Category Archives: Features
Teen Anxiety: Cyberbullying, Sextortion, and Pornography

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

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

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

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

Anxiety and Cyberbullying

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

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

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

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

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

Anxiety and Sextortion CasesAnxiety Among Teens Using Smartphones

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

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

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

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

Anxiety From Accessing PornographyAnxiety From Accessing Pornography

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

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

Addiction Hope states these repercussions bluntly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unveiling Sarahah: What Parents Need to Know

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

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

What is Sarahah?Sarahah Parents Info

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

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

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

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

Understanding the Dangers of Anonymous Apps like Sarahah

Sarahah Parents Info

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking About SafetyA Dad Teaching Responsible Smartphone Use

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

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

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

Keeping Up-to-DateHow To Teach Responsible Smartphone Use

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

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

Setting Guidelines for Internet UseSetting Guidelines For Internet Use

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

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

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

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

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

Reddit: What Parents Need to Know

You might have a handle on how your teenager uses Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr, but the social media universe is vast. As a parent, the best you can do is to keep educating yourself on the various sites that are drawing the attention of young users. With that in mind, let’s talk about what parents need to know about Reddit.

What Is Reddit?Reddit Parents Information from Netsanity

This social site is about sharing and rating web content. Users can share whatever they’d like, from jokes to photos to news stories (70 percent of users get their news from Reddit), and other users leave comments and vote the post up or down. In this way, the community decides what’s important: the most popular stories become more visible and generate more discussion.

Posts are divided into categories known as “subreddits.” Whatever your interest, from lacrosse to car repair to scary stories, there’s a subreddit for that. Users also share personal stories and ask for advice.

Who Can Use Reddit?Teenage boy using Reddit app on iPad

Anyone can visit the site and browse through the stories, clicking the links they find interesting. However, in order to participate in the community by voting and commenting or making your own posts, you need to register. It’s free, and you don’t have to prove your age when you sign up. Kids and teens can and do use it, even though it’s generally adult-oriented.

Pew Research from 2013 indicated that among adults, there are far more men than women using the site; males age 18-29 are the most likely users.

The site is moderated by Reddit employees; if you post or engage in ways that are against policy, you might be asked to stop or your account could be suspended. If your content is inappropriate, it can be removed. The Reddit community self-regulates, too:

“The Reddit community will not tolerate users who try to spam the site with inappropriate or mediocre content. If you try to promote your own links aggressively without any other involvement in the Reddit community, you may get slapped by other heavy users who want you to play by the rules.”

As of 2015, there was a push to more closely monitor harassment-based subreddits, which included banning a couple of hateful forums, despite the company’s focus on allowing free expression.

NSFW – “Not Safe For Work”Person browsing Reddit on smartphone

This acronym stands for “not safe for work,” and you see a lot of it on Reddit. In fact, there are numerous subreddits devoted to it. This category is likely to include sexual material as well as violence and bad language. You will be asked your age before viewing the NSFW section, and you are only admitted if you say you are at least 18 years old, which you can do with one simple click.

Reddit includes NSFW guidelines in their content policy:

“Content that contains nudity, pornography, or profanity, which a reasonable viewer may not want to be seen accessing in a public or formal setting such as in a workplace should be tagged as NSFW. This tag can be applied to individual pieces of content or to entire communities.”

Should Your Children Use Reddit?Should Kids Use Reddit?

The truth is, for many kids, it’s probably not the most appealing social site out there for general use. (Even among adults, only four percent use the site, versus the 79 percent of online adults who use Facebook.) Instagram and Snapchat are far more popular among teenagers, and if you were to block Reddit on their mobile devices, they might not even notice.

Still, the longer a teen spends online, the more likely he or she will go looking for new sites to explore, and you never know when a site will become the next Big Thing. Furthermore, if a teenager is actively seeking out NSFW content, they probably know Reddit is a good starting point. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on Reddit along with other social sites.

Common Sense Media gives it a star rating of three (out of five) in regard to the quality of the site and its potential for learning and recommends it for people over the age of 15. Common Sense mentions the good points of the site, including that groups have formed to raise money for causes, and that people can connect over shared interests. However, they also clearly state that Reddit is “…definitely not for kids,” adding:

“The drawback on Reddit is the same as it is for the entire Internet — there’s just no telling what people will put out there. Links, comments, and entire subreddits may expose kids to biased, offensive, or sexual content. Reddit’s best audience is a grown-up one.”

