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Think You Know What Your Child Has Access to Online? Think Again.

Keeping kids sheltered from the dangers in the world might be the number one goal of parents, but as our children grow older, it can become more difficult for parents to navigate. Especially these days, there is a world of information and with online access, children and teens may be viewing things that you aren’t even aware of. With so many ways for children to get online these days, from computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, it can be hard to know what your child is accessing online and what the effects might be.

What Parents Should Know
Children Accessing Content Online

While you might think you know your way around search engines and assume that free sites online are relatively harmless, there are plenty of sites, forums, chatrooms, and alternative search engines that could get your child access to areas of the web you would rather they avoid. Here are few common gateways that can lead to trouble for unsuspecting children who are innocently trying to connect with peers or find out more about their interests and hobbies.

Gaming and In-Game Purchases

If your child is into gaming, it is a good idea to monitor their usage and ensure that they aren’t paying for items in a game along the way that you didn’t authorize. Just because a game is free or comes with a minimal cost, to begin with, online games might offer in-game incentives. These upgrades can be easy to purchase on apps or through computer packages that are set up for autopay.

Forums and Chat Rooms

While certain sites themselves can be harmless when it comes to your child’s interests and hobbies, things can quickly unravel in chat rooms or closed forums. It is a good idea to monitor what sites your child is using and if logins are required. If they have an interest that can be enjoyed by all ages, it is a good idea to monitor even if just on occasion any posting or communications.

Video and Image Searches

While you might be familiar with searching for things on YouTube and Google, there are other, darker search engines that could lead your child to disturbing images and content, sometimes even illegal content. Check your child’s browser for specific subtopics on sites such as Reddit or Tumblr so you can decide if you would like to block these or monitor them. We always encourage that you use their device to monitor an app because some teens set up secret second accounts if they know parents are following the first one.

Social Media Sites

While you might be familiar with sites like Facebook, new social media sites pop up all of the time, and some can be more dangerous than others. Apps such as Kik and Snapchat let users post messages and pictures that many teens think are permanently deleted. Your teen might think this is a safe forum, but with screenshots, nothing that is deleted from a site is truly gone forever.

Ways to Protect Your KidsWhat Children Have Access to Online

Once you know what you and your children are up against when it comes to online safety, you can continue to educate yourself and stay vigilant on new trends online. Here are some real-life ways you can stay involved with your child’s internet usage and keep them protected even when you aren’t around. Keeping informed and communicating with your children of any age are great first steps in keeping them protected.

Look Into Protective Tools

Use a trustworthy parental control to easily block inappropriate content and websites. Discuss and set up time limits with your family. Discuss when they can be online and what types of websites or social media apps you feel are acceptable.  Some parents set time limits for social media but maybe will add additional time into the evening for their teens to use their devices just for homework, listen to music, or to even read a book on their tablet. This works well when you use a quality parental control solution that cannot be circumvented.  If you work together as a family and communicate your ground rules from the start you may run into fewer problems, in the long run.  As your child grows older and becomes more responsible it is easy to change these rules together.

Discuss Trends With Other Parents

Sometimes, your best defense against online dangers when it comes to children is to talk to other parents. Reach out to other parents with children around the same age as yours, or those who are in your community. This works best when they are your children’s friends parents. You can discuss any new trends or dangers that might be surfacing in a certain age group or demographic. Having a team of people you can rely on to discuss internet dangers will keep your children and other local kids safer overall.

Keep Communicating Parent Teaching Responsible Online Habits

As we always say, the absolute best way to keep your children safe is to have honest conversations with them about your fears, limits you would like to set, and why. If your children feel safe coming to you to talk about their concerns, this can open the door for open communication on things like cyberbullying or other dangers they may have inadvertently run across online. If you can be there for them as a helpful resource, they won’t feel like they need to hide things from you or cover up anything that they may have stumbled upon when online. Being approachable and easy to talk to will help your child make good decisions in all areas of their life, including their online presence.

We all know that sadly, we can’t protect our children forever, and they will experiment in various areas of their life. If you can be open and honest with your children when it comes to your concerns, they will be able to make the right choices, weigh their options, and not fall to peer pressure. Keep communicating with your family and keep yourself up-to-date and educated about online dangers and trends. If you can help your child navigate safe and unsafe areas of the internet in a more informed way, the more equipped they will be to make the right decisions online!

Is Excessive Mobile App Gaming a Mental Disorder?

If you have a child who plays a lot of video games and mobile app games like Fortnite, Minecraft, and Clash of Clans, you might find it annoying or even irritating as you ask him to come to the dinner table or get ready for school for the fourth time. You might even worry that she’s becoming addicted to the game, or wonder if her real-world social skills could be developing properly when she spends so much time in a digital world.

You probably never considered gaming as a mental health issue.

Gaming Mental DisorderKids And Excessive Gaming

The World Health Organization (WHO) released the latest edition of its International Classification of Diseases publication, which “…is the foundation for the identification of health trends and statistics globally, and the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions. It is the diagnostic classification standard for all clinical and research purposes.”

In this issue, “gaming disorder” has been listed as a mental health condition.

Though gaming involves no abuse of a substance, it has similar addictive qualities and effects. Just as with an addiction to drugs or gambling, those with gaming disorder tend to persist with their gaming habits despite any negative consequences, such as strained relationships or trouble with sleep or overall health.

Diagnosing Gaming DisorderGaming Disorder

As with other diseases and physical and mental health conditions, only a health professional can make a diagnosis. To do that, they consider the following, as outlined in this CNN article about this newly classified disorder:

  • Does gaming take precedence over other activities?
  • Does the person spend more and more time gaming, despite negative consequences?
  • Does gaming impact the person’s life in a negative way? (For example, poor sleep habits due to playing late in the night, declining health, loss of friendships, or poor performance at school?)
  • Has the gaming behavior continued for at least a year?

If your child or teen is diagnosed with gaming disorder, he or she may need to undergo a treatment program that usually includes cognitive behavioral therapy, which, as Mayo Clinic explains, “…helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.” Alone or in conjunction with other treatments, it is often used to treat a wide range of issues, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

Is Your Child at Risk for Gaming Disorder?Online Gaming Addiction

The CNN article quotes Dr. Vladimir Poznyak, from the WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, who says, “Millions of gamers around the world, even when it comes to the intense gaming, would never qualify as people suffering from gaming disorder.”

Furthermore, the article points out that there are a number of health professionals who disagree with the idea of gaming disorder being a mental health condition. One licensed psychologist who was interviewed for the story believes excessive gaming to be a coping mechanism for an issue like anxiety; once the anxiety is addressed in other ways, the amount of time spent gaming decreases.

How to Help Your ChildrenParents Teaching Healthy Gaming Habits

If you believe your child or teen may be addicted to gaming, you should schedule a visit with a health professional. Your doctor will recommend a treatment plan, which may include inpatient or outpatient treatment. There are some treatment centers that focus on gaming disorder.

