safe mode” which would filter out adult-oriented content. However, the way the site defines “sensitive” material also includes certain “…artistic nudity or nudity in an educational or photojournalistic context.

When a user comes across this type of content, they see a warning screen that can be bypassed if the user so chooses (and is over age 18). A user must also first choose to opt-in to safe mode, something a curious teenager probably would not care to do.

Should You Block Tumblr?How to Block Tumblr

When you use trustworthy parental controls on your child’s mobile device, you have the opportunity to block certain sites and apps you don’t want your teen to use. Should Tumblr be one of them?

Maybe so. Here are few points to consider:

  • Your Child’s Age and Maturity: Some 13-year-olds can handle social media; some 17-year-olds (and many adults, for that matter) struggle to discern real from fake when it comes to news and images. Tumblr might not be the best “starter platform” for your child when it comes to social media. Facebook or Instagram might be easier for you to monitor, and it is less likely that your child will come across sexually explicit material on those networks.
  • How Does Your Child Use Tumblr? A focus on dog memes or car repair doesn’t mean he’ll never come across explicit content, but if his Tumblr account is helping him learn more about something he’s interested in, it might be worth allowing that to continue.
  • Your Relationship With Your Child: Do you communicate well? Do you trust her to tell you about dangerous or uncomfortable experiences she has online? Do you regularly catch him in a lie? Can you be open with your child about monitoring her internet use and her Tumblr account?
  • It Might Be Easier to Prevent It Than Take It Away: If Tumblr is off the table from the very beginning, your teen doesn’t know what she’s missing and might find Snapchat and Instagram to be interesting and time-consuming enough. However, once a child is active on a platform with connections to other users, it might be more difficult for you to enforce a shutdown of the account. This, of course, depends on your parenting style, your child’s behavior, and your relationship.

If you do decide to block Tumblr and other specific sites and apps on your teen’s mobile device, see why Netsanity has the powerful tools to help guide your child’s internet use until they are ready to manage it on their own.

 

Decoding Teen Slang

*Our teen slang guide now updated for 2018!

Many parents have no idea of the growing need for them to become “bilingual” when communicating with their tweens and teens. “Teen Slang,” the complex group of acronyms, innuendos, and code words is used freely among teenagers and their peers. However, what happens when parents have no clue what their teenager just said?  Many slang terms are relatively harmless in and of themselves, but certain terms should instantly put up red flags for parents.

By learning our way around the tricky language of our teens we allow ourselves to not only build a stronger bond with them but also know when they’re in potential danger. Unfortunately, some slang is specifically designed to keep parents in the dark.  In an interview with the popular morning news outlet, Today, some teens revealed important insider’s tips on what they’re actually saying.

Fun and Harmless Teenage SlangTeen Slang Guide | Netsanity

Teen slang allows our kids to communicate in a fun, interesting way among themselves.  It gives them a sense of independence and individuality.  This type of communication is often second nature and many teens don’t even notice the differences in their conversations.  Some of the more harmless and funny expressions include terms such as:

  • Bruh–A casual nickname for “bro”
  • Fam–Their closest friends
  • GOAT–Acronym for “Greatest of all time!”
  • TBH–Acronym for “To be honest”
  • It’s lit–Short for “It’s cool or awesome!”
  • I’m weak–Short for “That was funny!”
  • Hundo P–Short for 100% sure or certain
  • Gucci–Something is good or cool
  • Squad–Term for their friend group

 Teen Slang Terms to Keep an Eye on

While many expressions are innocent and even hilarious some should catch our eye as parents.  They are not necessary wrong, but they show that your teen may be involved in activities that require more maturity and advice from you as their parent.  Many warning expressions involve dating or interest in new relationships. Some of these terms also reveal that your teen is experiencing some type of emotional turmoil or stress within their friendships or lifestyle. While you may not necessarily need to intervene, it’s always wise to at least be aware of what your teen is experiencing.

  • Bae–Short for “baby.” It’s used as a term of endearment for a significant other such as a girlfriend or boyfriend. As an acronym, it stands for “Before Anyone Else.”
  • Curve–To reject someone romantically
  • Low Key–A warning that what they’re saying isn’t something they want everyone to know
  • Salty–To be bitter about something or someone
  • Skurt–To go away or leave
  • Throw shade–To give someone a nasty look or say something unpleasant about them.
  • Straight fire–Something is hot or trendy
  • Sip tea–To mind your own business

Warning Flags

As a parent, you are rightfully concerned or suspicious when your teenager becomes secretive.  They may “talk” a lot, but at the same time avoid actually saying anything revealing. In dangerous or high-risk situations, slang can become a good hiding place for your teen.  When terms such as these appear in hushed conversations with friends or on their phone, be alert to oncoming danger for your child. Some of these dangerous terms even appeared in a special news report for CNN.

  • Thirsty–Being desperate for something
  • Down in the DM–Short for plans in their social media or texts for an oncoming sexual hook-up
  • Smash–To have casual sex
  • Netflix ‘n Chill–To meet under the pretense of watching Netflix/TV together when actually planning to meet for “making out” or sex
  • NIFOC–Acronym for “Naked in front of their computer”
  • CU46–Acronym for “See you for sex”
  • 9–Short for “A parent is watching!”
  • GNOC–Acronym for “Get naked on camera!”

It’s rarely easily, but as parents, one of the most important ways to keep our teens safe is through consistent communication.  Many horrible situations have evolved over the years in families where proper parent/teen communication was neglected.  Although you may not always instantly understand everything your teen says, take the time to honestly ask them. Show your desire to understand and communicate.  If all else fails, consult trusted sources or even slang dictionaries such as Urban Dictionary where many modern slang terms appear. Teen Slang Infographic | Netsanity

 

Sometimes there may be a reason where parents may want to limit or completely disable texting or calling. Apple does not provide a process to block either, although Netsanity does show parents how they can mirror iMessages in this blog. However, for parents who have Samsung smartphones and tablets, they have more options when using Netsanity.

The internet and its social media sub-world change on a near day-to-day basis. Trends pop up and fall away before some parents even realize they existed. In a world where some of these trends can be risky or downright dangerous (like the recent and devastating Blue Whale Challenge), it’s essential for parents to stay aware of what their teenagers are doing online.

Trends that we think Parents need to be watching in 2018

Social Mediasocial media trends for teens in 2018

Though Facebook is the most popular social media platform overall, and the one you’re most likely to be using as an adult, Snapchat and Instagram are most popular among teenagers.

The unique issue with Snapchat is that photos are shared and disappear within a certain amount of time, which can make it challenging for a parent to keep track of what their kids are sharing. This can give teenagers a boost of confidence to post photos they might not otherwise, but the recipients only need to take a screenshot for that photo to live on and be shared on other platforms.

Here are some other social apps to keep an eye on:

Kik: This is a free messenger app that can be used innocently enough to send messages to friends. However, “…Kik has also gained quite the reputation for being a sexting platform, primarily among strangers looking for someone to hook up with.

Confession Sites: These include PostSecret, Secret, and Whisper, where users anonymously post secrets and confessions, which, of course, may or may not be true. The potential problem lies here: “Often PostSecrets are twisted or sexual in nature. While some secrets may lead to meaningful conversations about various life topics, most secrets are too complex to be read and discerned by minors.”

Badoo: Common Sense Media says this adults-only dating app doesn’t monitor the content; therefore, a lot of sexual material is present.

Other Dating and Hook-Up Apps: As with any online forum, it’s easy for teenagers to lie about their birthdays in order to bypass the need for parental approval or join an adults-only community. Take a look at this list of popular apps where the focus is on casual sexual encounters. These include Wild, Feeld, and Casualx.

Up and ComingDigital Hangouts and Other Trends

Entrepreneur mentions the growing popularity of digital hangouts via Houseparty: “It is primarily used by Gen Z as a way to hang out with friends digitally. The platform is so successful that Facebook is reportedly investigating ways to create a similar functionality within their platform.”

The article also says to watch for more live streaming and augmented reality, as well as a continuation of influencer marketing. This is something to pay attention to, since your teens might follow certain social media celebrities who promote a variety of products because of their agreements with the companies who make those products. They’re called “influencers” for a reason, so keep track of the ones your teens are following.

Internet Slang in 2018Teenage Girl on Mobile Phone At Home

Teenagers speak a different language online (some of which might spill over into the real world), and keeping up with those teen slang terms can give you insight into what your child is doing on the internet.

Some recent trends in teen slang:

  • TBH: Generally used as a hashtag, TBH stands for “to be honest” and it is used when a teenager is looking for honest opinions, often about his or her appearance. Though it can result in some positive feedback, it can also invite cruel comments that zap your teen’s self-esteem.
  • Ship: Short for “relationship.”
  • Boots: This is a way to say “very” or “a lot.” It’s added after the verb or adjective.
  • Woke: Highly aware of social issues.
  • FOMO: “Fear of missing out.”
  • Savage: The cool way to say “cool.”

Research from 2015 indicated the prevalence of “secret hashtags” used to connect teenagers who engage in self-harming or other self-destructive behavior, and this recent Parents article says the practice is alive and well. These hashtags include the following:

  • #sue: suicide
  • #deb: depression
  • #ana: anorexia
  • #thinsp: thinspiration (photos or messages that “inspire” an effort to become thin)
  • #svv: self-harming behavior

“Fitspiration” emerged as a response to “thinspiration,” focusing on photos and messages that promoted fit, healthy lifestyles as opposed to a “thin at all costs” attitude. However, both can hurt your child’s self-esteem if she starts to feel as though she can’t measure up to those standards.

How to Stay On Top of the Trends & Terminology

Changes happen fast, so you have to be faster. Here are a few tips for staying aware of online trends and how your teen uses the internet.

  • Bookmark Urban Dictionary: This handy site gives you the definitions for the slang terms you see on your child’s social profiles.
  • Set Google Alerts: Google lets you set news alerts for a term of your choice; every day, you can receive an email with news items relating to that term. For example, you could set a “social media” alert and get a list of articles about the latest social media updates without doing weekly searches for what you might be missing about new apps and sites, trending hashtags or campaigns, and more.
  • Block Dangerous Sites: At Netsanity, we offer trustworthy parental controls that you can depend on to work so that you can block questionable material like hook-up apps, pornographic websites, and any new social media apps you don’t want your child to use.
  • Limit Internet Usage: The more time a child spends online, the more time he has to explore new online interests. Using parental controls to disable the internet during certain hours of the day allows (or forces) your child to spend an appropriate amount of time with his family, doing homework, or sleeping. It also means less online time with which to get curious and start digging through the internet.
  • Communicate: By keeping an open line of communication with your child, you encourage her to speak up about questionable material she sees or experiences online. It also opens the door for you to ask, “What’s that?” and get an honest answer when you hear mention of a new app or behavior.

This is a good place to start, but remember: the internet is changing even as you read this. Keep doing your homework to keep your child protected from emerging risks!

TAKE OUR TEEN SLANG QUIZ!

All About “What I Ate Today” Vlogs

When we have a question about health and fitness (or pretty much anything else, for that matter), we usually turn to the internet. Tweens and teens who may be self-conscious about their bodies are doing it, too, looking for answers about how to “get skinny” to keep up with the men or women they see in magazine ads, or to get as muscular as their favorite actors or athletes. As this study explains.

“Salient influences on body image include the media , which can target adolescents, and peers who help shape beliefs about the perceived body ideal. The concepts of fat talk and weight-related bullying during adolescence greatly contribute to an overemphasis on body weight and appearance as well as the development of negative body perceptions and dissatisfaction surrounding specific body parts.”

With those insecurities in mind, teenagers go online for tips and tricks.

“What I Ate Today” Vlogs and Other FitspoBody Image Teen Risks | Netsanity

There is no shortage of fitness-related social media pages and profiles. “Fitspo” is short for “fitspiration,” which comes from “fitness inspirations.” Fitspo bloggers and social media celebrities offer workout advice and post selfies that highlight their narrow waists and muscle definition. Teens are inundated with information about how to get fit.

One of many ways this information is shared is via the “What I Ate Today” video blog (vlog), which is exactly what it sounds like. People (mostly girls and women, as you’ll see after a quick search for the term on YouTube) share videos talking about what they ate that day. There’s often chatting, meal preparation, and maybe some recipes.

The Good NewsFitness Experts and Vloggers

Some of the information is solid: it’s shared by experts and backed by science. (Thank goodness, or we’d all be in trouble!) Many of the fitspo bloggers and influencers are good role models: they encourage moderation, good exercise technique, rest days, and balanced meals. Some of them even post side-by-side photos showing how easy it is to appear thin and fit simply by changing your outfit, your pose, the lighting, and the angle of the camera, warning their followers not to trust every photo that they see and promoting a healthy body image.

When your teens follow these responsible influencers, they learn valuable tips about how to live a healthy lifestyle.

The Bad NewsWork out vloggers can mislead teens

The internet is full of misinformation, and it’s getting more and more difficult to tell the difference between truth and fiction. Furthermore, the health and fitness world has its own trends, some of which work for certain people and not for others. This is why not all health and fitness vloggers and bloggers are created equal.

Education: Some fitness bloggers are certified professionals who have worked as fitness instructors and personal trainers for years. Nutritionists and other experts also share their knowledge on their own websites. However, many more of those bloggers are not much different than your own teenager. They simply found a platform to talk about what they do, whether extreme diets, they might not realize the potential damage they’re doing to their own bodies until later in life.

Influence and Intention:  The bloggers with the most followers are offered all sorts of promotional deals as many companies take advantage of the opportunity to get their products in front of those followers. Even though it’s required for an influencer to reveal any such affiliation, those connections might go unnoticed by your teen. Furthermore, the blogger might be saying that she always uses a certain supplement, when in reality she was paid or otherwise rewarded for promoting the product and doesn’t even use it at all.

The Risks for TeensRisks for teens online

Constant exposure to images of an “ideal” body type can leave your teen feeling inferior. Social media has already been shown to contribute to low self-esteem; it can also contribute to eating disorders.

According to Park Nicollet Melrose Center,  80 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of getting fat, and more than half of teenage girls use unhealthy ways to manage their weight. A 2011 study showed that “The more time adolescent girls spend in front of Facebook, the more their chances of developing a negative body image and various eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia and exaggerated dieting.”

Some “What I Ate Today” vlogs could feature low caloric intakes or imbalanced diets.  Others might insist upon a certain type of diet (paleo, keto, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, etc) that your teen might start to follow without considering the pros and cons. Even if the diet is healthy, it could contribute to obsessive behavior in some teens with meal preparation and planning or excessive restrictions on what he or she is willing to eat.

What Can Parents Do?

What can parents do about teen body image risks

Healthy habits and a healthy body image start early in life. Here’s how you can help get your child started on the right foot:

Set a Good Example: Practice healthy, balanced exercise and eating habits. (A healthy diet will also help your child with school and energy levels.) Talk positively about your own body, focusing on what it can do rather than what it looks like. Compliment your child the same way: “You’re so strong!” or “You’re  great at basketball!” rather than “You’re so thin and pretty!”

Encourage Physical Activity: Sports and dance classes are great, but so is a family walk after dinner or a hike on the weekend.

Keep an Eye on Your Teen’s Internet Activity: Keeping tabs should always be a part of your agreement with your child about going online or using a mobile device. Be aware of what sites your children are using, and stay on top of the news about trends and apps.  This is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control that allows you block dangerous categories and apps.

Talk About What You See Online: Encourage your teen to talk to you if they see something online that they are uncomfortable with or if they have questions about. Comment on the media you consume together: for example, if you see a billboard, you can mention (without degrading the subject of the photo) how advertisers regularly edit the images to make them look a certain way, and that people sometimes do that with their own photos, too. Ask your teen if they have noticed that in their social media newsfeed.

As the parent, you have influence over your child’s health and fitness habits simply by setting a positive example. Of course, social media influence will sneak in, so be ready to notice any changes in your child’s eating or exercise habits.

Why Netsanity Is the Best Gift You Can Give Yourself This Year

Putting a new iPhone under the tree for your kids this year? This is for you!

Carl here – CEO of Netsanity. First off, I’d like to wish all our readers a safe and very happy holiday season!

Many of you are planning on gifting a new iPhone, iPad, or iPod to your kids or teens this year.  I’m going to take you on a personal tour of Netsanity’s most popular features, showing you just how easy it is to block porn, block social media apps, disable internet during bedtimes, prevent removal, and much more.

So take a few minutes to see how Netsanity provides parents with peace of mind and could be the best gift you give YOURSELF this holiday season.

Before I begin, I should let you know that I’m a dad of three great kids. They are all are old enough to have their own iPhones, but managing device level rules and regulations in our house got to be too much! My wife and I realized that one solution did not fit all – each child needed their own custom settings and a mix of parental restrictions.  With nothing on the market even close to what we were looking for, we created Netsanity.

I invite you to try our premium service 100% free (you can explore the features as you read).

( You can also use our interactive demo of our main features to see if we are a good fit for your family in about 60 seconds. Take the demo here.)

Below, I will discuss what your goals might be when considering parental controls and how we have worked hard to help you achieve them in the simplest way possible.

Goal #1 – Block Porn

Best Gift for Parents in 2018!

When we launched Netsanity, it was with the goal of blocking adult content and porn for our own kids and teens. We initially launched our Catblocker feature to let parents choose which categories they felt were inappropriate for their kids, and block them. By the way, we created Netsanity in such a way that parents can do all these changes remotely, and quickly. We also did not want parents to download special browsers and realized early on that most children access porn via apps like Tumblr, Reddit and others.

So, we created Catblocker in a way that it worked with all mobile browsers, hidden-apps that mimic browsers, and all internet-enabled apps. We even added Safesearch so parents could restrict web search results from Google or Bing in a safe way.

Many parents think that having a safe browser is all they need. Remember that there are hundreds of browsers, many hidden as other apps.

Not only does Netsanity block millions of adult sites, but we also made adult content filtering included in our Lite service. Now, parents can protect their kids for just $1/month or $10/per year for up to 2 devices. We did this as we know how important it is to have young children have access to a safe internet. We don’t make any money offering this, but it’s our little way to give back.

And we are about to take adult content filtering to the next level. We are working hard to launch our new AI-based filtering service called PIERCE™. PIERCE™ will revolutionize how we catalog and filter porn and adult sites. Stay tuned in the coming months for more news on PIERCE™ as we make it available to our current customers first.

Goal #2 – Stop the madness with a Timeout

Best Gift for Parents - Digital Timeout for Their Kids

Sometimes kids need a quick reminder. That is where our Timeout feature comes in. When a gentle reminder does not work, and the homework is left unattended, kids will certainly start reacting when their iPhone or Galaxy suddenly stops working!

You have additional options for Timeout as well. By default, Timeout just blocks internet access. However, for more stringent enforcement, parents can optionally lock the screen or hide all the non-Apple apps.

Timeout works slightly differently for our Samsung customers, but both provide the same benefit and address the ultimate goal of giving parents options to get their kids to listen or finish up their chores. You can issue a Timeout while at home, or on a date with your spouse when the babysitter calls and complains! A simple toggle in your dashboard and that’s it!

Goal #3 – Bedtime and Limiting Screentime

Best Parents Gift 2017 - Netsanity Timeblocker

 

 

 

 

 

 

No matter if I talk to a parent from Los Angeles, Dubai, or Dallas, this one seems to always be near the top. We as parents realize that kids and teens are attached to their iPhones. The excuses are endless – “I need it as an alarm clock.”, “I can’t fall asleep unless I listen to music”, “I like to watch Youtube before I fall asleep.”, or my favorite: “Dad, you are so lame, every OTHER parent has no issues with me sleeping with my iPhone!” Any of those ring a bell? I suspect they do.

So Netsanity pioneered our Timeblocker feature back in 2013 for Apple, and for Samsung in 2016. Timeblocker is simple on the outside and complex on the inside. Netsanity will block access to the internet when you enable it via Timeblocker’s scheduler. It lets parents set a schedule and choose, in one-hour increments when the internet will be blocked.

Ok, so who cares? What is so cool about that? Well, for one, there is no app on the child’s iPhone or iPad. That means that we can enforce an internet scheduler by integrating with Apple’s core iOS. We are not hiding browsers or apps.

The other neat thing about Timeblocker is that it is network based. Huh? Well, it means that it will work regardless of whether or not you use any mobile browser, any internet-based app, or over WiFi or cell data. It works in any time zone, even if your child thinks they are clever and change the timezone on their iPhones or iPads.

So, parents – you can finally let your teens have their iPhones, iPads, and Samsung devices in their bedroom – free to use as alarm clocks or listen to music, without the fear of surfing the internet all night. Of course, you can further restrict access to more than just internet, but its all up to you now.

Goal #4 – App Blocking with one click

Holiday Gift for Parents | Appblocker by Netsanity

Another request that parents had was the ability to block social apps and other internet-based apps with one click. They did not want to physically have access to their child’s iPhone to do this, but instead, they wanted to be able to disable them remotely. So, Netsanity created remote, internet app blocking.

Appblocker is one of our favorite features that parents use daily. How does it work? Well, the guts are proprietary and complex, but for the parent – it’s easy. First, they pick an app from one of our profiled apps, which our engineer’s research and test. Then, it’s one-click and done. Within a few minutes, that app will stop working. The app is still on the home screen, but it will not work since Netsanity disables the way that app communicates.

We have over 50+ apps that are on the Appblocker list, and we are always listening and talking with parents to add new apps to our catalog. Appblocker does not block all apps, but we block most of the apps that parents request, like Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, etc. We also block other apps like YouTube, Netflix, etc.

Goal #5 – “Please make it hard to remove.”

Parental controls that kids cannot remove themselves

Its one thing to use mobile parental controls, but if the child can remove it in 2 seconds, what good is it? So we went to work on trying to figure out ways to secure our service to make it hard for kids to circumvent it. Apple is a closed operating system with access granted by Apple and Apple alone. Because of this, software developers and service providers have limited options. However, our protection methods make it much tougher for kids to defeat.

We have a unique way to lock Netsanity down for Apple devices making it nearly impossible for kids to circumvent them. Nothing is 100% foolproof, but with proactive notifications as well as how-to guides and videos, Netsanity gives parents the best chance of staying ahead.

Lastly, our Android customers who are protecting their children’s Samsung devices, have even more protections in place, making it virtually impossible to remove without a code.

Want to learn how kids can circumvent traditional parents controls? Read our blog on the topic here.

Goal #6 – “I want to talk to a human if I need to.”US based support for our parental controls

We get parents. We are all parents and have the same struggles that all parents have with tech-savvy kids. We understand the peer pressure, while at the same time, value our roles as parents.

We also know that parental controls are an emotional burden on some parents – especially ones that are not very technical. While we strive to make Netsanity easy to install and use, providing videos and guides, that will never replace a friendly voice.

We have staff that speaks your “parent language”. We can chat, email, or even call you. We even recently launched a new free service called Netsanity Concierge – to help parents who are new to Netsanity activate their children’s Apple or Samsung devices. It has been great talking to new customers as they activate their devices for the first time and seeing just how easy it is.

Note: When considering a service to install on your family’s devices. find out if you can speak to a real support agent if they are BBB+ rated, have offices, etc. Do your homework as there are many unscrupulous companies trying to get access to kids’ info.

Give yourself some Sanity this Holiday Season

If you are considering using parental controls or thinking about the best gift for parents you know, Netsanity could be the answer.

I am very proud of what we have built and what is still to come. We built a great company with great people. We have so much more to do and much global opportunity to help millions of parents protect their kids and get some peace of mind. Internally, we have a slogan:

We start at the impossible.

We will continue to innovate, listen to our wonderful customers, and keep kids safe.

I am always looking for advice on new features and ideas – feel free to email me and let me know at ceo-feedback@netsanity.net

/Carl – CEO

Staying Focused in the Age of Mobile Distraction

It’s difficult to imagine a world without mobile devices and constant connectivity. No matter what you need to do, your smartphone is close by to assist you as needed, get you through your day, and provide a welcome distraction. As it turns out your children feel the same way!

Make no mistake: mobile devices are increasingly necessary as your child moves into their teenage years. A recent survey by Harris Interactive found that almost half of all teenagers think their social life would diminish significantly without a smartphone. And that’s to say nothing of the benefits that being able to reach your child at all times can provide to parents.

But that’s not the entire story. Mobile devices bring distractions, some of them can prevent your children from getting ahead and even threaten their lives. No less than 78 percent of teenagers check their phone at least once per hour. How can you help your son or daughter stay focused in the age of mobile distraction?

The Blessing and Curse of Mobile ConnectivityYoung Man Being Distracted By His Smartphone

It’s easy to think of the many benefits that mobile devices can provide to teenagers. Used correctly, these phones can help your children stay in touch with their friends, take notes during class, schedule important dates and meetings, and more.

Another important reason for this type of connectivity is security. More than 90 percent of both parents and teenagers agree that with a smartphone available, children feel safer.

And yet, these benefits can sometimes gloss over the dangers of irresponsible mobile usage for children and teenagers. We’ve all heard the horror stories of distracted driving leading to a car accident. In reality, more than 1.6 million car crashes occur every year because of phone usage.

Vehicular accidents may be the scariest possibility, but it’s far from the only example of mobile distraction. While teenagers can theoretically take advantage of the productivity features on a smartphone in class, they rarely do so. Instead, they browse the internet, engage on social media, and do anything but actually pay attention to the teacher.Girt Using Phone While Driving, Not Focused On The Road

The same is true during homework time. A 2013 article by USA Today made a surprising discovery: your children actually know about this common distraction.

Melissa Malik, 17, said cellphone distractions sometimes cause her to take twice as long to complete a homework assignment. “Something that used to take me half an hour now takes an hour because text messages and other things can distract you,” said Malik, who is a senior at Cherry Hill West.

And it doesn’t end there. With a mobile device in hand, your children and teenagers will become less likely to actually engage in quality family time. They even prefer to chat with their friends digitally, rather than hanging out in person. Experts now worry that these type of isolationist activities can have a significant, negative impact on your child’s ability to develop relationship-building skills later in life.

Mobile distractions don’t end when it’s bedtime, either. Usage right before bed has been shown to negatively impact the ability to sleep, and that effect is exaggerated among children and teenagers. Exposure to the bright digital screen will result in difficulties falling and staying asleep, which can lead to health problems down the road.

What Parents Can do to Limit Mobile DistractionsLimit Mobile Distractions With Netsanity

The benefits are undeniable. Unfortunately, so are the disadvantages of the major role that mobile devices now play in your children’s’ lives. How do you find a happy medium that allows you to walk the fine line between positive effects and danger? Here are some tips that we think will get you started in that effort.

Communicate

First things first: because most teenagers are aware of their frequent mobile usage, it makes sense to simply engage in a serious talk on the topic if you see your child struggling with this problem. Treat them as you would like to be treated, taking their points seriously and offering honest feedback.

Redirect Distractive Energy

We all know how easy it is to get distracted. That energy doesn’t just go away when you take away the mobile device. Instead, try to redirect it in more positive ways. What if instead of hanging on Snapchat, they read an engaging eBook? How about playing an educational game rather than the newest Castle Clash? Using a trustworthy parental control software that allows you to block certain apps during these times but allows your teen to still use their device for other activities like listening to their favorite music can be a nice compromise.

Provide a Positive Example

Make no mistake: mobile distractions are not limited to teenagers. We all have either experienced or witnessed situations in which adults just cannot seem to disconnect from their screen. As a parent, that’s the worst possible situation. Instead, try to practice what you preach by setting an example of how to disconnect when necessary.

Set Some Ground Rules

Rules matter. For instance, smartphones should not appear during dinner, homework, or scheduled family time. Make sure everyone in the house – even older children and adults – adheres to these rules. To make this easier, consider using a service that hides all your kids’ apps or locks their screens during these important times.

 Limit Screentime When Necessary

Limit screentime and set a regular schedule that gives your child time each day away from their mobile devices so that they have time to explore other activities and interests.

It is always easier to manage your children’s screentime, content and apps on mobile devices when you use a trustworthy parental control. A service like Netsanity allows parents to instill balance and safety with mobile devices for their children, making sure that when it’s time to eat, sleep, drive, or study, their mobile device is not a distraction.

Teens and Sexting

Teenagers spend a lot of time on their mobile devices watching videos, posting on social media, and talking to each other via text and instant messaging. As a parent, you might not think much of it; after all, they’re probably making plans, gossiping, or flirting.

Unfortunately, that flirting might not be as innocent as you think.

The Prevalence of SextingTeens And Sexting

In 2014, Time reported on research that found 54 percent of college students had “sent or received ‘sexually explicit text messages or images’ when they were under age 18,” most of it flirtatious or within their romantic relationships. A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics indicated that 20 percent of middle school students with text-capable phones had received a sext, while five percent admitted to sending one.

David DeMatteo, of the Drexel University research mentioned in Time, was quoted in the article:

“We were shocked by the prevalence and the frequency of sexting among minors…We were struck by how many of those surveyed seem to think of sexting as a normal, standard way of interacting with their peers.”

Sex texting (sexting) can include a variety of messages and images, including nude selfies, videos depicting sex acts, and messages proposing or referring to sex. According to Psychology Today, teens may sext because they believe it will help their relationship or help them get a boyfriend or girlfriend in the first place. Some of them are pressured to send naked images of themselves.

The Dangers of SextingTeen Hurt By Other Kids Finding Out About Sexting

For teenagers, sexting may seem a bit racy and exciting, but most of them don’t realize the dangers associated with the behavior.

  • Blackmail and Humiliation: A teenager may put more trust in the recipient of a naked selfie than is deserved. It’s easy for the recipient to share that photo with other friends or even post it online. In some cases, the recipient may use the photo to blackmail the sender: for example, he/she may threaten to post the photo online if he/she does not continue to send new ones or if they put a stop to their real-life romantic or sexual relationship. This can lead to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem for the person who originally sent the photo.
  • Permanence: Once a photo or video is out there, it never really goes away. Not only could that cause ongoing hurt and humiliation, it could cause problems or bring up questions when the subject of the photo applies for college or a job. Not only that, those images could be hijacked and used on unsavory websites.
  • Unsafe Sexual Activity: The Pediatrics study also showed a correlation between sexting and real-life sexual activity: those who sext are more likely to report having sex, too. As the article says, “…early sexual debut is correlated with higher rates of sexually transmitted infections and teen pregnancies…”, making it essential for a sex talk to include a talk about sexting.
  • Legal Issues: From a USA Today article: “…a teen who takes a photo of himself or another minor has unwittingly become a creator of child pornography. If the photo is texted or emailed, that teen has just distributed child pornography. Even more unsettling, the individual who downloads the photo is now in possession of child porn.” This can–and has–resulted in felony charges. (Take a look at this story from Massachusetts a couple of years ago, and this one from New Mexico in October 2017.) Some states have made laws specifically regarding sexting that serve to differentiate it from child pornography, while others have not.

Protecting Your TeenagersHow To Protect Your Teen | Netsanity

Psychology Today and the American Academy of Pediatrics offer advice about sexting and how to protect your kids:

  • Communication: It’s challenging but essential for a variety of issues when it comes to raising children. Make sure your kids know they can and should talk to you if someone is sending or pressuring them to send explicit photos or messages.
  • Understand the Sexting Laws: These laws still vary by state, so make sure you know your state’s stance on sexting and teenagers.
  • Stay Up-to-Date on Technology and Apps: You might be friends with your child on Facebook, but totally unaware of a new site or app that is getting your teen’s attention. Do your research on popular social media sites and trends, and talk to other parents about what they notice about their own children’s behavior.
  • Talk About Sex–and Sexting: The sexting talk is becoming as important as the sex talk. Make sure your kids understand the risks of sending explicit messages and especially nude photos. Again, reiterate that if they find themselves the victim of blackmail or revenge porn or nonconsensual porn, they should come to you immediately.
  • Check Up on Their Online Behavior: You don’t have to be secretive about this, which would only serve to build distrust and alienation between you and your teen. Instead, tell your kids that you need access to their passwords and profiles as part of them being allowed to use the internet or own a mobile device.
  • Use Parental Controls: Set guidelines about internet use and make sure your child sticks to them by using trustworthy parental controls on their mobile devices. You can block certain sites and apps (or even entire categories of unsavory sites), and limit the amount of time they spend online. Additionally, if sexting does become a problem parental controls like Netsanity let you disable the camera. Additionally, blocking the internet or distracting apps at night, for example, you can help your kids do homework and get a good night’s sleep rather than be tempted to communicate with their friends and romantic interests.

Sexting is common among teenagers, and in most cases, it doesn’t result in blackmail or felony charges. However, it is up to all of us to teach our children and teens that the risk is not worth it!

Keeping Up With “Generation App”

Digital trends are constantly changing. Teens move seamlessly from one app to another while parents are left wondering whatever happened to MySpace. From Snapchat to FOMO to Finstas, it’s hard to keep track of what kids are doing and saying online.

Luckily, the 2017 NCSA Parent/Teen Online Safety Survey by the National Cyber Security Alliance is helping us keep up with “Generation App” by offering some insight on how kids communicate online, what their concerns are, and how parents can help.

Teens Spend a Lot of Time OnlineGeneration App

That’s no surprise to parents, right? Even the teens themselves admit it: 28 percent say they spend “too much” time online; 46 percent say they’re on their devices a little more often than they’d really like. As of 2015, teens were spending about nine hours per day with online entertainment like music, videos, and social media. Of course, accessing the internet is easier than ever, considering that 82 percent of teens who go online have their own smartphones.

What Teens Do OnlineKeeping Up With Generation App - What Teens Do Online

Instagram and Snapchat surpassed Facebook as the most popular social media sites, and 59 percent of teens use social media on a frequent basis. When you look at boys and girls separately, you’ll see that girls use social media more than boys do: 70 percent compared to 49 percent.

In fact, there are a lot of differences when it comes to how boys and girls use and experience the internet. For example:

  • 70 percent of girls and 51 percent of boys listen to music.
  • 35 percent of girls and 51 percent of boys play games.
  • 41 percent of girls and 29 percent of boys are bullied because of their appearance.
  • 15 percent of girls and 24 percent of boys are bullied because of their political beliefs.

Here’s some good news: 52 percent of teens actually use their devices for homework and studying.

Family Rules…and Arguments

While today’s parents might have grown up arguing with their own parents about clothes, curfews, or the company they kept, today’s teens and parents argue about screen time. Disagreements about when to put the smartphone down are reported by 22 percent of teens and 26 percent of parents.

If you’ve set down some guidelines about your child’s internet use, you’re not alone: most teens have some rules, which may include some of these popular ones:

Still, 28 percent of teens say they have no rules about how or when they use their devices (though only eight percent of parents say there are no rules). Even those who do have rules still admit to some online activity that they keep secret from their parents, like a secret social media account.

Online Safety

Interestingly, many members of “generation app” believe it’s their own responsibility to stay safe online, while many parents think it’s their job to keep their kids safe. The majority of parents and teens believe that internet usage guidelines help to keep them safe, and “In terms of enforcement, both teens and parents agree that taking a device away remains the most effective measure.”

Though sometimes it seems as though teens act without any regard for consequences, which can be a serious issue when it comes to online safety, the survey shows that many teens are “very concerned” about certain safety issues online. These are their top eight concerns:

  • Someone accessing their accounts without permission.
  • Someone sharing personal information about them.
  • Someone posting a private photo or video of them.
  • Someone posting lies about them.
  • Someone sending unwanted messages that make them uncomfortable.
  • Accidentally sharing Fake News.
  • Being pressured to bully someone.
  • Being bullied themselves.

Teenagers, as well as their parents, also indicated a desire to keep learning about certain safety issues. For the teens, these are their top five areas of interest:

  • Preventing identity theft
  • How to identify fake emails and posts
  • Keeping their devices secure
  • How to stay safe on free Wifi networks
  • Ransomware/malware and phishing scams

How to Use This Information

As a parent, this survey provides a starting point in considering how your own child uses the internet and provides a place from which to start a conversation with your teen.

Learn Together: As the survey indicates, most likely your teens are not oblivious when it comes to online dangers. Ask them what their biggest concerns are–chances are, some of them match yours, as was the case with teens and parents in the survey. Together, take the opportunity to learn more about preventing identity theft (the topic survey parents are also most interested in learning about) or identifying fake news.

Ask About Their Safety Measures: Considering that many teens consider it their own responsibility to stay safe online, ask them what precautions they’re taking. Empower them to make safe choices.

Offer Your Support: More than one-third of teens in the survey said that someone has been mean to them online. Cyberbullying is especially damaging because it’s hard for kids to get away from it. Though many teens in the survey report seeking help from their friends when they have a negative experience on the internet, they need to know you’re there and will help them in a serious situation, like extreme bullying or blackmail.

Know How Your Teen Spends Time Online: Keep up with the social media sites your teens like to use and be aware of (and when) the trends change by reading technology news and talking with other parents.

It’s Not Just You: If your kids are saying their friends don’t have internet rules or that their friends don’t have to fight with their parents about their mobile devices, you know that’s probably not true. These disagreements are part of modern child-rearing, though by using trustworthy parental controls and setting the guidelines early in your children’s lives and sticking to them, you may be able to help prevent some of those arguments.

Set Guidelines: Again, you’re not alone. The survey shows that many households have rules about the internet, and many of the teens believe them to be helpful. Parental controls can be helpful in limiting your teen’s internet usage, both in the time spent and the sites or apps visited.

In the end, staying safe online requires teamwork: parents and teens can work together to ensure an enjoyable online experience despite the risks of modern technology.

Young Children Gone Mobile: Takeaways From the Common Sense Media Study

What are your kids doing today?

You might say they’re going to school or daycare. Maybe they’ll have a piano lesson or soccer practice, then have dinner with the family. Somewhere in the middle of all that, they’ll spend more than two hours in front of a screen.

Common Sense Media recently released their 2017 report, The Common Sense Census: Media Use By Kids Age Zero to Eight, which shares significant findings of how children engage with mobile devices and media activities. Of the average two hours and 19 minutes that a child under the age of eight spends with a screen in a single day, nearly an hour of that is devoted to television.

However, the way the rest of that time is spent has been changing over the last several years. In 2011, for example, those children spent five minutes a day on a mobile device.

In 2017, they’re spending an average of 48 minutes per day using smartphones or tablets.

Mobile Is Everywhere

Nowadays, 98 percent of kids under the age of eight have some sort of mobile device at home; 42 percent have their own tablet (and four percent have their own smartphone). Compare that to one percent in 2011 and seven percent in 2013, and you can see just how quickly the trend has grown.

Screentime for Children Under Age Eight

Though some of this media consumption is via television or computer, when it comes to mobile devices, kids spent most of their time playing mobile games or watching videos. A little time is spent video chatting, and another seven minutes is categorized as “anything else on a mobile device” that is not games, videos, chatting, or reading–perhaps to include homework, internet browsing, or even social media.

As may be expected, 64 percent of the online videos children watch “often/sometimes” are learning videos. Another 46 percent are animal videos, while 38 percent are how-to videos. With those stats, it seems that this media consumption is positive and educational.

However, another 34 percent of “often” or “sometimes” watched videos are product demonstrations, and 20 percent are challenge/stunt videos.

Are Parents Concerned?Children Using Mobile Devices

Technology, of course, is a big part of our lives, and kids will most likely need to be proficient in its use as they go to school and eventually start careers. Sixty-seven percent of parents believe their children benefit scholastically from digital media, while 57 percent believe it helps their children be creative. However, even more parents are concerned about violence, sexual content, and exposure to advertising; a full 70 percent are concerned about the amount of time their kids spend with their screens.

As this USA Today coverage of the report points out, “When a child can walk around with a tablet, watching videos, playing games and switching from app to app, it’s much harder for parents to monitor and limit screen time…”

Finding the BalanceYoung Kids Using Phones and Tablets Early

Today’s kids are naturally good with digital devices. Using a smartphone is intuitive, and it’s not difficult for them to find and use apps that you might not want them to.

We normally think of screen and internet guidelines as something our teenagers need, but young children benefit, as well. First of all, growing up in a home that has always had rules about mobile devices means the guidelines are a normal part of everyday life as your kids become teenagers.  Limiting screentime from an early age gives your kids time to explore other activities they could grow to love and maintain as a part of their lives through high school.

Kids on Mobile Devices | Common Sense Media | Netsanity

Here are a few other tips for balancing your children’s media use:

  • Keep Reading: Children of all ages should be read to every day; however, only 43 percent of kids under age two are read to that frequently. Take 15-30 minutes that your child might spend in front of a screen and use it as reading time.
  • Call Your Devices “The Family’s”: Until it’s absolutely necessary for your family, avoid giving your child a mobile device that they call their own. Instead, give him or her access to “The Family Devices” at certain times or for certain reasons. The USA Today article quotes pediatrician Corinn Cross: “It becomes much harder for parents to regulate when the child thinks it’s ‘their’ tablet.”
  • Model Good Mobile Behavior: Don’t use your smartphone anytime you don’t want your child to use one, such as while eating breakfast or performing a specific task.
  • Always Use Parental Controls: When your child is ready for his own device, use trustworthy parental controls to limit the number of hours he/she can spend using it. You can even use those controls on your own device to block certain apps and categories of sites you don’t want your children to access when they’re using a smartphone or tablet.

 

Like…Flirt…Roast…Ghost: How Teens Use Social Media

Teens are constantly finding new ways to use social media–including methods that you might not understand. Social media has its own set of rules and standards, many of which are completely different from the types of rules that govern normal conversation. In order to understand the impact this has on many teenagers, it’s necessary for parents to be familiar with the rules–and how their teens will react to what others post according to those rules.

LikesLike - Facebook like button: How Teens Use Social Media

There’s a certain thrill of excitement when many of your followers like a post that you’ve put up–but for teens, it’s more than that. When a friend posts something on social media, especially on a platform like Facebook or Instagram, likes are expected. For close friends, comments are equally important. Many teens note, however, that those comments need not be extensive. Rather, they’re a simple reaction and acknowledgment that the content has been seen. Failure to like or comment on a friend’s post can mean more than just a busy schedule or random scrolling that wasn’t accompanied by a need to comment; rather, many teens will view it as a slight.

FlirtingEmojis - How Teens Use Social Media

It’s probably no surprise that flirting also takes place on social media. It’s a safe platform to find out whether or not someone of the opposite gender is interested–and as a parent, you may not even recognize the signs of flirting. If you’ve noticed that your teen is starting to pay serious attention to posts by someone of the opposite sex or that their posts are receiving a lot of attention, you might want to look for these signs of flirting.

  • They’ve gone through and liked several posts or photos in a row.
  • They’re regularly commenting back and forth on each other’s posts–including lighthearted comments that don’t seem to have any greater meaning.
  • They’re sending the heart-eyes emoji to one another on a regular basis.

GhostingGhosting - Teens Use Social Media Different

Ghosting someone online, or simply disappearing from conversation or no longer commenting on their content, it isn’t as uncommon as many adults may think. In fact, for teens, ghosting is a normal part of social media interaction. When the conversation gets uninteresting or stale, it’s normal to simply stop the discussion without sending anything else–and it’s often not meant as an offensive statement of disinterest. As a parent,  the only time you need to worry about ghosting is when your teen seems to be negatively impacted–that is, when they were very interested in talking with someone who has gone silent on them, or when they seem to have been ghosted by most of their friends at once. Otherwise, most teens believe that ghosting decisions are typically mutual.

Roasting  Teens May Use Social Media to Bully - Roasting

Roasting is one of the most dangerous online behaviors of many teens. In what they claim to be a lighthearted gathering, they get together online and hurl supposedly joking insults at a specific individual. While many teens will claim that this is “in good fun,” the truth is, these behaviors are very hurtful–and they can lead to self-esteem issues, depression, and more in the target of their insults. Insulting others, especially as a group, is always considered bullying behavior and should be stopped as soon as possible.

Monitor How Teens Use Social Media Using Parental Controls

As an adult, you may not even be aware of all of the things that can take place online. While you can’t protect your child from everything, you can remain aware of the behaviors that are most common among teens and tweens and monitor your child’s social media interactions in order to ensure that they will continue to behave appropriately online. To make it easier from the start use a trust-worthy parental control software that gives you the ability to schedule time off-line as well as block dangerous content and inappropriate apps.

Online Shaming: What Can Parents Do?

There’s something about the anonymity of sitting behind a computer screen that makes many people especially teenagers, tweens and even adults feel as though their words are free of consequences.  After all, they aren’t attacking real people, just little avatars on the screen. Unfortunately, online shaming can have severe real-world consequences. All of us, but especially those that suffer from low self-esteem, struggle with removing those negative comments from their minds, and sometimes online shaming can lead to serious depression.

Document Shaming or BullyingDocument Online Shaming | Netsanity

Online bullying is just as vicious as bullying in the real world, and in some cases, like sharing nude images of minors, it’s illegal! No matter what your child has experienced, make sure that you document the abuse appropriately. Make sure that your child knows that they need to come to you immediately when bullying occurs online or off and each time document what you can of the instance, no matter how small it may seem at the time. This will help you build a case again their bully if ever needed.

Communicate With Your KidsCommunicate With Your Kids About Online Bullying

Keep the lines of communication open with your child. Once bullying has begun, there’s no use in berating your child for keeping inappropriate company, sharing images that they shouldn’t have shared, or other behaviors that may have possibly led up to the online shaming. As their parent, you need to be solidly on their side, not excusing their mistakes. However, it is an opportunity to guide them to make better choices in the future without increasing their sense of shame in the present. Make sure your teen or tween knows that you’re available to talk to them.

Get Help When You Need ItHelp With Online Shaming Issues

If your teen or tween is starting to show signs of depression as a result of the online shaming or bullying incident, we encourage you to make sure that they receive the professional help that they need. Work with a reputable, trusted counselor or physician to rebuild their self-esteem and to help provide them with the internal tools to overcome any emotional issues or destructive behavior.

Remove Platforms Used for Bullying

Blocking Apps on Mobile Devices | Netsanity
Blocking Apps on Mobile Devices | Netsanity

Where possible, you and your child should make a point to block the bully from all of their social media accounts. Unfortunately, this alone isn’t always enough to keep your child safe. It’s okay to remove specific social media platforms or apps temporarily, especially if they’re causing more distress than good at this stage of their life.

Implement Online Behavior RulesSocial Media Shaming Tips for Parents and Families | Netsanity

As a parent, you need to have rules that govern your children’s online behavior. This includes using trustworthy mobile parental control software on their devices, as well as monitoring their accounts regularly so that you’ll know if problems are starting to occur.  We always encourage doing this the old fashioned way by spot checking devices directly since teens can have several different accounts set up on each social media network. Even some that they may have “forgotten” to discuss to you. Make sure that you regularly discuss your “family rules” for social media, when they need to come to you or even to a  trusted school counselor if they feel that they are being shamed online or on social media, or bullied instead of retaliating against the bully.

Final Thoughts

In some cases, it might not be that your child is the victim of internet shaming or bullying.  You may find out that your child is the instigator. That is why it is always important that you talk regularly in your family about online shaming, including roasting, bullying, and other online behaviors. Our children today are growing up as digital citizens. They need to be aware of the impact that their online behaviors can have, not only on their peers but even on their own futures.

To give your family a better understanding and to learn more about what online shaming looks like check out this excellent book by Sue Scheff.

Shame Nation is the first book to both study the fascinating phenomenon of online shaming, and offer practical guidance including professional advice on how to prevent and protect against online blunders and bullies.  Let us know what you think!

Smartphones at Night

The teenage years have always come with unique challenges. The parents and even grandparents of today’s teens might remember what it was like to be bullied at school, to have a hard time fitting in, or to battle with low self-esteem and disagreements with parents.

Of course, now teenagers have smartphones and other mobile devices, which present a new set of concerns including cyberbullying, online predators, access to pornography and digital addiction.  CBS This Morning reported on a new study that indicates some new risks of using smartphones late at night, increased anxiety and depression and decreased self-esteem in teens. It is the first study to make a direct link between screen time and mental health.

Smartphone Use at Night Could Lead to Increased Anxiety and Depression in Teens

When teenagers use a mobile device at night, perhaps staying up late and chatting with friends, commenting on social media posts, or waking up in the middle of the night to check notifications, it creates a domino effect in their lives. They get poor sleep, so they’re tired and if like most teens probably will end up grumpy the next day. This leads to poorer performance at school and even misbehavior. CBS The Morning goes on to say that depressed teens end up using social media even more often, reinforcing the unfortunate cycle.

This study could explain why rates of anxiety and depression among teens have risen in the last 25 years.

Here are a few tips to decrease your teen’s internet usage and to help protect their mental health.

Start Early Anxiety and Depression in Teens Linked to Smartphone Use at Night

Implement rules about technology when your children are young! Put trustworthy parental controls in place that they are aware of and that cannot be circumvented from the start so that rules around technology use are instilled early on. If the habits around screentime and social media are in place from the beginning it will be easier to keep your child in balance throughout their teen years. If you are a little late to the game with rules regarding devices and screentime don’t lose hope or think that it is too late. You may face some resistance with your teens at first but if you continue to communicate with them to develop better screentime and social media habits chances are their willingness to talk and cooperate just might surprise you!