What Parents Can DoNetsanity Block Reddit

You always have the option to block Reddit using quality parental controls. If your child is already using Reddit, make it part of the conversation you have with him or her about the internet. The same guidelines apply to Reddit as apply to other social sites:

  • Teach your child to engage in constructive conversation and avoid name-calling or bullying.
  • Explain what type of information should never be shared online.
  • Depending upon the age and maturity level of your child, as well as your relationship with him or her, you might be able to explain why you don’t want your child to access certain types of material. For example, the sex depicted in pornographic images isn’t generally representative of real life; a young teen may not recognize that difference without your guidance.
  • Let your kids know they can come to you for help if they encounter someone or something that makes them feel scared or uncomfortable.

Keep your children safer by making sure to limit the hours that your child can access the internet on his or her mobile device, and make sure to block sites, like Reddit, that you don’t deem appropriate by using trustworthy parental controls. It is never too late to talk to your children and teens about apps and social media sites that you feel are inappropriate for them to be using. With good communication and a little help from Netsanity, parents can keep their kids protected and balanced while getting the benefits of being online and using a mobile device!

Teens and the”Constant Pressure” of Social Media

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

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

The Pressure to Be Available All the TimeTeens and Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pressure to Engage in Certain BehaviorsTeens Behavior On Social Media

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

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

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

The Pressure of CyberbullyingCyberbullying through social media

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

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

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

Relieving the Pressure of Social MediaRelieving the pressure of social media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goal #1 – Block Porn

Best Gift for Parents in 2018!

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

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

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

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

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

Goal #2 – Stop the madness with a Timeout

Best Gift for Parents - Digital Timeout for Their Kids

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

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

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

Goal #3 – Bedtime and Limiting Screentime

Best Parents Gift 2017 - Netsanity Timeblocker

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Goal #4 – App Blocking with one click

Holiday Gift for Parents | Appblocker by Netsanity

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

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

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

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

Parental controls that kids cannot remove themselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give yourself some Sanity this Holiday Season

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

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

We start at the impossible.

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

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

/Carl – CEO

Staying Focused in the Age of Mobile Distraction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communicate

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

Redirect Distractive Energy

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

Provide a Positive Example

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

Set Some Ground Rules

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

 Limit Screentime When Necessary

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

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

Teens and Sexting

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

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

The Prevalence of SextingTeens And Sexting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protecting Your TeenagersHow To Protect Your Teen | Netsanity

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

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

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

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.

 

Helping Kids Navigate Online

Growing up today bears little resemblance to childhood in the 70’s and 80’s. The main reason? The internet. This report shows that 16 percent of eight-year-olds have their own smartphone, while 22 percent get their devices at age 10. Of course, even toddlers play with tablets and smartphones when given the opportunity, and they often learn to use them as well as their parents.

This trend isn’t a fad: it’s a new way of life. We can’t stop the internet, nor can we shield our children from it. The best we can do is teach our kids about the risks and help them navigate the online world we find ourselves living in today.

These are some of the risks parents need to be aware of when setting guidelines for their children’s internet usage:

AnxietyAnxiety | Children's Internet Usage

Considering the friending and unfriending, liking and unliking that occur on social media, every notification can set your heart racing. For some kids and teens, those unexpected mean comments and random alienation can cause anxiety. Take a look at this story of a fourth-grader who does well in school:

“But lurking beneath the surface for Melanie is anxiety, which has been made worse by her experience with social media….girls will unfollow each other if they have an argument at school, list and delete their ‘best’ friends in their profile daily, and leave unkind comments when they’re upset….the friendship troubles cause her to lose sleep at night. She doesn’t dare tell her parents, because she doesn’t want to lose her phone.”

How to Help: Set guidelines on your child’s internet usage, and use trustworthy parental controls to enforce those guidelines. When you use software such as Netsanity you can also block certain sites and apps that might encourage superficial behavior or age-inappropriate apps like dating apps.

DepressionDepression | Children's Internet Usage 2017

Research from 2010 suggested that teens who spend too much time online are at a greater risk of depression than teens who use the internet more moderately–2.5 times greater. Like gambling, internet use can become a compulsive behavior.