Meanwhile, start to pay more attention to what your child does online.

  • Is he playing games when he’s on his mobile device, or is he talking to friends or browsing social media sites?
  • How much time is she spending online? How much time is spent in each type of online activity? Excessive internet use can become digital addiction, as well; it’s not just the games that may pose a danger.
  • What games does he play? Is he building cities or shooting enemies?
  • Why does she play them? Is it to connect with friends? To escape reality for a while? Stress relief? To create a character that embodies the qualities she hopes to develop? Or has it become her new “real life”?
  • How are the games played? What is the objective? How do you win?

Open a dialogue about your children’s internet use in general, and about their gaming habits in particular. Why do they like the games they do? What happens in those games? Your kids might enjoy explaining it to you; if not, you may have to play a few rounds yourself to understand what’s happening.

Have you heard your children talk about any of these popular games?

  • Minecraft
  • Fortnite
  • Clash of Clans
  • Angry Birds
  • Candy Crush
  • World of Warcraft
  • Monster Strike

It’s time to learn more about them, along with any other games you hear your child mention.

Of course, it’s always helpful to use trustworthy parental controls on your child’s mobile device. If you determine that a particular game is inappropriate for your child, you can block the app on his or her device. You can even easily set screen time limits that cannot be circumvented to ensure that your child is doing homework or participating in other activities, you can disable internet access during certain times of the day. For example, you might disable it starting at bedtime so he doesn’t spend precious sleeping hours playing video games, then allow for a few minutes of use in the morning after he’s ready for school, then disable it again while he is in class.

You can help your child schedule some “real world” activities during that internet downtime, too: think about family dinners, martial arts classes, or even going to the movies the old-fashioned way at a theater. Help him find real-world interests that may keep some of his attention away from video games.

Parental controls are a simple way to help you take some control over what your child does online. Along with that ongoing conversation about safe internet usage, you’re helping your child make responsible choices as they grow to understand the far-reaching impact of how they spend their time online.

 

Teens and the Pressure to Sext

When you think of activities you don’t want your child doing on his or her mobile device, sexting is probably pretty high up on that list. The implications and risks go far beyond a private exchange within a relationship.

Unfortunately, teens are sexting, and there’s a lot of pressure to sext as well.

Sexting: A Definition

You might have an idea that sexting is only messages or only explicit photos. Merriam-Webster makes it pretty clear: sexting is “the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone,” or, of course, any electronic device. This includes nude or suggestive photos and videos, including those depicting sexual acts, and text messages that mention sexual activity.

Sexting can be consensual or not.

Not My Teen…Right?

Take a look at the research published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal:

“Among 39 studies (with 110 380 participants) in this meta-analysis, the mean prevalences for sending and receiving sexts were 14.8% and 27.4%, respectively, with prevalence rates increasing in recent years and as youth age.”

And it’s not just boys.

Girls and boys are equal participants when it comes to sexting.

The Pressure to Sextpressure to sext

Some teens start sexting because they want to. Others feel pressured to participate.

This article points out the reasons that young men and women might feel pressured to send explicit photos and messages:

  • It’s what all her friends are doing.
  • His girlfriend is asking him for nude photos or sending her own nude photos without being asked to do so.
  • She wants to fit in and is having trouble finding a social circle at school. Sexting becomes an effort to gain popularity.
  • His friends are making fun of him for not sexting with his girlfriend.

The author shares her personal findings from an unofficial experiment where she created social media profiles and stated that she was bored and wanted someone to talk to. “96% of all people that responded to my posts asked or initiated sexting within the first 5 sent messages.” Some sent explicit photos without even greeting her. And after she refused to participate? Many got dismissive and aggressive; ultimately, “87% of all respondents blocked me or stopped messaging me altogether.”

This shows a certain demand or expectation for young girls to participate in sexting.

It’s easy to see how a vulnerable teenager who wants to be liked would cave into those expectations, particularly if the pressure is from people he or she has to see at school every day.

The Problem With Sextingpressure to sext

In the best scenario, the sexting occurs between two young people within a relationship built on mutual trust and respect. It’s part of their personal exploration of their sexual identities and relationship. When the relationship ends, those messages disappear.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Even secret sexts can be accidentally shared or maybe glimpsed by a friend who borrows the phone. And the situation is often more dire.

Sometimes, those messages and images are used against the sender to blackmail or humiliate him or her. The images may be shared, and they end up spreading quickly within your teen’s peer group and to the online world at large.

Sometimes, people who sext can be charged with a crime. Students have faced child pornography charges because of nude selfies and videos. (See news stories on this issue here, here, and here.)

What Can You Do?

To start with, we have to recognize this new norm.

This New York Times article acknowledges that sexting among teens is on the rise, and notes that “…experts say that rather than being shocked to find that kids are sexting, we should instead be talking about it from an early age, just as we should about other aspects of their developing sense of their sexual identities.”

It’s not all bad: the uptick in sexting has corresponded with a downturn in sexual activity rates among high school students.

Talk to your teens honestly about the implications of sexting:

  • Explain that images spread quickly over the internet. Even someone you love and trust might accidentally share the photo with a friend or intentionally share it with a trusted friend who’s maybe not so trustworthy, after all. “…help them think about what it might feel like to have intimate photos of themselves forwarded to any number of peers by someone they thought they liked or trusted.
  • Bring up the potential legal issues. Many teens aren’t aware of that when they start sharing photos and messages with friends.
  • Talk about respect. That’s a conversation that helps your child manage online discussions, as well, and could make him think twice before sending an image that wasn’t requested.
  • Teach your teen about consent. This important topic goes beyond real-life scenarios and into the digital world, as well. If she is uncomfortable about anything that happens online, she needs to know she can come to you for help.
  • Talk about strangers. Not everyone is who they appear to be online. Sexting with someone you know carries some risks, but sexting with a stranger could be something else altogether. Insist that your child not give any personal information to anyone they don’t know.
  • Set internet guidelines. Set rules about when your teen can use the internet and what he can do while he’s online. Trustworthy parental controls can help you enforce those rules because you’re able to disable the internet on the device and block specific sites and apps (or entire categories of sites!). You might also let them know from the start that you will be making regular phone checks and social media reviews. All the rules in the world might not prevent your teenager from sexting, but you can eliminate some of the time and temptation by insisting upon no specific app usage or internet after your teen goes to bed, for example.

Like it or not, sexting is a part of life for many teenagers today. Instead of fighting it, let’s learn how we can manage it to keep our kids safe, happy, and healthy. Like many internet issues, it all starts with keeping an open dialogue with your teenager. If parental controls can make it easier, use them. Navigating this ever-changing landscape is challenging enough!

Teens and Smartphone Usage – Six Tips and Tricks for Parents

If you have teen, there are so many things to monitor and navigate as a parent in the 21st century. Smartphones are here to stay, and while these can have benefits such as keeping track of your teen’s whereabouts, study tools and time management apps, there are dangers that you need to be educated about as well. Teens can learn about new apps and workarounds with phones quickly. This means that parents need to be on top of their own knowledge base and be up with new trends and dangers that smartphones can bring into your teen’s life. Here are six tips to help parents monitor and protect teens when it comes to smartphone usage.

