Category Archives: General
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.

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.

 

 

Decoding Teen Slang

*Our teen slang guide now updated for 2018!

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

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

Fun and Harmless Teenage SlangTeen Slang Guide | Netsanity

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

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

 Teen Slang Terms to Keep an Eye on

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

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

Warning Flags

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

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

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

 

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

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

Trends that we think Parents need to be watching in 2018

Social Mediasocial media trends for teens in 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up and ComingDigital Hangouts and Other Trends

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

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

Internet Slang in 2018Teenage Girl on Mobile Phone At Home

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

Some recent trends in teen slang:

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

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

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

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

How to Stay On Top of the Trends & Terminology

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

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

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

TAKE OUR TEEN SLANG QUIZ!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goal #1 – Block Porn

Best Gift for Parents in 2018!

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

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

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

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

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

Goal #2 – Stop the madness with a Timeout

Best Gift for Parents - Digital Timeout for Their Kids

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

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

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

Goal #3 – Bedtime and Limiting Screentime

Best Parents Gift 2017 - Netsanity Timeblocker

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Goal #4 – App Blocking with one click

Holiday Gift for Parents | Appblocker by Netsanity

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

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

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

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

Parental controls that kids cannot remove themselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give yourself some Sanity this Holiday Season

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

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

We start at the impossible.

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

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

/Carl – CEO

Keeping Up With “Generation App”

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

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

Teens Spend a Lot of Time OnlineGeneration App

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family Rules…and Arguments

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

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

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

Online Safety

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

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

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

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

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

How to Use This Information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your kids doing today?

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

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

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

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

Mobile Is Everywhere

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

Screentime for Children Under Age Eight

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

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

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

Are Parents Concerned?Children Using Mobile Devices

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

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

Finding the BalanceYoung Kids Using Phones and Tablets Early

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

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

Kids on Mobile Devices | Common Sense Media | Netsanity

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

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

 

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

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

LikesLike - Facebook like button: How Teens Use Social Media

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

FlirtingEmojis - How Teens Use Social Media

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

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

GhostingGhosting - Teens Use Social Media Different

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

Roasting  Teens May Use Social Media to Bully - Roasting

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

Monitor How Teens Use Social Media Using Parental Controls

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

Online Shaming: What Can Parents Do?

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

Document Shaming or BullyingDocument Online Shaming | Netsanity

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

Communicate With Your KidsCommunicate With Your Kids About Online Bullying

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

Get Help When You Need ItHelp With Online Shaming Issues

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

Remove Platforms Used for Bullying

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Smartphones at Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Model Good HabitsModel Good Smartphone Habits

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

Expect ResistanceWhat Happens When Teens Use Smartphones at Night?

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

SolutionsAnxiety and Depression in Teens Increased by Nighttime Smartphone Use

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

Today’s Teens: Taking Their Time

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

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

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

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

However, there’s another side to this.

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

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

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

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

Why Is This Happening?

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

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

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

What Can Parents Do?

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

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

 

The Perfect Selfie: Apps Parents Need to Be Aware Of

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

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

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

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

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

Body Altering Selfie Apps

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

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

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

Other Selfie ConcernsSelfie Apps Concerns

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pornography: Not Just a Boy Problem

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

It’s what boys do, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dangers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Are Messaging Apps and Texting Ruining Real Relationships?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Without Limits: Most Children Have Unrestricted Access to Mobile Devices

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

Children Spend a Lot of Time Online

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

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

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

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

Taking ChargeTexting in bed

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

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

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

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

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

Solutions for Mobile Device Limits for Kids & TeensMobile Device Limits

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

Today’s Children: Growing up Online

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

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

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

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

Pressures of Social Media Pressures of Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping Young People SafeKeeping Young People Safe | Netsanity

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

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

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

Boys at Risk: 3 Social Media Hazards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Body Image RisksCyberbullying and Social Media Risks among Boys 2017

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

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

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

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

Some of the most critical warning signs may include:

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

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

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

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

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!

The Most Popular Apps for Teens and Tweens

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

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

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

Instagram

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

Pros:

  • Good privacy features

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

  • Easy accessibility

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

Cons:

  • Stranger danger

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

Twitter

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

Pros:

  • Easy way to connect with others

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

  • Fast way to find news

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

Cons:

  • Damaged self-esteem

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

  • Damaging conversations and bullying

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

Facebook

Facebook | NetSanity

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

Pros:

  • Relatively good privacy

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

  • Good accountability

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

  • Facebook Messenger

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

Tumblr

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

Pros:

  • Creative outlet

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

  • Connectivity and new relationships

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

Cons:

  • Porn and explicit material

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

  • Lack of privacy

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

Snapchat

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

Pros:

  • Easy accessibility and social connections

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

  • Relative privacy

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

Cons:

  • Lack of accountability

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

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

Teen Peer Pressure and Social Media in the Digital Age

Teen Peer Pressure

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

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

Drugs

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

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

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

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

Sexting

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

Nothing is Private

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

The Competition

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

Real Life Pressure

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

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

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

Teens Face Peer Pressures Daily | Netsanity

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

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

Help! When Other Parents Don’t Use Parental Controls

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

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

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

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

parental-controls-friends

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

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

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

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

friends-block-apps

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

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

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

 

Digital Addiction: Protecting Your Child

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

The Consequences of Excessive Screen Time

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

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

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

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Screens in Schools

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

Managing the Digital Addiction

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

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

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

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

 

New Resolutions: Technology and Device Goals for 2017

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

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

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

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

Resolution #2: Set device-free times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

This Holiday, Give Your Kids the Gift of the Present

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

Volunteer and Let Them Lead the Way.

