Category Archives: Cyber Bullying
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.

Are Smartphones Damaging This Generation’s Mental Health?

It’s been clear for a while: this generation isn’t like the others. Parents are working to raise their children in an environment quite unlike the one they experienced growing up. However, so much of the conversation about generational differences is still focused on millennials and how they’re disrupting everything from traditional employment to restaurant offerings. Maybe we haven’t been focusing enough on today’s teens and, specifically, their mental health.

In October, Time reported that “Between 2010 and 2016, the number of adolescents who experienced at least one major depressive episode leaped by 60%.” Meanwhile, teen suicide rates have been steadily climbing, with the rate among girls reaching a 40-year high in 2015. What gives? Why is this generation especially prone to mental illness?

According to this new study, the smartphone could be to blame.

Examining the EvidenceDo Smartphones Damage Mental Health?

About 77 percent of Americans have a smartphone, up from 35 percent in 2011. Among teenagers, 73 percent had access to a smartphone as of 2015. In this article, study author Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, wrote:

“… increases in depression, suicide attempts and suicide appeared among teens from every background – more privileged and less privileged, across all races and ethnicities and in every region of the country….smartphone ownership crossed the 50 percent threshold in late 2012 – right when teen depression and suicide began to increase.”

But what about economic issues or academic pressure? Researchers considered those potential causes but ruled them out: 2010 and the following years featured economic growth and low unemployment, and careful study revealed that teens were spending the same amount of time on homework as they had in previous years.

Though excessive internet use has been linked to depression and anxiety for a while, the reverse has also been considered: perhaps people who are depressed spend more time online. Twenge writes,

“The argument…doesn’t also explain why depression increased so suddenly after 2012. Under that scenario, more teens became depressed for an unknown reason and then started buying smartphones, which doesn’t seem too logical.”

Furthermore, this isn’t the only study to point to screen time as the culprit for the increase in teen depression. The article mentions three other studies (you can see them herehere, and here), all of which indicated that social media use has a negative effect on well-being.

Why It’s a Problem (Even If Your Teen Doesn’t Seem Depressed)How Can Smartphones Damage Mental Health?

Depression and suicide are complicated problems that may have complicated causes. Genetics, home environment, past traumas, and bullying can all contribute to anxiety and depression. The smartphone may not be the only contributing factor to a mental health issue, but it could be the one that pushes a teen who is at risk over the edge.

Twenge also points out two concerns regarding excessive smartphone use, both of which could contribute to depression and other issues like poor academic performance, irritability, and poor decision-making skills:

Lack of SleepWhy Smartphones Damage Mental Health

Teens may stay up late or even wake up in the middle of the night to check their phones. Part of this is FOMO (the fear of missing out): they want to make sure they’re in constant contact with their friends and fully aware of whatever is going on. They might also play games, edit photos, chat, or browse social media profiles.

This CBS News article says that late-night smartphone use not only replaces sleep, the content stimulates the child’s brain and the light from the screen suppresses melatonin, making it more likely he or she will have trouble falling asleep even after the phone gets put away for the night.

Not getting enough sleep can lead to forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, lowered alertness, poor reasoning skills and impaired judgment, health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure, weight gain, and, of course, depression.

Less Real-World InteractionWays Smartphones Damage Mental Health

As kids and teens spend more time online, they spend less time with their friends and in nature. Unfortunately, “Feeling socially isolated is also one of the major risk factors for suicide.” A strong real-life social network boosts immunity and helps you sleep well.

Meanwhile, spending time outdoors can relieve stress, improve your ability to concentrate, increase your energy levels, boost your immune system, and improve your mood. Involvement in music, sports, martial arts, dance, and other activities get teens away from the smartphones for a while and give them an opportunity to develop a skill they might use for the rest of their lives.

Even if your teen’s depression doesn’t lead to something as tragic as suicide, it doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll “grow out of it” or manage to heal herself. Depression isn’t imaginary and it’s not merely teenage drama. Mental health is as important as physical health; depression is something that can impact your child’s self-esteem, social life, and decision-making, and it could follow him into adulthood.

Signs of DepressionInformation On How Smartphones Might Damage Mental Health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises watching your child for these signs of depression:

  • Disinterest in enjoyable activities.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits.
  • Changes in energy level.
  • Ongoing irritability or feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
  • Difficulty focusing and paying attention.
  • Feeling useless.
  • Self-harm and other self-destructive behavior.

Protecting Your Teen’s Mental Health

First, do what you can to encourage a healthy lifestyle for your child, both physically and mentally. Of course, given the many factors that may contribute to depression, you may not be able to prevent depression. However, there are a few things you can do:

  • Boost His Self-Esteem: Help him get involved in activities that interest him, and celebrate his improvements and successes.
  • Manage Stress: Acknowledge the pressures of school and social life, and help her explore ways to manage that stress: yoga, exercise, time in nature, time with pets, or anything else she finds relaxing.
  • Promote a Healthy Lifestyle: Proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise can help prevent a wide variety of health issues, including depression.
  • Limit Screen Time: As the evidence piles up, we can’t ignore the connection between screen time and depression. As Twenge writes, “…the downside to limiting screen time…is minimal. In contrast, the downside to doing nothing – given the possible consequences of depression and suicide – seems, to me, quite high.” With that in mind, use trustworthy parental controls to disable the internet when you don’t want your teen to be online. Limit their use to just a couple of hours per day if you wanted, or simply block their social apps at night to help ensure a good night’s sleep while still allowing to listen to music. As an added bonus, you can block sites that are especially damaging to self-esteem (like those that allow users to determine how pretty or ugly someone is) or that you deem inappropriate.

If your child does exhibit signs of depression, it’s important to seek professional help.

 

 

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.
Teens and Sexting

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

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

The Prevalence of SextingTeens And Sexting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protecting Your TeenagersHow To Protect Your Teen | Netsanity

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

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

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

Keeping Up With “Generation App”

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

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

Teens Spend a Lot of Time OnlineGeneration App

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family Rules…and Arguments

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

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

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

Online Safety

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

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

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

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

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

How to Use This Information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LikesLike - Facebook like button: How Teens Use Social Media

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

FlirtingEmojis - How Teens Use Social Media

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

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

GhostingGhosting - Teens Use Social Media Different

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

Roasting  Teens May Use Social Media to Bully - Roasting

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

Monitor How Teens Use Social Media Using Parental Controls

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

Online Shaming: What Can Parents Do?

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

Document Shaming or BullyingDocument Online Shaming | Netsanity

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

Communicate With Your KidsCommunicate With Your Kids About Online Bullying

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

Get Help When You Need ItHelp With Online Shaming Issues

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

Remove Platforms Used for Bullying

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

The Dangers for Children on Social Media

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

Pornography

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

Predators

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

Cyberbullying

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

Low Self-Esteem

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

Protecting Your Child

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

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

Middle School Suicide: A Growing Problem

In recent years there has been an increase in youth suicides, especially children of middle school age. While suicide is a complicated issue with a variety of causes, there have been a disturbing number of cases connected to bullying, especially online and social media bullying.

Let’s look at how parents and other adults can help to prevent middle school suicide.
Youth Suicide - A Growing Problem | Netsanity

Suicide is always a tragedy but even more so when young people take their own lives. Between 2007 and 2014, the suicide rate doubled for children between 10 and 14, which is the age when kids are in middle school or junior high school. There are no simple explanations for why anyone, including youths, decides to take their own lives. Contributing factors may include clinical depression, academic pressure, and family problems. There have also been many well-publicized cases of kids committing suicide as a result of bullying. While bullying is hardly new, one thing that’s different for this generation of middle-schoolers is the prevalence of smart phones and social media, which play a central role in the social lives of young people. While there are undeniable benefits to the internet, social media, and digital devices, these can also be used as an instrument of bullying and abuse.Preventing Youth Suicide During Middle School Years | Netsanity

On the surface, it might seem that online or social media bullying is a less serious issue than old-fashioned offline bullying. After all, you can’t physically assault someone online. The psychological effects of online bullying, however, can be at least as devastating as anything that’s inflicted on children in person. For one thing, there’s no escape from it. At least with traditional bullying, kids are safe at home. When their tormentors are online, however, there are no more safe places. People today, including children, are active on multiple channels and platforms. Thus, it’s now possible to bully someone on many fronts, such as via text, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.Youth Suicide Statistics

Another factor is that the internet makes some bullies braver. Just as some adults become more abusive and brazen online, the same is true for children and teens. The internet also makes it possible to attack others anonymously, under aliases. Another unfortunate reality is that online and traditional bullying aren’t mutually exclusive. In many cases, victims of cyberbullying are also targeted offline. Thus, the internet is yet another way for bullies to pursue their victims.

How to Protect Children: Suicide Prevention

Fortunately, most middle schoolers, even ones who have problems with bullying, aren’t at risk for suicide. However, it’s important for parents to watch for warning signs and to do everything they can to protect their kids. Here are some ways you can do this.

  • Sudden changes in behavior such as anger or social withdrawal, lower grades, or a lack of interest in activities they previously enjoyed are some common symptoms of bullying or mental health issues. Never ignore such warning signs. Make sure your children know they can talk to you. If there’s a serious problem, it’s also helpful to have him or her talk to a counselor or child psychologist.
  • If you know that your child is a victim of bullying, talk to a teacher or the principal. Make sure that the school takes the issue seriously, even if you have to contact them several times. In some cases, parents take legal action against schools that don’t prevent bullying. This is the last resort, but it’s worth considering if the school isn’t doing enough to remedy the situation.
  • Monitor your child’s online behavior. Set privacy settings on social media sites to prevent strangers (or people using aliases)  from posting on your child’s pages and timelines. If there’s an issue with cyberbullying, it’s often best to limit online and social media activity for a while. Trustworthy parental controls can also help make it easier to keep your family safer online.

Youth Suicide Statistics

  • Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24. (2015 CDC WISQARS)
  • More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
  • Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 3,470 ATTEMPTS by young people grades 9-12.  If these percentages are additionally applied to grades 7 & 8, the numbers would be higher.
  • FOUR out of FIVE teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs
  • The Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System (YRBS) is a survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that includes national, state, and local school-based representative samples of 9th through 12th grade students. The purpose is to monitor priority health risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems among youth in the United States.

*© 2017 Jason Foundation Inc.

 

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

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

(Urban Dictionary)

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

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

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

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

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

No End in Sight

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Can You Do Now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safer Homeschooling: Don’t Forget the Parental Controls

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

Excessive screen timeSafe Homeschooling

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

Inappropriate and Graphic MaterialSafer Homeschooling

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

Social Media OverloadSocial Media & Homeschooling

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

Other Options to Consider

What about their smartphones?

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

What if I’m being too restrictive?

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

Today’s Teens Seek Approval Online

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

Teens and Online ApprovalTeenagers and Online Approval | Netsanity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empowering Your KidsEmpowering Your Kids | Netsanity

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

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

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

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

Are Messaging Apps and Texting Ruining Real Relationships?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sneaky Cyberbullying

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

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

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

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

Gaming HarassmentHarassment Through Gaming Can Be Form of Cyberbullying

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

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

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

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

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

Silent Cyberbullyinggirl-saddened-by-cyberbullying

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

Is This Really Bullying?

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

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

What Can You Do About Cyberbullying?

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

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

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

Boys at Risk: 3 Social Media Hazards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Body Image RisksCyberbullying and Social Media Risks among Boys 2017

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

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

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

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

Some of the most critical warning signs may include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digital Addiction

Smartphones and Kids | Netsanity

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

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

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

Exposure to PornographyKids Are Exposed to Pornography on Smartphones | Netsanity

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

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

CyberbullyingKids Might Use Smartphones to Cyberbully or Get Bullied | Netsanity

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

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

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

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

Physical HarmPhysical Dangers of Smartphones | Netsanity

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

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

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

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

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

Solutions

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

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

 

 

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Are Teens Turning Into Smartphone Junkies?

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

How Much Time Do Teens Spend on Their Smartphones?

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

Are Mobile Devices Really Addictive?

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

Dangers of Smartphone and Social Media Addiction

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

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

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

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

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

How Can Parents Protect Teens?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Messaging Apps That Parents Should Be Aware Of

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

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

Anonymous Messaging Sites and Apps

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

Kik Messenger

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

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

Whisper

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

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

Ask.fm

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

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

Yik Yak

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

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

Omegle

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

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

Temporary Messaging Apps

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

Snapchat

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

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

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

Line

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

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

Solutions For Parents

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

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

Ensuring Your Child’s Social Media is Age-Appropriate

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

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

Setting Age Limits

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

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

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

Parental Controls and Filters

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

Communication

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

Supervision

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

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

Perform Periodic Safety Checks

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

“Follow” their social media account

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

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

Snapchat Parent’s Review

Snapchat…A Parent’s Review

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

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

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

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

Disappearing “Snaps”

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

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

Sexting

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

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

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

The “Letter X Game” And Cyberbullying

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

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

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

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

Solutions:

How can parents monitor Snapchat?

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

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

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

5 Uncomfortable Facts About Instagram Every Parent Should Know

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

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

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

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

#5 – Age Requirements

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

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

What else? 

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

 #4 – “Hidden” Settings

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

Let’s look together under the Instagram settings icon

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


And probably the one of the most important settings…

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

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

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

#3 – The Ugly

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

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

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

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

 #2 – Instagram Direct

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

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

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

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

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

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

Try this:

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

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

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

Safer Internet Day 2017: Tips to Keep Your Family Safe

Safer Internet Day 2017 #SID2017

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

Safer Internet Day 2017 | Netsanity | #SID2017

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

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

SID2017 - Safer Internet Day Tips 2017 | Netsanity

Tech Talk

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

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

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

Cyberbullying

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

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

Signs of cyberbullying vary, but some signs may include:

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

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

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

Screentime

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

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

Privacy

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

Be Involved

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

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

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

Reputation

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

Safeguard

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

Here are some additional actions to consider:

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

Solutions

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

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

The Most Popular Apps for Teens and Tweens

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

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

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

Instagram

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

Pros:

  • Good privacy features

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

  • Easy accessibility

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

Cons:

  • Stranger danger

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

Twitter

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

Pros:

  • Easy way to connect with others

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

  • Fast way to find news

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

Cons:

  • Damaged self-esteem

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

  • Damaging conversations and bullying

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

Facebook

Facebook | NetSanity

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

Pros:

  • Relatively good privacy

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

  • Good accountability

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

  • Facebook Messenger

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

Tumblr

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

Pros:

  • Creative outlet

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

  • Connectivity and new relationships

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

Cons:

  • Porn and explicit material

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

  • Lack of privacy

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

Snapchat

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

Pros:

  • Easy accessibility and social connections

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

  • Relative privacy

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

Cons:

  • Lack of accountability

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

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

Teen Peer Pressure and Social Media in the Digital Age

Teen Peer Pressure

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

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

Drugs

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

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

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

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

Sexting

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

Nothing is Private

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

The Competition

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

Real Life Pressure

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

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

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

Teens Face Peer Pressures Daily | Netsanity

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

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

Thanksgiving: A Great Time to Teach Online Kindness

Thanksgiving is the time of year when everyone focuses on being thankful for the blessings that they’ve been given. It’s also the true beginning of the holiday season, when kindness is more common than ever before. When your kids were young, you might have looked for chances to count their blessings, list the things that they’re thankful for, or bestow blessings on others. This Thanksgiving, try focusing on something else: online kindness.

Cyberbullying Is Still On the Rise

Kids can be cruel, especially when they feel the need to fit in and are afraid that they aren’t. When they’re protected by the anonymity of a screen, it can be difficult for teens and tweens to understand the real-life consequences associated with simple comments. From roasting, when a group of kids get together to say as many bad things as possible about a single individual, to outright bullying that is specifically intended to be unkind, cyberbullying is becoming increasingly common. Teach your kids to be different! Take the chance this season to discuss:

  • How they would feel if they were the victims of cyberbullying
  • Why their behavior needs to be different–even if friends and peers are joining in
  • Why roasting isn’t a joke

Encouraging Kindness

thanksgiving-online

The opposite of bullying is kindness–and learning to behave kindly, especially online, can be a process for many kids. This Thanksgiving, try encouraging your child to find opportunities to be kind online. This could include:

  • Finding something nice to say about someone, especially someone that they would normally be unkind to.
  • Taking the opportunity to stop online bullying, including calling out the offenders, instead of joining in.
  • Befriending and engaging in conversation someone your child might not ordinarily talk to.
  • Starting an online wave of kindness: say something nice to someone, then encourage them to take it the next step further and be kind to someone else. Compliment someone you wouldn’t ordinarily compliment and challenge them to spread that wave of kindness.
  • Be encouraging to a friend or classmate that they know is having a hard time, from sending an encouraging text to posting an encouraging message on their wall.