1. Don’t Be Shy About Monitoring Your Teen’s Smartphone Usage

While everyone deserves a certain level of privacy, when it comes to your teen and their smartphone, they need to expect a certain level of monitoring to come with this privilege. Being a teen means becoming more autonomous and wanting to try out being an adult in areas of their life, but this doesn’t mean you should shy away from being vigilant from monitoring their social life. A major component of this can include smartphone usage. Setting up clear expectations with your child and following through is key. While you shouldn’t spy on your teen or try to catch them in the act, they should know that you will be keeping an eye on certain platforms, whether this is social media sites, emails, apps, messaging services, or an overall phone check weekly or in some cases more often. This will give your child autonomy by knowing what you expect and how you will enforce rules, and they won’t feel as if you are trying to trap or trick them into getting into trouble. This can keep your teen from trying to hide things from you, which could ultimately get them into more trouble down the line.

2. Track Activityteens smartphone usage

Not all apps and features on smartphones are things you should be worried about. There are plenty of helpful tools out there for concerned parents who want to keep their teens safe when it comes to smartphones. Usage monitors, location apps, blockers, and timeout tools can all be useful for parents and can keep teens safe. Educating yourself on what tools might be best for you and your family’s needs can help take the guesswork out of monitoring your teen and feeling as if you are being invasive when it comes to their smartphones. If you can track what you need from your own phone or computer, you can rest easy and not worry as much about your teen.

3. Benefits of Shared Plans and Similar Smartphones

If you can replicate the access that your child has on their phone, you’ll be more privy to new apps and possible hidden dangers. There will always be new features for specific phones and app platforms, and you can stay on top of this if you have the same phone model. If you have the same plan and network, items in the cloud, on social media, and even emails and texts can even be monitored if necessary. While it is important to be transparent with your child when it comes to your access and monitoring, setting the right boundaries that work for you and your family can be easier to do if you are all on the same page. This involves familiarity with the newest phones, apps, and trends that you might miss if you are on a different plan or use a different type of phone than your teen.

4. Talk to Other ParentsParents discussing teens smartphone usage

A great defense when it comes to knowing the dangers your child might get into on their smartphone is to talk with other parents in your community. While smartphones can give teens the ability to communicate with others beyond your social circle and town, you’ll find that common trends when it comes to dares, apps and social media platforms can begin locally. If  teens in your community are involved with the same smartphone features, new tips and tricks can be shared among parents at the same time. This doesn’t mean that all apps are bad, and you might find out about great apps to help teens study, learn about the world, or stay safe in your community. Finding out what is working and what isn’t in other households nearby will give you a head start when it comes to keeping your teen safe on and offline.

5. Understand Cyberbullying

While cyberbullying can happen online, this might not even start on one’s phone. Bullying can carry over from school or other places your child meets peers, and can escalate to online platforms. Other versions of cyberbullying can involve completely anonymous people in chat rooms or other social media platforms. Keeping communication open with your child about bullying in general can help give them the confidence and know-how to see something that isn’t right and even stick up for others when needed. Make sure your child knows they can come to you for advice and support if they are feeling bullied themselves, or see others in trouble online or through social media apps on their smartphone.

6. Have Ground RulesParent discussing ground rules for teens smartphone usage

Setting up clear rules and expectations when it comes to your child’s smartphone usage is the best way to have measurable expectations as a parent. While you can monitor your teen’s usage and set up tracking and blocking devices, there will always be new apps that you need to be aware of. If your child knows what they should be using their phone for and the types of apps and games you allow, they will be less likely to get into trouble. If your teen finds new items they would like to look at or download, they should know to to run these by you first. Your teen should know what you expect and understand why they are punished when they don’t stick to the ground rules.

While having technical knowledge can help you keep afloat when it comes to your child’s phone usage and possibilities, this is only half the battle. There will always be new dangers and apps popping up that aren’t necessarily safe for your child. Communication is more important than knowing your ins and outs with a phone. If you can ensure your child is educated on keeping safe, this can go a long way when it comes to your teen making smart choices online, on their phone, and in life.

What Parents Should Know About Decoy Apps

The app store can be a jungle. Among the most familiar, popular apps lie hundreds upon hundreds of apps that may (or may not) be useful on a smaller scale. Some of these apps aren’t what they appear to be.

Take the Apple app Calculator%. It was a fully functioning calculator! Pretty harmless, right?

It had a secret, though. It contained an album that allowed users to hide photos and videos behind what appeared to be a mere calculator. That proves to be pretty handy for a teenager who’s trying to keep some content secret from a parent who might casually glance through the smartphone.

Apple recently removed the app from its store in the middle of an investigation by police in Great Britain.

But the story of decoy apps doesn’t end there.

The Rise of the Decoy AppsDecoy Apps

Dr. Chris Taylor, an associate professor at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, was quoted in this article:

“So a decoy app is an app that’s designed to look like one thing but serve a different purpose…. They do have a legitimate purpose if you wanted to hide your passwords, and you didn’t want anybody to know that you even had passwords on your phone, so they didn’t try to get at them. If you have a decoy app, that’s a great place to stick it.”

Of course, people have found other uses for decoy apps.

This article says decoy or vault apps have been around since 2012. In 2015, high school students in Colorado were caught trading hundreds of naked photos (featuring at least 100 different students) via vault apps. It made it easy for the kids to conceal the photos, which otherwise might have been noticed by diligent parents.

How to Spot a Decoy App

In the app stores, decoys are not a secret. They explain exactly what they are and what they’re for. Some of them include:

  • Calorie Counter – Hide My Text
  • Hide My Text – Invisible
  • Secret Hidden Calculator Free
  • GalleryVault Pro Key
  • Stashword
  • Private Photo Vault
  • Best Secret Folder

The point is, if you’re looking on the app store, you’ll find the decoy apps right away. However, on your child’s device, you might not notice a seemingly innocent calculator, game, or music app. If you make regular checks of your child’s device, don’t spend all your time in the photos and texts: check for new apps, as well. If you’re not familiar with what you see, look them up to find out if they might be doubling as a hiding place.What Are Decoy Apps

The Problem With These Apps

The big problems are obvious now: the Colorado sexting ring is an example of that. But how else might this become a problem for your child?

They might not just be hiding photos and videos. Some apps allow for secret chats to be exchanged; your child could bully someone or be bullied behind that closed door. It’s also a place for them to hide passwords you are supposed to have access to.

Keep in mind that decoy apps require a password to access the hidden material, but they may also allow for decoy passwords! In that case, you might spot the decoy app and ask your child to open it. He or she enters a password and shows you a lot of innocent content that was placed there as a second decoy. Meanwhile, there’s a real password that accesses different material.