Model Good HabitsModel Good Smartphone Habits

Considering that 90% of Americans use the internet and 69% of adults use social media, it’s obvious that teens aren’t the only ones who might be getting too much screentime. It is a good opportunity for you to connect with your teenagers, because you, too, know how hard it can be to your phone down. By demonstrating a willingness to limit your screentime, you set a great example for your children. Why not take this opportunity to include yourself in some of the guidelines that set for your children.

Expect ResistanceWhat Happens When Teens Use Smartphones at Night?

When parents make rules around social media and internet use, teens are probably not going to like them. If you do receive a kickback, try to remind yourself that you are doing what you need to do to protect them from the dangers that they might not believe could affect them. There are enough challenges these days to being a teenager without adding an additional for depression and anxiety with excessive late-night mobile device use.

SolutionsAnxiety and Depression in Teens Increased by Nighttime Smartphone Use

Using parental controls that cannot be circumvented on our children and teenagers mobile devices is a simple way to help enforce internet usage rules. Use them to disable internet access during certain res that for good or just while your teen is doing homework or sleeping. As your child and teen grow, you can change settings as you see fit and keep the lines of communication open around screentime and social media use for a happy and well-balanced relationship with social media and internet usage in your family.

Today’s Teens: Taking Their Time

Any parent will say their kids are growing up too fast, but when it comes to today’s teens, that’s not exactly true anymore. It might still seem so, but a new study published in the journal Child Development tells a different story.

According to Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and the lead author of the study, 40 years of data from more than eight million teenagers show that today’s teens “…are taking longer to engage in both the pleasures and the responsibilities of adulthood.”

The Good News…and the Bad NewsTeen Development 2017 | Netsanity

“Twenge concludes that today’s 18-year-olds are living more like 15-year-olds did in previous generations.” Teenagers today are less likely than teens in the 70s, 80s, or 90s to consume alcohol, go on dates, or have sex. As a result, the teen birth rate has been in a steady decline for the last 20 years. Teenagers are now less likely to engage in the risky behaviors that traditionally have kept parents up at night. (Sometimes literally, waiting for the teens to come home!)

However, there’s another side to this.

Today’s teens are also taking longer to get a driver’s license or a job; in other words, they’re taking longer to become independent. This is indicative of a switch to a slow life strategy as explained in the study: “A slow life strategy involves delayed gratification with later reproduction, whereas a fast life strategy involves undertaking reproductive tasks and becoming independent of one’s parents sooner.”

These behaviors, from drinking alcohol to getting a job, may seem completely isolated, but they are actually closely linked:

“Adolescents often use alcohol as a precursor to sexual activity, and alcohol use is related to number of sexual partners…. Driving is related to dating…as it allows adolescents to go on dates without parent chaperones and explore their sexuality away from parental supervision. In general, adolescents must establish independence from their parents to facilitate mating and reproduction…; in modern times independence might involve working…going out without one’s parents, and driving.”

This is extending past the teenage years into adulthood, as more and more people are waiting longer to get married, have children, and settle into long-term employment.

Why Is This Happening?

The study says it’s probably not about homework or extra-curricular activities, which have stayed the same or even declined over the years. One possible contributing factor? The internet.

As we well know, teenagers today spend a lot of time online: 92 percent of them are online every day, and 24 percent are “almost constantly” on the internet. This has most certainly changed dating behavior. Nowadays, half of those ages 13-17 have used social media to flirt or express interest in someone. They stay in close contact with each other online, and perhaps aren’t spending as much time together in person. Dating apps have also made it easier to meet potential partners from the comfort of your living room.

And after spending an average of nine hours per day online, who has time to try that first beer, study for a driving exam, or go on a date?

What Can Parents Do?

Trends like these are more powerful than any individual parent, but we do still have the opportunity to influence our children for the better. Remember, there are some benefits to this trend, and by following guidelines for screen time, today’s children and teens can participate in our modern, technological world and still find time for real-life activities and connections.

This can start by placing trustworthy parental controls on your child’s mobile device. Block dating apps and other unsavory sites to encourage that trend of engaging in less risky behavior, and disable the internet during the times you want your teenager to be present for whatever is happening in real life: sleep, dinner, homework, or a family vacation. Encourage your teenager to get a part-time job or start a small business babysitting or walking dogs, or simply to pursue interests that may lead him or her to a fulfilling career.

 

The Perfect Selfie: Apps Parents Need to Be Aware Of

It’s no secret that teens (and “some adults”) love selfies. Millennials are expected to take more than 25,000 selfies in their lives, and studies have shown that the average millennial devotes an hour a week to perfecting those shots with multiple angles and editing. If it’s tempting to doubt the numbers or the impact of our selfie culture, consider this: in 2015, selfies caused more deaths than shark attacks as people fell off a cliff or down the stairs in an attempt to get an epic shot.

The Perfect SelfieSelfie Apps - The Ones Parents Need to Know About

At first, a teenager might look up some articles like this one, which offers tips for how to take a great selfie. From there, the quest for the perfect selfie might include a few dangerous stunts and multiple shots as the subject tries to capture him or herself in the best possible light. Add a filter and you’re ready to show your best face to the world on social media.

Or, perhaps, there’s one more step. Teens can take their need to look “perfect” to a new level with body altering apps. With a couple of swipes in these selfie apps, they can remove blemishes, whiten their teeth, and even reshape and resize their bodies. Though we have long been correcting red-eye and removing pimples from our most important photos, making more drastic changes can be damaging to self-esteem and lead to eating disorders or body dysmorphic disorder:

“…some users alter themselves to have unrealistic proportions, unblemished skin and no fat, until they almost look ‘like anime characters.’ These young people often end up feeling isolated, because their reality does not match the fantasy they present…”

Body Altering Selfie Apps

As you monitor your child’s smartphone use, keep an eye out for body altering selfie apps like these:

  • Facetune
  • Spring
  • Plastic Surgery Simulator Lite
  • Body Plastic Surgery
  • Perfect 365
  • Airbrush
  • YouCam Perfect
  • Photowonder

If you notice your teen’s social media profiles full of images that don’t look much like him or her, it might be time to have a talk. Time offers some suggestions on how to speak to your children about body image in elementary, middle, and high school.

Other Selfie ConcernsSelfie Apps Concerns

The obsession with perfection and portraying an unrealistic image of yourself is not the only downside to selfie culture. There are at least two other main concerns to be aware of:

Nude or Provocative Selfies: Public social media selfies aren’t the only ones being altered. This article discusses the growing problem of nude selfies in Utah high schools. Teens send these photos to each other without realizing the dangers. The pictures could be used to blackmail or humiliate the sender, or they may be seen by people who weren’t intended to see them. Furthermore:

“‘You could be charged with creating and distributing child pornography, even though it’s just a picture of yourself. If you are the boyfriend with that picture on the phone, you could be charged with being in possession of child pornography,’ said Donald S. Strassberg, a professor at the University of Utah’s Department of Psychology.”

Smartphone Addiction: Selfie obsession could help fuel a smartphone addiction; CNN reported that half of the teenagers feel like they’re addicted to their devices. Compulsive internet usage can leave your teens feeling anxious, isolated, or irritated when they’re not allowed to check their phones; their grades, social lives, sleep, and ultimately their health may suffer.

While you wouldn’t want to prohibit your teens from using the internet, it is reasonable to monitor their usage and set some guidelines for their health and safety. With trustworthy parental controls, you can choose to block select sites and apps, like the most popular body altering apps. You can even disable the camera if you feel like your teen needs a break from taking pics! This simple step, combined with limits on the hours of internet usage, might prevent your teen from diving down the rabbit hole that is the pursuit of the perfect selfie.

 

Pornography: Not Just a Boy Problem

As a parent, you might assume or have come to terms with the fact that your sons will probably, at some point, seek out pornography. They’re curious, and it’s easy enough to find on the internet, sometimes without even looking for it.

It’s what boys do, right?

Here’s the part you might not have assumed or even imagined: it’s what girls do, too.

Yes. Teenage girls watch porn, too.Girls and Pornography

Before they turn 18, 60 percent of girls have seen porn. Often, it’s because of sheer curiosity.

The trouble is, they’re not necessarily satisfying or outgrowing that curiosity. Porn use can become compulsive or addictive, and while this problem is often addressed openly for men (as in this Men’s Fitness article), it can be harder for girls to get the help they need.

Girls might feel ashamed of their porn habits, precisely because the idea of girls viewing pornography isn’t as common as boys watching porn. Think about it: “…the vast majority of porn images and videos in mainstream porn contain men dominating women, not the other way around. And you never see movies that show girls stuffing stacks of porn magazines under their mattresses…” (source)

Consider these words from this article from Nicole, a girl whose compulsive porn use began at the age of 13:

“I didn’t seek help for my addiction because I felt I was a freak of nature because I was sure that I was the ONLY woman who struggled with a man’s disease. I remember looking up articles and blogs about recovering from pornography addiction, and everything I found was about men, for men, written by men. So, clearly, I was the only one.”

The Dangers

Aside from compulsive behavior that can impact a girl’s life for years, there’s another danger to pornography. For a girl who has not yet engaged in sexual activity, pornography is her only idea of what sex should be. Unfortunately, the sex depicted in porn often includes female submission and violence. It can give a girl the thought that her mission in a sexual encounter is to please the man at all costs. It can give her the idea that abuse is an acceptable way to express love.

Consider the famous book and movie 50 Shades of Grey, in which the main characters engage in a sexual relationship that is often violent–yet, supposedly, they love each other. And 50 Shades is out in the open. Finding it is as simple as going to your local bookstore or streaming the movie online.

Now consider that 1 out of 5 mobile searches on Google is for pornography and that teenagers spend an average of almost nine hours a day consuming media. It’s all too easy for them to access one or more of the millions of pornography sites on the web. (Just how many sites are there? Back in 2014, Time reported more than 20 million porn sites, not to mention the inappropriate content that shows up on social media and via text and email.)

How to Protect Your ChildrenMost professionals agree that the first thing you should not do is assume that your daughter wouldn’t view pornography. She may be watching more often, and it’s unlikely she would talk to you about it out of fear and embarrassment. Consider that your daughters, as well as your sons, might be using their mobile devices to access pornographic material. From there, here’s what you can do:

  • Communicate: Start now, no matter how old your children are. Work to develop an open, honest line of communication. These conversations can help your kids feel comfortable enough to reach out to you for help if they ever start to develop a compulsive porn habit or any other dangerous or destructive behavior.
  • Talk About Sex: It can be difficult to many parents but keep in mind how important it is to be able to speak with your children about sex. If they know they can come to you for honest, non-judgmental information, they won’t feel as much need to seek other sources of information, be that pornography or their peers. Make sure your children know that a healthy sexual relationship is “…consensual, mutually enjoyable, based on a trust and love, and absent of violence.
  • Use Trustworthy Parental Controls: Don’t leave your child’s web browsing to chance. With parental controls that work, you can block specific sites, inappropriate apps and entire categories of sites so that your kids or teens can’t access pornography, accidentally or intentionally, on their devices.

Maintaining a sense of control over your child’s internet use provides peace of mind for you and a safer, happier childhood for them.

The Dangers for Children on Social Media

According to eMarketer.com, 5.7 million children under the age of 11 have accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat–all of which have age restrictions that are intended to keep children from using them. In order to have these accounts, children are lying about their age–and in many cases, it’s permitted by their parents. Do your children have accounts on these common sites? If so, they’re more at risk than you may realize if you are not using parental controls.

Pornography

While Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat might not seem to be breeding grounds for pornography, unfortunately, it’s all too common. Even Facebook’s seemingly innocent ads may lead to a child being exposed to material that they’re not ready for–and Snapchat is a perfect source for pornographic material, particularly since that material isn’t saved long-term on any device. Instagram, too, has its dark side: in many cases, children are exposed to pictures of a pornographic nature while performing routine searches or simply browsing.

Predators

You think your child’s account is locked up tight. You control their friends list or the list of people who are allowed to follow them, and you’re careful to check it on a regular basis. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough to protect them completely. Predators may masquerade as seemingly innocent contacts and followers. What starts as an innocent conversation in a group or on a thread your child is following will rapidly become a closer relationship that devolves into a request for pictures or even plans for an in-person meetup. In other cases, your child’s followers may be using their seemingly innocent pictures for less-innocent purposes.

Cyberbullying

The days when bullies were restricted to the halls of school or the playground are long gone. Today’s bullies have a whole new world open in front of them. Through Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, bullies can torment their victims in new ways. Not only that, if you aren’t monitoring your child’s account carefully, you might not notice signs of bullying–from roasting or posting inappropriate comments to excluding your child online–until it’s too late.

Low Self-Esteem

On most popular social media sites, people post the best of their lives: perfect selfies, great pictures of their favorite activities, and information about their awards and honors. Unfortunately, many children end up comparing their everyday lives–or even the worst of their lives–to the best of their friends’ lives. This can lead to significant self-esteem issues, especially when children are confronted with unrealistic photos that have been photo-shopped or had filters applied.

Protecting Your Child

Almost half of today’s kids (around 45%) were, according to Nielsen, between the ages of 10 and 12 when they received their first smart phone. 90% of parents provided this level of connectivity in order to get in touch with their children easier. Unfortunately, it also offers your children the ability to access material that could be dangerous. If you want to keep your children safe, the only way to do so is by always using  trust-worthy parental controls. Parental controls block dangerous content, social apps that they are not ready to use and to keep your child from accessing materials that they aren’t mature enough to stumble upon.

Additionally, make sure that you’re regularly reviewing any social media sites that your child is allowed to have–and carefully consider whether or not you want to allow your children to have social media sites before they meet the minimum age requirements. While the “everyone else has one” argument is compelling for many parents who don’t want to feel as though they’re preventing their child from fitting in, it’s also a slippery slope that can lead your child astray.

Are Parents Feeling Pressured to Provide an “Instagrammable” Lifestyle?

“instagrammable”
– A Photo or a Picture that is worth posting on Instagram.

(Urban Dictionary)

Raising children in a digital world is not for the faint of heart. It’s an unprecedented parenting challenge; your own parents had no such experience when they were raising you. Parents today are figuring it out as they go along.

However, no parent is a stranger to the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses” when it comes to their children. Kids have always been hyper-aware of what the other kids have, be it designer jeans or the latest smartphone.

Way back in 2007, Time posted this article about extravagant children’s birthday parties, quoting a mother who said, “You have to perform to a certain level…It’s no longer a family thing — it’s an event.”Your Child's Life on Instagram - Being Insta-Famous

Social science professor William Doherty is also quoted in the article:

“A lot of parents feel they’re on a birthday-party treadmill that gets faster every year. They’re afraid their birthday party won’t measure up and their child will be disappointed.”

No End in Sight

In 2015, a Slate article pointed out that this birthday extravagance has continued to grow.

With social media, it seems to be getting worse and extending beyond birthdays into other areas of your child’s life. Hashtags like #RichKidsofSnapchat highlight social media posts featuring helicopters, parties, mansions, expensive jewelry, and stacks of money. Parents help show off that wealth by taking their children on designer shopping sprees. The Rich Kids of Instagram are cruising around in private jets, yachts, and Ferraris.

The Pressure to Provide an “Instagrammable” LifestyleInstagrammable Lifestyle - Are Parents Pressured Into It?

Are parents feeling pressured to provide their children with the newest and the best, to offer a lifestyle worthy of its own Instagram hashtag?

Maybe you’re not feeling that Ferrari-level pressure, but chances are, you’re feeling something.

In 2016, almost half of surveyed parents in the United Kingdom (and 70 percent of parents in London) indicated yes, they do feel that pressure, and they spend more money every year when they succumb to it. The items they feel most pressured to provide are the latest smartphones and tablets, clothes, and trips. Kids and teens proudly snap pictures of their new acquisitions and experiences and post them to Snapchat and Instagram.

What Can You Do Now?

U.S. News & World Report reminds us that many Americans have to live beyond their means in order for their kids to have lavish parties and the latest technology (not to mention their own cars and houses), noting a 2015 study that showed 37 percent of Americans had more (or equal) credit card debt than emergency savings.

Teenagers are spending an average of nine hours a day using media. Of course, they’re going to see photos of other teens who have (or make themselves appear to have) a luxury lifestyle; your teens might then turn to you, expecting the same.

The U.S. News article offers a simple tip for keeping things in perspective:

“Next time you’re about to make a big purchase…examine your motives. Are you purchasing this item or service because you really need it? Or because you’re worried about what the neighbors (or your kids or in-laws or best friends or whoever) think of you? If the answer is that you just want to look more successful, walk away.”

Keep in mind that experiences, like a day at the park with your family, have been shown to bring more happiness than mere possessions. Your child’s new smartphone might make him or her feel good momentarily, but it is unlikely to provide any lasting happiness and will probably be followed by a desire for the next model.

Investing in experiences serves a couple of purposes: it gives you an opportunity to spend quality time with your family, and it encourages your children to take time away from their mobile devices. At Netsanity, we offer trustworthy parental controls that allow you to restrict internet usage during certain times of the day, so you can be sure your teens aren’t sneaking a look at Instagram while you’re all enjoying dinner. The less time they spend online, the fewer envy-inducing photos they’ll see, and the more enjoyment they’ll get from “real life” with their friends and family.

Safer Homeschooling: Don’t Forget the Parental Controls

Homeschooling our children is an optimal way to keep the safe and sheltered from negative influences and peer pressures.  Statistics from the National Household Education Survey (NHES) reveal that upwards of 90% of parents choose homeschooling out of concern for safety of their child’s environment.  However, while we may go the extra mile to guard against outside dangers and negative influences, an even greater danger may lurk within our own home.  This threat sits innocently on the desk as the family computer or even in the hands of our children in the form of a smartphone.  Internet is a must when it comes to education, but without suitable parental controls, this useful tool may become your family’s biggest threat. This school year don’t forget the parental controls when it comes to your homeschooler’s safety.  What makes parental controls so important, though?  What should I be protecting my child from?

Excessive screen timeSafe Homeschooling

Although homework may require lengthy internet hours for research and planning, spending too long in front of the computer results is serious issues.  A branch of eye-related disorders known as “Computer Vision Syndrome” develop from eye strain associated with too much screen time. These vision difficulties may become even more pronounced if your child already experiences some eye issues or wears glasses already. Excessive screen time affects the eye’s ability to focus and produces eye pain, headaches, and blurry or deficient vision. These effects tend to worsen over time if not caught. Kids and teens are not always aware of just how long they’ve sat in front of the computer.  Help them by reminding them to take frequent breaks or switch activities.

Inappropriate and Graphic MaterialSafer Homeschooling

While not always intentional, kids have the tendency to search out things they are curious about.  They may have heard a friend or stranger use a word or phrase they don’t understand; naturally, the internet seems like a good place for answers.  This type of accidental searching can lead to graphic exposure to inappropriate and dangerous websites. Porn, sketchy chat rooms, and risque videos are among the many potential threats kids may accidentally find.  Parental controls that filter out these websites and search options not only protect your child, but also your own internet security.

Social Media OverloadSocial Media & Homeschooling

We live in an extremely connected and social world.  It’s not unusual for everyone to want to known everything about everyone.  While a little social media is fun and safe for children, too much has negative emotional and psychological effects.  Jealously, cyberbullying, and damaged self-esteem are just a few issues that can result.  Always balance your child’s social media time with careful talks and discussions about what they see and experience.  Trustworthy parental controls can limit screen time and access to inappropriate websites and chat rooms.

Other Options to Consider

What about their smartphones?

Even these days with so much information available parents often remember to protect the family computer but forget to protect the mobile  devices that children use most and typically carry around with them all day.

What if I’m being too restrictive?

Pressure from other parents or even our own children can tend to make us feel like the bad guy when it comes to implementing parental controls.  We can’t completely shelter our children from every negative influence.  There does come a point when we must let our teenagers learn to have some freedom. However, it’s always better to error on the side of caution when it comes to protecting our children and teens whether it be physically, psychologically, or emotionally. Invest in trustworthy parental controls today and put up the necessary walls of protection to keep your family safe!

Today’s Teens Seek Approval Online

Deep down, we all want approval. We want to know we’re worthy and that our work matters in the world. As children, we might have done that with good behavior, good grades, or athletic or musical achievements, hoping our parents, teachers, and coaches would tell us we were on the right track. Today’s teens are doing those things, too, but many are also looking to the internet for validation.

Teens and Online ApprovalTeenagers and Online Approval | Netsanity

How Girls are Seeking (and Subverting) Approval Online, an article by Caroline Knorr, points out that documenting daily life activities on social media is “pretty much mandatory” for kids these days. It would be one thing if they used it merely as a visual diary of sorts and a means of jump-starting conversation, but those selfies turn into popularity contests and self-esteem boosters–or destroyers. For kids who already deal with negative body image and low self-esteem, this can be especially detrimental; considering that more than 50 percent of girls between the ages of six and eight already “feel their ideal body is thinner than their current body size,” having an anonymous peer comment negatively on their appearance can be devastating.

A teen might post a selfie and see who responds to it with likes and comments. In other cases, the teen asks for specific feedback, perhaps requesting a like on a Facebook post or asking, “Am I pretty?” in a YouTube video. As shown in this Yahoo News article from 2012, the comments someone can receive after posting something like that range from supportive to absolutely cruel.

The Role of Social MediaRole of Social Media in Online Approval and Teen Interactions | Netsanity

Knorr highlights Instagram, Snapchat, Hot or Not, YouTube, and #tbh as some of the tools teens use for sending and receiving feedback from peers. The hashtag means “to be honest” and it might accompany a request for judgment on a photo or a personal opinion of someone else’s photo. Instagram and Snapchat have recently become the most popular social media sites among teenagers.

Aside from the negativity that can stem from attention- and approval-seeking posts, there’s another issue: this type of approval focuses heavily on appearance. Teens aren’t generally asking for a thumbs up about their hobbies and activities and the associated skills. They’re asking about how they look.

The Focus on AppearanceA Focus on Appearances in Seeking Online Approval - Teens | Netsanity

Knorr mentions that girls are more affected by this than boys are, but boys, too, can succumb to pressures to look “cool” or achieve a muscular physique. Not only can the feedback lead to low self-esteem and poor body image, it could contribute to bigger problems like body dysmorphic disorder or eating disorders.

Empowering Your KidsEmpowering Your Kids | Netsanity

As a parent, what can you do to empower your children? How can you help them look inward for their own validation, rather than to social media?

Knorr suggests talking to your kids about why they post what they post, and asking them how the feedback they receive makes them feel. You can encourage positive body image by modeling it in your own life and identifying unrealistic photos and ideals in the media. You can also encourage your teens to post positive comments on their friends’ photos that have more to do with character and actions rather than appearances.

Cleveland Clinic also suggests several steps for enhancing body image, one of which is to “have positive experiences with your body.” This might include a sport or another physical activity like hiking or dancing. Encouraging your teens to get involved with these types of activities not only teaches them to develop skills and appreciate what their bodies can do (rather than only what they look like), it gives them the opportunity to spend some time away from their mobile devices.

Apps and sites like Instagram and YouTube provide a lot of positive opportunities to be creative and learn, while others, like Hot or Not and Rate My Body, are more focused on appearances and judgment. You should always use trustworthy parental controls on your teen’s mobile device to block apps like Hot or Not and any others you deem inappropriate, and to disable the internet entirely during the times you want your child to be engaging in a real-world physical activity.

Are Messaging Apps and Texting Ruining Real Relationships?

As a parent, so much of the concern around your child’s internet usage has to do with the risk of cyber bullying, online predators, inappropriate websites, and digital addiction. These are all valid, but within the realm of digital addiction, there’s another behavior that might not be getting the attention it deserves: excessive text messaging and the relationships that are formed around it.

Building Relationships Via Texts, Social Media, and Messaging AppsMessaging Apps & Texting | Netsanity

This Huffington Post story was written by a mother of teenage girls. After a conversation with one of the daughters, the author learned that teenage text conversations continue non-stop and that the teens are expecting immediate responses thanks to the “read receipt” feature on some messaging apps that shows the users when their messages have been read. (CBS reported in 2015 that teens send and receive an average of 167 texts per day.)

The daughter’s boyfriend wanted a break, and the author suggested it was because he was sick of her. The constant contact never gave the young couple an opportunity to miss each other. One of the daughter’s friends was quoted in the story:

“‘The other day my boyfriend and I texted each other all class period long. But when we saw each other afterwards it was weirdly awkward because we had nothing to say.’ She paused. ‘Like nothing.'”

Although only eight percent of teenagers have met a romantic partner online, social media and messaging apps are major platforms for teens to express interest in someone they met in real life. Within teen romantic relationships, 92 percent reported texting their partners at least occasionally. Meanwhile, 85 percent expected to hear from their partners at least once a day; 35 percent expected messages every few hours.

The Problem With Texting in RelationshipsMessaging Apps and Texting - How Teens are Forming New Relationships

Psychology Today mentions several ways in which texting can serve to damage any relationship:

  • There can be an obligation to respond to texts. When a teen sees that a friend or partner has received the message but hasn’t responded, it can cause anxiety and frustration that can come out in additional messages. When the responsibility to text causes the individuals to avoid real-life activities (including seeing each other face-to-face), it can create dissatisfaction within the relationship.
  • Texts are easily misinterpreted. Without context, tone, gestures, and facial expressions, it’s easy for a teen to assign an unintended meaning to a message, or to spend time trying to interpret a meaning.
  • There’s a psychological distance in texting that allows people to say things they wouldn’t say in person.

Social media can fuel jealousy. While many teens enjoy social media as a way to show their partners they care, 27 percent report feelings of jealousy or insecurity about their relationships as a result of what they see on social media. Furthermore, texting and social media can be used to control or pressure a friend or partner. Among teenagers who are active daters, 15 percent said a partner or former partner pressured them to engage in unwanted sexual activity via the internet; 11 percent have been digitally threatened with physical harm by a partner or former partner. The impact of texting doesn’t end when the relationship does.

What Can Be Done?How Messaging Apps and Texting Effect Relationships

The same measures you take to protect your child from inappropriate websites and cyber bullying can be effective in encouraging their friendships and romantic relationships to develop in real life. From the Huffington Post story:

“‘I am so thankful you took your daughter’s phone away today!’ the mother gushed, her children horrified. ‘Do you realize that we would have never gotten to hang out or have dinner like this if that sleek little rectangle had remained affixed to her palm?'”

By setting guidelines as to when your teenagers are allowed to use their devices, you give them space for in-person interaction with their peers. Using Trustworthy  Parental controls make this much simpler: you don’t have to constantly check up your teenagers or wonder if they’re following the rules.

Schedule family events or encourage your teenagers to invite friends over to the house during those no-device hours. Give them some in-person alternatives to messaging,  and social media to help them balance their virtual relationships and discover that face-to-face interactions are equally (or more) rewarding.

Without Limits: Most Children Have Unrestricted Access to Mobile Devices

Today’s parents don’t want to think of themselves as people who would start a sentence with, “When I was your age…”. They want to be tech-savvy and understanding of their digital-oriented children, but there’s no denying this when you were their age, you didn’t have a smartphone.
The disconnect between the analog childhood and the digital one is big. Though many adults are spending a lot of time with their mobile devices, those have a balance between digital activities and “old-fashioned” activities might assume their children and teens do, too. However, research shows that isn’t the case. The numbers are shocking.

Children Spend a Lot of Time Online

A recent poll in Australia indicated that 85 percent of teenagers are online for longer (and much longer)than recommended. The Australian government and the Canadian government both suggest that children between the ages of 5 and 17 limit screentime to two hours per day: children between the ages of 2 and 5 should spend less than an hour a day with electronic media. Those under the age of 2 should not use digital media at all, but the poll shows that 63 percent of them do! It also showed that 7 percent of those toddlers have their own device.

Meanwhile, the American Psychological Association generally agrees with the Australian and Canadian guidelines for children under five, and goes on to suggest that children over the age of six should have consistent mobile device limits on both the types of media used and the time spend using it.

Family TurmoilSetting limits and restrictions on mobile devices for kids | Netsanity

Although 94 percent of parents in the American Psychological Associations Stress in America survey say they attempt to limit screentime for their children with at least one rule, such as no phones at the dinner table, 62 percent of parents in the Australian poll an 48 percent of parents in the Stress in America survey both say that controlling screentime is a constant battle. Almost half of them shared that technology leads to a feeling of disconnect between family members, even when they’re spending time together.

Taking ChargeTexting in bed

If you’re having trouble enforcing the rules you set for your children regarding technology use and you like it’s negatively impacting your family, you’re clearly not alone. It’s a parenting challenge that your parents certainly didn’t have during our analog childhood! There’s no precedent for this. Parents today are figuring it out as we go along.

Many people think of using parental controls to take charge of the content that your child can view on his or her mobile device, and that is very important part of it.  Many parents fail to realize that if they do not use any parental controls their children can stumble onto practically anything online.  Today’s trustworthy parental controls are offer even more. They allow you to block apps, websites, and even various categories so that you can limit the risk of your child being exposed to inappropriate and dangerous content.

However, one of the best feature of using a parental control is that you can limit the amount of time your child spends online.Even if school, extracurricular activities, and the “no phones at the dinner table” rule keep them online for some of the day, many teenagers are going online late at night and getting up in the middle of the night to check messages or posts!

Children as young as nine check their phones repeatedly throughout the night because of the “fear of missing out”, a study has found.

One in ten of the 2,750 students surveyed said they checked their phones at least 10 times a night.

Solutions for Mobile Device Limits for Kids & TeensMobile Device Limits

In most cases, your children probably make a pretty good attempt to follow the rules that you set for them regarding internet usage, but the temptation to check that notification can sometimes be too great. Digital addiction is a real concern and it’s affecting many teenagers today. Parental controls are a simple way to take charge of your child’s electronic media-consumption. When parents work with their children to balance screentime and develop a healthy relationships with social media they can help eliminate the temptation for your children. Not only will they spend less time online, with all the inherent risks present there, they’re also more likely to get to sleep on time, resulting in a better mood, better health and better performance at school.

Spotafriend: What Parents Need to Know

What is Spotafriend?

Spotafriend describes itself this way: “Meet teens near you with Spotafriend, a tinder alternative for people ages 13-19. Get pictures of other teens around you, and swipe right to accept. If you both accept, you can chat privately through the app.”

 What Parents Need to KnowSpotafriend - What Parents Need to Know About This New App

Spotafriend is an app directly marketed towards teens, and it has over a million users. Teens are told to seek parental permission if under 18 – although iOS and Android app stores both rate the app as appropriate for those 17 or older.

Spotafriend’s creators describe the app as “the new way to make friends”.  However, if you jump around Spotafriend’s site,  you will quickly feel like you are on a teen dating site.  We saw several blog posts aimed towards teens and dating.  Blogs from advice on the biggest turn-offs for girls and guys – as well as what type of friend zone are you.

To register for an account – users must enter their username, password, email, gender, birthday, city and area they live in. Or, they can quickly sign-up by using their Facebook account. Spotafriend does attempt to “verify” a users age. After entering their login information, new users must submit a selfie with a pose Spotafriend specifies. Then, users must upload a photo of themselves. We did find some reports online of this process not being a full proof safety measure.  One writer,  Lisa Schmidt, 42,  writing for Global Dating Insights, wrote an interesting piece on how easily her selfie passed the application process as she posed as a 14/15-year-old-girl.

Like Tinder, the app is location-based – and works on a swiping basis to form matches. Users engage with the app by swiping pictures of other teens nearby. They swipe right or click a green check mark to become friends. They swipe left or click a red “x” to pass. If they both accept, a match is made and the two users can start chatting privately.

Even if everyone using the app is 13-19 as a parent, you know that the age range is very wide. Most of us probably wouldn’t want our 13-year-old dating and interacting privately with a 19-year-old adult – but this app makes these interactions easy to do.

Solutions

Young black woman taking a selfie

Although Spotafriend claims to be  more teen-friendly than other sites like Tinder, the only way you can really keep your children safe is by asking to access their account and monitoring if on a regular basis.

We encourage you to talk to your teens on a regular basis about the dangers of online dating and using “hook-up” apps on their smartphones. Encourage them to make new friends and build relationships at school, by participating in after-school sports and clubs, or by joining a religious group that offers clubs or meet-up groups designed specifically for teenagers.

If the types of apps that your teenager uses becomes a problem, make sure that you are using a trust-worthy parental control that will allow you to block inappropriate apps like Spotafriend, Tinder, and many others on their devices. Encourage your teen to build relationships the “old-fashioned” way by starting a conversation and getting to know potential dates in person!

Sneaky Cyberbullying

Trying to eradicate bullying altogether often feels like a desperate attempt to bail water out of a sinking ship — especially with the rise of cyberbullying on social media. As a parent, you do your best to keep your child safe and to prevent them from bullying others. Unfortunately, there are several sneaky methods of cyberbullying that you might not notice unless you know to look for them.

Showing OffCyberbullying - Signs Your Child May Be Engaging in Bullying Online | Netsanity

Let’s face it: even the most dedicated parent doesn’t know every friend in their child’s circle, nor can they know what is likely to be sensitive to particular individuals. If your child is suddenly showing off in an uncharacteristic way or making posts that exclude specific individuals, it could be a sign that they may be engaging in cyberbullying behavior. This might include:

  • Bragging online about specific events that one friend was not invited to attend
  • Posting about accomplishments that are excessively arrogant in nature or point out your child’s capabilities in a way that is insulting to others
  • Social media updates that suggest that those who haven’t done or achieved certain things are somehow lesser than your child

Gaming HarassmentHarassment Through Gaming Can Be Form of Cyberbullying

When engaging in gaming harassment, one player deliberately follows another around and sabotages their game. They might:

  • Get in the way of their accomplishments
  • Steal their “loot”
  • Prevent them from reaching goals

While it’s occurring in a game world, this type of behavior is still considered bullying. It can be extremely frustrating to the player being bullied–and it’s often tied to negative behaviors outside the game world, too.

Not-so-vague InsultsVague Insults Left Online Anonymously - Still Cyberbullying

Sure, your child hasn’t called out their target by name. That doesn’t mean, however, that everyone doesn’t know exactly who they’re talking about and what they’re saying. Both Facebook and Twitter are filled with posts that insult a specific individual in such a way that anyone who knows them will recognize them, but which don’t name them. This is known as sub-booking or sub-tweeting, and it’s becoming increasingly common–and hasn’t stopped being hurtful.

Silent Cyberbullyinggirl-saddened-by-cyberbullying

No, your child doesn’t have to “friend” or “follow” every person they know in real life. A deliberate decision to avoid friending or following a specific individual, however, may be more than personal preference. It may be a type of silent bullying. This is also true of instances in which your child refuses to like, comment on, or share a specific friend’s posts or pictures.

Is This Really Bullying?

While these behaviors aren’t necessarily nice, you may find yourself wondering if, in some cases, they’re actually bullying. Your child has the right to decide not to connect online with certain individuals, and they don’t have to like or comment on every post their friends make, right? However, there’s a difference between exercising the right of free choice and crossing the line into bullying. Behavior is bullying if it includes:

  • Deliberate decisions that your child knows will hurt or anger their target.
  • Hurtful content that is specifically designed to create a negative emotional reaction.
  • Exclusive behavior that specifically shuts out a particular member of a group, especially suddenly.

What Can You Do About Cyberbullying?

If you worry that your child is being bullied online or that they’re engaging in sneaky bullying tactics, there are several things that you as the parent can do.

  • Monitor, monitor, monitor. The more attention you pay to your child’s social media accounts, the more likely you are to notice when something strange is going on or patterns change.
  • Have an ongoing and honest conversation about how certain online behaviors make your child feel and how they make others feel.
  • Limit social media time and time with electronics. The less time your child has to spend online, the less likely they are to engage in bullying behaviors.
  • Pay attention. If you notice behavior that is out of character, take the time to ask why. Dig deeper if you need to.

While it might be nearly impossible to stop online bullying completely, knowing what sneaky tactics are out there can help you monitor your children and teens more effectively.Sneaky Cyberbullying - Teens & Tweens | Netsanity Infographic

Today’s Children: Growing up Online

Today’s teens and young adults, sometimes called Generation Z, are the first generation to literally grow up online. The world of smartphones, tablets, and the internet are part of their earliest memories. There are both positive and negative consequences to this digital way of life. Many adults, including parents of teens, have only the vaguest idea of what kind of world their children inhabit. Let’s look at some of the issues and implications of growing up online.

A Reality Dominated by Social MediaSocial Media is Their Reality | netsanity

For many of today’s teens, social media sites such as Instagram and Snapchat play a huge role in social life. Naturally, kids still socialize face-to-face. What’s new is that they now place a great deal of time and energy into constructing a social media version of themselves consisting of selfies, Facebook posts and Instagram and Snapchat Stories.

In effect, young people today are all producers of their own reality shows in which they are the stars. While this may sound glamorous, it also puts a great deal of pressure on kids. There’s fierce competition to gain followers and to construct a hip, attractive, and popular image. In some cases, social media activity degenerates into conflicts and bullying.

Pressures of Social Media Pressures of Social Media

There’s now a whole new vocabulary to describe some of the social media issues that young people contend with daily. Every day, we hear about the problem of cyberbullying, a phenomenon that’s not restricted to teens. People of all ages, including celebrities, are bullied online. For teens, however, the consequences are especially hard to deal with. Cyberbullying can take many forms, including insults, sarcastic jibes, and threats. This is often just as painful as bullying someone in person. In some cases, victims have committed suicide as a result.

Another pervasive social media issue is ghosting, which refers to cutting someone off completely from all channels. It’s often used in the context of dating when one person ends the relationship and stops all communication. However, it can also refer to excluding someone from your social circle. People who aren’t heavily invested in social media may not realize just how painful this can be. In a culture where social media status is a priority, exclusion has a similar connotation to the traditional practice of banishment in ancient cultures.

The recent movie Unfriended portrays some of the extreme potential consequences of cyberbullying. Peer pressure has always played a major role in the way teens interact and this is just as true today as ever before. For example, cyberbullying or exclusion from a social circle can occur within minutes if a popular kid sends out a message to his or her friends.

Online security is another crucial issue for today’s kids and teens. Of course, adults also need to worry about hacking, malware, and identity theft. Kids and teenagers, meanwhile, face the additional threat from predators who troll social media sites and forums.

The internet provides a great deal of anonymity and people aren’t necessarily who they say they are. Adults, for example, can disguise their identities and pretend to be children. Fortunately, there’s evidence that teens and young adults are more savvy about privacy issues than their elders.

Keeping Young People SafeKeeping Young People Safe | Netsanity

Given the complexities and all-pervasive nature of cyberculture, it’s impossible to protect kids, teens, and young adults from all of the potential dangers of social media and the internet. Painful issues such as rejection, bullying, and social banishment existed long before the internet and they’ll never be eliminated entirely online. There are, however, ways to reduce the risks and protect young people as much as possible.

To protect children from cyberbullying, it’s important for parents to keep the lines of communication open as much as possible. Make sure your children know that they can talk to you about such issues. If you know that there’s a problem, advise your child to block the bully. If it’s a recurring issue, talk to school administrators or the parents of the bully. One of the easiest ways to continue to keep your children safe online is to use a trustworthy parental control on all of their devices.

While no parental control solution is a replacement for parenting, they are a crucial tool to help parents keep their children’s mobile devices safe from dangerous content such as pornography and violence. Additionally, they make it easy for  parents to manage screentime! Try out Netsanity mobile parental controls on 2 devices your kids use, free for 2 weeks. Claim your free trial

Boys at Risk: 3 Social Media Hazards

Social media is a driving force in teenage life. Instant messaging, “selfies“, profile updates and “trending” pop culture are a way of life for the 92% of teens that browse the internet every day. Although, social media has the potential to be a powerful tool, its benefits are often overshadowed by its dangerous risks. While teen and tween girls seem to be the most at risk for cyberbullying, poor self-esteem, and “smartphone addiction”, new research shows that boys are just as prone to social media-driven dangers.

Social Media DaresSocial Media Dare Games for Boys | Netsanity Presents The Dangers

In 2013, emergency poison centers around the country received 178 frantic calls for a surprising new overdose-cinnamon. Around the United States teens were voluntarily inhaling spoonfuls of cinnamon as part of a popular YouTube dare. Over 40,000 of these “Cinnamon Challenge” videos were uploaded to YouTube and other social media sites. Although some teens managed to “successfully” swallow the spice, many others weren’t so lucky. Collapsed lungs, choking, breathing issues, and lung scarring were serious medical issues that many teens faced.

The Cinnamon Challenge isn’t the only social media dare to excite teens. In 2015, another extreme dare hit the internet. The “Fire Challenge” proved deadly for a 15-year-old boy from New York. After dousing himself with rubbing alcohol and lighting himself afire, he died from severe burns when he couldn’t extinguish the flames in time. Others received 3rd and 5th degree burns when their stunt went wrong.

Boys in particular are especially driven to reach out and try risky, exciting things. These internet dares and extreme stunts can be extremely tempting for some. Each one promises exciting adrenaline rushes, thrills, and internet popularity.

Unhealthy RelationshipsBuilding Relationship Skills is Important | Social Media Gets in The Way

Many teens feel the increasing need to become romantically involved at a much younger age. On average, boys as young as 13 are attempting to form serious attachments. While there is nothing inherently wrong with new relationships, without the proper boundaries, emotions and sexual risks can quickly spiral out of control. The CDC reports that 15 to 24-year-olds make up half of reported STDs. Unsafe sex is just one potential risk in forming unhealthy relationships.

Unfortunately, social media is often the “supplier” for these risky relationships. Boys that see their friends engaging in intimate behavior or bragging about new boyfriends or girlfriends are much more prone to try and find new experiences on their own. The huge prevalence of pornography and other sexually explicit material on the internet catalyzes natural teen curiosity toward unsafe sources of information and experimentation. Some relationships seem “fun” and “exciting” from the view of a screen, but may prove catastrophic in real life.

Body Image RisksCyberbullying and Social Media Risks among Boys 2017

While teen girls are often stereotyped as the only victim of poor self-esteem, researchers such as Dr. Harrison Pope, a Harvard psychiatry professor explains that boys are just as prone to unhealthy body image risks. More and more teen boys are being conditioned by social media and culture to believe that a chiseled, lean boys is attractive. Obsessive exercise programs, body-building, dieting, and even steroids are real dangers that many teen boys face, particularly those involved in sports.

While there is nothing wrong with wanting to be in shape and healthy, some obsessive fitness programs can easily come to resemble eating disorders and self-harm. Without a healthy self-image, some teen boys can be drive to great lengths to obtain the “perfect body type” of a professional athlete or fellow teammates.

How to Reduce the Risks as Parents?Social Media Hazards for Boys

As parents, we can’t ignore the dangers that social media may present. Watching for warning signs and keeping an open dialogue with our teens is key for preventing future dangers. It’s far better to catch issues when they’re small. Although, changes are often better ways to gauge what’s happening inside their minds.

Some of the most critical warning signs may include:

  • Long periods alone on their smartphone, tablet, or computers
  • Sudden new relationships, spending unhealthy amounts of time alone with new friends
  • Appearing secretive with internet search history
  • Obsessive interest in fitness and body image (unhealthy workouts, obsessively counting calories, fasting, unhealthy use of protein powder and or other supplements)
  • Sudden interest in new stunts or extreme activities (signs of them filming themselves while doing them)

Although talking with your teen about these warning signs may be difficult, show them that you love them and care for their safety. Explain the dangers and risks that are tied to each of these social media hazards. Help them realize that other teens have suffered from the same type of behaviors.

Teen boys are far more willing to listen to a loved one that talks to them openly and honestly about the risks they face.

While no parental control solution is a replacement for your instincts and care as a parent, they can be a great tool to help enforce your rules, or keep an eye out when you are not around (we can’t be everywhere, right?).  Try out Netsanity mobile parental controls on 2 devices your kids use, free for 2 weeks. Claim your free trial here.

Smartphones: Uniting the World’s Children, for Better or Worse?

People have long said that children are children the world over. They all laugh and cry, they all throw tantrums, and they all move through the same stages of human development. Over the last few years, they’ve grown to have something else in common: the smartphone.

Children of all ages all over the world have access to smartphones and tablets.

United States:  80 percent of children and teenagers ages 12-17 have a phone. About half of those have a smartphone. (2014)

United Kingdom: 90 percent of teenagers and young adults ages 16-24 have a phone. About half of those have a smartphone. ( 2015)

South Korea: 72 percent of children have gotten a smartphone by age 11 or 12. Of them, 25 percent are considered addicted, spending more than five hours per day on their devices. ( 2015)

Australia:  35 percent of children 8-11 have a mobile device. Meanwhile, 80 percent of teenagers ages 14-17 had a smartphone. (2015)

With this comes a certain measure of freedom and safety, and peace of mind for parents who like to be able to contact their children when necessary. However, children and teens who use smartphones face certain dangers and risks that parents all over the world need to be aware of.

Digital Addiction

Smartphones and Kids | Netsanity

Behavioral addictions, like gambling and internet usage, can be damaging as drug or alcohol addictions. In this CBS News article, Dr. Deepak Chopra is quoted:

“Addictive behavior means that you’re compulsively repeating that behavior at the cost of everything in your life. You can’t sleep. You miss out on relationships, social interactions, health, well-being. Any addictive behavior will cause the same damage in the brain at the receptors as a drug will do.”

Young children are not immune to this risk. Digital addiction can end up impacting their lives for years to come, affecting their school work, sleep patterns, health, relationships, and more.

Exposure to PornographyKids Are Exposed to Pornography on Smartphones | Netsanity

Way back in 2003, there were already 1.3 million pornographic websites. In addition, children can be exposed to inappropriate pictures and material easily via social media and messaging apps. A curious child or teenager might search for pornography intentionally, but it’s also more common to come across it accidentally.

Unfortunately, children may also find themselves chatting with people who may solicit photos of them, which are then used to threaten or embarrass the victim, or to coerce the victim into  sharing more pics or engaging in other encounters of a sexual nature. This survey was geared toward sextortion of people ages 18-25, but sadly it is a risk for people of all ages.

CyberbullyingKids Might Use Smartphones to Cyberbully or Get Bullied | Netsanity

This is not the school bullying that you might have witnessed or experienced when you were growing up. Old-school bullying was exactly that: it happened mostly at school. It was rough, but it could usually be escaped at the end of the day.

Cyberbullying is relentless. It can continue all day, every day, via cruel messages, photos, and rumors sent by text, email or shared on social media profiles. These messages can spread quickly, and sometimes it can be hard to identify where they originated. The effects can be disastrous: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Suicide is the third leading cause of death among persons aged 10-14, and the second among persons aged 15-34 years. ” Also, consider this:

“Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University.”

Parents don’t always know if their children are the victims of cyberbullying.

Physical HarmPhysical Dangers of Smartphones | Netsanity

This 2011 FBI story on child predators says that “70 percent of youngsters will accept friend requests regardless of whether they know the requester.” Unfortunately, some of those requesters are from predators:

“Pedophiles go where children are. Before the internet, that meant places such as amusement parks and zoos. Today, the virtual world makes it alarmingly simple for pedophiles-often pretending to be teens themselves-to make contact with young people.”

Some of this contact remains online, in some cases it has moved to face-to-face meetings that could result in sexual abuse or even abduction.Not everything is as it seems online - kids need to be safe on smart phones and tablets!

We can’t escape the internet, and we wouldn’t want to: it provides up-to-date information that we need for school, work, and awareness of what’s going on in the world. It connects us to our friends and family, and allows us to see and understand things we wouldn’t have an opportunity to do otherwise. This is true for children as well as adults.

However, even though the internet is here to stay, you don’t have to live with the dangers. There are steps that parents can take to protect their children and teens from the unsavory side of the online world. Trustworthy parental controls allow you to block dangerous websites, apps and even entire categories, as well as periods time.

Solutions

A router at home is what many parents turn to. There are some great home routers on the market that offer website filtering and other controls. However, what was a good solution 10 or even 5 years ago,  may not be so good in 2017 – why? Simple – today’s children and teens use smartphones and bypassing a home router is now a one-click option for them. They turn off WiFi on their smartphones and can then surf unrestricted over your data plan. Not only does this cost you money, it gives them complete control over internet content. Even routers that come with “Apps” can be easily bypassed and teens are smart today. So while a home “parental control” router will offer some protection for younger kids, they will not be very effective for older kids and teens. And, what is a parent to do when your children are at school, the bus, on vacation, the soccer field, or at a friend’s house? These are just a few reasons why you need complete protection that starts at the source!

Netsanity is used by parents in over 65 countries, and works on the smartphone, and not on the router, so regardless of how they get to the internet, they will be protected! An expensive router is not needed, nor required. Netsanity will establish a secure, 100% encrypted connection to the internet and the parent will be there making the important decisions on what is and what is not appropriate. We put the parent in complete control.

 

 

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5 Surprising Physical Dangers of Smartphone Addiction

Smartphones are an unavoidable part of our lives.  They’ve wormed their way into nearly every facet of our existence with an unending variety of apps and special features to choose from.  Overall, about two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone.  At an astounding 85%, teens and young adults in the 18-29-year age range are the vast majority of smartphone owners.

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It makes sense.  These gadgets can be a huge asset with education, work, and social networking tools.  As a whole, smartphones present many potential benefits for their owners.  However, with the ever-growing issue of smartphone addiction on a steep rise, smartphones may also prove to be the biggest danger facing our families.

