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

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

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

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

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

Anxiety and Cyberbullying

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

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

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

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

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

Anxiety and Sextortion CasesAnxiety Among Teens Using Smartphones

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

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

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

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

Anxiety From Accessing PornographyAnxiety From Accessing Pornography

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

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

Addiction Hope states these repercussions bluntly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unveiling Sarahah: What Parents Need to Know

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

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

What is Sarahah?Sarahah Parents Info

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

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

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

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

Understanding the Dangers of Anonymous Apps like Sarahah

Sarahah Parents Info

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking About SafetyA Dad Teaching Responsible Smartphone Use

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

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

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

Keeping Up-to-DateHow To Teach Responsible Smartphone Use

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

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

Setting Guidelines for Internet UseSetting Guidelines For Internet Use

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

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

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

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

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

Are Smartphones Damaging This Generation’s Mental Health?

It’s been clear for a while: this generation isn’t like the others. Parents are working to raise their children in an environment quite unlike the one they experienced growing up. However, so much of the conversation about generational differences is still focused on millennials and how they’re disrupting everything from traditional employment to restaurant offerings. Maybe we haven’t been focusing enough on today’s teens and, specifically, their mental health.

In October, Time reported that “Between 2010 and 2016, the number of adolescents who experienced at least one major depressive episode leaped by 60%.” Meanwhile, teen suicide rates have been steadily climbing, with the rate among girls reaching a 40-year high in 2015. What gives? Why is this generation especially prone to mental illness?

According to this new study, the smartphone could be to blame.

Examining the EvidenceDo Smartphones Damage Mental Health?

About 77 percent of Americans have a smartphone, up from 35 percent in 2011. Among teenagers, 73 percent had access to a smartphone as of 2015. In this article, study author Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, wrote:

“… increases in depression, suicide attempts and suicide appeared among teens from every background – more privileged and less privileged, across all races and ethnicities and in every region of the country….smartphone ownership crossed the 50 percent threshold in late 2012 – right when teen depression and suicide began to increase.”

But what about economic issues or academic pressure? Researchers considered those potential causes but ruled them out: 2010 and the following years featured economic growth and low unemployment, and careful study revealed that teens were spending the same amount of time on homework as they had in previous years.

Though excessive internet use has been linked to depression and anxiety for a while, the reverse has also been considered: perhaps people who are depressed spend more time online. Twenge writes,

“The argument…doesn’t also explain why depression increased so suddenly after 2012. Under that scenario, more teens became depressed for an unknown reason and then started buying smartphones, which doesn’t seem too logical.”

Furthermore, this isn’t the only study to point to screen time as the culprit for the increase in teen depression. The article mentions three other studies (you can see them herehere, and here), all of which indicated that social media use has a negative effect on well-being.

Why It’s a Problem (Even If Your Teen Doesn’t Seem Depressed)How Can Smartphones Damage Mental Health?

Depression and suicide are complicated problems that may have complicated causes. Genetics, home environment, past traumas, and bullying can all contribute to anxiety and depression. The smartphone may not be the only contributing factor to a mental health issue, but it could be the one that pushes a teen who is at risk over the edge.

Twenge also points out two concerns regarding excessive smartphone use, both of which could contribute to depression and other issues like poor academic performance, irritability, and poor decision-making skills:

Lack of SleepWhy Smartphones Damage Mental Health

Teens may stay up late or even wake up in the middle of the night to check their phones. Part of this is FOMO (the fear of missing out): they want to make sure they’re in constant contact with their friends and fully aware of whatever is going on. They might also play games, edit photos, chat, or browse social media profiles.

This CBS News article says that late-night smartphone use not only replaces sleep, the content stimulates the child’s brain and the light from the screen suppresses melatonin, making it more likely he or she will have trouble falling asleep even after the phone gets put away for the night.

Not getting enough sleep can lead to forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, lowered alertness, poor reasoning skills and impaired judgment, health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure, weight gain, and, of course, depression.

Less Real-World InteractionWays Smartphones Damage Mental Health

As kids and teens spend more time online, they spend less time with their friends and in nature. Unfortunately, “Feeling socially isolated is also one of the major risk factors for suicide.” A strong real-life social network boosts immunity and helps you sleep well.

Meanwhile, spending time outdoors can relieve stress, improve your ability to concentrate, increase your energy levels, boost your immune system, and improve your mood. Involvement in music, sports, martial arts, dance, and other activities get teens away from the smartphones for a while and give them an opportunity to develop a skill they might use for the rest of their lives.

Even if your teen’s depression doesn’t lead to something as tragic as suicide, it doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll “grow out of it” or manage to heal herself. Depression isn’t imaginary and it’s not merely teenage drama. Mental health is as important as physical health; depression is something that can impact your child’s self-esteem, social life, and decision-making, and it could follow him into adulthood.

Signs of DepressionInformation On How Smartphones Might Damage Mental Health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises watching your child for these signs of depression:

  • Disinterest in enjoyable activities.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits.
  • Changes in energy level.
  • Ongoing irritability or feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
  • Difficulty focusing and paying attention.
  • Feeling useless.
  • Self-harm and other self-destructive behavior.

Protecting Your Teen’s Mental Health

First, do what you can to encourage a healthy lifestyle for your child, both physically and mentally. Of course, given the many factors that may contribute to depression, you may not be able to prevent depression. However, there are a few things you can do:

  • Boost His Self-Esteem: Help him get involved in activities that interest him, and celebrate his improvements and successes.
  • Manage Stress: Acknowledge the pressures of school and social life, and help her explore ways to manage that stress: yoga, exercise, time in nature, time with pets, or anything else she finds relaxing.
  • Promote a Healthy Lifestyle: Proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise can help prevent a wide variety of health issues, including depression.
  • Limit Screen Time: As the evidence piles up, we can’t ignore the connection between screen time and depression. As Twenge writes, “…the downside to limiting screen time…is minimal. In contrast, the downside to doing nothing – given the possible consequences of depression and suicide – seems, to me, quite high.” With that in mind, use trustworthy parental controls to disable the internet when you don’t want your teen to be online. Limit their use to just a couple of hours per day if you wanted, or simply block their social apps at night to help ensure a good night’s sleep while still allowing to listen to music. As an added bonus, you can block sites that are especially damaging to self-esteem (like those that allow users to determine how pretty or ugly someone is) or that you deem inappropriate.

If your child does exhibit signs of depression, it’s important to seek professional help.

 

 

Reddit: What Parents Need to Know

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

What Is Reddit?Reddit Parents Information from Netsanity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reddit includes NSFW guidelines in their content policy:

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

Should Your Children Use Reddit?Should Kids Use Reddit?

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

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

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

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

What Parents Can DoNetsanity Block Reddit

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

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

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

Teens and the”Constant Pressure” of Social Media

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

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

The Pressure to Be Available All the TimeTeens and Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pressure to Engage in Certain BehaviorsTeens Behavior On Social Media

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

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

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

The Pressure of CyberbullyingCyberbullying through social media

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

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

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

Relieving the Pressure of Social MediaRelieving the pressure of social media

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

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

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

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

As parents, your social media concerns are most likely centered around Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. These sites have lots of teenage users, and let’s be honest: keeping up with the trends and habits on three sites is more than enough work. Unfortunately, the internet is vast beyond comprehension, and your parental awareness has to extend a little further than those big three.

Let’s start with Tumblr.

What Is Tumblr?

Tumblr has been around since 2007, and Fast Company describes it like this:

“…a blogging platform that makes it easier to post video, audio, words, social bookmarks, photos, and even other people’s blog posts into your blog, and share it with other people. Instead of having to upload things to YouTube, Delicious or Flickr, or create your own WordPress database before posting things, you can put your media directly into Tumblr from your computer or mobile phone. It’s blogging, the way blogging was meant to be.”

Users create their own blogs and connect with other people by following and sharing their blog content and posting comments. The site has long appealed to the younger population.

What Do Tumblrs Blog About?Tumblr | Parents Info

The variety is as wide as the internet itself, but this 2013 article broke it down into three main categories:

  • Daily Life: This includes hanging out with friends, eating, shopping, and so on.
  • Memes and Gifs: These entertaining posts are easy to find and share.
  • Pornography

Teenagers and TumblrHow Teenagers Use Tumblr

Common Sense Media notes high levels of sex- and drug-related material as well as coarse language, much of which you might prefer your teen not be exposed to on a regular basis.

“Though the keyword search does block terms such as ‘porn,’ ‘F—‘ and ‘sex,’ curious kids could still stumble upon racy, and even raunchy, images and writings. (There’s really everything under the sun here — positive and negative.)”

They rate the app for users over the age of 15, while parents who reviewed it say 16, and the kids who reviewed it say 13. The Tumblr terms of service do not allow those under age 13 to use it (though it pays to note that this can often be bypassed by a younger child who lies about his or her birthday when creating an account).

This article on Very Well outlines some of the benefits of Tumblr for teenagers, including the exposure to ideas and concepts from around the world, the opportunity to network, and the space in which to explore and develop new interests.

However, the article also points out the risks:

  • Privacy: There is no option to have a totally private profile on Tumblr, though you can make certain posts private.
  • Scams: As with email and other social media sites, there are scams associated with Tumblr in which thieves try to lift passwords and other private information from users.
  • Pornography: “Tumblr allows sexually-explicit material to be posted to the site. Pornographic videos are not allowed to be posted directly to Tumblr but links to pornography are allowed.” Since profiles aren’t private, your child can easily come across this material, intentionally or unintentionally.
  • Unhealthy Behavior: As with other social sites, communities will form around extreme dieting and eating disorders, self-harm, and other destructive behavior.

New Developments: Safe ModeSafe Mode | Teens and Kids Tumblr Use | from netsanity.net

Over the summer, Tumblr users gained the option of setting the “safe mode” which would filter out adult-oriented content. However, the way the site defines “sensitive” material also includes certain “…artistic nudity or nudity in an educational or photojournalistic context.

When a user comes across this type of content, they see a warning screen that can be bypassed if the user so chooses (and is over age 18). A user must also first choose to opt-in to safe mode, something a curious teenager probably would not care to do.

Should You Block Tumblr?How to Block Tumblr

When you use trustworthy parental controls on your child’s mobile device, you have the opportunity to block certain sites and apps you don’t want your teen to use. Should Tumblr be one of them?

Maybe so. Here are few points to consider:

  • Your Child’s Age and Maturity: Some 13-year-olds can handle social media; some 17-year-olds (and many adults, for that matter) struggle to discern real from fake when it comes to news and images. Tumblr might not be the best “starter platform” for your child when it comes to social media. Facebook or Instagram might be easier for you to monitor, and it is less likely that your child will come across sexually explicit material on those networks.
  • How Does Your Child Use Tumblr? A focus on dog memes or car repair doesn’t mean he’ll never come across explicit content, but if his Tumblr account is helping him learn more about something he’s interested in, it might be worth allowing that to continue.
  • Your Relationship With Your Child: Do you communicate well? Do you trust her to tell you about dangerous or uncomfortable experiences she has online? Do you regularly catch him in a lie? Can you be open with your child about monitoring her internet use and her Tumblr account?
  • It Might Be Easier to Prevent It Than Take It Away: If Tumblr is off the table from the very beginning, your teen doesn’t know what she’s missing and might find Snapchat and Instagram to be interesting and time-consuming enough. However, once a child is active on a platform with connections to other users, it might be more difficult for you to enforce a shutdown of the account. This, of course, depends on your parenting style, your child’s behavior, and your relationship.

If you do decide to block Tumblr and other specific sites and apps on your teen’s mobile device, see why Netsanity has the powerful tools to help guide your child’s internet use until they are ready to manage it on their own.

 

Decoding Teen Slang

*Our teen slang guide now updated for 2018!

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

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

Fun and Harmless Teenage SlangTeen Slang Guide | Netsanity

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

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

 Teen Slang Terms to Keep an Eye on

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

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

Warning Flags

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

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

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

 

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

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

Trends that we think Parents need to be watching in 2018

Social Mediasocial media trends for teens in 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up and ComingDigital Hangouts and Other Trends

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

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

Internet Slang in 2018Teenage Girl on Mobile Phone At Home

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

Some recent trends in teen slang:

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

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

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

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

How to Stay On Top of the Trends & Terminology

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

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

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

TAKE OUR TEEN SLANG QUIZ!

All About “What I Ate Today” Vlogs

When we have a question about health and fitness (or pretty much anything else, for that matter), we usually turn to the internet. Tweens and teens who may be self-conscious about their bodies are doing it, too, looking for answers about how to “get skinny” to keep up with the men or women they see in magazine ads, or to get as muscular as their favorite actors or athletes. As this study explains.

“Salient influences on body image include the media , which can target adolescents, and peers who help shape beliefs about the perceived body ideal. The concepts of fat talk and weight-related bullying during adolescence greatly contribute to an overemphasis on body weight and appearance as well as the development of negative body perceptions and dissatisfaction surrounding specific body parts.”

With those insecurities in mind, teenagers go online for tips and tricks.

“What I Ate Today” Vlogs and Other FitspoBody Image Teen Risks | Netsanity

There is no shortage of fitness-related social media pages and profiles. “Fitspo” is short for “fitspiration,” which comes from “fitness inspirations.” Fitspo bloggers and social media celebrities offer workout advice and post selfies that highlight their narrow waists and muscle definition. Teens are inundated with information about how to get fit.

One of many ways this information is shared is via the “What I Ate Today” video blog (vlog), which is exactly what it sounds like. People (mostly girls and women, as you’ll see after a quick search for the term on YouTube) share videos talking about what they ate that day. There’s often chatting, meal preparation, and maybe some recipes.

The Good NewsFitness Experts and Vloggers

Some of the information is solid: it’s shared by experts and backed by science. (Thank goodness, or we’d all be in trouble!) Many of the fitspo bloggers and influencers are good role models: they encourage moderation, good exercise technique, rest days, and balanced meals. Some of them even post side-by-side photos showing how easy it is to appear thin and fit simply by changing your outfit, your pose, the lighting, and the angle of the camera, warning their followers not to trust every photo that they see and promoting a healthy body image.