How to Keep Your Child From Using Decoy AppsExamples of Decoy Apps

It’s probably hard to imagine that your children could get involved with something like an illicit sexting ring, but the truth is it’s hard to keep track of every influence your children are under when they’re away at school.

Of course, the presence of a decoy app on your child’s device doesn’t automatically mean they’re involved in something like that, but it does probably mean you need to find out what’s going on.

Common Sense Media offers the following guidelines for dealing with decoy apps:

  • Talk to your kids: The online safety talk should happen at least by the time they get their first mobile device. Allow this to be an ongoing conversation where your child feels free to share anything that concerns him or her online.
  • Talk about photos: Even private photos shared between two people, such as those in an intimate relationship, can easily be made public if one party decides to violate the trust out of jealousy, anger, or any other emotion. Teenagers may have a hard time understanding that when they’re in the middle of a relationship with someone they trust.
  • Keep in mind the reasons for hiding: Your kids might not be trying to deceive you; instead, they might be hiding something from a friend. There’s a reason for concern here, as well, but you don’t have to assume they’re hiding something from you.
  • Take a look: “If you need to do a spot check, on iPhones go to Settings -> Privacy -> Camera to see which apps have used the camera. This will reveal any camera apps disguised as something else.”
  • Don’t assume the worst: Maybe your kids aren’t hiding anything at all. Maybe they’re just curious about new apps and technology and enjoy playing with them. If you see a vault or decoy app on your child’s device, find out more before jumping to conclusions.

Your child may exhibit certain behaviors that could indicate some trouble online. These don’t necessarily point to a decoy app, but they are enough for you to take a closer look at what might be happening with your child on the internet:

  • Regularly hiding the screen from onlookers
  • A sudden change in mood or personality
  • Spending more and more time online
  • Unwillingness to share social media usernames and passwords
  • Unwillingness to talk about what they do online
  • Disinterest in formerly enjoyable activities
  • Disinterest in going to school

With trustworthy parental controls, you can block specific apps and entire categories of apps, so your child can’t download them in the first place or if you just want them to take a break from apps that they tend to overuse. This gives you a powerful tool in managing your child’s online activity—and safety.

Screentime: Children Need Parents to Create Boundaries

Parenthood might seem like a constant struggle of drawing a line and watching your child cross it. Children clearly hate boundaries, right? Giving them too many makes them want to rebel; those lines create two teams in your household, and raising a child becomes “us against them”.

Not always.

The truth is, children not only need but actually want boundaries, though they probably wouldn’t be the first to admit it. This is especially true when it comes to screentime.

Don’t laugh! We know you’re envisioning those moments when you asked a teen to put down the phone and it resulted in a fit that quickly escalated. But take a look at the research.

Young People Want Screentime Boundaries

This article outlines research that shows young people making excuses to get away from their phones:

“There were students who intentionally left their chargers at home so their phones would die on them during the day, a girl who mainly went to church to escape her phone, and students who reported they enlisted friends to literally hide their devices from them.”

They admit to an addiction to their smartphones and other devices (one person named her phone and spoke about it like it was a person) and then admit to intentionally taking time away from the devices—or trying to. Like a jar of cookies, it’s hard to avoid reaching for the phone when you know it’s right there, waiting for you.

The researcher, Donna Freitas, writes that many of the college students she talked to couldn’t imagine life without a smartphone, yet they were happy (or perhaps relieved) about finding areas on campus where the Wi-Fi failed. “Clearly, young adults don’t have a blissfully happy attachment to their smartphones. Even though it frustrates and even embarrasses some of them to admit this, many long for our permission and help to unplug when they can’t do it on their own.”

Setting Screen Time BoundariesControl Screentime With Netsanity

Freitas is quick to note that people aren’t always happy at the moment the phone is taken away. In some cases, students whose parents took their phones away experienced withdrawal and found the separation to be difficult. However, after the initial shock and discomfort passed, they enjoyed the break.

Like so much of what you do as a parent, your kids will thank you later for limiting their screentime.

Here are some guidelines to help you set healthy screen time boundaries for your children:

  • Be compassionate: “Smartphones and social media are designed to make us want to use them more, not less.” The draw to pick up the device is intense, as you have probably experienced yourself. Understand that marketers and designers are intentionally making it that way, and they’re good at it. Your kids are fighting that battle, too.
  • Focus on the benefits: There are many difficult things we do for our children, and this may be one of them. Especially if your kids are young, it’s hard for them to imagine how their social media and internet habits could impact their lives over the long term. Keep your focus on how much the boundaries help them, even if they don’t realize it yet.
  • Consider the AAP recommendations: The American Academy of Pediatrics offers guidelines for media use starting with infants. By the time the child is older than six, they recommend having regular communication about safety and respect online, keeping consistent limits on the type of media your kids use and how much time they spend using it, and offering device-free time periods or zones in your home (like at the dinner table or in the bedrooms).
  • Let them help you set the boundaries: Depending on the age of your child, he or she may be able to work with you to set boundaries you can agree upon. Obviously, you have the final say, but a teen may appreciate the opportunity to offer input. For example, it gives her an opportunity to explain that she needs her device at 5:00 because that’s when her friends meet online to discuss their weekend plans; this helps you understand why she might get upset if you try to turn off her internet connection at that time. With the permission to attend her meeting, she may be willing to concede to other restrictions rather than fighting against them. Coming to these agreements makes the boundaries easier to uphold, and it makes for a happier household overall. Another great option that parents use is to just simply block a few social media apps in the evening hours, giving your child time to focus on homework while still having access to their device for music or to access other information.
  • Talk about why: Discuss the reasons for the boundaries rather than using, “Because I said so.” This is easy to do when you have that conversation where your child helps you set the boundaries. He might argue against one, and you can clearly outline why you feel the way you do, and vice versa. That doesn’t mean he’ll like it or agree, at least at first, but at least he knows your reasoning—and just as importantly, you know his.
  • Allow room for growth: Boundaries can change as your child grows. Keep in mind that you might need to revisit the conversation on a regular basis as your child becomes more mature and responsible for making decisions online.
  • Use parental controls: Rules are difficult to enforce when your child spends so much time alone with her device and away from you. Trustworthy parental controls help fill that gap, and they might be a (secret) relief for your child. By blocking certain sites and apps, or limiting the time your child can spend online, it frees her from the temptation to look at something you’ve told her not to or to pick up the phone when she knows she should be studying.Manage Screentime With Netsanity

Given the well-known dangers and concerns of excessive smartphone use, including technology addiction, cyberbullying, sexting, and exposure to unsavory sites and people, setting screentime boundaries is an essential part of parenting in the digital age.

How to Raise Privacy-Savvy Kids

Safety has always been a parental concern. You probably remember being told not to talk to strangers and to “stop, drop, and roll.” You were taught to wear your seatbelt in the car and a helmet on your bike. You’ve passed those safety guidelines along to your own children.

In our digital world, that’s no longer enough.

As parents today, we have a far bigger list of safety and privacy concerns. Thanks, internet.