“Tech Neck” (Back and Neck Pain)
Smartphone Addiction - Dangers Parents Need to Know | Netsanity

With young adults spending an average of 8-10 hours a day hunched over their smartphones it’s no real surprise just how much stress and pressure this places on the spine and back.  Recent studies in Britain have revealed that young people between the ages of 16-24 are experiencing a shocking jump in back and neck issues, especially chronic pain and disc damage.

Researchers with The British Chiropractic Association have traced these painful issues back to poor posture directly linked with too much smartphone and electronic gadget exposure.  The biggest ways to alleviate “tech neck” and reduce the pain and damage lies in our posture. Simply cutting back on smartphone scrolling and making better posture a priority is key to protecting both our spine and neck.

“Text Claw” (Tendinitis)Claw Hand from Too Much Phone Use - Tendinitis | Netsanity

Although “text claw” isn’t a full-fledged medical term, it’s still a very accurate description for the pain, inflammation, and stiffness that results from too much texting and screen scrolling.  One of the biggest signs of too much smartphone use is the chronic and growing pain we feel in our wrists and thumbs.  These activities place abnormal stress on the sensitive tendons and muscles within our hands.  This pain is an obvious sign that we need to cut back on our phone usage or take a break entirely.  Ice, gentle stretches, mild anti-inflammatory medicines, and rest are simple ways to eliminate the current pain and reduce future inflammation.

Poor Sleep Quality

Poor Sleep Quality From Smartphone Addiction | netsanity

On average, young people between 18-29-years have sheepishly admitted to taking their smartphones to bed with them. Scrolling through endless articles or social media feeds seems like the perfect way to lull yourself to sleep.  However, studies show that the “short-wavelength-enriched” blue light from our phones is one of biggest reasons behind poor sleep quality.

This light prevents our bodies from producing melatonin, the hormone vital to relaxing us for sleep. Even a short burst of smartphone or tablet usage before bed can keep us awake for hours later.  Avoid smartphones and other bright electronic screens at least several hours before going to bed to ensure a good night’s sleep.

Bacteria Exposure

What’s dirtier?  A toilet seat or a smartphone?  Although a toilet seems like the obvious answer, The University of Arizona found that smartphones can easily carry up to 10 times more bacteria than a toilet seat! These numbers are shocking and disgusting to say the least. When we take into account how many times we share our smartphones and tablets these days, the story becomes far worse.  Unknowingly, we are exposing ourselves and others to e. coli and other dangerous microbes. Picking set times during the week to disinfect and clean our phones is a simple but critical way to keep ourselves healthy and free from contamination.

Emotional Issues

Smartphones are a deceptively easy way to spread rumors, gossip, and bullying.  Although your family may not be the ones starting mean stories, they can still be easy targets to its poisonous venom.  Social media as an extension of our phones is proving to be a subtle but deadly danger among children as young as 11 and 12 years. Depression, low self-esteem, and social isolation are all potential hazards of too much smartphone, tablet and social media exposure, particular late at night.  By constantly seeing what “everyone else” is up too, increased smartphone exposure may indirectly affect our own decision-making and self-worth.  Making meaningful cutbacks in the time your family spends mobile devices time and spend more time promoting healthier sources of self-worth are effective countermeasures against social media-driven emotional issues.5 Surprising Physical Dangers of Smartphone Addiction | Netsanity

While smartphones in and of themselves are not evil, too much time and energy investment in them most definitely is.  Smartphone addictions usually begin as very small and subtle issues.  We may find ourselves and certainly our children as well constantly checking for new texts or social media updates.  This deceptive cycle can continue until the “victim” finds themselves scrolling through the late hours of the night.  We must take a stand and care for any sign of  addiction long before it places our own or our children’s physical health and well-being at risk.

Protecting your children and teens from the effects of excessive screentime means being a positive example with limiting your own device usage as well as  setting limits about when they can and cannot use their devices. This should include designating specific limits on how much technology can be used each day, and what apps they can use and when. Setting specific times as device-free times and working as a family to spend time together on a regular basis. This is easy when you use a parental control that offers screentime settings and app blocking features.

 

Are Teens Turning Into Smartphone Junkies?

It’s hardly news that teenagers love their smartphones. But has this gone beyond a trend and turned into something more sinister? Are teenagers literally addicted to their devices? This is an important question for parents and anyone who cares about the future of technology and society in general. Are today’s teens turning into smartphone junkies? And, if so, what can we do to overcome this problem?

How Much Time Do Teens Spend on Their Smartphones?

It’s easy to look around or perhaps observe your own children and conclude that they’re “always” on their phones or other mobile devices. The fact is, however, that there’s more than anecdotal evidence to support this. According to a recent study, teens spend 9 hours a day using media. That’s roughly more than half their waking hours! Of course, that does include all types of media, whether consumed on a TV, computer, phone, tablet, or other devices. However, it’s also true that more and more people (of all ages) are using their phones to communicate, search the internet, shop, watch videos, listen to music, and more.Smartphone Junkies - Teen Smartphone Use | Netsanity

Are Mobile Devices Really Addictive?

People use the word “addictive” rather loosely nowadays. People talk about being addicted to everything from lattes to cookies to even watching cat videos.  When asking if something is literally addictive, it helps to understand the science behind addiction. Social media, as well as texting, gaming, videos, and many other activities found on smartphones, is an easy way for people to get a dopamine rush. Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that signals pleasure or rewards. This is what drives people towards drugs, sex, gambling, and other types of entertainment. Within reason, it’s normal to crave experiences that induce pleasure. Addiction occurs when substances or experiences interfere with everyday life. As smartphones and social media sites become so deeply embedded in our culture, there’s mounting evidence that many teens are social media addicts.
Are teens turning into smartphone junkies?

Dangers of Smartphone and Social Media Addiction

How much of a problem is smartphone addiction? Some might argue that it’s better for teens to spend time on their phones than taking drugs. Addiction to devices, however, can still pose some real dangers.

Schoolwork: Devices can distract children from studying and homework. Some evidence shows that children do better in school when smartphone use is banned.

Health risks: One of the dangers of overusing technology is that it can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, which is helping to create a childhood obesity epidemic.

Body Image: In some cases, excessive use of social media can cause young people to compare themselves to others and develop eating disorders or poor self-esteem.

Cyberbullying and Predators:  There are also risks of spending too much time online, such as encountering cyberbullies and sometimes even sexual predators. While these risks are present for everyone that goes online, the more times teens spend on social media, the more likely they are to run into such problems.

How Can Parents Protect Teens?

Smartphones and social media are a central part of our society. They aren’t going to disappear anytime soon, regardless of risks and dangers. All parents and other concerned adults can do is to learn to open the lines of communication with our children and teenagers as well as learn how to protect them as much as possible.

Stay aware: While teenagers want and deserve a certain amount of privacy, parents also have a right to know what they are doing online. This includes knowing which social networks and websites they access.

Privacy settings: Make sure your teens privacy settings only allow friends and family members to see their content.

Set rules: Make sure that your teen understands the family rules for smartphone use. This includes not using the phone while driving, not meeting strangers from social media in person and not letting social media interfere with schoolwork.  Often a family technology contract is a good way to keep this conversation going and to set boundaries from the beginning.

Encourage communication:  Look for signs that your teen is a victim of bullying or any kind of harassment online and encourage them to talk to you!

Manage your teen’s smartphone with a trustworthy parental control software that works!

Smartphone and social media addiction are real problems these days. However, by monitoring usage, managing time and communicating open and honestly with them, you can help your teens stay safe and avoid some of the negative consequences that come along with overuse!

7 Messaging Apps That Parents Should Be Aware Of

When you’re talking about connecting with other people the saying, “there’s an app for that” isn’t a joke. Teens don’t want to use just one app to send a message; they’d rather use multiple apps to keep track of a crush, post a selfie or share a secret. Your teen selects a messaging app based on what they need—if they want to keep it private than they will probably pick an anonymous app; if a teenager wants their messages to disappear quickly they are likely to choose a temporary app.

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Social media outlets like Facebook allow your teen to have hundreds of “friends” while these messaging apps allow your teen to share with a smaller group of people. Sometimes that can be a good thing because it helps prevent oversharing. But your teen can still get into trouble if they aren’t careful.Messaging Apps - The 7 Apps Parents Should Be Aware Of. Teens are using these apps to message each other secretly and privately | Netsanity

Anonymous Messaging Sites and Apps

The two big drawbacks of an anonymous app are that they tend to promote bullying and many times they’re filled with unsuitable content. Some teens by using these apps  they can remain anonymous and possibly say whatever they may be thinking at the time—even things that wouldn’t tend to say in public.

Kik Messenger

Just like other messaging apps, Kik allows users to send texts, videos and pictures; yet there are multiple mini-apps within it where you can do everything from chat with strangers to trade virtual greeting cards. Users of Kik do not need to use their real names with if they don’t want to. But what makes Kik popular are the additional features: tell when someone’s read your message, ability to search the web from within the app, send limitless messages without decreasing their limits on texting, users get loads of content from inside Kik and send group or personal messages. While all this may sound nice, here are three things that as parents you must watch out for:

  • Most of those inside apps are trying to sell the user something. Help your teen understand that these “promoted chats” are really advertisements; always have your teen check with you before buying anything from these apps.
  • Kik allows users to easily reach out to strangers anonymously. Urge your teens to always block unknown people and discuss what details should not be shared online. Kik uses automatic messages as a marketing tool, yet sometimes the message might seem like it’s from a real person. Encourage your teen to ignore messages that don’t feel right to them or are from people they can’t identify.
  • If your teen doesn’t know about Kik’s settings, they could wind up sending a post or message to everyone or a group of people that was really meant for an individual or select few. If you do allow your teen to use the Kik app make sure to go over the settings with them to make sure that they understand how to block users if needed.

Whisper

This app is meant for anyone 17 and over. It allows users to “confess” anything on their mind, supply a background picture and share it with everyone else using  Whisper. What teen could resist the urge to anonymously share their most secretive thoughts without consequences? Yet, as a parent, there’s more you need to know about this “secretive” app:

  • While some of the “confessions” can be completely harmless and funny, others can be hard to read and could possibly be troubling to your teen. For example, One user posted about their parents divorce custody battle; or another user we saw stated that they were a teacher and elaborated on about a sexual fantasy that they had about one of their students. Not exactly the type of things you want your child to be reading about, is it?
  • Whisper posts easily have the ability to go public. BuzzFeed and other entertainment news websites are starting to present Whisperers. That might not sound like a big issue but when secrets—fake or real—are published it usually leads to more harm than good.
  • Much of the time, Whisperers like sexual talk which leads to inappropriate conversations. Utilizing Whisper’s “nearby” geo-location feature, could encourage some users to use the app to ask for sex. It’s also common to see references to alcohol and drugs as well as the use of harsh language.

Ask.fm

Teens can ask questions on this social site; they can even anonymously answer queries that are posted by other kids. The site contains friendly Q&As like crushes or favorite foods. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? But the real allure for teens tend to be the disturbing sexual posts and mean comments. There are a few other things you should be aware of too:

  • To make their profile less visible, your teen can withdraw answers from the live stream and decide if they want to make their posts anonymous. If he/she is using Ask.fm, it’s a good idea that they stay away from live streaming and turn off anonymous answers.
  • Ask.fm has had a big problem with bullying. Sit down with your kids and discuss cyberbullying and how this type of cruel behavior could be promoted through being anonymous—it could save a life.
  • Ask.fm also can be linked with Facebook. What does that mean? That users posts—and behavior—could be seen by a much larger group of people.

Yik Yak

Teens like connecting with people in their neighborhood and they can certainly do that with this anonymous-based app. With Yik Yak, teens are allowed to send messages and pictures to others in their surrounding community and be completely honest. If your teen mentions other students and their teachers there’s a good chance that someone just might know who they are referring to. Here are a few other tidbits you should know about Yik Yak:

  • If your teen has self confidence or esteem issues (who doesn’t?), YikYak is not the place to be, generally, it tends to be full of rude and insensitive posts.
  • YIkYak has been the subject of many new stories and conflicts. Why? Users have utilized Yik Yak to make fierce threats towards establishments and other people.
  • The app developers must respect the law and police; so if any teen makes a threat, they’ll no longer be anonymous. Your teen could get into a lot of trouble if they write anything that could possibly be deemed to be a threat even if they meant it to be a joke!

Omegle

Teens can talk about anything and everything on Omegle, thus the attraction. Front and center are lewd language-filled conversations loaded with remarks on sexual content, alcohol, violence and drugs. If that’s not bad enough, there are these items:

  • This app is overflowing with people looking to start up sexual conversations. There are those that like to do this live, while others will provide porn website links. Clearly, this isn’t an app for any child under age 18.
  • Every user gets matched up with a stranger. What’s even worse is that sexual predators don’t need to register on Omegle and because of this, Omegle has been involved in sexual predator cases with teens. 
  • Since the chats are anonymous, more often than not they’re very graphic-more so than they would be if your teen was talking to a identifiable person.

Temporary Messaging Apps

The photos and texts sent by a user through a temporary messaging app will be deleted after a certain amount of time.

Snapchat

People who use this app set time limits on videos and photos that they send before they are deleted.

The app developers planned for teens to use this app as a method to share light-hearted fun images without going public and most do use Snapchat for this purpose. There are a few things parents need to be aware of:

  • “Safe” messaging can make it seem like it’s okay for your teen to send sexual pictures or videos to someone.
  • Once a teen puts information online, it’s out there and never really “disappears”. A third-party service like Snapsaved-not affiliated with Snapchat-lets you save any or all Snapchat pictures and if users want to pay for it they can look at Snaps as often as they like. Or another Snapchatter who received the photo-can easily take a screenshot of the picture before it is deleted. So make sure that  your teen is not fooled into thinking once a Snapchat is deleted it’s gone forever, it simply isn’t true.

Line

Your teenagers can do all sorts of  interesting things with Line like app-voice messaging, text, video, and Line also incorporates social media features like group chats and games. Teens love this app for all that plus the avatar-based network called Line Play, free video calls and text and more than 10,000 wild emoticons and stickers. Before your teen uses this app there are a few things you need to be aware of:

  • According to the terms of use parents need to give minors approval before they sign-up. However, that information is not trackable.
  • If your teen wants to use some of the in-app features, they’ll need to pay for it-or rather, you will. For instance, to have free communication, they will need to be part of Line, that set of adorable cat emoji’s they want to use also comes with a price tag, and each game also comes at an additional cost. These fees can definitely add up pretty fast!
  • There’s an element within Line called “Hidden Chat”; this is akin to the vanishing messages of Snapchat yet it has several other alternatives. A message can contain video, photos and location details. Teens can select the length of time a message lasts-two seconds to one week-before it’s deleted. Although Line claims their servers are safe, you can never be too cautious!

Solutions For Parents

So what’s the ideal way to talk to your teens about these messaging apps?  We always encourage an ongoing conversation about the risks of posting online and how your teens online reputation will matter to future employers, teachers, and college-admission officers. A regular reminder to them about how nothing online should ever be considered private can go a long way.

When discussing online reputation it is always a great time to bring up specific risks like the proper use of using messaging apps on their smartphones or tablets. If the types of apps that your teenager uses becomes a problem make sure that you are using a trust-worthy parental control that will allow you to block inappropriate apps or websites like Whisper, YikYak or Ask.fm.

Safer Selfies: Avoiding Killer Pictures

“Selfies” have become a mind-boggling social media phenomenon.  Approximately 95% of young adults admit to having taken at least one selfie in their lifetime; researchers estimate that even one selfie per day would eventually add up to over 25,700 pictures in a lifetime. Selfies are fun for everyone.  There’s no better way to show off a new outfit, hairstyle, or a great vacation memory.  However, this fun should be kept in check.

(note: after you read this post be sure to grab our 2017 Digital Parenting Bundle – it’s a free collection of 4 premium guides that help parents keep their kids safe!)

In 2014 alone, there were 49 deaths directly linked to taking a selfie.  Every year these shocking tragedies continue. Statistics show that most of these selfie-related deaths have occurred in India, Pakistan, and the United States with about 75% of the victims being male under 24 years of age.

Something as small and quick as taking a picture can place teens in danger of freak accidents and dangerous circumstances.  Falls, vehicle accidents, drownings, and even animal attacks have all been linked to fateful selfies. A split second of misplaced attention can result in a life-changing accident.

How to Take Safer Selfies

Although there is nothing inherently wrong with taking a quick pic to update your social media account, here are some rules to keep in mind and to discuss regularly with your children and teens to take safe selfies:Safe Selfies

No Selfies in the Car

Although we know not to talk or text while driving, we should also add selfies to this banned list.  Even if the car is not currently moving, misplaced attention can easily result in a car crash.  Unless the car is safely parked, save the selfies for later.

Stop, Look, and Listen

Something as simple as being aware of your surroundings is key in staying safe.  This is tricky for teens.  Everyone loves being able to share “dare-devil” selfies on their social media feeds.  However, staging risky photos on cliffs and other hazardous places is never worth the picture.  Before they take a selfie help your teen learn to practice and encourage your child to always take a quick observation check of their surroundings.  Look around closely for possible risks and dangers.Safer Selfies | Netsanity

Staying Private

Many selfies have proved deadly through indirect methods.  Bullying, sexual harassment, and other negative issues have risen over the years in response to risque or private selfies being shared publicly. A picture that is more personal in nature should never be shared with the whole world.  Help your teen learn the value of keeping their personal lives private and out of the hands of cyber-bullies and other internet predators.

Avoiding Perfectionism

In 2014, 19-year-old Danny Bowman was nearly driven to suicide due to his “selfie addiction.”  Desperate for perfection and good looks, he obsessed over his personal image.  His body dysmorphic disorder was directly fueled by his selfie obsession.  In his own words, he explained, “‘I was constantly in search of taking the perfect selfie and when I realized I couldn’t I wanted to die.”  Although he received the help he needed for his recovery, many teens become trapped in the vicious cycle of “taking the perfect selfie.”  Help your teen learn to value themselves for who they are, not what they look like.  Be on constant guard for signs that they are struggling with their image and self-esteem.

Following the Rules

All amusement parks rides and attractions usually come with basic warnings to keep smartphones and other valuables put away during the ride.  This isn’t just to these items from getting lost or broken. Roller coaster accidents and other recreational deaths have been tied back to a selfie taken at the wrong time during a ride.  Even using a tool such as a “selfie stick” isn’t enough to keep the dangers away. Encourage your teen to take all rules seriously, even if they sound far-fetched or unnecessary.

Selfies are not dangerous in and of themselves.  When taken safely, these pictures are a great way for teens to show off aspects of themselves and their life that they take pride in.  However, before the smartphone comes out, help your child or teen go through a basic safety check-list. If and when you need it, Netsanity comes with the ability to disable the camera on iOS devices

Ensuring Your Child’s Social Media is Age-Appropriate

As parents, we are often very cautious when it come to the movie and televisions shows that we allow our children to watch.  We are just as careful when it comes to friends and after school activities. However, even with all the safeguards we use to keep our children safe, a subtle danger may be lurking closer than we think. Smartphones and tablets offer many fun activities and learning experiences, but when our kids have access to apps and websites beyond their age range, these activities can become risky and even downright dangerous.  Consider these important tips to guard your family against inappropriate social media and internet use.

(NOTE: We started Netsanity to help keep Internet and app access “age appropriate” in our own families, we invite you to start a 14-day free trial of our service to see if it’s a good fit for yours)

Setting Age Limits

It’s becoming commonplace to see children as young as 2 and 3 easily navigating their way around a mobile device.  Some parents feel that technology is the perfect babysitter while they clean the house or while their child sits in a shopping cart at the store. While not all social media and technology is wrong in and of itself, specific age limits should apply.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)  academy recommends that for children 2 to 5 years of age, screen time should be limited to one hour per day. For kids ages 6 and older, parents can determine the restrictions for time spent using screen, as well as monitor the types of digital media their children use.

Babies are most vulnerable to screens. Infants aged 18 months and younger should not be exposed to any digital media, the academy says.

entertainment “screen time” should be eliminated for children 2 years and under; for those 3 to 18 years, 2 hours of “screen time” is a healthy range.  This may seem like a harsh or unrealistic goal. However, this study also discovered worrisome effects of too much technology such as increased risk for childhood obesity, behavioral issues, and irregular sleep habits.

Parental Controls and Filters

Peer pressure is an enormously powerful motivation for children and even older teens. Many feel a strong need to join social media outlets and regularly visit certain websites simply because “everyone else is doing it.” While  social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have a 13-year-old age requirement, this barrier is sometimes ignored or bypassed. As parents, it’s vital to ensure that the websites and apps your child participates in are age-appropriate regardless of how many of their friends are already doing it.  Take time to invest in trustworthy parental controls and filters for all of your child’s mobile internet devices.  Install programs that specifically guard against websites and apps with mature content your child has no business participating in.  Using mobile parental controls that give you the ability to block specific websites and apps that you identify beforehand, is a good first step.

Communication

Some children and teens naturally fight social media and technology rules imposed by parents.  Rules feel restrictive and mean.  Regardless of how badly your child my hate these rules, fight to keep the lines of communication open.  Talk with them and explain your reasoning and desire to keep them safe.  Try to help them see the risk of online “stalkers” and predators.  Even relatively harmless pictures on social media can be stolen and photoshopped into horrible material and pornography. Although it may be a struggle initially, consistency and patience succeeds in the end.  If your child sees that love is the motivation behind your rules, they are less likely to fight against them.

Supervision

Certain guidelines should still exist even if you feel you can safely entrust them with smartphones and other mobile internet devices. While you may feel they are mature enough to handle the responsibility, remain vigilant and keep these safeguards in mind:

When it comes time for bedtime, set family guidelines ahead of time so that your child knows what time is tech-free and when it is time for bed.  The later it gets, the more tempting certain dangers can be.  Even harmless games and apps prove harmful if your child pulls an all-nighter trying to beat the next level.  This is when features like Netsanity’s Screenlock or Hideapps work well. We know many teens who like to fall asleep to music while using their smartphones as an alarm to get up the next day!

Perform Periodic Safety Checks

Every now and then, randomly check your child or teen’s smartphone or internet device. Take time scrolling through the texts and instant messaging apps.  You also want to examine their internet and search histories, as well as which apps they’ve installed.  This may seem harsh, and an invasion of their privacy, but many horrible consequences have begun with internet predators or unresolved cyberbullying.  By periodically checking your child’s technology, you are not only keeping them safe but their friends as well.  Your child may know about a danger their friend is experiencing, but feel they can’t talk about it. Doing periodic checks will help on both fronts.

“Follow” their social media account

If your teen is old and mature enough for a social media account such as Facebook or Instagram, be sure to “follow” or subscribe to their account to regularly see what they post and share.  Just keep in mind that some children set up secret or hidden accounts so if you are not checking the device itself on a regular basis you may not have access to all the accounts your child is using. If your child or teen is aware of your supervision, they will be far less likely to share inappropriate or “borderline” material.

Social media is ever-growing and more and more children and teens are trying to find their place in this chaotic, technology “jungle.”  Although we must eventually let our children and teens branch out and learn, we must also remain cautious about the very real danger of inappropriate material within the internet and app store.  As they age and mature, allow them more freedom but always exercise caution!

Snapchat Parent’s Review

Snapchat…A Parent’s Review

Snapchat is currently one of the most popular social media apps among teens these days. What makes it so popular? Snapchat allows users to capture and send photos and short videos that self-destruct after a certain amount of time (up to 10 seconds). With Snapchat, it is all about the quick image, animated face, or video!

After you read this post be sure to try our all new interactive online demo. Free to use. Just click and go. >> Parental Controls Demo 

When users send a message, they get to decide how long it will live on the receiver’s end. After that, send…poof…disappear… it is now history… or so most senders think.

Here are 3 things that parents need to know about Snapchat:

Disappearing “Snaps”

Some teens assume that because their “Snaps” disappear in just a few seconds the app is totally harmless. However, parents need to make sure that their teens know that photos can easily be saved as screenshots. This means that if your teen is using Snapchat, you need to realize that neither you nor your teen has any control over what may be snapped across their smartphone screen! This definitely makes it easier for cyberbullying to occur, as these teens feel the trail of evidence is not easily left behind.

Snapchat Parents Review | A Parents Guide to SnapchatA good discussion for parents to have with their teens is to outline a few risks with Snapchat. While it is true that Snapchat does not save received messages, all modern smartphones allow users to take screenshots (It’s also possible to take a picture of the screen with another camera). This screenshot then simply becomes a static picture, which can be saved, archived, texted, and included as content in any other social media. It can also then be easily used as a way to blackmail the original sender who thought that their private snap was deleted. Snapchat does notify the person taking the picture, if it determines that a screenshot has been captured. However, with a quick online search teens can quickly find out how to save a snap without even notifying the sender that it has been saved. 

Sexting

Some teens consider Snapchat an easy tool for “sexting”. What should be of concern to parents, is that these archived snaps via the screenshot method above, can then be shared with others at anytime. In many cases, these “snaps” have ended up being circulated on the Internet and passed on by students throughout schools resulting in some very embarrassing situations. In its  community guidelines, Snapchat “warns” users that their guidelines are pretty clear that once a user creates a Snapchat account, they agree to Snapchat’s  guidelines and take on the total responsibility for whatever activity occurs when they are logged into their account. Keep in mind that this poses some risks to parents even when they are not actively aware of their children’s Snapchat activities.

Snaps (photos/videos) taken of minors can be considered child pornography if found on another teen’s smartphone.

In October 2014, a database of hacked Snapchat pictures was released, known as “The Snappening.” This leak contained at least 100,000 pictures and videos from a third-party Snapchat app. It contained a large amount of child pornography, videos, and photos sexted between teenagers. Half of Snapchat’s users are teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17. Even for kids who are cautious with what they send out and to whom they send it to, it is best for parents to remind their children and teens that anything that they post online, is public – even if a snap disappears in seconds. It could come back at anytime in the future. A good rule of thumb that we like to remind teens is public internet does = PERMANENT! Can Parents monitor Snapchat? Snapchat review for parents | Netsanity

The “Letter X Game” And Cyberbullying

Snapchat was originally designed to be used with pictures. Today, however, there are multiple ways that teens with bad intentions can bully someone and use Snapchat to target their victims. Sending embarrassing photos or videos, containing cruel words and/or photos that compare one teen to an ugly meme or animal are examples of how some mean teens are bullying on Snapchat. This type of snap bullying can often have a significant impact on the person who is on the receiving end.

One  recent news story told of another way that teens are using Snapchat to “roast” or bully is called The “Letter X Game”. This cruel Snapchat game works like this:

  1. One user posts “Send me an x and I’ll give you a name (or similar)” on their story or they send it as a private message to other friends.
  2. At this point, the receiver(s) of the person’s name start to chime in with “funny” or cruel insults about that person.
  3. These can become viral, intensifying the bullying.

Many teens claim that the game is all in “good fun”. However, we all understand how cruel and upsetting this game could end up being for even the most grounded and confident teenager!

Solutions:

How can parents monitor Snapchat?

Just like any other form of social media, Snapchat is not the cause of cyberbullying, sexting, or any other behavioral problem. However, it is an easy tool for teens to use as a way to do so. As parents, you can help your kids from becoming victims or even being the instigators.  It is worth spending a few minutes to learn about what a parent can do to help keep your teens safer when they use Snapchat.

To begin with, parents should make sure their kids are mature enough to use the app in fun and positive ways, and have the maturity to respond appropriately if someone uses an image or video they sent against them or if they see another person being the victim of a bully. Talking to your teens before allowing them to use Snapchat is a great start. Make sure they understand the risks and the irreparable harm that can come from one picture or saved Snap. Even having a parent-teen-technology-contract can help you set some rules and consequences of inappropriate use. Make sure you have their logins as well so you can see their list of friends when you want to. Also, occasionally check the camera roll to make sure that screenshots are appropriate.

Lastly, use a trustworthy mobile parental control, which gives you the ability to disable the taking of screenshots, blocking Snapchat, and other controls which limit their exposure. Remind your teens again that they can come to you if they see or experience anything on social media that concerns them. If using and social media app starts to become a problem, a good conversation, and some quality time away may be all that you teen needs! If bullying does surface with any form of social media, always encourage your teen to seek help immediately from a trusted adult.

The Potential Negative Effects of Too Much Social Media

At first glance, social media seems fairly harmless. You try to prevent your children from being the target of bullying, limit their online time to socially acceptable hours, and do your best to give them the tools they need to protect themselves online, then let them go with minimal monitoring. Unfortunately, social media holds a hidden danger that many parents don’t realize: it can cause depression in both male and female adolescents (and even adults).

Comparison Shots

When people post on social media, they tend to post either their best or their worst–and it’s the best that’s shown the most clearly. Teens, in particular, are prone to showing off. The selfie that gets posted isn’t the one where their posture is imperfect, their shirt is off-center, and their makeup is smudged. Instead, it’s the one that looks stunningly perfect. Many girls will go to extraordinary efforts to pull off that “perfect” look. Then there are the gifts, the “humble brag” posts, and even the put-down posts that are perfect little snapshots of the best moments of someone else’s day, week, or year.Negative Effects of Social Media

Constant exposure to little slices of the best from other people is enough to make anyone a little crazy–and for some teens, it’s depression waiting to happen. While they logically know that the pictures and statuses posted on social media are the “best,” many teens compare that best to their everyday lives–and can possibly find themselves “wanting more” as a result.

The Need for More

Mimetic desire is defined as the act of wanting something simply because someone else has it. On social media, this behavior is often taken to the extreme. Entire groups are formed based on the need to collect all of a certain item, the desire to have the latest and greatest of whatever the group as a whole is interested in. If your teen is part of any of these groups, take a close look at their spending behavior, because those groups can drive many people to become obsessive collectors of items that, before the rise of social media, they would never have known existed. Even worse, when your teen is unable to have the items that they’ve come to desire, it may increase symptoms of depression.Social Media can Have negative effects on teens

Increased Usage = Increased Depression

Whatever the reason, increased social media usage–especially heavy usage, defined as at least 60 minutes per day or 30 visits per week–has been linked to higher levels of depression. Gender doesn’t matter, nor does age: the more often an individual uses social media, the more likely they are to experience depression. As a parent, that’s worrisome, especially if you feel that your child is living with their smartphone or other device in their hand. Taking it away feels like a desperate measure–so what can you do instead?

Look for other activities to fill the time. It’s easy to go onto social media sites for “just a minute” when you’re bored and don’t have anything else to do. Teens who are engaged and active in other activities, however, will be less likely to check in on social media as frequently.Discuss effects of social media with your family

What can parents do?

Encourage real-life hangouts with friends. Teens are less likely to feel that they “need” social interaction online when they spend time with their friends in person.

Limit hours spent with technology. Use a trustworthy mobile parental control that makes it easy to give your children or teenagers a break at different times during times throughout the day. Great times to decide ahead of time would be at bedtime, family meals or when it is time for homework.

As a parent, it’s critical that you watch for signs of depression or stress in your children. These days parenting without screens entirely is not realistic, instead it makes much more sense to teach our children and it is not too late to teach our teenagers how to use technology responsibly. All it takes is time and a plan!

Start by working as family to give your entire family a healthy dose of time away from the screen and always remember it is crucial when giving your children access to the internet  is us up to you to keep them safe from dangerous content and apps on their mobile devices. Communication, careful and regular monitoring and a break is sometimes all it takes to keep our families happy, healthy and content. If your child or teen is still exhibiting signs of social media depression or stress please make sure to visit a qualified physician or psychiatrist as soon as possible.

 

5 Uncomfortable Facts About Instagram Every Parent Should Know

Below we present FIVE of the most important things every parent needs to know about Instagram and the secrets it holds. Scroll down to find out what the number ONE scariest fact of all is!

If you have a teen, chances are they have an Instagram account.  Since it was launched in 2010, Instagram has become one of the most popular social media apps with teens around the globe. Instagram’s 400 million daily active users post more than 80 million photos a day. Statistics show that 20% of all Internet users are on Instagram! The Pew Research Center found that 52% of teens say that Instagram is their favorite social networking site. Teens love Instagram for its simplicity and easy to navigate design. Sharing pictures with their friends and family is easy to do on Instagram.

Teens consider it, along with Snapchat one of the most convenient ways to keep in touch with their friends.  They use Instagram to capture special moments, post their best selfies, funny memes, favorite quotes, and to simply share their interests with friends. However, with so many people and so much content on Instagram there are a few things that you should know and discuss with your teen before you make the decision to allow them to use the app.  If they are already using Instagram, it is never too late for us parents to learn more!

After you read this post be sure to get our newest free resource the Ultimate Guide to Apps for Parents!

#5 – Age Requirements

These days, even when we take notice that something has an age restriction we tend to not give it a second thought.  At Netsanity, we believe that age does matter when using social media,  and here’s why:

COPPA…Instagram’s policy states that children must be at least 13 years old to use its service. This minimum age requirement comes from the required standards set by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule. Websites and online services may not collect data on children under 13 years old without parental consent — but if a 9 or 10-year-old joins Instagram pretending to be 13, COPPA can’t protect them.

What else? 

Readiness… Just because your children seem ready and tech savvy at younger and younger ages, it does not mean that they are ready for social media. Before they reach the age of 12, it can be difficult, for a child or tween to sometimes fully understand the impact of their actions online or off . However, many parents continue to allow their children to join age-inappropriate social networking apps, which could possibly put them at risk of being victims of cyberbullies or online predators before they are old enough to know how to react to a dangerous online situation.

 #4 – “Hidden” Settings

Chances are pretty good that your teen is pretty tech-savvy and once they sign on to any new app they have those settings down in no time! However, when using Instagram there are a few not so obvious settings that you should be aware of.

Let’s look together under the Instagram settings icon

Blog: After you find the Instagram settings icon on the top right side of the screen by your child’s name and click on it. It will bring you to the Options section. If you scroll down you will see Blog almost near the bottom. Click on it and you will see that it takes you directly to Tumblr, an app that you may not want your teen exposed to. Tumblr is rated 17+ in the app store because it is full of inappropriate written content and plenty of pornography. If you aren’t familiar with Tumblr we recommend that you spend just a few minutes navigating around and you will quickly see why Tumblr has a 17+ rating. When you use Netsanity blocking your teen from age-inappropriate apps like Tumblr is easy with our feature appblocker. With one-click, you can block more than 50 previously profiled, internet-based apps that you find inappropriate and even the ones that you feel your teen just needs to take a healthy break from.


And probably the one of the most important settings…

Settings:There are important privacy settings that allow users to determine who follows them. Go back to the Options section and under the Account section look for Private Account and switch the colored icon to On. This is the setting that we always recommend to users of every age! This will only allow those friends that your teen actively approves to see their pictures/posts. These privacy settings are a good way to keep away any unwanted followers or strangers because your teen will have to approve each follower request that they receive. We recommend setting this up with your teen from the start and reviewing the procedure with them along with a reminder for them to always keep this on and to only approve followers that they know in real life! We have noticed that many, many teens and tweens on Instagram have public profiles. If your teen is already on Instagram than this is a good time to do a check up on their settings!

If the privacy setting is swiped to OFF then your teens account is open for public viewing! 

Location:There is an important feature on Instagram that you need to also make your teen aware of. Teens can easily share the location of where they took the picture when they  post. This setting allows a user to tag their picture to a particular address or location. If you click on that location once the post is up, the app brings you to a map and a small dot that shows exactly where were they were when they took the picture. We saw so many pictures that we were able to easily click on and even see the users home location or their favorite coffee shop that they just might visit regularly. To ensure safety, follow these directions: Go to your teens phone settings, select Instagram, click on location, select never.

#3 – The Ugly

Your teen will certainly have days when they are scrolling through Instagram and they see a friend on an exciting vacation, a party that they weren’t invited to or a classmate standing next to a bright and shiny new car with a bow on top, it’s human nature to feel a little jealous.

Hanna Krasnova of Humboldt University Berlin, co-author of the study on Facebook and envy said that, “A photo can very powerfully provoke immediate social comparison, and that can trigger feelings of inferiority.”

Krasnova’s calls this an “envy spiral” peculiar to social media. “If you see beautiful photos of your friend on Instagram,” she says, “one way to compensate is to self-present with even better photos, and then your friend sees your photos and posts even better photos, and so on. Self-promotion triggers more self-promotion, and the world on social media gets further and further from reality.” This is why it is so important to talk to your teens and remind  them that just like they only post their best selfies and most interesting days, others are doing the same. No one is posting pictures of their boring Saturday night stuck at home alone watching reruns on television or  reading a good book. However, some of us adults think that sounds pretty good! The point being, is that social media shouldn’t make your teen feel inadequate, and if it starts to that is a sign that they just may need to take a break.

Additionally, the number of teens who are unhappy with their bodies is continuously rising. One scroll through a teens Instagram feed and you will quickly know the answer. With social media an almost constant these days in our teens lives, parents need to understand that it is now even more of a platform than TV and Magazine covers were for us “back in the day”. We couldn’t carry our television set around with us all day. On Instagram, your teen will probably follow some of their favorite celebrities and bloggers where they are certain to be flooded with images of attractive, fit, well-dressed and seemingly “flawless” looking people. This can be dangerous for some young teens, so be sure to keep an eye on the conversations you hear or any sudden changes of behavior like a new diet/fitness routine, or you hear them criticizing or comparing themselves to others on Instagram.

 #2 – Instagram Direct

Some parents don’t realize that Instagram also has a private message or chat feature called Instagram Direct. When using Instagram someone you follow can easily send you a private message with this feature. The message is easily viewed by tapping on the arrow on the top right of the feed. You should be aware that even If someone that your teen has not allowed to follow them can still send them a message! What happens is that the message will appear as a request in their inbox. Once the message arrives, your teen can either decline or allow the message by tapping the message then selecting decline or allow at the bottom of the screen.

Note: If your teen selects allow on the message, all future messages from this user will go directly to their inbox! On the other hand, if they decline the message, they will not receive messages from that sender again. Instagram also offers an option to block the user and REPORT their account. We encourage you to discuss these features with your teen before allowing them to have an Instagram account.

 #1 –  Not-So-Hidden Porn and Other Scary Surprises 

Lastly, lets take a look at the search bar/magnifying glass, this is the area that allows users to search for their friends, and anything and everything on Instagram! This is also the area where you can search by using a hashtag (#happy)!   Unfortunately, this is also the area where your teen can find endless inappropriate material without ever using a browser AND the search clear history can be cleared in an instant by simply selecting Clear Search History.  While doing research for this section of our guide, we learned a lot about how many users get around Instagram’s restrictions of pornographic material. During a routine visit on Instagram to learn more, we stumbled on much more than we had planned.

We typed some random hashtags and even hashtags made up of only emoji’s that brought us to various non-private user accounts as well as plenty of private accounts just asking for you to friend request them. Literally, in seconds, we were able to see some very disturbing content. We will not elaborate – suffice it to say that what we saw was disturbing, graphic, and inappropriate.

We would like to demonstrate to you a mild example of some of the content that your child or teen can easily get to via their Instagram account, simply by typing in a hashtag.

Try this:

  1. Open up Instagram
  2. Click on the magnifying glass icon
  3. As a simple example in the search bar enter: #addme or #roleplay
  4. Click on People or Tags
  5. Now select the hashtag below that shows whatever hashtag you entered (#addme or #roleplay) and click on either the number of posts or search the people.

It shouldn’t  take much scrolling or clicking around to see for yourself. A little research will show you that today’s teens quickly learn secret hashtags and secret emoji codes that bring them to very inappropriate material as well as pornography. Instagram does its best to fight this, but it is an ongoing battle. As fast as Instagram takes down a bunch of inappropriate tagged photos or videos even more are added using different tags. Some describe it as a game of cat and mouse. Just know that if your teen is on Instagram they will either already have or most likely eventually will see some type of pornography, so be prepared and have the conversation early and often.

If you allow your teen to use apps like Instagram is completely up to you! However, it is always easier to keep your teens safe and to instill balance with screentime on their devices when you use a trustworthy parental control. When choosing a parental control software or app parents have  a lot to consider because most parental control apps and “safe routers” are easy for teens to circumvent. These days, it is so important for parents to be watchful about what your children and teens are doing on their mobile devices and to be proactive. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter and keep up to date with the latest news and updates on social media and how it affects your family.

“House Party”: What Parents Should Know Before the Party Starts

Technology has grown in leaps and bounds over the past decade; it’s never been easier to connect with our family and friends regardless of schedule or location. Video chatting is gaining increasing popularity as one of the best ways to visit and stay close to the special people in our life. Skype and other video conferencing services are still popular–both for casual visits as well as for formal business transactions. However, social media is still growing, providing new apps specifically designed for video chatting.  Leading the charge, recently released “House Party” is changing the way we video chat.  Released in 2016, this app became an overnight sensation; it’s still growing with over 1 million users. With its easy accessibility and fun, casual, atmosphere, House Party seems like the perfect way for anyone, especially teens, to connect with their friends. As parents, it’s important to keep a few key aspects in mind before your teen gets this “party” started.

After you read this post be sure to try our all new interactive online demo. Free to use. Just click and go. >> Parental Controls Demo

What Is House Party?

How Does House Party Work?

The creators of House Party took video chatting to a whole new level.  Unlike the limited chatting capability of Skype or Facebook Live, House Party allows users to simultaneously chat with up to 8 separate friends.  Although chatting with 8 people all at once may sound chaotic or confusing, House Party creators used this potential issue to give their app a true “party-like” feel. Using a split screen feature, your device’s screen breaks into separate chat boxes–one for each member of your party.  This allows you to see every member of your video chat in real-time as you visit.

Creating an account with House Party is relatively simple. After creating a unique username, you can add your phone number to give the app access to your contact list.  This automatically allows you access to anyone on your list.  If you wish to skip your phone number, you can also manually enter the House Party username of anyone you wish to chat with.

After creating an account, you are free to create “rooms” for separate video chats. These rooms allow you to add up to 8 friends to your video chat.  Chat requests are sent out to your friends via notifications through the app or through SMS text messages.  As soon as your friends respond, your video chat is ready to begin.  The real-time accessibility of this app allows friends’ to enjoy each others’ company as though they were all in the same room.

What’s Good About the App?

  • Security

This app is relatively secure.  When creating “rooms” for video chats, you are given specific control to pick who exactly you wish to chat with.  These rooms come with filters to block out anyone not explicitly invited.  This prevents eavesdropping and unwanted snooping.

Accounts are also secure.  Although you may receive requests to chat from anyone, you are free to ignore these requests and stay silent.  This app is a two-way street; no video chat can begin without agreement from both users.  Currently, no privacy leaks or scandals have been traced back to this app. However, we see the potential so talk to your teen extensively about your rules for using this app if you do allow them use it and we suggest checking in on occasion to make sure that the app is being used like you discussed.

  • Accessibility

One of the greatest features of the app is its simple, clean interface.  Users enjoy friends’ company without buffering and other technical bugs.  Frequent updates help keep this app working smoothly. In terms of its features and usability, it currently holds 3.4 rating on Google Play.

  • Relationship Friendly

For teens in long-distance relationships with family members and friends, if used properly House Party can be a safe, enjoyable way to keep in touch with loved ones. Because this app allows so many users to chat simultaneously, it’s the perfect way to bring groups together at a moment’s notice.

What Should Parents be Concerned About?

  • Privacy

Although this app possesses good security filters, it doesn’t always explicitly warn you to use them. If you don’t take the time to “lock” your chat room and choose private settings, others can pop into the video chat.  Although you may have chosen to chat with a few specific friends, any of their mutual friends or yours can choose to enter the chat if the privacy filters are not in use.  While mutual friends are not necessarily dangerous strangers, leaving your chat rooms open is still is a bit of a privacy concern.

If your teen isn’t aware of the privacy filters or simply forgets to use them, eavesdroppers can sneak into their chats.  When video chatting, be sure you and your teen remember to switch the privacy filters on. This keeps video chats private and secure.

However, as an extra privacy feature, House Party gives a “stranger danger” warning if an uninvited user sneaks into the chat.  This warning shows that someone’s mutual friend has decided to enter the chat room.  Many times, this warning isn’t viewed with too much worry. Some teens admit that this is how some types of flirting take place over the app.  Many view the stranger warning as playful “trolling” from a safe friend.

  • Stranger Danger

House Party doesn’t use any type of age verification.  If you’re chatting with friends or acquaintances, this isn’t a huge issue; you know who you’re chatting with.  However, because this app has no age limit, it’s vital that your teen only chats with friends or classmates that they know in person. With its 1 million+ users, any person from any age group is available for a spontaneous video chat.  Keeping the chatting between close friends and family is the best safety policy to avoid the innate stranger danger of many social media apps. We strongly encourage you to talk to your teens and set these rules from the beginning if you plan on allowing them to use this app.

  •  Explicit Content

With social media, mature content is an innate risk.  “Sexting” and other types of explicit material are an ever-growing risk in some teenage circles. Although House Party doesn’t necessarily encourage this type of behavior, it can become a potential enabler for risque flirting and dangerous relationships.  Always check with your teen about who they’re chatting with and what types of conversations are taking place.  It’s always best to keep these video chats out in the open to avoid the dangers that can take place behind closed doors.

Overall, House Party ranks well both with teens and their parents.  The simple account setup and adequate safety filters, allow relatively worry-free video chatting.  This app is useful for far more than just casual conversation.  It has some valuable applications outside of pure recreation. Older teens and college students enjoy using this app for study sessions and school projects.  This app can also be useful for work-related meetings and other types of group project-planning.

If at any time House Party becomes a problem, your teen is not ready for the app or you would just like your teen to take a break from the it. Netsanity has now added this app to our revolutionary appblocker making it easy for parents to block and unblock the app with just a touch.

Safer Internet Day 2017: Tips to Keep Your Family Safe

Safer Internet Day 2017 #SID2017

On Tuesday, February 7th, Netsanity will join others around the world and celebrate Safer Internet Day 2017 (http://saferinternetday.us/), an international education and awareness campaign spanning the globe!  This years slogan is ‘Be the change: unite for a better internet’. From cyberbullying to social networking, each year Safer Internet Day aims to raise awareness of emerging online issues and chooses topics that reflect today’s top concerns.

Safer Internet Day 2017 | Netsanity | #SID2017

With the constant introduction of new technology, social media apps, and online services it helps to get ongoing practical advice. That’s why at Netsanity,  we are always working with safety experts, our parents, educators and communities around the globe – to keep parents informed on what works best to keep your children safe when they go online. Together, we hope to continue to build a community of responsible digital citizens.

Here are some quick suggestions for how to help keep your family safe online.

SID2017 - Safer Internet Day Tips 2017 | Netsanity

Tech Talk

Be clear about your family’s rules and expectations around technology and consequences for inappropriate use. Make sure that your children know that they can come to you for your guidance when they encounter tough decisions or have questions.

Why not take the opportunity today to formalize your agreement on what steps your family will take to ensure online safety.  ​Our team at Netsanity has created a printable family technology contract that makes it easy to set ground rules with your children for safer and more responsible use of technology. During this activity here are a few additional discussions that you may want to have with your child about appropriate behavior online.

  • How should your child respond if someone sends them an inappropriate picture?
  • What’s considered acceptable and unacceptable behavior online?
  • How should your child respond if they are a victim of cyberbullying?
  • How should your child respond if they see that someone else is a victim of cyberbullying?
  • How many hours of screentime a day is acceptable in your family?
  • What parental controls will you be using on your child’s devices?
  • What are the consequences of irresponsible online behaviors?

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. Sometimes cyberbullying can be easy to spot — if your child shows you or you read a text message or spot a comment from a friend on social media, that sounds overly sarcastic or cruel the discussion is easy. However, other acts can be much less obvious, like impersonating a victim online or posting personal information, photos, or roasting designed to hurt or embarrass another person. Some children report that a fake account, webpage, or online persona has been created with the intention to harass and bully them.

Sadly, many children who are cyberbullied don’t dare to tell a teacher or parent, because they fear they could make the problem worse by infuriating the bully or that they may even get their own internet and smartphone privileges taken away by a parent.

Signs of cyberbullying vary, but some signs may include:

  • being emotionally upset during or after being online
  • being secretive when on their mobile devices
  • withdrawing from the family or their regular friends
  • wanting to skip out of regular activities
  • feeling “sick” and wanting to stay home from school
  • declining grades at school
  • changes in mood, routine, sleep, or appetite

If you find that cyberbullying has occurred, immediately take steps to work with your child to block the bully, get help from someone at school like a teacher, principal or guidance counselor. Many schools have protocols for responding to cyberbullying. Additional resources can be found by contacting one of these great resources provided by Gaggle.net.