Online Etiquette

Many teens and tweens fail to realize just how difficult it can be to interpret things that are typed, rather than said aloud. While they might obsess for hours over what a friend “really meant” by a text, they might have more trouble understanding why their words have been misinterpreted. For this reason, understanding appropriate online etiquette should also include a discussion of a few basic principles.

  • If a post makes your child feel uncomfortable or they think there’s another way it could be taken, they should avoid it.
  • If a post is cruel to anyone, including both broad groups of people and specific individuals, it shouldn’t be shared.
  • No one should be singled out or subjected to stereotyping.
  • While sensitive discussions can be undertaken online, it’s important that all participants are on the same page and that these discussions are held sensitively.
  • Kindness is always preferable to a snarky or sarcastic answer–even if it’s the answer that would be given aloud.

happy-thanksgiving-netsanity

It’s time to take back the internet and start encouraging kindness again–and your teens and tweens can be at the front of the movement! Talk to your child regularly about how they should behave online, including the types of behavior that could potentially be hurtful to others. Even the best-intentioned teen can occasionally make a mistake with their posts. If you teach yours to be mindful, you’ll be able to decrease the odds that they’ll be the one hurting another child. Need more tips for keeping your child and others safe online? Visit Netsanity online today and follow us on social media! We all hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving online and off!

Roasting: Is It Glorified Bullying?

Sometimes, it seems difficult to keep up with all the forms of bullying your child can be exposed to. The latest craze sweeping through many teenage circles is roasting, a cyberbullying trend that has many parents in an uproar. Understanding roasting and how it has the potential to impact teens and tweens is one critical step in monitoring your child’s online behavior.

What Is Roasting?

A roast is a form of bullying that is often mistaken for humor between friends. Many teens and tweens see it as simply another form of the banter that takes place at school or via text. During a “roast,” however, several individuals–often girls, who are more likely to engage in verbal bullying–gang up on another individual in an effort to mock them. In many cases, roasting continues until the individual “cracks” or has a meltdown as the insults reach increasingly higher levels.

Most teens and tweens don’t recognize roasting as a form of bullying. Instead, they see it as a continuation of normal behavior. They’ll insist that it’s “all in good fun” or that the victim “doesn’t mind.” In some cases, the victim may even have started the roast, putting out a picture and asking for people to roast them.

roasting-bullying
The Gender Bias of Roasting

In many cases, girls are more likely than boys to participate in roasting. Often, girls will band together in an effort to seem cool or in control. Their preferred target is often–but not necessarily–a boy. This bias continues through memes and other types of media posted by girls and their friends as increasing numbers of them join in on the so-called fun. Girls are highly competitive with one another. When they begin this negative behavior, they’ll often try to one-up one another, coming up with increasingly negative comments and jokes.

This gender bias, however, doesn’t mean that girls are the only perpetrators or that boys are the only victims. Girls can roast other girls, boys can roast girls; anyone can be a victim of roasting. It’s important that parents recognize that their children have the potential to be either bully or victim in order to understand the risks associated with this behavior.

Is Roasting Really Harmful?

If it’s just a bunch of kids having fun together, roasting can’t be that bad, right? Many parents may at first overlook this type of behavior, assuming that the kids are just joking with each other. Unfortunately, roasting can be incredibly harmful to kids. What one child intends as a harmless joke may hit another one way too hard. Other children will choose to pretend to ignore the behavior in an effort to appear cool. Meanwhile, internally, it’s causing damage. Cyberbullying is becoming an increasingly common cause of depression, self-harming behaviors, and even suicide among teens and tweens–and that means that, good-intentioned or not, roasting behavior can not be condoned.

roasting-glorified-bullying

Watching for Warning Signs

Any time one group of teens or tweens gangs up on another, especially if a group gangs up on a single person, it’s a good indication that the behavior needs to stop. These days most “roasting” takes place online.  It’s often done among friends, so parents can’t rely on the sudden appearance of an unfamiliar individual on their children’s social media pages to key them in to trouble. If you suspect that your child is engaging in roasting, don’t wait for it to get out of hand. Instead, sit down and have a conversation with your child about appropriate online behavior and the risks associated with roasting–including why it’s not “all in good fun.”

Keeping your child safe online, monitoring their online behaviors, and teaching them to become positive online citizens can feel like a full-time job.  It makes most every parent nervous when their teens are exposed to the pressure and drama of using certain types of social media.  Your first reaction might be to just ban your tweens and teenagers from downloading apps like Instagram or Snapchat, it’s important to remember that they have positive aspects as well. Sooner or later, teens will need to learn how to navigate the online world responsibly. That’s why it’s a good idea to sometimes allow access to various apps, but to keep an open and ongoing conversation on the subject. We recommend monitoring on a regular basis by having spot checks on the actual mobile device itself because it is easy for teens to set up  a second secret account that they have not given parents access to. 

Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children of all ages are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services like their Appblocker for both Apple iOS and Android Samsung devices is a must have. With one-click, you can block more than 50 previously profiled, internet-based apps if you find them inappropriate or you just want your child to take a break from them. If you have a Samsung device, you can also disable any app instantly! Additionally, parents can set a timeout allowing your teens to take a much needed break from their devices to finish homework on spend quality time with their family!

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

The Bright Side of Social Media

With all the potential detriments to social media, many parents may wonder if they should limit their children’s exposure to it entirely. In some cases, they may enact strict rules specifically designed to keep their children off of social media. The reality, however, is that social media has a good side. When used correctly and monitored properly, social media can have a number of benefits for teens and tweens, especially those who might feel socially awkward in person or struggle to interact with their peers face to face.

building-connections

Building Connections

Many teens are choosing to use social media to build connections, not only with the people they interact with every day, but with individuals across the world who can encourage and mentor them in their chosen goals. They might develop a relationship with a former graduate of their college or university with connections that can help them get in, meet someone who can offer the tools they need to increase their knowledge of their future careers, or simply take the chance to chat with people who share their activities and interests. These connections help enhance many teens’ lives in a way that they wouldn’t have been able to experience before social media.

Sharing Experiences

Very few people make it through their teenage years without that crushing feeling of isolation and loneliness, the sensation that they’re never going to fit in or that there’s something “wrong” with them that isn’t wrong with their peers. Through social media outlets, however, many teens and tweens are able to see how their peers have creatively expressed those feelings. This can help decrease feelings of isolation and even give them the courage to reach out when they’re feeling negative. Through YouTube, Instagram, and other creative outlets, kids are even given the freedom to more fully express those emotions in acceptable ways.

Increasing Awareness

All the anti-bullying and mental health awareness campaigns in the world aren’t going to offer kids the same awareness as seeing those same awareness campaigns on their favorite social media channels. Many popular outlets, from YouTube channels that are followed by millions to Tumblr pages that are seats of discussion forbright-side-social-media
countless teens and tweens, are choosing to use their power positively to increase awareness about real issues and encourage their viewers to be treated before issues become more serious. Awareness about mental health challenges is one of the first steps to removing the stigma attached to it and offering kids the support they need in order to get treatment.

Anonymous Opportunity

Many social media platforms aren’t just designed for expression among the people a teen knows personally. There are many platforms specifically dedicated to giving teens an opportunity to talk: to share their negative feelings with someone who can help them work through them, all without the need to identify themselves or bring that discussion back to their everyday lives. This anonymous opportunity is exactly what many teens need to overcome thoughts of suicide, depression, and anxiety. It can be the catalyst they need to stop cutting or to acknowledge that they need to reach out to someone in their real lives and get help. These platforms are supporting many teens and tweens in their mental health journeys.

 

social-media-good

Final Thoughts

Social media might have its dark side, but the reality is, most teens and tweens are choosing to use it positively. For many, it’s an incredible connection to mentors, peers, and others outside their computer screens. The key for most parents is simply finding balance: controlling social media access and monitoring it in order to ensure that their children are among the ones using it appropriately.

When setting goals to keep your kids and teens balanced and safe from dangerous content and apps on their mobile device us parents have  a lot to consider because most parental control apps and “safe routers” are easy for kids to circumvent. These days, it is critical to not be lax about what your kids and teens are doing on their mobile devices and it is crucial to be proactive. Allowing unfiltered internet in your home and on your kid’s smartphones, can be dangerous. It is in their nature to test your limits and be curious. As parents it is our  job is to make sure they stay safe and don’t make bad choices which can harm them for years to come. One trustworthy parental control that prides itself in not being easily defeatable by even the most tech-savvy teens is Netsanity. They offer a suite of services for parents. For instance, their appblocker for Apple iOS mobile devices is a must have. With one click, you can block more than 50 previously profiled, internet-based apps that you find inappropriate. If you have a Samsung device, you can disable any app instantly!

What Are Teens Doing Online?

Teens view smartphones and tablets as naturally as previous generations did telephones and TVs

In previous generations, the stereotype of the teenager spending every hour away from school on the phone or in front of the TV was prevalent. The advent of the Internet and hand-held smartphones has changed the technology of these remote interactions and, if anything, exacerbated the problem of teens being hooked into the electronic communications network to the exclusion of what their parents might consider living real lives.

CNN recently reported on a study by Common Sense Media that teenagers spend a mind blowing nine hours a day using media for enjoyment, generally on their smartphones and tablets. Tweens spend six hours a day doing the same thing. They watch TV, videos, movies, play video games, read websites and eBooks, and, especially, check up on social media.

The reason is not hard to understand. The new electronic devices are not only portable and convenient but gather into one piece of technology what a number of appliances, many of them large and clunky, used to do. Moreover, tweens and teens have never lived in a world where interacting with the universe from a device in the palm of his or her hand was not common.

The lives of children in cyberspace

What are teens doing online? According to the Harvard Medical School, Marion Underwood of the University of Texas and Robert Faris of the University of California, Davis, on behalf of CNN, conducted a study of 216 eighth graders from eight middle schools in Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Virginia and how they interacted with media. They installed software on their electronic devices and they and their parents filled out questionnaires. The researchers came to a number of conclusions, some of them sobering.

13-year-old children are heavy users of social media

Most of the children in the study used Instagram, with Twitter and Facebook running distant seconds. The teenagers in the study posted four times a week on the average. Most of their activity consists of watching and reading what others are doing rather than interacting on social media.

Why do teenagers spend so much time online?

The study suggests that teenagers spend so much time online for fear of missing out, especially on the latest gossip, especially if it is about them. Most teens view popularity with great importance, and social media is used as a barometer in order to gauge how popular teenagers are. The children who check social media frequently want to know what is being posted about them, how many tags and likes they get, and whether they are being excluded socially. Teens who lurk a long time on social media tend to have the most social and self-esteem issues. Teens who are using social media to enhance their popularity and feel they are not getting enough recognition tend to be the most anxious.

Naturally, this use of social media tends to lead to conflict. 42 percent of the survey reported having an online fight, most likely with a friend, at least once a month. Taking to the extreme, these kinds of conflicts can lead to cyberbullying, in which children use social media to pick on and humiliate a peer. Some instances of cyberbullying have led to suicides.

Parents are struggling to keep up

Just as in previous generations, parents have a difficult time keeping up with what their children are doing. They tend to underestimate some of the negative aspects of online interactions.

Conclusion

Despite the findings of the study, teens reported that their online interactions were mostly positive. The Internet and social media are, after all, technological tools that enhance the ability of teens to make friends and explore their environment. The trick is for parents to become more engaged with their children and more aware of their online lives. When this happens, the interactions teens have on the Internet tend to be more positive.

Solutions

online-dating

When setting a plan to keep you teens balanced and safe from dangerous content and apps on their mobile device us parents have  a lot to consider because most parental control apps and “safe routers” are easy for kids to circumvent. These days, it is critical to not be lax about what your kids and teens are doing on their mobile devices and it is crucial to be proactive. Allowing unfiltered internet in your home and on your kid’s smartphones, can be dangerous. It is in their nature to test your limits and be curious. As parents it is our  job is to make sure they stay safe and don’t make bad choices which can harm them for years to come. One trustworthy parental control that prides itself in not being easily defeatable by even the most tech-savvy teens is Netsanity.

Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children and teens are exposed to is a good first step. Netsanity offers a suite of services for parents. For instance, their appblocker for Apple iOS mobile devices is a must have. With one click, you can block more than 50 previously profiled, internet-based apps that you find inappropriate. They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your kids have Apple devices. An Android for Samsung version is due out in October!

Family Dinners: A National Movement

The Family Dinner Project is a national initiative that grew out of Harvard University’s think-tank in the Department of Education. The project’s creator, Shelly London, developed a “multifaceted, multimedia program designed to promote ethical thinking among pre-teens, teens and the adults in their lives”. 

Ms. London is not alone in recognizing the importance of shared mealtime to the health of the family as a unit. Educators and physicians alike recognize the physical and mental benefits gained from eating together. This is easier recognized than remedied. Families with two working parents, single parent households, and the over-committed social schedules of our children all make family time problematic, but not impossible.

Sharing a meal is a simple activity that involves all of our senses. The food feeds the body, the conversation feeds the mind and the feeling of belonging to a unit feeds the soul.

A father with sons, two twin teenage boys cooking meat on barbecue for summer family dinner at the backyard of the house

Simple fact – eating at home means we are all more likely to consume healthier foods. When we put some thought into planning a family meal we include seasonal fruits and vegetables,more grains, lean protein and considerably less fat .The more time we spend eating at home, the less time we spend grabbing calorie-laden meals on the run.

When the entire family has a daily meal together communication skills flourish. Parents and children become more connected with each conversation. This time gives the opportunity to share ideas, ideals, and values. Family members can learn a lot about each other by using topical conversation starters such as:

  1. If you were given a million dollars to give to a charity which one would you choose?
  2. When you wake up in the morning what is the first thing you think about?
  3. Is it ok to reveal a secret to protect someone?
  4. What is your favorite family tradition?

Family laughing around a good meal in kitchen

Conversation starters like these,thought provoking, stimulating and appropriate for all age levels can be found the “Family Dinner Box of Questions”.    Unfortunately, the company that manufactured this set(the Box Girls)went out of business earlier this year, but the collection is still widely available.

Some suggestions for getting everyone to the table:

  • No exceptions, no excuses: Make Family Dinner Night a non-negotiable priority. Set a day and time and stick to it.
  • Baby steps: Ease into the concept. Begin with one or two nights, and then step back and evaluate the progress. Who knows, this could possibly be the new normal.
  • No tech at the table: Make the experience be about interaction with each other. Ban any and all technology-smartphones, iPads, tablets, and television become distractions. Turn them off.
  • Have fun: Maybe allow each family member to take a  turn selecting a menu, or preparing the meal. Have theme nights. Find ethnic recipes and try new foods. Even order takeout, since we don’t always have the energy at the end of a busy day to cook!

Family meals instill togetherness and help children feel more secure. Meal time is quality time,and is time well spent. The opportunities to foster self-worth, inject core values and offer encouragement and motivation abound around the dinner table.

Happy lovely family eating pizza

When we openly acknowledge the importance of family meal time, and outline our expectations, our children will follow suit. This time spent together is a powerful tool in reducing the possibility of high risk behaviors in our young people.

Bringing back family dinner is a mechanism to strengthen the ties that bind parents and children. While all of the problems we experience in our daily lives most certainly can not, and will not, be solved over a shared meal, it is a good start. It is always easier to help your family maintain balance with their mobile devices when you use a mobile parental control software. This is true especially around mealtime, and in a restaurant while waiting for your food to arrive.

Netsanity has a suite of mobile parental control services like their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly around dinner and other important times to ensure that your children and teens enjoy this important time with their family, uninterrupted. If your children and teens habitually feel the need to check up on their friends activity, via a favorite app like Instagram, Netsanity’s Appblocker can be a parent’s best friend. You may restrict that app during mealtime, for example, and avoid the temptation for them to check their smartphone. Netsanity offers a free trial for their monthly plans, so its worth checking out!

Teens Confess to Smartphone Addiction

It’s one thing when parents start to wonder whether or not their kids are addicted to their smartphones. After all, they take them with them everywhere, check them regularly whether they’re giving alerts or not, and often find themselves experiencing what appear to be symptoms of withdrawal when they’re grounded or otherwise deprived of their phones for a period of time. When teens start admitting for themselves that they’re struggling with smartphone addiction, however, it’s past time to stand up and take notice.

By the Numbers

Recent reports show that smartphone usage–and smart phone addiction–is on the rise. Three out of four teenagers have their own smart phones. Once they have them, the usage begins. They carry them in their backpacks, shove them in their pockets, and take them along to school, to work, and to events with friends. Smartphones do offer benefits to teens. They make it easier for them to get in touch with their parents to discuss any change of plans that might occur, allow them to check movie times in a matter of seconds, and permit them a way to get in touch with members of the group who have wandered away. Unfortunately, teens aren’t just using their phones for that. Even when they’re with friends, they’re scrolling social media accounts, playing games, and checking their apps. Many teens may be spending more time with their phones than they are seeing people in person, and they admit it: fifty percent of teens acknowledge that they feel addicted to their smart phones.