As a parent, you must have internet safety talks with your children. It’s not a one-time chat, but an ongoing conversation with guidelines that may change as your children grow and as the internet evolves.

Here are a few items to include in those discussions.

Personal Information

It’s important for children to understand what they should and shouldn’t share about themselves online. On social media sites, teach them to avoid giving their address, phone number, or current location publicly.

Explain how companies gather and use their information, as well. Before providing their address, age, or other details with a website, they should think about why they’re providing it and who they’re providing it to. If they’re placing an order with a reputable company, then of course they’ll have to enter their address. However, that should never be a requirement for signing up for an email newsletter, and they might want to think twice before doing certain online quizzes.

Passwords and Privacy

Common Sense Media suggests using the strictest privacy settings on apps and websites. For social media sites, teach your child to make his posts private, so that only his friends can see them.

Create good passwords and change them on a regular basis. Always use a combination of letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols, and don’t use any identifying or easy-to-guess words or numbers, like your own birthday. Online breaches reveal the most common passwords are “123456” and, unbelievably, “password.” Don’t let that be true for you or your kids. You might also insist on knowing your child’s password so you can access her accounts when you need to.

If your child is under the age of 13, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act helps protect your child’s information. “If a site or service is covered by COPPA, it has to get your consent before collecting personal information from your child and it has to honor your choices about how that information is used.”

Online FriendsRaising Privacy-Savvy Children

Your children should avoid “friending” people they don’t know in real life. Some social media sites make this easy; others are based around connecting with strangers.

People aren’t always who they say they are. Your children can connect with and learn from people around the world, but they need to draw the line at sharing revealing information. Ask your child to tell you if anyone they meet online is asking them for personal information or making them feel uncomfortable in any way. This includes bullying, which can often show up in unexpected ways.

Though it may be unlikely that your child would come across an online predator, it’s obviously a serious danger when it does happen. Keep in mind that many predators are patient and crafty: they find creative ways of getting the information they need from your child. There’s no reason to scare your kids, but teach them to be diligent about online users they don’t know in real life.

Long-Lasting, Far-Reaching PostsPrivacy-savvy Rules to Live By

The internet lasts forever. Every post, every photo, can quickly be shared with thousands and even millions of people.

That’s why it’s essential for your children to avoid sharing embarrassing or risque photos of themselves or someone else. What’s meant to be a private exchange with a romantic interest can quickly spread through the school if the recipient is not as honest as your child thinks he or she is.

Teach them to pay attention to what they say, as well. Before they put someone down or get into an argument, they need to think about what they’re typing. People can have access to those words for years.

Your Involvement

Just like you keep track of where your child goes to after school and who his friends are, you have to watch out for where your child goes and who he makes friends with online.

This isn’t always easy to do. The best approach is multi-faceted.

  • First, keep an open dialogue with your child. It’s no surprise that children don’t always share everything with their parents, but the best way to encourage it is with open, honest communication. Let your kids know it’s safe to tell you about what happens online. Make it a habit of asking questions about what your child does online, and be honest about any nosing around you might do. For example, instead of sneaking into her account, let her know from the beginning that if she wants to use a certain site or app, you have to have access to it at all times.
  • Set a great example. Watch your own online behavior, taking care not to share photos that could embarrass your child and avoid nasty arguments that result in name-calling. Ask yourself, “Would I want my child doing this? What would he think if he saw this?”
  • Stay up-to-date with the internet and social media. New apps and sites are popping up every day. When one of them starts to gain traction, you want to know about it as soon as your child does—or before. Visit the site yourself to see what it’s all about before allowing your child to access it.
  • Set guidelines for internet use. Trustworthy parental controls can make it easier for you enforce rules about which sites are off-limits and which hours of the day need to be spent away from a mobile device. You can set stricter guidelines to start, and gradually ease up as your child matures and gets more responsible.

No one said parenting in the digital age was going to be easy, but we’re all doing the best we can in this ever-evolving framework.

Group Video-Chats and Live Streaming Are the Newest Fad for Tweens and Teens

Ever since the beginning of time kids have longed for spending time with friends. But there’s a digital world out there that allows their way of communicating to be forever changing. Nowadays, kids don’t have to rely on just transmitting words or pictures when they have the options to create, share and watch live video or participate in a group video-chat. To them, it’s like live TV and just as good as personally being with their friends.

Even though these apps give teens a sense of belonging, parents need to realize there are a few things to be aware of. Many teens follow people that gain fame with live-streaming; teens are fascinated with this new technological way of being famous and some teens will host anything and everything they can about themselves through live-streaming—even a crime or their own suicide. But as horrid as that sounds, live-streaming does have a benefit since politicians and Hollywood celebs are now getting into the act; it allows tweens and teens to participate in meaningful real-time events and obtain on-site news.

So what group video-chat and live-streaming apps are popular with tweens and teens? Join us and we’ll name them and discuss what you should know about each app.

Three Group Video-Chatting AppsGroup Video Chat

Houseparty – Teens don’t have to go to each other’s houses to hang out anymore; your teen can go to the privacy of her bedroom, close her door and visit her friend on her phone. In Houseparty, a group chat can contain up to 8 people and they can set up more than one chat room. They have the ability to lock the chat to prevent others from joining and you should encourage her to do so. If they don’t lock the chat and a friend’s friend or stranger joins the group, others will be notified and have the option to disconnect from the call. With this type of app, teens want to always be connected for fear they’ll miss something; so mature content, privacy, and predators can be a problem. Here are some other things to do and be aware of:

  • Advise your teen to turn on the privacy settings whenever they are in Houseparty to keep the chats private.
  • Since this app doesn’t verify ages, anyone could “eavesdrop” and even record or take screenshots of an unlocked group chat.
  • It’s a good idea that your teen uses Houseparty within your earshot and you allow chats for family members and close friends only.

Airtime – This is more than just a group video chat app which is why tweens and teens adore it. With this app, your teen can share with their friends’ real-time pictures, videos and music from websites like Spotify and YouTube as they simultaneously video-chats or texts. Your teen also has control over the chat rooms they set up; they can insist on entrance requests, maintain a public or completely private chat room or restrict entries to friend’s friends. This sounds okay, right? It’s actually not okay. Here’s why:

  • There aren’t any content filters on the internet meaning that they can search and see anything on the web.
  • Airtime’s creators are allowed to keep anything that your teen uploads to the app and they’ll gather and share much info with third-parties.
  • Those are frightening thoughts and very good reasons to carefully read Airtime’s privacy policy!