Safe Internet Day - Cyber Safety Online Safety 2017 - SID2017 | Netsanity

Screentime

As parents, we are ultimately the ones responsible for teaching our children how to manage their time so that they  can find a balance between being able to use technology for school, social media for fun and still have time to find time in their days to fit in healthy activities that do not involve technology! Setting an example with our own use of our smartphones and tablets  is always the first way to approach the problem! A few tips include:

  • Set time limits each day with a trustworthy parental control and communicate this with your children so it isn’t a surprise!
  • Plan to have dinner as a family and talk during car rides: About two-thirds (64%) of young people say the TV is usually on during meals. Studies show that a family’s most meaningful conversations will often take place during meals and in the car.
  • Encourage other activities and provide the necessary resources (books to read, board games, art supplies, and/or sporting equipment).Tips for Safer Internet Day | Safer Internet Day Resources

Privacy

Privacy on the Internet is a ever growing concern. As parents, it is crucial that we take steps to keep our personal information protected by securing our online accounts and limiting the information that we choose to post on public forums. Yes, this even includes photos of our children that might embarrass them if they show up in a public search in the future! Our lives are being publicly documented like never before. Just do an online search of yourself and you’ll see comments you posted on a news article, your home address, and even personal photos that have may have posted on various social networks. Private information can be used in numerous embarrassing and even harmful ways, so it is increasingly worthwhile to pay attention to privacy issues–and to pass along good advice and habits to your children. Setting a good example goes a long way in teaching your children to be good digital citizens.

Be Involved

We feel that it is important to make sure that your children are only allowed to message and accept friend requests on social media from people that they and know in person. You will find as they get older that sometimes the number of friends they have on a particular app or social media site can become a popularity contest. Many children have been known to friend strangers to increase these numbers. Sadly, strangers with bad intentions realize that and will sometimes try and contact children by masking as someone of the same age or someone who has a similar interest or hobby as your child.

Make sure that you also become friends and contacts within your child’s social media circles and that you continually monitor their posts. The best way to monitor? Be open and do spot checks that allow you to look at your children’s mobile devices instead of depending on any type of spy or hack software. This will ensure that no apps or secret accounts are being hidden or used.  Set this expectation from the very beginning (it is never too late to set these expectations even if you didn’t start that way) and it should not be a problem in your family. As your children get older, they will not want Mom and Dad looking at their personal messages to their friends and that’s ok if you want ensure them that you are monitoring and not sitting around reading their personal messages word for word.

Most importantly, look to see what apps are installed, take a mental inventory, and if you are not familiar with a particular app, go online and do your research. If you aren’t sure about something that you see on their devices ask them questions.

Reputation

These days it’s more important than ever to talk to your kids about their online reputation, especially on social networks and apps, and how it can have impact their lives offline. Children need to learn early on that what they post on the  internet is not private. Chances are good that a post or message seldom stays only with the person that it was intended for.  Friends often share private messages or photos, hackers are everywhere and companies have been known to change their privacy settings or policies often!  Does anyone really read those policies? Before your child is ever allowed to use social media or email they should be made aware that everything that they post online should be viewed as if it is public information. Remind them that someday —an employer or a college admissions counselor just might see it. Once something is posted on the internet it is permanent and yes, can easily become public!

Safeguard

Parental controls are the first line of defense in keeping your children safe online. Protect all the devices that your child uses. Their computer isn’t the only way they can stumble across explicit or dangerous content. In fact, most children and teen use their mobile device exclusively.

Here are some additional actions to consider:

  • Protect your mobile devices with a trustworthy parental control that cannot be easily defeated like a home router or app can.
  • Regularly monitor your child’s internet use and search history. Keep in mind that even the best parental controls may not be able to filter everything, especially if your child does go looking for explicit material.
  • Discuss appropriate online behavior, including what sites should and should not be viewed, with your child on a regular basis.
  • Use a parental control that has timeout or controls that allow you to schedule “off times” for internet-enabled devices, including smartphones and tablets.
  • Discuss what apps you consider to be appropriate for your child. Keep in mind that may apps allow children to view content that they might not be able to get to on other sites.
  • If your child is younger and ready to have their own email address we suggest starting with a service like KidsEmail.  The have a safe email service for kids and families. KidsEmail allows younger kids have a safe email account while allowing parents to be aware of any correspondence their children send and receive.Kids Online Safety Tips for Parents | Safer Internet Day February 7 2017

Solutions

Staying safe isn’t just a one-day thing – technology evolves and so will the needs of your family. Make sure that you keep up an ongoing dialogue. Re-establish your family’s ground rules on a regular basis, check in on everyone’s progress and set aside time to talk at regular intervals. Be consistent. Use the internet in the way you’d like your children to, safely and responsibly, and set the example!

We’d love to know how you are celebrating Safer Internet Day 2017! Be sure to join the conversation on Facebook!

Kids and Teens are Finding Pornograpy Online, and It’s Brain Changing

You already know the likelihood that your child will stumble onto pornography online. In fact, many children and teens admit that their first look at pornography wasn’t intentional at all. They might have been searching for something else entirely and phrased their search query incorrectly. They might have clicked on the wrong link at the wrong time. Unfortunately, the dangers of stumbling onto pornography could be worse for your child and have more effects on the brain than you think.

Looking at pornography can actually change your child’s brain – even if they aren’t doing it deliberately.

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Young Children Can Be Traumatized

How Porn Effects Kids and Teens | Netsanity

Young children are perhaps the most at risk for brain changing pornography exposure. They go online looking for something innocent: a video with their favorite show, information about a subject that fascinates them, or even research for school. Then, all of a sudden, a dirty link sneaks in. This can have an effect on these children that goes far beyond a single episode.

Young children aren’t yet ready to explore their sexuality.

Five-year-olds haven’t started developing sexually at all. They have no concept of sex. Stumbling in on their parents might be one thing, but experiencing hardcore pornography can have a traumatic effect that stays with kids long beyond the time when they close the computer and move on to something else.

Pornography is often highly unrealistic.

It depicts activities that don’t take place during the actual sexual event. Unfortunately, this highly graphic content has the potential to stick with kids long after they see it. That means that it may continue to impact their sexual development long after they think they’ve moved on from the event.

Some pornography seems to be geared towards kids. 

It wouldn’t seem that adults would have much interest in pornography depicting cartoon characters–and yet it’s out there, where innocent minds can stumble across it all too easily. The same goes for online roleplaying that is too  easily found on sites like Tumblr.

How Porn Effects Kids and Teens | Netsanity

Pornographic Material Online Removes the Family Lens

For generations, parents have been able to control how and when their children were exposed to sexual content. Parents were able to have very specific “talks” with their children that guided them toward responsible sexual conduct with realistic expectations of what sex actually looks like. Pornography removes the family lens from that discussion, leading teens and adolescents to often-incorrect assumptions about sexuality.

Online Pornography Can Become Addictive and There are Proven Porn Addiction Side Effects

Watching pornography–which often depicts graphic, unrealistic sexual behavior, including behavior that isn’t consensual–stimulates the pleasure centers in the developing adolescent brain. As a result, teens and tweens can quickly become addicted to pornography, which then continues to further shape their view of sex and relationships. This addictive behavior can stick with them into adulthood, when they may realize the consequences of the behavior more fully than they did as teenagers.

Porn Effect on Brain - Kids and Teens | Netsanity

Protecting Your Kids From Porn

Many parents assume that it won’t happen to their children. They assume that their kids understand responsible online behavior and that they won’t venture to pornographic websites. Unfortunately, all too often, this proves to be untrue. Protecting your kids means taking several critical steps:

  • Make sure that you have trustworthy mobile parental control software on all of your children and teenagers devices. Many parents protect the home computer, but forget the mobile devices that seldom leave their kids sides.
  • Talk regularly with your kids about what they’re viewing online.
  • Restrict internet use to public areas of the house when possible so that you can observe your kids’ browsing habits.
  • Check browsing history on a regular basis.
  • Watch your child for unusual behaviors that could indicate that they’re watching pornography.

Sadly, porn is easily found on the internet even by accident. Take steps today to make sure your kids are protected as long as they can be from seeing images and videos you may not want them too. Here’s how to block porn on Apple and Android devices using Netsanity.

 

The Most Popular Apps for Teens and Tweens

As parents we should expect that 2017 will hold an even greater appeal for teenage apps and popular social media outlets.  As you know, more than ever teenagers and tweens love to connect and share fun events and memories on social media.  Each day apps and social media sites get booming traffic from middle and high schoolers. When asked by CNN how much time they spent on their phone or on social media, many teens gave sheepish answers.

After you read this post be sure to get our newest free resource the Ultimate Guide to Apps for Parents!

However, research has shown that teens spend an average of 9 hours a day browsing social media feeds. Apps for teens are getting enormous daily usage. Tweens between 8-12 years spent about 6 hours. With the skyrocketing popularity of apps for teens, particularly ones geared exclusively toward social media, parents have a growing need to learn about these outlets and discover both the positive and negative aspects of each.  Consider the top 5 apps for teens and everything your teen may or may not want you to know about each one. Apps for Teens - Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, Musically

Instagram

According to a survey through Business Insider, Instagram leads as the top social media app used by teens and tweens. This social media app allows teens to share pictures and short videos.   Instagram is one of the most popular social media apps being used by anyone from elementary school students to grandparents. Everyone loves it for its smooth and easy to navigate design, the ease of sharing pictures with friends and family, and convenient method of communication. Instagram is a great place to show off one’s photography skills, what they did over the weekend, or maybe post a hundred different pictures of their cute pets. Google Play gives this app a broad “T” rating for teen-appropriateness.

Pros:

  • Good privacy features

With the proper settings in place, your teen’s photos are safe from strangers’ eyes.  Their account can be set to allow only certain friends and followers to see their posts.

  • Easy accessibility

This app is relatively easy to use and offers little confusion.  Teens and tweens who struggle with technology find it a fun easy app to use.

Cons:

  • Stranger danger

If not closely monitored, your teen may allow strangers or others to follow their account. This is a common theme with any social media app; with frequent check-ups, this can be avoided.

Twitter

Twitter | NetSanity | @netsanitymobileThis app is famous for fast and easy “status updates.”  In less than a minute, your teen can post a quick selfie, check in at their favorite restaurant, or share a joke.  Many actors and celebrities have made this app famous; some have thousands of followers hanging on their every update.  Although your child most likely will not gain this level of following, they can still enjoy connecting with friends.  Although Google Play gives this app an “M” for mature audiences and a 17+ warning, with proper monitoring, this app can be used with relative safety.

Pros:

  • Easy way to connect with others

Friends and family can easily connect with this app and stay current with new life developments.

  • Fast way to find news

Teens who wish to stay current on any and all news find Twitter an easy way to see what’s “trending” and most popular.  Many popular news outlets use this app for breaking news stories.

Cons:

  • Damaged self-esteem

Teens who see friends constantly bragging or sharing fun activities and accomplishments may find their self-esteem suffering.  Twitter is an easy way to put up a “good front” and look popular, especially if you have a high number of followers.

  • Damaging conversations and bullying

Social media offers bullies and gossipers easy access to share the latest scoop.  Unfortunately, Twitter’s easy, fast accessibility offers some young people the opportunity to quickly ruin someone’s name and credibility with “trash talk” and cruel stories or pictures.

Facebook

Facebook | NetSanity

Although not quite as popular as in the past with the younger generation, this social media platform is still a social hotspot for young people.  Facebook offers teens the ability to share photos, videos, and messages with ease.  This app also allows them to find old friends and quickly make new connections. Google Play gives it a broad “T” for teen-appropriateness.  Many safety issues are avoided with parental supervision.

Pros:

  • Relatively good privacy

Although this social media outlet has suffered some privacy concerns, it still offers reasonably good safety measures to guard your child’s profile against unwanted eyes.  Your teen can choose how visible their profile is and who to share posts with.

  • Good accountability

As a parent, it’s fairly easy to check their profile and post history. This is done by “following” them as a friend or logging into their account directly.

  • Facebook Messenger

For teens who frequently text, Facebook Messenger offers a free instant messaging option.  This can help cut back on cell phone text charges.

Tumblr

What happens when you cross a blog with Twitter?  In 2007 Tumblr was founded as a quickly growing social media outlet for young people and adults to blog and share posts.  On average, this app has upwards of 550 million monthly users with new accounts created every day.  This app is a digital scrapbook for nearly everything and many teens use it to stay current with pop culture and share posts on their favorite bands, tv shows, movies, and books.

Pros:

  • Creative outlet

Aspiring artists, photographers, and writers can easily share their creations with like-minded friends and followers.

  • Connectivity and new relationships

Teen and tweens who find it difficult to find others with similar tastes and hobbies can easy find a peer group founded on similar interests.

Cons:

  • Porn and explicit material

When not closely monitored, it’s very easy for teens to find illicit accounts and posts depicting pornographic or explicit material.  Posts encouraging self-harm and other destructive behaviors are infamous “skeletons” in Tumblr’s digital closet. Google Play rates this site and its corresponding app with an “M” for “mature” and a 17+ age warning for appropriateness.

  • Lack of privacy

Unlike other social media outlets, Tumblr has a very lax privacy policy.  Posts are easily copied and quickly shared.  Accounts are also very open with very little privacy.  If your child shares a post they later regret, it’s very difficult if not impossible to track it down.Apps Teens Are Using - Popular Apps 2017

Snapchat

Similar to Instagram, this app allows teens to share pictures and videos.  The only catch is the fact that these posts are automatically deleted after a short period of time. This app also allows its users to use fun “filters” to transform their pictures.  Their selfies can be transformed into “dog” faces and other types of funny characters.  Other popular effects include artsy borders and other special coloring effects to make their pictures truly unique. Many teens use this app to share and enjoy goofy or embarrassing pictures without fear of awkwardness later on.

Pros:

  • Easy accessibility and social connections

Teens can enjoy easy sharing accessibility.  Teens can also enjoy sharing and connecting with all their friends through games and “selfie challenges.” After all, who doesn’t love silly pictures?

  • Relative privacy

The fact that these posts are permanently deleted is a myth.  Even though deleted posts can be recovered through tech-savvy means, most Snapchat accounts enjoy fairly good privacy from unwanted eyes. Teens can control who sees their pictures.

Cons:

  • Lack of accountability

The fact that posts don’t stick around in their posting history offers a tempting lack of accountability.  “Sexting,” nude pictures, and other explicit posts can be shared between teens with little fear of being caught.  Although Google Play gives it a broad “T” rating, this risk-free kind of messaging easily opens the door for very dangerous behaviors and relationships. Parents should be vigilant and cautious of this app.

Although there is an ever-growing pool of teenage-geared apps and social media platforms (see our post on Musical.ly), many are based on the same type of traits and features.  By understanding the pros and cons of the most popular apps, you arm yourself with a good idea of what to expect for similar apps in the future. Talk with your teen and learn about their social media interests.  When it comes to apps and social media, knowledge is the best preventative weapon a parent can have. For more information on popular apps and social media dangers sign-up for Netsanity’s free social media guide today.

Teen Peer Pressure and Social Media in the Digital Age

Teen Peer Pressure

If you are the parent of a teenager, you likely know about teen peer pressure and that this pressure from friends, classmates and online friends is intensified by social media. During a TODAY show interview, NBC’s Stephanie Gosk talked to eight Colorado teens as part of the “Teens Tell All” series. These teens, ages 15-17, discussed some of the peer pressure they face daily.

After you read this post be sure to get our newest free resource the Ultimate Guide to Apps for Parents!

Drugs

In a state where marijuana is legal for adults, the teens admitted they feel pressure to smoke it. Many of their friends smoke marijuana, and one teen admitted you are looked down upon if you are not “chill” about smoking it. Several teens admitted getting marijuana is easier than getting beer, something potentially concerning to some parents since several other states have also legalized marijuana in at least some form.

Another drug related pressure for teens is the misuse of prescription drugs. Some teens have pill parties, where everyone brings a pill, drops it in a bowl, and takes a different pill, not knowing what they are taking.

Along with that, some teens feel pressured to drink lean, a concoction of cough syrup, Sprite, and Jolly Ranchers. Not only are they taking cough syrup when they do not need it, but they are drinking higher amounts than would be safe if they did need the medication. Sadly, like many teen trends, teens often learn about pill parties and lean through social media.

Teen Peer Pressure Information for Parents | Netsanity
Teens face pressures daily…

Sexting

Seven out of eight of the teens admitted to having seen a naked picture of someone in their school, some admitting it had happened as early as middle school. In some cases, the teens receiving the pictures are not even asking for them. Also, sometimes one teen will receive the picture and then show it to others. One girl even admitted it would not be weird for someone she liked to ask for a naked picture since sexting is such a common thing for some teens.

Nothing is Private

In a world where many of these teens are on their phones or using social media throughout the day, very little is private. If they have a fight with a friend, both people will be sharing their side of the story. Many of their peers will know what was said between the two people, whether in-person, through text, or through social media. Unfortunately, this can result in people taking sides on issues that might not be any of their business or knowing about things that should be kept private.

The Competition

Social media is a medium for teenage competition as well as a place where many teens feel badly about their own lives. Teens feel sad when they read about their social media friends having fun or when they see pictures of their friends going to parties or having an active social life. The pressure is there to only post about the fun things they are doing, thereby competing to have the most exciting life. Unfortunately, this pressure forces teens to not fully show their real selves.

Real Life Pressure

The pressure to be a specific person is not limited to the virtual world. Teens feel pressured to stay busy by being involved in sports, clubs, and other activities. Plus, there’s often pressure to get good grades so they can get into the best colleges.

Sadly, the teen peer pressure to be perfect and to achieve success in all areas of their lives does not just come from peers. Parents sometimes add to that pressure by expecting their teens to take specific classes or participate in certain activities. Sometimes this pressure can backfire, causing teens to be unable to live up to the expectations placed upon them by their peers, their family, and even themselves.

You cannot protect your children from all teen peer pressures and social media influences. Trying to do so may push your teen away. Ultimately, it is important to guide your teen down the right path and then trust that they will make the right decisions.

Teens Face Peer Pressures Daily | Netsanity

The Internet and social media are, after all, technological tools that enhance the ability of teens to make friends and explore their environment. The trick is for parents to become more engaged with their children and more aware of their online lives. When this happens, the interactions teens have on the Internet tend to be more positive. Additionally, installing mobile parental control software on your children and teens devices is one of the best ways to know that they are safe and secure when they’re online. Don’t assume that your teen is able to monitor their own behavior, especially if you’ve had trouble in the past. Instead, install software from a reputable company that will help keep them safe and balanced.

What challenges have you faced discussing peer pressures with your teen?

Help! When Other Parents Don’t Use Parental Controls

You know the importance of parental controls, and you’ve made the effort to be sure that they’re on all of your kids’ mobile devices. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case for the friends who are hanging out with your kids–and that means that all they have to do is look over a friend’s shoulder to see all the content you’ve been so careful to block. How are you supposed to keep your children safe when other parents aren’t using parental controls?

Have clear discussions with your child about your expectations.Make sure your child knows the types of content they aren’t allowed to view and that they understand the consequences for checking out that content without your consent. Explain the reasoning behind your desire to protect them and encourage them to talk to you any time they view inappropriate content on a friend’s device.

Your house, your rules. When a child comes over to your house, they may bring their devices along with them. Tablets and smartphones are so portable that it’s easy for children to bring them along in their bags without your knowledge. If you’re struggling with a friend who keeps bringing those devices to your home, you have several choices:

Restrict device use to common areas. Keep an eye on what the kids are watching and check back in regularly. Keeping the device usage to common areas will often prevent kids from viewing things that they know they aren’t supposed to be watching–and if they’re doing it anyway, their faces may give it away.

parental-controls-friends

Ask that the devices stay at home. If there’s a friend who is a repeat offender, ask that their devices stay at home when they come to visit. Mobile phones can always sit on the counter so that they can maintain contact with their parents if necessary, but not lead your child astray. They’re there to hang out with friends anyway, not to play with their devices!

Maintain your device-free hours. You don’t allow your kids to have their smartphones out at the dinner table, and their friends shouldn’t, either. If you have device-free hours right before bedtime, that applies when friends are over, too–especially if it’s a friend that you know does not have parental controls on their devices.

Don’t allow the child to visit. If you’re struggling with a particular “friend” who simply won’t adhere to your rules, it’s time to put your foot down: if they can’t follow them, they don’t get to come over. It’s better to restrict your child’s access to a disobedient friend than it is to have a child who has been exposed to pornography or violent content against your wishes.

Know who your child is hanging out with. Just like you can restrict certain children from coming to your house, you can prevent your child from going out with them. If you know another parent’s rules are far more lax than your own and you don’t feel confident that your child will adhere to your rules while they’re there, you don’t have to let your child go.

friends-block-apps

Clearly discussing expectations with your child and letting them know the potential consequences of failing to follow your rules no matter where they might be is the best way to set them up for success. Let your child know that the rules must be followed, then follow through on consequences if necessary.

In one neighborhood, a group of parents got together and decided to make sure that all of their kids devices were protected with Netsanity. So far it has been working out well and the parents have told us that they are resting easier when their children are at another family’s home or hanging out at the bus stop!

You have  a lot to consider because most parental control apps and “safe routers” are easy for kids to circumvent. These days, it is so important for parents to be watchful about what your kids and teens are doing on their mobile devices and to be proactive. Remember, even for the best kids it is  in their nature to test your limits and to be curious. As parents our  job is to make sure that they stay safe and don’t make bad choices which can harm them for years to come. At Netsanity, we pride ourselves in being a trustworthy parental control that is not easily defeated by even the most tech-savvy teens!

 

Digital Addiction: Protecting Your Child

Increasing numbers of young students are battling a digital addiction. Children are being exposed to electronics at younger and younger ages, spending hours a day staring at a glowing screen instead of engaging with their peers, working with physical tools, and even playing outside during recess–and many kids are suffering as a result. According to Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, digital addiction is as potent as heroin–and his article, Digital Heroin Addiction, goes into detail about the potential impact on kids.

The Consequences of Excessive Screen Time

The more time that children spend on their devices, from iPads to laptops and video games, the more it can impact their brains. This digital addiction is similar to heroin and cocaine addiction–and actually causes similar changes within the frontal cortex of the brain. Many children experience issues like:

  • An increase in ADD and ADHD symptoms, including a nationwide increase of more than 50% over the last 10 years, as screens have become more common
  • Violent behavior related to the loss of screen time, similar to an addict who has been denied their drug of choice
  • Loss of interest in activities that previously held their attention, including refusal to participate in activities that were previously enjoyed

Many parents note serious changes in their children as technology use increases. The more time the kids spend with these games, glued to a glowing screen, the more severe the changes in their personalities and behaviors become. While some parents argue that “addiction” is a very strong word, others are finding that their children are trapped by this digital plague with what feels like no way out. When military programs are effectively using video games to help burn victims manage pain, it’s obvious that very real changes are taking place within the minds of those who spend time with screens on a regular basis–and parents are faced with the need to protect their children as a result.

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Screens in Schools

According to Dr. Kardaras, one of the biggest problems faced by parents isn’t just the technology they allow into their homes. It’s the growing technology use in the classroom. Instead of allowing children to learn and grow within their environment, schools are encouraging most children to use devices at younger and younger ages. Even kindergarten students can expect to have computers and even tablets in the classroom, and older children may be encouraged to participate in coding activities or even allowed to play video games during recess time instead of heading outside with their peers.

Managing the Digital Addiction

If you’re struggling with how to control your child’s exposure to digital media, there are several steps you can take to step down the addiction and help your child have more normal brain development. These include:

  • Encouraging activities that have nothing to do with screens, especially activities that your child shows an interest in
  • Pursuing alternative educational methods that don’t use screens as often as traditional programs
  • Taking your child to participate in fun activities outside of school
  • Encouraging creative play
  • Enforcing screen limits, especially at home, so that your child doesn’t spend too much time entranced by those glowing screens
  • Looking for alternative ways to accomplish the same activities that are now accomplished with a computer, from heading to the library to check out a new book or two to exploring a museum or taking a walk at the park.

As a parent, it’s critical that you watch for signs of digital addiction in your children. These days parenting without screens entirely is not realistic, instead it makes much more sense to teach our children how to use technology responsibly. All it takes is time and a plan!

Start by working as family to give your entire family a healthy dose of time away from the screen and always remember it is crucial when giving your children access to the internet  is us up to you to keep them safe from dangerous content and apps on their mobile devices. This means that us parents have  a lot to consider because most parental control apps and “safe routers” are easy for children to circumvent.  These days, it is critical to not be lax about what your children are doing on their mobile devices and it is crucial to be proactive.

 

New Resolutions: Technology and Device Goals for 2017

With 2017 fast approaching, you probably have plenty of items on your resolution list. Like many families, you may be discussing ways to get more active, planning to spend more together, or looking to lead a healthier lifestyle in the new year. As you enter 2017, however, there’s one more thing that you should keep at the top of your resolution list: your technology and device goals for 2017. In many cases, your technology and devices may be having a negative impact on your family, especially on your teens and tweens. By controlling device use, on the other hand, you can create a healthier, happier new year with a family that is more connected than ever.

Resolution #1: Charge your devices at a certain time every night.

There’s nothing worse than that blinking red battery light that lets you know that you’re almost out of power, right? Plus most children need those devices fully charged up for school the next day! By plugging your devices in at a specific time, you help eliminate that low battery warning. Setting a specific cutoff time, however, accomplishes more than that. It also:

  • Eliminates late-night phone or tablet use after everyone’s in bed.
  • Helps the family wind down for a better night’s sleep.
  • Increases human interaction time and facilitates better conversations.Technology Resolutions 2017 | Netsanity

Resolution #2: Set device-free times.

Dinner time should never be device time. It doesn’t matter if there’s a Pokemon sitting in the middle of the dining room table or your child has been following the latest updates on a Facebook thread for the last hour. When dinner time rolls around, it’s time to sit down together as a family. Other times when you might need to turn off your devices include:

  • Family trips, especially to remote areas where WiFi doesn’t exist (exceptions can be made for taking pictures)
  • During conversations
  • During school hours
  • In the middle of another activity or practice

Resolution #3: Monitor your child’s mobile device use.

From texting and apps to social media, your child is exposed to an incredible amount of social input–and that input isn’t always positive. Cyberbullying is rampant in many schools, while inappropriate text messages become increasingly common as your teen enters high school. Nip it in the bud this year by making a new resolution to monitor your teen’s mobile device use more effectively. This might include:

  • Keeping the passwords to their social media accounts.
  • Checking past text messages.
  • Knowing what apps your child has downloaded and understanding how they work.
  • Watching your child’s behavior, including monitoring for warning signs of potential bullying.

Start a free trial of Netsanity Parental Controls – see if our service may be a fit for you and your family in 2017.

Resolution #4: Discuss appropriate technology use with your child.

Your best monitoring efforts won’t always make it possible for you to know exactly how your child is using their technology time. By discussing the rules of appropriate online conduct and texting etiquette, however, you can help create a safer online environment for your child–and for other people’s children. This year, resolve to have several key discussions with your child about appropriate behavior online. Make sure to repeat those conversations as necessary.

  • How should your child respond if someone sends them an inappropriate picture through text? What if they’re asked for a picture of themselves?
  • What’s considered acceptable behavior online? What behaviors are unacceptable?
  • How should your child respond if they are a victim of bullying?
  • What is appropriate technology use in your household? When does the technology use cease?
  • How should your child respond if they see that someone else is a victim of cyberbullying?
  • What are the potential consequences of irresponsible online behaviors?

Teens and tweens don’t necessarily have the ability to reason through these things for themselves. When you give them the pieces of the puzzle, however, you create healthier online behaviors and teens and tweens who know how to respond if someone else crosses the line.

Setting boundaries with the amount of time your children and teens spend on their devices at anytime of year is always always easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of parental control services like our Timeblocker for both Apple iOS and Android Samsung devices makes it easy to help your children find balance with the amount time they spend on their devices.  Additionally, parents love our Appblocker feature! With one-click, you can block more than 50 previously profiled, internet-based apps if you find them inappropriate or you just want your child to take a break from them.

2017 is coming fast. Whether your children will receive new devices for holiday gifts or are simply using their old, familiar devices, make sure that they’re prepared for appropriate and healthy technology use all year long.Technology Resolutions for Mobile Device Use 2017 | Netsanity


Featuring a full featured parental control suite, Netsanity allows parents to take back control over the mobile devices in their home. Block apps, manage texting, manage Internet access, filter out porn and nudity and 20 other premium features are included with a monthly or annual subscription. Try every feature on up to two devices, Apple iOS or Samsung Android, for two weeks completely free and now, with no credit card required! If our parental controls sound like they could help you get control of your family’s mobile devices, then click here to start your free trial – and get some sanity back today!

This Holiday, Give Your Kids the Gift of the Present

The holidays are a time when we seek to make real connections with those around us. We warmly offer up donations, even if we don’t give on a regular basis or have much wiggle room in our budgets. We invite friends over that we haven’t seen in years (even though we are exhausted from the festivities) and we get up super early on Black Friday to snag that gift that they want… because, otherwise, it might be out of stock if we wait. This sacrificial type of connecting and giving is something that we not only want to instill in our children… but want them to experience. Here are 3 simple ways you can get your child to unplug or just change the way they connect online this holiday season – and get excited about it.

Volunteer and Let Them Lead the Way.

Kids and teens are eager to take the reins, but not always so eager to follow. Take advantage of your young person’s need to strike out on their own and let them decide where your family will volunteer. Try to think of opportunities that are not only available… but can be created. For example, if you have a teen or child who loves to draw, this is a great time to call up your local nursing home, see how many residents are present and then have your child create cards for everyone. You can even get their school groups involved. Along the way, your child can take photos of the art they make and share it. Yes… they will still be plugged in – but in a whole new way. Win/win.

*Safety solution: Remember to remind your child to never mention online where they are volunteering. This gives out information that can give away a little too much about where your family is from and where your child might be.

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Make it a Contest.

Parents, we are almost just as to blame for this plugged-at-the-hip kind of way of life. Let’s face it, how many times have we been glued to Facebook with a cup of coffee and a very welcome escape from reality? Make it a family affair. Give each member of your family a little money to buy a secret gift and have them wrap it up, displaying them in a special area. Whoever can make it a week (or how ever long you want to go without plugging in) gets a secret gift of their choice. If they give in, they forfeit their gift. If there is only one person standing at the end… they get ALL the gifts.

Have a Pancake Bar Breakfast.

Christmas Eve is a time that we often do not connect like we should anyway. Parents are busy wrapping gifts and trying to get kids in bed. Kids are trying to stay up for Santa and teens just want to know if they can have their presents early. Take back Christmas Eve and let their love of social media work for you. Get into some funny pajamas. Purchase some photo props appropriate for Christmas. Get mugs ready and everything you need to make Christmas themed pancakes. Snap a few pics… but don’t post just yet. Enjoy that time together. Then, once it is all over and you need that time to get things done… they will have fun posting pics of your pancakes online and polling friends to see whose were the most creative. You will get the time you need to wrap and prepare for Santa’s arrival.

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Setting boundaries with the amount of time your children and teens spend on their devices at anytime of year is always always easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services like their Timeblocker for both Apple iOS and Android Samsung devices makes it easy to help your children find balance with the amount time they spend on their devices.  Additionally, parents love their Appblocker feature! With one-click, you can block more than 50 previously profiled, internet-based apps if you find them inappropriate or you just want your child to take a break from them.

They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your kids have Apple or Android for Samsung devices.

With only a few weeks until Christmas, remember that it is not always all or nothing when it comes to unplugging. Deciding what works best for you and your family can help you to be happy as a unit… no matter what that looks like for you. Maybe you want to go all out and off the grid. Maybe you’d rather compromise. Usually the best answer is a happy medium that allows you to connect with your kids while still allowing them to connect with friends. After all, Christmas time IS all about connecting!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays from us at Netsanity!

How to Block Porn Websites On Apple & Android Devices

“Never before in the history of telecommunications media in the United States has so much indecent and obscene material been so easily accessible by so many minors in so many American homes with so few restrictions.”

The days of kids hiding a stack of Playboys in the basement may be over, but unfortunately, many teens and even young kids today have something much more dangerous in their hands pretty much constantly. According to one of the largest porn websites in the world, now more than half of porn use in the US is coming from smartphones! When we say mobile, many parents don’t stop and think that this is not just on an Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy.  Pornography is now being watched on iPads, Android tablets and can be accessed even on a basic iPod Touch! How to Block Websites on Android | Netsanity

Today, nearly three-quarters of teens have access to a smartphone, and with no restrictions, smartphones can access graphic hardcore pornography with ease. Learn how to block websites on Android and Apple devices using Netsanity here.

One Parent’s Story About The Need to Block Porn on Her Kid’s Mobile Devices

Lara tells us that she was shocked to find out that her 13 year old son had been watching pornography for months on his iPhone when riding home on the school bus.  Kids were pulling up X-rated videos and websites on the bus and passing their mobile  devices around.  When one parent discovered what was happening, she contacted all the parents in her neighborhood.  They decided to get together immediately and make a plan.

Lara told us that their plan was to first have individual discussions w/ their teens and to immediately implement some form of parental controls, in her specific case, by signing up for Netsanity. For these parents, thankfully, one’s discovery led to constructive conversations and a plan for action.  Sadly, most times, pornography viewing goes unnoticed by parents and caregivers because kids and especially teens are very good at hiding it.

Its one thing to try to hide use on a laptop or desktop, but now, tucking your phone in your back pocket or school backpack is easy and many parents are no wiser to it. We discuss all the current ways teens hide apps and photos in this blog.

Why is pornography dangerous?

Dr. Michael Rich, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Associate Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health at Harvard School of Public Health:

“Pornography has many, many different effects, but the central one that exists regardless of age at its base, pornography commodifies the sexual act. [Pornography] turns something that is intimate, human communication and intimate connection with another human into something which can be bought and sold”

Studies show that young men repeatedly exposed to pornography are more likely to objectify women, and young women who view pornography are more likely to self-objectify and tolerate sexual harassment from men.

Some children may seek out sexually explicit content online out of curiosity, but accidental exposure is also common. One national survey found that 25% of its participants (ages 10 to 17) had experienced unwanted online exposure to pornography in the past year.

Be aware of the different ways the internet can be accessed in your home especially when mobile devices are involved.

The Solution: Block Known Websites and Content

Start with a reliable parental control. While nothing is full-proof, having proactive protection, such as one offered by Netsanity for Apple and Android mobile devices, or a host of others, will give you peace of mind in knowing that you have some control over content and risks.

Follow up and with regular, open, age-appropriate discussions with your children on why you are using parental controls and why some material on the internet and via apps are not appropriate for them.  Also, think about developing a mobile contract  for the child or teen as good practice. Our friends at Kids In Touch have an article discussing this, as well as having a link to a funny example of one mobile contract a parent enacted with his teen. You can read about it more here

Porn is serious business on mobile devices. The latest porn sites are multi-million dollar enterprises with sophisticated ad-tracking, analytics, and highly mobile friendly capabilities. If your kids have private access to a mobile device like an iPad, Samsung Galaxy, or other smartphone or tablet, know what they are doing on it and ensure that you have some controls.

We as parents know the importance of keeping certain internet content away from children. By far, the number one reason parents research and buy parental controls for their kids is to avoid porn and adult content. There is an endless supply of porn on the internet and is one of the largest content of the global internet. Thousands of new sites are created daily and it’s an enormous effort to try to stay ahead and protect kids.

What are the options & risks to blocking porn?

Surprisingly, some parents find it ok to not filter porn at all. Their rationale is that they will see it anyway and it’s better to let their curiosity lead them. Plus, the parent will be there to offer guidance. Our philosophy is that, as parents, it’s our job to protect them until such an age that they are mature enough to make their own decisions and understand the consequences. Learning that sticking your hand in the fire will certainly teach them that it’s not a good idea, but why subject them to that unnecessarily?Block Porn Websites on Android

Other parents lock everything down making it that much more enticing for kids to find ways around filters. Setting the right tone is different with each parent and child so the key is to have tools that you can adjust based on individual preferences and your own personal values. We will walk through how to block porn (websites, images and videos) on their Apple iPhones, iPads and Samsung Android devices you protect through Netsanity.

Searching and accessing porn – what’s the difference?

Many parents, rightly, don’t understand the differences and nuances between searching the internet and looking at results and actually accessing the content. Both are important to understand when it comes to limiting or preventing adult content from children.

Part 1 – Searching the web for pornography

When you search for something in Google, you are asking it to look around their entire index of web content and return a small snippet of what you are looking for. Those snippets can be text, images, or videos – or all 3.

In our example below we are searching Google’s UK site for “deep sea fishing”

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Google returned a bunch of snippets of what it thinks would be relevant to us. As you can see above, it lists some websites, and further down a video as well as images.

Now imagine if that search contained porn requests, like “best porn videos” (try it yourself).

(Using Microsoft’s BING search has a similar flow, although Bing’s share of global searching is nowhere near Google’s.)

These images, snippets and videos are all on a Google search result page. When your kids see them, they have not actually clicked anything nor gone to a specific site other than Google. They are simply looking at a small “cache” of information that Google stored about a specific site and image. So if you have the best content filtering database in the world, it is of little use as the kids can get plenty of bad stuff just by Googling all day and night on their mobile devices!

Netsanity’s Safesearch

When you activate SafeSearch with Netsanity, all searches for how-to-block-porn-with-netsanity-safesearchGoogle and Bing are redirected to Google and Bing’s “safe” search algorithms.

When searching for adult terms and images, they block the RESULTS in the search so the child will not SEE those images or websites in the first place.

Keep in mind, those results are only as good as Google and Bing are with their algorithms but its as good as you are going to get on searches.

Part 2 – Website Access Explained

So stay with us! Now that you saw those results, you can visit the website by clicking any link that Google presents to you in its search results. That is web access and that is what you can control, generally, with a good database.

There are hundreds of public and private databases out there that contain records for millions and millions of websites. They taut how they have the largest database in the world or they have the largest database of adult content, etc. Many are good, some are awful, and some are bogus.

If you employ a router at home, are utilizing OpenDNS, or other filtering service you are offering protection by filtering those cataloged websites. While this is a great start it can be misleading once you dig into it a bit more.

Most databases are an ever-growing list of millions of sites that have been added over the last 10 or even 20 years. How many websites from 1995 do you think are still around? So, the main issue with traditional databases is that they are, well, traditional. They are old, stale and don’t get updated very often. Yes, Playboy and Penthouse will be listed in these databases, but when you dig further you will find most are lacking newer content. It’s not really their fault – it’s just that porn blocking technology has not got the “love” as much as the latest and greatest new apps have.

How Netsanity’s content filtering is different

Netsanity also has the old and boring databases like everyone else. However, what makes us unique is our new AI (Artificial Intelligence) that learns, continually adds to and, therefore, makes our database stronger each minute of every hour of every day.

We can’t go into all our secret sauce in a public blog but below is a sneak peek and preview into some of our process and technology:

First, every time a new website is accessed via our service that is not in our database – porn or otherwise, it goes into a special process that uses our AI robot to find out what it is and what category it belongs to and adds it to our database – so the next time someone tries that same site, we already know about it and if the parent has blocked the category containing that site, it will now be blocked. For example, a child in Dallas visits  a site that his friends told him just went live – let’s say it’s www.superbadadultsite.com. Of course, no databases have it yet as it just got launched. Well, the first time that site is accessed, our system will quarantine it internally and get it catalogued. When that completes, it will be added to the adult/porn/nudity category in our Catblocker – now, the next time that site is accessed by a boy in London, or even by the same child, it will be blocked, as his parents have that category blocked and the access will be refused.

Second, our systems are always hunting and searching for new content results and catalog these websites as fast as possible because we focus on what kids are searching for instead of the millions of erroneous and outdated sites that are in traditional databases.

Additionally, we also integrate many public and private sources together to continually ensure that our database evolves as technology does.

Lastly, we don’t use a safe browser – all of our filtering is done at the network layer which means regardless of browser or app used, your kids content will be protected.

Using Catblocker and Siteblocker

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Using Netsanity’s catblocker and siteblocker premium features, allow parents to instantly block categories as well as individually adding specific sites to allow or block.

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You can review our videos below to see just how easy it is to set up category filtering as well as blocking individual sites:

 

There are no magic beans. And unfortunately, there is no big red button that you press and 100% of all porn disappears forever. There are thousands of dark web sites without even a website address with horrible content. There are secret forums and chats – porn is everywhere. However, for the average family, implementing the best of breed tools will help.

By utilizing our advanced safesearch and catblocker and siteblocker features, parents give themselves the best chance to succeed at the battle of keeping inappropriate content away from their impressionable children!

What are your biggest challenges with blocking porn websites or inappropriate web content in your home?

Stats on Mobile Porn

You can help to protect kids on mobile devices by knowing the facts. 

Much of the porn on the web is now available via your child’s mobile phone. Even though it is slightly dated, just check out how pervasive pornography is on the below infographic. Many parents want to know how to block Internet porn. Netsanity has a specific feature to combat this, our Catblocker is perfect to block adult and porn categories from the child’s or teen’s Apple or Android Mobile Devices. To learn more about how to block porn from mobile devices (Apple & Android) click here.

Porn statistics and why parents must block innapropriate websites from children's mobile devices

Porn is everywhere. We know this. Take steps today to make sure your kids are protected as long as they can be from seeing images and videos you may not want them too.  Sure, our kids will grow up and start to make choices for themselves, but at least now we can make this one choice for them so they don’t grow up too fast!

Check out our full support article on enabling and using Safesearch with Google and Bing.

Social Media Creeping: Is Your Child Guilty?

Social media stores everything. It’s not just the latest events in a person’s life that splash their way across those pages; instead, it’s page after page of information that allows viewers to look as far back as they’d like. Middle school drama? Check. High school angst? It’s all on display. Unfortunately, that readily available information can quickly suck people into social media creeping–and that can be a serious problem.

It Starts Innocently

As The Odyssey notes in “The Four Stages of Social Media Creeping,” most social media creeping episodes begin innocently. No one sets out to say, “All right, I’m going to spend four hours scrolling through past social media posts this week!” There are several situations that can lead to inadvertent creeping:

  • Reconnecting with an old friend, often locating them on social media for the first time, and trying to “catch up” on all those important events in their life.
  • Checking out a new friend or potential romantic interest and trying to learn more about their likes, dislikes, pet peeves, and personality.
  • Looking for more information about a friend who is acting out of character or who the “creeper” hasn’t had a chance to connect with recently.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long before creeping becomes less innocent. A quick look over recent events turns into hours spent scrolling the friend’s Facebook timeline. Instead of simply looking through the pictures of a single event, the individual finds themselves digging back through albums spanning the past several months or years.

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When It’s Less Innocent

Social media creeping doesn’t always have to start innocently. In many cases, it starts with a romantic relationship gone wrong. Suddenly, instead of moving on, the “creeper” begins to obsess over both current and past social media posts. Every picture or mention of a friend of the opposite sex becomes something they can obsess over. In other cases, a current romantic interest becomes the target of creeping, often to the point of obsessive behavior.

Monitoring Obsessive Behaviors in Your Teens

It’s always important to keep an eye on your teen or tween’s social media usage. It’s even more vital, however, if they’re starting to engage in creeping behavior. Watch for these signs:

  • Spending more time than usual on social media accounts
  • Obsessing over past events
  • Over-analyzing social media posts, especially if you find it’s coming up frequently in conversation

If your child is starting to obsess over a friend’s social media account, take steps quickly! The longer you wait, the more difficult it can be to break the habit. Tweens and teens are often prone to obsessive behavior anyway, and social media makes it easier than ever for them to keep an eye on past romantic relationships, current friends, and anyone else inside their social circle.

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Breaking the Cycle

If your child has taken creeping too far, here are a few useful tips for helping them break the cycle. First, it’s important to make sure that your teen understands the full extent of the behavior. Have them take a look at the time they’ve really spent creeping that social media profile. How many hours have they lost looking at things that don’t have any real relevance to their current position? Next, ask your teen to come up with solutions. Unfollowing, unfriending, or blocking a friend they’ve been creeping may be very difficult for them, but it might also be the only way to separate themselves from the behavior. If the behavior goes too far, it may be necessary to temporarily disable the social media accounts that are creating the problem.

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Keeping up with your teen or tween’s internet usage is difficult enough without factoring creeping into the equation. Creeping, however, is rarely healthy behavior. Taking steps to get your child out of that cycle before it has a chance to go deeper is the best way to help them go on to enjoy healthy relationships in the future as well as healing from a current breakup or other situation. Sometimes the solution is simply finding balance!  A trustworthy parental control that prides itself in not being easily defeatable by even the most tech-savvy teens is Netsanity. They offer a suite of services for parents. For instance, their appblocker is a must have. With one-click, you can block more than 50 previously profiled, internet-based apps that you find inappropriate and even the ones that you feel your tween or teen just needs to take a healthy break from.

They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your kids have Apple or the Samsung family of smart devices.

Tech-free Gift Ideas: 2016

When you start thinking about gifts for your tweens and teens this holiday season, chances are that what is first on their list is technology. Music players, video games, and smartphones all hold the attention of many teenagers, and those are easy picks! This year try adding in some gifts that will help your family to reduce or limit their technology use, since the last thing you want to do is create an influx of technology over the holidays.  Here is our holiday guide for 2016 that won’t leave your family spending too much time  on their  devices over winter break.

Get Crafty

What type of craft interests your teen? Would she love to crochet or knit? Does he love to paint? Even teens who aren’t interested in specific crafts will enjoy craft projects like this great custom sneaker kit or this creative journal designed to give kids a healthier outlet for their feelings than social media can provide. Adult coloring books are a surefire recipe for success, especially if you add quality colored pencils or other coloring tools. Teens will also fall in love with the opportunity to decorate their room with this great photo display–or, if you’re feeling sentimental, you can choose the photos for them.

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Get Your Game On

Board games might seem boring in comparison to the bright colors and enticing music that comes along with their electronic counterparts, but there are some great ones on the market that will be sure to entice your kids. As a bonus, these games will help open up family time or create social opportunities for your child that have nothing to do with social media. Outdoor games like Ladderball are sure to be a hit, while games like Awkward Moment will get the giggles rolling. Nerts is a popular game that will lead to hours of family fun, while this fun Escape the Room game will be sure to thrill your teen.

Stocking Stuffers

These fun Funko Pop! vinyl figurines come in all of your teen or tween’s favorite characters. Buy them sized for a keychain or large enough to fit on a desk depending on what your child will love most. Jewelry is always a hit for girls: choose large quantities of cute, funky pieces or select a few classic, more expensive pieces that you know she’ll love. This Beauty Blender sponge is the perfect makeup accessory, allowing your daughter to do more with her makeup than ever before. Trendy candles won’t just make your teen smile. They’ll also add a pleasing aroma that will overpower the dirty sweatpants smell in their room. Gift sets of cosmetics can fill the stocking all on their own or be broken up into smaller pieces to make unwrapping take longer. Fun pens and pencils are useful stocking stuffers that will never grow old, drawing a smile every time they’re used.

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Other Ideas

Any teen will enjoy the fun of snapping pictures with these instant film cameras. As it turns out, digital isn’t dead after all! Fun or comfortable pajamas, workout clothes, or funky t-shirts are always a hit–just make sure that you know the size of the teen or tween in question before you buy. Many teens and tweens still get a hit out of building kits like those offered by Lego or K’nex.

Coming up with great holiday gifts for your teens and tweens this season will keep them actively engaged in fun activities throughout the duration of their holiday break. You never know: they might just forget to check in with their social media accounts for a few hours!

The key to a peaceful holiday season is simply finding balance!  A new year is a great time to reassess how your family is using technology and to set new goals and expectations! When it comes to keeping your kids and teens balanced and safe from dangerous content and apps on their mobile device us parents have  a lot to consider because most parental control apps and “safe routers” are easy for kids to circumvent.  As parents, it is our  job is to make sure that our children and teens stay safe wherever and whenever they go on their mobile devices. A trustworthy parental control that prides itself in not being easily defeatable by even the most tech-savvy teens is Netsanity. They offer a suite of services for parents. For instance, their appblocker is a must have. With one-click, you can block more than 50 previously profiled, internet-based apps that you find inappropriate. If you have a Samsung device, you can also disable any app instantly!

They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your kids have Apple or the Samsung family of smart devices.

New Android for Samsung Features Explained

Netsanity has released its brand new parental control client app for Samsung Android devices. This extends Netsanity’s mobile reach to the hundreds of millions of Samsung installed devices. Our Samsung app, when installed on a child’s Samsung smartphone or tablet, allows parents to use all of Netsanity’s traditional tools but adds extra security and restrictions that are unavailable to Apple iOS users. Below we list what’s new and what is possible with Netsanity’s new Android parental controls.

Netsanity Can’t Be Removed

  • The client app that manages the child device cannot be removed by the child without a 5 digit Enrollment Code set by the parent. This is an important advantage as we have put extensive security features to ensure that the device stays enrolled and protects your child 24/7.