Smartphones in Schools

Group of teenage boys and girls ignoring each other while using their cell phones at schoolWhen “cell” phones first appeared on the market, most schools simply didn’t allow them. If they were turned on during the school day and made a sound that a teacher recognized or if a student had them out during class, they were immediately taken away. Repeated infractions would lead to a parent needing to come pick up the phone from school. As smartphones have become increasingly common, however, even schools are showing more leniency–and some schools even encourage their use. Students in many schools are allowed to use their phones in hallways and at lunch time. In other schools, smartphones are

group of young students studying in the classroom with tablet

permitted out in the classroom as long as they aren’t actively engaged in learning time. Still others encourage students to use their smartphones for research or in-class games. As smartphones fill even more schools, many students may struggle with feelings of addiction more than ever. Making the use of parental controls is crucial in today’s world. One that I always recommend is Netsanity. Netsanity is a non-app cloud software that parents can trust because it cannot be easily defeated like most apps or “safe” routers can. Check it out  if your child has an Apple mobile device (Android is coming soon).

One of the cool features for school use that Netsanity has, is a feature called safewifi. It allows parents to enable their child’s device to work more seamlessly with their school’s Wifi network. Safewifi temporarily disables Netsanity’s VPN when a child enters a school that uses their own wifi-security and content filtering. This only affects the internet, keeping intact all of Netsanity’s other restrictions. Once they leave the school, Netsanity’s VPN automatically launches, protecting them once again.

Battling Smartphone Addiction

If you have a teenager who feels that their smartphone is taking over, appropriate management is critical. Waiting until your teenager is already addicted to their phone may mean that you’re already behind the game. Instead, start by implementing restrictions on smartphones use as soon as you hand one to your child. Let them know that their smartphone is intended primarily as a communication device, not for entertaining them during every dull moment. Keep tight restrictions on the amount of data that they are able to use.Teenage students ignoring each other while using their cell phones at school

It’s also important to keep tabs on what your child is doing with their smartphone time. Excessive time on Facebook and other social media sites can increase feelings of depression and even contribute to feelings of isolation. Monitor your child’s texts and social media accounts regularly to ensure that social interaction is positive and not leading to more problems.

Options

Students who spend more time engaged in activities are also less likely to experience symptoms of smartphone addiction. Look for ways to engage your teen in activities outside of school, from participating in sports and clubs to meeting up with friends to engage in other social activities. While it may not be possible to completely erase your teen’s smartphone usage, you can help reduce the odds of smartphone addiction and help your teen to be a more successful individual.

Keeping solid rules for your child’s technology use is the best way to ensure a productive, well-rounded child or teen. As you develop solid guidelines, you’ll discover that your child spends less time on their devices and more time in the “real” world. As I previously mentioned,  Netsanity has a suite of services that parents can count on! It can be used regularly to ensure that your family enjoy other activities or if you feel like they need a healthy break.

4 Reasons Parental Controls Are Critical for Your Family

To our beloved readers, after you read this, go here to get your 4 free “Digital Parenting” guides + 5th bonus guide and discount code. Limited time.

Many parents fail to realize just how critical parental controls are for keeping their children safe online. After all, they’re typically very open in their discussions about what material is and is not appropriate for them to view. They often think that they’re monitoring technology use. Unfortunately, many kids and especially teens find it all too easy to maintain secret online lives that they hide from their parents. (we wrote 4 whole guides on this)The only way to protect your children is by instituting trustworthy mobile parental control software.  Still on the fence about whether or not it’s worth it for your child?

(click here to get your free guide)

Pornography is addictive

 No matter how hotly the debate may rage on the subject of whether or not porn is actually “addictive,” the truth is, it doesn’t take much for a young person to become trapped in a cycle of addiction. Before they know it, even if they want to stop, they find that they can’t. Protect your kids from the trap of pornography addiction by installing parental controls on their mobile devices that will help keep them away from it from the beginning. According to some research statistics, it has been shown that 1 out of every 5 children that own a smartphone between the ages of 9 and 13 tend to watch porn and similar inappropriate and explicit videos on the smartphones via the internet. The number raises from 1 out of every 5 to 3 out of every 5 when the stoop down to consider children between the age groups of 14 and 15.

Kids have trouble defining their limits

Teenagers’ brains, which are not yet fully developed, have more trouble understanding the potential consequences of their actions, and they might have more trouble realizing that a particular behavior is across the line or unsafe. It’s fairly common for kids to have a “secret life” online, where they engage in behaviors that their family members and even friends would recognize as destructive. Online, these behaviors are encouraged by virtual strangers who have made their way into the child’s life. Parental controls and parental involvement are critical parts of stopping your teen from engaging in unsafe behaviors, including sending inappropriate pictures and giving out personal information online.

Depressive content breeds depression

young girl at the table looking at mobile phone

With as many as 10% of teens struggling with depression, it’s little wonder that the internet–their favorite hangout–is filled with depressive content. Unfortunately, accessing that content does nothing to make teens feel better about themselves, nor does it stop them from participating in self-harming behaviors. In some cases, self-harm or even suicide may be glorified on these websites. Your teens’ minds are still developing. The more they are exposed to this type of content, the greater the likelihood that they will internalize those ideas–and the greater the chances they’ll take part in risky behaviors as a result. Parental controls are your first line of defense against this type of content online.

Gaming isn’t always harmless

Online games or addictive apps have a number of advantages for many children. For others, however, they are just as addictive as pornography–and that addiction may have even more far-reaching consequences. The more time your teen spends playing games, the greater the likelihood that he will struggle with the transition to the real world, including making the important transition from adolescence to adulthood. Unnaturally bright colors and sounds combined with the dopamine rush that accompanies many actions in video games–slaying the dragon, besting the monster, completing a puzzle successfully–can cause an addiction that will lead to adolescents who struggle to function in society without the input their games have left them accustomed to.legoboyphone

 

What you can do

You can’t protect your children from everything on the internet on your own, so I always recommend using a quality parental control. You have  a lot to consider because most parental control apps and “safe routers” are easy for kids to circumvent. These days, it is critical to not be lax about what your kids and teens are doing on their mobile devices and it is crucial to be proactive. Allowing unfiltered internet in your home and on your kid’s smartphones, can be dangerous. It is in their nature to test your limits and be curious. As parents it is our  job is to make sure they stay safe and don’t make bad choices which can harm them for years to come.

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3 Things Parents Should Know About Fake Social Accounts or “Finstas”

Just when you think you have the social media maze figured out, your teen comes up with something else that catches you completely off guard. You’ve tried your best to stay up-to-date on everything your teen or tween is doing online, but unfortunately, they keep creating a wider gap between your knowledge and what they’re doing. The latest craze? Creating a finsta.

What Is a Finsta?

A finsta is a “fake” account, usually on Instagram, though a fake account could appear on any social media channel. The thing that sets a finsta apart from a regular account is that it’s set to private, with only a handful of people who are allowed access to those materials. Typically, teens and tweens use these to post pictures that they don’t want to share with the world at large or that they want to keep private for some reason.

What Do Parents Need to Know?

Using mobile phones. Cropped picture of modern young women using their cell phones while sitting on a window sill and typing messages

If your teen or tween is using social media, it’s important to know whether their public account is all there is or if they have a finsta (or more than one!) that they keep hidden from the public eye. Once you know about your child’s social media behaviors and whether or not they’re using a finsta to hide things that they don’t want to be public, you can choose what steps to take from there.

1. You need to be your child’s friend or follower on their “fake” account every bit as much as you do on the real one. Make sure you know what your child is posting and monitor their finsta even more carefully than you do the public account that everyone can access.

2. Understand why your teen or tween feels the need to have a finsta. Some teens enjoy the privacy of a finsta simply because it allows them to post goofy selfies and pictures with friends without the fear of being judged by a wider audience. They might also feel a great deal of pressure to accumulate likes on a public account, while their private account can be simply for sharing things with close friends. Others, however, want a finsta because they think it’s “safe.” They may publish information about illicit activities and other pictures that they really don’t want out there.

3. Privacy settings don’t ensure privacy. There are plenty of ways those embarrassing posts can get out for the world to see. One changed privacy policy that your teen doesn’t recognize, and suddenly, her future employers can see everything she’s ever posted (and yes, they check!). Worse, a so-called trusted friend might choose to share that picture much more widely than your teen or tween intended. Make sure your child understands the importance of monitoring what they post even on an account that “no one” can see.

Should Your Child Have a Finsta?

happy african college friends taking selfie together

There are plenty of benefits to having a finsta. Through that private account, your teen or tween can cultivate their own authentic relationship with their followers, showing a more “real” version of who they are. It’s also a great way to dodge many cyberbullying techniques: since no one can see the posts but those they invite, they’re less likely to get negative commentary. Meanwhile, the public profile remains for the benefit of the rest of their world.

If your child is going to build a finsta, the most important thing is that you monitor it and discuss appropriate online behavior regularly. Remind them that anything they post online can eventually get out, no matter how private they think it is. Encourage them to cultivate their social media presence–both public and private–to show the kind of person that they want future colleges, employers, and friends to see–because someday, they will.

Keeping your teens and tweens safe in today’s online-based society can be a challenge. Keeping solid rules for their technology use is the best way to ensure a productive, well-rounded tween or teen. To make this easier, I recommend using a trust-worthy parental control software. Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities away from their screens.

Additionally, Netsanity blocks many previously profiled apps at the network level, not via an app. So if your child has a fake Instagram or Twitter account, and you want to block access, you can do that regardless of how many fake accounts they set up. They are also releasing an Android version for Samsung next month.

Your Teen May Circumvent Your Parental Controls

Learn Your Teen’s Top Tricks to Get Past Your Parental Controls

The following blog post may seem long and get somewhat technical at times, but guess what? The minute you bought your child a smartphone, laptop, tablet, gaming console or any other Internet connected device you became a technical parent! Whether your kid knows more than you about this technology, is now up to you!

You trust your kids, but you also know that with kids you need to take the proper precautions at home and away, to make sure that they stay safe and do not venture into the seedy world of internet porn and other dangerous or inappropriate social media. Now, you may be an IT guru – and even work as a software engineer knowing network routing, DNS, IP encryption, and you may have even built your own router at home so you can have full control over what happens!  If you are OR you are a Parent with little technical ability, this is for you!

Netsanity , for example, makes the process much easier with point and click iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad parental controls along with knowledgeable support and a cloud-based, easy to use parental dashboard, built for new “tech parents.” Sign up for a 14-day Free trial here.

Is this you?Teens Gets Past Parental Controls | Netsanity

Do you sleep well at night knowing that your 14 or 16 year old is on their tablets or iPhones, safely surfing ESPN and looking at cute YouTube videos of dancing monkeys and the latest teen bands?

Are you confident that your teen will never go into chat rooms, attempt to surf pornography, or engage in very inappropriate social media apps that shield them from parents?

You have prevented them from bypassing texts and have controls that prevent them from snapping pictures of themselves and sharing that on the internet as well of course you did all that, right?

If that sounds like you, or someone close to you and your kids, read on!

First let us preface the following, and state for the record…most kids are great kids and most listen to mom and dad. They want to please us and don’t intend to get in trouble. They test our boundaries but when push comes to shove, they are a true blessing.

A good analogy we give parents is this: imagine your 16 or 17 year old driving a car. They are perfect drivers; they follow the speed limit, don’t text and drive, and never speed. They are the model of perfection behind the wheel. So what happens when a drunk driver comes around a corner and hits them broadside? They can end up in the ER and they were completely innocent!

Well online, we face that every second of everyday. While you kids may use good practices and follow your rules, they can still get hurt – very hurt. So it is very important that you know as much as you can, and what can happen when curiosity turns into danger. Unlike the example of the other driver who is drunk, you can take common sense steps to remove many tactics your teens will try to get behind tha “virtual wheel”. Kids are as viral as a cool YouTube video. Once one finds a new app or cool site, it spreads instantly – around the world. When we were young, instantly meant 6 months – LOL! Now, within seconds, kids can get access to anything before you even knew what happened.

Which brings us back to topic at hand – how do you stay ahead of them, at least long enough to get through those important years until they go away and learn all those great things in college!

 

Your teen has a lot more time to thwart your efforts and circumvent your parental controls. So while you work and do “life”, they are like beavers building a dam, one step at a time until they have won!

Reality Check

The first thing to note is that no controls are 100% foolproof. If you want 100%, simply sell all of your internet devices and phones, grab your kids and head to a quiet ranch in Montana or Wyoming – I hear it’s beautiful there! Stay there until their age of majority and you will be all set! Now, if that is not YOUR plan, let’s proceed.

Their Tricks

Below is a very small list of tactics that your kids and teens have done, attempted to do, and will do in the future, all in order to get to content that they don’t want you to know they saw! These are not in any particular order but over many years of observations, interviews, and learning the hard way, these are certainly ones to be aware of. Many are Apple iOS specific, since they are very popular, but many apply generically to any home.

Be sure to take a free 14-day trial of our mobile parental control service and tools to see how we enhance built in iOS parental controls. Click below to start your trial any time.

PC Parental Controls

What: You installed Norton/Symantec/Microsoft parental controls on their Laptops. Your teen can’t go to websites that you filter and you get a nice report saying how responsible they truly are, while they Google search for ways to help mom in the kitchen and how to clean their room better 😉

They will/can: Dual boot your laptop and install whatever operating system they want. So when they use their computer they are using their version and do whatever they want. Any 14+ teen can and have done this.

Prevent By: Be vigilant and get access to the pc regularly. Don’t assume anything. Add a password to BIOS so you control what happens. Watch your reports. If the reports say they were on it for 30 minutes a day, and little Johnny was surfing all weekend, you may have an issue. Force the PC to be used in a public place like the kitchen.

Parental Control Routers & Home Wi-Fi

What: You go to Best Buy or Amazon and buy a shiny $200 router with fancy parental controls. You click a few green buttons and it says you are all set! Now the kids can’t get to anywhere bad because the green lights tells you that!

They will/can: Laugh at you first! Then, they will google the default password for that router. There is an 80% chance that you left it default and hence they will quickly have admin access to it. Once there, they will create a 2nd admin account so they can use that one moving forward. If you happen to realize your mistake and set the admin password, its too late as they have already built a back door! Game, Set and Match. Now, they will create a new hidden SSID for Wi-Fi that only they know. They will set their laptops and smartphones to connect to that Wi-Fi SSID and surf away completely unrestricted while you and spouse, are filtered by your $200 router.

Oh, if you are the 20%, don’t pat yourself on the back just yet 😉 They can & will install a 2nd Wi-Fi router, behind your cable modem; set a hidden SSID and do same thing again. They can buy one on EBay or craigslist for $5-10 and hide it in the closet where you will never see it!

Prevent By: If going the router way, make sure you use strong passwords and get daily/weekly reporting on activity – some will email you if there are changes. Get rid of or change the main cable company Wi-Fi (or disable the Wi-Fi capability on it completely) so all internet flows through the new router and not the one Time Warner, AT&T, Comcast, or Verizon dropped off! Also, for the little hackers in your life, make sure that nothing is plugged in to the Ethernet port(s) on your hub or cable modem that you did not put in there yourself. A good idea is to purchase a lockable cabinet in your closet so your cable modems, routers, and hubs can live and your teens have no access.

OpenDNS

What: OpenDNS is a great and free service that allows you to point your DNS to their DNS for the entire home so regardless of the internet-connected devices in home, all is safe. DNS stands for Domain Name Service and if you are not technical, think of it as the old white pages. Simply, when you request to go to Google.com or Yahoo.com, DNS will lookup that domain and give your computer the corresponding IP address for that website so your computer or iPhone can find it. When you use OpenDNS, your home will use their DNS to find sites and since you as a parent can edit which websites belong to which categories and you can filter your home based on that. Using OpenDNS is a good first step, but not a panacea. Read on.

Your teen will/can: Simply use other public DNS servers on their iPhone, iPad, iTouch, XBOX 360, Nintendo DS, PC, Mac, etc., and bypass OpenDNS. Also, as mentioned before, they can install their router unbeknown to you, and bypass it that way. Here are just 6 ways your teen will hack around it.

Prevent by: Secure their physical devices by making sure devices that can be secured from network changes are secured via a strong password. Watch the reports closely to make sure that traffic patterns for your house make sense and if your teens are on Instagram 24/7 and there is no Instagram domains in your reports, that is an indication that your DNS is being bypassed. For Apple mobile devices, you can install a service like Netsanity which will force all traffic through their service and prevent from configuration changes from being changed.

Bypassing Wi-Fi altogether

What: Teens completely bypass Wi-Fi and access the internet via their iPhones or smartphones with a carrier data plan that YOU pay for!