When your teens follow these responsible influencers, they learn valuable tips about how to live a healthy lifestyle.

The Bad NewsWork out vloggers can mislead teens

The internet is full of misinformation, and it’s getting more and more difficult to tell the difference between truth and fiction. Furthermore, the health and fitness world has its own trends, some of which work for certain people and not for others. This is why not all health and fitness vloggers and bloggers are created equal.

Education: Some fitness bloggers are certified professionals who have worked as fitness instructors and personal trainers for years. Nutritionists and other experts also share their knowledge on their own websites. However, many more of those bloggers are not much different than your own teenager. They simply found a platform to talk about what they do, whether extreme diets, they might not realize the potential damage they’re doing to their own bodies until later in life.

Influence and Intention:  The bloggers with the most followers are offered all sorts of promotional deals as many companies take advantage of the opportunity to get their products in front of those followers. Even though it’s required for an influencer to reveal any such affiliation, those connections might go unnoticed by your teen. Furthermore, the blogger might be saying that she always uses a certain supplement, when in reality she was paid or otherwise rewarded for promoting the product and doesn’t even use it at all.

The Risks for TeensRisks for teens online

Constant exposure to images of an “ideal” body type can leave your teen feeling inferior. Social media has already been shown to contribute to low self-esteem; it can also contribute to eating disorders.

According to Park Nicollet Melrose Center,  80 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of getting fat, and more than half of teenage girls use unhealthy ways to manage their weight. A 2011 study showed that “The more time adolescent girls spend in front of Facebook, the more their chances of developing a negative body image and various eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia and exaggerated dieting.”

Some “What I Ate Today” vlogs could feature low caloric intakes or imbalanced diets.  Others might insist upon a certain type of diet (paleo, keto, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, etc) that your teen might start to follow without considering the pros and cons. Even if the diet is healthy, it could contribute to obsessive behavior in some teens with meal preparation and planning or excessive restrictions on what he or she is willing to eat.

What Can Parents Do?

What can parents do about teen body image risks

Healthy habits and a healthy body image start early in life. Here’s how you can help get your child started on the right foot:

Set a Good Example: Practice healthy, balanced exercise and eating habits. (A healthy diet will also help your child with school and energy levels.) Talk positively about your own body, focusing on what it can do rather than what it looks like. Compliment your child the same way: “You’re so strong!” or “You’re  great at basketball!” rather than “You’re so thin and pretty!”

Encourage Physical Activity: Sports and dance classes are great, but so is a family walk after dinner or a hike on the weekend.

Keep an Eye on Your Teen’s Internet Activity: Keeping tabs should always be a part of your agreement with your child about going online or using a mobile device. Be aware of what sites your children are using, and stay on top of the news about trends and apps.  This is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control that allows you block dangerous categories and apps.

Talk About What You See Online: Encourage your teen to talk to you if they see something online that they are uncomfortable with or if they have questions about. Comment on the media you consume together: for example, if you see a billboard, you can mention (without degrading the subject of the photo) how advertisers regularly edit the images to make them look a certain way, and that people sometimes do that with their own photos, too. Ask your teen if they have noticed that in their social media newsfeed.

As the parent, you have influence over your child’s health and fitness habits simply by setting a positive example. Of course, social media influence will sneak in, so be ready to notice any changes in your child’s eating or exercise habits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goal #1 – Block Porn

Best Gift for Parents in 2018!

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

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

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

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

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

Goal #2 – Stop the madness with a Timeout

Best Gift for Parents - Digital Timeout for Their Kids

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

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

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

Goal #3 – Bedtime and Limiting Screentime

Best Parents Gift 2017 - Netsanity Timeblocker

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Goal #4 – App Blocking with one click

Holiday Gift for Parents | Appblocker by Netsanity

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

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

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

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

Parental controls that kids cannot remove themselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give yourself some Sanity this Holiday Season

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

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

We start at the impossible.

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

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

/Carl – CEO

Staying Focused in the Age of Mobile Distraction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communicate

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

Redirect Distractive Energy

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

Provide a Positive Example

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

Set Some Ground Rules

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

 Limit Screentime When Necessary

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

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

Teens and Sexting

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

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

The Prevalence of SextingTeens And Sexting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protecting Your TeenagersHow To Protect Your Teen | Netsanity

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

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

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

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

What are your kids doing today?

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

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

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

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

Mobile Is Everywhere

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

Screentime for Children Under Age Eight

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

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

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

Are Parents Concerned?Children Using Mobile Devices

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

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

Finding the BalanceYoung Kids Using Phones and Tablets Early

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

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

Kids on Mobile Devices | Common Sense Media | Netsanity

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

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

 

Helping Kids Navigate Online

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

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

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

AnxietyAnxiety | Children's Internet Usage

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

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

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

DepressionDepression | Children's Internet Usage 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cyberbullying

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

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

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

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

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

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

LikesLike - Facebook like button: How Teens Use Social Media

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

FlirtingEmojis - How Teens Use Social Media

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

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

GhostingGhosting - Teens Use Social Media Different

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

Roasting  Teens May Use Social Media to Bully - Roasting

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

Monitor How Teens Use Social Media Using Parental Controls

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

Online Shaming: What Can Parents Do?

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

Document Shaming or BullyingDocument Online Shaming | Netsanity

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

Communicate With Your KidsCommunicate With Your Kids About Online Bullying

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

Get Help When You Need ItHelp With Online Shaming Issues

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

Remove Platforms Used for Bullying

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Smartphones at Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Model Good HabitsModel Good Smartphone Habits

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

Expect ResistanceWhat Happens When Teens Use Smartphones at Night?

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

SolutionsAnxiety and Depression in Teens Increased by Nighttime Smartphone Use

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

Today’s Teens: Taking Their Time

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

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

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

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

However, there’s another side to this.

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

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

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

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

Why Is This Happening?

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

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

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

What Can Parents Do?

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

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

 

The Perfect Selfie: Apps Parents Need to Be Aware Of

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

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

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

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

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

Body Altering Selfie Apps

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

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

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

Other Selfie ConcernsSelfie Apps Concerns

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pornography: Not Just a Boy Problem

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

It’s what boys do, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dangers

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 3 a.m. Challenge: What Parents Need to Know

The latest social media challenge may be keeping your younger children up at night! It’s called “The 3 a.m. challenge”.

What is the 3 a.m. Challenge?

The 3 a.m. Challenge is a recent  social media dare  that is making its way around on YouTube. In this particular online challenge participants attempt to perform a specific task at 3 in the morning, they attempt things like calling strangers on the phone, calling God  or even playing with fidget spinners, to see if a ghost or spirit from the “other side” respond on camera. According to some of the various videos posted, if you spin a fidget spinner three times in a row right at 3 a.m., you will get a phone call from a stranger or potentially other creepy things may happen in the room. Many of these videos have gained millions of views on YouTube. Why 3 a.m.? Apparently, some people call it the “the witching or devils hour”.3 am challenge

Who started it?

YouTube creators like Jason Ethier, who has a channel on  YouTube ImJayStation, where he has uploaded creepy 3 a.m. videos seeking paranormal activity.  Another popular YouTuber who has been associated with the same type of creepy video challenge is Ruby Rube. Her videos have become pretty popular on YouTube with children around the world. She has made various 3 a.m. videos, many of which have gotten over a million views each! Her most popular ones find her talking to Siri,  calling her school at 3 in the morning, or even receiving a call from a ghost girl.What is the 3 am Challenge?

What Can Parents Do?

As you can imagine, these videos while entertaining can be disturbing at bedtime for younger children. We always recommend talking to your children about how these videos are not real and should not be taken seriously. If viewing YouTube videos have become a problem, Netsanity offers parents some options:

Parents can utilize Timeblocker to either hide the YouTube app or block internet access to YouTube during the times that you feel may be inappropriate. Using Timeblocker, parents can even lock the screen and disable the fingerprint sensor to completely lock the iPhone during bedtimes.

For example, parents can set the entire bedtime to restrict internet access or if the 3 a.m. challenge is especially worrisome, parents can block the internet between 3 – 4 a.m. or any other slot. Another option is to use Netsanity’s  appblocker to block YouTube whenever a parent wants to.

Regardless of what is decided, having Netsanity installed gives parents ease of mind that their kids are sleeping and not up at 3 AM!

Technology in the Classroom

Technology in the classroom is more than just a trend. It’s here to stay–for a number of reasons. Technology in the classroom offers a number of key advantages that teachers are embracing, including:

  • Increased personalization that will allow each student to focus on areas of concern or interest
  • The ability to increase research and expand student knowledge
  • STEM opportunities
  • Inexpensive hands-on activities that can easily be integrated into current lessons
  • Self-paced learning opportunities
  • Enhanced need for technology skills when students enter their future fields of employment

Laptops, iPads, Chromebooks, and even BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) that usually include Smartphone use are becoming increasingly common in many classrooms–and teachers are embracing them enthusiastically, using them as an increasingly common part of many everyday lesson plans.

Why Parents Should Embrace Technology in the ClassroomTechnology in the Classroom | Netsanity

As a parent who is concerned about what will happen when your child is given internet access as part of their everyday classroom activities, from the potential distraction of playing games instead of concentrating on the lesson to the possibility of online bullying, you might consider not even signing that technology form. After all, it’s up to the teacher to come up with engaging lessons, not just plop your child in front of a screen, right? If you’ve been thinking about not signing the technology form, there are several reasons why you should embrace the opportunities offered by technology in the classroom.

Your child will need those vital technology skillsTechnology in the Classroom | Netsanity

Eventually, your child will move on to a job. In most of those jobs, they will now be expected to integrate and understand a variety of computers, software program, and other pieces of technology. Learning about them now, in the classroom, will reduce the learning curve when they enter the professional world. Many colleges and universities are also embracing technology, from classes that are entirely online to technological learning opportunities throughout regular classes–and you don’t want your child to fall behind.

Learning through tech allows deeper explorationTechnology in the Classroom | Netsanity

Does your child have a deep interest in a field that’s only covered briefly in class? Does a specific discussion spark their interest? Learning online allows that search for knowledge to go deeper, encouraging your child to explore further.

Tech increases the ability for students to learn at their paceTechnology in the Classroom | Netsanity

Kids learn differently. Teachers do their best, but they can only instruct to each individual’s learning level and learning style so well, especially when they have 20, 30, or more students to deal with! Technology, however, can more easily be individualized for every child, whether it’s an online learning opportunity that is scaled to each student’s level or a program or game that moves on as your child masters a concept.

How Netsanity Can Help in Protecting Your ChildTechnology in the Classroom | Netsanity

You might want to embrace technology, but you still want to keep your child safe! These key strategies will keep your child safe even when they’re using technology in the classroom, where you can’t look over their shoulders.

  • Have an open dialogue about what your child is looking at online. Encourage them to talk with you about what they’re seeing, rather than being secretive–even if that means setting aside your instinctive desire to punish for some viewing behaviors.
  • Make sure there are appropriate firewalls and trustworthy parental controls installed on the school networks. If you’re concerned, talk to the school’s network adviser. Netsanity, for example, offers a feature called Safe WiFi that works seamlessly with your school’s safety features. More and more schools are blocking VPN (Virtual Private Networks) to discourage kids from bypassing the school’s internet filtering. Netsanity’s SafeWifi for Apple, allows parents to disable Netsanity’s VPN-based internet filtering while their children are at school. This allows the Apple devices to be filtered by the school’s local internet policies but still offer device-level protection. When the kids leave the school, the Netsanity filtering service will reconnect again to protect them.
  • Monitor your child’s social media accounts. Keep an eye out for accounts that may have been created without your knowledge and watch the ones that you do know about. Also, block apps during the day that you feel are inappropriate or that you don’t want your child using during the school day.

When parents work with their children to balance screentime and develop healthy relationships with screentime and social media they can help eliminate the temptation for your children when at school or during homework. Not only will they spend less time online, with all the inherent risks present there, they’re also more likely to perform better at school.

 

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.

Middle School Suicide: A Growing Problem

In recent years there has been an increase in youth suicides, especially children of middle school age. While suicide is a complicated issue with a variety of causes, there have been a disturbing number of cases connected to bullying, especially online and social media bullying.

Let’s look at how parents and other adults can help to prevent middle school suicide.
Youth Suicide - A Growing Problem | Netsanity

Suicide is always a tragedy but even more so when young people take their own lives. Between 2007 and 2014, the suicide rate doubled for children between 10 and 14, which is the age when kids are in middle school or junior high school. There are no simple explanations for why anyone, including youths, decides to take their own lives. Contributing factors may include clinical depression, academic pressure, and family problems. There have also been many well-publicized cases of kids committing suicide as a result of bullying. While bullying is hardly new, one thing that’s different for this generation of middle-schoolers is the prevalence of smart phones and social media, which play a central role in the social lives of young people. While there are undeniable benefits to the internet, social media, and digital devices, these can also be used as an instrument of bullying and abuse.Preventing Youth Suicide During Middle School Years | Netsanity

On the surface, it might seem that online or social media bullying is a less serious issue than old-fashioned offline bullying. After all, you can’t physically assault someone online. The psychological effects of online bullying, however, can be at least as devastating as anything that’s inflicted on children in person. For one thing, there’s no escape from it. At least with traditional bullying, kids are safe at home. When their tormentors are online, however, there are no more safe places. People today, including children, are active on multiple channels and platforms. Thus, it’s now possible to bully someone on many fronts, such as via text, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.Youth Suicide Statistics

Another factor is that the internet makes some bullies braver. Just as some adults become more abusive and brazen online, the same is true for children and teens. The internet also makes it possible to attack others anonymously, under aliases. Another unfortunate reality is that online and traditional bullying aren’t mutually exclusive. In many cases, victims of cyberbullying are also targeted offline. Thus, the internet is yet another way for bullies to pursue their victims.