How to Help: With parental control software you can easily limit your child’s internet use to help them avoid reaching that point of internet addiction. Sit down together and discuss the times of day that work best for the entire family to be online and when you all need to be off and focused on other activities such as homework or the family dinner. Be alert to changes in mood and behavior that may indicate depression.

Low Self-EsteemLow Self Esteem | Children's Internet Usage

The more time your child spends online, the more opportunities he has to be exposed to photos of other people’s lives–photos that may or may not be an accurate representation of those lives. An Instagram or Facebook account is basically a highlight reel, but if a child doesn’t understand that, it’s easy for her to think she’s less talented, less fashionable, or less intelligent. This can quickly spiral into low self-esteem that carries into real life.

How to Help: Discuss with your family how some people use photo editing to improve their appearance, and how most of them only share photos that show them at their best. Remind your kids that most of the day is not Instagram-worthy for anyone. Keep your children involved in real-world activities that build their confidence and self-esteem. If you find that your child is spending too much time on these apps you can always encourage a break and block them for a specific period of time so that they can enjoy other activities.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)FOMO | Kids Internet Usage

This acronym is relatively new on the scene, and it describes the feeling you get when you suspect you’re not included in some incredible event. FOMO is what drives people to check their phones frequently to make sure they’re not missing any updates or invitations. It’s related to internet-induced anxiety, depression, and regret when your child feels like he’s missing out.

How to Help Encourage Good Internet Usage: Encourage your kids to trust their decision-making skills and to enjoy being present. Point out that we can never be everywhere: no matter what choice we make, we’ll miss something–but we’ll gain something, too. Set guidelines about phone use to prevent them from getting in the habit of checking notifications at every turn.

Cyberbullying

Gone are the days when bullying ended when a child was safe at home. Now, a bully can reach your child through email, social media, and texts. Stop Bullying points out that cyberbullying is especially damaging because it is persistent (24-hour access), permanent (once something is on the internet, it stays there), and hard to notice (it could be happening right in front of you and you wouldn’t know if your child doesn’t mention it).

According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, 34 percent of students have been cyberbullied, and 64 percent of them said it distracted them from school and made them feel unsafe there.

How to Help: Keep an open line of communication with your child, and encourage her to tell you about anything that makes her feel sad or uncomfortable. Watch for warning signs, like increased or decreased use of the mobile device, visible emotional reactions to what’s on the screen, loss of interest in activities, or avoidance of social situations, even school.

Using trustworthy parental controls to disable internet access during certain hours or to block specific sites and apps can decrease all of these risks. It’s a simple tool to help your kids navigate this strange new world until they’re old enough to understand the power of the internet.

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.

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.

 

Safer Homeschooling: Don’t Forget the Parental Controls

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

Excessive screen timeSafe Homeschooling

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

Inappropriate and Graphic MaterialSafer Homeschooling

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

Social Media OverloadSocial Media & Homeschooling

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

Other Options to Consider

What about their smartphones?

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

What if I’m being too restrictive?

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

Are Messaging Apps and Texting Ruining Real Relationships?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Without Limits: Most Children Have Unrestricted Access to Mobile Devices

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

Children Spend a Lot of Time Online

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

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

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

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

Taking ChargeTexting in bed

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

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

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

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

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

Solutions for Mobile Device Limits for Kids & TeensMobile Device Limits

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

Spotafriend: What Parents Need to Know

What is Spotafriend?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solutions

Young black woman taking a selfie

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

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

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

Ensuring Your Child’s Social Media is Age-Appropriate

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

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

Setting Age Limits

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

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

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

Parental Controls and Filters

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

Communication

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

Supervision

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

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

Perform Periodic Safety Checks

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

“Follow” their social media account

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

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

5 Uncomfortable Facts About Instagram Every Parent Should Know

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

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

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

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

#5 – Age Requirements

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

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

What else? 

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

 #4 – “Hidden” Settings

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

Let’s look together under the Instagram settings icon

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


And probably the one of the most important settings…

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

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

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

#3 – The Ugly

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

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

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

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

 #2 – Instagram Direct

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

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

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

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

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

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

Try this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get our Parents Guide to Digital Addiction, Free!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Young Children Can Be Traumatized

How Porn Effects Kids and Teens | Netsanity

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

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

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

Pornography is often highly unrealistic.

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

Some pornography seems to be geared towards kids. 