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

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

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Make it a Contest.

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

Have a Pancake Bar Breakfast.

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays from us at Netsanity!

How to Block Porn Websites On Apple & Android Devices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is pornography dangerous?

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

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

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

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

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

The Solution: Block Known Websites and Content

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

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

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

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

What are the options & risks to blocking porn?

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

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

Searching and accessing porn – what’s the difference?

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

Part 1 – Searching the web for pornography

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netsanity’s Safesearch

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

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

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

Part 2 – Website Access Explained

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

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

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

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

How Netsanity’s content filtering is different

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using Catblocker and Siteblocker

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

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

 

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

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

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

Stats on Mobile Porn

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

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

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

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

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

Tech-free Gift Ideas: 2016

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

Get Crafty

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

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Get Your Game On

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

Stocking Stuffers

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

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Other Ideas

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

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

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

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

Thanksgiving: A Great Time to Teach Online Kindness

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

Cyberbullying Is Still On the Rise

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

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

Encouraging Kindness

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

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

Online Etiquette

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

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

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

The Bright Side of Social Media

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

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Building Connections

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

Sharing Experiences

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

Increasing Awareness

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

Anonymous Opportunity

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

 

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!

Parental Controls on Android for Samsung Launches at Netsanity!

ANDROID USERS REJOICE! Parental Controls for Android are here.
*Samsung users only

Netsanity is thrilled to announce our parental control on Android (Samsung) users! We’ve been dreaming of this day and now it’s here!

If we haven’t met yet, let me to introduce Netsanity to you. Netsanity is top notch parental control software and app for mobile devices and tablets.

Have you ever wanted to set time limits on your child’s phone or block apps and websites? Netsanity is your answer!

Netsanity is extremely affordable and easy to use. Sign up in a just a couple of clicks, receive news and tips with each monthly newsletter, and control any enrolled device on your own, personalized dashboard. And now, Android for Samsung users can join the party!

Samsung Android Parental Controls | Netsanity | parental controls android

In addition to our core parental control features available to Android users, Premium Samsung users can do these cool things:

Manage Data!

  • See data usage by device
  • Adjust the amount of cellular data that can be used by a user
  • Options are to limit cellular data use in daily, weekly, or monthly periods.
  • Adjustable from 0 – 20GB per period
  • See totals with a graph on the data usage tab in device info
  • See data usage for each app – both cellular and wifi

Block calls and texts!

  • Block SMS texting from any phone number
  • Block calls from any contact
  • Block all calls and texts with one click
  • Get control back of who your child is texting and calling

Locate!

  • See a Google Map of your child’s last known device location
  • Accurate to within 100 yards
  • Location refreshes every 5 mins

Disable apps!

  • Cut or regain access to any app in one click
  • Apps can be disabled even if not in appblocker
  • Limit app and data usage whenever you want

Pretty cool, huh? And that’s only scratching the surface! Netsanity can do all this and so much more. Check out what kind of control you can have here. Get started today with a free trial and get some of your sanity back!

Google play store link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.netsanity.ns_client&hl=en

What Are Teens Doing Online?

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

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

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

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

The lives of children in cyberspace

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

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

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

Why do teenagers spend so much time online?

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

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

Parents are struggling to keep up

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

Conclusion

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

Solutions

online-dating

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

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

Family Dinners: A National Movement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family laughing around a good meal in kitchen

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

Some suggestions for getting everyone to the table:

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

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

Happy lovely family eating pizza

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

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

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

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.

>>>DOWNLOAD OUR 4 BEST GUIDES FOR PARENTS 100% FREE<<<

 

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

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

What Is a Finsta?

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

What Do Parents Need to Know?

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

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

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

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

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

Should Your Child Have a Finsta?

happy african college friends taking selfie together

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

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

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

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

Your Teen May Circumvent Your Parental Controls

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

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

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

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

Is this you?Teens Gets Past Parental Controls | Netsanity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Reality Check

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

Their Tricks

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

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

PC Parental Controls

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

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

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

Parental Control Routers & Home Wi-Fi

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

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

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

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

OpenDNS

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

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

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

Bypassing Wi-Fi altogether

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

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

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

Texting even though you don’t have a texting plan

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

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

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

Game consoles and other internet devices

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

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

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

Now What?

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

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Teen Driving and Smartphone Use

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

Then Why Do Teens Still Text While Driving?

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

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

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

Risk Assessment Is Still Developing

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

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

How Do We Get Our Teens to Drive More Safely?

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

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

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

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

 

 

Recognizing Digital Addictions in Tweens & Teens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Digital Disconnect

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

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

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

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

Why It’s Important

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

Controlling the Risk

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

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

Clear Social Media Rules

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

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

Parental Control Software

Teenage girls sitting on grass and taking selfie with mobile phone

The “Sexting” Talk: What is Sexting?