How to Protect Children: Suicide Prevention

Fortunately, most middle schoolers, even ones who have problems with bullying, aren’t at risk for suicide. However, it’s important for parents to watch for warning signs and to do everything they can to protect their kids. Here are some ways you can do this.

  • Sudden changes in behavior such as anger or social withdrawal, lower grades, or a lack of interest in activities they previously enjoyed are some common symptoms of bullying or mental health issues. Never ignore such warning signs. Make sure your children know they can talk to you. If there’s a serious problem, it’s also helpful to have him or her talk to a counselor or child psychologist.
  • If you know that your child is a victim of bullying, talk to a teacher or the principal. Make sure that the school takes the issue seriously, even if you have to contact them several times. In some cases, parents take legal action against schools that don’t prevent bullying. This is the last resort, but it’s worth considering if the school isn’t doing enough to remedy the situation.
  • Monitor your child’s online behavior. Set privacy settings on social media sites to prevent strangers (or people using aliases)  from posting on your child’s pages and timelines. If there’s an issue with cyberbullying, it’s often best to limit online and social media activity for a while. Trustworthy parental controls can also help make it easier to keep your family safer online.

Youth Suicide Statistics

  • Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24. (2015 CDC WISQARS)
  • More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
  • Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 3,470 ATTEMPTS by young people grades 9-12.  If these percentages are additionally applied to grades 7 & 8, the numbers would be higher.
  • FOUR out of FIVE teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs
  • The Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System (YRBS) is a survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that includes national, state, and local school-based representative samples of 9th through 12th grade students. The purpose is to monitor priority health risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems among youth in the United States.

*© 2017 Jason Foundation Inc.

 

Are Parents Feeling Pressured to Provide an “Instagrammable” Lifestyle?

“instagrammable”
– A Photo or a Picture that is worth posting on Instagram.

(Urban Dictionary)

Raising children in a digital world is not for the faint of heart. It’s an unprecedented parenting challenge; your own parents had no such experience when they were raising you. Parents today are figuring it out as they go along.

However, no parent is a stranger to the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses” when it comes to their children. Kids have always been hyper-aware of what the other kids have, be it designer jeans or the latest smartphone.

Way back in 2007, Time posted this article about extravagant children’s birthday parties, quoting a mother who said, “You have to perform to a certain level…It’s no longer a family thing — it’s an event.”Your Child's Life on Instagram - Being Insta-Famous

Social science professor William Doherty is also quoted in the article:

“A lot of parents feel they’re on a birthday-party treadmill that gets faster every year. They’re afraid their birthday party won’t measure up and their child will be disappointed.”

No End in Sight

In 2015, a Slate article pointed out that this birthday extravagance has continued to grow.

With social media, it seems to be getting worse and extending beyond birthdays into other areas of your child’s life. Hashtags like #RichKidsofSnapchat highlight social media posts featuring helicopters, parties, mansions, expensive jewelry, and stacks of money. Parents help show off that wealth by taking their children on designer shopping sprees. The Rich Kids of Instagram are cruising around in private jets, yachts, and Ferraris.

The Pressure to Provide an “Instagrammable” LifestyleInstagrammable Lifestyle - Are Parents Pressured Into It?

Are parents feeling pressured to provide their children with the newest and the best, to offer a lifestyle worthy of its own Instagram hashtag?

Maybe you’re not feeling that Ferrari-level pressure, but chances are, you’re feeling something.

In 2016, almost half of surveyed parents in the United Kingdom (and 70 percent of parents in London) indicated yes, they do feel that pressure, and they spend more money every year when they succumb to it. The items they feel most pressured to provide are the latest smartphones and tablets, clothes, and trips. Kids and teens proudly snap pictures of their new acquisitions and experiences and post them to Snapchat and Instagram.

What Can You Do Now?

U.S. News & World Report reminds us that many Americans have to live beyond their means in order for their kids to have lavish parties and the latest technology (not to mention their own cars and houses), noting a 2015 study that showed 37 percent of Americans had more (or equal) credit card debt than emergency savings.

Teenagers are spending an average of nine hours a day using media. Of course, they’re going to see photos of other teens who have (or make themselves appear to have) a luxury lifestyle; your teens might then turn to you, expecting the same.

The U.S. News article offers a simple tip for keeping things in perspective:

“Next time you’re about to make a big purchase…examine your motives. Are you purchasing this item or service because you really need it? Or because you’re worried about what the neighbors (or your kids or in-laws or best friends or whoever) think of you? If the answer is that you just want to look more successful, walk away.”

Keep in mind that experiences, like a day at the park with your family, have been shown to bring more happiness than mere possessions. Your child’s new smartphone might make him or her feel good momentarily, but it is unlikely to provide any lasting happiness and will probably be followed by a desire for the next model.

Investing in experiences serves a couple of purposes: it gives you an opportunity to spend quality time with your family, and it encourages your children to take time away from their mobile devices. At Netsanity, we offer trustworthy parental controls that allow you to restrict internet usage during certain times of the day, so you can be sure your teens aren’t sneaking a look at Instagram while you’re all enjoying dinner. The less time they spend online, the fewer envy-inducing photos they’ll see, and the more enjoyment they’ll get from “real life” with their friends and family.

Safer Homeschooling: Don’t Forget the Parental Controls

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

Excessive screen timeSafe Homeschooling

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

Inappropriate and Graphic MaterialSafer Homeschooling

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

Social Media OverloadSocial Media & Homeschooling

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

Other Options to Consider

What about their smartphones?

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

What if I’m being too restrictive?

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

Back to School: Protect Those Mobile Devices

Technology in the classroom keeps our children on the cutting edge and prepares them for a future that will include tech we can’t imagine yet. But can it go too far?

Yes. It goes too far when children and teenagers spend class time watching YouTube videos or chatting with a friend on the other side of the room via their personal devices.

This Boston Globe article starts with a teacher who’s leaving the profession for a pretty specific reason:

“The texting, tweeting, and Snapchatting during class time are ‘an incredible distraction, and makes it much more difficult to teach,’ she said. ‘It’s pretty hard to compete with a very funny YouTube video.'” Back to School

While some teachers see that mobile device as a learning tool, many others call it a distraction, and the research backs them up: banning smartphones in schools has been shown to improve test scores. This was especially true among underachieving students, who may be more likely to be distracted by a smartphone.

Smartphones in SchoolProtect Kids on Mobile Devices During Back to School

  • Weakened Education: The biggest problem is obvious: if kids and teens are engaged with their screens, they’re not listening to their teachers. Even if the school has good intentions to use those devices as learning tools, it’s very tempting for a teen to check Instagram or Snapchat while researching for a history lesson.
  • Too Much Screen Time: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time for children, and it’s hard to do that if your child is using a device throughout the school day. If they continue that use before and after school, they could be spending well over six hours a day watching videos, browsing the internet, and texting.

How Parents Can HelpProtect Kids on Mobile Devices at School

Some schools ban smartphone use during class, but if yours isn’t one of them, you can take action to protect your children and their education.

With a trustworthy parental control on your child’s mobile device, you can limit the apps and websites your children are allowed to access during school hours. This way, they can still participate in any teacher-directed research, online quizzes, or other internet learning according to the curriculum in the classroom. However, you can block social media and games to keep your children focused on the study material.

Talk to your children’s teachers. If smartphones and other devices are not used in the classroom at all, which may be the case even if there is no official smartphone ban, you can disable internet access on your children’s phones during school hours. If you school already offers a layer of protection inside the building make sure you use a parental control that has a safe WiFi feature, allowing your child to be safe at school and again as soon as they leave the building!Back to School Tips

Of course, you want to be able to reach your children in case of an emergency, but you will still be able to call them. Remind your children that they don’t need to check the phone constantly to see if they’ve heard from you; instead, they can trust that you’ll call or text with important information they can see between classes or after school, and in the most urgent cases you can call the school and ask the staff to relay the message directly to your children. That way, your kids know that in serious situations, they won’t risk missing the message because they’re busy with school. Thankfully, those occasions are few and far between.

For children and teens to spend their days in school and not get the education they deserve is upsetting. If they’re glued to their smartphones instead of absorbing math, science, history, and art lessons, their grades are likely to suffer, creating a domino effect that could impact their test scores, college applications, and job prospects.

While no parental control solution is a replacement for parenting, they are a crucial tool to help parents keep their children’s mobile devices safe from dangerous content such as pornography and violence. Additionally, they make it easy for  parents to manage screentime!

 

Today’s Teens Seek Approval Online

Deep down, we all want approval. We want to know we’re worthy and that our work matters in the world. As children, we might have done that with good behavior, good grades, or athletic or musical achievements, hoping our parents, teachers, and coaches would tell us we were on the right track. Today’s teens are doing those things, too, but many are also looking to the internet for validation.

Teens and Online ApprovalTeenagers and Online Approval | Netsanity

How Girls are Seeking (and Subverting) Approval Online, an article by Caroline Knorr, points out that documenting daily life activities on social media is “pretty much mandatory” for kids these days. It would be one thing if they used it merely as a visual diary of sorts and a means of jump-starting conversation, but those selfies turn into popularity contests and self-esteem boosters–or destroyers. For kids who already deal with negative body image and low self-esteem, this can be especially detrimental; considering that more than 50 percent of girls between the ages of six and eight already “feel their ideal body is thinner than their current body size,” having an anonymous peer comment negatively on their appearance can be devastating.

A teen might post a selfie and see who responds to it with likes and comments. In other cases, the teen asks for specific feedback, perhaps requesting a like on a Facebook post or asking, “Am I pretty?” in a YouTube video. As shown in this Yahoo News article from 2012, the comments someone can receive after posting something like that range from supportive to absolutely cruel.

The Role of Social MediaRole of Social Media in Online Approval and Teen Interactions | Netsanity

Knorr highlights Instagram, Snapchat, Hot or Not, YouTube, and #tbh as some of the tools teens use for sending and receiving feedback from peers. The hashtag means “to be honest” and it might accompany a request for judgment on a photo or a personal opinion of someone else’s photo. Instagram and Snapchat have recently become the most popular social media sites among teenagers.

Aside from the negativity that can stem from attention- and approval-seeking posts, there’s another issue: this type of approval focuses heavily on appearance. Teens aren’t generally asking for a thumbs up about their hobbies and activities and the associated skills. They’re asking about how they look.

The Focus on AppearanceA Focus on Appearances in Seeking Online Approval - Teens | Netsanity

Knorr mentions that girls are more affected by this than boys are, but boys, too, can succumb to pressures to look “cool” or achieve a muscular physique. Not only can the feedback lead to low self-esteem and poor body image, it could contribute to bigger problems like body dysmorphic disorder or eating disorders.

Empowering Your KidsEmpowering Your Kids | Netsanity

As a parent, what can you do to empower your children? How can you help them look inward for their own validation, rather than to social media?

Knorr suggests talking to your kids about why they post what they post, and asking them how the feedback they receive makes them feel. You can encourage positive body image by modeling it in your own life and identifying unrealistic photos and ideals in the media. You can also encourage your teens to post positive comments on their friends’ photos that have more to do with character and actions rather than appearances.

Cleveland Clinic also suggests several steps for enhancing body image, one of which is to “have positive experiences with your body.” This might include a sport or another physical activity like hiking or dancing. Encouraging your teens to get involved with these types of activities not only teaches them to develop skills and appreciate what their bodies can do (rather than only what they look like), it gives them the opportunity to spend some time away from their mobile devices.

Apps and sites like Instagram and YouTube provide a lot of positive opportunities to be creative and learn, while others, like Hot or Not and Rate My Body, are more focused on appearances and judgment. You should always use trustworthy parental controls on your teen’s mobile device to block apps like Hot or Not and any others you deem inappropriate, and to disable the internet entirely during the times you want your child to be engaging in a real-world physical activity.

Are Messaging Apps and Texting Ruining Real Relationships?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Families Have Different Technology Rules

When your children are asking why they don’t get to do something all their friends are doing, “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?” just doesn’t cut it anymore. They’re talking about social media and internet usage, which, for many teens, seems more serious than the life-or-death cliff illustration.

As of 2015, 92 percent of teens were online on a daily basis, with 24 percent using the internet “almost constantly.” With nearly a quarter of teens spending pretty much their entire day online, it’s no wonder your child feels left out when he or she isn’t allowed to do it.

How can you acknowledge your children’s desires and stand your ground at the same time? It’s a tough line to walk, but considering some of the serious accidents and all-out tragedies that can happen when children get too caught up in social media, it’s incredibly important. Start here:

Do Your Research

Every social media platform is different. Recently, Instagram and Snapchat surpassed Facebook as the preferred platforms among teenagers. Take time to learn about the features of these sites and others that your children show interest in. Not only will you feel better about what you’re allowing (and restricting), your children will appreciate, whether they admit it or not, and might even be impressed that you know what you’re talking about when you are in a conversation about it.

Lay Some Ground RulesDealing with technology rules different from yours | netsanity

A total social media ban will probably not be effective. Instead, allow for social media use within carefully crafted guidelines. Some parents insist on having access to the child’s passwords and/or profiles. With parental controls, you can set internet time limits (yes, it’s shutting off at 11:00!) or block certain apps or categories that you don’t approve of.

Communicate and Be Consistent

Allow your child to be a part of the rule-setting. Explain why you don’t want your child online all the time. Work together to decide upon fair punishment for an infraction. If those infractions occur, follow through with what you chose together. Make sure they know they can and should come to you if something happens online that makes them scared or uncomfortable.

Encourage Other ActivitiesEncourage kids to play with other activities and toys | netsanity

Continue to encourage your children to explore “real world” activities and opportunities. If they can find a sense of belonging and build their confidence via art, music, sports, martial arts, school, or other hobbies, they’re less likely to rely on social media likes and shares to feel validated.

Connect With Other Parents

Open a dialogue with the parents of your children’s friends. Enter the conversation from a place of curiosity and concern to find out what they allow and why. You might be able to create a united front with certain parents, though probably not all of them. Keep in mind that some may get defensive about their choices or judgmental about yours. If you change your mind about a rule you made for your children, let it be because of new information, not emotion.

