Category Archives: Pornography
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.

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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.

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

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

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

Get our Parents Guide to Digital Addiction, Free!

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Young Children Can Be Traumatized

How Porn Effects Kids and Teens | Netsanity

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

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

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

Pornography is often highly unrealistic.

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

Some pornography seems to be geared towards kids. 

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

How Porn Effects Kids and Teens | Netsanity

Pornographic Material Online Removes the Family Lens

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

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

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

Porn Effect on Brain - Kids and Teens | Netsanity

Protecting Your Kids From Porn

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

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

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

 

The Most Popular Apps for Teens and Tweens

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

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

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

Instagram

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

Pros:

  • Good privacy features

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

  • Easy accessibility

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

Cons:

  • Stranger danger

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

Twitter

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

Pros:

  • Easy way to connect with others

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

  • Fast way to find news

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

Cons:

  • Damaged self-esteem

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

  • Damaging conversations and bullying

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

Facebook

Facebook | NetSanity

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

Pros:

  • Relatively good privacy

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

  • Good accountability

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

  • Facebook Messenger

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

Tumblr

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

Pros:

  • Creative outlet

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

  • Connectivity and new relationships

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

Cons:

  • Porn and explicit material

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

  • Lack of privacy

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

Snapchat

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

Pros:

  • Easy accessibility and social connections

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

  • Relative privacy

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

Cons:

  • Lack of accountability

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

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

Help! When Other Parents Don’t Use Parental Controls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How to Block Porn Websites On Apple & Android Devices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is pornography dangerous?

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

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

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

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

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

The Solution: Block Known Websites and Content

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

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

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

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

What are the options & risks to blocking porn?

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

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

Searching and accessing porn – what’s the difference?

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

Part 1 – Searching the web for pornography

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netsanity’s Safesearch

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

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

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

Part 2 – Website Access Explained

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

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

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

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

How Netsanity’s content filtering is different

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using Catblocker and Siteblocker

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

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

 

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

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

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

Stats on Mobile Porn

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, Even Your Kids Can See Bad Stuff Online!

You’ve heard all the buzz over parental controls and why they’re so important for any child who spends time online. Chances are, you’ve even looked into those parental controls and considered them for your family. The thing is, you have a good kid. You don’t have to worry about your child getting into things they shouldn’t, and for the most part, you’re pretty sure they tell you everything.  With kids like that, you don’t really need parental control software, right?

Accidental Uncovering

Finding pornography online doesn’t necessarily require a child to go looking for it. All too often, porn pops up accidentally. Of the 42% of teens and tweens ages 10 to 17 who admitted in a survey that they’d viewed online porn in the past twelve months, 66% responded that they hadn’t intended to view the images. In many cases, these kids were searching for something comparatively innocent and ended up on a website that they didn’t intend. In some cases, explicit sites or porn stars share names with otherwise innocent things. In other cases, the child might have been browsing a familiar website and accidentally uncovered an ad that took them somewhere else entirely. Unfortunately, for many kids, it doesn’t end with a quick look and a fast click away. Once they’ve seen it, they start getting sucked in, often struggling to break the pornography cycle later.

bad-stuff-online

What’s Out There?

You know that there’s pornography all over the internet, but there are other things that you might want to protect your child from, too. Consider blocking sites that:

  • Show graphically violent content
  • Describe how to commit acts of violence
  • Promote self-harming behaviors or suicidal tendencies
  • Encourage low self-esteem

Keep in mind, too, that pornographic content doesn’t have to be visual. Girls, in particular, are more likely to be attracted by written content that describes sexual acts or goes into detail about other parts of sex. You might not even recognize the URLs if they start to appear in your internet history–but your children may have been exposed to that type of content anyway. Yes, even your good kids can–and do–find bad stuff online.