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

The Dangers of Sexting

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

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

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

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

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

What is Sexting - Netsanity Explains

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

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

How They’re Sexting

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

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

Talking About Sexting With Your Kids & Teens

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

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

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

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

What Is Sexting | Netsanity Guide to Sexting

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

Using Parental Controls to Make Sexting a Non-Issue

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

Cyberbullying Friends: Teens Targeted By Those Closest To Them

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

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

Mother Worried About Unhappy Teenage Daughter

What’s a Parent to Do?

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

Discuss clear expectations for online behavior

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

Monitor your child

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

Take it to the school

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

Monitoring Friends

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

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

Solutions

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

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

Danger Ahead: Social Media Dare Games

As all of us parents already know, our children and especially our teenagers sometimes do silly things; it’s part of growing up. When we were young, though, and someone dared us to do something dumb, we had to do it in person. A dare just wasn’t worth it if there was no one to see you do it. That also meant that, if something went wrong, there were other kids around to help, or at least to run off screaming for the grown-ups. Today, though, dares can happen through the Internet, with kids taking video of themselves completing (or trying to complete) dangerous challenges.

Unfortunately, while kids have access to information and technology far beyond what previous generations had, the same lack of frontal lobe development that made older generations take stupid risks is still present. Which is why it’s important to keep an open dialogue with your kids, and to talk about social media dare games.

The Dangers of Social Media Dare Games

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

Some dares you see on social media really are harmless, or they’re for a good cause. We all remember the huge sensation that was the ice bucket challenge, which was used to raise money for medical research. However, other dares can be dangerous, and are sometimes outright fatal.

The Choking Game:

According to The Stir, the way this game works is that a participant denies themselves oxygen until they pass out, film the experience, and then upload it to their social media. Why? Well, because the dare meets all the requirements for “silly” things kids have done for centuries. There’s an element of risk, proof that you did it, and the acclaim that comes from stepping up to a challenge. Unfortunately, though, lots of kids also know they’d get in trouble if their parents caught them even attempting this “dare,” so they do it when they’re alone. Which means if something goes wrong while they’re strangling themselves, there’s no one around to help.

Sadly, this is what happened to Karnel Haughton in Birmingham, England. The 11-year-old had an otherwise normal, happy life, but decided he was going to show everyone he could accomplish this challenge. Sadly, he didn’t survive the attempt.

The FireSpray Challenge:

Social media have been flooded with videos of young people creating dragon-breath style puffs of fire by putting flame into contact with flammable liquid. It began when one teen Instagram user gave the stunt a try and tagged the video post #FireSprayChallenge. Even before this crazy dare game kids and teens were taking the  #FireChallenge online, this was another very popular challenge that went viral that involved  that dousing oneself with a flammable liquid like rubbing alcohol, then lighting yourself on fire before jumping into a shower or pool. One quick search online shows several reports of teens with serious third- or fourth-degree burns. One story discusses and 11-year-old boy in the U.K. who underwent a skin graft after the social media “dare” went terribly wrong.

The Cinnamon Challenge:

The dare encourage participants to swallow a tablespoon of the spice without any water, can lead to vomiting, choking and possibly even include a trip to the ER. That dare became so popular that within the first three months of 2012, poison centers nationwide received 139 calls that involved cinnamon overdoses.

The Kylie Jenner Challenge:

This pretty recent trend in which teens attempt to get lips that supposedly resemble the  lips of Kim Kardashian’s youngest sister Kylie. In this “dare” teens take a shot glass or similar and place it over their lips, and suck. You can view the results yourself with a quick search of the hashtag #KylieJennerChallenge.

The Salt and Ice Challenge:

This challenge encourages children to place salt and ice together on their skin. However, salt lowers the temperature of ice to as low as negative 17 degrees Celsius or 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and the effect on skin can be similar to frostbite. Because of the redness and numbness from the ice, kids often don’t realize that they are giving themselves potentially second-degree burns. Part of this challenge is to see who can stand the pain the longest and post the proof with photos or videos of their burns to social media.

group of young students studying in the classroom with tablet

Talk To Your Kids About The Dare Culture

The best defense against something like this happening in your family is to be open and honest with your kids about the challenges they’ll face. While dares like this have existed since the dawn of time, this new form of the culture is something you have to stop with words, and with trust. Make it clear that your kids can come to you, and that you will listen to them without judgment when they talk about stuff like this.

Kids want acceptance, and accomplishing a dare (no matter how ridiculous it may look to use adults from the outside) is a way to do that. Whether it’s trying to eat an entire bottle of cinnamon, or jumping off the roof, onto a trampoline, and into the pool, nothing is out of the question when it comes to stuff kids may attempt. Which is why, even if you disapprove, you should make sure they feel safe coming to you and asking about these things. And, no matter how silly something seems, remember that kids don’t have the ability to assess risks like adults do. Their brains have not  biologically developed yet. You need to talk to them, and point out all the things they have not yet thought of which makes this dare a bad idea.

Best of all, though, these dares are a great way to teach risk assessment, and problem solving. Walking your kids through the challenge, and why it’s a bad idea, means that next time they’ll be able to recognize a dangerous challenge when someone throws down the gauntlet.

As parents, it is more important than ever that we teach our kids how to set boundaries. One of the most important boundaries comes in the form of how they use their social media including any YouTube accounts that they may have created, open the discussion about social media self-esteem. In order to make sure that your kids stay healthy and successful, make sure that you are taking the necessary time to learn what you need to about monitoring their technology use (learn about parental controls for Snapchat).