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

How Porn Effects Kids and Teens | Netsanity

Pornographic Material Online Removes the Family Lens

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

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

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

Porn Effect on Brain - Kids and Teens | Netsanity

Protecting Your Kids From Porn

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

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

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

 

Teen Peer Pressure and Social Media in the Digital Age

Teen Peer Pressure

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

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

Drugs

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

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

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

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

Sexting

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

Nothing is Private

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

The Competition

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

Real Life Pressure

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

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

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

Teens Face Peer Pressures Daily | Netsanity

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

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

How to Block Porn Websites On Apple & Android Devices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is pornography dangerous?

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

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

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

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

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

The Solution: Block Known Websites and Content

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

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

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

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

What are the options & risks to blocking porn?

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

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

Searching and accessing porn – what’s the difference?

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

Part 1 – Searching the web for pornography

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netsanity’s Safesearch

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

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

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

Part 2 – Website Access Explained

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

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

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

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

How Netsanity’s content filtering is different

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using Catblocker and Siteblocker

how-to-block-porn-websites.png

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

how-to-block-porn-on-iphone-android.png

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

 

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

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

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

Stats on Mobile Porn

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

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

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

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

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

New Android for Samsung Features Explained

Netsanity has released its brand new parental control client app for Samsung Android devices. This extends Netsanity’s mobile reach to the hundreds of millions of Samsung installed devices. Our Samsung app, when installed on a child’s Samsung smartphone or tablet, allows parents to use all of Netsanity’s traditional tools but adds extra security and restrictions that are unavailable to Apple iOS users. Below we list what’s new and what is possible with Netsanity’s new Android parental controls.

Netsanity Can’t Be Removed

  • The client app that manages the child device cannot be removed by the child without a 5 digit Enrollment Code set by the parent. This is an important advantage as we have put extensive security features to ensure that the device stays enrolled and protects your child 24/7.

New Enrollment Process

  • Enrolling new devices is easy for both Apple and Android devices
  • You only need a 5 digit enrollment code to either enroll an Apple or Android device
  • Android users will enroll their Netsanity Device Agent from the Google Play store using their 5 digit enrollment code

New Feature – Locate (Android)

  • Android users will get GPS accurate location info in the device info page

android-locate-full-screen-10-21-border-dark

New Feature – Timeout

  • Timeout for Android Samsung instantly performs the following: Disables Internet; Disables all 3rd-party apps; disables SMS texting

home-page-dash-timeout-10-21-border-dark
New Feature – Disable Any App (Android Only)

  • Android for Samsung users can now disable any app that is listed in the App Info tab
  • App that is disabled will instantly be disabled from working
  • In addition if that App is also listed in Appblocker, i.e Instagram, Youtube, etc., that app will be blocked for internet access as well
  • Any app disabled will be un-clickable on the Samsung device

android-device-app-manage-10-21-border-dark-2
New Feature – Data Use Graphs (Android)

  • Android for Samsung users can now see data use for Wifi and cellular on the app info screen
  • You will see data used per day over the previous 30 days on wifi and cellular
  • You will also see any data used while roaming
  • In future releases you will be able to set your start date and manage data usage more granularly

android-device-app-manage-cell-data-usage-10-21-border-dark
Here below, the parent can set the daily, weekly, or monthly maximum for cellular data

android-pref-data-caps-10-21-border-dark
New Feature – SMS and Phone Blocking (Android)

  • Android for Samsung users can block all SMS texting Globally or block phone calls Globally
  • Additionally you can block SMS or Phone Calls to<>from specific contacts on the device
  • A phone call history log will show calls made and received as well

block-calls-messages-border-dark-2call-log-history-android-device-manage-10-21-border-dark-2

 

How to Block Texts and Calls on Android Samsung

Blocking texts and phone calls is always a challenge for parents. There are many reasons where parents may want to limit or completely disable texting or calling. Apple does not provide a process to block either, although we do show parents how they can mirror iMessages in this blog. However, for parents who have Samsung smartphones and tablets, they have more options when using Netsanity. Here is how to block texts on Android devices.

Why consider blocking SMS & Calls?

There are are many reasons to block Texts(SMS) and Calls. Some are obvious, like overusing the texting plan, or texting during bedtimes. However, sometimes kids can be targeted by inappropriate parties or spam. Many texts can contain links to viruses, and porn. Sometimes, parents see inappropriate communication with certain “friends”, which they feel they may want their kids to avoid. Even though traditional calling is becoming less and less prevalent among kids and teens, it is still a way to reach out and parents may want options to curtail calling all together or selectively.

