Category Archives: General
What Parents Should Know About Decoy Apps

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

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

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

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

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

The Rise of the Decoy AppsDecoy Apps

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

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

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

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

How to Spot a Decoy App

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

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

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

The Problem With These Apps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Group Video-Chatting AppsGroup Video Chat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six Live-Streaming AppsLive Streaming Apps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solutions

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

The Misinformation Problem with YouTube and Social Media

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

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

And from there, they can say whatever they want.

The Spread of Misinformationmisinformation on social media

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

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

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

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

Too Smart to Fall for a Hoax?Misinformation on YouTube

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

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

The Problem With Spreading False InformationSpreading False Information on Social Media

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

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

All Eyes on YouTube

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

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

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

How to Help Your Children Identify Misinformation

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Shocked? Then you haven’t been paying attention.

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

Kids Don’t Tell All

Your Children Don't Tell What They Do Online

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

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

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

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

They Learn About Sex

Children Learn About Sex Online

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

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

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

It’s Not Just Porn

Children Are Exposed To Bullying And Shaming Online

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

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

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

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

And that’s just one app.

What Can Parents Do?

What Can Parents Do To Protect Their Children Online?

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

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

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

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

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

7 Apps With Hidden Dangers

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

What’s App

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

Voxer

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

Words with Friends

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

SnapchatHidden Dangers of Popular Apps

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

Kik

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

Musical.ly

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

Whisper

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

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

Teens, Their Mobile Devices and Why the Combination Concerns Parents

When it comes to teenagers and their devices, they are connecting, communicating and coming together with each other and society in general through their phones more than they do in person:

  • Ninety-two percent of teens are online at least once a day, and 75% have or have access to a smartphone. Ninety-one percent of teens go online from a mobile device.
  • Teens ages 12 to 17 spend an average of nine hours a day using their devices to text, post, listen to music and watch videos.
  • Fifty-three percent of teens report occupying a vehicle with someone who is texting and driving.
  • Fifty percent of teens using mobile devices think they are addicted to them. Fifty-nine percent of their parents asked in the same poll agreed.

The world is mobile in every sense of the world: new inventions move us forward and new technology makes it possible to multitask in motion. Teens are savvy when it comes to new devices and they want the best and latest, when the release date for new phones arrives, expect those devices and their accessories on top their most-wanted gifts list.

How are our kids using their phones?

Apps: Because so many apps are free, many parents have no idea how many their teenagers use. And there are difficult-to-find apps, called “ghost apps;” hidden behind innocuous icons and innocently duplicated real app icons. Teens use these ghost apps to hide sexting and explicit photos.

Games: Think teens are gearing up with expensive gaming consoles for their Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed? Think again. Mobile devices account for 39% of game usage, and 93% of teens play some form of video games. And while parents express concern over game content, more than half enjoy the social element of gaming with their teens.

Dating and hook-ups: Too young for bars and mostly without cars, teens no longer eye each other over the biology lab Bunsen burner or pass notes in calculus class. They use dating and hook-up sites for everything from group conversation and meetups to flirting to casual sex between classes.

Ordinary chitchat: Instead of going to a friend’s house or the mall and meeting up in person, kids text with each other for conversation.

Posting photos and videos: Teens share what they wear, eat, buy, drive and earn to elicit responses, provoke shock, gain approval, court disapproval and prove their worth to their peers. Some teens lack of emotional and intellectual maturity also leads them to post images they find funny or intend as a joke but are hurtful to others.

Sexting, cyberbullying and stalking: The anonymity of the Internet allows the schoolyard bully to leave the playground and intimidate anyone, anywhere and anytime. Turning off mobile devices or changing passwords is only a temporary option since many teens need their devices to stay in touch with family, teachers and school administrators.

Body image comparisons: Particularly prevalent among teen girls, they snap selfies and share them to help “improve” their looks by encouraging each other’s drastic weight loss through starvation dieting, questionable plastic surgery procedures and excessively tight fitted corsets and undergarments.

Secret-sharing: Remember the adage, “Don’t tell anyone; it’s a secret?” Teens love these sites, where they read the darkest desires and confessions of total strangers and are encouraged to share their own thoughts anonymously.

What do parents need to know?

It’s a distracted world out there: Nearly 10% of teens age 15 to 19 die in distracted driving crashes, and nearly a half-million people have injured annually in distracted-driving incidents. Teens respect and mimic parental action, and need to see their parents obey the no-texting-while-driving rule, regardless of your state’s laws. Distracted driving is deadly driving, and no text, photo or game download is worth a life.

Phone use decreases face time: The devices also decrease a teen’s social skills development, interferes with good sleep habits and family interaction. With trust-worthy parental controls, Parents monitor teens’ device time with different features, turning their access on and off or blocking and unblocking particular apps to give them more digital downtime so that they can focus on schoolwork, hobbies and to develop personal relationships.

Teens overshare without understanding the consequences: Anonymity works both ways: it protects the stalker, pornographer, bully or thief, and your teens think they’re safe because their name isn’t used on a site. This false feeling of safety leads them to provide too much information, photos, and videos or use sites that capture their location or IP address. Explain to teens that any personal information shared is too much information, and even Snapchat postings are subject to grabbing and reposting.

It’s not always the stranger who’s the danger: Parents worry about the unknown bad guy in the van kidnapping their child, or sitting in the basement texting their teen about her body. But statistics show that over three million teens are bullied each year, one in six parents knows their child is either a victim or a bully and 160,000 skip school each day due to bullying. Parents need to balance the issue of strangers contacting their teens online and luring them with sex, money and jobs and the close-to-home issue of

Parents, remember that your teen is what you teach them to be: they learn kindness, charity, honesty, patience, courage, compassion and the priceless value of protecting their body, emotions, and intellect from anyone’s actions or words, whether spoken in person or sent online. Keeping in tune with what your teen is doing online and keeping the lines of communication open will lead them to a healthier life on and offline.

 

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.

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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.