 

It is always easier to help your children and teens to maintain a healthy relationship  with technology when you use a parental control software. Netsanity provides a great service called appblocker that can keep your child off of a particular app for a certain period of time or you feel that it has come to the point that being on a particular app has become damaging to them.

Continuing the conversation about staying safe will do more to keep your tweens and teen safe more than any other action that you can take!

Why Teens Are So Obsessed With Social Media

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

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

Why Teens Are So Obsessed With Social Media?

Enjoyous young girl make a selfie with his mobile phone

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

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

To Them Online Life Is Real Life

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

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

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

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

Tired Teenager sleeping on the Bed with Tablet Computer

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

 

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

Back to School Boundaries: Smartphones and Tablets

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

Set Consistent Limits

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

Happy African American Girl with TabletSchool Time Matters

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

Monitor Social Media Use

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

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

Observe Your Child’s Behavior

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

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

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

Click here for your special deal: BK2SCHOOL16

group of teenagers making fun selfie in classroom

Remember Other Activities

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

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

Adult Accountability: Software & Solutions

Adult Accountability – Hidden truths and struggles

The need for adult accountability software is real and growing. Addiction to porn via  smartphones is prevalent. Now, many adults are being proactive in trying to curb their addictions with tools never before available. They can do this in the privacy of their home, simply requiring one trusted friend or “accountability partner.” to help them get past their addiction, or own-avowed personal and technological struggle. Police departments, judges, and even employers are looking at these tools to help make positive impacts on adults who are in need of self monitoring.

… 11 porn sites [are] now in the top 300 most popular sites globally. Pornhub, attracting 1.1 billion visits a month globally, sees a staggering 54% of its visits from mobile phones, with an average user session lasting about 8 ½ minutes. It rose from 38th place to 23rd, a higher position than online titans such as eBay, MSN and Netflix.

source: Similar Web

First, a bit of history. When we started Netsanity over 3 years ago, we had a goal in mind: help parents manage their children’s internet usage, filter pornography, and give parents another tool to help them gain a foothold on the ever-growing mobile technology that was widening the gap between themselves and their brilliant, tech-savvy kids. To that end, we succeeded, and continue to evolve and innovate. We have parents in over 50 countries that have installed many thousands of devices that currently filter and monitor more than 3 million internet transactions daily.

Adult Accountability Software | Using Netsanity Mobile & Internet Controls for Adult Accountability

What we did NOT know, and what we learned over those 3+ years is that parents and kids are not the only users of our service. In fact, an untold number of “ghost users,” and silent adults have been using our services for years in order to stem internet addictions, ranging from spousal cheating, pornography, and other more specific and personal reasons.

Each month, the number of these users grow and many feel like victims without a voice. By talking to our users, learning about their needs, and developing features that would help them, we have created a solution that not only works for kids, but is very effective for some adults. It can make their addictions manageable, and allow them safe access to technology, while having a trusted technology partner to ensure that they are compliant.

47% of men over the age of 60 viewed porn within the past 2 months.
29% of men in their seventies viewed porn within the past 2 months.
56% said they had tried to stop but couldn’t.
58% said they believed it was wrong.

source: The Gilmer Mirror

Having an adult accountability service or software is not without its challenges. Unlike a parent with a child, which they can generally control, an adult has no legal restrictions to prevent nor to stop circumventing self-imposed protections.

Traditional accountability solutions and why they fail

There are many companies that offer adult accountability software.Accountability Software for Adults | Netsanity Some offer it for PC’s and MAC’s, and some attempt to offer it for iOS and Android devices. While many of these are great solutions and have many followers and users, they have not kept up with technology and sadly, many are not very effective to prevent regular and addicted users from circumventing them.

Today, more than 54% of porn is viewed via a mobile device source: Similar Web. Any solution that is focused on PC’s and MAC laptops, is already behind as it will only affect a small percentage of the target audience.

hidden-browsers-app-storeTraditional mobile device solutions are weak – most rely on locking down the device and forcing users to use a “safe browser.” Safe browsers are the Achilles heel of filtering. They offer great filtering, except one big problem – there are over 3,000 browsers and apps which will allow unrestricted internet access. Just search for fake calculators, fake folders, and fake browsers in the app store just to get an idea of options. So unless 100% of app installs are disabled and many standard apps are removed, the safe browsing will not achieve its intended goal of protecting the adult. Additionally, if you make the device a paperweight, users will not use it and either circumvent or use a different device. The right balance is to have your technology handy and helping you, while at the same time, offering protection and monitoring.

Luckily, for Apple iOS and soon Android, there is a better and cleaner solution.

Striking the right balance

Netsanity’s Apple iOS service allows for a “user”, who takes on the role of the adult using the Apple mobile device and an “admin,” their accountability partner, who they trust. The process is quite simple and can be set up in a few minutes. It is NOT an app, and works seamlessly and transparently in the background. No jail-breaking is required and its fully built in to the Apple iOS’ core functionality.

Benefits of adult accountability software

Before we show you how easy it is to use Netsanity’s powerful service for adult accountability, here is a list of features and restrictions which an accountability partner can employ on the targeted device of the adult. Once installed, the partner can perform all restrictions and guidance remotely without needing physical access to the device.