Your teen will/can: Who needs stupid Wi-Fi anyway! If your teen has a smartphone with a data plan (95% do), all of your fancy footwork above trying to secure your internet Wi-Fi is irrelevant. They will just turn off Wi-Fi and surf the web and use apps that you disallow by going over their carrier’s 3G/4G/LTE network. They won’t do it all the time so you don’t catch them, but they will be able to use apps that you pretend to block or websites and chat rooms that you filter. One teen told us that each day, he would surf on the home Wi-Fi all the normal traffic so the patterns did not arouse suspicion of his tech-savvy dad. However, the real win was him turning off the Wi-Fi and using the carrier data to surf and use snapchat which was blocked at home. The kid has a future for sure!

Prevent by: Your options are severely limited at this point. First, know if they have a data plan and watch the usage via your carrier’s site. Verizon, AT&T and others allow you to watch data used. If the kids are at home and they are eating the data while they should be using free Wi-Fi, you know why. Again, installing a parental control management profile from a company like Netsanity will protect the device regardless if it’s on Wi-Fi or the carrier’s network. Lastly, physically grab the device and educate your teen that the use of internet enabled devices is a privilege and not a right, so abuse will lead to them potentially losing their device!

Texting even though you don’t have a texting plan

What: Teens don’t use the traditional SMS/Texting that has been around for 20 years. There are hundreds of free texting apps, many are crafty and are designed to be hidden from parents.

Your teen will/can: Download a free internet-based texting app. That app will assign a random telephone number and they will give that out to their friends. Then, the teen can text without ever using the carrier’s SMS. Also, with an Apple iOS device, they can use iMessage which is built in and free, and does not come from your carrier. Their texting targets also need to be on an iOS platform, but it’s fairly common.

Prevent by: If using a home router or OpenDNS, make sure you block as many of those domains as you can. Make sure you have access to your child device(s) 24/7 and know their passcodes. Occasionally checking their phones will give you some indication of what they are doing for texting alternatives. On an Apple iOS device, have them use your iCloud account. That will allow you to see each iMessage to come in and out from their devices. Our blog show you how to accomplish this if you so desire, for free.

Game consoles and other internet devices

What: Lately everything is being connected to the net. So one must be even more vigilant to make sure your most precious ones are protected. Nowhere is this most true than game consoles and portable game players.

Your teen will/can: Bypass your parental controls. Almost all have browsers and ways to access the net. If you lock down the PC but forget to do same with the XBOX or Palystation, you have not secured anything. We have seen many teens pretend they are playing Animal Crossing, but really they are on the web in a chat room.

Prevent By: Making sure that the parental controls are enabled and you restrict any changes via the console. Make sure notifications are enabled as well so you know when changes are attempted.

Now What?

To summarize, the above is just a small fraction of what kids routinely do to bypass parental controls. There are many more which are much more technical. Certainly to avoid giving them any more ideas, we will not write about them here. However, do not be laissez-faire about their safety and be proactive. Allowing unfiltered internet in your home and on your kid’s smartphone and other mobile devices can be dangerous and it’s their teen duty to test their limits and be curious. Your job is to make sure they stay safe and don’t make bad choices which can harm them for years to come.

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Teen Driving and Smartphone Use

Driving while texting. There are no three words parents want to see less associated with their teens, not even high school dropout, and the amount of time parents take to carefully explain the dangers of distracted driving begins to sound more like a sermon than a safety speech. However, Penn research shows teens are well aware of the dangers of texting while driving. Being aware doesn’t always make them change their behavior, but you’re not giving them any new information when you tell them it’s unsafe.

Then Why Do Teens Still Text While Driving?

Young Female Driver Driving a White Car on the Road with Focused Facial Expression.

The main thing researchers discovered while interviewing teen drivers is that they have a sliding scale of how dangerous the use of technology is, based on a given situation. For example, teens as a whole considered social media use to be separate from texting, which is not something that most adults do. When an adult hears “texting while driving,” they often think of that as any use of a phone that isn’t actually making a phone call while behind the wheel. Teens broke down the risk by activity, meaning there are lots of different categories of device use, each with its own risk factors.

What particular activity was being done was only a part of the formula that went into a teen’s behavior, though. Another factor was when a teen was texting. Teens as a whole seemed to feel that texting at a stoplight or while stopped at a stop sign is not texting while driving because they aren’t going anywhere. Additionally, who they were responding to carried a lot of weight. If it was a significant other, or a parent, then a teen was much more likely to respond immediately than if it was just a casual friend. Additionally, if the message was in regards to where they were currently driving (such as if the friend they’re meeting for lunch texts them en-route), a teen was much more likely to respond to that message.

Risk Assessment Is Still Developing

We all know that teenagers’ brains have not yet fully developed. They’re reaching the end of their maturation, but one of the key factors that teens are lacking when compared to adults is a real sense of risk assessment. It’s the reason why teens will do things like surf down a steep hill in a junkyard in their underwear; because, to their brains, the very real risk of bodily harm just isn’t outweighed by the social benefits of doing something daring.

The same is often true of using a mobile device while behind the wheel. Teens who haven’t had a negative experience as a result of distracted driving often have trouble putting it into real perspective. The risks are all theoretical, and while the more obvious dangers are avoided, the gray areas aren’t always until they mature.

How Do We Get Our Teens to Drive More Safely?

Boy sitting at sofa and using digital tablet while his father talking to him.

The easiest way to help ensure that your teens not driving and using social media or texting…even at the stop sign is to have frank, open conversations with them about safe driving, and to establish rules early on that you both agree on. As parents, it is more important than ever that we teach our teens how to set boundaries. In the case of distracted driving LIVES depend on it! One of the most important boundaries comes in the form of how and when they use their social media accounts and texting capabilities. By giving your teens responsibility, and listening to their concerns, you are much more likely to get open, honest communication, and to engender respect for your rules and requests.

The great thing about technology rules and available parental tools is that they’re able to change and adapt in response to the unique needs of your family. It is always easier to help your teens to maintain a healthy relationship  with technology when you use a parental control software.

Netsanity has a suite of services that I always recommend –  If your teen has an iPhone, Netsanity has great features that include timeout options like Hideapps and  Screenlock. They can be used on a regular basis to help your teen from using their mobile device for texting, or any other internet activity, to ensure they are focusing on other activities like driving a car! Keep in mind that Netsanity will be releasing an Android version soon for teens with Samsung Galaxy family of smart devices.

 

 

Recognizing Digital Addictions in Tweens & Teens

Worldwide, more than one billion smartphones were sold in 2015 alone. To put this number in perspective, consider that fewer than one million smartphones were sold ten years earlier, in 2005. Between 2005 and 2015, an average male doubled his weekly online time from ten to twenty hours per week. A majority of smartphone users consult their devices hourly. A lesser subset update their status on social media platforms once every few minutes. When viewed through this filter, you might be tempted to rationalize that your child’s online and smartphone usage is merely “average”, but sharp upticks in internet and smartphone usage are evidence of digital addiction in tweens and teens. Recognizing the most common digital addictions is the first step toward rectifying them.

Currently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the “DSM”) only includes internet gaming as a recognized digital addiction disorder. Health care professionals both in and outside of the United States use the DSM as an aide and authoritative guide to diagnose mental disorders. The DSM’s board is considering whether to include a broader digital addiction category as a legitimate and acknowledged disorder.

Teens and tweens are uniquely susceptible to compulsive use of social media. While downplaying the risks of peer group pressure, WebMD observes that a teen’s friends play a subtle role in shaping his or her decisions. Reflecting a common human trait that people are more likely to socialize with other people who have similar interests, WebMD notes that

[t]eens are more likely to hang out with other teens who do the same things.

If a teen’s friends are frequently updating their Facebook status, your teen will likely adopt the same behavior out of a “fear of missing out” (i.e. “FOMO”) of something that their friends are in on. A teen will tend to monitor the Twitter feeds from the same hundreds or thousands of connections that his friends monitor so that he can stay up to speed on whatever they may be talking about when he meets up with them. If his peer group shares every meal and trivial event on Instagram, he will internalize that behavior and do the same himself.

Pretty girl and boy teens playing on mobile phones and listening to music in the city. Focus on girl

Psychologists theorize that constant internet access can foster a stimulus-reward mechanism that gives teens and tweens (as well as adults who are over-immersed in online activity) immediate positive feedback when they post something on a social media site and get a flurry of “likes” from friend and followers. A teen’s brain is at a less mature stage of development and is more amenable to being shaped by various external stimuli. Their dopamine reward system will be more likely to react to digital stimulation in a manner similar to a response to addictive drugs. The pleasure that a teen senses when his followers flood his social media postings with “likes” are caused by dopamine that is released in his brain. As his dopamine reward system is overstimulated by excess activity, the pleasure he senses from each subsequent dopamine release will be reduced and he will need greater amounts of stimulation to experience the same pleasure. If that stimulation is cut off, he can suffer both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, including depression, irritability, and sleep deprivation.

Your teen or tween might quickly get over any physical symptoms that they experience when if any digital connections are broken, but the psychological draw will remain for a long time. Their “FOMO” will stay at an all-time high for several months after they end a social media habit that might have supplanted regular daily activities. Their school performance might suffer and they might experience mood swings that go beyond typical teen moodiness.

friendship, leisure, summer, technology and people concept - couple of smiling friends with smartphones sitting on grass in park

The more involved your child is in sports, clubs, and other activities, the less time they’ll spend on their devices. A child who is active, engaged, and social won’t have as much time for their phones, tablets, and computers–and it will show. Encourage your child to choose activities that they enjoy to naturally reduce technology use and allow them to thrive.

Keeping solid rules for your child’s technology use is the best way to ensure a productive, well-rounded child or teen. As you develop solid guidelines, you’ll discover that your child spends less time on their devices and more time in the “real” world. To make this easier, I recommend using a trust-worthy parental control software. Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities this summer and all year long. If your tweens have an Apple mobile devices, Netsanity has a great feature called Screenlock. It can be used on a regular basis to completely block them from using their mobile device for texting, or other activities whenever you feel that they need a healthy break, sleep, or to ensure they are focusing on other activities. They are releasing an Android version soon as well.

 

The Digital Disconnect

Increasingly, there is a wide separation between what parents think their children and teens are doing online and what they are actually doing. According to this article by The Guardian, many teenagers have little to no online supervision. They report that:

  • Only 13% of teens think parents understand how much and how widely they use the internet.
  • 60% of teens have social media accounts they haven’t told their parents about.
  • Only 32% of teens report that their parents have a rule about reporting online activity that makes them uncomfortable.

education, technology and happiness concept - group of young smiling people lying down on floor in circle with smartphones

Not only that, many teens and tweens are routinely using apps that their parents haven’t used and don’t necessarily understand. With new technology geared towards young people coming out every day, it’s almost impossible for parents to stay ahead of the curve, especially if it’s technology they won’t need to use for themselves in their daily lives. This digital disconnect is creating serious problems for many parents and their children.

Why It’s Important

There’s a lot of fear geared toward children of all ages online interactions, whether they’re taking place behind a computer screen or with a smart phone. Many parents understand the vague, faceless dangers: so-called online friends who aren’t necessarily what they seem; predators who lurk in seemingly innocent locations; children who give out too much private information and end up giving strangers the ability to find them. Increasingly, however, some children and teens’ peers and friends are becoming just as dangerous as absolute strangers–if not more so. Cyberbullying is on the rise. 43% – nearly half of all teens report that they’ve been bullied online, and a quarter of them admit that they’ve been bullied more than once. Cyberbullying can lead to depression, anxiety, feelings of isolation, and even suicidal thoughts, not to mention an increase in many teens’ willingness to engage in risky behaviors in an effort to “fit in.”

Controlling the Risk

You can’t always monitor everything your child does online. Hidden social media accounts, apps downloaded without your knowledge, and kids who are determined to sneak around the rules can all make it difficult to keep up with what’s going on with your child’s online behaviors. There are, however, several things you can do to increase your odds of keeping your child safe.

Young boy using a tablet computer while sitting in the back passenger seat of a car with a safety belt over his shoulder

Clear Social Media Rules

Your teens and  children need clear rules for how to behave online. Any time those rules are violated, they need to know that you’ll step in, even to the extent of deleting the accounts or taking away access to their favorite apps or websites! These rules include:

  • Discussing how to behave if they end up in an uncomfortable situation. They should always report bullying to you, and they should never answer anyone’s online questions if they start to cross the line.
  • Setting a clear code of conduct for online behavior. The consequences for catching your child bullying another should be quick and severe.
  • An “open technology” policy that allows you to check your child’s social media accounts, phone, and other devices at any time. We recommend spot checks because just getting your children’s passwords or using a “monitoring” app is not always enough. Many children set up provide accounts and know how to easily hide apps.
  • Technology-free hours, especially at night, when lack of sleep might make it more difficult for your child to make responsible decisions.

Parental Control Software

Teenage girls sitting on grass and taking selfie with mobile phone

The “Sexting” Talk: What is Sexting?

You don’t expect your twelve-year-old to be able to answer the question “what is sexting?”, much less to engage in it. Unfortunately, 54% of teens under the age of 18 admit to having sent sexually-tinged messages or inappropriate pictures. Having the “sexting” talk with your tweens and teens is becoming even more critical than ever, and chances are you should have it sooner than you think.

The Dangers of Sexting

Kids will be kids, right? At least they aren’t doing it in person. You’d like to convince yourself that sexting is fairly harmless. The repercussions of sexting, however, can stay with your child for a long time.

Teens and tweens who sext are more likely to engage in other sexual behavior.

Sexting starts to break down barriers against sexual behavior, making it easier for teens and tweens to cross the line in other ways. A nude picture on your child’s phone might not be grounds for immediate birth control, but it’s definitely grounds for a conversation about appropriate sexual behavior.

They’re sharing what they see. If your teen is sending nude or partially nude pictures to their significant other, they might be at more risk than you think: as many as 17% of the teens and tweens who have received these text messages admit to sharing them with someone else, and 55% of those individuals don’t stop at sharing them with one person. Once that picture leaves your child’s phone, it’s out there; and no matter how much they trust the person they’re showing it to, the chance exists that someone else is going to see it. Photos that have been shared with the wrong person can lead to bullying and other negative behaviors.

Sexting definition Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexting

What is Sexting - Netsanity Explains

They’re pressuring each other into it. Girls, in particular, are susceptible to sending pictures not because they want to, but because they feel that their boyfriend has pressured them into it. 70% of kids who sext do so with their boyfriend or girlfriend, and as many as 61% of them admit that they felt pressured into the act.

Legal ramifications can last for a long time. In some states, sharing nude pictures of a minor–even through texting or other means–is considered a criminal offense.

How They’re Sexting

Most teens and tweens are in a stage of their lives where they are curious about sexuality and about each other’s bodies. They’re sexting because they see it as harmless fun. They don’t think about the potential repercussions, and they assume that what bad things they do think about–for example, the pictures getting shared–won’t happen to them. Most teens, especially those around 16 and 17, see this as a perfectly ordinary way to interact with their peers.

Kids are sending nude and partially nude pictures of themselves. They send pictures of specific parts, pictures of their whole body, and messages about what they’d “like to do” to each other. To this technologically-savvy generation, sexting is little more than an advanced form of flirting. After all, they have a phone screen between them and the person they’re talking to. In their minds, it doesn’t mean anything.

Talking About Sexting With Your Kids & Teens

As parents, it is our  responsibility to start the dialogue about sexting early and have it with your children and teens often. Ideally, you want to keep having this conversation well into early adulthood. You can’t change the way an entire generation views sexting, but you can change the way it’s handled in your household.

Remind your child that their body is their own. Just like they have the right to say no to a physical sexual act, they have the right to say no to sending a picture that makes them uncomfortable. Reminding your child of this can help give them the confidence they need to stick to their convictions.

Discuss forethought. Would it make them uncomfortable for you to see a picture that they’ve sent? If so, that should be a red flag that the picture shouldn’t go out over the internet.

Ask them what they’re sending. Having an open dialogue with your child makes it easier for them to share what they’re dealing with. You want to know if your child has been pressured to sext or has engaged in inappropriate texting behavior. Regular discussion and an attitude that seeks to help, rather than condemn, will help keep your child from making mistakes that they can’t take back.

What Is Sexting | Netsanity Guide to Sexting

Download this infographic as a PDF: Netsanity Sexting Guide Instant Download

Using Parental Controls to Make Sexting a Non-Issue

Additionally, we always recommend using a quality mobile parental control on all of your kids and teens mobile devices.  Netsanity offers a suite of parental control services  you will find to be lifesavers! Some parents have found that sexting and inappropriate picture taking has already become a problem.