New Enrollment Process

  • Enrolling new devices is easy for both Apple and Android devices
  • You only need a 5 digit enrollment code to either enroll an Apple or Android device
  • Android users will enroll their Netsanity Device Agent from the Google Play store using their 5 digit enrollment code

New Feature – Locate (Android)

  • Android users will get GPS accurate location info in the device info page

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New Feature – Timeout

  • Timeout for Android Samsung instantly performs the following: Disables Internet; Disables all 3rd-party apps; disables SMS texting

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New Feature – Disable Any App (Android Only)

  • Android for Samsung users can now disable any app that is listed in the App Info tab
  • App that is disabled will instantly be disabled from working
  • In addition if that App is also listed in Appblocker, i.e Instagram, Youtube, etc., that app will be blocked for internet access as well
  • Any app disabled will be un-clickable on the Samsung device

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New Feature – Data Use Graphs (Android)

  • Android for Samsung users can now see data use for Wifi and cellular on the app info screen
  • You will see data used per day over the previous 30 days on wifi and cellular
  • You will also see any data used while roaming
  • In future releases you will be able to set your start date and manage data usage more granularly

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Here below, the parent can set the daily, weekly, or monthly maximum for cellular data

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New Feature – SMS and Phone Blocking (Android)

  • Android for Samsung users can block all SMS texting Globally or block phone calls Globally
  • Additionally you can block SMS or Phone Calls to<>from specific contacts on the device
  • A phone call history log will show calls made and received as well

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How to Block Texts and Calls on Android Samsung

Blocking texts and phone calls is always a challenge for parents. There are many reasons where parents may want to limit or completely disable texting or calling. Apple does not provide a process to block either, although we do show parents how they can mirror iMessages in this blog. However, for parents who have Samsung smartphones and tablets, they have more options when using Netsanity. Here is how to block texts on Android devices.

Why consider blocking SMS & Calls?

There are are many reasons to block Texts(SMS) and Calls. Some are obvious, like overusing the texting plan, or texting during bedtimes. However, sometimes kids can be targeted by inappropriate parties or spam. Many texts can contain links to viruses, and porn. Sometimes, parents see inappropriate communication with certain “friends”, which they feel they may want their kids to avoid. Even though traditional calling is becoming less and less prevalent among kids and teens, it is still a way to reach out and parents may want options to curtail calling all together or selectively.

What you can do

With Netsanity for Android Samsung, you have complete control over SMS texting and phone calling. Here is what is possible when you have any premium plan.

  • Globally block ALL SMS Texting
  • Globally Disable ALL Phone Calling
  • Selectively block SMS to individual contacts that are pulled from their smartphone
  • Selectively block calling to individual contacts that are pulled from their smartphone

block calls and texts on Android Samsung Galaxy phones | Netsanity

  • See phone calling history that includes direction of call, Who was called or their number, the date, when, and how long

How to block SMS Texting and Calls on Samsung

Blocking SMS Messaging and Calling is easy and you do it right from your dashboard. Settings are updated in seconds!

To begin, navigate to your device listing and click the Manage Device Button for your Enrolled Samsung Device

manage

Next, To Block ALL SMS and Calls:

  • Click on the Messaging Tab
  • To Disable All Calling, click on the green Enabled button until it turns Red
  • To Disable All SMS Messaging, click on the green Enabled button until it turns Red

 

How to Block Texts on Samsung Galaxy | Netsanity

To Block Individual Contacts for SMS and Calls:

  • Click on the Messaging Tab
  • To Disable a single contact, search and look for the Contact listed and Click each individual Button for Calls or SMS
  • In the Search field, you can search by name, phone, number or to see all contacts blocked or allowed. For example, you can simply start typing “Bloc..” to see all blocked contacts.

Netsanity’s advanced tools for Android Samsung devices gives parents unparalleled options to block calls and texts. In addition to Messaging controls, Netsanity offers a complete tool set of over 20+ premium features.

 

How to Disable and Block Apps on Apple and Samsung Galaxy

For those parents who don’t know, kids and teens access the internet via apps and not web browsers. So while many parents, aged 40+ obsess over blocking or controlling access to our children’s browsers, many don’t realize that this is no longer relevant for our kids – apps, it’s where it’s at, and will continue to be for any foreseeable future.

What are they doing?

Kids are using Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and a host of social media apps to reach out, be social and stay connected. Kids and teens do not open up their browsers and “surf” – that is old news.

Blocking and Disabling Apps

On mobile devices, blocking and disabling apps has always been a challenge.  There was never an easy nor elegant way to selectively disable apps on Apple iOS or Android. Your choices were to disable all app installation or to manually intervene each time to add or delete apps. With parents having busy lives, this is not very easy. Netsanity has a better way.

Over 3 years ago, we invented a revolutionary way to block apps at the network layer – our appblocker and gameblocker features still do this today. How it all works is still our secret sauce, but our engineers profile all the popular internet-based apps and allow parents a one-click way to block them.

Blocking in Apple iOS

Since Netsanity does not install an app on the child’s device, we block apps at the network level. What does that mean? It means that we profile apps that need the internet to work. Almost all heavily-used apps fall into this category. Examples are Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and many others. Netsanity intelligently breaks all the internet communications to and from those apps so they are not usable.

appblocker - block apps on Android and apple mobile devices | netsanity

The parent simply clicks the app they want to block and then apply changes. Typically within 5 – 10 minutes those apps will stop working. They still show up on the device of course, but accessing new content is no longer possible.

When blocking is no longer needed, the parent simply clicks the app again, and it shows up in the allowed list.

A summary of blocked apps and games is always shown in the dashboard in the main activity summary page.

manage data on Samsung Android phones and tablets | netsanity

Disabling & Blocking Apps for Android (Samsung)

In addition to the traditional blocking of apps and games in appblocker, Netsanity has also created another restriction possible for Samsung devices – disabling the icons (apps) on the screen. Now a parent can quickly disable any app that is inventoried by our software and instantly disable it! So now ANY app, even non-internet ones like Minecraft and others, can be instantly disabled.

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If that app is ALSO part of the appbloker or gameblocker inventory, it gets blocked there as well in case a child wants to access it via a browser. Youtube is a perfect example of this. By disabling the Youtube app, the icon is frozen and cannot be used. However a child can quickly open up Chrome and go to the youtube website and watch from there. By also disabling it in appblocker, we have shut down the use of that software everywhere!

Regardless of platform, we know that blocking and disabling apps is the key to controlling screentime. Netsanity makes it easy with its revolutionary features.


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android (Samsung) devices.

Yes, Even Your Kids Can See Bad Stuff Online!

You’ve heard all the buzz over parental controls and why they’re so important for any child who spends time online. Chances are, you’ve even looked into those parental controls and considered them for your family. The thing is, you have a good kid. You don’t have to worry about your child getting into things they shouldn’t, and for the most part, you’re pretty sure they tell you everything.  With kids like that, you don’t really need parental control software, right?

Accidental Uncovering

Finding pornography online doesn’t necessarily require a child to go looking for it. All too often, porn pops up accidentally. Of the 42% of teens and tweens ages 10 to 17 who admitted in a survey that they’d viewed online porn in the past twelve months, 66% responded that they hadn’t intended to view the images. In many cases, these kids were searching for something comparatively innocent and ended up on a website that they didn’t intend. In some cases, explicit sites or porn stars share names with otherwise innocent things. In other cases, the child might have been browsing a familiar website and accidentally uncovered an ad that took them somewhere else entirely. Unfortunately, for many kids, it doesn’t end with a quick look and a fast click away. Once they’ve seen it, they start getting sucked in, often struggling to break the pornography cycle later.

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What’s Out There?

You know that there’s pornography all over the internet, but there are other things that you might want to protect your child from, too. Consider blocking sites that:

  • Show graphically violent content
  • Describe how to commit acts of violence
  • Promote self-harming behaviors or suicidal tendencies
  • Encourage low self-esteem

Keep in mind, too, that pornographic content doesn’t have to be visual. Girls, in particular, are more likely to be attracted by written content that describes sexual acts or goes into detail about other parts of sex. You might not even recognize the URLs if they start to appear in your internet history–but your children may have been exposed to that type of content anyway. Yes, even your good kids can–and do–find bad stuff online.

Keeping Your Child Safe

Parental controls are the first line of defense in keeping your child safe online. Protect all the devices that your child uses. Their computer isn’t the only way they can come across explicit content! In fact, most  kids who do go looking for explicit content or who explore it in more detail are more likely to do so on personal mobile devices. Here are some additional actions to consider:

  • Protect your mobile devices with a trustworthy parental control that cannot be easily defeated like a home router or app can.
  • Regularly monitor your child’s internet use and search history. Keep in mind that even the best parental controls may not be able to filter everything, especially if your child does go looking for explicit material.
  • Discuss appropriate online behavior–including what sites should and should not be viewed–with your child on a regular basis.
  • Use a parental control that has timeout or controls that allow you to schedule “off times” for internet-enabled devices, including smart phones and tablets.
  • Consider what apps you consider to be appropriate for your child. Keep in mind that may apps allow children to view content that they might not be able to get to on other sites.

Keeping your child safe online feels like a full-time job! When even the best kids are exposed to online content that you don’t want them to see, keeping them innocent can feel impossible. The first step is using a quality parental control software to protect your kids on their mobile devices wherever they go…and make sure it isn’t just something that protects them at home but protects them wherever they go with their mobile devices!

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Solutions

You have  a lot to consider because most parental control apps and “safe routers” are easy for kids to circumvent. These days, it is so important for parents to be watchful about what your kids and teens are doing on their mobile devices and to be proactive. Remember, even for the best kids it is  in their nature to test your limits and to be curious. As parents our  job is to make sure that they stay safe and don’t make bad choices which can harm them for years to come. One trustworthy parental control that prides itself in not being easily defeatable by even the most tech-savvy teens is Netsanity.

Blocking inappropriate content is easy with Netsanity’s  Catblocker feature. Using public and private databases, Netsanity’s own artificial intelligence engine, and other proprietary tools, they maintain a database with many millions of websites and apps. Catblocker works regardless of the browser or app being used as well as setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children and teens are exposed is a good first step. Additionally, Netsanity offers a large suite of services for parents. Another favorite is their appblocker – is a “must have”. With one click, you can block more than 50 previously tested and profiled internet-based apps that you find inappropriate. If you have a Samsung device, you can disable any app instantly in addition to appblocker!

They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your kids have Apple or Android for Samsung devices.

Thanksgiving: A Great Time to Teach Online Kindness

Thanksgiving is the time of year when everyone focuses on being thankful for the blessings that they’ve been given. It’s also the true beginning of the holiday season, when kindness is more common than ever before. When your kids were young, you might have looked for chances to count their blessings, list the things that they’re thankful for, or bestow blessings on others. This Thanksgiving, try focusing on something else: online kindness.

Cyberbullying Is Still On the Rise

Kids can be cruel, especially when they feel the need to fit in and are afraid that they aren’t. When they’re protected by the anonymity of a screen, it can be difficult for teens and tweens to understand the real-life consequences associated with simple comments. From roasting, when a group of kids get together to say as many bad things as possible about a single individual, to outright bullying that is specifically intended to be unkind, cyberbullying is becoming increasingly common. Teach your kids to be different! Take the chance this season to discuss:

  • How they would feel if they were the victims of cyberbullying
  • Why their behavior needs to be different–even if friends and peers are joining in
  • Why roasting isn’t a joke

Encouraging Kindness

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The opposite of bullying is kindness–and learning to behave kindly, especially online, can be a process for many kids. This Thanksgiving, try encouraging your child to find opportunities to be kind online. This could include:

  • Finding something nice to say about someone, especially someone that they would normally be unkind to.
  • Taking the opportunity to stop online bullying, including calling out the offenders, instead of joining in.
  • Befriending and engaging in conversation someone your child might not ordinarily talk to.
  • Starting an online wave of kindness: say something nice to someone, then encourage them to take it the next step further and be kind to someone else. Compliment someone you wouldn’t ordinarily compliment and challenge them to spread that wave of kindness.
  • Be encouraging to a friend or classmate that they know is having a hard time, from sending an encouraging text to posting an encouraging message on their wall.

Online Etiquette

Many teens and tweens fail to realize just how difficult it can be to interpret things that are typed, rather than said aloud. While they might obsess for hours over what a friend “really meant” by a text, they might have more trouble understanding why their words have been misinterpreted. For this reason, understanding appropriate online etiquette should also include a discussion of a few basic principles.

  • If a post makes your child feel uncomfortable or they think there’s another way it could be taken, they should avoid it.
  • If a post is cruel to anyone, including both broad groups of people and specific individuals, it shouldn’t be shared.
  • No one should be singled out or subjected to stereotyping.
  • While sensitive discussions can be undertaken online, it’s important that all participants are on the same page and that these discussions are held sensitively.
  • Kindness is always preferable to a snarky or sarcastic answer–even if it’s the answer that would be given aloud.

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It’s time to take back the internet and start encouraging kindness again–and your teens and tweens can be at the front of the movement! Talk to your child regularly about how they should behave online, including the types of behavior that could potentially be hurtful to others. Even the best-intentioned teen can occasionally make a mistake with their posts. If you teach yours to be mindful, you’ll be able to decrease the odds that they’ll be the one hurting another child. Need more tips for keeping your child and others safe online? Visit Netsanity online today and follow us on social media! We all hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving online and off!

Roasting: Is It Glorified Bullying?

Sometimes, it seems difficult to keep up with all the forms of bullying your child can be exposed to. The latest craze sweeping through many teenage circles is roasting, a cyberbullying trend that has many parents in an uproar. Understanding roasting and how it has the potential to impact teens and tweens is one critical step in monitoring your child’s online behavior.

What Is Roasting?

A roast is a form of bullying that is often mistaken for humor between friends. Many teens and tweens see it as simply another form of the banter that takes place at school or via text. During a “roast,” however, several individuals–often girls, who are more likely to engage in verbal bullying–gang up on another individual in an effort to mock them. In many cases, roasting continues until the individual “cracks” or has a meltdown as the insults reach increasingly higher levels.

Most teens and tweens don’t recognize roasting as a form of bullying. Instead, they see it as a continuation of normal behavior. They’ll insist that it’s “all in good fun” or that the victim “doesn’t mind.” In some cases, the victim may even have started the roast, putting out a picture and asking for people to roast them.

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The Gender Bias of Roasting

In many cases, girls are more likely than boys to participate in roasting. Often, girls will band together in an effort to seem cool or in control. Their preferred target is often–but not necessarily–a boy. This bias continues through memes and other types of media posted by girls and their friends as increasing numbers of them join in on the so-called fun. Girls are highly competitive with one another. When they begin this negative behavior, they’ll often try to one-up one another, coming up with increasingly negative comments and jokes.

This gender bias, however, doesn’t mean that girls are the only perpetrators or that boys are the only victims. Girls can roast other girls, boys can roast girls; anyone can be a victim of roasting. It’s important that parents recognize that their children have the potential to be either bully or victim in order to understand the risks associated with this behavior.

Is Roasting Really Harmful?

If it’s just a bunch of kids having fun together, roasting can’t be that bad, right? Many parents may at first overlook this type of behavior, assuming that the kids are just joking with each other. Unfortunately, roasting can be incredibly harmful to kids. What one child intends as a harmless joke may hit another one way too hard. Other children will choose to pretend to ignore the behavior in an effort to appear cool. Meanwhile, internally, it’s causing damage. Cyberbullying is becoming an increasingly common cause of depression, self-harming behaviors, and even suicide among teens and tweens–and that means that, good-intentioned or not, roasting behavior can not be condoned.

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Watching for Warning Signs

Any time one group of teens or tweens gangs up on another, especially if a group gangs up on a single person, it’s a good indication that the behavior needs to stop. These days most “roasting” takes place online.  It’s often done among friends, so parents can’t rely on the sudden appearance of an unfamiliar individual on their children’s social media pages to key them in to trouble. If you suspect that your child is engaging in roasting, don’t wait for it to get out of hand. Instead, sit down and have a conversation with your child about appropriate online behavior and the risks associated with roasting–including why it’s not “all in good fun.”

Keeping your child safe online, monitoring their online behaviors, and teaching them to become positive online citizens can feel like a full-time job.  It makes most every parent nervous when their teens are exposed to the pressure and drama of using certain types of social media.  Your first reaction might be to just ban your tweens and teenagers from downloading apps like Instagram or Snapchat, it’s important to remember that they have positive aspects as well. Sooner or later, teens will need to learn how to navigate the online world responsibly. That’s why it’s a good idea to sometimes allow access to various apps, but to keep an open and ongoing conversation on the subject. We recommend monitoring on a regular basis by having spot checks on the actual mobile device itself because it is easy for teens to set up  a second secret account that they have not given parents access to. 

Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children of all ages are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services like their Appblocker for both Apple iOS and Android Samsung devices is a must have. With one-click, you can block more than 50 previously profiled, internet-based apps if you find them inappropriate or you just want your child to take a break from them. If you have a Samsung device, you can also disable any app instantly! Additionally, parents can set a timeout allowing your teens to take a much needed break from their devices to finish homework on spend quality time with their family!

They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your kids have Apple or Android for Samsung devices.

The Bright Side of Social Media

With all the potential detriments to social media, many parents may wonder if they should limit their children’s exposure to it entirely. In some cases, they may enact strict rules specifically designed to keep their children off of social media. The reality, however, is that social media has a good side. When used correctly and monitored properly, social media can have a number of benefits for teens and tweens, especially those who might feel socially awkward in person or struggle to interact with their peers face to face.

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Building Connections

Many teens are choosing to use social media to build connections, not only with the people they interact with every day, but with individuals across the world who can encourage and mentor them in their chosen goals. They might develop a relationship with a former graduate of their college or university with connections that can help them get in, meet someone who can offer the tools they need to increase their knowledge of their future careers, or simply take the chance to chat with people who share their activities and interests. These connections help enhance many teens’ lives in a way that they wouldn’t have been able to experience before social media.

Sharing Experiences

Very few people make it through their teenage years without that crushing feeling of isolation and loneliness, the sensation that they’re never going to fit in or that there’s something “wrong” with them that isn’t wrong with their peers. Through social media outlets, however, many teens and tweens are able to see how their peers have creatively expressed those feelings. This can help decrease feelings of isolation and even give them the courage to reach out when they’re feeling negative. Through YouTube, Instagram, and other creative outlets, kids are even given the freedom to more fully express those emotions in acceptable ways.

Increasing Awareness

All the anti-bullying and mental health awareness campaigns in the world aren’t going to offer kids the same awareness as seeing those same awareness campaigns on their favorite social media channels. Many popular outlets, from YouTube channels that are followed by millions to Tumblr pages that are seats of discussion forbright-side-social-media
countless teens and tweens, are choosing to use their power positively to increase awareness about real issues and encourage their viewers to be treated before issues become more serious. Awareness about mental health challenges is one of the first steps to removing the stigma attached to it and offering kids the support they need in order to get treatment.

Anonymous Opportunity

Many social media platforms aren’t just designed for expression among the people a teen knows personally. There are many platforms specifically dedicated to giving teens an opportunity to talk: to share their negative feelings with someone who can help them work through them, all without the need to identify themselves or bring that discussion back to their everyday lives. This anonymous opportunity is exactly what many teens need to overcome thoughts of suicide, depression, and anxiety. It can be the catalyst they need to stop cutting or to acknowledge that they need to reach out to someone in their real lives and get help. These platforms are supporting many teens and tweens in their mental health journeys.

 

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Final Thoughts

Social media might have its dark side, but the reality is, most teens and tweens are choosing to use it positively. For many, it’s an incredible connection to mentors, peers, and others outside their computer screens. The key for most parents is simply finding balance: controlling social media access and monitoring it in order to ensure that their children are among the ones using it appropriately.

When setting goals to keep your kids and teens balanced and safe from dangerous content and apps on their mobile device us parents have  a lot to consider because most parental control apps and “safe routers” are easy for kids to circumvent. These days, it is critical to not be lax about what your kids and teens are doing on their mobile devices and it is crucial to be proactive. Allowing unfiltered internet in your home and on your kid’s smartphones, can be dangerous. It is in their nature to test your limits and be curious. As parents it is our  job is to make sure they stay safe and don’t make bad choices which can harm them for years to come. One trustworthy parental control that prides itself in not being easily defeatable by even the most tech-savvy teens is Netsanity. They offer a suite of services for parents. For instance, their appblocker for Apple iOS mobile devices is a must have. With one click, you can block more than 50 previously profiled, internet-based apps that you find inappropriate. If you have a Samsung device, you can disable any app instantly!

Parental Controls on Android for Samsung Launches at Netsanity!

ANDROID USERS REJOICE! Parental Controls for Android are here.
*Samsung users only

Netsanity is thrilled to announce our parental control on Android (Samsung) users! We’ve been dreaming of this day and now it’s here!

If we haven’t met yet, let me to introduce Netsanity to you. Netsanity is top notch parental control software and app for mobile devices and tablets.

Have you ever wanted to set time limits on your child’s phone or block apps and websites? Netsanity is your answer!

Netsanity is extremely affordable and easy to use. Sign up in a just a couple of clicks, receive news and tips with each monthly newsletter, and control any enrolled device on your own, personalized dashboard. And now, Android for Samsung users can join the party!

Samsung Android Parental Controls | Netsanity | parental controls android

In addition to our core parental control features available to Android users, Premium Samsung users can do these cool things:

Manage Data!

  • See data usage by device
  • Adjust the amount of cellular data that can be used by a user
  • Options are to limit cellular data use in daily, weekly, or monthly periods.
  • Adjustable from 0 – 20GB per period
  • See totals with a graph on the data usage tab in device info
  • See data usage for each app – both cellular and wifi

Block calls and texts!

  • Block SMS texting from any phone number
  • Block calls from any contact
  • Block all calls and texts with one click
  • Get control back of who your child is texting and calling

Locate!

  • See a Google Map of your child’s last known device location
  • Accurate to within 100 yards
  • Location refreshes every 5 mins

Disable apps!

  • Cut or regain access to any app in one click
  • Apps can be disabled even if not in appblocker
  • Limit app and data usage whenever you want

Pretty cool, huh? And that’s only scratching the surface! Netsanity can do all this and so much more. Check out what kind of control you can have here. Get started today with a free trial and get some of your sanity back!

Google play store link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.netsanity.ns_client&hl=en

What Are Teens Doing Online?

Teens view smartphones and tablets as naturally as previous generations did telephones and TVs

In previous generations, the stereotype of the teenager spending every hour away from school on the phone or in front of the TV was prevalent. The advent of the Internet and hand-held smartphones has changed the technology of these remote interactions and, if anything, exacerbated the problem of teens being hooked into the electronic communications network to the exclusion of what their parents might consider living real lives.

CNN recently reported on a study by Common Sense Media that teenagers spend a mind blowing nine hours a day using media for enjoyment, generally on their smartphones and tablets. Tweens spend six hours a day doing the same thing. They watch TV, videos, movies, play video games, read websites and eBooks, and, especially, check up on social media.

The reason is not hard to understand. The new electronic devices are not only portable and convenient but gather into one piece of technology what a number of appliances, many of them large and clunky, used to do. Moreover, tweens and teens have never lived in a world where interacting with the universe from a device in the palm of his or her hand was not common.

The lives of children in cyberspace

What are teens doing online? According to the Harvard Medical School, Marion Underwood of the University of Texas and Robert Faris of the University of California, Davis, on behalf of CNN, conducted a study of 216 eighth graders from eight middle schools in Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Virginia and how they interacted with media. They installed software on their electronic devices and they and their parents filled out questionnaires. The researchers came to a number of conclusions, some of them sobering.

13-year-old children are heavy users of social media

Most of the children in the study used Instagram, with Twitter and Facebook running distant seconds. The teenagers in the study posted four times a week on the average. Most of their activity consists of watching and reading what others are doing rather than interacting on social media.

Why do teenagers spend so much time online?

The study suggests that teenagers spend so much time online for fear of missing out, especially on the latest gossip, especially if it is about them. Most teens view popularity with great importance, and social media is used as a barometer in order to gauge how popular teenagers are. The children who check social media frequently want to know what is being posted about them, how many tags and likes they get, and whether they are being excluded socially. Teens who lurk a long time on social media tend to have the most social and self-esteem issues. Teens who are using social media to enhance their popularity and feel they are not getting enough recognition tend to be the most anxious.

Naturally, this use of social media tends to lead to conflict. 42 percent of the survey reported having an online fight, most likely with a friend, at least once a month. Taking to the extreme, these kinds of conflicts can lead to cyberbullying, in which children use social media to pick on and humiliate a peer. Some instances of cyberbullying have led to suicides.

Parents are struggling to keep up

Just as in previous generations, parents have a difficult time keeping up with what their children are doing. They tend to underestimate some of the negative aspects of online interactions.

Conclusion

Despite the findings of the study, teens reported that their online interactions were mostly positive. The Internet and social media are, after all, technological tools that enhance the ability of teens to make friends and explore their environment. The trick is for parents to become more engaged with their children and more aware of their online lives. When this happens, the interactions teens have on the Internet tend to be more positive.

Solutions

online-dating

When setting a plan to keep you teens balanced and safe from dangerous content and apps on their mobile device us parents have  a lot to consider because most parental control apps and “safe routers” are easy for kids to circumvent. These days, it is critical to not be lax about what your kids and teens are doing on their mobile devices and it is crucial to be proactive. Allowing unfiltered internet in your home and on your kid’s smartphones, can be dangerous. It is in their nature to test your limits and be curious. As parents it is our  job is to make sure they stay safe and don’t make bad choices which can harm them for years to come. One trustworthy parental control that prides itself in not being easily defeatable by even the most tech-savvy teens is Netsanity.

Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children and teens are exposed to is a good first step. Netsanity offers a suite of services for parents. For instance, their appblocker for Apple iOS mobile devices is a must have. With one click, you can block more than 50 previously profiled, internet-based apps that you find inappropriate. They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your kids have Apple devices. An Android for Samsung version is due out in October!

Family Dinners: A National Movement

The Family Dinner Project is a national initiative that grew out of Harvard University’s think-tank in the Department of Education. The project’s creator, Shelly London, developed a “multifaceted, multimedia program designed to promote ethical thinking among pre-teens, teens and the adults in their lives”. 

Ms. London is not alone in recognizing the importance of shared mealtime to the health of the family as a unit. Educators and physicians alike recognize the physical and mental benefits gained from eating together. This is easier recognized than remedied. Families with two working parents, single parent households, and the over-committed social schedules of our children all make family time problematic, but not impossible.

Sharing a meal is a simple activity that involves all of our senses. The food feeds the body, the conversation feeds the mind and the feeling of belonging to a unit feeds the soul.

A father with sons, two twin teenage boys cooking meat on barbecue for summer family dinner at the backyard of the house

Simple fact – eating at home means we are all more likely to consume healthier foods. When we put some thought into planning a family meal we include seasonal fruits and vegetables,more grains, lean protein and considerably less fat .The more time we spend eating at home, the less time we spend grabbing calorie-laden meals on the run.

When the entire family has a daily meal together communication skills flourish. Parents and children become more connected with each conversation. This time gives the opportunity to share ideas, ideals, and values. Family members can learn a lot about each other by using topical conversation starters such as:

  1. If you were given a million dollars to give to a charity which one would you choose?
  2. When you wake up in the morning what is the first thing you think about?
  3. Is it ok to reveal a secret to protect someone?
  4. What is your favorite family tradition?

Family laughing around a good meal in kitchen

Conversation starters like these,thought provoking, stimulating and appropriate for all age levels can be found the “Family Dinner Box of Questions”.    Unfortunately, the company that manufactured this set(the Box Girls)went out of business earlier this year, but the collection is still widely available.

Some suggestions for getting everyone to the table:

  • No exceptions, no excuses: Make Family Dinner Night a non-negotiable priority. Set a day and time and stick to it.
  • Baby steps: Ease into the concept. Begin with one or two nights, and then step back and evaluate the progress. Who knows, this could possibly be the new normal.
  • No tech at the table: Make the experience be about interaction with each other. Ban any and all technology-smartphones, iPads, tablets, and television become distractions. Turn them off.
  • Have fun: Maybe allow each family member to take a  turn selecting a menu, or preparing the meal. Have theme nights. Find ethnic recipes and try new foods. Even order takeout, since we don’t always have the energy at the end of a busy day to cook!

Family meals instill togetherness and help children feel more secure. Meal time is quality time,and is time well spent. The opportunities to foster self-worth, inject core values and offer encouragement and motivation abound around the dinner table.

Happy lovely family eating pizza

When we openly acknowledge the importance of family meal time, and outline our expectations, our children will follow suit. This time spent together is a powerful tool in reducing the possibility of high risk behaviors in our young people.

Bringing back family dinner is a mechanism to strengthen the ties that bind parents and children. While all of the problems we experience in our daily lives most certainly can not, and will not, be solved over a shared meal, it is a good start. It is always easier to help your family maintain balance with their mobile devices when you use a mobile parental control software. This is true especially around mealtime, and in a restaurant while waiting for your food to arrive.

Netsanity has a suite of mobile parental control services like their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly around dinner and other important times to ensure that your children and teens enjoy this important time with their family, uninterrupted. If your children and teens habitually feel the need to check up on their friends activity, via a favorite app like Instagram, Netsanity’s Appblocker can be a parent’s best friend. You may restrict that app during mealtime, for example, and avoid the temptation for them to check their smartphone. Netsanity offers a free trial for their monthly plans, so its worth checking out!

13 Awesome Halloween Apps for Android & Apple

13 Awesome Halloween Apps

for Android & Apple

Hereeeee’s Johnny… and a list of really awesome Halloween apps. Brought to you by the scary folks at Netsanityhang out with zombies, carve pumpkins, and bob for apples with Charlie Brown.  Use your smartphone or tablet to bring the undead to life this Halloween season!

1. Shoot The Zombirds

This addictive game allows you to take charge as a pumpkin-headed boy as you try to save all the little pumpkin children! You’re only objective is to shoot down the zombie birds before they take those precious pumpkiddos away. With its vividly detailed graphics you collect points and coins as you go through each spooky and haunted level. Available for Android for free.

2. Halloween Live Wallpaper World

Watch as your phone background goes ghost… or bat, or pumpkin, or witch. Halloween Live Wallpaper World gives you an animated and interactive wallpaper to really get you into the Halloween spirit! Choose from different wallpaper options, adjust speed and sound (yes, sound), and even unlock spooky ecards that you can send to your friends! Available on Android for $0.99.

3. Pumpkin Carver Pro HD
pumpkin-carving-halloween

Do your pumpkin carving without the mess! A fun and interactive app for the little ones, Pumpkin Carver Pro lets you choose a pumpkin that you can turn into a masterpiece with the help of different tools. Keep the fun on your phone or use this app as practice so you can finally beat the Jones at the neighborhood pumpkin carving contest. Available on Android for $1.99 (free version also available).

4. Plants vs. Zombies 2

This award-winning game requires strategy as you take on evil zombies with powerful plants. Make your way through each level using the Fire Peashooter and Laser Bean to defeat Swashbuckler Zombie and the rest of the undead. Available on Android and iPhone for free.

5. The Room

“How are you, old friend? If you’re reading this, then it worked. I only hope you can still forgive me.” Put your mind to the test as you make your way through this 3D puzzle game. Uncover mysteries as you unlock safes and solve riddles. Follow the storyline until you reach the end. If you have what it takes to find The Room, then you can try your hand at The Room 2 and 3! Available for Android for $0.99.

6. Into the Dead

All that’s left in the world are zombies… and you. Into the Dead places you right in the thick of the zombie apocalypse. Run as fast as you can while earning weapons along the way. Work your way through fields and avoid the undead at all costs. These zombies are after you. Will you survive?
Available for Android and iPhone for free.

7. Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

Relive this classic Halloween tale with Charlie and the gang in this interactive storybook. Narrated by the original voice of Charlie Brown, follow along on the search for the Great Pumpkin. Not only do you jump into the story, but you can create a character to dress up for a halloween costume contest, bob for apples, and go trick-or-treating! Available for Android and iPhone for $5.99.

8. Ghost Observer

Feeling haunted? This tool helps you detect, observe, and interact with ghosts! It uses advanced technology to detect and analyze any spirits around you. Take this to a haunted house or spooky graveyard and see who you can’t see. Available for Android and iPhone for free.

9. Turned: Zombie Effects

Zombie or survivor? You decide! Upload a selfie, apply some effects, and turn into a either in seconds! Real Hollywood special effects in the palm of your hand. Give your friends a scare by recording and sending videos with your realistic zombie apocalypse makeover. Available for Android and iPhone for free.

10. Bubble Witch 2 Saga

From the good people that brought you Candy Crush comes this adorable shooting puzzle game. Join Stella as you burst bubbles level by level trying to fend off evil spirits. With beautiful graphics Bubble Witch 2 will be your go to game this Halloween season. Available for Android and iPhone for free.

11. Ghostbusters: Slime City

Who ya gonna call? YOU! Get your Ghostbuster squad together and head into New York City. Your mission is to defeat the ghosts and demons as they try to overrun the city. You’ll need your proton pack to blast away the bad guys. You’re Manhattan’s only hope! Can you save them? Available for Android and iPhone for free.

12. Kids Halloween Jigsaw Puzzles

With 30 puzzles to choose from, put together some of your favorite Halloween images. Everything from bats and jackolanterns to castles and graveyards. Choose your picture and how many pieces you want it to be. Earn rewards as you complete puzzles. This app is great for kids! Available for Android for free.

13. Halloween Ringtones

Get into the Halloween spirit every time someone calls you! This app lets you choose a fun or scary Halloween sound that you can set as a ringtone or even an alarm. The sound of mummy zombies will be sure to get you out of bed in the morning. Or apply a terrifying shriek to your mother-in-law’s contact info. Either way, you’ll have loads of entertainment each time your phone goes off. Available for Android for free.

Not sure you want your little monsters getting a hold of these apps? Netsanity helps you take back control of your pumpkids’ devices. Use features like appblocker and gameblocker to manage what your kids & teens can and cannot play/watch/read. Keep the kids from seeing dead people this Halloween. Get started with your free trial today!

Photos- https://play.google.com/store/apps?hl=en

Teens Confess to Smartphone Addiction

It’s one thing when parents start to wonder whether or not their kids are addicted to their smartphones. After all, they take them with them everywhere, check them regularly whether they’re giving alerts or not, and often find themselves experiencing what appear to be symptoms of withdrawal when they’re grounded or otherwise deprived of their phones for a period of time. When teens start admitting for themselves that they’re struggling with smartphone addiction, however, it’s past time to stand up and take notice.

By the Numbers

Recent reports show that smartphone usage–and smart phone addiction–is on the rise. Three out of four teenagers have their own smart phones. Once they have them, the usage begins. They carry them in their backpacks, shove them in their pockets, and take them along to school, to work, and to events with friends. Smartphones do offer benefits to teens. They make it easier for them to get in touch with their parents to discuss any change of plans that might occur, allow them to check movie times in a matter of seconds, and permit them a way to get in touch with members of the group who have wandered away. Unfortunately, teens aren’t just using their phones for that. Even when they’re with friends, they’re scrolling social media accounts, playing games, and checking their apps. Many teens may be spending more time with their phones than they are seeing people in person, and they admit it: fifty percent of teens acknowledge that they feel addicted to their smart phones.

Smartphones in Schools

Group of teenage boys and girls ignoring each other while using their cell phones at schoolWhen “cell” phones first appeared on the market, most schools simply didn’t allow them. If they were turned on during the school day and made a sound that a teacher recognized or if a student had them out during class, they were immediately taken away. Repeated infractions would lead to a parent needing to come pick up the phone from school. As smartphones have become increasingly common, however, even schools are showing more leniency–and some schools even encourage their use. Students in many schools are allowed to use their phones in hallways and at lunch time. In other schools, smartphones are

group of young students studying in the classroom with tablet

permitted out in the classroom as long as they aren’t actively engaged in learning time. Still others encourage students to use their smartphones for research or in-class games. As smartphones fill even more schools, many students may struggle with feelings of addiction more than ever. Making the use of parental controls is crucial in today’s world. One that I always recommend is Netsanity. Netsanity is a non-app cloud software that parents can trust because it cannot be easily defeated like most apps or “safe” routers can. Check it out  if your child has an Apple mobile device (Android is coming soon).

One of the cool features for school use that Netsanity has, is a feature called safewifi. It allows parents to enable their child’s device to work more seamlessly with their school’s Wifi network. Safewifi temporarily disables Netsanity’s VPN when a child enters a school that uses their own wifi-security and content filtering. This only affects the internet, keeping intact all of Netsanity’s other restrictions. Once they leave the school, Netsanity’s VPN automatically launches, protecting them once again.

Battling Smartphone Addiction

If you have a teenager who feels that their smartphone is taking over, appropriate management is critical. Waiting until your teenager is already addicted to their phone may mean that you’re already behind the game. Instead, start by implementing restrictions on smartphones use as soon as you hand one to your child. Let them know that their smartphone is intended primarily as a communication device, not for entertaining them during every dull moment. Keep tight restrictions on the amount of data that they are able to use.Teenage students ignoring each other while using their cell phones at school

It’s also important to keep tabs on what your child is doing with their smartphone time. Excessive time on Facebook and other social media sites can increase feelings of depression and even contribute to feelings of isolation. Monitor your child’s texts and social media accounts regularly to ensure that social interaction is positive and not leading to more problems.

Options

Students who spend more time engaged in activities are also less likely to experience symptoms of smartphone addiction. Look for ways to engage your teen in activities outside of school, from participating in sports and clubs to meeting up with friends to engage in other social activities. While it may not be possible to completely erase your teen’s smartphone usage, you can help reduce the odds of smartphone addiction and help your teen to be a more successful individual.

Keeping solid rules for your child’s technology use is the best way to ensure a productive, well-rounded child or teen. As you develop solid guidelines, you’ll discover that your child spends less time on their devices and more time in the “real” world. As I previously mentioned,  Netsanity has a suite of services that parents can count on! It can be used regularly to ensure that your family enjoy other activities or if you feel like they need a healthy break.

4 Reasons Parental Controls Are Critical for Your Family

To our beloved readers, after you read this, go here to get your 4 free “Digital Parenting” guides + 5th bonus guide and discount code. Limited time.

Many parents fail to realize just how critical parental controls are for keeping their children safe online. After all, they’re typically very open in their discussions about what material is and is not appropriate for them to view. They often think that they’re monitoring technology use. Unfortunately, many kids and especially teens find it all too easy to maintain secret online lives that they hide from their parents. (we wrote 4 whole guides on this)The only way to protect your children is by instituting trustworthy mobile parental control software.  Still on the fence about whether or not it’s worth it for your child?

(click here to get your free guide)

Pornography is addictive

 No matter how hotly the debate may rage on the subject of whether or not porn is actually “addictive,” the truth is, it doesn’t take much for a young person to become trapped in a cycle of addiction. Before they know it, even if they want to stop, they find that they can’t. Protect your kids from the trap of pornography addiction by installing parental controls on their mobile devices that will help keep them away from it from the beginning. According to some research statistics, it has been shown that 1 out of every 5 children that own a smartphone between the ages of 9 and 13 tend to watch porn and similar inappropriate and explicit videos on the smartphones via the internet. The number raises from 1 out of every 5 to 3 out of every 5 when the stoop down to consider children between the age groups of 14 and 15.

Kids have trouble defining their limits

Teenagers’ brains, which are not yet fully developed, have more trouble understanding the potential consequences of their actions, and they might have more trouble realizing that a particular behavior is across the line or unsafe. It’s fairly common for kids to have a “secret life” online, where they engage in behaviors that their family members and even friends would recognize as destructive. Online, these behaviors are encouraged by virtual strangers who have made their way into the child’s life. Parental controls and parental involvement are critical parts of stopping your teen from engaging in unsafe behaviors, including sending inappropriate pictures and giving out personal information online.

Depressive content breeds depression

young girl at the table looking at mobile phone

With as many as 10% of teens struggling with depression, it’s little wonder that the internet–their favorite hangout–is filled with depressive content. Unfortunately, accessing that content does nothing to make teens feel better about themselves, nor does it stop them from participating in self-harming behaviors. In some cases, self-harm or even suicide may be glorified on these websites. Your teens’ minds are still developing. The more they are exposed to this type of content, the greater the likelihood that they will internalize those ideas–and the greater the chances they’ll take part in risky behaviors as a result. Parental controls are your first line of defense against this type of content online.

Gaming isn’t always harmless

Online games or addictive apps have a number of advantages for many children. For others, however, they are just as addictive as pornography–and that addiction may have even more far-reaching consequences. The more time your teen spends playing games, the greater the likelihood that he will struggle with the transition to the real world, including making the important transition from adolescence to adulthood. Unnaturally bright colors and sounds combined with the dopamine rush that accompanies many actions in video games–slaying the dragon, besting the monster, completing a puzzle successfully–can cause an addiction that will lead to adolescents who struggle to function in society without the input their games have left them accustomed to.legoboyphone

 

What you can do

You can’t protect your children from everything on the internet on your own, so I always recommend using a quality parental control. You have  a lot to consider because most parental control apps and “safe routers” are easy for kids to circumvent. These days, it is critical to not be lax about what your kids and teens are doing on their mobile devices and it is crucial to be proactive. Allowing unfiltered internet in your home and on your kid’s smartphones, can be dangerous. It is in their nature to test your limits and be curious. As parents it is our  job is to make sure they stay safe and don’t make bad choices which can harm them for years to come.

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3 Things Parents Should Know About Fake Social Accounts or “Finstas”

Just when you think you have the social media maze figured out, your teen comes up with something else that catches you completely off guard. You’ve tried your best to stay up-to-date on everything your teen or tween is doing online, but unfortunately, they keep creating a wider gap between your knowledge and what they’re doing. The latest craze? Creating a finsta.

What Is a Finsta?

A finsta is a “fake” account, usually on Instagram, though a fake account could appear on any social media channel. The thing that sets a finsta apart from a regular account is that it’s set to private, with only a handful of people who are allowed access to those materials. Typically, teens and tweens use these to post pictures that they don’t want to share with the world at large or that they want to keep private for some reason.

What Do Parents Need to Know?

Using mobile phones. Cropped picture of modern young women using their cell phones while sitting on a window sill and typing messages

If your teen or tween is using social media, it’s important to know whether their public account is all there is or if they have a finsta (or more than one!) that they keep hidden from the public eye. Once you know about your child’s social media behaviors and whether or not they’re using a finsta to hide things that they don’t want to be public, you can choose what steps to take from there.

1. You need to be your child’s friend or follower on their “fake” account every bit as much as you do on the real one. Make sure you know what your child is posting and monitor their finsta even more carefully than you do the public account that everyone can access.

2. Understand why your teen or tween feels the need to have a finsta. Some teens enjoy the privacy of a finsta simply because it allows them to post goofy selfies and pictures with friends without the fear of being judged by a wider audience. They might also feel a great deal of pressure to accumulate likes on a public account, while their private account can be simply for sharing things with close friends. Others, however, want a finsta because they think it’s “safe.” They may publish information about illicit activities and other pictures that they really don’t want out there.

3. Privacy settings don’t ensure privacy. There are plenty of ways those embarrassing posts can get out for the world to see. One changed privacy policy that your teen doesn’t recognize, and suddenly, her future employers can see everything she’s ever posted (and yes, they check!). Worse, a so-called trusted friend might choose to share that picture much more widely than your teen or tween intended. Make sure your child understands the importance of monitoring what they post even on an account that “no one” can see.

Should Your Child Have a Finsta?

happy african college friends taking selfie together

There are plenty of benefits to having a finsta. Through that private account, your teen or tween can cultivate their own authentic relationship with their followers, showing a more “real” version of who they are. It’s also a great way to dodge many cyberbullying techniques: since no one can see the posts but those they invite, they’re less likely to get negative commentary. Meanwhile, the public profile remains for the benefit of the rest of their world.

If your child is going to build a finsta, the most important thing is that you monitor it and discuss appropriate online behavior regularly. Remind them that anything they post online can eventually get out, no matter how private they think it is. Encourage them to cultivate their social media presence–both public and private–to show the kind of person that they want future colleges, employers, and friends to see–because someday, they will.

Keeping your teens and tweens safe in today’s online-based society can be a challenge. Keeping solid rules for their technology use is the best way to ensure a productive, well-rounded tween or teen. To make this easier, I recommend using a trust-worthy parental control software. Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities away from their screens.

Additionally, Netsanity blocks many previously profiled apps at the network level, not via an app. So if your child has a fake Instagram or Twitter account, and you want to block access, you can do that regardless of how many fake accounts they set up. They are also releasing an Android version for Samsung next month.

Your Teen May Circumvent Your Parental Controls

Learn Your Teen’s Top Tricks to Get Past Your Parental Controls

The following blog post may seem long and get somewhat technical at times, but guess what? The minute you bought your child a smartphone, laptop, tablet, gaming console or any other Internet connected device you became a technical parent! Whether your kid knows more than you about this technology, is now up to you!

You trust your kids, but you also know that with kids you need to take the proper precautions at home and away, to make sure that they stay safe and do not venture into the seedy world of internet porn and other dangerous or inappropriate social media. Now, you may be an IT guru – and even work as a software engineer knowing network routing, DNS, IP encryption, and you may have even built your own router at home so you can have full control over what happens!  If you are OR you are a Parent with little technical ability, this is for you!

Netsanity , for example, makes the process much easier with point and click iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad parental controls along with knowledgeable support and a cloud-based, easy to use parental dashboard, built for new “tech parents.” Sign up for a 14-day Free trial here.

Is this you?Teens Gets Past Parental Controls | Netsanity

Do you sleep well at night knowing that your 14 or 16 year old is on their tablets or iPhones, safely surfing ESPN and looking at cute YouTube videos of dancing monkeys and the latest teen bands?

Are you confident that your teen will never go into chat rooms, attempt to surf pornography, or engage in very inappropriate social media apps that shield them from parents?

You have prevented them from bypassing texts and have controls that prevent them from snapping pictures of themselves and sharing that on the internet as well of course you did all that, right?

If that sounds like you, or someone close to you and your kids, read on!

First let us preface the following, and state for the record…most kids are great kids and most listen to mom and dad. They want to please us and don’t intend to get in trouble. They test our boundaries but when push comes to shove, they are a true blessing.

A good analogy we give parents is this: imagine your 16 or 17 year old driving a car. They are perfect drivers; they follow the speed limit, don’t text and drive, and never speed. They are the model of perfection behind the wheel. So what happens when a drunk driver comes around a corner and hits them broadside? They can end up in the ER and they were completely innocent!

Well online, we face that every second of everyday. While you kids may use good practices and follow your rules, they can still get hurt – very hurt. So it is very important that you know as much as you can, and what can happen when curiosity turns into danger. Unlike the example of the other driver who is drunk, you can take common sense steps to remove many tactics your teens will try to get behind tha “virtual wheel”. Kids are as viral as a cool YouTube video. Once one finds a new app or cool site, it spreads instantly – around the world. When we were young, instantly meant 6 months – LOL! Now, within seconds, kids can get access to anything before you even knew what happened.

Which brings us back to topic at hand – how do you stay ahead of them, at least long enough to get through those important years until they go away and learn all those great things in college!

 

Your teen has a lot more time to thwart your efforts and circumvent your parental controls. So while you work and do “life”, they are like beavers building a dam, one step at a time until they have won!

Reality Check

The first thing to note is that no controls are 100% foolproof. If you want 100%, simply sell all of your internet devices and phones, grab your kids and head to a quiet ranch in Montana or Wyoming – I hear it’s beautiful there! Stay there until their age of majority and you will be all set! Now, if that is not YOUR plan, let’s proceed.

Their Tricks

Below is a very small list of tactics that your kids and teens have done, attempted to do, and will do in the future, all in order to get to content that they don’t want you to know they saw! These are not in any particular order but over many years of observations, interviews, and learning the hard way, these are certainly ones to be aware of. Many are Apple iOS specific, since they are very popular, but many apply generically to any home.

Be sure to take a free 14-day trial of our mobile parental control service and tools to see how we enhance built in iOS parental controls. Click below to start your trial any time.

PC Parental Controls

What: You installed Norton/Symantec/Microsoft parental controls on their Laptops. Your teen can’t go to websites that you filter and you get a nice report saying how responsible they truly are, while they Google search for ways to help mom in the kitchen and how to clean their room better 😉

They will/can: Dual boot your laptop and install whatever operating system they want. So when they use their computer they are using their version and do whatever they want. Any 14+ teen can and have done this.

Prevent By: Be vigilant and get access to the pc regularly. Don’t assume anything. Add a password to BIOS so you control what happens. Watch your reports. If the reports say they were on it for 30 minutes a day, and little Johnny was surfing all weekend, you may have an issue. Force the PC to be used in a public place like the kitchen.

Parental Control Routers & Home Wi-Fi

What: You go to Best Buy or Amazon and buy a shiny $200 router with fancy parental controls. You click a few green buttons and it says you are all set! Now the kids can’t get to anywhere bad because the green lights tells you that!

They will/can: Laugh at you first! Then, they will google the default password for that router. There is an 80% chance that you left it default and hence they will quickly have admin access to it. Once there, they will create a 2nd admin account so they can use that one moving forward. If you happen to realize your mistake and set the admin password, its too late as they have already built a back door! Game, Set and Match. Now, they will create a new hidden SSID for Wi-Fi that only they know. They will set their laptops and smartphones to connect to that Wi-Fi SSID and surf away completely unrestricted while you and spouse, are filtered by your $200 router.

Oh, if you are the 20%, don’t pat yourself on the back just yet 😉 They can & will install a 2nd Wi-Fi router, behind your cable modem; set a hidden SSID and do same thing again. They can buy one on EBay or craigslist for $5-10 and hide it in the closet where you will never see it!