Trust Your Own Judgment

Every parent-child relationship is different, and you might sometimes find it difficult to connect with them on this issue, but you know your children best. Gather all the information you can, factor in your child’s unique needs and tendencies, and set the parameters you feel are right for your family, keeping in mind that technology rules and expectations will change and evolve over time.

Remind yourself that the restrictions you’re setting are to protect your family from risks that they may not fully understand yet: pornography that can easily be found or stumbled upon without the use of parental controls, online predators, photos innocently shared between friends that are later used to bully, blackmail, or humiliate, and even an increased risk of depression and low self-esteem.

Solutionstechnology rules

Clearly discussing expectations with your children and teens and letting them know the potential consequences of failing to follow your technology rules is the best way to set them up for success.

We have had many parents tell us that they have together with their children’s friends parents and many have set up special groups at school to discuss together how to best develop similar technology guidelines. As you can imagine, this works well when you have children that spend lots of time together!

Once you talk to your child about  what apps, websites, and categories need to be off-limits, as well as an expectation of how much time your child is allowed to be online each day.  Choose a trustworthy parental control that works with you to achieve these goals as well as giving you peace of mind about your family’s internet usage, no matter what their friends are doing online.

Without Limits: Most Children Have Unrestricted Access to Mobile Devices

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

Children Spend a Lot of Time Online

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

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

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

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

Taking ChargeTexting in bed

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

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

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

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

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

Solutions for Mobile Device Limits for Kids & TeensMobile Device Limits

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

Spotafriend: What Parents Need to Know

What is Spotafriend?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solutions

Young black woman taking a selfie

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

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

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

Digital Addiction: A Dangerous Path

Middle and high school have never been easy, but there are new challenges facing today’s teenagers that the last generation didn’t have to consider. Unfortunately, the following story is not all that uncommon:

“‘It was always about refreshing my feed and I’d stay up until like 4:30 in the morning,’ she recalled. ‘It was my heart. I couldn’t put it down … It felt like a part of me.'”

It was her heart. That would be nice if she were talking about a family member or a pet, but she’s not. She’s talking about her smartphone and social media, and the obsession with them that led her to over a year and a half in a treatment center.

She was 12 years old. Read the story here.

The Problem with Digital Addiction

Digital Addiction - The Dangers Involved | Netsanity

Social media and other internet-based pursuits can turn into more than just a pastime. Not only are tweens and teens who spend all their time online neglecting family, studies, and other real world activities, they’re constantly putting themselves at risk:

  • Pornography: Porn can be accessed both intentionally and accidentally.
  • Bullying: Cyberbullying is everywhere your child’s phone, tablet, or laptop is. And if your teen is addicted to that smartphone, he’ll find it hard to escape such bullying. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry says that surveys have shown up to 50 percent of students are bullied before they graduate from high school. In some cases, cyberbullying can have especially tragic consequences.
  • Humiliation: Teens might be pressured to send nude or suggestive photos of themselves to friends, romantic partners, or even complete strangers. These photos can be used to blackmail or embarrass your teen.
  • Online Predators: Since anyone can pretend to be anyone else on the Internet, it’s especially easy for predators to befriend your child.
  • Brain Damage: Digital addiction can actually damage your brain, just like alcohol or drugs.

Warning Signs of Digital Addiction

Warning Signs of Digital Addiction | Netsanity

It can be tricky to identify true digital addiction since teens (and their parents) spend a lot of time online, and some of that is necessary for school and work. First, consider whether or not she exhibits potential digital addiction risk factors, such as other addictive behavior like smoking or drinking, loneliness or difficulty in relationships, or a large amount of free time. Then, carefully monitor your teen for warning signs like these:

  • Staying up late to be online.
  • Constantly checking the phone or tablet, even in the middle of conversations or other activities.
  • Opting for screen time over time with friends or family.
  • Neglecting school or other activities.
  • Getting angry, irritable, or argumentative when confronted about his internet use.
  • Lying about her internet use.
  • Refusing to cut back on screen time, even when rules are set; finding ways to evade those rules.

How to Help Your Teen

Teen Addicted To Smartphone | Netssanity

You can’t keep your child away from the internet entirely, but you can help prevent digital addiction before it starts.

First, set trustworthy parental controls on your teen’s mobile devices. This way, you can block certain apps, games, and sites (or even entire categories of sites) that might fuel an addiction. You can also block certain time frames to limit the amount of time he can spend online (and to ensure your teen is in bed rather than chatting or posting at 3:00 in the morning).

Next, if you suspect your teenager is addicted to her device, seek help. If they continue down the path of digital addiction, they risk their health, their relationships, and even their futures. Though it can be challenging for both you and your child or teen to admit there’s a serious problem, working through that and getting the appropriate help can get them back on track for a happy, healthy life.

Cyberbullying: LGBT Youth

Being a teen is difficult enough, but for those in the LGBT community, the real and digital worlds can be even worse. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth experience nearly three times as much bullying and harassment online as a non-LGBT youth.

GLSEN, an organization which tries to create LGBT inclusion in schools across the US, has found that 42 percent of LGBT youth have experienced cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying of LGBT youth is three times higher than other students’ experience, 33% report sexual harassment online, 27% do not feel safe online, and 20% report receiving harassing text messages from other students (GLSEN)

As a result, in 2014, The American Psychological Association passed a resolution calling on educational, governmental, business, and funding agencies to address issues of in person bullying as well as cyberbullying. In the resolution, they particularly addressed acts of harassment “about race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity.” In addition, the resolution emphasizes the high rate of bullying around the specific issue of sexual orientation.

Teen LGBT Cyberbulying - Online Bullying

Risks of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying can take many forms. Here are some of the most common risks that LGBT teens face online:

Discrimination

Sadly, LGBT youth are the target of much discrimination, both in school and online.  According to nobullying.com, 35% have received threats online, 58% say something bad is said to them or about them online, 33% report sexual harassment online, and 20% report receiving harassing text messages from other students. These numbers are about three to four times higher than other student’s experiences. Many LGBT teens use the internet and social media as a safe place to connect with other LGBT teens and groups, to make friends, and gather information, and this online presence makes them a larger target for cyberbullying.

Screenshots

If a teen mentions their sexual orientation through a text to or private chat to a friend, the teen’s secret can easily get out if the “friend” screenshots it. It can then quickly get spread around the student body, “outing” the victim without their consent. So even if they try to protect their privacy by using a social app like Snapchat, the permanent record of a screenshot can be damaging.

Sexting

“Friends” or strangers could bond online over time with the teen; they could then start to send or share inappropriate messages or pictures. The “friend” may save the pictures or messages and abuse them at a later time by threatening to send or spreading them around online. Others may send or even request unwanted sexts to teens, typically involving crude commentary.

Internet Predators

LGBT and boys that question their sexual identity are more likely to be targeted by internet offenders.  Teens have been physically attacked when meeting up with someone they have met online. In most cases, the stranger attempted to portray themselves as interested in having a relationship or sex, then abused their target when they show up.

 

Cyberbullying Effects on Mental HealthEffects of Cyberbullying on LGBT Youth 

Due to the prevalence of bullying of LGBT teens, only 37% of LGBT youth report being happy, compared to non-LGBT youth, where 67%  say state that they are happy. Studies have found that LGBT people have much higher rates of depression and anxiety, no doubt due to the increased rates of discrimination and bullying. These negative effects on mental health can lead to many self-destructive behaviors such as:

Substance abuse 

LGBT youth are more than twice as likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol to cope with bias and stress.

Self-Harm 

With every verbal and/or physical harassment, the risk of self-injury among LGBT youth is 2 ½ times more likely. (Rainbow Health)

Suicide

According to the website stopbullying.gov, LGBT teenagers are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than other teenagers. If the family of the LGBT youth rejects them, they are 8 times more likely to commit suicide than other non-LGBT teens.cyberbullying-lgbt-youth-netsanity-infographic

What Can Parents Do?

mom-questioning-lgbt-teen-netsanity

There are a few things parents can do to support their LGBT teen.

Ongoing communication between the parent and teen are crucial. Parents must provide support, stay involved, and be proactive. It is always a good idea for parents to engage in open and honest discussions with their teen about sexuality and how to avoid unsafe situations.

Experts agree that parents should be supportive of their teen’s sexual orientation so they can jointly develop common goals. Staying involved with the teen’s interests and getting to know their friends can help them feel cared about. Finally, parents should take time to research organizations and online resources to learn more about the LGBT community and how to support their teen. Teens whose parents have showed positive and open support to the LGBT community have children that find it easier to talk to them when questions arise about their own sexual orientation or curiosity.

Work with your teen to manage screen time and block the use of dangerous hook-up apps or meet-up apps that were designed for adults! This is easy when you use a trustworthy parental control.

Also, make sure they know about the It Gets Better a program designed to help at-risk LGBT youth, and Born This Way, an organization that is committed to supporting the wellness of young people. Encourage your teen to keep this number close by if they feel like they cannot talk to you or a trusted family member or friend:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – (800) 273-8255, toll-free in the US.

 

Snap Map: Snapchat’s New Feature

Snapchat has introduced a map feature called Snap Map that lets users track other people’s location in real time, raising concerns among many parents and internet safety advocates.

What is Snap Map?

The new location feature plots users and their snaps onto a map so friends and other users can see where they are and what they are doing.

Take a look at Snapchat’s demonstration video:

Snapchat added this:

“The safety of our community is very important to us,” said a Snapchat spokesman, who added that location-sharing is off by default and “completely optional”.

“Snapchatters can choose exactly who they want to share their location with, if at all, and can change that setting at any time. It’s also not possible to share your location with someone who isn’t already your friend on Snapchat, and the majority of interactions on Snapchat take place between close friends.”

What Parents Need to Know

While Snap Map certainly sounds like a fun feature for teens and their friends the feature could make it easier for predators or stalkers to track young victims.  With over 100 million users on Snapchat and 25% still not even out of high school parents need to be aware of this feature and talk to their teens about the risks. Additionally, Snapchat offers parents and users an excellent guide where they do address Snap Map directly.

One thing that didn’t seem clear to me was while Snapchat mentions sharing your location, it’s vague on what that exactly means. Users might not understand that Snapchat is posting your location on Snap Map each and every time that they open the app. Not just when a user shares a Snap to their Story.

Privacy Settings and Ghost Mode

As with any app, parents should always make sure their teens’ privacy settings are set to My Friends only. The My Friends privacy setting in Snapchat allows Snapchatters to send and receive only from Snapchatters they have added to their friends list. We recommend that parents check this privacy setting on occasion to make sure that it doesn’t get switched back to Everyone.

Additionally, If you don’t want your teen sharing their location with their friends Snapchat does have an easy solution called Ghost Mode.

Here is how you use it! To get to Snap Map open the app and head directly to the camera screen. Once there, you can open maps by pinching the camera screen with your fingers and the map screen will pop up.

While on the map screen, tap the gear icon at the top. You can enable Ghost Mode in Snapchat from the settings screen that opens. When you have Ghost Mode enabled, your location will be hidden while you use Snapchat. The app also gives you the ability pick and choose who can see your location if  you want them to or to even block specific individuals.

Once a user enables Ghost Mode, their avatar’s face disappears. It is instead replaced with a blue version of the Snapchat logo which means that the user is not sharing their current location.

Final ThoughtsSnap Map - Snapchat's Newest Feature

We always encourage an ongoing conversation with your children and teens about the risks and responsibilities involved when using apps like Snapchat. A regular reminder to them about how nothing online should ever be considered private can go a long way.

Make sure you are always using a trust-worthy parental control that will allow you to block inappropriate apps or websites in addition to giving your teen a much-needed break from some or all social media when needed!

Dear Mom & Dad: Please No More Selfies!

Responsible Online Behavior (for parents!)

Parents today are raising children who have never known a world without social media. It’s a part of their daily lives; it’s practically a part of their DNA.

Though the internet is always available at their fingertips, parents can’t ignore their own contribution to the obsession. Just as parents model good manners, proper housekeeping, and conflict resolution, parents also have to model responsible online behavior and social media usage.Responsible Online Behavior for Parents - by Netsanity

According to Pew Research Center, 69 percent of American adults use at least one social media channel, and it’s not only the young adults: 80 percent of adults age 30-49 are on social media, along with 64 percent of those age 50-64. Adults, many of whom are parents, are posting selfies, complaining about work, and some adults even participate in vaguebooking: posting intentionally vague updates in hopes that friends will ask what’s going on. Not only that, but children see their parents checking the phone at a stoplight, in line at the bank, or even at the dinner table.

Here are four ways to model responsible smartphone and internet use for your children:

Don’t Check Your Device at Every Opportunity

If you pull out the smartphone at breakfast or when someone else is talking, it sends a message that it’s okay for your children to do that, too. Practice putting the “real world” first: if you’re spending time with someone, turn off your notifications and resist checking updates. Insist on a “no devices at the table“rule in your family.

Most importantly, never text or check social media while you’re behind the wheel of a car. In 2015, 3,477 people were killed and another 391,000 were injured in distracted driving accidents. It’s estimated that at any given moment, there are 660,000 people using electronic devices while driving. Don’t let you or your children be among them.

Watch What You PostWatch What You Post

Research indicated that  “21% of parents admit that relationships with their children have been damaged as a result of them being seen in a compromising situation on social media.” This could include photos taken while under the influence of alcohol or while wearing revealing clothing. Remember, it’s not only your children who can see your pictures: their friends might also see your public posts, or your child and her friends could be looking at your profile together. This could set your child up to be teased about one of your photographs or updates.

Simply ask yourself: would I intentionally show this to my child? If not, don’t post it.

Debate RespectfullyDebate Respectfully Online

Children are also witnesses to a parent’s online disagreements. If they follow you on Facebook, or if you post public updates, they might read entire conversations where a heated argument turns to nasty name-calling. Remember,  they don’t even have to see it online: has an online discussion ever gotten you so worked up that you turned to your spouse to vent about it in real life? Your children hear that, too!