Cyberbullying Friends: Teens Targeted By Those Closest To Them

There are plenty of risks when your teens are online, and you can’t help feeling the weight of them. You’ve talked to them about the risks of sharing too much information with total strangers, discussed the need to protect themselves, and monitored their accounts for any sign that someone is picking on them. As you examine your teen’s social media accounts, you may have developed a habit of scrolling right on by whenever you see the names of close friends. After all, they aren’t at risk from bullying from the people closest to them, right?

Actually, new research shows that the biggest bullies aren’t strangers protected by the anonymity of a computer screen, people who have never met your teen, or even casual acquaintance from school. Among teenagers who were experiencing cyberbullying, it was seven times more likely that the bully was a friend, former friend, or former dating partner. Strangers, on the other hand, seemed less likely to want to invest the time and energy necessary to engage in bullying behavior.

Mother Worried About Unhappy Teenage Daughter

What’s a Parent to Do?

Learning that your teen is at a greater risk for bullying by their friends can make you feel that nowhere is safe. It’s bad enough that teens are struggling with bullying in school and worried about strangers online. What are you supposed to do when they’re being bullied online by people who you thought currently or once cared about them?

Discuss clear expectations for online behavior

Many students simply don’t stop to think about the way they should behave online. The comfort of a computer screen, rather than seeing someone in person, makes it easier to say things that would never otherwise come out of their mouth. Make sure that your teen understands the standards of behavior that you expect–and what they should do when a peer, even a friend, doesn’t follow those standards.

Monitor your child

That doesn’t just mean monitoring their social media accounts and other access to the internet. It also means being wary of strange shifts in demeanor or mood. A teen who is normally happy and upbeat, but who is suddenly down and depressed, may be a victim of bullying. Listen to who your teen talks about and how they talk about their friends. A friend who disappears from conversation, when once they were a frequent appearance, is worth noting. Pay particular attention any time your child is in the middle of a new romantic entanglement or if they break up with a current boyfriend or girlfriend.

Take it to the school

teen-bullied-600X400If you discover that your teen is being bullied online, don’t be afraid to take it to the school and let them deal with the offenders. Many schools are now instituting online codes of conduct that enable them to deal with cyberbullies.

Monitoring Friends

In today’s highly digital age, it’s easier than ever before to fail to meet your child’s friends. Parents are busy, kids are busy, and the contact you have with these kids in person may be minimal. Look for opportunities to meet your child’s friends! Be familiar enough with close friends,  that you can recognize red flags in their behavior, especially if it starts to change over time.

Many things can lead to bullying: the dissolution of a romantic relationship, shifting loyalties and friendships, and competition for similar awards and honors in school can all be enough to set kids who were once close friends against one another.

Solutions

Thankfully, there are tools that can help and aid to protect your child. Be aware of their friends, monitor their online interactions, and act fast if your child does fall victim to bullying online. Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your kids of all ages are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy mobile parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services  such as their their Appblocker, where certain social media and other apps are profiled and parents can one-click block them, making apps that you may find inappropriate inaccessible. They have a free trial, so its worth checking out if your teen has an Apple mobile device. They are releasing a version for Android later this year.

I love social media as much as anyone, but also know there’s a fine line between enjoying its benefits in moderation, and spending endless hours letting it bring you or your teen down. We always recommend monitoring, communicating, and taking breaks from social media and all internet devices on a regular basis!

Why Teens Are So Obsessed With Social Media

Social media has, almost since its creation, been seen as something for young people. Whether it was the creation of Facebook on a college campus as a way for students to meet-up, or the general eye-rolling Twitter received for its short word limit, and popularity with the youth of the day, there’s a stigma that social media is just for young people. While sites like LinkedIn show that social media is useful for adults, and the sheer size of marketing budgets from large companies show that social media is recognized as a serious way to reach customers of all ages and demographics, the assumption remains that the core of social media is, and will always be, young people.

So, is there any truth to the idea that young people, particularly teens, are obsessed with social media?

Why Teens Are So Obsessed With Social Media?

Enjoyous young girl make a selfie with his mobile phone

To get a grasp on social media use, it’s a good idea to check out this study, over at Psychology Today. This study points out, first of all, that there are differences in generational use of social media. This seems like a no-brainer, since older generations are less likely to be online, while younger generations tend to be more tech savvy, and embrace concepts like social media much more often. On average, though, younger generations will only use 2 social media sites to the older generations 1. So, part of the idea that teens are “obsessed” with social media can probably be chalked up to the differences between generational uses. Just like how “kids these days” are “obsessed” with their phones. Their parents had something similar when they were that age, but it was a different technology, fad, or other social construct that they view as normal.

However, with that said, teens do use social media at a higher rate than older generations. Not only that, but they use all aspects of social media, from reading and liking posts, to sharing content, chatting, and playing games. Parents, who are concerned for their teens’ well-being, want to make sure that spending that much time online isn’t harming them in some way. If you find yourself in that category, remember this one, very important thing.

To Them Online Life Is Real Life

The Internet has completely changed the way we operate. It has shrunk the world, and completely changed the way industries, the economy, entertainment, and communication work forever. You can’t “just turn it off” and pretend that what happens online isn’t real, because it is real.

It isn’t that teens are dedicating themselves to social media instead of living their lives. It’s that social media is their preferred tool for communicating, sharing, and all the other things teens do as they grow into young adults.

Think about it. When the cordless phone became a household item, teens spent hours in their rooms talking to their friends. Why? For the same reason teens today use social media. It let them maintain their bonds, and grow their relationships, even if they didn’t have driver’s licenses, and couldn’t hang out in person. The Internet in general, and social media in particular, is simply a better tool, allowing teens to talk to all their friends, see their updates, and keep in touch in real-time.

So, the next time you start to worry about your kids spending too much time on social media, don’t just make assumptions. Sit down with them, and have some face time. Ask them why they spend so much of their days on the computer, or a mobile device. Listen to their responses, and show that you aren’t judging them, or trying to catch them in a lie. If you keep open lines of communication, and support your teens, then they will feel much more comfortable letting you into the worlds they’re making for themselves as they grow up.

Tired Teenager sleeping on the Bed with Tablet Computer

Maintaining a healthy balance with technology as a teenager is sometimes hard. There are plenty of other things vying for your teen’s attention, making it difficult for them to remember good habits and prioritize chores, school, and sleep. Thankfully, if  their mobile devices are what is keeping them from getting rest, as the parent, you can help. It is always easier to help your children and teens to maintain balance in their lives with mobile devices when you use a parental control software.

 

Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities this summer and all year long. If your tweens have an Apple mobile devices, Netsanity has a great feature called Screenlock. It can be used on a regular basis to completely block them from using their mobile device for texting, or other activities whenever you feel that they need a healthy break, sleep, or to ensure they are focusing on other activities. Netsanity now offers a 14-day free trial on all their plans, so its worth checking out if your child has an Apple mobile device. They will soon be releasing a version for Android as well!

Back to School Boundaries: Smartphones and Tablets

Smartphone and tablet use is on the rise. More kids than ever before are attached to their devices all day long, texting, checking their social media accounts, and playing games without regard for what’s going on around them. As back-to-school season looms, kids and teenagers will have even more excuses to sit in front of a screen–but that doesn’t mean that’s what’s best for your child. By issuing simple limits before the school year kicks off, you’ll be able to monitor technology usage and ensure a more productive use of your child’s school year.

Set Consistent Limits

There are times when your child simply shouldn’t use their devices. When they’re at the dinner table, in the middle of family time, or in the driver’s seat of a car, your child should put their phones and tablets down and engage in the activity they’re present for. Make sure that the limitations for technology usage are clear, and enforce them. Set a clear time when devices should be turned off each night to allow for a better night’s sleep: texting all night long is a fast way to have an over-tired child the next day.

Happy African American Girl with TabletSchool Time Matters

You don’t want to deny your child the ability to use technology for school. On the other hand, you don’t want them to spend half the day staring at a tablet or laptop screen, then turn around and spend the rest locked to their phones. Discuss appropriate technology usage, including time used for school in their limits. If you do allow extra screen time for school, make sure that you monitor usage: it’s not school use if your child is on social media or playing a game more than they’re paying attention to their research.

Monitor Social Media Use

Many teens and tweens feel “safe” to do whatever they like online. They say things that they would never share in person, post compromising pictures, and share more information than necessary, making it possible for predators to find them. This can cause plenty of problems, including cyber bullying, which has been on the rise as technology use has become more common. To help keep your child out of trouble, maintain clear rules about social media.

  • Discuss appropriate behavior online, including your family’s unique expectations.
  • Monitor your child’s social media use. Check over their shoulder periodically to see what they’re posting and where.
  • Keep your child’s password and browse through their social media accounts occasionally.

Observe Your Child’s Behavior

The great thing about technology rules and available parental tools is that they’re able to change and adapt in response to your child’s unique needs. Keep an eye on your child’s behavior. If they’re starting to spend too much time with their devices, displaying signs of technology addiction, or becoming secretive and frustrated with any attempts to observe their technology activities, it’s time for a shift in rules. If you’re having problems with your child, tighten up the rules to ensure better behavior–and fewer problems–in the future.

It is always easier to help your children and teens to maintain a healthy relationship  with technology when you use a parental control software.

Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities this summer and all year long. If your tweens have an Apple mobile devices, Netsanity has a great feature called Screenlock. It can be used on a regular basis to completely block them from using their mobile device for texting, or other activities whenever you feel that they need a healthy break, sleep, or to ensure they are focusing on other activities. Keep in mind that Netsanity will be releasing an Android version soon. They also have a special right for back to school that will save you 30% off any annual subscription.

Click here for your special deal: BK2SCHOOL16

group of teenagers making fun selfie in classroom

Remember Other Activities

The more involved your child is in sports, clubs, and other activities, the less time they’ll spend on their devices. A child who is active, engaged, and social won’t have as much time for their phones, tablets, and computers–and it will show. Encourage your child to choose activities they enjoy to naturally reduce technology use and allow them to thrive. Have a child who isn’t particularly interested in clubs or after-school activities? Try inviting their friends over regularly for in-person interaction.

Keeping solid rules for your child’s technology use is the best way to ensure a productive, happy school year. As you develop solid guidelines, you’ll discover that your child spends less time on their devices and more time in the world.

Today’s Teens Are Tired!

As adults, finding a work/life balance–not to mention plenty of time to rest–is sometimes difficult. For teenagers, that balance can be even more difficult. With school, after-school activities, homework, and even jobs eating huge chunks out of their days, it’s little wonder that teenagers are tired. They’re getting less sleep than ever before–and increasing technology isn’t helping.

The Problem With Technology

Biologically, human brains are wired to sleep when it’s dark out and start waking up when it’s light. Most screens emit the same type of blue light that contributes most to wakefulness. Unfortunately, that means that if screens are left on late at night, teens may struggle to find the proper brain rhythms for productive sleep.

Technology can also cause problems with distraction when the time comes to sleep. Chiming text messages, fascinating content on the internet, and interesting television shows can all make it difficult for a teen to roll over and fall asleep, especially with the blue light convincing their brains that it’s really time to be awake.

Taking Control of Technology

If your teen is struggling to stay awake during the day, you can help them find that balance between appropriate technology use and the type that will interfere with their sleep and make it difficult for them to function the next day. By instituting a few useful rules at home, you can help your teen sleep better every night, setting them up for a more successful school day.

Keep technology out of the bedroom. Computers, televisions, and phones should all be kept out of the space where your child sleeps. Instead of using their phone as Teenage boy lay asleep on his homework.an alarm clock, encourage your child to use an actual alarm. If they need time to wind down before falling asleep, a good book is better than phone time, computer time, or watching television.

Monitor bedtime. It’s tempting to go on to bed and leave your child sitting at the computer. They’ve promised to head on to bed when they finish the article they’re reading, browse Facebook for “just ten more minutes,” or finish up that project for school. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for “ten more minutes” to become “two or three more hours,” leading to a tired child the next day.

 

Unplug at the same time every night. Just as it’s helpful to maintain a regular sleep schedule to let your body know when it’s time to rest, it’s very beneficial to turn off technology around the same time every day, settling into a routine that will trigger your teen to know it’s bedtime. Turn off the television, tuck away phones, and step away from the computer an hour before bedtime each night for the best results. If you have to make exceptions for school projects, make them as infrequent as possible.

Get up on weekends. Has your child fallen into the habit of sleeping all day on Saturday and Sunday, “catching up” on sleep missed during the week? Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work that way. Oversleeping on the weekends further interferes with the body’s natural clock, making it difficult for your child to maintain healthy habits the rest of the week. Instead, make a habit of getting out of bed at a reasonable time on the weekends. Get chores done, head out for a fun activity as a family, or even hang out around the house together, but go ahead and get up and moving for the best results!

Sisters sitting on the sofa and using smartphones

Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule as a teenager is hard. There are plenty of other things vying for your teen’s attention, making it difficult for them to remember good habits and prioritize their sleep. Thankfully, if  their mobile devices are what is keeping them from getting rest, as the parent, you can help. It is always easier to help your children and teens to maintain balance in their lives with mobile devices when you use a parental control software.

Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities this summer and all year long. If your tweens have an Apple mobile devices, Netsanity has a great feature called Screenlock. It can be used on a regular basis to completely block them from using their mobile device for texting, or other activities whenever you feel that they need a healthy break, sleep, or to ensure they are focusing on other activities. Netsanity now offers a 14-day free trial on all their plans, so its worth checking out if your child has an Apple mobile device. They will soon be releasing a version for Android as well!

How to Promote Good Mobile Technology Use with your Kids

It seems as though kids in today’s world are constantly attached to a mobile device of some sorts. While this helps to connect them to the world in a unique way, there are great dangers in this type of ability. Parents have fears that their child will become socially challenged because they are not interacting with others outside of an online setting.

Another issue that is caused by constant use of technology is the increased exposure to bullies. When a child is bullied online, it is something that they feel as though they can never escape from. This can cause detrimental damage to the child and their future. Because of these reasons and others, parents are now looking for ways to promote good mobile technology use with their kids. Here are a few ways that you can do just that.

 

Set Time Limits

The best way to promote good mobile technology use is to limit the amount of time that your children and teens and be on their devices. While this is something that can be a challenge, there are some things that you can do to make the mission a bit easier.

For starters, communicate with your child and explain why you are looking to control their time. You are looking to teach them how to be in control of the device rather than the other way around. Also, keep in mind that you are in charge of the security of your child and limiting their time will help them to learn how to respond to bullies and set boundaries.

There are also many apps and tools that you can use to help monitor the time that your child spends on their mobile device. Make sure that you are using them to your ability. However, don’t fully rely on these apps and tools. They will never be able to fully replace your personal attention.

Zwei jugendliche Freunde mit Smartphone am idyllischen TeichPlan Family Activities

Helping your child manage their mobile technology use is much easier when your child has alternatives. Sometimes the best ways to provide alternatives is to have family activities that are fun and entertaining for the whole family. This can help to control the use of technology and bring you closer as a family.

You should also have certain times during the day when technology is not allowed. For example, make sure that no one uses their mobile devices at the dinner table. Having dinner together as a family nightly is also important and will help you to monitor how your child is reacting to the world around them.

Mother and daughter at cafe using smart phone Teach your Kids about Technology

One mistake that many kids make is not realizing how their use of mobile technology will affect their future. For example, some kids post pictures online that are very damaging to their reputation. Not only could this make your kids look bad now, but it can also cause them to have trouble in the future.

More and more businesses and colleges are spending time searching through social media when they are looking at applicants. If your child has negative posts and photos online, this could mean that their chances of getting a job or accepted into the college that they are interested in could diminish. Teaching your kids how to properly manage their online reputation is very important because of these issues.

Parents are quickly losing the battle when it comes to controlling the way their kids use mobile technology. Some are simply too busy and others don’t want to look like the bad guy. Other parents find that they are unskilled when it comes to using the devices themselves and therefore have a difficult time when it comes to controlling what their kids are doing.

However, as parents, it is more important than ever that we teach our kids how to set boundaries. One of the most important boundaries comes in the form of how they use their mobile technology. In order to make sure that your kids stay healthy and successful, make sure that you are taking the necessary time to learn what you need to about monitoring their technology use.Smartphone users

It is always easier to help your children and teens to maintain a healthy relationship  with technology when you use a parental control software.

Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities this summer and all year long. If your tweens have an Apple mobile devices, Netsanity has a great feature called Screenlock. It can be used on a regular basis to completely block them from using their mobile device for texting, or other activities whenever you feel that they need a healthy break, sleep, or to ensure they are focusing on other activities.

Netsanity now offers a 14-day free trial on all their plans, so its worth checking out if your child has an Apple mobile device. They will soon be releasing a version for Android as well!

What Parents Need to Know: Instagram
Along with Facebook and Twitter,  Instagram is one of the most popular social media apps being used by anyone from elementary school students to grandparents. Everyone loves it for its smooth and easy to navigate design, the ease of sharing pictures with friends and family, and convenient method of communication. Instagram is a great place to show off one’s photography skill, what they did over the weekend, or maybe post a hundred different pictures of their cute pets.  While this platform of social media is predominantly fun for all ages, there are some things parents should know about Instagram before letting their children use this app.