Prevent By: If going the router way, make sure you use strong passwords and get daily/weekly reporting on activity – some will email you if there are changes. Get rid of or change the main cable company Wi-Fi (or disable the Wi-Fi capability on it completely) so all internet flows through the new router and not the one Time Warner, AT&T, Comcast, or Verizon dropped off! Also, for the little hackers in your life, make sure that nothing is plugged in to the Ethernet port(s) on your hub or cable modem that you did not put in there yourself. A good idea is to purchase a lockable cabinet in your closet so your cable modems, routers, and hubs can live and your teens have no access.

OpenDNS

What: OpenDNS is a great and free service that allows you to point your DNS to their DNS for the entire home so regardless of the internet-connected devices in home, all is safe. DNS stands for Domain Name Service and if you are not technical, think of it as the old white pages. Simply, when you request to go to Google.com or Yahoo.com, DNS will lookup that domain and give your computer the corresponding IP address for that website so your computer or iPhone can find it. When you use OpenDNS, your home will use their DNS to find sites and since you as a parent can edit which websites belong to which categories and you can filter your home based on that. Using OpenDNS is a good first step, but not a panacea. Read on.

Your teen will/can: Simply use other public DNS servers on their iPhone, iPad, iTouch, XBOX 360, Nintendo DS, PC, Mac, etc., and bypass OpenDNS. Also, as mentioned before, they can install their router unbeknown to you, and bypass it that way. Here are just 6 ways your teen will hack around it.

Prevent by: Secure their physical devices by making sure devices that can be secured from network changes are secured via a strong password. Watch the reports closely to make sure that traffic patterns for your house make sense and if your teens are on Instagram 24/7 and there is no Instagram domains in your reports, that is an indication that your DNS is being bypassed. For Apple mobile devices, you can install a service like Netsanity which will force all traffic through their service and prevent from configuration changes from being changed.

Bypassing Wi-Fi altogether

What: Teens completely bypass Wi-Fi and access the internet via their iPhones or smartphones with a carrier data plan that YOU pay for!

Your teen will/can: Who needs stupid Wi-Fi anyway! If your teen has a smartphone with a data plan (95% do), all of your fancy footwork above trying to secure your internet Wi-Fi is irrelevant. They will just turn off Wi-Fi and surf the web and use apps that you disallow by going over their carrier’s 3G/4G/LTE network. They won’t do it all the time so you don’t catch them, but they will be able to use apps that you pretend to block or websites and chat rooms that you filter. One teen told us that each day, he would surf on the home Wi-Fi all the normal traffic so the patterns did not arouse suspicion of his tech-savvy dad. However, the real win was him turning off the Wi-Fi and using the carrier data to surf and use snapchat which was blocked at home. The kid has a future for sure!

Prevent by: Your options are severely limited at this point. First, know if they have a data plan and watch the usage via your carrier’s site. Verizon, AT&T and others allow you to watch data used. If the kids are at home and they are eating the data while they should be using free Wi-Fi, you know why. Again, installing a parental control management profile from a company like Netsanity will protect the device regardless if it’s on Wi-Fi or the carrier’s network. Lastly, physically grab the device and educate your teen that the use of internet enabled devices is a privilege and not a right, so abuse will lead to them potentially losing their device!

Texting even though you don’t have a texting plan

What: Teens don’t use the traditional SMS/Texting that has been around for 20 years. There are hundreds of free texting apps, many are crafty and are designed to be hidden from parents.

Your teen will/can: Download a free internet-based texting app. That app will assign a random telephone number and they will give that out to their friends. Then, the teen can text without ever using the carrier’s SMS. Also, with an Apple iOS device, they can use iMessage which is built in and free, and does not come from your carrier. Their texting targets also need to be on an iOS platform, but it’s fairly common.

Prevent by: If using a home router or OpenDNS, make sure you block as many of those domains as you can. Make sure you have access to your child device(s) 24/7 and know their passcodes. Occasionally checking their phones will give you some indication of what they are doing for texting alternatives. On an Apple iOS device, have them use your iCloud account. That will allow you to see each iMessage to come in and out from their devices. Our blog show you how to accomplish this if you so desire, for free.

Game consoles and other internet devices

What: Lately everything is being connected to the net. So one must be even more vigilant to make sure your most precious ones are protected. Nowhere is this most true than game consoles and portable game players.

Your teen will/can: Bypass your parental controls. Almost all have browsers and ways to access the net. If you lock down the PC but forget to do same with the XBOX or Palystation, you have not secured anything. We have seen many teens pretend they are playing Animal Crossing, but really they are on the web in a chat room.

Prevent By: Making sure that the parental controls are enabled and you restrict any changes via the console. Make sure notifications are enabled as well so you know when changes are attempted.

Now What?

To summarize, the above is just a small fraction of what kids routinely do to bypass parental controls. There are many more which are much more technical. Certainly to avoid giving them any more ideas, we will not write about them here. However, do not be laissez-faire about their safety and be proactive. Allowing unfiltered internet in your home and on your kid’s smartphone and other mobile devices can be dangerous and it’s their teen duty to test their limits and be curious. Your job is to make sure they stay safe and don’t make bad choices which can harm them for years to come.

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Teen Driving and Smartphone Use

Driving while texting. There are no three words parents want to see less associated with their teens, not even high school dropout, and the amount of time parents take to carefully explain the dangers of distracted driving begins to sound more like a sermon than a safety speech. However, Penn research shows teens are well aware of the dangers of texting while driving. Being aware doesn’t always make them change their behavior, but you’re not giving them any new information when you tell them it’s unsafe.

Then Why Do Teens Still Text While Driving?

Young Female Driver Driving a White Car on the Road with Focused Facial Expression.

The main thing researchers discovered while interviewing teen drivers is that they have a sliding scale of how dangerous the use of technology is, based on a given situation. For example, teens as a whole considered social media use to be separate from texting, which is not something that most adults do. When an adult hears “texting while driving,” they often think of that as any use of a phone that isn’t actually making a phone call while behind the wheel. Teens broke down the risk by activity, meaning there are lots of different categories of device use, each with its own risk factors.

What particular activity was being done was only a part of the formula that went into a teen’s behavior, though. Another factor was when a teen was texting. Teens as a whole seemed to feel that texting at a stoplight or while stopped at a stop sign is not texting while driving because they aren’t going anywhere. Additionally, who they were responding to carried a lot of weight. If it was a significant other, or a parent, then a teen was much more likely to respond immediately than if it was just a casual friend. Additionally, if the message was in regards to where they were currently driving (such as if the friend they’re meeting for lunch texts them en-route), a teen was much more likely to respond to that message.

Risk Assessment Is Still Developing

We all know that teenagers’ brains have not yet fully developed. They’re reaching the end of their maturation, but one of the key factors that teens are lacking when compared to adults is a real sense of risk assessment. It’s the reason why teens will do things like surf down a steep hill in a junkyard in their underwear; because, to their brains, the very real risk of bodily harm just isn’t outweighed by the social benefits of doing something daring.

The same is often true of using a mobile device while behind the wheel. Teens who haven’t had a negative experience as a result of distracted driving often have trouble putting it into real perspective. The risks are all theoretical, and while the more obvious dangers are avoided, the gray areas aren’t always until they mature.

How Do We Get Our Teens to Drive More Safely?

Boy sitting at sofa and using digital tablet while his father talking to him.

The easiest way to help ensure that your teens not driving and using social media or texting…even at the stop sign is to have frank, open conversations with them about safe driving, and to establish rules early on that you both agree on. As parents, it is more important than ever that we teach our teens how to set boundaries. In the case of distracted driving LIVES depend on it! One of the most important boundaries comes in the form of how and when they use their social media accounts and texting capabilities. By giving your teens responsibility, and listening to their concerns, you are much more likely to get open, honest communication, and to engender respect for your rules and requests.

The great thing about technology rules and available parental tools is that they’re able to change and adapt in response to the unique needs of your family. It is always easier to help your teens to maintain a healthy relationship  with technology when you use a parental control software.

Netsanity has a suite of services that I always recommend –  If your teen has an iPhone, Netsanity has great features that include timeout options like Hideapps and  Screenlock. They can be used on a regular basis to help your teen from using their mobile device for texting, or any other internet activity, to ensure they are focusing on other activities like driving a car! Keep in mind that Netsanity will be releasing an Android version soon for teens with Samsung Galaxy family of smart devices.

 

 

Recognizing Digital Addictions in Tweens & Teens

Worldwide, more than one billion smartphones were sold in 2015 alone. To put this number in perspective, consider that fewer than one million smartphones were sold ten years earlier, in 2005. Between 2005 and 2015, an average male doubled his weekly online time from ten to twenty hours per week. A majority of smartphone users consult their devices hourly. A lesser subset update their status on social media platforms once every few minutes. When viewed through this filter, you might be tempted to rationalize that your child’s online and smartphone usage is merely “average”, but sharp upticks in internet and smartphone usage are evidence of digital addiction in tweens and teens. Recognizing the most common digital addictions is the first step toward rectifying them.

Currently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the “DSM”) only includes internet gaming as a recognized digital addiction disorder. Health care professionals both in and outside of the United States use the DSM as an aide and authoritative guide to diagnose mental disorders. The DSM’s board is considering whether to include a broader digital addiction category as a legitimate and acknowledged disorder.

Teens and tweens are uniquely susceptible to compulsive use of social media. While downplaying the risks of peer group pressure, WebMD observes that a teen’s friends play a subtle role in shaping his or her decisions. Reflecting a common human trait that people are more likely to socialize with other people who have similar interests, WebMD notes that

[t]eens are more likely to hang out with other teens who do the same things.

If a teen’s friends are frequently updating their Facebook status, your teen will likely adopt the same behavior out of a “fear of missing out” (i.e. “FOMO”) of something that their friends are in on. A teen will tend to monitor the Twitter feeds from the same hundreds or thousands of connections that his friends monitor so that he can stay up to speed on whatever they may be talking about when he meets up with them. If his peer group shares every meal and trivial event on Instagram, he will internalize that behavior and do the same himself.

Pretty girl and boy teens playing on mobile phones and listening to music in the city. Focus on girl

Psychologists theorize that constant internet access can foster a stimulus-reward mechanism that gives teens and tweens (as well as adults who are over-immersed in online activity) immediate positive feedback when they post something on a social media site and get a flurry of “likes” from friend and followers. A teen’s brain is at a less mature stage of development and is more amenable to being shaped by various external stimuli. Their dopamine reward system will be more likely to react to digital stimulation in a manner similar to a response to addictive drugs. The pleasure that a teen senses when his followers flood his social media postings with “likes” are caused by dopamine that is released in his brain. As his dopamine reward system is overstimulated by excess activity, the pleasure he senses from each subsequent dopamine release will be reduced and he will need greater amounts of stimulation to experience the same pleasure. If that stimulation is cut off, he can suffer both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, including depression, irritability, and sleep deprivation.

Your teen or tween might quickly get over any physical symptoms that they experience when if any digital connections are broken, but the psychological draw will remain for a long time. Their “FOMO” will stay at an all-time high for several months after they end a social media habit that might have supplanted regular daily activities. Their school performance might suffer and they might experience mood swings that go beyond typical teen moodiness.

friendship, leisure, summer, technology and people concept - couple of smiling friends with smartphones sitting on grass in park

The more involved your child is in sports, clubs, and other activities, the less time they’ll spend on their devices. A child who is active, engaged, and social won’t have as much time for their phones, tablets, and computers–and it will show. Encourage your child to choose activities that they enjoy to naturally reduce technology use and allow them to thrive.

Keeping solid rules for your child’s technology use is the best way to ensure a productive, well-rounded child or teen. As you develop solid guidelines, you’ll discover that your child spends less time on their devices and more time in the “real” world. To make this easier, I recommend using a trust-worthy parental control software. Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities this summer and all year long. If your tweens have an Apple mobile devices, Netsanity has a great feature called Screenlock. It can be used on a regular basis to completely block them from using their mobile device for texting, or other activities whenever you feel that they need a healthy break, sleep, or to ensure they are focusing on other activities. They are releasing an Android version soon as well.

 

The Digital Disconnect

Increasingly, there is a wide separation between what parents think their children and teens are doing online and what they are actually doing. According to this article by The Guardian, many teenagers have little to no online supervision. They report that:

  • Only 13% of teens think parents understand how much and how widely they use the internet.
  • 60% of teens have social media accounts they haven’t told their parents about.
  • Only 32% of teens report that their parents have a rule about reporting online activity that makes them uncomfortable.

education, technology and happiness concept - group of young smiling people lying down on floor in circle with smartphones

Not only that, many teens and tweens are routinely using apps that their parents haven’t used and don’t necessarily understand. With new technology geared towards young people coming out every day, it’s almost impossible for parents to stay ahead of the curve, especially if it’s technology they won’t need to use for themselves in their daily lives. This digital disconnect is creating serious problems for many parents and their children.

Why It’s Important

There’s a lot of fear geared toward children of all ages online interactions, whether they’re taking place behind a computer screen or with a smart phone. Many parents understand the vague, faceless dangers: so-called online friends who aren’t necessarily what they seem; predators who lurk in seemingly innocent locations; children who give out too much private information and end up giving strangers the ability to find them. Increasingly, however, some children and teens’ peers and friends are becoming just as dangerous as absolute strangers–if not more so. Cyberbullying is on the rise. 43% – nearly half of all teens report that they’ve been bullied online, and a quarter of them admit that they’ve been bullied more than once. Cyberbullying can lead to depression, anxiety, feelings of isolation, and even suicidal thoughts, not to mention an increase in many teens’ willingness to engage in risky behaviors in an effort to “fit in.”

Controlling the Risk

You can’t always monitor everything your child does online. Hidden social media accounts, apps downloaded without your knowledge, and kids who are determined to sneak around the rules can all make it difficult to keep up with what’s going on with your child’s online behaviors. There are, however, several things you can do to increase your odds of keeping your child safe.

Young boy using a tablet computer while sitting in the back passenger seat of a car with a safety belt over his shoulder

Clear Social Media Rules

Your teens and  children need clear rules for how to behave online. Any time those rules are violated, they need to know that you’ll step in, even to the extent of deleting the accounts or taking away access to their favorite apps or websites! These rules include:

  • Discussing how to behave if they end up in an uncomfortable situation. They should always report bullying to you, and they should never answer anyone’s online questions if they start to cross the line.
  • Setting a clear code of conduct for online behavior. The consequences for catching your child bullying another should be quick and severe.
  • An “open technology” policy that allows you to check your child’s social media accounts, phone, and other devices at any time. We recommend spot checks because just getting your children’s passwords or using a “monitoring” app is not always enough. Many children set up provide accounts and know how to easily hide apps.
  • Technology-free hours, especially at night, when lack of sleep might make it more difficult for your child to make responsible decisions.

Parental Control Software

Teenage girls sitting on grass and taking selfie with mobile phone

The “Sexting” Talk: What is Sexting?

You don’t expect your twelve-year-old to be able to answer the question “what is sexting?”, much less to engage in it. Unfortunately, 54% of teens under the age of 18 admit to having sent sexually-tinged messages or inappropriate pictures. Having the “sexting” talk with your tweens and teens is becoming even more critical than ever, and chances are you should have it sooner than you think.

The Dangers of Sexting

Kids will be kids, right? At least they aren’t doing it in person. You’d like to convince yourself that sexting is fairly harmless. The repercussions of sexting, however, can stay with your child for a long time.

Teens and tweens who sext are more likely to engage in other sexual behavior.

Sexting starts to break down barriers against sexual behavior, making it easier for teens and tweens to cross the line in other ways. A nude picture on your child’s phone might not be grounds for immediate birth control, but it’s definitely grounds for a conversation about appropriate sexual behavior.

They’re sharing what they see. If your teen is sending nude or partially nude pictures to their significant other, they might be at more risk than you think: as many as 17% of the teens and tweens who have received these text messages admit to sharing them with someone else, and 55% of those individuals don’t stop at sharing them with one person. Once that picture leaves your child’s phone, it’s out there; and no matter how much they trust the person they’re showing it to, the chance exists that someone else is going to see it. Photos that have been shared with the wrong person can lead to bullying and other negative behaviors.

Sexting definition Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexting

What is Sexting - Netsanity Explains

They’re pressuring each other into it. Girls, in particular, are susceptible to sending pictures not because they want to, but because they feel that their boyfriend has pressured them into it. 70% of kids who sext do so with their boyfriend or girlfriend, and as many as 61% of them admit that they felt pressured into the act.

Legal ramifications can last for a long time. In some states, sharing nude pictures of a minor–even through texting or other means–is considered a criminal offense.

How They’re Sexting

Most teens and tweens are in a stage of their lives where they are curious about sexuality and about each other’s bodies. They’re sexting because they see it as harmless fun. They don’t think about the potential repercussions, and they assume that what bad things they do think about–for example, the pictures getting shared–won’t happen to them. Most teens, especially those around 16 and 17, see this as a perfectly ordinary way to interact with their peers.

Kids are sending nude and partially nude pictures of themselves. They send pictures of specific parts, pictures of their whole body, and messages about what they’d “like to do” to each other. To this technologically-savvy generation, sexting is little more than an advanced form of flirting. After all, they have a phone screen between them and the person they’re talking to. In their minds, it doesn’t mean anything.

Talking About Sexting With Your Kids & Teens

As parents, it is our  responsibility to start the dialogue about sexting early and have it with your children and teens often. Ideally, you want to keep having this conversation well into early adulthood. You can’t change the way an entire generation views sexting, but you can change the way it’s handled in your household.

Remind your child that their body is their own. Just like they have the right to say no to a physical sexual act, they have the right to say no to sending a picture that makes them uncomfortable. Reminding your child of this can help give them the confidence they need to stick to their convictions.

Discuss forethought. Would it make them uncomfortable for you to see a picture that they’ve sent? If so, that should be a red flag that the picture shouldn’t go out over the internet.

Ask them what they’re sending. Having an open dialogue with your child makes it easier for them to share what they’re dealing with. You want to know if your child has been pressured to sext or has engaged in inappropriate texting behavior. Regular discussion and an attitude that seeks to help, rather than condemn, will help keep your child from making mistakes that they can’t take back.

What Is Sexting | Netsanity Guide to Sexting

Download this infographic as a PDF: Netsanity Sexting Guide Instant Download

Using Parental Controls to Make Sexting a Non-Issue

Additionally, we always recommend using a quality mobile parental control on all of your kids and teens mobile devices.  Netsanity offers a suite of parental control services  you will find to be lifesavers! Some parents have found that sexting and inappropriate picture taking has already become a problem.

Cyberbullying Friends: Teens Targeted By Those Closest To Them

There are plenty of risks when your teens are online, and you can’t help feeling the weight of them. You’ve talked to them about the risks of sharing too much information with total strangers, discussed the need to protect themselves, and monitored their accounts for any sign that someone is picking on them. As you examine your teen’s social media accounts, you may have developed a habit of scrolling right on by whenever you see the names of close friends. After all, they aren’t at risk from bullying from the people closest to them, right?

Actually, new research shows that the biggest bullies aren’t strangers protected by the anonymity of a computer screen, people who have never met your teen, or even casual acquaintance from school. Among teenagers who were experiencing cyberbullying, it was seven times more likely that the bully was a friend, former friend, or former dating partner. Strangers, on the other hand, seemed less likely to want to invest the time and energy necessary to engage in bullying behavior.

Mother Worried About Unhappy Teenage Daughter

What’s a Parent to Do?

Learning that your teen is at a greater risk for bullying by their friends can make you feel that nowhere is safe. It’s bad enough that teens are struggling with bullying in school and worried about strangers online. What are you supposed to do when they’re being bullied online by people who you thought currently or once cared about them?

Discuss clear expectations for online behavior

Many students simply don’t stop to think about the way they should behave online. The comfort of a computer screen, rather than seeing someone in person, makes it easier to say things that would never otherwise come out of their mouth. Make sure that your teen understands the standards of behavior that you expect–and what they should do when a peer, even a friend, doesn’t follow those standards.

Monitor your child

That doesn’t just mean monitoring their social media accounts and other access to the internet. It also means being wary of strange shifts in demeanor or mood. A teen who is normally happy and upbeat, but who is suddenly down and depressed, may be a victim of bullying. Listen to who your teen talks about and how they talk about their friends. A friend who disappears from conversation, when once they were a frequent appearance, is worth noting. Pay particular attention any time your child is in the middle of a new romantic entanglement or if they break up with a current boyfriend or girlfriend.

Take it to the school

teen-bullied-600X400If you discover that your teen is being bullied online, don’t be afraid to take it to the school and let them deal with the offenders. Many schools are now instituting online codes of conduct that enable them to deal with cyberbullies.

Monitoring Friends

In today’s highly digital age, it’s easier than ever before to fail to meet your child’s friends. Parents are busy, kids are busy, and the contact you have with these kids in person may be minimal. Look for opportunities to meet your child’s friends! Be familiar enough with close friends,  that you can recognize red flags in their behavior, especially if it starts to change over time.

Many things can lead to bullying: the dissolution of a romantic relationship, shifting loyalties and friendships, and competition for similar awards and honors in school can all be enough to set kids who were once close friends against one another.

Solutions

Thankfully, there are tools that can help and aid to protect your child. Be aware of their friends, monitor their online interactions, and act fast if your child does fall victim to bullying online. Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your kids of all ages are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy mobile parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services  such as their their Appblocker, where certain social media and other apps are profiled and parents can one-click block them, making apps that you may find inappropriate inaccessible. They have a free trial, so its worth checking out if your teen has an Apple mobile device. They are releasing a version for Android later this year.

I love social media as much as anyone, but also know there’s a fine line between enjoying its benefits in moderation, and spending endless hours letting it bring you or your teen down. We always recommend monitoring, communicating, and taking breaks from social media and all internet devices on a regular basis!

Danger Ahead: Social Media Dare Games

As all of us parents already know, our children and especially our teenagers sometimes do silly things; it’s part of growing up. When we were young, though, and someone dared us to do something dumb, we had to do it in person. A dare just wasn’t worth it if there was no one to see you do it. That also meant that, if something went wrong, there were other kids around to help, or at least to run off screaming for the grown-ups. Today, though, dares can happen through the Internet, with kids taking video of themselves completing (or trying to complete) dangerous challenges.

Unfortunately, while kids have access to information and technology far beyond what previous generations had, the same lack of frontal lobe development that made older generations take stupid risks is still present. Which is why it’s important to keep an open dialogue with your kids, and to talk about social media dare games.

The Dangers of Social Media Dare Games

Pretty girl and boy teens playing on mobile phones and listening to music in the city. Focus on girl

Some dares you see on social media really are harmless, or they’re for a good cause. We all remember the huge sensation that was the ice bucket challenge, which was used to raise money for medical research. However, other dares can be dangerous, and are sometimes outright fatal.

The Choking Game:

According to The Stir, the way this game works is that a participant denies themselves oxygen until they pass out, film the experience, and then upload it to their social media. Why? Well, because the dare meets all the requirements for “silly” things kids have done for centuries. There’s an element of risk, proof that you did it, and the acclaim that comes from stepping up to a challenge. Unfortunately, though, lots of kids also know they’d get in trouble if their parents caught them even attempting this “dare,” so they do it when they’re alone. Which means if something goes wrong while they’re strangling themselves, there’s no one around to help.

Sadly, this is what happened to Karnel Haughton in Birmingham, England. The 11-year-old had an otherwise normal, happy life, but decided he was going to show everyone he could accomplish this challenge. Sadly, he didn’t survive the attempt.

The FireSpray Challenge:

Social media have been flooded with videos of young people creating dragon-breath style puffs of fire by putting flame into contact with flammable liquid. It began when one teen Instagram user gave the stunt a try and tagged the video post #FireSprayChallenge. Even before this crazy dare game kids and teens were taking the  #FireChallenge online, this was another very popular challenge that went viral that involved  that dousing oneself with a flammable liquid like rubbing alcohol, then lighting yourself on fire before jumping into a shower or pool. One quick search online shows several reports of teens with serious third- or fourth-degree burns. One story discusses and 11-year-old boy in the U.K. who underwent a skin graft after the social media “dare” went terribly wrong.

The Cinnamon Challenge:

The dare encourage participants to swallow a tablespoon of the spice without any water, can lead to vomiting, choking and possibly even include a trip to the ER. That dare became so popular that within the first three months of 2012, poison centers nationwide received 139 calls that involved cinnamon overdoses.

The Kylie Jenner Challenge:

This pretty recent trend in which teens attempt to get lips that supposedly resemble the  lips of Kim Kardashian’s youngest sister Kylie. In this “dare” teens take a shot glass or similar and place it over their lips, and suck. You can view the results yourself with a quick search of the hashtag #KylieJennerChallenge.

The Salt and Ice Challenge:

This challenge encourages children to place salt and ice together on their skin. However, salt lowers the temperature of ice to as low as negative 17 degrees Celsius or 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and the effect on skin can be similar to frostbite. Because of the redness and numbness from the ice, kids often don’t realize that they are giving themselves potentially second-degree burns. Part of this challenge is to see who can stand the pain the longest and post the proof with photos or videos of their burns to social media.

group of young students studying in the classroom with tablet

Talk To Your Kids About The Dare Culture

The best defense against something like this happening in your family is to be open and honest with your kids about the challenges they’ll face. While dares like this have existed since the dawn of time, this new form of the culture is something you have to stop with words, and with trust. Make it clear that your kids can come to you, and that you will listen to them without judgment when they talk about stuff like this.

Kids want acceptance, and accomplishing a dare (no matter how ridiculous it may look to use adults from the outside) is a way to do that. Whether it’s trying to eat an entire bottle of cinnamon, or jumping off the roof, onto a trampoline, and into the pool, nothing is out of the question when it comes to stuff kids may attempt. Which is why, even if you disapprove, you should make sure they feel safe coming to you and asking about these things. And, no matter how silly something seems, remember that kids don’t have the ability to assess risks like adults do. Their brains have not  biologically developed yet. You need to talk to them, and point out all the things they have not yet thought of which makes this dare a bad idea.

Best of all, though, these dares are a great way to teach risk assessment, and problem solving. Walking your kids through the challenge, and why it’s a bad idea, means that next time they’ll be able to recognize a dangerous challenge when someone throws down the gauntlet.

As parents, it is more important than ever that we teach our kids how to set boundaries. One of the most important boundaries comes in the form of how they use their social media including any YouTube accounts that they may have created, open the discussion about social media self-esteem. In order to make sure that your kids stay healthy and successful, make sure that you are taking the necessary time to learn what you need to about monitoring their technology use (learn about parental controls for Snapchat).

 

It is always easier to help your children and teens to maintain a healthy relationship  with technology when you use a parental control software. Netsanity provides a great service called appblocker that can keep your child off of a particular app for a certain period of time or you feel that it has come to the point that being on a particular app has become damaging to them.

Continuing the conversation about staying safe will do more to keep your tweens and teen safe more than any other action that you can take!

Why Teens Are So Obsessed With Social Media

Social media has, almost since its creation, been seen as something for young people. Whether it was the creation of Facebook on a college campus as a way for students to meet-up, or the general eye-rolling Twitter received for its short word limit, and popularity with the youth of the day, there’s a stigma that social media is just for young people. While sites like LinkedIn show that social media is useful for adults, and the sheer size of marketing budgets from large companies show that social media is recognized as a serious way to reach customers of all ages and demographics, the assumption remains that the core of social media is, and will always be, young people.

So, is there any truth to the idea that young people, particularly teens, are obsessed with social media?

Why Teens Are So Obsessed With Social Media?

Enjoyous young girl make a selfie with his mobile phone

To get a grasp on social media use, it’s a good idea to check out this study, over at Psychology Today. This study points out, first of all, that there are differences in generational use of social media. This seems like a no-brainer, since older generations are less likely to be online, while younger generations tend to be more tech savvy, and embrace concepts like social media much more often. On average, though, younger generations will only use 2 social media sites to the older generations 1. So, part of the idea that teens are “obsessed” with social media can probably be chalked up to the differences between generational uses. Just like how “kids these days” are “obsessed” with their phones. Their parents had something similar when they were that age, but it was a different technology, fad, or other social construct that they view as normal.

However, with that said, teens do use social media at a higher rate than older generations. Not only that, but they use all aspects of social media, from reading and liking posts, to sharing content, chatting, and playing games. Parents, who are concerned for their teens’ well-being, want to make sure that spending that much time online isn’t harming them in some way. If you find yourself in that category, remember this one, very important thing.

To Them Online Life Is Real Life

The Internet has completely changed the way we operate. It has shrunk the world, and completely changed the way industries, the economy, entertainment, and communication work forever. You can’t “just turn it off” and pretend that what happens online isn’t real, because it is real.

It isn’t that teens are dedicating themselves to social media instead of living their lives. It’s that social media is their preferred tool for communicating, sharing, and all the other things teens do as they grow into young adults.

Think about it. When the cordless phone became a household item, teens spent hours in their rooms talking to their friends. Why? For the same reason teens today use social media. It let them maintain their bonds, and grow their relationships, even if they didn’t have driver’s licenses, and couldn’t hang out in person. The Internet in general, and social media in particular, is simply a better tool, allowing teens to talk to all their friends, see their updates, and keep in touch in real-time.

So, the next time you start to worry about your kids spending too much time on social media, don’t just make assumptions. Sit down with them, and have some face time. Ask them why they spend so much of their days on the computer, or a mobile device. Listen to their responses, and show that you aren’t judging them, or trying to catch them in a lie. If you keep open lines of communication, and support your teens, then they will feel much more comfortable letting you into the worlds they’re making for themselves as they grow up.

Tired Teenager sleeping on the Bed with Tablet Computer

Maintaining a healthy balance with technology as a teenager is sometimes hard. There are plenty of other things vying for your teen’s attention, making it difficult for them to remember good habits and prioritize chores, school, and sleep. Thankfully, if  their mobile devices are what is keeping them from getting rest, as the parent, you can help. It is always easier to help your children and teens to maintain balance in their lives with mobile devices when you use a parental control software.

 

Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities this summer and all year long. If your tweens have an Apple mobile devices, Netsanity has a great feature called Screenlock. It can be used on a regular basis to completely block them from using their mobile device for texting, or other activities whenever you feel that they need a healthy break, sleep, or to ensure they are focusing on other activities. Netsanity now offers a 14-day free trial on all their plans, so its worth checking out if your child has an Apple mobile device. They will soon be releasing a version for Android as well!

Back to School Boundaries: Smartphones and Tablets

Smartphone and tablet use is on the rise. More kids than ever before are attached to their devices all day long, texting, checking their social media accounts, and playing games without regard for what’s going on around them. As back-to-school season looms, kids and teenagers will have even more excuses to sit in front of a screen–but that doesn’t mean that’s what’s best for your child. By issuing simple limits before the school year kicks off, you’ll be able to monitor technology usage and ensure a more productive use of your child’s school year.

Set Consistent Limits

There are times when your child simply shouldn’t use their devices. When they’re at the dinner table, in the middle of family time, or in the driver’s seat of a car, your child should put their phones and tablets down and engage in the activity they’re present for. Make sure that the limitations for technology usage are clear, and enforce them. Set a clear time when devices should be turned off each night to allow for a better night’s sleep: texting all night long is a fast way to have an over-tired child the next day.

Happy African American Girl with TabletSchool Time Matters

You don’t want to deny your child the ability to use technology for school. On the other hand, you don’t want them to spend half the day staring at a tablet or laptop screen, then turn around and spend the rest locked to their phones. Discuss appropriate technology usage, including time used for school in their limits. If you do allow extra screen time for school, make sure that you monitor usage: it’s not school use if your child is on social media or playing a game more than they’re paying attention to their research.

Monitor Social Media Use

Many teens and tweens feel “safe” to do whatever they like online. They say things that they would never share in person, post compromising pictures, and share more information than necessary, making it possible for predators to find them. This can cause plenty of problems, including cyber bullying, which has been on the rise as technology use has become more common. To help keep your child out of trouble, maintain clear rules about social media.

  • Discuss appropriate behavior online, including your family’s unique expectations.
  • Monitor your child’s social media use. Check over their shoulder periodically to see what they’re posting and where.
  • Keep your child’s password and browse through their social media accounts occasionally.

Observe Your Child’s Behavior

The great thing about technology rules and available parental tools is that they’re able to change and adapt in response to your child’s unique needs. Keep an eye on your child’s behavior. If they’re starting to spend too much time with their devices, displaying signs of technology addiction, or becoming secretive and frustrated with any attempts to observe their technology activities, it’s time for a shift in rules. If you’re having problems with your child, tighten up the rules to ensure better behavior–and fewer problems–in the future.

It is always easier to help your children and teens to maintain a healthy relationship  with technology when you use a parental control software.

Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities this summer and all year long. If your tweens have an Apple mobile devices, Netsanity has a great feature called Screenlock. It can be used on a regular basis to completely block them from using their mobile device for texting, or other activities whenever you feel that they need a healthy break, sleep, or to ensure they are focusing on other activities. Keep in mind that Netsanity will be releasing an Android version soon. They also have a special right for back to school that will save you 30% off any annual subscription.

Click here for your special deal: BK2SCHOOL16

group of teenagers making fun selfie in classroom

Remember Other Activities

The more involved your child is in sports, clubs, and other activities, the less time they’ll spend on their devices. A child who is active, engaged, and social won’t have as much time for their phones, tablets, and computers–and it will show. Encourage your child to choose activities they enjoy to naturally reduce technology use and allow them to thrive. Have a child who isn’t particularly interested in clubs or after-school activities? Try inviting their friends over regularly for in-person interaction.

Keeping solid rules for your child’s technology use is the best way to ensure a productive, happy school year. As you develop solid guidelines, you’ll discover that your child spends less time on their devices and more time in the world.

Adult Accountability: Software & Solutions

Adult Accountability – Hidden truths and struggles

The need for adult accountability software is real and growing. Addiction to porn via  smartphones is prevalent. Now, many adults are being proactive in trying to curb their addictions with tools never before available. They can do this in the privacy of their home, simply requiring one trusted friend or “accountability partner.” to help them get past their addiction, or own-avowed personal and technological struggle. Police departments, judges, and even employers are looking at these tools to help make positive impacts on adults who are in need of self monitoring.

… 11 porn sites [are] now in the top 300 most popular sites globally. Pornhub, attracting 1.1 billion visits a month globally, sees a staggering 54% of its visits from mobile phones, with an average user session lasting about 8 ½ minutes. It rose from 38th place to 23rd, a higher position than online titans such as eBay, MSN and Netflix.

source: Similar Web

First, a bit of history. When we started Netsanity over 3 years ago, we had a goal in mind: help parents manage their children’s internet usage, filter pornography, and give parents another tool to help them gain a foothold on the ever-growing mobile technology that was widening the gap between themselves and their brilliant, tech-savvy kids. To that end, we succeeded, and continue to evolve and innovate. We have parents in over 50 countries that have installed many thousands of devices that currently filter and monitor more than 3 million internet transactions daily.

Adult Accountability Software | Using Netsanity Mobile & Internet Controls for Adult Accountability

What we did NOT know, and what we learned over those 3+ years is that parents and kids are not the only users of our service. In fact, an untold number of “ghost users,” and silent adults have been using our services for years in order to stem internet addictions, ranging from spousal cheating, pornography, and other more specific and personal reasons.

Each month, the number of these users grow and many feel like victims without a voice. By talking to our users, learning about their needs, and developing features that would help them, we have created a solution that not only works for kids, but is very effective for some adults. It can make their addictions manageable, and allow them safe access to technology, while having a trusted technology partner to ensure that they are compliant.

47% of men over the age of 60 viewed porn within the past 2 months.
29% of men in their seventies viewed porn within the past 2 months.
56% said they had tried to stop but couldn’t.
58% said they believed it was wrong.

source: The Gilmer Mirror

Having an adult accountability service or software is not without its challenges. Unlike a parent with a child, which they can generally control, an adult has no legal restrictions to prevent nor to stop circumventing self-imposed protections.

Traditional accountability solutions and why they fail

There are many companies that offer adult accountability software.Accountability Software for Adults | Netsanity Some offer it for PC’s and MAC’s, and some attempt to offer it for iOS and Android devices. While many of these are great solutions and have many followers and users, they have not kept up with technology and sadly, many are not very effective to prevent regular and addicted users from circumventing them.

Today, more than 54% of porn is viewed via a mobile device source: Similar Web. Any solution that is focused on PC’s and MAC laptops, is already behind as it will only affect a small percentage of the target audience.

hidden-browsers-app-storeTraditional mobile device solutions are weak – most rely on locking down the device and forcing users to use a “safe browser.” Safe browsers are the Achilles heel of filtering. They offer great filtering, except one big problem – there are over 3,000 browsers and apps which will allow unrestricted internet access. Just search for fake calculators, fake folders, and fake browsers in the app store just to get an idea of options. So unless 100% of app installs are disabled and many standard apps are removed, the safe browsing will not achieve its intended goal of protecting the adult. Additionally, if you make the device a paperweight, users will not use it and either circumvent or use a different device. The right balance is to have your technology handy and helping you, while at the same time, offering protection and monitoring.

Luckily, for Apple iOS and soon Android, there is a better and cleaner solution.

Striking the right balance

Netsanity’s Apple iOS service allows for a “user”, who takes on the role of the adult using the Apple mobile device and an “admin,” their accountability partner, who they trust. The process is quite simple and can be set up in a few minutes. It is NOT an app, and works seamlessly and transparently in the background. No jail-breaking is required and its fully built in to the Apple iOS’ core functionality.

Benefits of adult accountability software

Before we show you how easy it is to use Netsanity’s powerful service for adult accountability, here is a list of features and restrictions which an accountability partner can employ on the targeted device of the adult. Once installed, the partner can perform all restrictions and guidance remotely without needing physical access to the device.

  • Block pornography
  • Block other categories like Personal Sites, Web Proxys, Social Media, Email, and 40+ more
  • Optionally, mirror the adult users iMessages – here’s how
  • The accountability partner has real-time access to a raw internet log that shows every website attempted by the adult user. They can also export this log to present to the adult for later discussion.
  • Force Netsanity’s safesearch so that Google and Bing results are filtered
  • Use appblocker to one-click block specific and popular internet-based apps like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and 35+ others

  • Use screenlock to instantly lock the user’s screen in case an event forces the partner to take immediate action
  • Use timeblocker to regulate times that the adult is allowed to use the internet, based on mutually agreed times
  • Use hideapps to instantly hide all the 3rd-party apps on the device
  • Knowing in real-time, every app on the device, including apps that try to hide their intended purpose
  • Prevent the adult from using the camera, Facetime, downloading new apps, listening to objectionable music, and dozens more of device restrictions.
  • Block specific websites that the adult needs to be refrained from visiting, using Netsanity’s siteblocker
  • Prevent the adult user from removing the Netsanity secure profile without a passcode which is only known to the accountability partner

How To Set Up and Use Netsanity for Adult Accountability

To set up Netsanity for an adult, you first need the following:

  1. An Apple iOS device using iOS 8 or greater. Most of the time this will be an iPhone, but can also be a current iPad or iPod touch
  2. Touch ID (Fingerprint sensor) – the Apple mobile device must have Touch ID. Most current models including the 5S, 6, 6S, and the latest iPads and iPod touch devices. Touch-IDhave Touch ID. Older devices like the 4S or 5C do not and will not work well for adults
  3. A Netsanity subscription
  4. An accountability partner (AP) – can be a friend, spouse, or a service

Once you are ready, set up is easy and the self-monitored adult can safely have their device in-hand, within minutes, safe from porn and other specific and harmful internet destinations.

Set up Netsanity for adult accountability

The process for set up and enrollment is fairly straight forward. We have summarized the steps below so both the adult user needing accountability as well as the accountability partner who will maintain the restrictions know the process and steps.

  1. Both the adult needing supervision and the partner must be together for the initial set up. After set up and enrollment is complete, most everything else can be accomplished remotely.
  2. Both parties need to write down their expectations of what sites and restrictions will be needed and a process for resolution. We suggest this is in writing and signed by both parties in advance.
  3. Have the Apple iOS device with Touch ID ready
  4. You must enroll at least one (we suggest two or more) fingerprints for the user and optionally for the accountability partner (AP).
    • To do this, the AP will establish a passcode that only the AP will know. This is critical to all other steps. passcode-promptOnly the AP must maintain this 4 or 6 digit passcode.
    • (iOS 9.x) – from Settings > Touch ID & Passcode create a passcode. If the user already had a passcode, have them enter it, and then click change passcode, so now only the AP knows what it is.
    • Once all fingerprints have been enrolled, scroll to to the top of the Touch ID & Passcode screen
    • make sure that iPhone (iPad) Unlock is green – this is very important as this will allow the user to unlock their screen as needed with their finger without knowing the passcode that the AP has set up
    • You are done can exit to the home screen
  5. Sign up for Netsanity. Your first 14-days are free so you will have a good sense if this solution is right for you. This step will be preformed by the AP. You will need one license for each Apple device. So if the user will have two devices, an iPhone and an iPad, you will need a 2-license subscription.
  6. The AP will create an admin user and a password. This will not be shared with the adult user.
  7. Once the admin user is created, the next step is to set up the user. Their is a wizard to help you through the process.
  8. The user will be the adult that will be monitored. Later after enrollment, the AP will go back and set up all the filtering and device restrictions.
  9. Next, the AP will create a device – this is the Apple iOS device that you will be enrolling shortly for the user.
  10. Lastly, enroll the device in to the Netsanity service and install the security profile.
    • The AP, using the Safari browser will navigate the the enrollment website (provided after you subscribe) and login with their admin username and password
    • They will click on the previously created device which will start the enrollment process – should take less than 10 seconds – there will be a series of popups and confirmations that the AP will need to acknowledge.
    • Once complete, please log out of the enrollment website and hand back to the user
  11. Set up is complete. The AP can now go to their dashboard, select the user, and proceed to block the apps, websites, categories, and device restrictions as needed. Our support site has many articles, videos, and guides to use each feature.

Netsanity has a 100%, US-based customer service center with agents that will help with on-boarding and are available for questions using a dedicated feedback widget, email, or phone.

What’s next?

After the AP has installed the service on the targeted user’s device and has set up the filtering and restrictions as needed, both parties can resume normal activity. By not knowing the Apple passcode, Netsanity cannot be removed. All internet will be monitored and websites filtered. The adult user, however can use their iPhone as normal to make calls, texts, and use almost any apps for day to day functionality. Unlocking the screen is easy with their finger, so there is no need to know the passcode while enjoying the many advantages an iPhone or iPad bring. You can read more here in our best practices guide for Touch ID enabled devices.

Adult accountability is a serious need. Netsanity is proud to offer solutions that can help hundreds of thousands of adults around the world that need that extra tool to help them stay compliant. Our service platform is cutting edge and will continue to evolve and improve. Android support will be released in early Q4, 2016. Give the service a try and see if Netsanity may be right for you.

Today’s Teens Are Tired!

As adults, finding a work/life balance–not to mention plenty of time to rest–is sometimes difficult. For teenagers, that balance can be even more difficult. With school, after-school activities, homework, and even jobs eating huge chunks out of their days, it’s little wonder that teenagers are tired. They’re getting less sleep than ever before–and increasing technology isn’t helping.

The Problem With Technology

Biologically, human brains are wired to sleep when it’s dark out and start waking up when it’s light. Most screens emit the same type of blue light that contributes most to wakefulness. Unfortunately, that means that if screens are left on late at night, teens may struggle to find the proper brain rhythms for productive sleep.

Technology can also cause problems with distraction when the time comes to sleep. Chiming text messages, fascinating content on the internet, and interesting television shows can all make it difficult for a teen to roll over and fall asleep, especially with the blue light convincing their brains that it’s really time to be awake.

Taking Control of Technology

If your teen is struggling to stay awake during the day, you can help them find that balance between appropriate technology use and the type that will interfere with their sleep and make it difficult for them to function the next day. By instituting a few useful rules at home, you can help your teen sleep better every night, setting them up for a more successful school day.

Keep technology out of the bedroom. Computers, televisions, and phones should all be kept out of the space where your child sleeps. Instead of using their phone as Teenage boy lay asleep on his homework.an alarm clock, encourage your child to use an actual alarm. If they need time to wind down before falling asleep, a good book is better than phone time, computer time, or watching television.

Monitor bedtime. It’s tempting to go on to bed and leave your child sitting at the computer. They’ve promised to head on to bed when they finish the article they’re reading, browse Facebook for “just ten more minutes,” or finish up that project for school. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for “ten more minutes” to become “two or three more hours,” leading to a tired child the next day.

 

Unplug at the same time every night. Just as it’s helpful to maintain a regular sleep schedule to let your body know when it’s time to rest, it’s very beneficial to turn off technology around the same time every day, settling into a routine that will trigger your teen to know it’s bedtime. Turn off the television, tuck away phones, and step away from the computer an hour before bedtime each night for the best results. If you have to make exceptions for school projects, make them as infrequent as possible.

Get up on weekends. Has your child fallen into the habit of sleeping all day on Saturday and Sunday, “catching up” on sleep missed during the week? Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work that way. Oversleeping on the weekends further interferes with the body’s natural clock, making it difficult for your child to maintain healthy habits the rest of the week. Instead, make a habit of getting out of bed at a reasonable time on the weekends. Get chores done, head out for a fun activity as a family, or even hang out around the house together, but go ahead and get up and moving for the best results!

Sisters sitting on the sofa and using smartphones

Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule as a teenager is hard. There are plenty of other things vying for your teen’s attention, making it difficult for them to remember good habits and prioritize their sleep. Thankfully, if  their mobile devices are what is keeping them from getting rest, as the parent, you can help. It is always easier to help your children and teens to maintain balance in their lives with mobile devices when you use a parental control software.

Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities this summer and all year long. If your tweens have an Apple mobile devices, Netsanity has a great feature called Screenlock. It can be used on a regular basis to completely block them from using their mobile device for texting, or other activities whenever you feel that they need a healthy break, sleep, or to ensure they are focusing on other activities. Netsanity now offers a 14-day free trial on all their plans, so its worth checking out if your child has an Apple mobile device. They will soon be releasing a version for Android as well!

How to Promote Good Mobile Technology Use with your Kids

It seems as though kids in today’s world are constantly attached to a mobile device of some sorts. While this helps to connect them to the world in a unique way, there are great dangers in this type of ability. Parents have fears that their child will become socially challenged because they are not interacting with others outside of an online setting.

Another issue that is caused by constant use of technology is the increased exposure to bullies. When a child is bullied online, it is something that they feel as though they can never escape from. This can cause detrimental damage to the child and their future. Because of these reasons and others, parents are now looking for ways to promote good mobile technology use with their kids. Here are a few ways that you can do just that.

 

Set Time Limits

The best way to promote good mobile technology use is to limit the amount of time that your children and teens and be on their devices. While this is something that can be a challenge, there are some things that you can do to make the mission a bit easier.

For starters, communicate with your child and explain why you are looking to control their time. You are looking to teach them how to be in control of the device rather than the other way around. Also, keep in mind that you are in charge of the security of your child and limiting their time will help them to learn how to respond to bullies and set boundaries.

There are also many apps and tools that you can use to help monitor the time that your child spends on their mobile device. Make sure that you are using them to your ability. However, don’t fully rely on these apps and tools. They will never be able to fully replace your personal attention.

Zwei jugendliche Freunde mit Smartphone am idyllischen TeichPlan Family Activities

Helping your child manage their mobile technology use is much easier when your child has alternatives. Sometimes the best ways to provide alternatives is to have family activities that are fun and entertaining for the whole family. This can help to control the use of technology and bring you closer as a family.

You should also have certain times during the day when technology is not allowed. For example, make sure that no one uses their mobile devices at the dinner table. Having dinner together as a family nightly is also important and will help you to monitor how your child is reacting to the world around them.

Mother and daughter at cafe using smart phone Teach your Kids about Technology

One mistake that many kids make is not realizing how their use of mobile technology will affect their future. For example, some kids post pictures online that are very damaging to their reputation. Not only could this make your kids look bad now, but it can also cause them to have trouble in the future.

More and more businesses and colleges are spending time searching through social media when they are looking at applicants. If your child has negative posts and photos online, this could mean that their chances of getting a job or accepted into the college that they are interested in could diminish. Teaching your kids how to properly manage their online reputation is very important because of these issues.

Parents are quickly losing the battle when it comes to controlling the way their kids use mobile technology. Some are simply too busy and others don’t want to look like the bad guy. Other parents find that they are unskilled when it comes to using the devices themselves and therefore have a difficult time when it comes to controlling what their kids are doing.

However, as parents, it is more important than ever that we teach our kids how to set boundaries. One of the most important boundaries comes in the form of how they use their mobile technology. In order to make sure that your kids stay healthy and successful, make sure that you are taking the necessary time to learn what you need to about monitoring their technology use.Smartphone users

It is always easier to help your children and teens to maintain a healthy relationship  with technology when you use a parental control software.

Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities this summer and all year long. If your tweens have an Apple mobile devices, Netsanity has a great feature called Screenlock. It can be used on a regular basis to completely block them from using their mobile device for texting, or other activities whenever you feel that they need a healthy break, sleep, or to ensure they are focusing on other activities.