  • Block pornography
  • Block other categories like Personal Sites, Web Proxys, Social Media, Email, and 40+ more
  • Optionally, mirror the adult users iMessages – here’s how
  • The accountability partner has real-time access to a raw internet log that shows every website attempted by the adult user. They can also export this log to present to the adult for later discussion.
  • Force Netsanity’s safesearch so that Google and Bing results are filtered
  • Use appblocker to one-click block specific and popular internet-based apps like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and 35+ others

  • Use screenlock to instantly lock the user’s screen in case an event forces the partner to take immediate action
  • Use timeblocker to regulate times that the adult is allowed to use the internet, based on mutually agreed times
  • Use hideapps to instantly hide all the 3rd-party apps on the device
  • Knowing in real-time, every app on the device, including apps that try to hide their intended purpose
  • Prevent the adult from using the camera, Facetime, downloading new apps, listening to objectionable music, and dozens more of device restrictions.
  • Block specific websites that the adult needs to be refrained from visiting, using Netsanity’s siteblocker
  • Prevent the adult user from removing the Netsanity secure profile without a passcode which is only known to the accountability partner

How To Set Up and Use Netsanity for Adult Accountability

To set up Netsanity for an adult, you first need the following:

  1. An Apple iOS device using iOS 8 or greater. Most of the time this will be an iPhone, but can also be a current iPad or iPod touch
  2. Touch ID (Fingerprint sensor) – the Apple mobile device must have Touch ID. Most current models including the 5S, 6, 6S, and the latest iPads and iPod touch devices. Touch-IDhave Touch ID. Older devices like the 4S or 5C do not and will not work well for adults
  3. A Netsanity subscription
  4. An accountability partner (AP) – can be a friend, spouse, or a service

Once you are ready, set up is easy and the self-monitored adult can safely have their device in-hand, within minutes, safe from porn and other specific and harmful internet destinations.

Set up Netsanity for adult accountability

The process for set up and enrollment is fairly straight forward. We have summarized the steps below so both the adult user needing accountability as well as the accountability partner who will maintain the restrictions know the process and steps.

  1. Both the adult needing supervision and the partner must be together for the initial set up. After set up and enrollment is complete, most everything else can be accomplished remotely.
  2. Both parties need to write down their expectations of what sites and restrictions will be needed and a process for resolution. We suggest this is in writing and signed by both parties in advance.
  3. Have the Apple iOS device with Touch ID ready
  4. You must enroll at least one (we suggest two or more) fingerprints for the user and optionally for the accountability partner (AP).
    • To do this, the AP will establish a passcode that only the AP will know. This is critical to all other steps. passcode-promptOnly the AP must maintain this 4 or 6 digit passcode.
    • (iOS 9.x) – from Settings > Touch ID & Passcode create a passcode. If the user already had a passcode, have them enter it, and then click change passcode, so now only the AP knows what it is.
    • Once all fingerprints have been enrolled, scroll to to the top of the Touch ID & Passcode screen
    • make sure that iPhone (iPad) Unlock is green – this is very important as this will allow the user to unlock their screen as needed with their finger without knowing the passcode that the AP has set up
    • You are done can exit to the home screen
  5. Sign up for Netsanity. Your first 14-days are free so you will have a good sense if this solution is right for you. This step will be preformed by the AP. You will need one license for each Apple device. So if the user will have two devices, an iPhone and an iPad, you will need a 2-license subscription.
  6. The AP will create an admin user and a password. This will not be shared with the adult user.
  7. Once the admin user is created, the next step is to set up the user. Their is a wizard to help you through the process.
  8. The user will be the adult that will be monitored. Later after enrollment, the AP will go back and set up all the filtering and device restrictions.
  9. Next, the AP will create a device – this is the Apple iOS device that you will be enrolling shortly for the user.
  10. Lastly, enroll the device in to the Netsanity service and install the security profile.
    • The AP, using the Safari browser will navigate the the enrollment website (provided after you subscribe) and login with their admin username and password
    • They will click on the previously created device which will start the enrollment process – should take less than 10 seconds – there will be a series of popups and confirmations that the AP will need to acknowledge.
    • Once complete, please log out of the enrollment website and hand back to the user
  11. Set up is complete. The AP can now go to their dashboard, select the user, and proceed to block the apps, websites, categories, and device restrictions as needed. Our support site has many articles, videos, and guides to use each feature.

Netsanity has a 100%, US-based customer service center with agents that will help with on-boarding and are available for questions using a dedicated feedback widget, email, or phone.

What’s next?

After the AP has installed the service on the targeted user’s device and has set up the filtering and restrictions as needed, both parties can resume normal activity. By not knowing the Apple passcode, Netsanity cannot be removed. All internet will be monitored and websites filtered. The adult user, however can use their iPhone as normal to make calls, texts, and use almost any apps for day to day functionality. Unlocking the screen is easy with their finger, so there is no need to know the passcode while enjoying the many advantages an iPhone or iPad bring. You can read more here in our best practices guide for Touch ID enabled devices.

Adult accountability is a serious need. Netsanity is proud to offer solutions that can help hundreds of thousands of adults around the world that need that extra tool to help them stay compliant. Our service platform is cutting edge and will continue to evolve and improve. Android support will be released in early Q4, 2016. Give the service a try and see if Netsanity may be right for you.

Today’s Teens Are Tired!

