Category Archives: Pornography
What Parents Should Know About Decoy Apps

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

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

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

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

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

The Rise of the Decoy AppsDecoy Apps

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

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

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

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

How to Spot a Decoy App

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

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

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

The Problem With These Apps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screentime: Children Need Parents to Create Boundaries

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

Not always.

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

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

Young People Want Screentime Boundaries

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

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

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

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

Setting Screen Time BoundariesControl Screentime With Netsanity

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

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

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

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

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

7 Apps With Hidden Dangers

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

What’s App

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

Voxer

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

Words with Friends

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

SnapchatHidden Dangers of Popular Apps

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

Kik

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

Musical.ly

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

Whisper

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

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

Teens, Their Mobile Devices and Why the Combination Concerns Parents

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

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

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

How are our kids using their phones?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do parents need to know?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Teen Anxiety: Cyberbullying, Sextortion, and Pornography

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

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

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

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

Anxiety and Cyberbullying

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

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

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

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

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

Anxiety and Sextortion CasesAnxiety Among Teens Using Smartphones

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

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

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

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

Anxiety From Accessing PornographyAnxiety From Accessing Pornography

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

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

Addiction Hope states these repercussions bluntly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking About SafetyA Dad Teaching Responsible Smartphone Use

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

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

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

Keeping Up-to-DateHow To Teach Responsible Smartphone Use

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

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

Setting Guidelines for Internet UseSetting Guidelines For Internet Use

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

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

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

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

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

Teens and the”Constant Pressure” of Social Media

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

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

The Pressure to Be Available All the TimeTeens and Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pressure to Engage in Certain BehaviorsTeens Behavior On Social Media

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

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

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

The Pressure of CyberbullyingCyberbullying through social media

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

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

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

Relieving the Pressure of Social MediaRelieving the pressure of social media

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Prevalence of SextingTeens And Sexting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protecting Your TeenagersHow To Protect Your Teen | Netsanity

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

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

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

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!

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.

The Dangers for Children on Social Media

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

Pornography

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

Predators

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

Cyberbullying

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

Low Self-Esteem

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

Protecting Your Child

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

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

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digital Addiction

Smartphones and Kids | Netsanity

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

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

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

Exposure to PornographyKids Are Exposed to Pornography on Smartphones | Netsanity

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

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

CyberbullyingKids Might Use Smartphones to Cyberbully or Get Bullied | Netsanity

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

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

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

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

Physical HarmPhysical Dangers of Smartphones | Netsanity

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

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

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

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

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

Solutions

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

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

 

 

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7 Messaging Apps That Parents Should Be Aware Of

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

Get our Parents Guide to Digital Addiction, Free!

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

Anonymous Messaging Sites and Apps

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

Kik Messenger

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

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

Whisper

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

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

Ask.fm

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

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

Yik Yak

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

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

Omegle

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

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

Temporary Messaging Apps

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

Snapchat

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

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

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

Line

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

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

Solutions For Parents

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

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

Ensuring Your Child’s Social Media is Age-Appropriate

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

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

Setting Age Limits

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

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

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

Parental Controls and Filters

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

Communication

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

Supervision

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

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

Perform Periodic Safety Checks

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

“Follow” their social media account

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

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

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.