Monkey – Teens need to have a Snapchat account to use Monkey. They like this app because its appearance is similar to Snapchat which makes it more comfortable for them to use. Monkey randomly matches your teen with users worldwide! Before connecting, your teen will view the gender, age and location of her perspective friend. Once matched, they can choose to have a 10-second video chat with that person or skip to the next match. Ten seconds isn’t very long so, if both agree, your teen can expand the chat time or add their new-found friend to Snapchat to keep chatting. You should be forewarned that:

  • When signing up, your teen will have to give their Snapchat username and password as well as their phone number.
  • It’ll also be alarming to know that Monkey’s terms and conditions say that the creators can share anything on their app with third-parties; this includes texts, posts, URLs, videos, pictures, messages, HTML’s and other material.
  • What’s even more concerning is there aren’t any parental controls and, although the legal age to use Monkey is 13, there isn’t any age verification.
  • It’s best to go over their privacy policy with a fine-toothed comb and make sure your teen understands that everything they put on the internet is visible.

Six Live-Streaming AppsLive Streaming Apps

YouNow – This very popular live-streaming app provides its own culture and celebrities from teens who like to be goofy to teens who display their own talent. What’s the good news about this app? It’s monitored and they frequently ban or block kids who swear in the comments or broadcast unsuitable content; when teens register, though, they’re provided with instructions on what will get them banned or blocked. Since it’s monitored and there are actual consequences for defiant streamers, YouNow is a bit better than most other live-streaming apps. What’s unique about this app is when your teen views a broadcast, they can buy gifts or gold bars which produces money for that streamer. Here’s what else you should know:

  • It’s important that your teen understands that they’ll be possibly spending your money and the dangers of doing so unsupervised.
  • Along with the usual hazards in live-streaming, there’s no promise that all mature stuff will be filtered out; so they may still see something you don’t want them to see.
  • Most likely they’ll be in the comfort of her bedroom when they are live-streaming. This may be nice for her but being comfy can lead to the risk of oversharing. Stress to your child that oversharing is dangerous and why; let them know what’s okay and not okay to share.

Periscope – This app, which is owned by Twitter, allows anything to be broadcasted and viewed by your teen on the internet as it happens. Yup, anything they wants—and anyone from anywhere in the world can view his broadcast too. Sounds just like live TV, right? Well, Periscope takes it one step further: using live video or text, your teen can interact with other live-streamers and follow them. When they follow a user, they’ll get a notification when that person goes live. When your teen clicks on their stream, they’ll be able to see the username which isn’t a great thing if the person your teen’s viewing is a total stranger. However, the one good thing is that your teen can’t be seen unless they turn on their camera and it’s best to urge him to leave it off. Here are some more details you’re not aware of:

  • Many live-stream broadcast apps don’t have a delay, as is the case with Periscope, and there’s no one monitoring it either.
  • If your teen does a broadcast then they may be subject to harassing and bullying comments which that may not be able to handle.
  • Your teen could possibly be exposed to streams of violence, criminal activity, sex and even suicides—which can be extremely disturbing to anyone especially a teen.
  • What’s even more unsettling is that all live-streams are automatically set to “public”. So anyone can view a broadcast and even has the option to record it—that puts a chill up your spine, doesn’t it? It’s vital that you encourage your teen to do private broadcasts only and go over stuff that they could stumble upon.

Live.me – This app promotes fame and narcissism—and says so right in its name. The leading force of Live.me is being noticed and becoming a star—a dream of many teens these days. This is why it’s so popular with not only older teens but tweens too. It’s definitely a racier, more mature culture. Your teen will be able to watch broadcasts, meet stars, interact with streamers by commenting and sending virtual coins or gifts, develop a fan base, date, stream live videos to invisible broadcasters, meet friends and play games. Other things you need to know:

  • Once your child signs up, they’ll get a notice which reminds them that sexual and violent material is forbidden and to report any issues. But that doesn’t give much comfort since it’s controlled by the users.
  • A lot of bad behavior exists on here: crude humor, racial slurs, cursing, violence, references to drugs, alcohol and smoking and sexual content (both verbal and videos).
  • The whole point to this app is for a user to get as many followers and viewers as they can; the riskier or more “entertaining” the stream, the more points they gain which means achieving a higher level. This app can certainly be addicting!
  • Live.me lures many teens into thinking they are now popular online. That false sense of security could crush any teen’s psyche. If your teen really wants to use an app like this, we encourage them to use YouNow.

Instagram, YouTube Live and Facebook – These big-name apps have all the frills teens like and now have the capability for users to live-stream to their followers. It’s not very interactive though since followers only have the options to comment, like and watch at another time or in real-time. But there are still some issues:

  • With live-streaming sexual, racy, or upsetting material can be seen by your teen. Why? Live-streaming is very hard to control. So, as you can imagine, her safety and privacy will be a huge problem.
  • Like any other teen, your teen’s always looking for approval and, on these apps, she could be encouraged to do things that they wouldn’t normally do or share personal things about herself. This is why it’s essential that both of you go over your the app’s settings and, if needed, change the access setting to “friends only”.
  • It’s also extremely important to make certain rules about watching and creating live streams, talk with them and make sure they understand the rules and why they’re in place.

Hype – Teens love this unique app for its fancy elements and the ability to add in pictures, videos, and music to their broadcasts. With this app, your teen can also view a recorded broadcast, subscribe to feeds, look at and leave stars and comments and check out when a streamer is live. They can even interact live with other viewers and delete saved streams. There are other possible dangers you need to be aware of:

  • Besides the usual hazards discussed in this blog, when signing up, they’ll have the option of creating an account or using an existing Facebook account; if they choose their Facebook account, your teen’s full name will be shown to all Hype users.
  • It’s best you recommend he create a special sign-in name.
  • The good news is if your teen is 13-18 years old, they’ll need your permission to use the app.

Solutions

If you’re going to let your teen use any of these apps, always look at the app first; read the terms and conditions and privacy policy, see what’s being broadcasted, viewed and commented. Sit down with your teen, set some ground rules and make sure they know that adults, as well as teens, might be using the app and it’s their responsibility to see that their privacy is protected. We can’t stress this enough: it’s essential that you talk about what’s okay to share in comments and videos, the dangers of oversharing, what they plan on using the app for, how to be safe online and what your teen will be viewing. But don’t stop there; stay involved; let them know you’ll be checking the app frequently to see what they’re posting and viewing. Your teen probably won’t like it, but it’s worth it to keep them safe. Additionally, it is always important to use a trust-worthy parental control software that allows you to manage screentime, block apps and block inappropriate or dangerous content!

The Misinformation Problem with YouTube and Social Media

At its best, YouTube and other social media sites are great ways to connect with friends, stay informed about current events, and learn new skills. YouTube, in particular, is well-known for how-to videos and educational chats.

But here’s the thing: anyone can start a YouTube channel or a social media profile.

And from there, they can say whatever they want.

The Spread of Misinformationmisinformation on social media

In 2015, NBC reported on the spread of false and misleading information following the attacks in Paris. Doctored photos (or photos taken at other times and claimed to have been taken following the tragic event) circulated quickly.

The year before, Time wrote about Ebola rumors that spread far faster than the virus itself:

“Following the first diagnosis of an Ebola case in the United States on Sept. 30, mentions of the virus on Twitter leapt from about 100 per minute to more than 6,000…. In Iowa the Department of Public Health was forced to issue a statement dispelling social media rumors that Ebola had arrived in the state. Meanwhile there have been a constant stream of posts saying that Ebola can be spread through the air, water, or food, which are all inaccurate claims.”