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

The Problem With Technology

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

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

Taking Control of Technology

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

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

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

 

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

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

Sisters sitting on the sofa and using smartphones

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

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

What Parents Need to Know: Musical.ly

Musical.ly is an app that is been growing in popularity for about a year now, and right now it is more popular than ever having produced many young Musical.ly sensations. The app revolves around the user picking one of many song clips which they can lip sync on different speeds to create different effects. Many users use this to show off their dance moves or demonstrate their creative interpretations of their favorite songs.

music.lyiconNot only is the app great for creativity and expressing one’s self, but users can share their videos with others and then create their own versions of others videos. It is a lot of fun and a great way to interact with friends. While the app can be fun though, there are risks in letting children use this particular app.

There are tons of songs to choose from on Musical.ly, and many of them, including many popular ones, center around sexual or other adult themes. This can often encourage any sort of inappropriate dancing or gestures to the music, especially if a user sees another video to the inappropriate song.

When posting a video, users can also add different tags to let their video be seen,  although if one looks through the tags, it is possible to come across some adult content that is most definitely not suitable for children. While this type of content is not what the app is intended for, it is on there nonetheless. Parents should beware the dangers of their children using this app  when they could be exposed to such age inappropriate content.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Our children and teens are going to get online. We live in a world where the Internet has completely altered everything from commerce and business, to entertainment and communication. The option of just not getting online isn’t possible, especially when everything from school research to family movie night takes place on some variety of online service.

tweens.texting-450pxMusical.ly specifically, and social media in general, is just another form of the conversation. If you’re a parent, you’ve already had at least a few different versions of this talk with your kids. Maybe it was about the start of puberty, or about sex, or about when they would be allowed to start dating, but the conversation is always about the same thing; you giving your kids responsibility, and trying to prepare them for handling it.

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

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

 

Continuing the conversation about staying safe will do more to keep your tweens and teen safe more than any other action that you can take!

What Parents Need to Know: Pokémon GO

Last week, a new game for iOS and Android, launched and took the world by storm. Despite barely being out for five days, the app has already reached number one in the app store and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to relinquish it’s first place position for some time. Kids and adults alike have been enjoying Pokémon GO for all its new, exciting virtual reality game play mechanics and real world exploration.

About Pokémon GO

The app features Pokémon as the main attraction, a popular gameIMG_8845 franchise by Nintendo, but it also shares elements with games like Ingress and Geocaching. The game revolves around players moving around in the real world and watching their game characters move with them to look for Pokémon, Pokéstops, and Gyms on the virtual map of their location.

Players can catch, nickname, train, and evolve their Pokémon as well as battle at Gyms occupied by opposing teams to claim them for their own team.  It encourages players to get active by walking around like on a real Pokémon adventure and to meet other players in the community by communing at Pokéstops and Gyms to gather items or battle. The game also includes a photo feature where a player can take pictures of the Pokémon they encounter in the wild.

Overall, the game is incredibly fun and interactive, encouraging players to constantly be on the search for new Pokémon to show off and use to capture the Gym for your team. The game is free to play, although players can purchase coins from the in game shop with real money. Although it is great that the game is getting players outside and moving while doing something that would normally involve them just sitting at home, the game also comes with its fair share of concerns.

What Parents Should Know

While Pokémon GO is generally a good game, there could be some issues with younger kids using this type of app. Pokémon is a franchise targeted towards young children, so many could be drawn towards the app before even knowing what it is, but generally these types of games are targeted towards an older audience.

Children cannot explore much on their own or drive around which limits the experience, so of course they would want to go out of the house and try to go on walks to be able to enjoy the game to its fullest. Many parents surely would not want to spend hours in the heat searching for virtual Pokémon, so they stay back and let their kids roam about on their own. However, walking around while staring at their phone is not the safest thing for a kid to be doing , for obvious reasons. They could easily walk into traffic or end up somewhere they shouldn’t be, despite the app encouraging its users to always pay attention.maxresdefault

Parents with younger kids using this app should accompany them at all times while they’re out exploring. Especially when heading to Pokéstops or Gyms. Those are locations on the map that are shared with everyone else who has the app.

Someone with bad intentions could stake out at one of these stops and wait for children to come by. However, Pokémon made a good call in the placement of these stops. They are generally all in public places such as cafes, restaurants, churches, and famous landmarks. This makes the locations safer, but parents should always make sure to accompany their children on their Pokemon journeys regardless.

Pokémon, Pokéstops, and Gyms can also be found while driving, which poses another issue. While Pokéstops and Gyms are often off of the road which requires a driver to park and get out to visit them, Pokémon can pop up anywhere, including on the road. Teen drivers may try to catch these Pokémon while driving, which is essentially just as bad, if not worse, than texting and driving. Parents should make sure that teens go on walks to catch their Pokemon or have someone else driving while they use the app.

Alternatively, Netsanity  offers services including a gameblocker feature which can keep teens off the game while driving or if they start to spend too much time on this and other  addictive games and apps. They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your kids have Apple devices. They have a version for Android coming as well.

Pokémon GO is a great app for everyone in the whole family to enjoy, but make sure to set parameters to keep kids safe!
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!