It’s natural to get pulled into controversial discussions online, but do so in a way you’d want your child to emulate. It might be a good opportunity to have a talk with your child: if you are participating in a discussion that’s getting out of control, point out how unproductive it is to call names, and show how you shared research from a reputable source to politely and respectfully make your point.

Stay AwareStay Aware of What is Going On Online

Responsible internet usage means knowing what’s out there. You don’t want to overhear your child talking about a new app and think, “Oh, that sounds nice” without knowing what it actually is. Pay attention to trends and know what apps and sites your child and her friends are using.

Responsible Online Behavior

Talk with your children about what you expect from them, and model that behavior. Key points of that discussion include:

  • What type of personal information should never be shared online.
  • What types of pictures are appropriate to share.
  • What to do if someone is bullying or threatening your child.
  • What to do if your child receives a suspicious message from a stranger.
  • When your child is allowed to use his device and when he is not.
  • What her smartphone can be used for, and what it should not be used for.

Trustworthy Parental controls can help you set and enforce guidelines on your children’s devices. Keep your children and teenagers engaged and interested in real-world activities by limiting the hours they’re allowed to be online. Keep them safer by blocking certain apps and websites, and even entire categories of websites.

Encourage your children  to use their online manners by modeling those manners in your own online life. The internet and smartphones may be part of daily life for the new generation and their parents, but they can be used safely and responsibly!

Sneaky Cyberbullying

Trying to eradicate bullying altogether often feels like a desperate attempt to bail water out of a sinking ship — especially with the rise of cyberbullying on social media. As a parent, you do your best to keep your child safe and to prevent them from bullying others. Unfortunately, there are several sneaky methods of cyberbullying that you might not notice unless you know to look for them.

Showing OffCyberbullying - Signs Your Child May Be Engaging in Bullying Online | Netsanity

Let’s face it: even the most dedicated parent doesn’t know every friend in their child’s circle, nor can they know what is likely to be sensitive to particular individuals. If your child is suddenly showing off in an uncharacteristic way or making posts that exclude specific individuals, it could be a sign that they may be engaging in cyberbullying behavior. This might include:

  • Bragging online about specific events that one friend was not invited to attend
  • Posting about accomplishments that are excessively arrogant in nature or point out your child’s capabilities in a way that is insulting to others
  • Social media updates that suggest that those who haven’t done or achieved certain things are somehow lesser than your child

Gaming HarassmentHarassment Through Gaming Can Be Form of Cyberbullying

When engaging in gaming harassment, one player deliberately follows another around and sabotages their game. They might:

  • Get in the way of their accomplishments
  • Steal their “loot”
  • Prevent them from reaching goals

While it’s occurring in a game world, this type of behavior is still considered bullying. It can be extremely frustrating to the player being bullied–and it’s often tied to negative behaviors outside the game world, too.

Not-so-vague InsultsVague Insults Left Online Anonymously - Still Cyberbullying

Sure, your child hasn’t called out their target by name. That doesn’t mean, however, that everyone doesn’t know exactly who they’re talking about and what they’re saying. Both Facebook and Twitter are filled with posts that insult a specific individual in such a way that anyone who knows them will recognize them, but which don’t name them. This is known as sub-booking or sub-tweeting, and it’s becoming increasingly common–and hasn’t stopped being hurtful.

Silent Cyberbullyinggirl-saddened-by-cyberbullying

No, your child doesn’t have to “friend” or “follow” every person they know in real life. A deliberate decision to avoid friending or following a specific individual, however, may be more than personal preference. It may be a type of silent bullying. This is also true of instances in which your child refuses to like, comment on, or share a specific friend’s posts or pictures.

Is This Really Bullying?

While these behaviors aren’t necessarily nice, you may find yourself wondering if, in some cases, they’re actually bullying. Your child has the right to decide not to connect online with certain individuals, and they don’t have to like or comment on every post their friends make, right? However, there’s a difference between exercising the right of free choice and crossing the line into bullying. Behavior is bullying if it includes:

  • Deliberate decisions that your child knows will hurt or anger their target.
  • Hurtful content that is specifically designed to create a negative emotional reaction.
  • Exclusive behavior that specifically shuts out a particular member of a group, especially suddenly.

What Can You Do About Cyberbullying?

If you worry that your child is being bullied online or that they’re engaging in sneaky bullying tactics, there are several things that you as the parent can do.

  • Monitor, monitor, monitor. The more attention you pay to your child’s social media accounts, the more likely you are to notice when something strange is going on or patterns change.
  • Have an ongoing and honest conversation about how certain online behaviors make your child feel and how they make others feel.
  • Limit social media time and time with electronics. The less time your child has to spend online, the less likely they are to engage in bullying behaviors.
  • Pay attention. If you notice behavior that is out of character, take the time to ask why. Dig deeper if you need to.

While it might be nearly impossible to stop online bullying completely, knowing what sneaky tactics are out there can help you monitor your children and teens more effectively.Sneaky Cyberbullying - Teens & Tweens | Netsanity Infographic

Today’s Children: Growing up Online

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

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

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

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

Pressures of Social Media Pressures of Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping Young People SafeKeeping Young People Safe | Netsanity

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

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

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

Teen Trends: Online in the Summer of 2017

Wondering what your teens are into online as they approach summer vacation? Just keep in mind that this year’s graduating class is the last one in which most of the students were born in the 90’s! So, what is trending with them is definitely very different from what we considered popular activities back when we were teens.

Take a peek at what we at Netsanity see trending this summer.

Snapchat StreaksTeen Trends Summer 2017 - Snapchat | Netsanity

If you Snapchat with the same person every single day for at least three days in a row it’s what is called a streak, in a teens opinion it is arguably their favorite part of using Snapchat.

Several teens told us that they have streaks that have  lasted for months and some even over a year! If your teen is headed off to camp or leaving town this summer you probably assume that they will lose access to using Snapchat for a bit and end their streaks at that point? Don’t worry, most teens already have a solution: they give their closest friend all of their Snapchat login info and they keep their streaks going while they are away.  I even talked to a few Moms who have kept  them up for their teens. Thankfully, I haven’t been asked yet because I certainly don’t want that big responsibility.

snapchat-streaks

As always, make sure to talk to your child about the potential risks of giving away their login information, as it has the potential to put them at some risk. A good habit for your teen to get into is to have them change their password again once they return, keeping their account secure. This summer, why not take an opportunity to learn about Snapchat yourself and start a streak with your teen! It is a fun way to bond using your teen’s “language”.

Live-StreamingLivestreaming Teen Trends Summer 2017 | Netsanity

Teenagers have always loved spending time with their friends. However, with an iPad or a smartphone just inches away, teen communication has also drastically changed. Instead of making the traditional phone call, most teens resort to chatting or texting with each other – almost constantly! Today, with more and more apps being created for social video-chatting and live video-streaming, teens can watch, create, and share live video to all of their friends at once. Most teens say that it is just as good as hanging out in person!

This summer, look for your teens to be using apps like Facebook, Houseparty, or Periscope to go live. All they need to do is turn on the live-streaming feature, aim the smartphone or tablet camera on themselves, and broadcast to their friends and yes, anyone else following them. As with all live-streaming apps, privacy and safety should be a major concern to parents. Keep a few things in mind when discussing live-streaming with your teen.  As always, encourage your teen to only live-stream what your family considers appropriate and to not allow friends to see or share personal information while they are streaming. Make sure to talk to your teen and set expectations early around creating and watching. Also, we always encourage a regular check-up of their account and privacy settings to make sure they are private and only have real friends on their friends list.

Friend Stalking is NormalFriend Stalking - Teen Trends Summer 2017 | Netsanity

When you have an iPhone and use the “Find Friends” feature, it will display the location of all your teens friends if they each accept the contacts request to do so. Yes, we found that many teens are accepting and as “stalkerish” as this sounds! Today’s teens like seeing where and what their friends are up to. To most of them, it is perfectly acceptable and handy when your “bestie” doesn’t answer your text  to take a quick check at her location. If she is at the gymnastics center then that explains why her response is delayed.  Obviously, a little chat ensuring their contacts on their devices are ONLY friends they know in real life is a an absolute must when you allow them to use this feature. As parents, we love this feature because it gives us the ability to take a quick peek when needed to ensure that our teens have safely arrived at their destination!

FinstasTeen Trends - Finsta | netsanity

A finsta is a second “hidden” account, typically on Instagram.  What sets a finsta apart from a regular account is that it is always kept private, with only a handful of a teens closest friends who are allowed access to those postings. Typically, teens use this account to post funny or even some of the “not so glamorous” pictures  that they don’t want to share with everyone. Teens also use this area to complain or tell a funny story that they typically wouldn’t do on their real Instagram account. Most teens who have a Finsta love it because it allows them to be their true self and to engage with just the friends that they are closest too. We found that most teens with a Finsta give their accounts a very unique name so that only the people they give the account name to can find them online.  Nicknames that sounded like:   “LaneyLikesLemonade” or “FinleyHatesFeta”. Overall, parents shouldn’t need to be overly concerned if your teen has a Finsta. We recommend that you treat a Finsta the same as you would any other social media account , 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.

As summer break approaches, we hope that these tips helped you feel a little more “in the know” about teen trends in Summer 2017.  Keeping our children and teens safe in today’s online-based society can be a challenge. However, by continuing to keep solid rules for their technology use and using a trustworthy parental control on all of their devices is the best way to ensure a productive, well-rounded teenager.

18 Summers: Ways to Make Them Count

It is a common observation among all of us parents that our children grow up way too fast! Combine that with the equally prevalent opinion among most of us that summers go by faster than any other season and you can end up with a startling conclusion: you only have 18 summers to spend with your children before they’re all grown up! Sadly, most of us parents are so busy raising our children, taking care of our daily chores and home, building those necessary jobs and careers along with all the other obligations that weigh heavy on our shoulders these days that often we don’t fully realize that time has flown and now we only have 4 or 5 summers left with our precious children living under our roof. Regardless of how old your own children are, why not pledge right now to make the most of each and every summer going forward!

Summers With Your Children are Special

Every child looks forward to summer when school gets out, the temperatures rise, and days seem to last longer. Whether your child goes off to camp, on a family vacation, or spends time at home spending time in the neighborhood this is the time of year when they can spend more time outdoors, play their favorite sports, eat their favorite foods and celebrate the more laid back side of life.

Most parents want to give their children some space to grow and develop their own interests. You may also feel like summer is the time of year where you finally get some much needed space of your own. No more carpool at 7am…YAY! Parenting is never easy and as much as you love spending time with your children you also need some time to get things done and to pursue your own interests. If you can find the time! Yet, you want to make sure that find the balance of time spent with your children as well as making sure they are not sitting on the sofa all summer watching television or scrolling on their devices! That is why it’s so important to make sure that you do take the time to bond with your children and share some precious time together. You’ll certainly find that time spent as a family over the summer creates memories that will last a lifetime for you all!

Fun Summer Ideas

What are some of the best ways to bond with your children on long summer afternoons and evenings? It really depends on so many things. Each family has its own preferences and unique traditions. Perhaps you have special spots where you’ve always gone together as a family, whether it’s a vacation spot, a favorite beach, or a corner of your own backyard that you all hanging together. Here are some more suggestions to spark your imagination:

Vacation

Take that vacation that you’ve been putting off. Nowadays, we are all so busy with work and all the other responsibilities that we have that we often put off taking that special trip that we have “talked” about over the years. Many of us even fail to use that vacation time that we’ve earned. If this you, resolve to work towards taking at one of those trips that you’re family has dreamt about. If you can, choose a destination that each family member will love and where there’s something for everyone to enjoy!

Device-Free Meals

Make time to share summer meals without your devices at the table.  Not that long ago, the idea of families eating meals together was completely normal and ordinary. Unfortunately, with families these days rushing around from one activity to another, that is no longer the case. This summer is a great time to set a goal as a family to spend more time enjoying some summer meals together. Warm evenings are a perfect time to take the time to prepare some of your favorite family dishes together, throw a backyard barbecue, or take some family outings to enjoy some of those local eateries that you’ve been dying to try. One of our favorite dining activities is to see if somewhere in your town or city you can find a food truck rally. Those are lots of fun!

Family Nights

Have regular family nights. This is something that you can do all year, but it does seem easier to plan in the summer. Put aside one night per week for spending a few hours alone together as a family, even if you have to do a little juggling with your schedules. What you do together is secondary, whether you go to a movie, play a board game, or just hang around and talk, the point is spending time together.

Road Trips

Take short but fun road trips. Summers are a great time for outings, which can be as short or as long as you want. Drive to a nice spot for a family hike or picnic, pop up a tent at your local lake and have a camp-out, go to a local sporting event, amusement park or even a museum. Better yet, get your children to work together to plan a fun road trip!

Explore Interests

Take the time this summer to learn more about what interests your children. Observe what they like doing best over the summer in their free time. Take some special time out to learn about the kind of sports, music, movies, or hobbies that fascinate them the most. You think you already know this, but you might just be surprised to find out about something new! This will continue to give you some common ground for future activities and conversations throughout the entire year.

Don’t Forget to Capture Memories

Don’t forget to get into the summer photos. If you’re like me, I tend to shy away when the smartphone camera is pointed in my direction. However, this summer make sure you are in some of the photographs that you and your family are taking. Just like you enjoy looking back at your old family photos one day you will enjoy seeing yourself as much as your children will!

Have a Great Summer!

There are just a few ways that you can spend some extra special time bonding with your children this summer. It’s a little sad sometimes to contemplate how quickly time passes. On the other hand, it’s a positive thing if it motivates all of us to plan more activities with the ones that we love. If you have more ideas for having a great summer with your family pop on over and visit us on Facebook. We’d love to hear from you!

Boys at Risk: 3 Social Media Hazards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Body Image RisksCyberbullying and Social Media Risks among Boys 2017

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

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

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

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

Some of the most critical warning signs may include:

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

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

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

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

The Blue Whale Challenge: Fact or Fiction?