Like Any Social Media, Make Sure to MonitorIMG_8873

When using Instagram, or any other social media platform, it is always wise to take precautions. Make sure to discuss with your child what is acceptable to post and what isn’t. What is put on the internet is put out there forever, so it is important that nothing your child posts could be damaging to their future in school and work. You can keep watch by following your child and supervising what is posted.

Since anyone can follow anyone, it is also important that your child knows to keep their Instagram profile private. Then, confirm that they know everyone who they allow to follow them so no strangers have any
access to their personal information or pictures. Speaking of personal information, it is also wise to turn off location services so Instagram does not map your child’s location on their post.

Instagram Isn’t Always a Happy Place

When children browse through Instagram, they’ll often come across everything that everyone has been doing lately. Going to amusement parks, vacations to the beach, or going to the movies with friends, it all seems like everyone is having the time of their lives while they themselves are at home. It can lead the child to feel left out, thinking their friends are not inviting them to all their fun or that their lives aren’t nearly as exciting as their peers.

What Parents Need to Know About Instagram

Even though this may not always be the real case, Instagram can often portray people’s lives as far more exciting and busy than they are. Seeing everyone show off like this could cause your child to feel inadequate or become depressed. If your child starts to feel this way, it would be best to sit them down and explain that Instagram does not accurately portray the full picture of someone else’s life,  and that sometimes people cannot spend time with them all the time, but that doesn’t mean they want to leave them out.

Like any other form of social media, Instagram is also prime grounds for cyber bulling. Whether it be making fun of someone’s pictures, sending mean direct messages, or creating fake accounts to harass someone with, Instagram can be a scary place sometimes. Sadly, it is impossible sometimes to prevent people from being bullies, but as a parent, one can still take a stand to prevent your child from being subjected to it.

Here’s What Parent’s Need to Know about Instagram

Imagine yourself having a lonely summer vacation spent mostly at home. You sit down to check your Instagram account and you see endless images of your friends boating, splashing at the beach, or toasting each other at a new local hot spot, all without you! As an adult, you may chuckle and allow it to bother you for a moment, and then shrug it off. Now, imagine yourself at 13. How would you feel?

Being excluded socially is always tough, regardless of your age. These days however, our tweens and teens are much more likely to find out almost in real-time, what they are missing out on. Seeing the fun in full digital color, filtered and cropped to perfection, as you are omitted from the fun being posted – it can be painful. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, when many of today’s parents were teens and at home for the summer, one typically had no idea what one was missing out on unless a friend told you and even then, that rarely happened in real-time! Digital pictures certainly not included!

parenting tips for Instagram

We understand that most tweens and teens who are active on social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter or Facebook are not posting pictures determined in making others feel bad. Most kids are living in the moment, with little foresight as to whom may be left excluded in this new digital world.

As parents, we have seen our children on both sides of this emotional circumstance. Older teens tend to handle this better, but for the younger set, it can be an entirely different experience. Some younger teens, when discussing this topic, told me that they oftentimes feel depressed about missing out, or not being invited. They take this dismissiveness by their peers as a personal reflection on them.

There are things that can be done, most importantly being engaged and aware. You can’t address something you don’t know exists. Look for clues and signs. One is the absolute absorption in their mobile device, quickly followed by depression or looking uninterested in topics or family. Try to get some control over their state and find a root cause.

 

On any mobile device, when looking at the app age ratings, note that most apps have a minimum age recommendation of 13. Here are some additional tips when allowing your children to use Instagram:

  • THINK – teach your children to always pause before they post. Teach them to ask themselves if the picture could make anyone feel left out or excluded?
  • Recommend that they delay their postings so that the event isn’t viewed in real-time by others. This simple act, can often make all the difference to a friend who is sitting at home alone.
  • Parents can model proper behavior by showing the same respect when posting or reacting. You know that pleasant feeling you get when seeing your own friends on social media on a romantic vacation in Hawaii, while you are at home cooking dinner and doing laundry!
  • Instill balance with mobile parental controls like Netsanity, for example. Their Timeblocker scheduler, used on a regular basis, gives your tween a break from their mobile device. Sometimes you may need to resort to blocking some social apps, even if temporarily if the teen seems to be too obsessed. Appblocker can be used to block apps such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and others, on demand, if your child is having trouble tearing themselves away.

Sometimes all they need is a break!

We love social media as much as anyone, but we also know there’s a fine line between enjoying its benefits in moderation, and spending endless hours letting it bring you or your children down. We always recommend monitoring, communicating, and taking breaks from social media and all internet devices on a regular basis!

5 Ways Predators Groom Children During Online Gaming

Your child’s online gaming friends seem perfectly innocent. They chat about the game, about its latest upgrades and frustrations, and about what’s going on in their lives. Unfortunately, some of these so-called friends could all too easily be predators–and your child might never realize that they’re falling into their trap. Predators often groom children during online gaming sessions, using familiar activities and behaviors to convince children and teens that they can be trusted when in reality, they can’t.

1. They will convince your child that they are a “friend.” In some cases, they may masquerade as a teen themselves in order to break down those barriers and convince your child to trust them. They’ll share “personal information” that convinces your child that they are opening up, when in reality, they’re simply grooming them for future exploitation.

2. They’ll play on a teen’s natural sexual curiosity and desires. Teenagers are often eager to find out more about the sexual world, and they’ll cross plenty of parental boundaries in order to satisfy that curiosity. Predators play into that curiosity, gently teasing teens across their boundaries one step at a time. They might start by chatting about sex or opening the door to those types of conversations in what appears to be a nervous manner, eventually progressing to much more dangerous types of discussions and behavior. They might also start with something as dirty jokes, leading up to a link to pornography or another type of content that your child doesn’t want to see.

child-night-surfing3. They’ll listen to your child. Emotional trust is often built slowly, through simple interactions that build into something more. Just like a sexual predator in physical contact will gradually build from small, insignificant touches to more dangerous ones, an online predator will slowly and patiently build your child’s trust. They’ll listen to their problems, giving them the impression that they “understand them” better than anyone else or that they are able to give them something that no one else in their circle of friends can. This trust-building is one of the key parts of developing a relationship with your child and breaking down their boundaries.

4. They’ll encourage secrecy. Predators are aware that children might be innocent, but their parents are paying attention, have a good idea of what dangerous behavior looks like, and will react protectively if they suspect that their offspring are in danger. For this reason, many predators will encourage secrecy concerning the relationship. Parents should take note any time their child or teen suddenly stops talking about a particular friend who has particularly been a conversational staple.

Girl Texting On Mobile Phone At Night While Lying In Bed

5. They’ll separate teens from their friends and family. This is a very subtle process: gently mentioning that others “don’t understand” or giving the impression that their choices are malicious, rather than simply against the teen’s wishes. As the wedge between friends and family members goes deeper, the predator is able to better deepen their own relationship with your teen. They become the primary confidante and therefore lower their risks of discovery.

Keeping your child safe online is a process that should never be undertaken lightly. While you can’t monitor every moment your child spends online, there are several things you can do to help keep them safer.

  • Set clear rules and expectations. Keep computers and tablets in communal areas where you can observe your child at any time.
  • Discuss boundaries often. Help your child become familiar with the idea of online predators in an age-appropriate way.
  • Stay aware of what, where, and when your child is playing. If their behaviors change suddenly, look for the reason behind the change.
  • Play your child’s games yourself occasionally. Interact with their friends and get a feel for them.
  • Remind your teen that online “friends” are still strangers and that private information should remain private no matter how well they think they know someone.

Mother Comforting Daughter Being Bullied By Text MessageSetting boundaries with dangerous or age-inappropriate apps or games  is always easier when you use a trustworthy mobile parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services , like their gameblocker, where certain internet-based games and apps, are profiled and parents can easily block and unblock them with a one-click  solution. They have a 14-day free trial, so its worth checking out if your teen has an Apple mobile device. Later this year in 2016, they will also be rolling out their service to Android users as well!

 

As  parents it is our job to never forget that the online world is large and dangerous. Teaching your children and teens to be internet savvy and aware of predators is crucial to keeping them safe!

Smartphones and Smart Summer Rules

Today’s kids are spending more time on their devices than ever. From texting friends on their smartphones to staring at the screen as they plow through “just one more level” on their latest video game, kids can quickly waste their entire summer staring at once device or another. If you’re hoping to still keep your kids tech smart this summer, don’t delay because even if your summer vacation has already started it is not too late to incorporate some  technology rules.

Keep Them Busy

Many kids are spending as much as 75 hours per week using technology. While you can’t keep them busy every minute of every day, providing your kids with other activities can help keep their summers on track and encourage them to spend more time doing things that are healthy, educational, or fulfilling. You don’t have to be on them every minute to provide them with plenty of options.

  • Invest in a swimming pool club or amusement park membership for the summer and take the kids often.
  • Offer opportunities for family bonding activities that don’t involve technology. Board games might be corny, but they can also be a lot of fun!
  • Encourage teens to look into the possibility of a summer job. From babysitting or mowing lawns to flipping burgers, there are plenty of opportunities for your child to earn some extra cash and stay busy with something that doesn’t have a screen.
  • Take a fun road trip to a popular cake or ice cream shop…especially if they were on Food Network, teens love that!
  • Put together a summer reading list at the beginning of summer–both books that interest your child and books that you think would benefit them in some way. Encourage them to see how many of those books they can complete over the summer.
  • Plan outdoor activities often throughout the summer. Go for hikes, visit the beach, or simply hang out in the back yard: there are plenty of activities that will catch the kids’ attention and help them leave technology behind.

friendship, leisure, summer, technology and people concept - friends with smartphones sitting on sandy beach

Set Reasonable Tech Rules

Let’s face it: if you’re stuck in the car for hours on your way to your summer vacation destination, you aren’t going to adhere to a rule that says the kids can only spend a certain number of hours per day on their devices. If they’re quiet, not fighting, and not complaining about the cramped conditions in the car, you’re not going to rock the boat! The rest of the summer, however, setting reasonable technology rules in place is the ideal way to keep your kids’ technology use on track instead of allowing it to get out of control. Try some of these rules, or adapt them according to your family’s needs.

  • Set specific blocks of time where they can indulge in certain technology-based activities, including video games and phone time. Whether that’s a single hour or in the evening after dinner. Some families like to make a list of chores that have to be completed before you change Timeblocker settings!
  • Set specific “off times” for technology. There’s absolutely no reason to bring phones to the table, nor should they be present during family time. Whatever their friends have to say will wait for a few hours.
  • Adhere to your own rules. If you want their technology turned off during certain times, keep yours put away as well if you can! We do understand that sometimes work calls and if it does explain that to your children and they will understand the difference! Also, keep in mind that the more times you allow your children to make excuses for sliding past your rules, the less likely they’ll be to adhere to them long-term.

friendship, leisure, summer, technology and people concept - couple of smiling friends with smartphones sitting on grass in park

You might not be able to go off the grid entirely for the summer, but you can keep your kids’ technology use in check and encourage them to make far more productive use of those hours out of school. Fill your summer with activities that your kids will really enjoy, family time that will leave you connected, and opportunities for them to grow.  It is always easier to help your children and teens to maintain balance in their lives with mobile devices when you use a parental control software.

Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities this summer and all year long. If your tweens have an Apple mobile devices, Netsanity has a great feature called Screenlock. It can be used on a regular basis to completely block them from using their mobile device for texting, or other activities whenever you feel that they need a healthy break, sleep, or to ensure they are focusing on other activities. Netsanity now offers a 14-day free trial on all their plans, so its worth checking out if your child has an Apple mobile device. They will soon be releasing a version for Android as well!

 

Overall, balance this summer will leave your family healthy and rested for when everyone starts back to school in the Fall!

What Parents Need to Know About Snapchat

Snapchat is an app, most notably popular with teenagers and young adults, available for Android and iOS devices. With Snapchat, you can send photos and videos to people you know, with the expectation that they will “self-destruct” in a specified amount of time. Users pass the time sending pictures of themselves, their food, their clothes, and their daily activities. For many reasons, Snapchat has grown incredibly fast in recent years. Here are a few things parents need to know Snapchat.

How Snapchat Works

Snapchat allows you to take photos and videos with just the click of a button (or tap of a screen). Once you have taken a photo, you can choose who you wish to share the photo with as well as how long you want the photo to exist on the recipient’s screen before it disappears. There are also Snapchat Stories, which allow you to share your photos with all those on your list of friends.

While Snapchat users are not allowed to save messages they receive, they can still take screenshots or photos of the images. This is becoming a concern for users, especially those who do not realize that this is a possibility before they send certain types of messages.

Picture of beautiful students ladies sitting at table in library and making selfies on mobile or smart phone for their groupmates or classmates.
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Who Uses Snapchat?

The majority of Snapchat users are actually between the ages of 13 and 25. Additionally, many users participate by creating original images of their own and then posting them to the web.

Teens love Snapchat for a variety of reasons. For instance, Snapchat is straightforward to navigate and easy to use. Additionally, they tend to trust that videos and photos truly are gone forever, and they won’t face embarrassment for certain types of photos that they send. Teens can send inside jokes and communicate with friends in a way they perceive to be private. Plus, Snapchat is totally free. Teens can use it to immediately send texts and photos without using text messaging limits.

Why Parents Should Be Concerned about Snapchat

Parents are increasingly concerned about Snapchat and similar apps because they facilitate the taking of suggestive or nude photos, even for users who are underage. Teens tend to think it is safe to send photos via Snapchat, but it is not. It is also possible for teenagers to be charged with sending or receiving child pornography via Snapchat and similar apps.

Many parents have no idea that their children are even using Snapchat. According to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, users should be 13 or older. Still, children may sign up without the permission of their parents.

Portrait child, surprised girl texting on mobile, using smart phone, isolated outdoors, outside background. Funny looking human face expressions, emotions, reaction, body language. Communication

Additionally, parents become concerned with the app because Snapchat reserves the right to use photos in any way that it wishes. Photos have leaked in the past, thanks to unscrupulous hackers.

Parents are also concerned with the potential for using Snapchat as a cyberbullying tool. The proposed solution? Encourage children to take screenshots of anything somebody sends that is rude or offensive.

The false sense of security that Snapchat offers may also make it easier for strangers to connect with your children, soliciting photos or impersonating friends and family members.

What Parents Can Do

The key to building a relationship built on trust and honesty is to talk to your kids on an ongoing basis about the use of social media and apps. Talk to your child about the benefits of using Snapchat, as well as some of the downsides. Explain which Snapchat behaviors you think are healthy and which are not. Then, listen to what they have to say about it.

It is also important to discuss the fact that all actions have consequences, and using Snapchat is no exception. Setting limits early on is the key to ensuring that your child is safe, especially with the understanding that you will be checking their phone and engaging with them on a regular basis.

Even if you trust your children to be technologically responsible, it is always a must to stay involved. By keeping communication lines open you’ll show them that you trust your kids to make good decisions, but that at the same time you are there to help them if they need it.

Euphoric friends watching videos on a smartphone and pointing at screen surprised

Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children and teens are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services their appblocker feature is a “must have” if your children or teens have an Apple or Android mobile device. With one-click you can block any internet-based app that you find dangerous or inappropriate. They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s definitely worth checking out.

 

Again, honest ongoing conversations about staying safe will do more to keep your tweens and teen safe more than any other action that you can take!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Drama Causing Apps: What Can Parents Do?

Smartphones have completely changed the way we operate in our day-to-day lives. We now have the capacity to communicate on a scale that’s never Worried teenager girl looking at her smart phone in a park with an unfocused backgroundbeen possible before, with everything from regular phone calls up to video chat. While this technology is technically available to everyone, teenagers are the ones who use it more than almost anyone else. And because there are more apps than ever before that allow teens to connect with the world at large, it’s now easier for teens to get embroiled in drama, and worse, than at any other time in history.

Drama Causing Apps

There are a lot of apps out there responsible for causing drama, particularly with younger users. While Facebook is responsible for its share, newer apps like Ask.FM, YikYak, AfterSchool, and others are stealing the trouble-causing spotlight.

So what’s wrong with these apps? Are they set up to cause drama, gaining their popularity from the spectacle of watching the keyboard wars between teens? Not exactly. You see, while these apps are made for members to communicate with each other, the Internet offers the opportunity for users to be the invisible man. Even if users aren’t posting anonymously, though, people are a lot more likely to let fly with awful things if it’s done virtually, rather than if it’s done in-person.