Why Smartphone and Tablet Restrictions Are Vital for Families

It’s amazing to think that a computer that used to be the size of a warehouse just 25 years ago can now fit inside your pocket. Thanks to technology, we now live in an age of answers. For the first time in history, virtually anything you’d like to know is just a quick swipe away. What’s the weather going to be like today? Who was the 13th president? What’s going on with Taylor Swift’s love life? Smartphones give users a front row seat to everything that’s happening in the world 24 hours a day, but at what cost?

Earlier this year, The Atlantic published an article about how smartphones are affecting our sleep patterns. As it turns out, smartphones are having a huge negative impact on the sleep patterns of younger people. According to The Atlantic, “A 2012 Time/Qualcomm poll conducted with 4,700 respondents in seven countries, including the U.S., found that younger people were more likely to say that they don’t sleep as well because they are connected to technology all the time. Smartphones and tablets disrupt sleep, in part, because they emit what’s known as “blue” light. This light is picked up by special cells behind our eyeballs, and it communicates to the brain that it’s morning. (Red light, meanwhile, signals that it’s time to go to sleep).”

jeune fille dormant avec téléphoneThis should be especially troubling news for parents. Yes, it’s super annoying when your teenage daughter refuses to remove her eyes from her smartphone at dinner, but the science is beginning to show that too much smartphone and tablet use can actually be unhealthy for her. To make matters worse, poor sleep and obesity are scientifically proven to be linked.

It is wise for every parent to implement smart and sensible smartphone restrictions for their kids, but simply putting your foot down might prove to be harder than you think. Tech savvy parents have an especially difficult time navigating the smartphone restriction territory with their children because of their own reliance on the technology, but every parent is probably tempted to let their children be on their phones all the time because it’s the path of least resistance.

Here are a few good smartphone rules that you might want to try with your kids:

No Phones Or Tablets One Hour Before Bed: Like I previously mentioned, screen time right before bed is proven to negatively impact sleep. Good sleep is paramount for growing kids, so this is probably the most important iPhone rule you should have for your family.

No Phones At Meals: Make a rule that no phones should be seen(or heard) while your family is eating together. Busy families need closeness and communication, so don’t let smartphones get in the way of that. By the way, these rules only work if parents follow them too.

Thirty Minutes of Exercise Buys Thirty Minutes of Screen Time: This rule is a great way to motivate kids to exercise. Rules like this help kids learn to prioritize their time and give them an incentive to do something that is extremely important to their own health and well-being. Kids need to learn the importance of regular exercise, and having them purchase screen time with physical exercise is a great way to do that.

resizesleepingteenThe key to wise smartphone rules for your kids is to be fair and tailor your expectations. Smartphones are extremely addictive because they provide almost constant connection and communication with their peers. Keep that in mind when they protest any sort of rules or restrictions you try with them.

As parents we are ultimately the ones responsible for teaching our children how to balance their days with healthy activities that do not involve technology. Setting an example with our own use of our smartphones and tablets is always the first way to approach the problem. They really are always watching how we lead our lives. Additionally, it is always easier to help your tweens and teens maintain balance in their lives with mobile devices when you use a parental control software.

Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities regularly. If your kids and teens have an Apple or Android mobile device, Netsanity has a great feature called Screenlock. It can be used on a regular basis to completely block your teen from using their mobile device for texting, or other activities whenever you feel that they need a healthy break, sleep, or to ensure they are focusing on other activities. Netsanity now offers a 14-day free trial on all their plans, so it’s worth checking out.

Overall, balance on a regular basis with technology will leave your family healthy and rested and instill habits that will stay with them for a lifetime!


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

What Parents Need to Know About Snapchat

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

How Snapchat Works

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

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

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

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

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

Why Parents Should Be Concerned about Snapchat

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Parents Can Do

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

10 Ideas for Limiting Technology This Summer!

Your tech-savvy child probably views summer vacation as unlimited hours for gorging on technology… Playing video games late into the wee hours or spending endless hours chatting with friends about everything and nothing are probably high on their summer agenda.

That doesn’t mean it has to be high on your summer agenda! Help your child unplug from technology this summer with these fun activities. If you can get them unplugged and outside even temporarily, they’ll experience the benefits of hours of healthy fresh air, sunshine, and exercise. Even indoor activities will give them a new prospective on life – and give their thumbs and wrists a rest!

Group of multiracial friends having fun together with smartphone - Closeup of mixed hands social networking with mobile smart phone in sunny day - Technology concept in summer beach everyday lifestyle

Gardening

Gardening is a great way to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. Square foot gardening allows you to experience the benefits without all of the work that so often overwhelms and discourages young gardeners. They’ll enjoy watching their seeds sprout and grow. When it comes time to harvest their produce, they might even surprise you with how eager they are to ‘eat their veggies’!

Cooking class

Enroll your child in a cooking class that matches their ‘foodie’ interests. If they’re growing a garden, how about a class where they can learn to cook those vegetables? An ardent camper might enjoy learning about campfire cooking from an expert. Or, how about learning to cook their catch after that fishing trip you’re planning? Your future pastry chef might appreciate learning how to make the perfect éclair or petit four.

Biking

Encourage your kids to get out their bikes and go for a ride. Going for a ride on every nice day is not only fantastic exercise, but also a fun way to explore the neighborhood. Packing a picnic lunch and inviting friends along for the ride to a local park or lake is a fun way to while away a lazy summer afternoon.