Have you heard of the Blue Whale Challenge? The online world is abuzz about this frightening underground social media “game” that challenges teenagers to commit outrageous and harmful acts, leading up to suicide. The game has allegedly caused some teenagers to kill themselves. There are also other, equally dangerous, games and challenges circulating the internet. What exactly is the Blue Whale Challenge and what can parents do to protect their children?

The Blue Whale Challenge

Reports of the Blue Whale Challenge have mostly come from Europe. The idea is that teens are challenging each other to commit a series of increasingly daring and destructive acts, leading up to suicide as the last stage. The game apparently began in Russia, where more than 100 teens allegedly committed suicide after playing. The details regarding the Blue Whale Challenge are vague and it’s still not clear that this is something real or an online urban legend. However, with this type of internet meme, even something that starts out as a myth or prank has the potential to become all too real. There’s little doubt that social media and other online activities can contribute to teen suicide and other, less drastic problems.

Dangerous Online Challenges

Dangerous Online Challenges

While we need more information before verifying whether or not the Blue Whale Challenge is an actual phenomenon, the internet has already produced its share of dangerous challenges. Teens and preteens are especially susceptible to this kind of group behavior. For example, a choking game recently claimed the life of a 12-year old boy in England. This is an online challenge where kids encourage one another to deprive themselves of oxygen in order to induce euphoria. Needless to say, this is potentially lethal. The “choking game” doesn’t appear to be organized in any way, but it’s the kind of internet meme that can easily spread among impressionable children and teenagers.

Many dangerous online challenges are even less organized than the choking game. They can simply occur in the course of a discussion or group chat. However, as teens tend to spread content quickly, it’s all too easy for such an action to go viral. Some of these sound fairly harmless or even amusing until you consider the potential consequences. The duct tape challenge, for example, involves placing duct tape all around oneself or a partner or taping them to a pole. There are numerous YouTube videos illustrating this and encouraging others to participate. A teen recently suffered a brain aneurysm after doing this.

How to Protect Your Children

Parents are understandably concerned about the dangerous of the Blue Whale Challenge and other destructive online games and challenges. What can you do to protect your children from getting involved in such activities? Here are a few guidelines.

Pay Attention to warning signs of depression or suicidal tendencies. These include social withdrawal, signs of drug use, changes in eating habits, lower grades in school, and drastic personality changes. None of these signs necessarily means that a child is about to commit suicide. However, if you notice such behavior, it’s important to find out the cause.

Ensure that your children’s accounts are always set to private. On social media networks, settings should be kept to private so only friends can see their content.

Teach your kids not to click on strange links or attachments and to never reveal personal information online.

Parents should be aware that there are many hashtags on Instagram alone for #bluewhale related references.  We were happy to see that Instagram is issuing a strong warning before allowing users to click on any of the hashtags. Take a look: 

Parental Solutions

 

Always use a trustworthy parental control. As a parent, you have the right and responsibility to monitor and discuss what your children do online. Parental controls like Netsanity can help make this easier. Talk to your children. Parents may feel uncomfortable discussing issues such as online challenges and teen suicide. If you discuss such issues regularly with your children, you show them that you’re open to talking. This is also a great time to educate them about the dangers of what may seem like harmless fun.

Discussing these dares are a great way to teach risk assessment, and problem solving. Walking your children and teens through the challenge, and why it’s a bad idea, means that next time they’ll be able to recognize a dangerous challenge when they see it. As parents, it is more important than ever that we teach our kids how to set boundaries. One of the most important boundaries comes in the form of how they use their social media accounts.

 

 

 

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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5 Surprising Physical Dangers of Smartphone Addiction

Smartphones are an unavoidable part of our lives.  They’ve wormed their way into nearly every facet of our existence with an unending variety of apps and special features to choose from.  Overall, about two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone.  At an astounding 85%, teens and young adults in the 18-29-year age range are the vast majority of smartphone owners.

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It makes sense.  These gadgets can be a huge asset with education, work, and social networking tools.  As a whole, smartphones present many potential benefits for their owners.  However, with the ever-growing issue of smartphone addiction on a steep rise, smartphones may also prove to be the biggest danger facing our families.

“Tech Neck” (Back and Neck Pain)
Smartphone Addiction - Dangers Parents Need to Know | Netsanity

With young adults spending an average of 8-10 hours a day hunched over their smartphones it’s no real surprise just how much stress and pressure this places on the spine and back.  Recent studies in Britain have revealed that young people between the ages of 16-24 are experiencing a shocking jump in back and neck issues, especially chronic pain and disc damage.

Researchers with The British Chiropractic Association have traced these painful issues back to poor posture directly linked with too much smartphone and electronic gadget exposure.  The biggest ways to alleviate “tech neck” and reduce the pain and damage lies in our posture. Simply cutting back on smartphone scrolling and making better posture a priority is key to protecting both our spine and neck.

“Text Claw” (Tendinitis)Claw Hand from Too Much Phone Use - Tendinitis | Netsanity

Although “text claw” isn’t a full-fledged medical term, it’s still a very accurate description for the pain, inflammation, and stiffness that results from too much texting and screen scrolling.  One of the biggest signs of too much smartphone use is the chronic and growing pain we feel in our wrists and thumbs.  These activities place abnormal stress on the sensitive tendons and muscles within our hands.  This pain is an obvious sign that we need to cut back on our phone usage or take a break entirely.  Ice, gentle stretches, mild anti-inflammatory medicines, and rest are simple ways to eliminate the current pain and reduce future inflammation.

Poor Sleep Quality

Poor Sleep Quality From Smartphone Addiction | netsanity

On average, young people between 18-29-years have sheepishly admitted to taking their smartphones to bed with them. Scrolling through endless articles or social media feeds seems like the perfect way to lull yourself to sleep.  However, studies show that the “short-wavelength-enriched” blue light from our phones is one of biggest reasons behind poor sleep quality.

This light prevents our bodies from producing melatonin, the hormone vital to relaxing us for sleep. Even a short burst of smartphone or tablet usage before bed can keep us awake for hours later.  Avoid smartphones and other bright electronic screens at least several hours before going to bed to ensure a good night’s sleep.

Bacteria Exposure

What’s dirtier?  A toilet seat or a smartphone?  Although a toilet seems like the obvious answer, The University of Arizona found that smartphones can easily carry up to 10 times more bacteria than a toilet seat! These numbers are shocking and disgusting to say the least. When we take into account how many times we share our smartphones and tablets these days, the story becomes far worse.  Unknowingly, we are exposing ourselves and others to e. coli and other dangerous microbes. Picking set times during the week to disinfect and clean our phones is a simple but critical way to keep ourselves healthy and free from contamination.

Emotional Issues

Smartphones are a deceptively easy way to spread rumors, gossip, and bullying.  Although your family may not be the ones starting mean stories, they can still be easy targets to its poisonous venom.  Social media as an extension of our phones is proving to be a subtle but deadly danger among children as young as 11 and 12 years. Depression, low self-esteem, and social isolation are all potential hazards of too much smartphone, tablet and social media exposure, particular late at night.  By constantly seeing what “everyone else” is up too, increased smartphone exposure may indirectly affect our own decision-making and self-worth.  Making meaningful cutbacks in the time your family spends mobile devices time and spend more time promoting healthier sources of self-worth are effective countermeasures against social media-driven emotional issues.5 Surprising Physical Dangers of Smartphone Addiction | Netsanity

While smartphones in and of themselves are not evil, too much time and energy investment in them most definitely is.  Smartphone addictions usually begin as very small and subtle issues.  We may find ourselves and certainly our children as well constantly checking for new texts or social media updates.  This deceptive cycle can continue until the “victim” finds themselves scrolling through the late hours of the night.  We must take a stand and care for any sign of  addiction long before it places our own or our children’s physical health and well-being at risk.

Protecting your children and teens from the effects of excessive screentime means being a positive example with limiting your own device usage as well as  setting limits about when they can and cannot use their devices. This should include designating specific limits on how much technology can be used each day, and what apps they can use and when. Setting specific times as device-free times and working as a family to spend time together on a regular basis. This is easy when you use a parental control that offers screentime settings and app blocking features.

 

Are Teens Turning Into Smartphone Junkies?

It’s hardly news that teenagers love their smartphones. But has this gone beyond a trend and turned into something more sinister? Are teenagers literally addicted to their devices? This is an important question for parents and anyone who cares about the future of technology and society in general. Are today’s teens turning into smartphone junkies? And, if so, what can we do to overcome this problem?

How Much Time Do Teens Spend on Their Smartphones?

It’s easy to look around or perhaps observe your own children and conclude that they’re “always” on their phones or other mobile devices. The fact is, however, that there’s more than anecdotal evidence to support this. According to a recent study, teens spend 9 hours a day using media. That’s roughly more than half their waking hours! Of course, that does include all types of media, whether consumed on a TV, computer, phone, tablet, or other devices. However, it’s also true that more and more people (of all ages) are using their phones to communicate, search the internet, shop, watch videos, listen to music, and more.Smartphone Junkies - Teen Smartphone Use | Netsanity

Are Mobile Devices Really Addictive?

People use the word “addictive” rather loosely nowadays. People talk about being addicted to everything from lattes to cookies to even watching cat videos.  When asking if something is literally addictive, it helps to understand the science behind addiction. Social media, as well as texting, gaming, videos, and many other activities found on smartphones, is an easy way for people to get a dopamine rush. Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that signals pleasure or rewards. This is what drives people towards drugs, sex, gambling, and other types of entertainment. Within reason, it’s normal to crave experiences that induce pleasure. Addiction occurs when substances or experiences interfere with everyday life. As smartphones and social media sites become so deeply embedded in our culture, there’s mounting evidence that many teens are social media addicts.
Are teens turning into smartphone junkies?

Dangers of Smartphone and Social Media Addiction

How much of a problem is smartphone addiction? Some might argue that it’s better for teens to spend time on their phones than taking drugs. Addiction to devices, however, can still pose some real dangers.

Schoolwork: Devices can distract children from studying and homework. Some evidence shows that children do better in school when smartphone use is banned.

Health risks: One of the dangers of overusing technology is that it can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, which is helping to create a childhood obesity epidemic.

Body Image: In some cases, excessive use of social media can cause young people to compare themselves to others and develop eating disorders or poor self-esteem.

Cyberbullying and Predators:  There are also risks of spending too much time online, such as encountering cyberbullies and sometimes even sexual predators. While these risks are present for everyone that goes online, the more times teens spend on social media, the more likely they are to run into such problems.

How Can Parents Protect Teens?

Smartphones and social media are a central part of our society. They aren’t going to disappear anytime soon, regardless of risks and dangers. All parents and other concerned adults can do is to learn to open the lines of communication with our children and teenagers as well as learn how to protect them as much as possible.

Stay aware: While teenagers want and deserve a certain amount of privacy, parents also have a right to know what they are doing online. This includes knowing which social networks and websites they access.

Privacy settings: Make sure your teens privacy settings only allow friends and family members to see their content.

Set rules: Make sure that your teen understands the family rules for smartphone use. This includes not using the phone while driving, not meeting strangers from social media in person and not letting social media interfere with schoolwork.  Often a family technology contract is a good way to keep this conversation going and to set boundaries from the beginning.

Encourage communication:  Look for signs that your teen is a victim of bullying or any kind of harassment online and encourage them to talk to you!

Manage your teen’s smartphone with a trustworthy parental control software that works!

Smartphone and social media addiction are real problems these days. However, by monitoring usage, managing time and communicating open and honestly with them, you can help your teens stay safe and avoid some of the negative consequences that come along with overuse!

Beating the Secrets: What Parents Should Know About “Vault Apps”

A basic calculator app or harmless looking game are never much of a worry on our teen’s smartphone. However, a growing number of smartphone apps are taking on some sinister secret identities. What looks like a calculator may actually be a “vault app“–a secret photo album perfect for stockpiling private photos and video clips. While these secret photos may not be wrong in and of themselves, many “vault apps” become easy stashes for pornography, sexting, and other dangerous social media behaviors for some teenagers. As parents, it can be important for us to learn how to spot these hidden vault apps.Learn about vault apps and spot the key indicators | Netsanity

 

Popular Hidden Dangers

Vault

Disguised as a basic calculator, this popular app easily stores any type of photo or video. This app even functions as a real calculator to keep it realistic, however, input the specific security code and the apps outer disguise melts away and an entire vault setting appears. This app allows users to upload their entire vault to a separate cloud-storage program, what they delete on the app may not be necessarily gone. It can still be stored elsewhere or synced to a separate phone or computer.

As an extra security feature, this app is protected with a “photo-locker” which secretly takes a mug shot of anyone who attempts to break into the app with the wrong security pin. The vault’s owner will receive a security update and warning that someone attempted to hack their vault. Although this app is rated 17+ and mature on Google’s Play Store, the exceptional privacy features of this app make it tempting for teens.

Private SMS & Call

Although most vault apps specialize on just hiding photos or videos, many others prioritize hiding text messages and phone call records. With this type of app, teens can easily hide who they’ve been texting and calling. Even if they’ve been warned to stop contacting strangers or certain individuals, this private text and call app allows them to easily stay in contact with anyone that they wish.

Using the smartphone’s original text and alerts, this app masquerades as legitimate calls and texts. These secret communications only show up within the app, though. The app is opened by dialing an original security pin–much like we do to open our voicemail. Without this pin, the app is virtually invisible to everyone. Once opened, simply giving the phone a quick, subtle shake is enough to close down and hide the entire app.

“Calc”

Because the calculator disguise is so effective, many vault apps choose it as their cover. “Calc” is one of the best and most legitimate-looking value apps. It’s very name makes it appear to be a simple calculator or math class tool for teens. Unlike more basic vault apps, this one hides more than just the basic photos or videos. Documents, personal notes, photos, videos, music downloads, and many other types of files are all easy to store. Like other hidden vaults, this app can only be opened with a user-specific password.