Close up of an upset girl with tousled hair having a bad day on the phone isolated on a white backgroundThe Dark Side of The Internet

In the old days, people thought of cyberspace as some imaginary world. It was like a video game, where nothing that happened really mattered. However, with so much of our lives happening in this virtual space, that kind of attitude isn’t one that can be maintained. Not when students can get their degrees, professionals can work, and couples can meet their future partners online. In today’s modern age, the Internet isn’t a separate world from the “real” one we live in; it’s just another method of expressing, meeting, and living.

Which is why apps like the ones mentioned are double-edged swords. Because they allow everyone, but especially teens, to keep in touch with the rest of the world. They let people communicate, make friends, and find peer groups to share their likes and interests with. On the other hand, though, these sites expose teens to negative influences. In extreme situations it could lead to trolling, cyber-bullying, and even stalking.

Keep Lines of Communication Open

It would make any parent nervous, exposing their teens to a potentially negative environment like that. However, while the first urge is to ban your tweens and teenagers from downloading apps like this, it’s important to remember that they have positive aspects as well. It’s more important to remember that, sooner or later, teens are going to have to make their own decisions when becoming adults.

That’s why it’s a good idea to sometimes allow access with various apps, but to keep an open and ongoing conversation on the subject.

Solutions

Parents giving smartphone to kid with warningIf you do allow your tweens or teens to use a particular app, I always recommend that parents explore it first because there are many inappropriate apps out there. Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children of all ages are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services “ their Appblocker, where certain social media and other apps are profiled and parents can one-click block them, making apps that you may find inappropriate such as Grindr, Down, or Hot or Not, and many others a one-click  solution. They have a free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your teen has a mobile device.

Again, honest ongoing conversations about staying safe and being kind online will do more to keep your tweens and teen safe and drama free more than any other action that you can take!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

What is KIK? Here’s What Parents Need To Know About the App

What is Kik | Netsanity ExplainsWith the rise of private messaging apps, it is no surprise that children and young teens are finding their way onto them. One of the most popular messaging apps is known as KIK. You may be wondering the same thing many parents are: what is kik? We feel that there are a few things parents need to know about KIK.

If you have been paying attention to the news, you may have heard the story of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell. The teenager frequently used the anonymous messaging service to communicate with new people. Specifically, Lovell had been communicating with 18-year-old Virginia Tech student David Eisenhauer, who is now being charged with the teen’s murder. A female student, 19-year-old Natalie Keepers, is also being charged in the abduction and death. Lovell considered Eisenhauer to be her boyfriend, but the truth is that something much more sinister was going on.

It is easy to look at this scenario and think that Lovell is the only victim, but this simply is not the case. Other minors have also been victims of using KIK, as the anonymity of the app allows predators to use it freely. This leaves parents with a vital question: How do I protect my child when access to apps like these are so prevalent?

First, what is Kik?

KIK is an anonymous messaging service that allows users to create usernames to chat for free with the 200 million others. You do not necessarily need to know somebody’s username in order to chat with them. In fact, you can chat with virtually anybody around the world. Additionally, it can be difficult for law enforcement to track these messages and find the perpetrators of crimes.

Learn more about Kik here:

Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kik_Messenger

Kik App Explained | Block Inappropriate Apps With NetsanityOpen Phone Policy

Lovell’s friends later expressed that the young teenager had planned to run away with Eisenhauer and start a family. Even if you do not suspect that your child has similar plans with somebody they have met online, checking your child’s phone can help you determine if there is something inappropriate going on with your own child. The best way to protect your child is to have an “open phone policy”. This is as simple as a spontaneous peek on a regular basis at what your child is doing on their phone. Some parents simply choose to friend their children or simply monitor their social media by asking for login/password information. However, you should keep in mind that often with today’s tech savvy kids this might not be foolproof since they could set up two accounts – one that you follow along with, and another that they may keep hidden from you. I discuss this in detail on a previous blog about hiding apps.

Parental Controls to Help With Blocking Access to Kik

Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children and teens are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software.

Consistent CommunicationMother Comforting Daughter Being Bullied By Text Messages on Kik App

Talking to your children and teenagers about staying safe online is essential. Encourage your children to think before they post. Anything they put online can be seen by literally anybody with an Internet connection – even if they think they are being discreet or private.

In Lovell’s case, she told friends that she was talking to an older boy before she met up with him. Could open communication between parent and child have resulted in a better understanding of why meeting up with or even communicating with strangers online is a dangerous idea? Lovell had been grounded for talking to men on KIK, but sadly her search for compassion and affection led her back to the app. Keeping our children and teens safe online is an ongoing task for parents, but one well worth taking to keep them safe and educated about the dangers of the online and offline world!

Cyberbullying: What Can Parents Do?

Teenage Girl Victim Of Bullying By Text MessageA 15 year-old girl in San Jose named Audrie Potts hanged herself after finding out that, while she was passed out at a party, she was sexually assaulted by several boys who photographed themselves doing it and posted the images on social media. The suicide was later the subject of a wrongful death action that resulted in a $950,000 judgment against the boys’ families, according to People Magazine. The boys served very little jail time due to the fact they were juveniles at the time of the crime.

The case of Audrie Potts is just one example of a young person being driven to commit suicide because of the pervasive ability of social media users to bully and harass relentlessly.

What is cyberbullying?

The United States government Stopbullying site defines cyberbullying as follows:Bullying girls using smartphones

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.”

Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.

In the past, bullying only consisted of physical altercations in the schoolyard or some other public place. The victim had the option of calling on an adult to fix the problem or learning how to box.

Cyberbullying is more insidious because it is often done anonymously. The victim often cannot identify who his or her bullies are and thus has no defense against the bullying. Hence, more often than it is comfortable to imagine, the only way out, at least from the point of view of the victim, is death.

How to help your kids and teens fight cyberbullying

teen-bullied-600X400Stopbullying has a number of suggestions on how to prevent cyberbullying and how to respond to it when it happens.

To help prevent cyberbullying it is important for parents to take some measure of control over how their children use social media. Parents need to be aware of what their children are doing online. A great place to start is by establishing rules about what they should and should not post online. I love this idea mentioned in a blog by YourSphere  called an “Open Phone Policy”. Finally, children need to be empowered to confide in an adult if they are being cyberbullied. Some parents simply choose to friend their children or simply monitor their social media by asking for login/password information. However, you should keep in mind that often with today’s tech savvy kids this might not be foolproof since they could set up two accounts – one that you follow along with, and another that they may keep hidden from you. I discuss this in detail on a previous blog about hiding apps.

If your child or teen is being cyberbullied, you should encourage them to record the text and images being used to bully and then immediately block the person doing the bullying. Do not respond directly to the cyberbully.

A cyberbullying victim should also report the incident(s) to the internet service provider, law enforcement (especially if threats of violence or sexually-explicit videos and images are involved) and the school. Depending on the applicMother Comforting Daughter Being Bullied By Text Messageable laws and policies, these entities will be able to take corrective action.

If you start to notice that your child is spending too much time online or they seem depressed or frustrated after using social media take that as a warning sign. In addition, to having a heart-to-heart discussion, I also encourage parents to use a high-quality parental control before even giving your child a smartphone. If not, it is never too late to start! If they have and Andoird or Apple device, I always recommend Netsanity. They have a great Timeblocker scheduler, when used on a regular basis, helps set up regular social media breaks. In some cases when you have find that there are certain apps that you may want to block based on your child’s age. Netsanity’s Appblocker can be used to block apps such as YikYak, AfterSchool, or SnapChat, and others, on demand, if you find that these apps are being used as tools to cyberbully your child, the app is inappropriate or if you just feel that your child or even your teen is not ready for the responsibility associated with certain apps.

How a 17 year-old girl struck back at her cyberbullies

Recently, BizPac reported on the case of Lauren Brocious, a senior at Millbrook High School in Winchester, Va. Lauren had been cyberbullied since she was in the eighth grade but chose to suffer in silence. However, when a friend of hers confided that she was being cyberbullied as well, she decided that she had had enough and struck back in an inspirational YouTube video.

Lauren starts the video by writing mean words on her face, such as ugly and stupid  and trash while explaining how many people define themselves by the labels others give them. Then she wiped away those words and replaced them with more positive words, such as pretty and love. Her message: “Love yourself, and remember you are amazing.”

Finally, having an open phone policy with your kids and teens as well as regular conversations about staying safe, appropriate and KIND when they go online will do more to keep your child safe than just about any other action you can take!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Can Having a Smartphone Make Your Teen a Criminal?

Most of us look at a smartphone, and we see a piece of plastic with an Internet connection. It’s a tool for communication, and for easily retrieving information we need. Everything from your emergency contact numbers for your extended family, to looking up who played the supporting role in that movie you and your friends are arguing about is at your fingertips. While giving a smartphone to a teen is one part rite of passage, and one part necessity, it can also be a good way to get teens arrested if they aren’t given a safety discussion first.teen-bullied-600X400

How A Smartphone Can Make Your Teen a Criminal

A smartphone, used improperly, can get your teen arrested. That is a cold fact, and one that’s important to remember when you sit down to have a talk with them about what they can and can’t do with their device. Because a smartphone keeps records, and those records can be damning if teens display certain behaviors.

There are certain activities teens are at-risk from that, in a few years, they’ll be able to do with impunity. For example, adults sexting each other, or sending nude images to one another, might be a flirty way for adult couples to keep in touch. Teens doing it, however, may be committing a crime. That can be even more dangerous for teens who have an age difference. Something as innocent-seeming as agreeing to meet up with someone younger can have disastrous consequences, even if it’s only a year or so difference in age. Many parents do not fully understand nor contemplate the fact that a child or teen sending or receiving sexually explicit images on their smartphone may be deemed to have committed a criminal offense, with the severity of those charges being quite sobering. In Texas, a law passed in 2011 , SB 407, imposes harsh consequences for teens. For example, a 17 year-old Texas teen can face jail up to 180 days under certain circumstances. In states that have not specifically addressed sexting, it is very possible that the state will defer to its child pornography laws to address the action. While prosecutors tend to be reluctant to pursue aggressive sentences for teens who are caught sexting with a boyfriend or girlfriend, under other circumstances, heavier penalties will apply. In the instance where a sexting image gets distributed to more than one child or teen, more pressure is exerted on the legal system to make an example out of the wrongdoers and impose harsher sentences.

teen male portrait wearing handcuffsIt isn’t just sex that can get teens in trouble when it comes to their smartphones, either. There’s a tendency to treat things said in a virtual space as not real; that saying something to someone online is somehow different than saying it to them in person. However, with cyber-bullying law and harassment laws, what a teen says in a forum, or on a social app, can come back to haunt them.

The line between virtual life, and “real” life is growing hazier every day, and teens need to be aware of that when they’re using their smartphones. For example, there’s an unfortunate tendency online for rape threats and death threats to be used as a form of textual aggression. While it’s unlikely that most senders will follow through on said threats, no one would be surprised if the police came knocking at their door if those threats were shouted across the lunch room. Sending them online is quickly reaching the same level of gravity, and law enforcement is taking online harassment more seriously every day.

Talk About Responsibility Before Handing Over A Smartphone

Teens are already aware of a lot of issues they’re facing, simply by virtue of growing up with the newest generation of technology. However, as a parent, it’s still your job to have that conversation with them. Because if you don’t, it’s likely that someone in a uniform might. Teens are going to make some bad decisions; that’s part of growing up. However, they need to have all the information on hand in order to figure out what the right thing to do is. Sexting, nude photos, and other erotic online activities can cause a storm of legal problems for teens because they are underage. Sometimes all it takes is a year of difference between a teen and a partner for serious problems to erupt. That’s why its better to talk about it, and get it out in the open, before it happens.Mother Comforting Daughter Being Bullied By Text Message

If you do allow your teen to use a particular app, I always recommend that parents explore it first because there are many, many inappropriate apps out there. Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your teens are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software. NetSanity offers a suite of services their Appblocker, where certain social media and other apps are profiled and parents can one-click block them, making those dating apps that you may find inappropriate such as Down or YikYak and many others with a one-click solution. They have other ways to enforce parental policies. For example, remotely disabling the camera for Apple devices will stop any ability to snap pictures, use FaceTime, SnapChat, or use other means to share inappropriate images or videos. They have a free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your teen has a mobile device.

Having an open phone policy with your kids and teens as well as ongoing conversations about staying safe, appropriate and KIND when they go online will do more to keep your teen safe more any other action you might take!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Is Social Media Making Cliques Worse?

What are cliques?

Multiethnic Group of Teenagers Outdoor

Counterintuitively, larger schools with a greater diversity of students tend to encourage cliques. This is because students, being anxious to form meaningful relationships, seek out like minded peers to form friendships with. Conversely, smaller schools with smaller classrooms tend to force teens to form friendships across socioeconomic and cultural lines.

Popular culture, such as the film The Breakfast Club, which came out in the 1980’s and the TV show Daria  which aired in the 1990’s neatly document how teenagers behave in cliques and what happens when teens in different cliques have to interact with one another.

Cliques and social media

High School cliques predate social media by decades. However, the advent of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms has changed the way cliques work, according to How Stuff Works. No longer does a student have to stand around with his or her clique in the school cafeteria. Instead, he or she can leave messages on social network sites. Incidentally, social media has fostered the growth of cliques among adults in their 30’s and even into their 40’s!

happy smiling group of diverse girls at summer camp

MIT once conducted a study that suggested that social networks, dating back to Usenet from the last century and going forward to Facebook and similar platforms today, foster the development of cliques, even though the number of participants number in the hundreds of thousands at any given time. People with similar tastes in movies and music and the same politics tend to band together in smaller networks, Sociologists have even coined a term for this phenomenon: homophily. In effect, social media is just one, big high school.

The problems with social media and cliques

One of the problems with interacting with other people on social media is that it fosters a certain emotional distance. Without the visual and verbal ques that people get when talking face to face, accurate communication is sometimes difficult. The other person is just a small head-shot and a brief bio on a computer or handheld electronic device and not a living, breathing human being.

Social media and the cliques that form on them tend to exacerbate two of the banes of teenage life, peer pressure and social isolation.

Unhappy Girl Being Bullied In Class

Parentmap suggests that social media has allowed the development of virtual peer pressure. A teenager can like, unlike, blacklist, cyber bully, and ostracize other teenagers with a few key strokes, without witnessing directly the consequences of such actions. Peer pressure can now take place over vast distances and, with teens who have lots of Facebook friends, with great power.

Cardinal Points notes that time on social media, rather than fostering connections, often causes social isolation and anxiety. A teenager might see his or her friends mentioning things on Facebook that he or she hasn’t a clue about. Kids will find out that a party is going on that they haven’t been invited to. In turn, this experience causes a sense of isolation and anxiety.

How to deal with cliques and social media

Mother embracing and soothes depressed daughterDealing with problems like peer pressure and isolation that takes place on social media can be a problem for parents because it often takes place out of their purview. The best way to deal with these problems is to be aware that they are happening before the signs, such as withdraw from parents, demands for certain trendy clothes, or other alarming behaviors, is to monitor your children’s social media. The trick is to know when to intervene and when not to. No one likes a helicopter parent. Too much intervention is likely to only make matters worse. In any case, good parenting, teaching leadership skills and self-esteem, are the keys for helping your kids cope with the new virtual cliques.

What else can parents do?

On any mobile device, when looking at the app age ratings, note that most apps have a minimum age recommendation of 13. Here at Netsanity, we recommend following age-appropriate guidelines as well as these tips:

  • Think teach your children to always pause before they post. Teach them to ask themselves if the picture could make anyone feel left out or excluded?
  • Recommend that they delay their postings so that the event isn’t viewed in real-time by others. This simple act, can often make all the difference to a friend who is sitting at home alone.
  • Parents can model proper behavior by showing the same respect when posting or reacting. Be aware yourself about how posting a pic of your latest tropical vacation may make someone who is struggling financially or has recently lost a job loss feel.
  • Instill balance with mobile parental controls like Netsanity, for example. Their Timeblocker scheduler, used on a regular basis, gives your tween or teen a break from their mobile devices. Sometimes you may need to resort to blocking some social apps, even if temporarily. Netsanity’s Appblocker can be used to block apps such as Instagram, SnapChat, After School, and others, on demand, if your child is having trouble tearing themselves away or starting to feel depressed. They have a 14-day free trial, if you want to check it out – for Apple devices.

Sometimes all they need is a break!

We love social media as much as anyone, but we also know there’s a fine line between enjoying its benefits in moderation, and spending endless hours letting it bring you or your children down. We always recommend monitoring, communicating, and taking breaks from social media and all internet devices on a regular basis!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Social Apps are “The New Teen Drug”

I was driving a group of girls around last week and as I sat in the drivers seat all I heard was Instagram this and SnapChat that – click! Later that same day, I was driving a group of boys to soccer practicetweens.texting-450px and the conversations weren’t that different; just a few less camera clicks. Almost every conversation I heard that day in my car had something to do w/ social media apps. I thought to myself, is this what life has come too? Is this how we want our younger generation to be living their lives?