Volunteering

group of teenagers volunteering

Encourage your child to volunteer some of their free time this summer. Volunteer opportunities abound and your child is sure to find one that interests them. Your bookworm might enjoy helping out at your local library. Animal lovers are always welcome at animal shelters. A local wildlife rescue organization might welcome your older child’s help. Is your child considering a career in the health field? Perhaps they would enjoy volunteering at a hospital or nursing home.

Hiking

Besides being great exercise, hiking is a great opportunity to spend some quality time together. If you take a dog along, even better!

Reading

Many libraries offer a ‘summer reading program’ to encourage kids to read during the summer so they don’t fall behind in their skills. These programs often incorporate fun activities or rewards for completing each level.

A summer job

Your older child may already have a summer job; a younger child may want a job, too. Whether your young child’s idea of a summer job is a lemonade stand, dog walking service, or babysitting, it’s a wonderful way for them to set a goal, achieve it, and reap the benefits.

img-3Camping

As any Boy or Girl Scout knows, camping is great fun and a wonderful way to develop skills and confidence. Family camping trips are just as much fun and a great way for parents and grandparents to pass on their skills. If a camping trip involves hiking or fishing, it offers even more opportunities for fun. Just don’t forget the ingredients for s’mores!

Photography

Enroll your budding photographer in a photography class. Check with your local Parks & Recreation Department, community college, or library for available classes. Do some brainstorming with your child on great local places to practice their skills. Scenic areas, a botanic garden or zoo, or buildings with great architecture are a few places to start. You and your child are sure to think of many others!

Travel

Summer vacation is traditionally associated with travel. Sometimes all of that traveling is best remembered afterwards for the stress. This year, why not plan mini trips? Instead of one big trip to a faraway destination, plan a series of mini trips to local sites. If they draw tourists from other areas, aren’t they worthy of taking a look at with new eyes? Do some research on why those tourists are visiting – what makes your local sites unique or historical? Who knows, your family might find out something fascinating that you never knew before!

Friends in Summer timeLimiting Technology

As parents we are ultimately the ones responsible for teaching our children how fill their free time this summer with balance and healthy activities that do not involve technology! Setting an example with our own use of our smartphones and tablets  is always the first way to approach the problem. They really are always watching how we lead our lives. Additionally, it is always easier to help your tweens and teens maintain balance in their lives with mobile devices when you use a parental control software.

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

Overall, balance this summer will leave your family with memories that will stay with them for a lifetime!


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

Uber Isn’t for Kids, but That Hasn’t Stopped Them from Using It

Most people know about Uber, even if they don’t use it themselves. The way it works is that drivers, just regular people driving their own cars, register with the company. After they pass a background check, a driver is allowed to begin picking up fares. Unlike a taxi driver, though, and Uber driver never handles any money. The customer uses the Uber app, pays via their cell phone, and then the driver is given their part of the fare by the company. Uber is easy, convenient, and used by people all over the United States.

Sad teenager girl inside a car with headphones listening to the music

However, despite it’s popularity, it’s important to remember two things. First, that there have been instances of assault committed by Uber drivers, and that in order to use the service someone has to be 18 years old, or older.

How Are Kids Using Uber?

How are kids using Uber if it’s against the rules for them to do so? Well, according to Business Insider, lots of drivers are breaking the rules. For example, if a parent calls an Uber car to shuttle his kids home from soccer practice, then the driver should see what’s happening, and refuse the fare. The same is true if a young adult uses their parent’s account to call for an Uber ride. However, when a driver refuses too many pick-ups that will A) cut into the driver’s earnings, and B) can result in the driver being dropped by Uber. On the other hand, breaking the rules is also a good way to lose your position as a driver, which puts people in a damned if you do, and damned if you don’t sort of position.

Best friends enjoying time together with smartphone in a spring sunny day - New trends and technology concept with hipster girlfriends having fun outdoors - Alternative four seasons fashion clothes

This means that many drivers have picked up kids when they shouldn’t. What’s worse, though, is that parents often have a false sense of safety when using Uber for their children’s transportation needs. Because, while Uber drivers are put through a basic background check, the keyword there is basic. Uber drivers aren’t given anywhere near the level of scrutiny as, say, official taxi drivers. But because Uber runs from a secure app on your phone, and because it’s a hugely successful business, lots of parents trust the service (and the service’s drivers) with their children.

Set A Good Example When It Comes To Technology

The world is becoming increasingly technological, and businesses like Uber, or the success of Paypal (the taxi service with no cars, and the bank with no cash, respectively) prove that the way we operate as a society is changing. And if you want to set a positive example for your kids, then it’s your responsibility to actually read the user agreement for the services you use, and not to violate the rules because they’re inconvenient for you. Following the rules, even in small ways, sets the example for your kids, and it does far more than any lecture you could possibly give them about honesty, safety, and integrity.

What Else Can Parents Do?

Parents giving smartphone to kid with warning

Conversations about what apps that your kids and teenagers are allowed to use should be an ongoing conversation in your family. Setting these boundaries from the beginning  makes children more responsible online, but also establishes norms and etiquette that not only applies to apps like Uber, but across other social media platforms as well.

Setting boundaries with dangerous or age-inappropriate apps  is always easier when you use a trustworthy mobile parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services , like their appblocker, where certain social media and other internet-based apps, like Uber are profiled and parents can easily block and unblock apps with a one-click  solution. They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your teen has a mobile device.


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

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