Secret Love

Although our teens may have a safe group of friends, there may still be that “one person” or even a stranger that as we parents we feel isn’t safe or healthy for them to be around. Although we may check their smartphones, instant messaging, and text guard against their contact with these individuals, “Secret Love” still gives them a dangerous opportunity. Whether trying to contact an ex or simply the attractive stranger they met online or out and about, this app allows them to carry on private communications and interactions without any boundaries. “Secret Love” is marketed as a “love affair” app for those desperate to hide secret relationships. Although there is no record of these incognito calls and texts on the phone itself, the app keeps a private record of these secret interactions. The smartphone itself can be left out in plain sight without fear of anyone stumbling onto this app by accident.  It appears to be nothing more than a harmless “notepad” app for quick notes or personal memos.

Spotting a Fake or Vault App

These 4 vault apps represent some of the highest-quality vault apps available to teens today. Each one is free and easy to download. However, they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to secret apps, subtle disguises and easy availability gives young people a huge array of options when it comes to hiding unpleasant online behavior if they want to. As a parent it can sometimes feel overwhelming when trying to keep an eye out for these disguised apps. With some basic search techniques we can stay on guard for dangerous vault apps before they do any damage.

Look for duplicate apps

If you notice that your teen has two calculators on their mobile device, stop and take a closer look. Duplicate apps such as calculators usually mean that one of them is a fraud. The same is true for messaging apps. Teens with two or more separate instant messaging apps may be trying to hide certain conversations.

Do your research

Stay ahead by doing regular checks on Google Play or Apple Play store. Search “vault apps” or “app hiders” to gain a good idea of what’s trending and popular to download. These searches allow you to see what some of these fake apps look like. You may be able to spot a fake app much faster with a little research and familiarity.

Family share plans and mobile parental controls

Mobile parental controls allow parents to keep better track of what’s being added to any smartphone or tablet within their family. A parental control software that cannot be easily defeated will allow you to set parameters that require your children and teenagers to obtain “parental” approval before they are allowed to downloading any new apps. Investing in an outside mobile parental control will also give you control over what apps you choose for them to be using and when they can access them!

Communication

Although these vault apps are a serious concern, if you do find them on your teens mobile device they are not the root of the problem. It does probably mean that it is time for a talk. Why did your teen feel the need to hide information? What parts of their live do they feel they need to keep secret? Wrong friends, dangerous sexual relationships, and “stranger danger” are all valid cases for why these apps are signs of a deeper problem for some teens. We always recommend that parents address these vault apps immediately and work on developing a real and ongoing conversation with your teen concerning their safety.

As always, we encourage you to remind your teen that sexting, pornography, and “Dark Web” material are all legal dangers that are easy to trace back to these so-called “private” apps. Help your teen recognize the risk of carrying on a deceptive, double life and get back on a safe and honest path!Vault Apps 4 apps parents should know about | Netsanity

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.

Safer Selfies: Avoiding Killer Pictures

“Selfies” have become a mind-boggling social media phenomenon.  Approximately 95% of young adults admit to having taken at least one selfie in their lifetime; researchers estimate that even one selfie per day would eventually add up to over 25,700 pictures in a lifetime. Selfies are fun for everyone.  There’s no better way to show off a new outfit, hairstyle, or a great vacation memory.  However, this fun should be kept in check.

(note: after you read this post be sure to grab our 2017 Digital Parenting Bundle – it’s a free collection of 4 premium guides that help parents keep their kids safe!)

In 2014 alone, there were 49 deaths directly linked to taking a selfie.  Every year these shocking tragedies continue. Statistics show that most of these selfie-related deaths have occurred in India, Pakistan, and the United States with about 75% of the victims being male under 24 years of age.

Something as small and quick as taking a picture can place teens in danger of freak accidents and dangerous circumstances.  Falls, vehicle accidents, drownings, and even animal attacks have all been linked to fateful selfies. A split second of misplaced attention can result in a life-changing accident.

How to Take Safer Selfies

Although there is nothing inherently wrong with taking a quick pic to update your social media account, here are some rules to keep in mind and to discuss regularly with your children and teens to take safe selfies:Safe Selfies

No Selfies in the Car

Although we know not to talk or text while driving, we should also add selfies to this banned list.  Even if the car is not currently moving, misplaced attention can easily result in a car crash.  Unless the car is safely parked, save the selfies for later.

Stop, Look, and Listen

Something as simple as being aware of your surroundings is key in staying safe.  This is tricky for teens.  Everyone loves being able to share “dare-devil” selfies on their social media feeds.  However, staging risky photos on cliffs and other hazardous places is never worth the picture.  Before they take a selfie help your teen learn to practice and encourage your child to always take a quick observation check of their surroundings.  Look around closely for possible risks and dangers.Safer Selfies | Netsanity

Staying Private

Many selfies have proved deadly through indirect methods.  Bullying, sexual harassment, and other negative issues have risen over the years in response to risque or private selfies being shared publicly. A picture that is more personal in nature should never be shared with the whole world.  Help your teen learn the value of keeping their personal lives private and out of the hands of cyber-bullies and other internet predators.

Avoiding Perfectionism

In 2014, 19-year-old Danny Bowman was nearly driven to suicide due to his “selfie addiction.”  Desperate for perfection and good looks, he obsessed over his personal image.  His body dysmorphic disorder was directly fueled by his selfie obsession.  In his own words, he explained, “‘I was constantly in search of taking the perfect selfie and when I realized I couldn’t I wanted to die.”  Although he received the help he needed for his recovery, many teens become trapped in the vicious cycle of “taking the perfect selfie.”  Help your teen learn to value themselves for who they are, not what they look like.  Be on constant guard for signs that they are struggling with their image and self-esteem.

Following the Rules

All amusement parks rides and attractions usually come with basic warnings to keep smartphones and other valuables put away during the ride.  This isn’t just to these items from getting lost or broken. Roller coaster accidents and other recreational deaths have been tied back to a selfie taken at the wrong time during a ride.  Even using a tool such as a “selfie stick” isn’t enough to keep the dangers away. Encourage your teen to take all rules seriously, even if they sound far-fetched or unnecessary.

Selfies are not dangerous in and of themselves.  When taken safely, these pictures are a great way for teens to show off aspects of themselves and their life that they take pride in.  However, before the smartphone comes out, help your child or teen go through a basic safety check-list. If and when you need it, Netsanity comes with the ability to disable the camera on iOS devices

Be Proactive: Don’t Leave Online Safety to Chance!

As a parent, you want your children to be as safe as possible. You pay attention to their smartphone use when they’re in the car, encourage them to stay out of unsafe areas of town, and monitor what friends they are hanging with and what they’re doing with those friends. You’ve paid attention to their physical safety at home since they were little. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in your child’s physical safety that you forget that online safety matters, too.

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Pornographic Materials

Pornography addiction starts early. You’d like to believe that your child wouldn’t go looking for that type of information, but unfortunately, it’s all too easy for a simple search to land them in the middle of a pornographic minefield–whether that was what they were looking for or not. All too many pornography sites end up in otherwise “safe” search terms. Not only that, children and teens, in particular are naturally curious. They’re starting to learn about their sexuality, and sometimes curiosity can lead them to stray down a dangerous path online .

It’s vital that you take the steps that will protect your child from accessing pornography on all of their online devices. Trustworthy mobile parental controls will catch most of the pornography sites, but in addition to parental controls, your child needs parental oversight. Check their search history, examine the internet history on phones, tablets, and computers, and make sure that you know what sites your child is visiting online while keeping the lines of communication constant.Online Safety For Kids | Netsanity

Cyberbullying

Nothing makes a parent’s heart break faster than the knowledge that their child is being bullied. Cyberbullying might, at first, seem better than being shoved into a locker or ignored by the “cool” kids at school, but the truth is, cyberbullying often leaves heavy scars on a child’s heart long after they leave school. From “roasting” sessions, when so-called jokes become steadily nastier, to outright bullying online, there are more opportunities than ever before for your child to become a victim of bullying. Some common platforms for cyberbullying include:

  • Social media
  • Email
  • Text
  • Forums and other areas where classmates gather online to communicate

Sometimes, you’ll be able to track cyberbullying by following your child’s social media accounts or making sure to review their text messages periodically. However, we have learned that in many cases, your child may take steps to hide the bullying–even from you. This is often done by having secret or hidden accounts that parents do not follow or have the passwords to. Make sure that you’re taking a “hands-on” approach to monitoring your child’s behavior both on and offline so that you’ll know if bullying is happening.Kids Online Safety - Netsanity

Excessive Screentime

Today’s teens are exposed to more screens than ever before. From video games and smartphone use to tablets and laptops in their classrooms, kids are spending all too many hours with their eyes locked on screens. That can cause a host of problems:

  • Physical difficulties like “text neck” associated with an unnatural position
  • Difficulty connecting emotionally with people in the “real world” instead of people online
  • Addictive response to screentime and genuine struggle to disconnect when the device is removed

Protecting your child from the effects of excessive screentime means setting limits about when they can and cannot use their devices. This should include designating specific limits on how much technology can be used each day, setting specific times as device-free times and working as a family to spend time together on a regular basis. This is easy when you use a parental control that offers screentime settings.How to keep kids safe online - Netsanity

Protecting your child is a full-time job. At Netsanity, we were designed by parents, for parents. We are here to help keep parents informed, and to make it easier for them to keep their kids and teens safe and balanced on their mobile devices!

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!

Digital Disorders: How Technology is Reshaping the Brain

With constant access to the internet via smartphones, tablets, and computers, it’s no surprise that our brains are profoundly different from our ancestors’. Cognitive neuroscientists theorize that this constant digital access is reshaping the ways our brains think, remember, and comprehend.

Unfortunately, studies show that the more we rely on technology to solve our problems, the less confidence we have in our own brain’s abilities. Our memory, attention span, and overall logic are suffering.  This digital “re-shaping” is also spawning a host of technology-linked brain disorders.   Without practicing proper moderation and digital “hygiene,” these technological disorders easily take over.

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Nomophobia (“No-Mobile-Phobia”)

Everyone has a phobia.  Whether fear of spiders, heights or simply the dark, each person experiences their own unique fears. However, for some, “No-Mobile-Phobia” proves to the scariest thing in their life.  Fear of losing or becoming separated from our smartphone is a powerful phobia, particularly for teens and students. Although this may sound somewhat silly and extreme, researchers find that about 66% of smartphone users suffer from this disorder, becoming stressed, anxious, and even hysterical when unable to use their phones for extended periods.

Technoference

At every restaurant, there is at least one couple lost in their phones; this couple is sitting together and sharing a meal, but their brains are far away, trapped in their texting, phone calls, or internet browsing.  “Technoference” is responsible for this common blight.  Smartphones are making an appearance much more frequently, even during meals, conversations, and leisure time with loved ones.  This digital interference is strangling the quality of many relationships.  It’s painfully obvious for parents that struggle to compete for their child’s attention; smartphones and computers are tough opponents.

Fauxcellarm (“Phantom Ringing”)

Have you ever rushed to check your phone only to find it was never ringing? This “phantom ringing” is playing frustrating mind-games with many adults and teens.  Clinical psychologist, David Laramie, found that out of 320 test participants about two-thirds experienced this odd phenomenon.  Always waiting for your next call or text, produces a kind of “hypervigilance” that keep you constantly waiting and on-edge.

Cyberchondria

Why go to the doctor when you can Google your symptoms?  Although we may agree with this to a small extent, most realize the wisdom of avoiding self-diagnosis.  However, a growing number of people feel that the internet is their favorite doctor.  Compulsively searching the internet for their symptoms or other home cures, produces something disturbingly close to basic hypochondria–the perpetual fear and obsession over illness. Constantly going to the internet for health advice and treatment options produces anxiety; we may begin to feel we are seriously ill with illnesses or injuries we simply don’t have.  This digital disorder also makes us more susceptible to buying into false, useless “home cures” sold online.

“Truman Show” Delusion

Based off the 1998 film, The Truman Show, this movie follows the story of a man who felt he was constantly being watched.  Although this movie was actually quite funny, the real-life “Truman Show” delusion is anything but funny for those who suffer from it.  This phenomenon gives people the misleading and often unsettling feeling that they are being constantly watched. They feel as though their life is literally being “broadcasted” for everyone to see.  Out-of-control reality TV shows and booming social media platforms reinforce this disorder. When left untreated, “Truman Show” delusion produced narcissistic, attention-seeking, and even paranoid lifestyles.

Finding Relief

Technology seems to be a critical necessity in our daily life. We often can’t imagine what it would be like to go without our smartphones or the internet. However, digital disorders are on the sharp rise, particularly among children and teenagers.  Their developing brains leave them open to greater risk of developing a digital disorder.  Teenagers and young people easily become addicted to the internet when proper boundaries are not in place.  Compulsive use, behavior change, and even “withdrawal-like” symptoms reveal this addiction.

Whether an adult or a parent, keep these simple tips and safeguards in mind to keep your family safe from these digital disorders.

  • Try a technology “fast” for a specific amount of time.
  • Instill technology-free times and zones within your house. This is easy when you use a trustworthy parental control with time control features.
  • Balance and place limits on your tech time (for every hour on the computer, counteract with an hour outside, etc.) Download a free family tech contract to set expectations early on!
  • Leave work at work (avoid bringing home computer-based work projects)
  • Show your teens the best ways to use the internet for school and education (show them that it’s more than social media).
  • Never sleep with your phone or tablet!
  • Regularly assess yourself and your family to see how much positive social interaction they enjoy during the week.
  • Invest in new, tech-free games and family nights (board games, sports, art projects, reading, hikes, etc.)

Although challenging, it is possible to find the proper freedom we need from our technology. The internet and our devices were intended to be tools, not handcuffs.  With simple safeguards against excessive internet and technology use, we can keep ourselves and our family safe from these dangerous digital disorders. Download our newest guide here for parents – the Ultimate Guide to Social Media.

Snapchat Parent’s Review

Snapchat…A Parent’s Review

Snapchat is currently one of the most popular social media apps among teens these days. What makes it so popular? Snapchat allows users to capture and send photos and short videos that self-destruct after a certain amount of time (up to 10 seconds). With Snapchat, it is all about the quick image, animated face, or video!