In many cases, Tweets and posts like these are from well-meaning people who want to help and protect their friends and family. Often they re-post without thinking–or, seduced by a headline, without even reading the article.

Too Smart to Fall for a Hoax?Misinformation on YouTube

We’d all like to think so, but U.S. News & World Report wrote about “…an experiment in which we learned 72 percent of college students trusted links that appeared to originate from friends – even to the point of entering personal login information on phishing sites.”

That experiment was over a decade ago. Nowadays, there’s an entire industry devoted to misleading the public: “Clickbait sites manufacture hoaxes to make money from ads, while so-called hyperpartisan sites publish and spread rumors and conspiracy theories to influence public opinion.”

The Problem With Spreading False InformationSpreading False Information on Social Media

It’s obvious, right? At best, you have a misinformed population. It starts getting worse when people make decisions based on this inaccurate information; it’s even worse when the false information induces unnecessary fear or outrage. And it’s all a giant waste of time because it’s all based on something that wasn’t true, to begin with.

The other problem is that we seem to be losing our ability to tell the difference between fact and fiction. We’re taking opinion as fact. We’re not following up with sources to ensure accuracy. This allows rumor-spreaders (and the sites devoted to it) to flourish.

All Eyes on YouTube

This article outlines a few issues that YouTube has today, and how they’re behind the curve when it comes to combating misinformation:

“In January, star YouTube vlogger Logan Paul sparked a backlash when he published a video showing the dead body of an apparent suicide victim in Japan…. That came as the company was already dealing with a series of reports revealing disturbing cartoons apparently aimed at kids…and another genre of videos depicting children in abusive situations.”

Despite hiring more moderators, quick conspiracy updates and live videos can’t be moderated quickly enough to prevent viewing and sharing.

How to Help Your Children Identify Misinformation

Adults and kids alike can benefit from a refresher course on how to identify false news stories, hoaxes, and unreliable sources.

  • Consider the Source: Teach them to look where the news is coming from. If it’s from CNN or the BBC, for example, they can probably trust it to be as close to fact as anyone is aware of at the time the story was written. If they’ve never heard of the website, it might be worth double-checking with a trusted source. They should also notice what kind of content the site regularly posts. If it promotes a specific agenda, the content may not be accurate. This applies to YouTube, as well: is the person giving nutrition advice actually a nutritionist or registered dietitian?
  • Do a Search: Snopes regularly checks up on posts and stories that fly through social media. If it seems questionable, look it up on Snopes.
  • Fact vs. Opinion: Tell your children to ask themselves, “Can this claim be proven?” If they think so, encourage them to research and find the facts that support it. If they can’t, then they know they’ve uncovered someone’s opinion floated as fact.
  • Identify Clickbait: There’s very little that’s truly “mind-blowing.” Clickbait sites regularly use headlines that indicate your life will change if you just read the article or watch the video. Headlines like, “She walks into a store, and you won’t believe what happens next” usually indicate garbage. Teach your kids to avoid clicking on those.
  • Google Image Search: A questionable photo can be dragged and dropped into the Google Image search bar, where you’ll be able to see where it originally appeared (to determine whether or not it’s related to the news piece someone says it is). Examine photos carefully for signs of editing, as well–this is even helpful on social media when your kids feel they’re not as beautiful or skinny or talented as the people they follow.
  • Share Mindfully: Your children should be encouraged to not share or re-post anything without reading it first and double-checking the accuracy of the information.
  • Correct Mistakes: Sometimes, we might accidentally share false information we truly thought was reliable. When you realize it, go back and delete the post and make a second post correcting the error.
  • Empower Your Kids: These guidelines aren’t meant to make the internet less fun for them. Instead, it’s giving them the power to stop the spread of misinformation and contribute to a more informed, thoughtful society.

Of course, it’s not just unreliable information you want your kids to avoid: it’s unsavory sites and videos, as well. This is why internet guidelines are essential. Using a trust-worthy parental control makes that easier! Keep an open line of communication about what your children find online–both real and fake. Set time limits the amount of time your children spend on the internet and block the sites and apps you don’t approve of or that your kids simply aren’t ready for.

 

Are You Really Paying Attention to What Your Child Is Doing Online?

You’re fully aware of the dangers of pornography, sexting, and bullying, and you may think that as long as your children aren’t engaged in any of that, they’re fine. We believe the best when it comes to our kids, which is why it can come as a surprise when you find out what they’ve been doing online.

“But my child would never…” you might think. Hopefully, you’re right. But they might be covering up all sorts of online activity, despite the rules you’ve set.

Shocked? Then you haven’t been paying attention.

We don’t want you to panic. But we do want you to be aware.

Kids Don’t Tell All

Your Children Don't Tell What They Do Online

Maybe you’ve laid careful ground rules about internet usage and forbidden access to certain apps. Maybe your child agreed and everything seems fine, so you haven’t followed up. However, this article by a junior high school teacher outlines the results of a little survey she took among her students. Of 85 students, 70 of them said they kept social media secrets from their parents (and five didn’t even have social accounts!).

They also finished the sentence, “What my parents don’t know about social media is…”. Some of their answers include:

  • You can buy drugs.
  • I have an account I’m not supposed to have.
  • Kids get bullied.
  • There is lots of nudity.
  • I talk to people I’m not supposed to.
  • I have a secret, fake account.
  • I’m on social media until 2:00 in the morning.

Can you say for sure that your children wouldn’t answer the same way?

They Learn About Sex

Children Learn About Sex Online

There’s a gap between sexual ignorance and pornography, and there are YouTube users who are filling that gap with sexual education.

This isn’t all bad. Some of the people who make those videos are doctors, and young adults have an opportunity to learn without feeling embarrassed or ashamed, particularly if their parents don’t maintain an open channel of communication about sex. These videos often provide a more in-depth look at sex: the physical, mental, and emotional elements as well as health and safety. Depending on your beliefs, what type of sex education is available at your child’s school, what type of relationship you have with your child, and, of course, your child’s age, this might be acceptable (or even a relief!) for you.

However, it’s still important that you know it’s happening, especially if you do want some say in how your child’s sex education is directed.

It’s Not Just Porn

Children Are Exposed To Bullying And Shaming Online

This article talks about porn on the app Musical.ly, but says that’s not the worst thing:

“The worst thing is watching little kids (as young as eight) sexually objectify themselves. The kids who get it right…gain followers. The kids who get it wrong — those not ‘sexy’ enough, funny enough, savvyy [sic] enough — are openly ridiculed in the comment section.”