What you can do

With Netsanity for Android Samsung, you have complete control over SMS texting and phone calling. Here is what is possible when you have any premium plan.

  • Globally block ALL SMS Texting
  • Globally Disable ALL Phone Calling
  • Selectively block SMS to individual contacts that are pulled from their smartphone
  • Selectively block calling to individual contacts that are pulled from their smartphone

block calls and texts on Android Samsung Galaxy phones | Netsanity

  • See phone calling history that includes direction of call, Who was called or their number, the date, when, and how long

How to block SMS Texting and Calls on Samsung

Blocking SMS Messaging and Calling is easy and you do it right from your dashboard. Settings are updated in seconds!

To begin, navigate to your device listing and click the Manage Device Button for your Enrolled Samsung Device

manage

Next, To Block ALL SMS and Calls:

  • Click on the Messaging Tab
  • To Disable All Calling, click on the green Enabled button until it turns Red
  • To Disable All SMS Messaging, click on the green Enabled button until it turns Red

 

How to Block Texts on Samsung Galaxy | Netsanity

To Block Individual Contacts for SMS and Calls:

  • Click on the Messaging Tab
  • To Disable a single contact, search and look for the Contact listed and Click each individual Button for Calls or SMS
  • In the Search field, you can search by name, phone, number or to see all contacts blocked or allowed. For example, you can simply start typing “Bloc..” to see all blocked contacts.

Netsanity’s advanced tools for Android Samsung devices gives parents unparalleled options to block calls and texts. In addition to Messaging controls, Netsanity offers a complete tool set of over 20+ premium features.

 

How to Disable and Block Apps on Apple and Samsung Galaxy

For those parents who don’t know, kids and teens access the internet via apps and not web browsers. So while many parents, aged 40+ obsess over blocking or controlling access to our children’s browsers, many don’t realize that this is no longer relevant for our kids – apps, it’s where it’s at, and will continue to be for any foreseeable future.

What are they doing?

Kids are using Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and a host of social media apps to reach out, be social and stay connected. Kids and teens do not open up their browsers and “surf” – that is old news.

Blocking and Disabling Apps

On mobile devices, blocking and disabling apps has always been a challenge.  There was never an easy nor elegant way to selectively disable apps on Apple iOS or Android. Your choices were to disable all app installation or to manually intervene each time to add or delete apps. With parents having busy lives, this is not very easy. Netsanity has a better way.

Over 3 years ago, we invented a revolutionary way to block apps at the network layer – our appblocker and gameblocker features still do this today. How it all works is still our secret sauce, but our engineers profile all the popular internet-based apps and allow parents a one-click way to block them.

Blocking in Apple iOS

Since Netsanity does not install an app on the child’s device, we block apps at the network level. What does that mean? It means that we profile apps that need the internet to work. Almost all heavily-used apps fall into this category. Examples are Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and many others. Netsanity intelligently breaks all the internet communications to and from those apps so they are not usable.

appblocker - block apps on Android and apple mobile devices | netsanity

The parent simply clicks the app they want to block and then apply changes. Typically within 5 – 10 minutes those apps will stop working. They still show up on the device of course, but accessing new content is no longer possible.

When blocking is no longer needed, the parent simply clicks the app again, and it shows up in the allowed list.

A summary of blocked apps and games is always shown in the dashboard in the main activity summary page.

manage data on Samsung Android phones and tablets | netsanity

Disabling & Blocking Apps for Android (Samsung)

In addition to the traditional blocking of apps and games in appblocker, Netsanity has also created another restriction possible for Samsung devices – disabling the icons (apps) on the screen. Now a parent can quickly disable any app that is inventoried by our software and instantly disable it! So now ANY app, even non-internet ones like Minecraft and others, can be instantly disabled.

android-device-app-manage-10-21-border-dark

If that app is ALSO part of the appbloker or gameblocker inventory, it gets blocked there as well in case a child wants to access it via a browser. Youtube is a perfect example of this. By disabling the Youtube app, the icon is frozen and cannot be used. However a child can quickly open up Chrome and go to the youtube website and watch from there. By also disabling it in appblocker, we have shut down the use of that software everywhere!

Regardless of platform, we know that blocking and disabling apps is the key to controlling screentime. Netsanity makes it easy with its revolutionary features.


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