Keeping Your Child Safe

Parental controls are the first line of defense in keeping your child safe online. Protect all the devices that your child uses. Their computer isn’t the only way they can come across explicit content! In fact, most  kids who do go looking for explicit content or who explore it in more detail are more likely to do so on personal mobile devices. Here are some additional actions to consider:

  • Protect your mobile devices with a trustworthy parental control that cannot be easily defeated like a home router or app can.
  • Regularly monitor your child’s internet use and search history. Keep in mind that even the best parental controls may not be able to filter everything, especially if your child does go looking for explicit material.
  • Discuss appropriate online behavior–including what sites should and should not be viewed–with your child on a regular basis.
  • Use a parental control that has timeout or controls that allow you to schedule “off times” for internet-enabled devices, including smart phones and tablets.
  • Consider what apps you consider to be appropriate for your child. Keep in mind that may apps allow children to view content that they might not be able to get to on other sites.

Keeping your child safe online feels like a full-time job! When even the best kids are exposed to online content that you don’t want them to see, keeping them innocent can feel impossible. The first step is using a quality parental control software to protect your kids on their mobile devices wherever they go…and make sure it isn’t just something that protects them at home but protects them wherever they go with their mobile devices!

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Solutions

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

Blocking inappropriate content is easy with Netsanity’s  Catblocker feature. Using public and private databases, Netsanity’s own artificial intelligence engine, and other proprietary tools, they maintain a database with many millions of websites and apps. Catblocker works regardless of the browser or app being used as well as setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children and teens are exposed is a good first step. Additionally, Netsanity offers a large suite of services for parents. Another favorite is their appblocker – is a “must have”. With one click, you can block more than 50 previously tested and profiled internet-based apps that you find inappropriate. If you have a Samsung device, you can disable any app instantly in addition to appblocker!

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

What Are Teens Doing Online?

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

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

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

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

The lives of children in cyberspace

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

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

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

Why do teenagers spend so much time online?

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

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

Parents are struggling to keep up

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

Conclusion

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

Solutions

online-dating

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

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

Teens Confess to Smartphone Addiction

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

By the Numbers

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

Smartphones in Schools

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

group of young students studying in the classroom with tablet

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

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

Battling Smartphone Addiction

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

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

Options

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

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

4 Reasons Parental Controls Are Critical for Your Family

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

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

(click here to get your free guide)

Pornography is addictive

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

Kids have trouble defining their limits

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

Depressive content breeds depression

young girl at the table looking at mobile phone

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

Gaming isn’t always harmless

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

 

What you can do

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

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

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

What Is a Finsta?

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

What Do Parents Need to Know?

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

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

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

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

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

Should Your Child Have a Finsta?

happy african college friends taking selfie together

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

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

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

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

The Digital Disconnect

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

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

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

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

Why It’s Important

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

Controlling the Risk

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

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

Clear Social Media Rules

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

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

Parental Control Software

Teenage girls sitting on grass and taking selfie with mobile phone

Why Teens Are So Obsessed With Social Media

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

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

Why Teens Are So Obsessed With Social Media?

Enjoyous young girl make a selfie with his mobile phone

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

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

To Them Online Life Is Real Life

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

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

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

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

Tired Teenager sleeping on the Bed with Tablet Computer

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

 

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

Adult Accountability: Software & Solutions

Adult Accountability – Hidden truths and struggles

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

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

source: Similar Web

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

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

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

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

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

source: The Gilmer Mirror

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

Traditional accountability solutions and why they fail

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

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

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

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

Striking the right balance

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

Benefits of adult accountability software

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

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

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

How To Set Up and Use Netsanity for Adult Accountability

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

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

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

Set up Netsanity for adult accountability

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

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

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

What’s next?

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

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

5 Ways Predators Groom Children During Online Gaming

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

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

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

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

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

Girl Texting On Mobile Phone At Night While Lying In Bed

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

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

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

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

 

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

Can Having a Smartphone Make Your Teen a Criminal?

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

How A Smartphone Can Make Your Teen a Criminal

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

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

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

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

Talk About Responsibility Before Handing Over A Smartphone

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

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

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


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

Two Social Media Apps That Our Family Blocks

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

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

YikYak:

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

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

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

Tumblr:

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

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

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

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

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

What Can Parents Do?

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

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

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

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


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