The app opens children up to bullying, shaming, and worse. The author talks about the dark hashtags that are used to connect users who are interested in self-harm, eating disorders, or suicide. In her words:

“There are #killingstalking musical.lys, which are dark-themed…videos showing boys putting knives to girls’ throats. There are #selfharm videos that show suicide options — bathtubs filling, images of blades, a child’s voice saying she doesn’t want to live any more. I saw a boy with a bleeding chest (yes, real blood). I saw a young girl whose thighs were so cut up I had to take a break from writing this article.”

And that’s just one app.

What Can Parents Do?

What Can Parents Do To Protect Their Children Online?

We want to trust our kids, and at some point, we have to. However, that’s easiest when we prepare them to make good choices.

The internet isn’t going away. These apps are here to stay, at least until their popularity fades as new ones take their place. Many of them try to push the envelope to attract users, and kids are curious. They’re looking for an outlet to express the complicated feelings involved in growing up. They want validation. They want to be heard.

  • Listen. The best we can do as parents is to educate our children, and that starts with communication. Talk about what’s online, and let them know how important it is to tell you about what they see and what makes them uncomfortable. Let them know they can talk to you safely: they won’t get in trouble for telling the truth, and you won’t take any actions without discussing it with them first.
  • Educate yourself. You can’t protect them from threats you’re not aware of, so stay up-to-date about the latest apps and trends. This includes hashtags, challenges, and popular sites. Sign up for Google alerts related to social media and teenage trends: every day or week you can get a curated list of the top news articles and blogs regarding those issues.
  • Sign up for an account with any site or app your child wants to use and see what it’s like. How easy is it to set up a fake account? How easy is it to change the privacy settings? What type of material is being shared on that app, and how easy is it to find?
  • Monitor their internet use. Good quality parental controls can help you block specific sites and apps, and limit the amount of time your child can access the internet. Together with your child, set guidelines about passwords, friending and following each other, and not allowing the Internet to interfere with family time or homework. Make sure that you are checking your child’s device on a regular basis because many kids will give their parents kids the login and password for their social media accounts and turn around and make a secret account that Mom and Dad do not know about making software that “monitors” worthless. Yes, even young children do this these days!

The article that discussed Musical.ly mentions that it’s much easier to start by saying no to a site than it is to allow a social site, and then take it away from your child when you discover it’s not suitable for him or her. Start with more restrictions, and lighten up as your child grows and demonstrates maturity and responsibility.

In the end, your child makes his or her own choices, but we can still set them up for success by setting loving restrictions with trustworthy parental controls, developing their self-confidence, and guiding them toward safe and respectful choices regarding social media and the internet.

7 Apps With Hidden Dangers

While there are plenty of apps out there that you know as a parent you should have your children avoid or you can at least monitor on their behalf, others might be a little murkier. There are phone apps geared towards children and teens that can be dangerous in specific ways that you might not have even thought about. Social media apps that are geared towards children might seem innocent enough but can lead to inappropriate behavior and even bullying. Some games can have internal chat areas or sharing that you might not even be aware of as a parent. Here are seven everyday apps that you might want to keep on your radar and be wary of when your child is online or using on their phone.Hidden Dangers of Apps for Kids

What’s App

What’s App is a great way to text without using too much of your allotted cell usage or traditional texting limits. If you text with your child or family quite a bit, this can be a game changer, and is a great way for seamless communication to occur if your child is somewhere without cell service but with WiFi. What you should be doing is monitoring if their phone number and access to others is marked as private, or if their number is an open invitation for others through Facebook, which is attached to the platform. Checking your child’s contact lists and messaging within this app along with traditional texting is important.

Voxer

Voxer is a fun app for children because it turns your phone into an old-school walkie-talkie, which can be a benefit in the neighborhood, mall, or anywhere where your child will be at close range with others that they want to keep contact with in a fun way that simplifies phone usage. The thing is, Voxer doesn’t just stop with this walkie-talkie function. There are other features that might not be as harmless, such as photo exchange options and ways to share personal information. This can lead to inappropriate behavior, texts, and even bullying among kids using this app. As a parent, you can turn off location services and double-check the privacy settings before your child falls in love with this app.

Words with Friends

Did you know that the game Words with Friends has an in-game messaging component? If you didn’t, you might want to check this feature in your child’s otherwise seemingly innocent online game. Many times the discussion feature in games can be turned off so that games can continue, but discussion cannot. Words with Friends can be a fun game played between friends and family, but there is also a feature to play games with random players, which can open up communication lines with strangers that you might not be aware of or approve of.

SnapchatHidden Dangers of Popular Apps

Snapchat is a fun way for kids to dress up pictures and share with the world for a few seconds, and then these are seemingly deleted from the app for others to view. This is the app that comes up with all of the cool add-ons such as flower crowns, adding puppy faces, and even face swaps. Incredibly popular with kids, this app can also be a bad breeding ground for bullying and gossip. If children or teens don’t fully understand the concept that no picture sent through their phone is private, inappropriate or embarrassing pictures might be sent to friends and others online. Instead of these quickly disappearing, others can use the screen grab function, capture compromising photos, and share these with others without your child’s knowledge or consent.

Kik

While you’ve heard of Facebook and Instagram, there are new social networking apps popping up all of the time, and kids seem to find and adapt to these faster than others. Kik is a texting and photo sharing app, but with features that make it easy to delete or hide conversations. If your child is using Kik, it is a good idea to monitor their usages and get a good handle on how this is used and where messages and sharing occur, especially when it comes to teens seeking more privacy than you are willing to allow.

Musical.ly

Children and especially teens love music, and apps that can foster this love by bringing in the newest, popular content with options to sing and dance along can be a great interactive app for a child. While Musical.ly might sound great, there are some dangers that come with this you should review as a parent. The app itself pulls popular music, with no filter for content or language. Privacy options must be picked ahead of time to avoid your child coming in contact with anonymous uses as well. The search feature isn’t limiting and can suggest songs, some of which might have inappropriate wording your child wasn’t meaning to access.

Whisper

Whisper can be a fun app for teens to express their views, much like Twitter, but with an anonymous twist to this. The thing is, anonymity isn’t always something that protects your children. This can lead to bad behavior and even bullying by users. Anonymous messages are sent with a GPS feature and those nearby are the ones who will access this, making this private, but local at the same time, which can identify users.Boy Using App With Hidden Dangers

From unwanted discussions, bullying, to inappropriate photo sharing, ensuring your child’s safety while on their phone and using everyday apps is a must. While there are plenty of apps that are geared towards children and can be a safe platform, it is a good idea to review these yourself first to make sure there aren’t any loopholes that could put your child in danger or in contact with unsolicited photos or discussions. It is especially important to monitor the app on your child’s physical device because many children and teens may have set up secret accounts or profiles that they haven’t told you about!  Starting with a trustworthy parental control is a great way to protect your family and to make blocking and unblocking apps easy as well as managing screentime to ensure a healthy and balanced relationship with their mobile devices.

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!

After you read this post, be sure to claim your FREE TRIAL of Netsanity. No credit card required. You can instantly block Houseparty and 60+ other apps. Click to open sign up page. >> Claim My Free Trial Now

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.