Netsanity now offers a 14-day free trial on all their plans, so its worth checking out if your child has an Apple mobile device. They will soon be releasing a version for Android as well!

What Parents Need to Know: Instagram
Along with Facebook and Twitter,  Instagram is one of the most popular social media apps being used by anyone from elementary school students to grandparents. Everyone loves it for its smooth and easy to navigate design, the ease of sharing pictures with friends and family, and convenient method of communication. Instagram is a great place to show off one’s photography skill, what they did over the weekend, or maybe post a hundred different pictures of their cute pets.  While this platform of social media is predominantly fun for all ages, there are some things parents should know about Instagram before letting their children use this app.

Like Any Social Media, Make Sure to MonitorIMG_8873

When using Instagram, or any other social media platform, it is always wise to take precautions. Make sure to discuss with your child what is acceptable to post and what isn’t. What is put on the internet is put out there forever, so it is important that nothing your child posts could be damaging to their future in school and work. You can keep watch by following your child and supervising what is posted.

Since anyone can follow anyone, it is also important that your child knows to keep their Instagram profile private. Then, confirm that they know everyone who they allow to follow them so no strangers have any
access to their personal information or pictures. Speaking of personal information, it is also wise to turn off location services so Instagram does not map your child’s location on their post.

Instagram Isn’t Always a Happy Place

When children browse through Instagram, they’ll often come across everything that everyone has been doing lately. Going to amusement parks, vacations to the beach, or going to the movies with friends, it all seems like everyone is having the time of their lives while they themselves are at home. It can lead the child to feel left out, thinking their friends are not inviting them to all their fun or that their lives aren’t nearly as exciting as their peers.

What Parents Need to Know About Instagram

Even though this may not always be the real case, Instagram can often portray people’s lives as far more exciting and busy than they are. Seeing everyone show off like this could cause your child to feel inadequate or become depressed. If your child starts to feel this way, it would be best to sit them down and explain that Instagram does not accurately portray the full picture of someone else’s life,  and that sometimes people cannot spend time with them all the time, but that doesn’t mean they want to leave them out.

Like any other form of social media, Instagram is also prime grounds for cyber bulling. Whether it be making fun of someone’s pictures, sending mean direct messages, or creating fake accounts to harass someone with, Instagram can be a scary place sometimes. Sadly, it is impossible sometimes to prevent people from being bullies, but as a parent, one can still take a stand to prevent your child from being subjected to it.

Here’s What Parent’s Need to Know about Instagram

Imagine yourself having a lonely summer vacation spent mostly at home. You sit down to check your Instagram account and you see endless images of your friends boating, splashing at the beach, or toasting each other at a new local hot spot, all without you! As an adult, you may chuckle and allow it to bother you for a moment, and then shrug it off. Now, imagine yourself at 13. How would you feel?

Being excluded socially is always tough, regardless of your age. These days however, our tweens and teens are much more likely to find out almost in real-time, what they are missing out on. Seeing the fun in full digital color, filtered and cropped to perfection, as you are omitted from the fun being posted – it can be painful. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, when many of today’s parents were teens and at home for the summer, one typically had no idea what one was missing out on unless a friend told you and even then, that rarely happened in real-time! Digital pictures certainly not included!

parenting tips for Instagram

We understand that most tweens and teens who are active on social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter or Facebook are not posting pictures determined in making others feel bad. Most kids are living in the moment, with little foresight as to whom may be left excluded in this new digital world.

As parents, we have seen our children on both sides of this emotional circumstance. Older teens tend to handle this better, but for the younger set, it can be an entirely different experience. Some younger teens, when discussing this topic, told me that they oftentimes feel depressed about missing out, or not being invited. They take this dismissiveness by their peers as a personal reflection on them.

There are things that can be done, most importantly being engaged and aware. You can’t address something you don’t know exists. Look for clues and signs. One is the absolute absorption in their mobile device, quickly followed by depression or looking uninterested in topics or family. Try to get some control over their state and find a root cause.

 

On any mobile device, when looking at the app age ratings, note that most apps have a minimum age recommendation of 13. Here are some additional tips when allowing your children to use Instagram:

  • THINK – teach your children to always pause before they post. Teach them to ask themselves if the picture could make anyone feel left out or excluded?
  • Recommend that they delay their postings so that the event isn’t viewed in real-time by others. This simple act, can often make all the difference to a friend who is sitting at home alone.
  • Parents can model proper behavior by showing the same respect when posting or reacting. You know that pleasant feeling you get when seeing your own friends on social media on a romantic vacation in Hawaii, while you are at home cooking dinner and doing laundry!
  • Instill balance with mobile parental controls like Netsanity, for example. Their Timeblocker scheduler, used on a regular basis, gives your tween a break from their mobile device. Sometimes you may need to resort to blocking some social apps, even if temporarily if the teen seems to be too obsessed. Appblocker can be used to block apps such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and others, on demand, if your child is having trouble tearing themselves away.

Sometimes all they need is a break!

We love social media as much as anyone, but we also know there’s a fine line between enjoying its benefits in moderation, and spending endless hours letting it bring you or your children down. We always recommend monitoring, communicating, and taking breaks from social media and all internet devices on a regular basis!

What Parents Need to Know: Musical.ly

Musical.ly is an app that is been growing in popularity for about a year now, and right now it is more popular than ever having produced many young Musical.ly sensations. The app revolves around the user picking one of many song clips which they can lip sync on different speeds to create different effects. Many users use this to show off their dance moves or demonstrate their creative interpretations of their favorite songs.

music.lyiconNot only is the app great for creativity and expressing one’s self, but users can share their videos with others and then create their own versions of others videos. It is a lot of fun and a great way to interact with friends. While the app can be fun though, there are risks in letting children use this particular app.

There are tons of songs to choose from on Musical.ly, and many of them, including many popular ones, center around sexual or other adult themes. This can often encourage any sort of inappropriate dancing or gestures to the music, especially if a user sees another video to the inappropriate song.

When posting a video, users can also add different tags to let their video be seen,  although if one looks through the tags, it is possible to come across some adult content that is most definitely not suitable for children. While this type of content is not what the app is intended for, it is on there nonetheless. Parents should beware the dangers of their children using this app  when they could be exposed to such age inappropriate content.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Our children and teens are going to get online. We live in a world where the Internet has completely altered everything from commerce and business, to entertainment and communication. The option of just not getting online isn’t possible, especially when everything from school research to family movie night takes place on some variety of online service.

tweens.texting-450pxMusical.ly specifically, and social media in general, is just another form of the conversation. If you’re a parent, you’ve already had at least a few different versions of this talk with your kids. Maybe it was about the start of puberty, or about sex, or about when they would be allowed to start dating, but the conversation is always about the same thing; you giving your kids responsibility, and trying to prepare them for handling it.

Even if you trust your children to be technologically responsible, it is always a must to stay involved. By keeping communication lines open, you will help your children to continue to make good decisions, but at the same time you are there to help them if they need it.

Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children and teens are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services their appblocker feature is a “must have” if your children or teens have an Apple mobile device. With one-click you can block any internet-based app that you find dangerous or inappropriate. They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your kids have Apple devices, and stay tuned for a version for Android coming as well.

 

Continuing the conversation about staying safe will do more to keep your tweens and teen safe more than any other action that you can take!

What Parents Need to Know: Pokémon GO

Last week, a new game for iOS and Android, launched and took the world by storm. Despite barely being out for five days, the app has already reached number one in the app store and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to relinquish it’s first place position for some time. Kids and adults alike have been enjoying Pokémon GO for all its new, exciting virtual reality game play mechanics and real world exploration.

About Pokémon GO

The app features Pokémon as the main attraction, a popular gameIMG_8845 franchise by Nintendo, but it also shares elements with games like Ingress and Geocaching. The game revolves around players moving around in the real world and watching their game characters move with them to look for Pokémon, Pokéstops, and Gyms on the virtual map of their location.

Players can catch, nickname, train, and evolve their Pokémon as well as battle at Gyms occupied by opposing teams to claim them for their own team.  It encourages players to get active by walking around like on a real Pokémon adventure and to meet other players in the community by communing at Pokéstops and Gyms to gather items or battle. The game also includes a photo feature where a player can take pictures of the Pokémon they encounter in the wild.

Overall, the game is incredibly fun and interactive, encouraging players to constantly be on the search for new Pokémon to show off and use to capture the Gym for your team. The game is free to play, although players can purchase coins from the in game shop with real money. Although it is great that the game is getting players outside and moving while doing something that would normally involve them just sitting at home, the game also comes with its fair share of concerns.

What Parents Should Know

While Pokémon GO is generally a good game, there could be some issues with younger kids using this type of app. Pokémon is a franchise targeted towards young children, so many could be drawn towards the app before even knowing what it is, but generally these types of games are targeted towards an older audience.

Children cannot explore much on their own or drive around which limits the experience, so of course they would want to go out of the house and try to go on walks to be able to enjoy the game to its fullest. Many parents surely would not want to spend hours in the heat searching for virtual Pokémon, so they stay back and let their kids roam about on their own. However, walking around while staring at their phone is not the safest thing for a kid to be doing , for obvious reasons. They could easily walk into traffic or end up somewhere they shouldn’t be, despite the app encouraging its users to always pay attention.maxresdefault

Parents with younger kids using this app should accompany them at all times while they’re out exploring. Especially when heading to Pokéstops or Gyms. Those are locations on the map that are shared with everyone else who has the app.

Someone with bad intentions could stake out at one of these stops and wait for children to come by. However, Pokémon made a good call in the placement of these stops. They are generally all in public places such as cafes, restaurants, churches, and famous landmarks. This makes the locations safer, but parents should always make sure to accompany their children on their Pokemon journeys regardless.

Pokémon, Pokéstops, and Gyms can also be found while driving, which poses another issue. While Pokéstops and Gyms are often off of the road which requires a driver to park and get out to visit them, Pokémon can pop up anywhere, including on the road. Teen drivers may try to catch these Pokémon while driving, which is essentially just as bad, if not worse, than texting and driving. Parents should make sure that teens go on walks to catch their Pokemon or have someone else driving while they use the app.

Alternatively, Netsanity  offers services including a gameblocker feature which can keep teens off the game while driving or if they start to spend too much time on this and other  addictive games and apps. They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your kids have Apple devices. They have a version for Android coming as well.

Pokémon GO is a great app for everyone in the whole family to enjoy, but make sure to set parameters to keep kids safe!
5 Ways Predators Groom Children During Online Gaming

Your child’s online gaming friends seem perfectly innocent. They chat about the game, about its latest upgrades and frustrations, and about what’s going on in their lives. Unfortunately, some of these so-called friends could all too easily be predators–and your child might never realize that they’re falling into their trap. Predators often groom children during online gaming sessions, using familiar activities and behaviors to convince children and teens that they can be trusted when in reality, they can’t.

1. They will convince your child that they are a “friend.” In some cases, they may masquerade as a teen themselves in order to break down those barriers and convince your child to trust them. They’ll share “personal information” that convinces your child that they are opening up, when in reality, they’re simply grooming them for future exploitation.

2. They’ll play on a teen’s natural sexual curiosity and desires. Teenagers are often eager to find out more about the sexual world, and they’ll cross plenty of parental boundaries in order to satisfy that curiosity. Predators play into that curiosity, gently teasing teens across their boundaries one step at a time. They might start by chatting about sex or opening the door to those types of conversations in what appears to be a nervous manner, eventually progressing to much more dangerous types of discussions and behavior. They might also start with something as dirty jokes, leading up to a link to pornography or another type of content that your child doesn’t want to see.

child-night-surfing3. They’ll listen to your child. Emotional trust is often built slowly, through simple interactions that build into something more. Just like a sexual predator in physical contact will gradually build from small, insignificant touches to more dangerous ones, an online predator will slowly and patiently build your child’s trust. They’ll listen to their problems, giving them the impression that they “understand them” better than anyone else or that they are able to give them something that no one else in their circle of friends can. This trust-building is one of the key parts of developing a relationship with your child and breaking down their boundaries.

4. They’ll encourage secrecy. Predators are aware that children might be innocent, but their parents are paying attention, have a good idea of what dangerous behavior looks like, and will react protectively if they suspect that their offspring are in danger. For this reason, many predators will encourage secrecy concerning the relationship. Parents should take note any time their child or teen suddenly stops talking about a particular friend who has particularly been a conversational staple.

Girl Texting On Mobile Phone At Night While Lying In Bed

5. They’ll separate teens from their friends and family. This is a very subtle process: gently mentioning that others “don’t understand” or giving the impression that their choices are malicious, rather than simply against the teen’s wishes. As the wedge between friends and family members goes deeper, the predator is able to better deepen their own relationship with your teen. They become the primary confidante and therefore lower their risks of discovery.

Keeping your child safe online is a process that should never be undertaken lightly. While you can’t monitor every moment your child spends online, there are several things you can do to help keep them safer.

  • Set clear rules and expectations. Keep computers and tablets in communal areas where you can observe your child at any time.
  • Discuss boundaries often. Help your child become familiar with the idea of online predators in an age-appropriate way.
  • Stay aware of what, where, and when your child is playing. If their behaviors change suddenly, look for the reason behind the change.
  • Play your child’s games yourself occasionally. Interact with their friends and get a feel for them.
  • Remind your teen that online “friends” are still strangers and that private information should remain private no matter how well they think they know someone.

Mother Comforting Daughter Being Bullied By Text MessageSetting boundaries with dangerous or age-inappropriate apps or games  is always easier when you use a trustworthy mobile parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services , like their gameblocker, where certain internet-based games and apps, are profiled and parents can easily block and unblock them with a one-click  solution. They have a 14-day free trial, so its worth checking out if your teen has an Apple mobile device. Later this year in 2016, they will also be rolling out their service to Android users as well!

 

As  parents it is our job to never forget that the online world is large and dangerous. Teaching your children and teens to be internet savvy and aware of predators is crucial to keeping them safe!

Smartphones and Smart Summer Rules

Today’s kids are spending more time on their devices than ever. From texting friends on their smartphones to staring at the screen as they plow through “just one more level” on their latest video game, kids can quickly waste their entire summer staring at once device or another. If you’re hoping to still keep your kids tech smart this summer, don’t delay because even if your summer vacation has already started it is not too late to incorporate some  technology rules.

Keep Them Busy

Many kids are spending as much as 75 hours per week using technology. While you can’t keep them busy every minute of every day, providing your kids with other activities can help keep their summers on track and encourage them to spend more time doing things that are healthy, educational, or fulfilling. You don’t have to be on them every minute to provide them with plenty of options.

  • Invest in a swimming pool club or amusement park membership for the summer and take the kids often.
  • Offer opportunities for family bonding activities that don’t involve technology. Board games might be corny, but they can also be a lot of fun!
  • Encourage teens to look into the possibility of a summer job. From babysitting or mowing lawns to flipping burgers, there are plenty of opportunities for your child to earn some extra cash and stay busy with something that doesn’t have a screen.
  • Take a fun road trip to a popular cake or ice cream shop…especially if they were on Food Network, teens love that!
  • Put together a summer reading list at the beginning of summer–both books that interest your child and books that you think would benefit them in some way. Encourage them to see how many of those books they can complete over the summer.
  • Plan outdoor activities often throughout the summer. Go for hikes, visit the beach, or simply hang out in the back yard: there are plenty of activities that will catch the kids’ attention and help them leave technology behind.

friendship, leisure, summer, technology and people concept - friends with smartphones sitting on sandy beach

Set Reasonable Tech Rules

Let’s face it: if you’re stuck in the car for hours on your way to your summer vacation destination, you aren’t going to adhere to a rule that says the kids can only spend a certain number of hours per day on their devices. If they’re quiet, not fighting, and not complaining about the cramped conditions in the car, you’re not going to rock the boat! The rest of the summer, however, setting reasonable technology rules in place is the ideal way to keep your kids’ technology use on track instead of allowing it to get out of control. Try some of these rules, or adapt them according to your family’s needs.

  • Set specific blocks of time where they can indulge in certain technology-based activities, including video games and phone time. Whether that’s a single hour or in the evening after dinner. Some families like to make a list of chores that have to be completed before you change Timeblocker settings!
  • Set specific “off times” for technology. There’s absolutely no reason to bring phones to the table, nor should they be present during family time. Whatever their friends have to say will wait for a few hours.
  • Adhere to your own rules. If you want their technology turned off during certain times, keep yours put away as well if you can! We do understand that sometimes work calls and if it does explain that to your children and they will understand the difference! Also, keep in mind that the more times you allow your children to make excuses for sliding past your rules, the less likely they’ll be to adhere to them long-term.

friendship, leisure, summer, technology and people concept - couple of smiling friends with smartphones sitting on grass in park

You might not be able to go off the grid entirely for the summer, but you can keep your kids’ technology use in check and encourage them to make far more productive use of those hours out of school. Fill your summer with activities that your kids will really enjoy, family time that will leave you connected, and opportunities for them to grow.  It is always easier to help your children and teens to maintain balance in their lives with mobile devices when you use a parental control software.

Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities this summer and all year long. If your tweens have an Apple mobile devices, Netsanity has a great feature called Screenlock. It can be used on a regular basis to completely block them from using their mobile device for texting, or other activities whenever you feel that they need a healthy break, sleep, or to ensure they are focusing on other activities. Netsanity now offers a 14-day free trial on all their plans, so its worth checking out if your child has an Apple mobile device. They will soon be releasing a version for Android as well!

 

Overall, balance this summer will leave your family healthy and rested for when everyone starts back to school in the Fall!

Social Media and Self Esteem in Teens

Social Media Effects on Self Esteem – With the increase in social media availability, teens are more connected to one another than ever before. As a result, they can build one another up or tear one another down in a matter of moments. Unfortunately, most teens are choosing the latter–and even when they aren’t, social media is causing a distressingly negative impact on the self-esteem of tween and teens.

Constant Social Media Self Esteem Blows Increase Body Dissatisfaction

Let’s face it: most teen or tween especially girls would probably never choose to post that frumpy, rolled out of bed late and barely got to school on time while still wearing sweats image on Instagram. Instead, they post their best pictures. From the picture that makes them look ten pounds lighter than they are in reality to the perfect date-night picture of girls who are dressed to the nines, social media  usually displays only the best image each teen has to offer. Worse, those images are usually accompanied by the usual teen need to put themselves down and talk about how “ugly” or “fat” they look–often in an attempt to draw out compliments. Unfortunately, these images combined with those words only increase negative body image and low social media self esteem in teen and tween girls AND boys.

Perfect Image Beyond the Body

It’s not just body image that gets slammed by the “only the best” status posting on social media. Most teens and tweens only post the good news: another college acceptance letter, a new award, or information about that “perfect” date the night before. Pummeled by this image of perfection, teens and tweens often forget that their peers are only posting the good while simultaneously ignoring the bad. It’s as though everyone on social media has banded together with the common goal of only putting their best foot forward–and it’s slowly convincing teens and tweens that whatever they’ve accomplished and whoever they are isn’t good enough because their “everyday” doesn’t measure up to someone else’s “best.”

Social Media Effect on Self Esteem in Teenagers | Netsanity

“Like” Pressure

Just a generation ago, the biggest blow to a teen’s self-esteem was going to school with a new haircut or the perfect outfit and not being recognized. That slight, however, was easily enough forgotten the next day as life resumed its normal pace. Social media, however, provides a constant stream of, “Why is no one noticing me?” Teens wonder:

  • Why did no one comment on my post?
  • Why did that post get more likes than mine?
  • Why did that special someone not react to my post?
  • Why do I never have as much response as someone else?

With that level of pressure, it’s little wonder that teens and tweens have steadily deteriorating self-esteem as they struggle to deal with the constant competition associated with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more.

Cyberbullying

Worried teenager girl looking at her smart phone in a park with an unfocused background

In the worst possible scenario, teens and tweens don’t just struggle with acceptance and peer response to their posts, nor do they merely find themselves jealous of the “perfection” experienced by their peers. Cyberbullying has added an increased viciousness to the torment that many students experience every day. Now, they don’t get away from their tormentors when they go home. Instead, they’re pounded from all angles. The online environment gives the illusion of anonymity. Characters on the screen aren’t equated with real people. As a result, many children are being bullied relentlessly–and worse, without proper monitoring, their parents may never even realize it.

Exposure to social media can have an incredibly negative impact on the developing self-esteem of many young people, or even contribute to eating disorders. Controlled access to these intense online environments may allow teens and tweens to develop in a way that is more historically “normal,” especially as their exposure to the so-called perfection of their peers is limited.

What Can Parents Do?

It makes most every parents nervous when their teens are exposed to the pressure and drama of using certain types of social media.  Your first reaction might be to just ban your tweens and teenagers from downloading apps like Instagram or Snapchat, it’s important to remember that they have positive aspects as well. Sooner or later, teens will need to learn how to navigate the online world responsibly. That’s why it’s a good idea to sometimes allow access with various apps, but to keep an open and ongoing conversation on the subject.

If you do allow your tweens or teens to use a particular app, I always recommend that parents explore it first because there are many inappropriate apps out there. Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children of all ages are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software.

What can teen’s do (and not do)?

With social media expanding into existence and evolving so rapidly over the past few years, it is really not that easy to grasp the social rules around proper etiquette and what is and isn’t appropriate to post on social media for all to see. With that being said, I hope that there is still a general standard of etiquette for communicating online that can be agreed upon by most of us.  Here are just a few do’s and – pretty please…really don’ts, that we should all follow.

Keep Tragic Events To Yourself

The pain of learning that someone you love has just died is one of the most painful feelings that most of us can ever experience. It is the most difficult phone call you will probably ever get. But what do you do when you learn this information through social media? How do you react when you’re scrolling through your newsfeed only to discover that death has taken someone you knew or loved?

Recently, I discovered that my precious grandmother had passed away when I was randomly pulling up my Facebook feed. I knew she was ill and the time was near, but to read messages posted about her by strangers before I was even told that she had died was truly disheartening.

It is always a good idea to wait until the death of another is “old” news before heading to social media to express your grief.

Social Word CloudBe Mindful Of What You Post

When you have hundreds of friends or followers on social media, you have people from all kinds of backgrounds, jobs, beliefs, and values. Tweeting or updating your status or even sharing a meme with a general statement may seem like harmless fun to you, but to others, it may read with a very different perspective. This could come back to bite you with a particular friendship, work relationship, or even lead to a fight or argument on your wall or feed. I am all for free speech, but when expressing your personal views & opinions, it is always a great idea to keep things light, as it relates to social media. Even with stringent privacy settings, there are still risks that your post will reach people that you may not want it to reach. So, I think your best bet is to play it safe and be mindful of your posts!

Sharing “The Chain Letter”

Social Media Self-esteem and Body Image in Teenagers, Girls and Boys | NetsanityRemember those chain emails that ask you to act NOW and forward immediately to all of your friends or you’ll have bad luck for 7 years? Social media has way too many of those these days. Most claim that if you post this “letter” in your status and leave it for 24 hours,  you will certainly win the lottery, or even better, that if you share a status, Bill Gates just might show up at your front door with a check for a million dollars just because he liked how you shared a post. Sometimes, these posts such as the ones discussing an illness or medical issue, go viral for a good cause because they spreads awareness. However, in general, posts such as these can become very annoying, especially when containing false information or other nefarious schemes. It does not show you in the best light when you are sharing these ridiculous “letters!” Be smart and diligent by not “falling” for these requests.

Flaming  Your Friend’s Friend

We all are entitled to state our own opinions, online or offline, so if you see someone comment on a post which you do not agree with, please keep quiet. I often see people criticizing the comments of their friend’s friend who replied to a post, whom they don’t even know! Please don’t embarrass yourself or your friend by doing so. It really is just plain awkward for everyone involved. In the spirit of friendship and conversation, try to always take the “high road”.

Ultimately, it is about finding balance between being free to be yourself and remembering to be sensitive to others online and off.  We all need to continue to be aware of the “publicness” of social media and always remember that each of us forms a piece of the online, social eco-system experience, for everyone else. Finding that right balance will also help you enjoy your social media time as well.  Happy posting!

Why Smartphone and Tablet Restrictions Are Vital for Families

It’s amazing to think that a computer that used to be the size of a warehouse just 25 years ago can now fit inside your pocket. Thanks to technology, we now live in an age of answers. For the first time in history, virtually anything you’d like to know is just a quick swipe away. What’s the weather going to be like today? Who was the 13th president? What’s going on with Taylor Swift’s love life? Smartphones give users a front row seat to everything that’s happening in the world 24 hours a day, but at what cost?

Earlier this year, The Atlantic published an article about how smartphones are affecting our sleep patterns. As it turns out, smartphones are having a huge negative impact on the sleep patterns of younger people. According to The Atlantic, “A 2012 Time/Qualcomm poll conducted with 4,700 respondents in seven countries, including the U.S., found that younger people were more likely to say that they don’t sleep as well because they are connected to technology all the time. Smartphones and tablets disrupt sleep, in part, because they emit what’s known as “blue” light. This light is picked up by special cells behind our eyeballs, and it communicates to the brain that it’s morning. (Red light, meanwhile, signals that it’s time to go to sleep).”

jeune fille dormant avec téléphoneThis should be especially troubling news for parents. Yes, it’s super annoying when your teenage daughter refuses to remove her eyes from her smartphone at dinner, but the science is beginning to show that too much smartphone and tablet use can actually be unhealthy for her. To make matters worse, poor sleep and obesity are scientifically proven to be linked.

It is wise for every parent to implement smart and sensible smartphone restrictions for their kids, but simply putting your foot down might prove to be harder than you think. Tech savvy parents have an especially difficult time navigating the smartphone restriction territory with their children because of their own reliance on the technology, but every parent is probably tempted to let their children be on their phones all the time because it’s the path of least resistance.

Here are a few good smartphone rules that you might want to try with your kids:

No Phones Or Tablets One Hour Before Bed: Like I previously mentioned, screen time right before bed is proven to negatively impact sleep. Good sleep is paramount for growing kids, so this is probably the most important iPhone rule you should have for your family.

No Phones At Meals: Make a rule that no phones should be seen(or heard) while your family is eating together. Busy families need closeness and communication, so don’t let smartphones get in the way of that. By the way, these rules only work if parents follow them too.

Thirty Minutes of Exercise Buys Thirty Minutes of Screen Time: This rule is a great way to motivate kids to exercise. Rules like this help kids learn to prioritize their time and give them an incentive to do something that is extremely important to their own health and well-being. Kids need to learn the importance of regular exercise, and having them purchase screen time with physical exercise is a great way to do that.

resizesleepingteenThe key to wise smartphone rules for your kids is to be fair and tailor your expectations. Smartphones are extremely addictive because they provide almost constant connection and communication with their peers. Keep that in mind when they protest any sort of rules or restrictions you try with them.

As parents we are ultimately the ones responsible for teaching our children how to balance their days with healthy activities that do not involve technology. Setting an example with our own use of our smartphones and tablets is always the first way to approach the problem. They really are always watching how we lead our lives. Additionally, it is always easier to help your tweens and teens maintain balance in their lives with mobile devices when you use a parental control software.

Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities regularly. If your kids and teens have an Apple or Android mobile device, Netsanity has a great feature called Screenlock. It can be used on a regular basis to completely block your teen from using their mobile device for texting, or other activities whenever you feel that they need a healthy break, sleep, or to ensure they are focusing on other activities. Netsanity now offers a 14-day free trial on all their plans, so it’s worth checking out.

Overall, balance on a regular basis with technology will leave your family healthy and rested and instill habits that will stay with them for a lifetime!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

What Parents Need to Know About Snapchat

Snapchat is an app, most notably popular with teenagers and young adults, available for Android and iOS devices. With Snapchat, you can send photos and videos to people you know, with the expectation that they will “self-destruct” in a specified amount of time. Users pass the time sending pictures of themselves, their food, their clothes, and their daily activities. For many reasons, Snapchat has grown incredibly fast in recent years. Here are a few things parents need to know Snapchat.

How Snapchat Works

Snapchat allows you to take photos and videos with just the click of a button (or tap of a screen). Once you have taken a photo, you can choose who you wish to share the photo with as well as how long you want the photo to exist on the recipient’s screen before it disappears. There are also Snapchat Stories, which allow you to share your photos with all those on your list of friends.

While Snapchat users are not allowed to save messages they receive, they can still take screenshots or photos of the images. This is becoming a concern for users, especially those who do not realize that this is a possibility before they send certain types of messages.

Picture of beautiful students ladies sitting at table in library and making selfies on mobile or smart phone for their groupmates or classmates.
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Who Uses Snapchat?

The majority of Snapchat users are actually between the ages of 13 and 25. Additionally, many users participate by creating original images of their own and then posting them to the web.

Teens love Snapchat for a variety of reasons. For instance, Snapchat is straightforward to navigate and easy to use. Additionally, they tend to trust that videos and photos truly are gone forever, and they won’t face embarrassment for certain types of photos that they send. Teens can send inside jokes and communicate with friends in a way they perceive to be private. Plus, Snapchat is totally free. Teens can use it to immediately send texts and photos without using text messaging limits.

Why Parents Should Be Concerned about Snapchat

Parents are increasingly concerned about Snapchat and similar apps because they facilitate the taking of suggestive or nude photos, even for users who are underage. Teens tend to think it is safe to send photos via Snapchat, but it is not. It is also possible for teenagers to be charged with sending or receiving child pornography via Snapchat and similar apps.

Many parents have no idea that their children are even using Snapchat. According to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, users should be 13 or older. Still, children may sign up without the permission of their parents.

Portrait child, surprised girl texting on mobile, using smart phone, isolated outdoors, outside background. Funny looking human face expressions, emotions, reaction, body language. Communication

Additionally, parents become concerned with the app because Snapchat reserves the right to use photos in any way that it wishes. Photos have leaked in the past, thanks to unscrupulous hackers.

Parents are also concerned with the potential for using Snapchat as a cyberbullying tool. The proposed solution? Encourage children to take screenshots of anything somebody sends that is rude or offensive.

The false sense of security that Snapchat offers may also make it easier for strangers to connect with your children, soliciting photos or impersonating friends and family members.

What Parents Can Do

The key to building a relationship built on trust and honesty is to talk to your kids on an ongoing basis about the use of social media and apps. Talk to your child about the benefits of using Snapchat, as well as some of the downsides. Explain which Snapchat behaviors you think are healthy and which are not. Then, listen to what they have to say about it.

It is also important to discuss the fact that all actions have consequences, and using Snapchat is no exception. Setting limits early on is the key to ensuring that your child is safe, especially with the understanding that you will be checking their phone and engaging with them on a regular basis.

Even if you trust your children to be technologically responsible, it is always a must to stay involved. By keeping communication lines open you’ll show them that you trust your kids to make good decisions, but that at the same time you are there to help them if they need it.

Euphoric friends watching videos on a smartphone and pointing at screen surprised

Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children and teens are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services their appblocker feature is a “must have” if your children or teens have an Apple or Android mobile device. With one-click you can block any internet-based app that you find dangerous or inappropriate. They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s definitely worth checking out.

 

Again, honest ongoing conversations about staying safe will do more to keep your tweens and teen safe more than any other action that you can take!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

10 Ideas for Limiting Technology This Summer!

Your tech-savvy child probably views summer vacation as unlimited hours for gorging on technology… Playing video games late into the wee hours or spending endless hours chatting with friends about everything and nothing are probably high on their summer agenda.

That doesn’t mean it has to be high on your summer agenda! Help your child unplug from technology this summer with these fun activities. If you can get them unplugged and outside even temporarily, they’ll experience the benefits of hours of healthy fresh air, sunshine, and exercise. Even indoor activities will give them a new prospective on life – and give their thumbs and wrists a rest!

Group of multiracial friends having fun together with smartphone - Closeup of mixed hands social networking with mobile smart phone in sunny day - Technology concept in summer beach everyday lifestyle

Gardening

Gardening is a great way to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. Square foot gardening allows you to experience the benefits without all of the work that so often overwhelms and discourages young gardeners. They’ll enjoy watching their seeds sprout and grow. When it comes time to harvest their produce, they might even surprise you with how eager they are to ‘eat their veggies’!

Cooking class

Enroll your child in a cooking class that matches their ‘foodie’ interests. If they’re growing a garden, how about a class where they can learn to cook those vegetables? An ardent camper might enjoy learning about campfire cooking from an expert. Or, how about learning to cook their catch after that fishing trip you’re planning? Your future pastry chef might appreciate learning how to make the perfect éclair or petit four.

Biking

Encourage your kids to get out their bikes and go for a ride. Going for a ride on every nice day is not only fantastic exercise, but also a fun way to explore the neighborhood. Packing a picnic lunch and inviting friends along for the ride to a local park or lake is a fun way to while away a lazy summer afternoon.

Volunteering

group of teenagers volunteering

Encourage your child to volunteer some of their free time this summer. Volunteer opportunities abound and your child is sure to find one that interests them. Your bookworm might enjoy helping out at your local library. Animal lovers are always welcome at animal shelters. A local wildlife rescue organization might welcome your older child’s help. Is your child considering a career in the health field? Perhaps they would enjoy volunteering at a hospital or nursing home.

Hiking

Besides being great exercise, hiking is a great opportunity to spend some quality time together. If you take a dog along, even better!

Reading

Many libraries offer a ‘summer reading program’ to encourage kids to read during the summer so they don’t fall behind in their skills. These programs often incorporate fun activities or rewards for completing each level.

A summer job

Your older child may already have a summer job; a younger child may want a job, too. Whether your young child’s idea of a summer job is a lemonade stand, dog walking service, or babysitting, it’s a wonderful way for them to set a goal, achieve it, and reap the benefits.

img-3Camping

As any Boy or Girl Scout knows, camping is great fun and a wonderful way to develop skills and confidence. Family camping trips are just as much fun and a great way for parents and grandparents to pass on their skills. If a camping trip involves hiking or fishing, it offers even more opportunities for fun. Just don’t forget the ingredients for s’mores!

Photography

Enroll your budding photographer in a photography class. Check with your local Parks & Recreation Department, community college, or library for available classes. Do some brainstorming with your child on great local places to practice their skills. Scenic areas, a botanic garden or zoo, or buildings with great architecture are a few places to start. You and your child are sure to think of many others!

Travel

Summer vacation is traditionally associated with travel. Sometimes all of that traveling is best remembered afterwards for the stress. This year, why not plan mini trips? Instead of one big trip to a faraway destination, plan a series of mini trips to local sites. If they draw tourists from other areas, aren’t they worthy of taking a look at with new eyes? Do some research on why those tourists are visiting – what makes your local sites unique or historical? Who knows, your family might find out something fascinating that you never knew before!

Friends in Summer timeLimiting Technology

As parents we are ultimately the ones responsible for teaching our children how fill their free time this summer with balance and healthy activities that do not involve technology! Setting an example with our own use of our smartphones and tablets  is always the first way to approach the problem. They really are always watching how we lead our lives. Additionally, it is always easier to help your tweens and teens maintain balance in their lives with mobile devices when you use a parental control software.

Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities this summer and all year long. If your tweens have an Apple or Android mobile device, Netsanity has a great feature called Screenlock. It can be used on a regular basis to completely block your teen from using their mobile device for texting, or other activities whenever you feel that they need a healthy break, sleep, or to ensure they are focusing on other activities. Netsanity now offers a 14-day free trial on all their plans, so it’s worth checking out for your family.

Overall, balance this summer will leave your family with memories that will stay with them for a lifetime!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Uber Isn’t for Kids, but That Hasn’t Stopped Them from Using It

Most people know about Uber, even if they don’t use it themselves. The way it works is that drivers, just regular people driving their own cars, register with the company. After they pass a background check, a driver is allowed to begin picking up fares. Unlike a taxi driver, though, and Uber driver never handles any money. The customer uses the Uber app, pays via their cell phone, and then the driver is given their part of the fare by the company. Uber is easy, convenient, and used by people all over the United States.

Sad teenager girl inside a car with headphones listening to the music

However, despite it’s popularity, it’s important to remember two things. First, that there have been instances of assault committed by Uber drivers, and that in order to use the service someone has to be 18 years old, or older.

How Are Kids Using Uber?

How are kids using Uber if it’s against the rules for them to do so? Well, according to Business Insider, lots of drivers are breaking the rules. For example, if a parent calls an Uber car to shuttle his kids home from soccer practice, then the driver should see what’s happening, and refuse the fare. The same is true if a young adult uses their parent’s account to call for an Uber ride. However, when a driver refuses too many pick-ups that will A) cut into the driver’s earnings, and B) can result in the driver being dropped by Uber. On the other hand, breaking the rules is also a good way to lose your position as a driver, which puts people in a damned if you do, and damned if you don’t sort of position.

Best friends enjoying time together with smartphone in a spring sunny day - New trends and technology concept with hipster girlfriends having fun outdoors - Alternative four seasons fashion clothes

This means that many drivers have picked up kids when they shouldn’t. What’s worse, though, is that parents often have a false sense of safety when using Uber for their children’s transportation needs. Because, while Uber drivers are put through a basic background check, the keyword there is basic. Uber drivers aren’t given anywhere near the level of scrutiny as, say, official taxi drivers. But because Uber runs from a secure app on your phone, and because it’s a hugely successful business, lots of parents trust the service (and the service’s drivers) with their children.

Set A Good Example When It Comes To Technology

The world is becoming increasingly technological, and businesses like Uber, or the success of Paypal (the taxi service with no cars, and the bank with no cash, respectively) prove that the way we operate as a society is changing. And if you want to set a positive example for your kids, then it’s your responsibility to actually read the user agreement for the services you use, and not to violate the rules because they’re inconvenient for you. Following the rules, even in small ways, sets the example for your kids, and it does far more than any lecture you could possibly give them about honesty, safety, and integrity.

What Else Can Parents Do?

Parents giving smartphone to kid with warning

Conversations about what apps that your kids and teenagers are allowed to use should be an ongoing conversation in your family. Setting these boundaries from the beginning  makes children more responsible online, but also establishes norms and etiquette that not only applies to apps like Uber, but across other social media platforms as well.

Setting boundaries with dangerous or age-inappropriate apps  is always easier when you use a trustworthy mobile parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services , like their appblocker, where certain social media and other internet-based apps, like Uber are profiled and parents can easily block and unblock apps with a one-click  solution. They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your teen has a mobile device.


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial! Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

What Parents Should Know About Live-Streaming Apps

Modern technology has become a double-edged sword for a lot of parents. On one hand, smartphones and apps are becoming almost a necessity for most of us. On the other hand, though, it’s natural and important for parents to want to know what’s happening with their children, and to have some say in the decisions they’re making. That’s why it’s necessary for today’s parents to stay up on the latest tech trends, so they can have real, meaningful discussions with their kids and their teenagers about the decisions they make online.

Young pretty woman using social media on her smartphone

And the latest in a long string of conversations parents are having is regarding live-streaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat.

What Parents Should Know About Live-Streaming Apps

Live-streaming at once seems like something that is really simple, but at the same time too advanced for us to carry around in our back pockets. The way these apps work is pretty simple. You download the app to your phone, and then set it up so that it’s connected to your social media (Periscope and Meerkat both use your Twitter handle, according to Cool Mom Tech). Once all of the creation details are filled out, the program is given access to your smartphone’s built-in camera. After a few minutes of installation, you’re ready to click the button, and broadcast yourself and whatever you happen to be doing live on the Internet!

There are plenty of ways these programs can be used legitimately, and for the general betterment of everyone. These apps allow journalists to reach their audience live whenever they need to, and it puts needed tools in the hands of start-up entertainers who are attempting to find an audience to get their careers off the ground. However, the question as to whether or not your children should install and use a live-streaming app is a conversation you need to have with them.

Why Would Your Kids Need To Stream?

“If they don’t need it, they shouldn’t have it”, is rarely a bad policy concerning apps when it comes to your kids. If there is no practical reason to install a program (Facebook allows for socialization and information sharing, Candy Crush keeps them entertained on long car trips, etc.), then chances are good it’s something you can both agree that your kids don’t need to have set up.

Happy girl watching media content in a tablet on a desk at home

On the other hand, there may very well be a practical reason for your teenager to install and use a streaming program. Maybe there’s a group project being done, and live streaming is how the group plans to have meetings (which is what a lot of adults use it for).

Perhaps your teen wants to try his or her hand at becoming an Internet sensation, and is using live-streaming to try to reach as many fans as possible. There are reasons that live-streaming apps could be useful to your children. However, you still need to sit down and talk about the inherent dangers of streaming before trusting that they know what they’re doing. Especially considering that they’re putting themselves out there to a world full of strangers, and many times there are additional, legal complications when it comes to minors and video.

Euphoric friends watching videos on a smartphone and pointing at screen surprised

Even if you trust your children to be technologically responsible, it is always a must to stay involved. The easiest way to do that is, if they’re going to live-stream to an audience, to tune in. If they’re live-streaming in a more private setting, such as between friends, ask them to possibly live stream in another area of the house like the family room. By keeping communication lines open you’ll show them that you trust your kids to make good decisions, but that at the same time you are there to help them if they need it.

Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children and teens are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services their appblocker feature is a “must have” if your children or teens have mobile devices. With one-click you can block any internet-based app that you find dangerous or inappropriate. They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s definitely worth checking out.

Again, honest ongoing conversations about staying safe will do more to keep your tweens and teen safe and drama free more than any other action that you can take!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Three Important Conversations to Have With Your Teen About Their Instagram Account
What apps are the most popular with tweens and teens?

As a parent, it’s important to know what apps are the most popular with tweens and teens when discussing online safety. Whether it is dating apps or instant access to media, teenagers are constantly placed in situations where they must know how to act appropriately. One such place where this is especially crucial is Instagram.

Euphoric friends watching videos on a smartphone and pointing at screen surprised

Since launching in 2010, Instagram has grown to more than 400 million active users. The service, which began as a photo sharing platform, is now a primary method for teens who are looking to connect and communicate with their peers. This idea of digital “connectedness” is integral to what it means to be teen in today’s society. It simply isn’t a feasible option to restrict all access from your child. With that said, many tweens or teenagers – are not mature or responsible enough to handle managing their own social media identity. Here are three questions you can use to start the security advice conversation about safe Instagram use with your family.

Is your account private?

By default, Instagram accounts are public. This means that anyone with web access can see what is posted on the account. Accounts are usually public for one of two reasons; either the user doesn’t know it is not private, or they don’t feel that they have anything to hide and therefore there is no reason to secure the account. Discuss with your child why it is important to keep an Instagram account private. Think of it this way – even if you had no valuables in your car, would you feel comfortable leaving all of the doors unlocked? Even if it is innocent pictures of friends and family, your child needs to recognize that their content is vulnerable.

Do you know your followers? Do you know who is following you?Group of kids on their mobile device

Many teens feel that there is a social etiquette when it comes to Instagram followers. Simply put, if someone follows you, you follow back. While this reciprocation seems polite, it allows strangers easy access into a private account. It is commonplace for anonymous or parody accounts to be created for a school, sport team, or other organization that your child may belong to. Just because the name is familiar, doesn’t mean that the account is safe. Discuss with your teen the importance of knowing exactly who has created an account before they follow it. Make sure they understand that a familiar name or account picture does not necessarily make the account safe to follow.

Are your posts appropriate?

Many teens get a sense of false safety when they feel that they are protected behind a private account. Smart phones and tablets make it easy to screenshot content and then share across other accounts or platforms. Many teens find trouble when images or text that were shared on one account are captured in a screenshot and shared with other people. Discuss with your teen how anything posted on the web becomes permanently accessible and out of their control. The Internet never forgets. This is an important message to share regarding all online activity, not just Instagram.

blog1What else can parents do?

Conversations about social media use with your child should be an open opportunity to discuss what they are posting, who they’re posting it with, and whether it is appropriate to post in the first place. Understanding these makes teens more responsible online, but also establishes norms and etiquette that not only applies to Instagram, but across other social media platforms as well.

Setting boundaries with apps like Instagram is always easier when you use a trustworthy mobile parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services , like their appblocker, where certain social media and other internet-based apps are profiled and parents can easily block and unblock apps like Instagram as well as others with a one-click  solution. They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your teen has a mobile device.


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Are You a Good Facebook Friend?

Let’s face it most of us start our day with at least taking a peek at our Facebook page. We jump on to see what has transpired from the night before with our friends, family, coworkers, and even our former high school and college classmates. Facebook can feel like mindless entertainment. However, for many, it has become part of our social DNA and it has affirmed that social media is here for good! Ask yourself this: When you go on Facebook, do you make it a point to set an example for others by being kind, using manners, and most of all, not sharing too much information online?

A Good Manners Cost Nothing sign in red and yellow

Don’t Share Too Much

Let’s start by always remembering that what we post on Facebook, even if we have all of our privacy settings set to private, is public!  I always say if you don’t want Grandma to read it, don’t post it!  Most of your public profile and cover pictures tend to end up on Google Images (Don’t believe me? Google yourself!) Believe it or not, those profiles and screens can get “screenshot” by friends and shared with others without you ever knowing it.

Recently, I ran into an old acquaintance and she commented about how much she loved a few family photos that I had posted on Facebook. I know that she is not on Facebook, so I was puzzled – how did she see them??  When I questioned her about it, she nonchalantly told me that my photos often got shared with her from another friend of mine who would save the pictures she liked in her camera roll. In my opinion, this is a tad inappropriate. Please try to respect your Facebook friends’ privacy and don’t do what my old acquaintance did.  Here are a few additional items that we all should avoid to make us good-mannered Facebook friends.

The Open-Ended Status

Have you ever read a status that someone posted and it left you puzzled with more questions than the final episode of Breaking Bad?

10 more days until it happens!

What happens? Did I miss a post? Should I know this?

Facebook has given us the opportunity to immediately communicate with all of our closest friends and family at once. Don’t post something that leaves your friends scratching their heads and wondering. Doing so can be seen as a bit obnoxious and attention seeking. An open-ended status is a little like when you hang with a friend in person and they are obviously upset and when you ask what is wrong they say “nothing”,  in a tone that tells you that something IS definitely wrong! Please try not to emulate that online.

Not Sharing The Love

Couple on the couch not speak for his addiction to mobile

We all love to post an exciting update about ourselves, a recent vacation we took, our kids graduation, or even one of those boring posts we see about a friend’s new job or business endeavor.  Make sure that you remember that when your friends take the time to comment and like your good news and photos. You really should do the same for their updates!  If not, why bother to be Facebook friends at all? It’s good social etiquette and it’s being a good “friend”. As the old saying goes, “Friendship is a two-way street and you can’t expect to just take and take without giving anything in return.”

Make an effort to be a friend online, as in real life recognize that if your friend took the time to post then it probably means something to them. So please do take a few seconds to show them the love by liking, loving, or even better, making a supportive comment on their updates! If you think that you have too many Facebook friends to “share the love”, then maybe you really do have too many Facebook friends.  Studies show that you can only really properly manage 150 or so anyway! 😉

The Tasteless Photo Tag

Maybe it was a great night out or a fun day at the beach with your family or friends. You go through all the photos from the day and find the ones that you look the best in.  However, you have forgotten that your friend may not want to show up on Facebook in their bathing suit ( the horror!) or at a party that they were not supposed to be attending because of another obligation that they skipped out on. We all have that one family member or friend that suddenly posts a picture of us from 15 years ago, 3 martinis deep dancing at a wedding! When you are  trying to establish yourself as a business owner or a responsible parent, reliving that  moment, in public is never pleasant!

The solution to this faux pas is really a simple one: when in doubt about posting  pictures that include others…ask first!

The Poorly Timed Status Update

You invite your close friend to the dinner party that you have been planning for weeks.  You are surprised when they turn down your invitation but understand when they tell you its because they are headed out of town that weekend.  Sadly, people forget that Facebook is date/time and location stamped. You jump on Facebook after your fabulous dinner party is over and you see that your friend who was supposed to be out of town just posted an update from down the street!

playful young woman making the L sign on forehead for loser message, cool hand gesture for youth culture

There is nothing wrong with turning down an invitation.  However, it is just bad manners to go on Facebook and update your status when you already said that you would be focusing your attention elsewhere. Never forget who is in your network that might be connected to the person you skipped out on.  If you are going to do so, at least have the courtesy to keep your rudeness a secret.  If it was a mistake, an apology really does go a long way!

 

Conclusion

At the end of the day, it’s entirely up to you if you want to follow these good-mannered suggestions. Really it is as simple as finding the balance between enjoying social media for fun, but also remembering to be sensitive to everyone. We ought to be aware of the “publicness” of Facebook and  to always make sure that we protect our privacy, while at the same time, respect the fact that all of us, collectively, from the Facebook ecosystem. Find that right balance and you’ll not only better that experience yourself, but also help others enjoy it as well.

It is important to remember that as adults, we are also setting an example with how social media should be used. It is essential when raising children these days that we help them to grow up treating others with respect, as well as making sure that they are balancing the time that they spend using their mobile devices, withCouple addicted to mobile phone non-digital experiences.

A favorite tool that I use & recommend to parents is Netsanity. They have a 14-day free trial so it’s worth checking out. They have a suite of services like their timeblocker scheduler, which can be used daily to ensure that your teens and kids enjoy other activities regularly!