Admittedly, I am guilty myself of similar social app absorption. Recently, while sitting down to watch a movie and enjoy a glass of wine with my husband, I happen to look up and see my husband starring (maybe glaring) 😉 at me asking me to please put down my iPhone. I have caught myself very often scrolling aimlessly to see what has happened since the last time I had checked my Facebook feed (which honestly, was probably only 5 minutes prior). Can we help ourselves?

I decided to sit down with a group of teen girls and discuss their smartphone and social media use. What I learned was this: They love it, they hate it, and even though it causes them tremendous anxiety at times they all answered the same when I asked if they would ever go without social media:

“No! Never! Forget it!”

Social media has become a dominant force in the lives of most tweens and teens around the world. Aided by the convenience and constant access provided by mobile devices, especially smartphones, 92% of teens report going online daily including 24% who say they go online almost constantly. More than half (56%) of teens as defined in this report as those ages 13 to 17 and go online several times a day! (Pew Research)

According to recent Pew Research, adolescents put technology in the same category as air and water. They feel they need it to live their lives. In fact, they would rather give up their small finger than their cell phone. While shocking to me, I asked the girls if they agreed and all said: Yes!

What makes social media addictive?

Being friends in the virtualteen-ignoring-mom-600X411 world requires much less effort and makes it easier to meet friends than the efforts needed to make real-life connections.

Virtual connections make life quick and convenient. Tweens and teens appreciate the instant gratification that comes from a like, a share, or even being friended by an older or popular classmate.

While smartphones are mobile they are making our kids and teens less mobile!  Teens we sat down with often felt that they had no desire or need to get out and meet up with friends since they could stay in their room and pick up a device and be instantly connected. Sadly, this is leading to a rise in obesity and sedentary lifestyles.

Being virtual has shown to diminish our empathy for people and distort our value of them. Online bullying and harassment can be easier to commit than other acts of bullying because the bully doesn’t have to confront his or her target in person. It’s also hard to control, and the person being victimized has no idea how many have seen the messages or posts. Tweens and teens can be tormented on a 24/7 basis, making them feel like they need to continually check their smartphones!

What can young woman use her cell phone walking on parking lotparents do?

Watching for signs of digital addiction is important for all parents. Some of the signs that your child might have developed a problem are when their grades begin to fall at school or when you notice changes in their personality and normal habits. As always, at any age monitoring and limiting their screen time with their mobile smartphones is a good first step to take. While doing this, make sure that there are other, healthier activities that they can turn to that will replace the time that they are usually spending on their digital devices.

  • Solutions can be as simple as telling your teen to turn off all social media notifications-both pop-up and email notifications. (Great advice for us adults too!)
  • Sit down with your kids and discuss specific times of the day to check in and see what is happening online. It is always easier to help your tweens and teens maintain balance in their lives with mobile devices when you use a parental control software. For instance, Netsanity has a suite of services like their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities or spend time finishing homework.
  • Encourage your tweens and teens to pick at least one day a week to stay completely off their devices! Join them by promising to do the same! Sometimes this is easier by blocking certain apps that you tween or teen get tempted to visit on their day off. NetSanity also has a cool feature called Appblocker, where certain social media and other apps are profiled and parents can one-click block them, making apps such as Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, and others a one-click solution. They have a free trial so its worth checking out if your child has an Apple mobile device.

Overall, balance in life will always help your tweens and teens lead a healthy and happy life along with enjoying the amazing benefit of technology!

 


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Two Social Media Apps That Our Family Blocks

As a parent, it is so easy to get overwhelmed in the ever changing world of social media apps. However, with our kids and teens using social media at an ever increasing rate, it is important to know what apps they are using so that you can make sure you are keeping theteen-ignoring-mom-600X411m safe whenever they go on their mobile devices.

I am sure that you already know the regulars like Twitter, Instagram and you probably even have a Facebook account. But what are your kids and teens viewing on Tumblr or YikYak? Do you even know if your kids have these apps on their iPhone or Samsung Galaxy? These are two apps that we block on all of our kids devices.  My goal is to continually share important information about these apps as well as new ones with you to keep you better informed, so that YOU can decide what apps and social networks you want your family to use.

YikYak:

You probably already recognize the name from several local and national news stories over the past year. YikYak describes itself as the anonymous social wall for anything and everything.  All of its users are anonymous as they require no personal information other than your location to register to use this app. All the posts are called Yaks and they show up on a live feed that is visible to other yakkers  around 500 people who are closest to the user, determined by GPS tracking. YikYak differs from others apps in that it is intended for sharing primarily with those in proximity to the user, potentially making it more intimate and relevant for people reading the posts. All users have the ability to contribute to the stream by writing, responding, and “voting up” or “voting down” (liking or disliking) other yakkers yaks. If your child or teen uses this app they will certainly be exposed to both sexually explicit content and certainly lots of vulgar language.

yikyakOne of the biggest criticisms of YikYak is the potential it has to easily contribute to cyber-bullying. In October of 2014, The Huffington Post published an editorial by Ryan Chapin Mach, titled “Why Your College Campus Should Ban YikYak,” which asserted that YikYaks anonymous messaging boards “are like bathroom stalls without toilets. They’re useless, they’re sources of unhelpful or harmful conversations, and they’re a complete eyesore.  In response to the potential of cyber-bullying in younger users the developers use geo-fencing to avoid as much cyber-bullying as possible. Geo-fencing allows certain areas, such as middle schools and high schools to be fenced off using GPS technology. The app will then be no longer accessible in the fenced off area. If a user is trying to use the app in this area they will get a message that reads, it looks like you are trying to use YikYak on a middle school or high school grounds. YikYak is intended for people college-aged and above. The app is disabled in this area.

Even with these precautions taken at school you should stay diligent as they can quickly access the app away from school zones on their mobile devices. Even though the posts are anonymous most teens that we have spoken to told us that often it is not too difficult to figure out who a “yakker” is insulting or making fun of based on the “yakkers” descriptions. Several teens in our focus group even discussed that they have made friends on YikYak as to contact these friends outside of YikYak and have even made plans to meet-up locally or on anther messaging app.

Tumblr:

block-tumblr-150x150

Tumblr is both a website and an app. We block both on our kids mobile devices. However, it is up for you to decide what is best for your family. Tumblr says it lets you effortlessly share anything and that it does! Tumblr is one of the worlds most popular blogging platforms. Tumblr says that it has more than 195 million blogs and that 41% of these blogs are from the US and that 61% of teens ages 13-19 consider Tumblr their favorite social network (DigitalMarketingRamblings)!

Users to Tumblr can post on their boards, follow others, or even search by keyword. The app store does say that you must be at least 17 to download the app due to frequent/intense sexual content or nudity. However, despite the age requirement for the app, tweens and teens declared in a Family Online Safety Institute survey in 2013 that tweens and teens love using Tumblr on their mobile phones. Tumblrs website has an age requirement as well of 13. Most users on Tumblr post various items from text, phones, pictures, music, videos as well as links to outside websites.

Most users are using a nickname, so it is pretty easy to remain anonymous and kids tend to search for items of interest by keyword. Primary Tumblr accounts are all public, making it easy for other users to easily comment on posts or to send direct messages. Comments and messages tend to very from friendly and supportive to plain nasty and snarky.  The anonymity on Tumblr makes it a very popular venue for the rping (role-playing) crowd. A dangerous trend that we have discussed in our previous blog. The “rping” blogs are filled with sexual content, pornographic cartoons and images as well as written descriptions of violence and drug use. Yes, they even have a Little Pony rping community. Several of tTeenage with ipadhe teens that we have discussed its use with have told us that they have built entire communities of friends on Tumblr with who they communicate with by direct or group message on a regular basis.  Tumblr does have a setting that allows the users to uncheck an area on the settings page that they state as a way to avoid communicating with strangers. “eye-roll”

Common Sense Media says that pornographic images and video depictions of violence and drug use, and offensive language are easy to find. They also describe Tumblr as good fun for the under 30 crowd, but parents should think twice about letting minors join.

You need to know that Tumblr is considered one of the coolest places to hang out online especially if you are a teen that considers yourself an artist or blooming writer/blogger. As you probably already know, your child or teen may be very upset if you do choose to block this site. However, you should be aware that pornography and violence is not hard to find!

What Can Parents Do?

So, what can parents do to minimize the risks of these apps? The first line of defense involves communication. TaiPhone Parental Controls | NetSanitylking to your kids and teens about the dangers involved with using apps like YikYak or Tumblr and encouraging healthy, safe choices is essential for minimizing risks. If you choose to allow your teen to use either of these apps they should always be treated like other social networks in which a parent requires the teen to share the password and maximize privacy controls

If you choose to limit or block these apps from your children and your teens, using a parental control software such as Netsanity on all of their mobile devices, will help to protect them from potential mistakes and dangers. They have a free trial so you can see for yourself.

You can also utilize the Ask to Buy option in Apple’s Family Share controls and only allow your teen to download apps with your permission.

Although parents cannot protect teens from every risk, being aware of the potential dangers of various social media apps and websites is the first step for safety!


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Social Media and Its Effect on Boys

Angry lonely teen listening to music and expecting a callTypically, social media’s effect on tweens and teens is considered to be something that only girls must deal with. This idea could not be further from the truth. In fact, boys tend to have just as much trouble when it comes to social media as girls do.

Parents should be fully aware of the things that their children experience online, whether their children are boys or girls. Here are a few things that parents of boys should keep in mind.

Body Image

This is something that both boys and girls struggle with. They are able to see these images and posts all over social media.While young girls will often compare their bodies to those of other girls and to women that they see in magazines, boys will compare themselves to other boys on social media or even men that they see on TV and in print ads. Today’s boys have access to even more images of undressed men than they have in previous generations.

Culture is also something that will affect a boy’s image of their body. Since social media is a huge part of our daily culture, this is something that will alter their view of body imFootball Playerage. Today, boys as young as 6-8 are already developing issues with their body image because of things that they have seen through social media, television and even from offline experiences.

Popularity

In society and emphasized on social media, athleticism and power is something that is considered to be the best trait for boys to have. However, not everyone has these traits. For those who are not athletic and may exhibit strengths in other areas, this can be something that affects their self-confidence. These boys may feel as though they will never be popular unless they adapt and build their athleticism.

As us adults have learned the world needs all different types of people with different types of strengths, and not every man or boy is one that is athletic. Everyone should focus on building their own strengths and talents, even if they are not athletic ones. However, when boys lTeenager boy with smartphone in a restaurantook to social media for guidance, they will begin to believe that being athletic is the only way to become liked by those around them.

Negative Influences

Boys are also negatively affected by social media when it comes to being influenced to partake in bad activities. For example, they may be more likely to begin drinking or taking drugs because people that they admire on social media sites are doing the same.

Sex is also something that boys can be influenced to try because of social media. These sites tend to emphasize the sexual roles that men play and young boys may feel as though they must have sex with many people in order to become a man. These circumstances are both very dangerous and could introduce the boy to diseases and illness.

What Can Parents Do?

As parents, it is always our job to protect our children, especially from the dangers of social media. The best thing that you can do to fight against the negativity that social media introduces to your teen boys is to talk to them. Explain to them that social media’s views on things like body image, popularity and sex isn’t something that is particularly correct.

You should also make sure that your son has a positive role model that will show him that not everyone needs to fall in line with what social media is saying is the right path to take. In the end, communication with youHispanic father and son standing in front of car with hood upr children and monitoring their use of social media is the best way to make sure that they are staying healthy and happy.

If you continue to be concerned about your son, the most important thing you can do is to remain engaged and aware. Look for clues and signs such as absorption in his mobile device and an abrupt or depressed mood. Sometimes its as simple as a break! Talk to your son about enjoying social media’s benefits in moderation.

It is easier to help your son balance his use of mobile devices when you use a trustworthy parental control like Netsanity. Their Timeblocker scheduler, used on a regular basis can give him a regular break to develop other activities or interests. Sometimes you may need to resort to blocking some social apps, even if only on a temporary basis if you are finding that they use them inappropriately or if they become to obsessed.  One of parents favorite features,  Appblocker can be used to block and restrict apps such as Instagram, Twitter, Vine, and many more.

As I always say, knowledge is power so be aware and stay involved.


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Kids, Teens, and Online Roleplaying – What Parents Should Know

What Is Online Roleplaying?

“I’m going to go RP with my friends”

“I’m bored… let’s RP”

Role Playing Chat Apps Kids Use

Roleplaying is an activity in which people assume the role of a character in a fictional setting and interact to create a story. This type of role-playing is typically done by fans of books/movies/web-series such as Homestuck, Pokemon and countless others. Popular apps like Instagram and Tumblr are the most used venue for roleplaying. Many of these groups sometimes take off into smaller groups and start meeting on apps like Skype and Kik.

Behind The Scenes

Kids and teens simply start their story from an image of their choice and write a scenario or storyline in the description using hashtags like #rp, #roleplay or #openrp.

For most involved, role-playing is a simple way to enjoy a common interest. However, if you spend any time on Instagram or Tumblr reading through the role-plays you will quickly see that the storylines more often than not include inappropriate words, graphics or plots including violence and/or graphic sex. Sadly, if your kids or teens are participating they probably are already interacting with strangers online.

Why should parents take roleplaying seriously? It is nearly impossible to tell online if a child is role-playing with another peer or if in fact the other role-player is a child predator acting as a peer to earn your child’s trust. Often it starts as an innocent role-play and grows inappropriate through time using the child as a springboard to ask for additional contact with them or personal images. Through my role as an internet safety advocate, I have heard parents discuss countless stories of kids and teens who have built a close, trusting online relationship with the stranger that they are role-playing with.

Roleplaying Dangers for Kids | Information from NetSanityClose enough that they will go so far as to give out personal information and/or contact the stranger on other venues such as Kik, Snapchat or by texting. The consequences of this can be extremely dangerous. Using a service like Netsanity to block apps on smartphones can help prevent these dangers.

What can you do to protect your child?

Make sure your child’s social network accounts are private, so photos can’t be copied or shared inappropriately.

Make sure your child is friends online with only people that you both know and trust.

Talk to your child about what types of things are appropriate to share online.

Use mobile parental controls like Netsanity and have an open discussion about the dangers of interacting with strangers online. They have a free trial so check them out if you are using Apple iOS or Android devices.

We understand that kids, and teens especially, need stimulation and acceptance. In today’s online world, its harder to separate the real and virtual worlds. With a bit of knowledge and foresight, parents can keep their kids safe and know what to look for.


Netsanity was made by parents for parents. With easy to use software designed to give control and sanity back to parents, Netsanity enables a safer and healthier mobile experience for kids. See for yourself with a free trial!
Netsanity is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Monitor Your Kid’s Phones: This Mom Was Shocked At What She Found

Blocking texting and online messaging apps on our kids devices, like Yik Yak, was one of the main reasons we started NetSanity. Read the story below to get a real life example of how texting apps can be dangerous for your kids and pre-teens.

Recently, my teenage daughter came to me and mentioned that she wanted to add Yik Yak to her iPhone. I told her to give me a few days to do a little research and that I would have an answer for her. Later that day, I decided to download Yik Yak (easy to do because it is free) to my iPhone and see what it was all about. Since it works by loading Yak from your local area, I drove around and randomly checked several locations in my small town throughout the day. At first, Yik Yak seems innocent enough and fun. It allows users to post and read messages that are localized, typically to anyone within a 1.5-mile radius of their location, i.e. home or school.

Users can read anyone’s anonymous comments as long as they are in that local radius. Some of the messages that I pulled up in my small town were shocking.

If you don’t already know about Yik Yak, it is an app that has a timeline that looks like Twitter without photos. It allows anyone to post anything without attaching themselves to a username.

When you happen to be in an unfamiliar area, it is unlikely that the app would be of much neither interest nor harm, specifically to your teen or child. However, if you opened it up in the middle of a high-school gym or you happen to live in a small community, I can see how potentially damaging this simple little app could become.

You can see for yourselves! Here are some screenshots of what I saw just by pulling up Yik Yak at a few random places in my small town, throughout the day. We scrubbed the bad stuff and blurred out the four letter words, but I certainly would not be happy if my young kids saw these random posts.

 

Block Texting Apps | NetSanityBlock Yik Yak | NetSanity

Block Apps on Iphone | NetSanity
I hope you will find it easier to make an informed decision for your family. For us, we use NetSanity on all of our kid’s Apple mobile devices and we have blocked this app with the AppBlocker feature. There is enough stuff out there already, and this seems totally inappropriate and unnecessary for our kids.

To conclude our thoughts on blocking Yik Yak

If our children decide to use a Yik Yak like app when they turn 18, that is fine. Until that day, however, Netsanity keeps it off their devices and it’s one more little thing this mom doesn’t have to worry about!

Additional reading:

Know More About Smartphones Than Your 14 Year Old

Are Apple iOS Parental Controls Enough?