Overall, balance and showing others respect and kindness  in all aspects of our lives is the key to keeping both young and old happy online and off!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Safe Browsers Don’t Work

Today’s topic is safe browsers. The Internet has gone from a curiosity to a necessity in a dramatically short period of time. When combined with the surge in mobile devices like smartphones, tablet computers, and others, the technology has become a fixture of the modern way of life. With so much access, though, it’s important for parents to do their best to make sure their kids stay safe. Parents need to ensure that they are not only regulating time spent online, as well as cultivating open communication, and making sure they’re on the same page their kids and teenagers are.child-night-surfing

One of the first steps many parents take when it comes to staying safe on the Internet is to install a safe browser on mobile devices their children use. While you might feel secure because you installed Google Chrome, rated the safest browser by Tip Top Security, it’s important to remember that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Safe browsers can be a smart tool for certain children, and they can go a long way toward maintaining security both at home and on mobile devices.

 

Problem One: They only work if you’re actually using a web browser

While a web browser is the main way one accesses the Internet on a laptop or a desktop, smart mobile devices like Apple iPhones, iPads, and the Samsung Galaxy, tend to focus more on apps. These simple, bite-size programs are easy to download, simple to use, and a smart phone can hold dozens or hundreds of them without any real strain. As long as someone is using apps to access the Internet, it doesn’t really matter how safe the browser is because the browser isn’t what’s being used. Our research points to the fact that over 85% of internet access by children on mobile devices is done via an app and not a browser.

block-snapchatblock-instagramFacebook | NetSanityblock-twitter-icon-150x150

 

 

 

 

Think about your own kids and what they do on their smartphones and tablets. Do they sit there on Safari typing away in the little URL link (that’s so 90’s 😉 )or are they using Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook, and Twitter? They are using apps!

Problem Two: “Safe Browsers” are easily bypassed

There are hundreds of browsers in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store (check out our new parental control app in the Google Play Store). Some are plainly good alternatives to Safari like Firefox and Google Chrome. However what most parents don’t know is that hidden in the App Store, are hundreds of browsers that are masked in other apps like fake calculators, image programs, and folder enhancers. Just search for “hidden browsers” in the Hidden Browsers - Safe Browser - Parental Controls Android and Apple - NetsanityApp Store to get a sense of options. So while you may block Safari with Apple’s restrictions and install your favorite safe browser, included with many mobile parental control companies, keep in mind that in the 15% of the time kids want to access browser-based content, they will simply use another browser to do that.

Most mobile parental control companies with apps, use a safe browser component to their content filtering. While the browsers themselves do a good job of filtering, as we stated, how does that help when 85%+ of your child’s internet activity does not even use a browser.

The only exception to above would be younger children, under 8 or so. They are not yet able to navigate the settings and will typically do what you show them. Having a safe browser installed on their iPad, for example, should suffice if you restrict what internet-apps are installed.

Keeping safe in the mobile world

If safe browsers aren’t the answer (or at least, are only part of the answer), then how can parents keep their kids safe in the modern world, where mobile devices are both a necessity, as well as potentially dangerous?

Simply restricting access to a phone won’t help, because what’s the point in having a phone if you aren’t allowed to use and customize it to suit your needs? Parents can install safety apps on a smartphone, but it’s important to remember that kids can turn off or remove those apps just as fast as they’re put on. Both of these “solutions” are common, but they’re actually just band-aids.

A day will come when kids have to make their own technology decisions, and they need to be armed with solid information, as well as experience in handling their own devices. Simply deciding that your kids aren’t old enough to make technology decisions means they won’t be ready when that time rolls around.

Solutions for parents

Well, the first part of the solution is open communication with your kids. Being trusted with a mobile device is a symbol of responsibility, and if they understand that they’re less likely to abuse it. I always encourage families to make sure that they keep their children safe and instill balance on their mobile devices.

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Secondly, take a look at a service that does not use safe browser apps, which can easily be deleted by your children.  I’m partial to Netsanity. They do not use any safe browsers at all, since their content filtering is done in their cloud. They have a 14-day free trial so its worth checking out.

Netsanity’s Appblocker can be used to block apps such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and others, on demand, if you find that your child is not old enough to use them yet, the app is inappropriate, or if you just feel that your child or even your teen is not ready for the responsibility associated with certain apps. What is cool about this feature is that it works in the background so even if the child has the app installed, Netsanity will block internet access to that app and the parent can do it remotely!250 X 250-14

Recently, Netsanity introduced another feature to try to help parents that need to regulate apps. It’s called  Hideapps which allows parents to remotely and instantly control which 3rd party apps are visible on your child’s device based on Apple age ratings, so that you don’t have to worry about every new app that comes out.

Parents Count

Finally, always keep in mind that a parents opinion and example is often the strongest contributor to your child’s decision-making process, even when not apparent to you! Honest conversations about staying safe online will do more to keep your child safe than virtually any other action you might take!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Drama Causing Apps: What Can Parents Do?

Smartphones have completely changed the way we operate in our day-to-day lives. We now have the capacity to communicate on a scale that’s never Worried teenager girl looking at her smart phone in a park with an unfocused backgroundbeen possible before, with everything from regular phone calls up to video chat. While this technology is technically available to everyone, teenagers are the ones who use it more than almost anyone else. And because there are more apps than ever before that allow teens to connect with the world at large, it’s now easier for teens to get embroiled in drama, and worse, than at any other time in history.

Drama Causing Apps

There are a lot of apps out there responsible for causing drama, particularly with younger users. While Facebook is responsible for its share, newer apps like Ask.FM, YikYak, AfterSchool, and others are stealing the trouble-causing spotlight.

So what’s wrong with these apps? Are they set up to cause drama, gaining their popularity from the spectacle of watching the keyboard wars between teens? Not exactly. You see, while these apps are made for members to communicate with each other, the Internet offers the opportunity for users to be the invisible man. Even if users aren’t posting anonymously, though, people are a lot more likely to let fly with awful things if it’s done virtually, rather than if it’s done in-person.

Close up of an upset girl with tousled hair having a bad day on the phone isolated on a white backgroundThe Dark Side of The Internet

In the old days, people thought of cyberspace as some imaginary world. It was like a video game, where nothing that happened really mattered. However, with so much of our lives happening in this virtual space, that kind of attitude isn’t one that can be maintained. Not when students can get their degrees, professionals can work, and couples can meet their future partners online. In today’s modern age, the Internet isn’t a separate world from the “real” one we live in; it’s just another method of expressing, meeting, and living.

Which is why apps like the ones mentioned are double-edged swords. Because they allow everyone, but especially teens, to keep in touch with the rest of the world. They let people communicate, make friends, and find peer groups to share their likes and interests with. On the other hand, though, these sites expose teens to negative influences. In extreme situations it could lead to trolling, cyber-bullying, and even stalking.

Keep Lines of Communication Open

It would make any parent nervous, exposing their teens to a potentially negative environment like that. However, while the first urge is to ban your tweens and teenagers from downloading apps like this, it’s important to remember that they have positive aspects as well. It’s more important to remember that, sooner or later, teens are going to have to make their own decisions when becoming adults.

That’s why it’s a good idea to sometimes allow access with various apps, but to keep an open and ongoing conversation on the subject.

Solutions

Parents giving smartphone to kid with warningIf you do allow your tweens or teens to use a particular app, I always recommend that parents explore it first because there are many inappropriate apps out there. Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children of all ages are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services “ their Appblocker, where certain social media and other apps are profiled and parents can one-click block them, making apps that you may find inappropriate such as Grindr, Down, or Hot or Not, and many others a one-click  solution. They have a free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your teen has a mobile device.

Again, honest ongoing conversations about staying safe and being kind online will do more to keep your tweens and teen safe and drama free more than any other action that you can take!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

What is KIK? Here’s What Parents Need To Know About the App

What is Kik | Netsanity ExplainsWith the rise of private messaging apps, it is no surprise that children and young teens are finding their way onto them. One of the most popular messaging apps is known as KIK. You may be wondering the same thing many parents are: what is kik? We feel that there are a few things parents need to know about KIK.

If you have been paying attention to the news, you may have heard the story of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell. The teenager frequently used the anonymous messaging service to communicate with new people. Specifically, Lovell had been communicating with 18-year-old Virginia Tech student David Eisenhauer, who is now being charged with the teen’s murder. A female student, 19-year-old Natalie Keepers, is also being charged in the abduction and death. Lovell considered Eisenhauer to be her boyfriend, but the truth is that something much more sinister was going on.

It is easy to look at this scenario and think that Lovell is the only victim, but this simply is not the case. Other minors have also been victims of using KIK, as the anonymity of the app allows predators to use it freely. This leaves parents with a vital question: How do I protect my child when access to apps like these are so prevalent?

First, what is Kik?

KIK is an anonymous messaging service that allows users to create usernames to chat for free with the 200 million others. You do not necessarily need to know somebody’s username in order to chat with them. In fact, you can chat with virtually anybody around the world. Additionally, it can be difficult for law enforcement to track these messages and find the perpetrators of crimes.

Learn more about Kik here:

Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kik_Messenger

Kik App Explained | Block Inappropriate Apps With NetsanityOpen Phone Policy

Lovell’s friends later expressed that the young teenager had planned to run away with Eisenhauer and start a family. Even if you do not suspect that your child has similar plans with somebody they have met online, checking your child’s phone can help you determine if there is something inappropriate going on with your own child. The best way to protect your child is to have an “open phone policy”. This is as simple as a spontaneous peek on a regular basis at what your child is doing on their phone. Some parents simply choose to friend their children or simply monitor their social media by asking for login/password information. However, you should keep in mind that often with today’s tech savvy kids this might not be foolproof since they could set up two accounts – one that you follow along with, and another that they may keep hidden from you. I discuss this in detail on a previous blog about hiding apps.

Parental Controls to Help With Blocking Access to Kik

Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children and teens are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software.

Consistent CommunicationMother Comforting Daughter Being Bullied By Text Messages on Kik App

Talking to your children and teenagers about staying safe online is essential. Encourage your children to think before they post. Anything they put online can be seen by literally anybody with an Internet connection – even if they think they are being discreet or private.

In Lovell’s case, she told friends that she was talking to an older boy before she met up with him. Could open communication between parent and child have resulted in a better understanding of why meeting up with or even communicating with strangers online is a dangerous idea? Lovell had been grounded for talking to men on KIK, but sadly her search for compassion and affection led her back to the app. Keeping our children and teens safe online is an ongoing task for parents, but one well worth taking to keep them safe and educated about the dangers of the online and offline world!

Clash of Clans: A Virtual Playground for Bullies?

Recently, I started talking to a few customers about Clash of Clans and wondered why so many were eager to block what I thought to be a fun, benign game. However, I found out that it is a lot more complicated than just an innocent game.

Clash of Clans, a very popular app played on smartphones is an online multiplayer game made by Supercell, a company in Helsinki, Finland.

The premise of the games is that players band together to create a community, or clan, and then attack others to earn gold and elixirs. It has all the features that you would image could easily pique the interest of any tween or teen including clan leaders, goblins, destruction and even has an in-game chat.

But what makes the game dangerous for some kidsclans is its cliquish and exclusionary nature. The game creates a kind of social hierarchy, with various tiers for troops, kings, queens and other characters. Clan leaders are also given the power to exclude users, or to promote or demote other members within the clan.

According to Nick Bilton in a New York Times article, Bilton describes his nephew’s reaction to his friends demoting him on “Clash of Clans” – he was a clan leader that had demoted a classmate. When he reinstated his friend, his classmates created a new clan and refused Bilton’s nephew access to the group. In other words, his nephew was excluded from a “Clash of Clans” community, and this caused anxiety in real life when his classmates ignored his requests to join the group.

According to Bilton, it became such a problem that teachers at school had to talk to students about the consequences of excluding others from clans.

One father, Jeremy Rosenthal, had been monitoring his own son’s “Clash of Clans” account and told Bilton: “The thing I’ve found with Clash of Clans is that because of the hierarchical structure, you have another possibility of excluding, or of creating, a great bond with friends.”

“The positive is that you can learn about technology in a relatively safe manner as you can only chat with people in your clan, and it teaches building and strategy. The bad side is that it can allow kids to overtly enforce, and create, very hierarchical bullying,” Rosenthal added.

Brian Crecente, news editor for the popular gaming website Polygon, said he went through a similar situation with his 14-year-old son. Crecente advised parents to watch their kids online as if they were watching their kids on the playground to ensure their safety.

“You have to remind your children that just because you’re on a computer, the rules haven’t changed,” Crecente said.

What else can parents do?

Sometimes your tween or teen may just need a break from a particular app or website. If your child has a mobile device, I always recommend using a quality parental control. Netsanity has a suite of mobile parental control services like their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids have balance throughout their day. If your kids and teens are overusing a favorite app like Clash of Clans, Netsanity’s Gameblocker can be a parent’s best friend. You can block the game on occasion giving them a well needed break or even block it indefinitely if it causing problems for your child or with groups of children. Netsanity now offers a free 14-day trial on all their plans, so it’s definitely worth checking out.


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Digital Addiction in Tweens & Teens

Digital addiction in tweens and teens is pervasive

Go anywhere in public, from a mall to a national park, and you’ll see teenagers (and adults) using their phones as if nothing else exists around them. While everyone seems to know that the population as a whole continues to become more reliant and addicted to digital media, parents often don’t do much to stop the behavior in their teens or in themselves.

Global village cartoon with a group of youngsters playing with their gadgets. Illustration is in eps10 vector mode.

Why are teens so addicted to media? If you recall being a teenager, sometimes it feels like nothing is happening, nothing will ever happen to you, and you’re not really part of anything. With social media, teens get to always feel like something is happening around them (others sharing), happening to them (sharing what’s happening), and that they are a part of something (likes, shares, etc.)

The problem is that social media never turns off, and even with the following of a few pages, the news feed or the uploads will keep on and on in endless strings of happenings.  Take away a teenager’s cell-phone, and you’ll see the world flash before his or her eyes, as though they are going to miss and be left-out of something incredibly important.

Once digital addiction in tweens and teens occurs and takes hold of the psyche, it spreads, and it’s hard to control or curb without strict measures put into place. It’s even harder for teenagers to truly experience and learn about life. Instead of enjoying majestic mountain scenery, they’re looking at Facebook or taking a picture of the scenery for Instagram. It’s as though the experience is so outside of self that the senses are not involved, only the sense of sight and touch as it relates to pixels and a phone.

In some cases, digital addiction can lead to the manipulative, deceitful behaviors associated with other addictions. Some teenagers even lie about what they see and do on their phones. Often, there’s a false sense of security about what happens online, and there’s a false sense about what is appropriate for them to view. Just like a drug addict doesn’t take the time to stop and care about the side-effects of the drug, digital addicts don’t stop to care and think of them either.

Teenage boy in pajamas lying in bed using tablet pc

Digital addiction and the ever-present fear of missing out also causes teenagers to sneak and use their smartphones when they are not supposed to be on them, especially in the middle of the night. Go into any classroom on a Wednesday morning and listen to the teens brag about how late they stayed-up using their phones! Over time, the digital addiction leads to sleep deprivation that in turn causes problems with schoolwork and the daily tasks of life.

It’s common for depression to seep into teenage life when it’s so connected to outside connection. From feeling disconnected to others to feeling sad when someone doesn’t follow, like, or share the teen’s posts, social media does not fill the gap of genuine social interaction, and it leaves the teen feeling empty.

What can parents do?

As parents we are ultimately the ones responsible for teaching our children how to lead healthy and balanced lives! Setting an example with our own use of technology and especially our smartphones is always the first way to approach the problem. Even when we think that they are not listening they are always watching how we lead our lives. Additionally, it is always easier to help your tweens and teens maintain balance in their lives with mobile devices when you use a parental control software.

Girl Texting On Mobile Phone At Night While Lying In Bed

Netsanity has a suite of services – their TimeBlocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities or spend time finishing homework. If your tweens have a mobile device, NetSanity is currently rolling out a new feature to their current customers called ScreenLock. It can be used on a regular basis to completely block your teen from using their mobile device for texting whenever you feel that they need a healthy break, sleep, or to ensure they are focusing on their homework. Netsanity now offers a free trial on all their plans, so it’s worth checking out. Overall, balance in life will always help your tweens and teens lead a healthy and happy life!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Cyberbullying: What Can Parents Do?

Teenage Girl Victim Of Bullying By Text MessageA 15 year-old girl in San Jose named Audrie Potts hanged herself after finding out that, while she was passed out at a party, she was sexually assaulted by several boys who photographed themselves doing it and posted the images on social media. The suicide was later the subject of a wrongful death action that resulted in a $950,000 judgment against the boys’ families, according to People Magazine. The boys served very little jail time due to the fact they were juveniles at the time of the crime.

The case of Audrie Potts is just one example of a young person being driven to commit suicide because of the pervasive ability of social media users to bully and harass relentlessly.

What is cyberbullying?

The United States government Stopbullying site defines cyberbullying as follows:Bullying girls using smartphones

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.”

Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.

In the past, bullying only consisted of physical altercations in the schoolyard or some other public place. The victim had the option of calling on an adult to fix the problem or learning how to box.

Cyberbullying is more insidious because it is often done anonymously. The victim often cannot identify who his or her bullies are and thus has no defense against the bullying. Hence, more often than it is comfortable to imagine, the only way out, at least from the point of view of the victim, is death.

How to help your kids and teens fight cyberbullying

teen-bullied-600X400Stopbullying has a number of suggestions on how to prevent cyberbullying and how to respond to it when it happens.

To help prevent cyberbullying it is important for parents to take some measure of control over how their children use social media. Parents need to be aware of what their children are doing online. A great place to start is by establishing rules about what they should and should not post online. I love this idea mentioned in a blog by YourSphere  called an “Open Phone Policy”. Finally, children need to be empowered to confide in an adult if they are being cyberbullied. Some parents simply choose to friend their children or simply monitor their social media by asking for login/password information. However, you should keep in mind that often with today’s tech savvy kids this might not be foolproof since they could set up two accounts – one that you follow along with, and another that they may keep hidden from you. I discuss this in detail on a previous blog about hiding apps.

If your child or teen is being cyberbullied, you should encourage them to record the text and images being used to bully and then immediately block the person doing the bullying. Do not respond directly to the cyberbully.

A cyberbullying victim should also report the incident(s) to the internet service provider, law enforcement (especially if threats of violence or sexually-explicit videos and images are involved) and the school. Depending on the applicMother Comforting Daughter Being Bullied By Text Messageable laws and policies, these entities will be able to take corrective action.

If you start to notice that your child is spending too much time online or they seem depressed or frustrated after using social media take that as a warning sign. In addition, to having a heart-to-heart discussion, I also encourage parents to use a high-quality parental control before even giving your child a smartphone. If not, it is never too late to start! If they have and Andoird or Apple device, I always recommend Netsanity. They have a great Timeblocker scheduler, when used on a regular basis, helps set up regular social media breaks. In some cases when you have find that there are certain apps that you may want to block based on your child’s age. Netsanity’s Appblocker can be used to block apps such as YikYak, AfterSchool, or SnapChat, and others, on demand, if you find that these apps are being used as tools to cyberbully your child, the app is inappropriate or if you just feel that your child or even your teen is not ready for the responsibility associated with certain apps.

How a 17 year-old girl struck back at her cyberbullies

Recently, BizPac reported on the case of Lauren Brocious, a senior at Millbrook High School in Winchester, Va. Lauren had been cyberbullied since she was in the eighth grade but chose to suffer in silence. However, when a friend of hers confided that she was being cyberbullied as well, she decided that she had had enough and struck back in an inspirational YouTube video.

Lauren starts the video by writing mean words on her face, such as ugly and stupid  and trash while explaining how many people define themselves by the labels others give them. Then she wiped away those words and replaced them with more positive words, such as pretty and love. Her message: “Love yourself, and remember you are amazing.”

Finally, having an open phone policy with your kids and teens as well as regular conversations about staying safe, appropriate and KIND when they go online will do more to keep your child safe than just about any other action you can take!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Can Having a Smartphone Make Your Teen a Criminal?

Most of us look at a smartphone, and we see a piece of plastic with an Internet connection. It’s a tool for communication, and for easily retrieving information we need. Everything from your emergency contact numbers for your extended family, to looking up who played the supporting role in that movie you and your friends are arguing about is at your fingertips. While giving a smartphone to a teen is one part rite of passage, and one part necessity, it can also be a good way to get teens arrested if they aren’t given a safety discussion first.teen-bullied-600X400

How A Smartphone Can Make Your Teen a Criminal

A smartphone, used improperly, can get your teen arrested. That is a cold fact, and one that’s important to remember when you sit down to have a talk with them about what they can and can’t do with their device. Because a smartphone keeps records, and those records can be damning if teens display certain behaviors.

There are certain activities teens are at-risk from that, in a few years, they’ll be able to do with impunity. For example, adults sexting each other, or sending nude images to one another, might be a flirty way for adult couples to keep in touch. Teens doing it, however, may be committing a crime. That can be even more dangerous for teens who have an age difference. Something as innocent-seeming as agreeing to meet up with someone younger can have disastrous consequences, even if it’s only a year or so difference in age. Many parents do not fully understand nor contemplate the fact that a child or teen sending or receiving sexually explicit images on their smartphone may be deemed to have committed a criminal offense, with the severity of those charges being quite sobering. In Texas, a law passed in 2011 , SB 407, imposes harsh consequences for teens. For example, a 17 year-old Texas teen can face jail up to 180 days under certain circumstances. In states that have not specifically addressed sexting, it is very possible that the state will defer to its child pornography laws to address the action. While prosecutors tend to be reluctant to pursue aggressive sentences for teens who are caught sexting with a boyfriend or girlfriend, under other circumstances, heavier penalties will apply. In the instance where a sexting image gets distributed to more than one child or teen, more pressure is exerted on the legal system to make an example out of the wrongdoers and impose harsher sentences.

teen male portrait wearing handcuffsIt isn’t just sex that can get teens in trouble when it comes to their smartphones, either. There’s a tendency to treat things said in a virtual space as not real; that saying something to someone online is somehow different than saying it to them in person. However, with cyber-bullying law and harassment laws, what a teen says in a forum, or on a social app, can come back to haunt them.

The line between virtual life, and “real” life is growing hazier every day, and teens need to be aware of that when they’re using their smartphones. For example, there’s an unfortunate tendency online for rape threats and death threats to be used as a form of textual aggression. While it’s unlikely that most senders will follow through on said threats, no one would be surprised if the police came knocking at their door if those threats were shouted across the lunch room. Sending them online is quickly reaching the same level of gravity, and law enforcement is taking online harassment more seriously every day.

Talk About Responsibility Before Handing Over A Smartphone

Teens are already aware of a lot of issues they’re facing, simply by virtue of growing up with the newest generation of technology. However, as a parent, it’s still your job to have that conversation with them. Because if you don’t, it’s likely that someone in a uniform might. Teens are going to make some bad decisions; that’s part of growing up. However, they need to have all the information on hand in order to figure out what the right thing to do is. Sexting, nude photos, and other erotic online activities can cause a storm of legal problems for teens because they are underage. Sometimes all it takes is a year of difference between a teen and a partner for serious problems to erupt. That’s why its better to talk about it, and get it out in the open, before it happens.Mother Comforting Daughter Being Bullied By Text Message

If you do allow your teen to use a particular app, I always recommend that parents explore it first because there are many, many inappropriate apps out there. Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your teens are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software. NetSanity offers a suite of services their Appblocker, where certain social media and other apps are profiled and parents can one-click block them, making those dating apps that you may find inappropriate such as Down or YikYak and many others with a one-click solution. They have other ways to enforce parental policies. For example, remotely disabling the camera for Apple devices will stop any ability to snap pictures, use FaceTime, SnapChat, or use other means to share inappropriate images or videos. They have a free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your teen has a mobile device.

Having an open phone policy with your kids and teens as well as ongoing conversations about staying safe, appropriate and KIND when they go online will do more to keep your teen safe more any other action you might take!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Chores and Smartphones: They Can Work Together

Chores & smartphones: most of the time, they’re in complete opposition to one another. You know all too well that most children would rather bury their face in their smartphone than look up and take care of chores. You’ve even found that sometimes, it’s easier to complete a chore yourself than it is to convince a smartphone-obsessed youngster to get off of the couch and handle it. Insisting that your child continue to participate in household chores, however, is incredibly important to their development. chores

Your Child’s Phone Doesn’t Know Everything

Someday, your child will move out of your home. If you’re dealing with a high school student, chances are that will be sooner rather than later. Before you know it, they’ll be living in a dorm room, taking care of their own cleaning tasks and doing their own laundry. Eventually, they’ll even be responsible for preparing their own meals–and depending on their budget, fast food isn’t always a healthy or viable option.

While your child can probably effectively search for information on how to complete all of those tasks, there’s no substitute for solid, hands-on instruction. By the time your child is in middle school, they should be able to do their own laundry and clean a bathroom. As they go through high school, they should learn more important tasks: how to cook a meal (a well-rounded individual should know how to prepare at least one breakfast, one lunch, and one dinner from scratch), how to change the oil in the family car (even if “changing the oil” is taking the car to the nearest service station and learning how to understand the difference between “necessary repairs” and “upsell”), and how to go to the grocery store with a list and come back with the items on that list. Your child should be familiar with basic home repair tasks: how to hang a picture, unclog a toilet, and fix a squeaky hinge. Someday, they’re going to need all of those skills. Teaching them how to do it now could save a lot of tears in the future.

Teenager holding a blue laundry basket

Chores Enhance Responsibility and Community

Your family is a comprehensive unit that works together to achieve your goals. While there are some things that each of you does independently, there are also tasks that you take on together. Taking care of some of the chores that are necessary to keep your household up and running will help enhance that sense of community and develop your child’s responsibility. Ideally, you want to teach your child that if something needs to be done, they should do it before they plop down with their smartphone. Sure, they can take a break every once in a while. There’s nothing wrong with that! However, you shouldn’t have to nag your child constantly to get the simplest of tasks completed. Teaching them that responsibility comes first is a great way to keep your household flowing more smoothly. Some parents have gone so far as to create a list of tasks that need to be completed before their children can use their phone for the day: a simple, yet effective, way to ensure that the chores are being done before they use that smartphone.

There’s an App for That

If you’re struggling to get your child to perform necessary chores around the house, don’t take it personally. You’re not alone! In fact, there are a number of apps on the market that will help remind your child of all the tasks that need to be completed. From a daily To Do list that points out that the dog still needs to be fed, the laundry needs to be put in the washer, and the kitchen counters need to be wiped down to a point system that lets them compete for important privileges, there are plenty of apps that will help your child develop their responsibility levels and make completing their chores easier.

Young twins sisters are using smartphone sitting on the couch.

Suggestion for Parents

Limiting or cutting back on technology each day, so that your children and teens can get their other responsibilities accomplished isn’t as impossible as it seems. Using a parental control always makes it easier to balance your families time that they spend on their devices. If you child has an Android or Apple device, a service like Netsanity could be just what you need! They have a suite of services like their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used on a regular basis to keep your kids balanced with their technology use. Sometimes you may need to resort to blocking some social apps during certain times of day if you find that checking those apps has become a distraction for them. Netsanity’s Appblocker can be used to block and restrict certain social apps such as Instagram, Twitter, Vine, and many others. They have a free trial so it’s worth checking out if your child has a mobile device.

Overall, balance in all of our lives is the key to keeping the entire family healthy and sane!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Talking to Your Older Teens About Dating Apps & Online Romance

Online dating has been the butt of a lot of jokes over the years, but it’s changed a lot since the days of lonely hearts message boards that only existed in the shady corners of the Internet. Today, online dating is everywhere, with websites that boast hundreds of thousands of members. There are sites that cater to every taste and need, from age, to ethnicity, to religion, and even to hobbies and interests you want to share with potential partners. Not only that, but the culture around online dating has changed, too. It’s no longer seen as the last refuge of the lonely and desperate, but rather as something everyone does.

Which is why it’s important for you to talk to your teens about online dating before they decide to go looking for themselves.

Teen Dating Apps & Online Romance

Most parents have a hard enough time talking to their kids about dating as it is. Online dating, though, comes with its own baggage; sexual predators, stalking, and the ever-looming threat of online harassment are just a few of them. A parent’s job isn’t always easy, though, and if your teen is going to learn about online dating, it’s a better idea for them to get real information from you than it is to go searching online, or to ask their peer group.

The Changing Face of Dating

Teenage Couple at Social Dance

Older teens want to date. The ritual of becoming an adult is something every generation goes through, and it’s all part of growing up. Technology has always changed how the culture around dating works, though. A hundred and fifty years ago it was walking the town square together. A few generations later it was going to the drive-in. And now, with the Internet riding around in our front pockets, it’s possible for us to meet people we would never have without its assistance.

That seems scary, as a parent, but it’s important to remember that there are some positive aspects to online dating as well. Older Teens can expand their search for romance outside their own little corner of the world, meeting people from other schools or surrounding towns. This expanded choice means they don’t have their choices limited by who they sit near in class, and the social politics of their own school. It lets them reach out to find genuine compatibility; the same way it does for adults.

Be Open, and Help Keep Your Teens Safe

Just because a conversation about online dating and dating apps may be awkward or unpleasant, that’s no excuse not to have it.

Instead, let your teens know that you’re here for them, and that you want to help them grow into adults as safely as possible. So if they get a new app (with your approval of course), or start talking to someone new, just ask them to always discuss it with you first. Also, make sure that your teens understand that if they want to meet someone from their online life, that you have to meet them as well. No secret meetings after school, or sneaking off to see someone by the light of the moon; that is where things get dangerous. Keep things open, honest, and above-board, and no one will have anything to 
worry about.

Close up portrait of teen couple joining heads.Isolated on white background.

Remind Them They’re Still Teens

It’s also important to drive home the fact that teens have to deal with certain legal responsibilities. Sex, or at least the specter of it, always follows dating. It’s important for parents and teens to talk about that subject, as well as how technology has changed that, too. Sexting, nude photos, and other erotic accessories can cause a storm of legal problems for teens because they’re underage. Sometimes all it takes is a year of difference between a teen and a partner for serious problems to erupt. That’s why it’s better to talk about it, and get it out in the open, before it happens.

If you do allow your teen to use a particular app, I always recommend that parents explore it first because there are many, many inappropriate apps out there. Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your teens are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services – their Appblocker, where certain social media and other apps are profiled and parents can one-click block them, making those dating apps that you may find inappropriate such as Grindr, Down, Hot or Not, and many others a one-click solution. They have a free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your teen has an Apple or Android mobile device.

Honest ongoing conversations about staying safe online will do more to keep your teen safe than virtually any other action you might take!

With more than 9 out ofTeenager boy with smartphone in a restaurant 10 teens in the United States using social media, it is not surprising that a large number of them are connecting via various dating apps. Dating and sexual exploration are normal teenager behavior; however, the risks of teens using dating apps expose teens to many dangers and consequences they are not prepared to handle.

There are a number of apps that teens have access to that help them hook up or date, whether online or in person. One of the most popular apps is Tinder, which is commonly known as an app used for instigating casual sexual encounters. In fact, 7 percent of 10 million regular users are between 13 and 17, even though Tinder is usually known as an app for adults.

With this app, users connect to others by swiping right on a picture of someone they are interested in and swiping left if the person does not appeal to them. After the two users show interest in each other, they are able to send messages and then connect offline if they want.woman with online dating phone in the park

Tinder allows users who are over 13 to sign up for the app. Yet, they do attempt to protect users under 18 by allowing them only to connect to others in the same age range.

However, with this and other social media apps, there is no way to verify the age of the user. In fact, there is nothing preventing a user from creating a false profile. Not only do teens often lie about their ages to get past age restrictions on certain apps, adults can lie in order to connect to those teens. It is for this reason, that so-called “social monitoring” only parental apps are not very effective. They work on tracking a teen’s account but that teen user will often create many false accounts, hiding the real account from parents.

Parents can attempt to restrict access to apps rated as +18 using parental controls on smartphones and tablets. However, many apps are rated +12 even when they require you to be over 18 to sign up, such as with OKCupid.

So, when teens do use dating apps, with or without parental permission, what are some of the consequences? Worst case scenarios include cases of rape and sexual assaults. Even when the interaction is meant to be exclusively online, various dating apps that use GPS to match users can be used by predators to target a victim.

However, often the consequences are not as obvious, as in the case of sexting. Sexting, the sharing of sexually explicit images or text, is a common behavior via dating apps. On the one hand, such behavior can be seen as a form of sexual curiosity. On the other, there are many unintended consequences that teens face when engaging in sexting.

One of the most common consequence is losing control of the text or image that is transmitted to another user. The recipient can share the information to others, whether to humiliate or extort the user–or just to brag to others. Even more dire of a consequence is the potential for mass sharing, exposing the “sexter” to an extreme loss of privacy.

A lesser known consequence involves legal repercussions. Even if sent between minors, sexting can be considered child pornography. The recipient and sender can both be charged of this crime. Further, if a parent is aware that the minor is sexting and does not try to prevent it, the parent can be charged as well.

But another consequence is less visible–the emotional effects of this form of sexual exploration. The loss of privacy and potential for humiliation has obvious emotional effects, but sexting can also encourage the users to feel pressured into sexual interactions they are not mature enough to engage in.young woman consoling her crying friend

So, what can parents do to minimize the risks of dating apps? The first line of defense involves communication. Talking to your teen about the danger of dating apps and encouraging healthy, safe choices is essential for minimizing risks. If you choose to allow your teen to use dating apps they should always be treated like other social networks in which a parent requires the teen to share the password and maximize privacy controls. If you choose to limit or block these apps from your teens, using a parental control software such as Netsanity on all of their mobile devices, will help to protect them from potential mistakes and dangers. You can also utilize the Ask To Buy option in Apple’s Family Share controls and only allow your teen to download apps with your permission.

Although parents cannot protect teens from every risk, being aware of the potential dangers of dating apps is the first step for safety.

Don’t Be a Pedtextrian

We all know you’re not supposed to text and drive. In fact, thanks to some serious research and a lot of public service announcements, more people than ever know that distracted driving is closing in on drunk driving for the biggest fatality count when it comes to automotive accidents. However, those among us who shake their heads with disapproval at distracted drivers will just laugh at the idea of distracted walking. After all, if you’re walking what’s the worst that could happen?

Man talking on "whats app" with mobile distracted and not paying attention. vector

Well, if you’re not paying attention, being a “pedtextrian” can get you killed the same way being a distracted driver can.

The Dangers of Being A Pedtextrian

Texting and walking has become as normal as walking and chewing gum for a lot of people, particularly those who are part of the younger generation. After all, if you’re on a sidewalk and you feel the vibration against your hip, a cursory glance around should tell you whether or not it’s safe to pull out your phone to see what it’s notifying you of. What’s the worst that could happen? You might bump into a parking meter, or have an awkward moment with a lamp-post.

Or you could have a fatal accident, like this woman in New York City.

What happened was pretty straightforward. She was walking onto a train platform while texting on her phone. She didn’t look up, and misjudged where the edge of the train platform was. She fell onto the tracks, and the train couldn’t stop before it hit her.

It’s More Common Than You Think

Distracted walking is a lot more common than distracted driving, because so many of us assume we’re safe within our little bubble of personal space while we’re on the sidewalk. But there are dangers all around us, and if we’re so concerned with what’s on the screen in front of us, then we might not see the car that’s about to jump the pavement, or notice the bear that’s wandered onto the street half a block away.young woman use her cell phone walking on parking lot

You’re not safe just because you’re walking, and if your body is on auto-pilot then you could be heading into serious danger without any ability to get out of the way before it’s too late.

If You’re Going to Walk, Then Walk

Walking from point A to point B is a lot like driving; if you’re going to walk, then walk. At the very least, you should be able to keep an eye on anyone you’re sharing the pavement with, and to avoid things like open manhole covers or crossing against the light when there’s a big rig heading your way. On the other hand, you should have your head up and your eyes open in case there’s a shadowy figure lurking in a doorway, ready to pull a knife on you for that phone you’re holding. You should also make sure you don’t step in puddles you’d rather avoid… especially if there’s something in them that’s worse than water.

Which isn’t to say you should neglect your phone all day, and let your notifications pile up into the hundreds. What you should do, instead, is only check your phone once you’ve stopped moving. If you’re sitting on a bench, or you’re on the train, then you aren’t going to walk into a wall, or run into someone at a full clip. Even if you get a notification while you’re walking, feel free to answer it… just stop walking, and step out of the way, first.

Are you worried about your kids and teens being distractedfunny technology zombies sign with wood grain texture

Having regular conversations with your child or teen about the dangers of walking and looking down at their mobile devices is critical. Most importantly, it is up to parents to always set the example by keeping your mobile devices away when driving AND when walking! Some parents, may find that they need help keeping their children and teenagers balanced when using these devices. This is easy to accomplish when you use a good parental control software. One of my favorites is Netsanity. They have a suite of mobile parental control services like their Timeblocker scheduler, which can be used regularly to ensure that your teen is managing their time between screen, homework and other school or social activities. Another feature that you will love is Netsanity’s Appblocker. It gives parents the ability to restrict apps like SnapChat or Instagram whenever they feel it is necessary. They do offer a free trial for their monthly plans, so it’s definitely worth checking out.


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Is Social Media Making Cliques Worse?

What are cliques?

Multiethnic Group of Teenagers Outdoor

Counterintuitively, larger schools with a greater diversity of students tend to encourage cliques. This is because students, being anxious to form meaningful relationships, seek out like minded peers to form friendships with. Conversely, smaller schools with smaller classrooms tend to force teens to form friendships across socioeconomic and cultural lines.

Popular culture, such as the film The Breakfast Club, which came out in the 1980’s and the TV show Daria  which aired in the 1990’s neatly document how teenagers behave in cliques and what happens when teens in different cliques have to interact with one another.

Cliques and social media

High School cliques predate social media by decades. However, the advent of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms has changed the way cliques work, according to How Stuff Works. No longer does a student have to stand around with his or her clique in the school cafeteria. Instead, he or she can leave messages on social network sites. Incidentally, social media has fostered the growth of cliques among adults in their 30’s and even into their 40’s!

happy smiling group of diverse girls at summer camp

MIT once conducted a study that suggested that social networks, dating back to Usenet from the last century and going forward to Facebook and similar platforms today, foster the development of cliques, even though the number of participants number in the hundreds of thousands at any given time. People with similar tastes in movies and music and the same politics tend to band together in smaller networks, Sociologists have even coined a term for this phenomenon: homophily. In effect, social media is just one, big high school.

The problems with social media and cliques

One of the problems with interacting with other people on social media is that it fosters a certain emotional distance. Without the visual and verbal ques that people get when talking face to face, accurate communication is sometimes difficult. The other person is just a small head-shot and a brief bio on a computer or handheld electronic device and not a living, breathing human being.

Social media and the cliques that form on them tend to exacerbate two of the banes of teenage life, peer pressure and social isolation.

Unhappy Girl Being Bullied In Class

Parentmap suggests that social media has allowed the development of virtual peer pressure. A teenager can like, unlike, blacklist, cyber bully, and ostracize other teenagers with a few key strokes, without witnessing directly the consequences of such actions. Peer pressure can now take place over vast distances and, with teens who have lots of Facebook friends, with great power.

Cardinal Points notes that time on social media, rather than fostering connections, often causes social isolation and anxiety. A teenager might see his or her friends mentioning things on Facebook that he or she hasn’t a clue about. Kids will find out that a party is going on that they haven’t been invited to. In turn, this experience causes a sense of isolation and anxiety.

How to deal with cliques and social media

Mother embracing and soothes depressed daughterDealing with problems like peer pressure and isolation that takes place on social media can be a problem for parents because it often takes place out of their purview. The best way to deal with these problems is to be aware that they are happening before the signs, such as withdraw from parents, demands for certain trendy clothes, or other alarming behaviors, is to monitor your children’s social media. The trick is to know when to intervene and when not to. No one likes a helicopter parent. Too much intervention is likely to only make matters worse. In any case, good parenting, teaching leadership skills and self-esteem, are the keys for helping your kids cope with the new virtual cliques.

What else can parents do?

On any mobile device, when looking at the app age ratings, note that most apps have a minimum age recommendation of 13. Here at Netsanity, we recommend following age-appropriate guidelines as well as these tips:

  • Think teach your children to always pause before they post. Teach them to ask themselves if the picture could make anyone feel left out or excluded?
  • Recommend that they delay their postings so that the event isn’t viewed in real-time by others. This simple act, can often make all the difference to a friend who is sitting at home alone.
  • Parents can model proper behavior by showing the same respect when posting or reacting. Be aware yourself about how posting a pic of your latest tropical vacation may make someone who is struggling financially or has recently lost a job loss feel.
  • Instill balance with mobile parental controls like Netsanity, for example. Their Timeblocker scheduler, used on a regular basis, gives your tween or teen a break from their mobile devices. Sometimes you may need to resort to blocking some social apps, even if temporarily. Netsanity’s Appblocker can be used to block apps such as Instagram, SnapChat, After School, and others, on demand, if your child is having trouble tearing themselves away or starting to feel depressed. They have a 14-day free trial, if you want to check it out – for Apple devices.

Sometimes all they need is a break!

We love social media as much as anyone, but we also know there’s a fine line between enjoying its benefits in moderation, and spending endless hours letting it bring you or your children down. We always recommend monitoring, communicating, and taking breaks from social media and all internet devices on a regular basis!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

The Selfie Obsession

You’ve seen the duck-faced selfies and the pictures of young men posing in a thug-like manner in an effort to make themselves look as attractive as possible. Today’s tweens and teens belong to the selfie generation. They have smart phones, and they know how to use them.  Selfies, however, may be linked to narcissistic behavior in teens.

A Portrait a sister teen outside having fun

Selfies Cause Focus on Appearance

Teens and tweens are already very focused on their appearance. These are the same kids who spend hours standing in front of their closets, trying to figure out what they’re going to wear to school. When they take a selfie, that picture goes to their social media accounts, where it could potentially be picked over by everyone on their friends’ lists. What might make a minor impact on a typical day at school takes on a much greater importance when it’s out there on social media for the world to see and discuss again and again. This is particularly dangerous for children who are at risk for bullying. Unfortunately, most kids won’t take down a picture just because there are inappropriate comments on it. Instead, they’ll take those comments into themselves and focus on them, believing everything that those bullies say.

Many tweens and teens also fail to understand that a picture is a brief snapshot, a single instant in time. A shirt that flows beautifully and looks wonderful, for example, might not photograph well in a single still shot taken from a foot or so away. A makeup job that looks amazing as your daughter is going about her daily business will show its flaws much more clearly in a close-up picture that her friends can study in detail at their leisure. Selfies don’t just increase focus on appearance; they increase negative views of appearance. This is particularly dangerous for young people in their formative years, who can develop a negative self-image that will last a lifetime. As a result, it also increases their desire to improve their appearance, making it difficult to see outside those stringent demands.

Beautiful smiling african woman with skateboard taking self-portrait picture on smartphone in city, wearing a colorful yellow clothes

Selfies Intensify Focus on the Self

It seems obvious, doesn’t it? When you take a selfie, you’re completely focused on what you’re doing and what you look like at that moment. Selfies started as a perfectly natural desire to place oneself in the moment, especially when surrounded by friends or family members. Over time, however, selfies can increase focus on the self to the point of extremity. Complaints about over-posting on social media are already rampant. The selfie generation often finds it necessary to show themselves everywhere. A selfie is no longer just about showing off a great new haircut or a perfect makeup job, nor is it simply a display of all the wonderful places an individual has been able to go. Instead, teens and tweens spend hours in front of their phones, trying to capture that perfect shot. It exponentially increases their focus on themselves and removes them from the world around them, especially since they have the power to see the image immediately and correct it until it’s their view of perfect.

What’s a Parent to Do?

As a parent, you want your child focused on more than just themselves and their appearance. It’s not always easy, however, to fight the power of the selfie. Try encouraging your child to post more than just selfies to social media. Is he interested in photography? Encourage posting pictures of the things around him, not just of his face. Does she love looking up inspirational quotes? These might be more relevant to her followers and friends. Discuss other pictures that can be posted with your teen or tween: food pictures, pet pictures, or even personal art.

Often many tweens and teens need help to balance their time when using mobile devices. I always recommend using a trustworthy parental control like Netsanity. Their Timeblocker scheduler, used on a regular basis can give your tweens and teens regular breaks to develop other activities or interests. Sometimes you may need to resort to blocking some social apps, even if only on a temporary basis if you are finding that they are using them too often or they are effecting their mood or self-esteem. For Android and Apple mobile devices, Netsanity’s Appblocker can be used to block and restrict apps such as Instagram, SnapChat, and many others. They have a free trial so it’s worth checking out for your family.

I encourage parents to follow Netsanity on Facebook as they keep their followers updated on recent trends in social media. Finally, the team at [Rawhide Boys Ranch] have put together a fabulous infographic exploring the connection between selfies and narcissistic behaviors on social media. Stay informed and remember communication is the key to safety and balance in today’s social media driven world!

 

Selfie obsession: The rise of the social media narcissist

When comedian Nicole Arbour posted a YouTube video containing a long rant against fat people, adults around the world took to social media to express their outrage. Whitney Way Thore even responded with her own video, explaining that fat shaming is real and has a negative impact on women around the world.

While this places a spotlight on a phenomenon that many adults have paid no attention to in the past, it isn’t big news for most teenagers and young adults. Negative comments regarding weight and other aspects of appearance are common experiences in the modern teenage world. Many teens now spend more time preparing to take a selfie  than they spend preparing to go to school because they fear their images will be fat shamed or other aspects of their appearance will be criticized.

Negative comments of this nature are devastating for teens, and social media ensures that the humiliation plays out in front of their entire social network. One negative comment on Instagram or Facebook has the potential to change a teenager’s reputation because what happens in social media doesn’t stay in social media.

Social Media & Social Anxiety – The Selfie Wars

One of the biggest concerns for parents and professionals is the potential for selfies to cause anxiety in teens. Teenagers are already susceptible to low self esteem, and it’s well known that they tend to compare themselves to their peers. Selfies take this to destructive extremes because they force teenagers to compete with one another based on appearances alone, and this plays out day after day whether they’re at school or at home.

teenager girl taking selfie in bathroomEvery selfie taken is an opportunity for a teenager to express their emotions and personality. Unfortunately, every selfie posted is also an opportunity for criticism from peers, and teenagers understand this because they’ve seen so many others experience negative attention through social media selfie posts.

This is why teenagers spend so much time selecting clothing, styling their hair, and applying makeup before taking selfies. They also use filters and apps to touch up their photos, and many teenagers look significantly different in their selfies than they do in everyday life. It seems like who you are on social media is more important than who you are in real life for many of our tweens and teens.

When a selfie goes live, teenagers experience intense anxiety waiting for comments and likes. If a picture doesn’t receive much attention or negative comments are left, many teens assume that it  means they’re ugly or not liked. This leads to negative self talk that puts teens at heightened risk of depression. The response to a single selfie can determine how a teenager feels for days or weeks to come.

Not only is the anxiety to get a positive response overwhelming, but teens are at risk of depression and eating disorders when the likes don’t fall in their favor.

The New Popularity Contest

While the pressure to look perfect on social media at all times is definitely anxiety-inducing for millions of teens around the world, there’s something even bigger happening on social media. Rather than waiting anxiously for the prom king and queen to be crowned or the “most likely to” section of the yearbook to be finalized, teens are now judging their place in the social scene through social media interactions.

Those unable to get 100 or more likes on their Instagram think that they’re further down the social ladder than many of their peers. Some even go as far as “friending” people they don’t know, including grown men, just to receive more positive comments and likes on their selfies.

When someone is left out of a party or group event, they know all about it due to social media posts. This increases the chances of teens feeling left out and isolated even when others involved meant no harm. Teenagers already concerned Selfie designthat they’re missing out or aren’t liked suddenly have to watch their peers enjoy parties and other events to which they weren’t invited. This increases anxiety and leaves many teens at even greater risk of depression.

The popularity game has always been stressful for teenagers, but social media takes that stress to a heightened level. Teens aren’t even safe from the stigma of being unpopular when they are in the safety of their own homes because social media goes with them. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter who gets the most pictures in the year book because pictures are defining the social landscape 365 days a year.

Signs of Social Media Anxiety

How do you know if a teenager you care about is negatively impacted by their social media activity? A January 2015 Huffington Post article discussed the habits of teenagers when posting selfies on Instagram. Some of the signs of anxiety picked up in their honest encounters included the following:

  • Sending pictures to friends for approval before posting
  • Constantly checking social media for likes and comments on pictures
  • Self judgment based on response to pictures
  • Using filters and apps to change their appearance in selfies
  • Refusing to post pictures that may hurt another person’s feelings or make someone feel left out
  • Emotional responses to negative comments left on pictures
  • Basing self worth on selfie comments or number of likes
  • Extreme anxiety when they don’t have their phone or another mobile device on hand

Have you noticed any of these signs in a teenager you care about? Can you add other signs that parents and loved ones may detect? The more adults know about social media anxiety, the more we can help the next generation accept and love themselves for who they are rather than for the responses they receive online. Some mobile parental control companies even allow you to disable the camera if you deem it to be a major issue. Knowledge is power so be aware and stay involved.

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