After you read this post be sure to try our all new interactive online demo. Free to use. Just click and go. >> Parental Controls Demo 

When users send a message, they get to decide how long it will live on the receiver’s end. After that, send…poof…disappear… it is now history… or so most senders think.

Here are 3 things that parents need to know about Snapchat:

Disappearing “Snaps”

Some teens assume that because their “Snaps” disappear in just a few seconds the app is totally harmless. However, parents need to make sure that their teens know that photos can easily be saved as screenshots. This means that if your teen is using Snapchat, you need to realize that neither you nor your teen has any control over what may be snapped across their smartphone screen! This definitely makes it easier for cyberbullying to occur, as these teens feel the trail of evidence is not easily left behind.

Snapchat Parents Review | A Parents Guide to SnapchatA good discussion for parents to have with their teens is to outline a few risks with Snapchat. While it is true that Snapchat does not save received messages, all modern smartphones allow users to take screenshots (It’s also possible to take a picture of the screen with another camera). This screenshot then simply becomes a static picture, which can be saved, archived, texted, and included as content in any other social media. It can also then be easily used as a way to blackmail the original sender who thought that their private snap was deleted. Snapchat does notify the person taking the picture, if it determines that a screenshot has been captured. However, with a quick online search teens can quickly find out how to save a snap without even notifying the sender that it has been saved. 

Sexting

Some teens consider Snapchat an easy tool for “sexting”. What should be of concern to parents, is that these archived snaps via the screenshot method above, can then be shared with others at anytime. In many cases, these “snaps” have ended up being circulated on the Internet and passed on by students throughout schools resulting in some very embarrassing situations. In its  community guidelines, Snapchat “warns” users that their guidelines are pretty clear that once a user creates a Snapchat account, they agree to Snapchat’s  guidelines and take on the total responsibility for whatever activity occurs when they are logged into their account. Keep in mind that this poses some risks to parents even when they are not actively aware of their children’s Snapchat activities.

Snaps (photos/videos) taken of minors can be considered child pornography if found on another teen’s smartphone.

In October 2014, a database of hacked Snapchat pictures was released, known as “The Snappening.” This leak contained at least 100,000 pictures and videos from a third-party Snapchat app. It contained a large amount of child pornography, videos, and photos sexted between teenagers. Half of Snapchat’s users are teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17. Even for kids who are cautious with what they send out and to whom they send it to, it is best for parents to remind their children and teens that anything that they post online, is public – even if a snap disappears in seconds. It could come back at anytime in the future. A good rule of thumb that we like to remind teens is public internet does = PERMANENT! Can Parents monitor Snapchat? Snapchat review for parents | Netsanity

The “Letter X Game” And Cyberbullying

Snapchat was originally designed to be used with pictures. Today, however, there are multiple ways that teens with bad intentions can bully someone and use Snapchat to target their victims. Sending embarrassing photos or videos, containing cruel words and/or photos that compare one teen to an ugly meme or animal are examples of how some mean teens are bullying on Snapchat. This type of snap bullying can often have a significant impact on the person who is on the receiving end.

One  recent news story told of another way that teens are using Snapchat to “roast” or bully is called The “Letter X Game”. This cruel Snapchat game works like this:

  1. One user posts “Send me an x and I’ll give you a name (or similar)” on their story or they send it as a private message to other friends.
  2. At this point, the receiver(s) of the person’s name start to chime in with “funny” or cruel insults about that person.
  3. These can become viral, intensifying the bullying.

Many teens claim that the game is all in “good fun”. However, we all understand how cruel and upsetting this game could end up being for even the most grounded and confident teenager!

Solutions:

How can parents monitor Snapchat?

Just like any other form of social media, Snapchat is not the cause of cyberbullying, sexting, or any other behavioral problem. However, it is an easy tool for teens to use as a way to do so. As parents, you can help your kids from becoming victims or even being the instigators.  It is worth spending a few minutes to learn about what a parent can do to help keep your teens safer when they use Snapchat.

To begin with, parents should make sure their kids are mature enough to use the app in fun and positive ways, and have the maturity to respond appropriately if someone uses an image or video they sent against them or if they see another person being the victim of a bully. Talking to your teens before allowing them to use Snapchat is a great start. Make sure they understand the risks and the irreparable harm that can come from one picture or saved Snap. Even having a parent-teen-technology-contract can help you set some rules and consequences of inappropriate use. Make sure you have their logins as well so you can see their list of friends when you want to. Also, occasionally check the camera roll to make sure that screenshots are appropriate.

Lastly, use a trustworthy mobile parental control, which gives you the ability to disable the taking of screenshots, blocking Snapchat, and other controls which limit their exposure. Remind your teens again that they can come to you if they see or experience anything on social media that concerns them. If using and social media app starts to become a problem, a good conversation, and some quality time away may be all that you teen needs! If bullying does surface with any form of social media, always encourage your teen to seek help immediately from a trusted adult.

The Dangerous Side of Social Media Apps

Everyone loves social media. Many teens and tweens, in particular, use it regularly to connect with their friends, family members, and more. Others use it to make new friends, reaching out to people who share their interests and passions. Social media is an excellent opportunity for teens or tweens who struggle to make friends at school to connect with people who are more like them. Unfortunately, social media has its dark side–and sometimes, it can turn downright dangerous.

After you read this post be sure to get our newest free resource the Social Media Guide for Parents

Anonymous Communication

Many smartphone apps offer exactly what teens crave most: the ability to communicate privately with their peers, without their parents being able to check in on the conversation. Unlike Facebook, which stores messages where they can easily be accessed long after they’ve been sent, or text messages, which can be accessed even without the device used to send them, some apps allow for complete anonymity. As soon as the picture or message is seen, it’s deleted. Apps like Kik, for example, allow teens and tweens to message privately–and in some cases, they can get in over their heads.

Take the case of Nicole Lovell, who was just thirteen years old when she was murdered. Nicole had been using Kik to chat with older teenagers who lured her out of her house. She snuck out without her parents’ knowledge–and three days later, they found her body.

Hiding Behind a Screen

Many teens and tweens thrive on the behind-the-screen thrill of sharing racy pictures, discussing things that they would never actually discuss in person, and sharing information that they know would be better kept private. While those behaviors have their own set of issues, predators also have the ability to hide behind a screen. It’s much easier to keep up a false personality when you can control every interaction that you have with a specific individual. John Clark, for example, discovered that his daughter had been groomed from the time she was sixteen by sex traffickers. She had been communicating with her kidnappers for months via Snapchat.

Increasing Body Shaming

Body shaming has become increasingly common among young people in recent years. They’re too fat, too skinny, just “not right.” Social media platforms like Instagram play into this even harder: they allow posters to create the ideal picture, staging optical illusions that make them look “better” than they do in real life. This false picture of reality can, at its worst, lead to extreme eating disorders, depression, and even suicidal thoughts as a result of the feeling that young girls and now just as often boys feel that they will never be able to measure up to those standards.

What Parents Can Do

With all the dangers of social media, how can you stop your child from becoming a victim without making them feel like an outcast? Some tips:

  • Monitor all of your child’s social media use. We always recommend an open phone policy so that it is easier to ensure that you child does not have secret accounts. Don’t permit the use of apps that you find inappropriate or dangerous. You can read some of the more popular profiled apps here.
  • Observe your child’s behavior. If you have the feeling that something isn’t right or that your child is behaving out of character, act quickly. It’s better to ask questions too early than to wait too long to fix something that’s gone wrong.
  • Don’t allow your child to keep a smartphone or tablet in their bedroom after bedtime without using a trustworthy parental control.
  • Insist on “off times” for social media apps and texting. Make a habit of turning off devices at bedtime.

Keeping track of your child’s social media use can be difficult. Protecting your child, however, makes monitoring social media critical. There are too many predators lurking online and too many opportunities for things to go wrong for you to be casual about your child’s social media use.

Using a trustworthy parental control software like Netsanity  is also a great way to block and manage content that you consider dangerous or inappropriate on your children and teens mobile devices.  Knowledge is key!

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.

“House Party”: What Parents Should Know Before the Party Starts

Technology has grown in leaps and bounds over the past decade; it’s never been easier to connect with our family and friends regardless of schedule or location. Video chatting is gaining increasing popularity as one of the best ways to visit and stay close to the special people in our life. Skype and other video conferencing services are still popular–both for casual visits as well as for formal business transactions. However, social media is still growing, providing new apps specifically designed for video chatting.  Leading the charge, recently released “House Party” is changing the way we video chat.  Released in 2016, this app became an overnight sensation; it’s still growing with over 1 million users. With its easy accessibility and fun, casual, atmosphere, House Party seems like the perfect way for anyone, especially teens, to connect with their friends. As parents, it’s important to keep a few key aspects in mind before your teen gets this “party” started.

After you read this post be sure to try our all new interactive online demo. Free to use. Just click and go. >> Parental Controls Demo

What Is House Party?

How Does House Party Work?

The creators of House Party took video chatting to a whole new level.  Unlike the limited chatting capability of Skype or Facebook Live, House Party allows users to simultaneously chat with up to 8 separate friends.  Although chatting with 8 people all at once may sound chaotic or confusing, House Party creators used this potential issue to give their app a true “party-like” feel. Using a split screen feature, your device’s screen breaks into separate chat boxes–one for each member of your party.  This allows you to see every member of your video chat in real-time as you visit.

Creating an account with House Party is relatively simple. After creating a unique username, you can add your phone number to give the app access to your contact list.  This automatically allows you access to anyone on your list.  If you wish to skip your phone number, you can also manually enter the House Party username of anyone you wish to chat with.

After creating an account, you are free to create “rooms” for separate video chats. These rooms allow you to add up to 8 friends to your video chat.  Chat requests are sent out to your friends via notifications through the app or through SMS text messages.  As soon as your friends respond, your video chat is ready to begin.  The real-time accessibility of this app allows friends’ to enjoy each others’ company as though they were all in the same room.

What’s Good About the App?

  • Security

This app is relatively secure.  When creating “rooms” for video chats, you are given specific control to pick who exactly you wish to chat with.  These rooms come with filters to block out anyone not explicitly invited.  This prevents eavesdropping and unwanted snooping.

Accounts are also secure.  Although you may receive requests to chat from anyone, you are free to ignore these requests and stay silent.  This app is a two-way street; no video chat can begin without agreement from both users.  Currently, no privacy leaks or scandals have been traced back to this app. However, we see the potential so talk to your teen extensively about your rules for using this app if you do allow them use it and we suggest checking in on occasion to make sure that the app is being used like you discussed.

  • Accessibility

One of the greatest features of the app is its simple, clean interface.  Users enjoy friends’ company without buffering and other technical bugs.  Frequent updates help keep this app working smoothly. In terms of its features and usability, it currently holds 3.4 rating on Google Play.

  • Relationship Friendly

For teens in long-distance relationships with family members and friends, if used properly House Party can be a safe, enjoyable way to keep in touch with loved ones. Because this app allows so many users to chat simultaneously, it’s the perfect way to bring groups together at a moment’s notice.

What Should Parents be Concerned About?

  • Privacy

Although this app possesses good security filters, it doesn’t always explicitly warn you to use them. If you don’t take the time to “lock” your chat room and choose private settings, others can pop into the video chat.  Although you may have chosen to chat with a few specific friends, any of their mutual friends or yours can choose to enter the chat if the privacy filters are not in use.  While mutual friends are not necessarily dangerous strangers, leaving your chat rooms open is still is a bit of a privacy concern.

If your teen isn’t aware of the privacy filters or simply forgets to use them, eavesdroppers can sneak into their chats.  When video chatting, be sure you and your teen remember to switch the privacy filters on. This keeps video chats private and secure.

However, as an extra privacy feature, House Party gives a “stranger danger” warning if an uninvited user sneaks into the chat.  This warning shows that someone’s mutual friend has decided to enter the chat room.  Many times, this warning isn’t viewed with too much worry. Some teens admit that this is how some types of flirting take place over the app.  Many view the stranger warning as playful “trolling” from a safe friend.

  • Stranger Danger

House Party doesn’t use any type of age verification.  If you’re chatting with friends or acquaintances, this isn’t a huge issue; you know who you’re chatting with.  However, because this app has no age limit, it’s vital that your teen only chats with friends or classmates that they know in person. With its 1 million+ users, any person from any age group is available for a spontaneous video chat.  Keeping the chatting between close friends and family is the best safety policy to avoid the innate stranger danger of many social media apps. We strongly encourage you to talk to your teens and set these rules from the beginning if you plan on allowing them to use this app.

  •  Explicit Content

With social media, mature content is an innate risk.  “Sexting” and other types of explicit material are an ever-growing risk in some teenage circles. Although House Party doesn’t necessarily encourage this type of behavior, it can become a potential enabler for risque flirting and dangerous relationships.  Always check with your teen about who they’re chatting with and what types of conversations are taking place.  It’s always best to keep these video chats out in the open to avoid the dangers that can take place behind closed doors.

Overall, House Party ranks well both with teens and their parents.  The simple account setup and adequate safety filters, allow relatively worry-free video chatting.  This app is useful for far more than just casual conversation.  It has some valuable applications outside of pure recreation. Older teens and college students enjoy using this app for study sessions and school projects.  This app can also be useful for work-related meetings and other types of group project-planning.

If at any time House Party becomes a problem, your teen is not ready for the app or you would just like your teen to take a break from the it. Netsanity has now added this app to our revolutionary appblocker making it easy for parents to block and unblock the app with just a touch.

Dating Apps & Online Romance: What Parents Should Know

Being a parent to a teenager is sometimes more challenging given the rise of technology and teens advanced knowledge of it versus the parent’s learning curve with tech. The amount of apps that are now making their way to center stage are the countless dating apps that allow you to easily download to your phone, making a way to “meet” people as easy as turning on your device.

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

Downloading Tinder or Grindr on your smartphone takes less than a minute, next link it to your Facebook, so that your personal pictures upload. Don’t forget to put your social media information on there as well and BOOM…dating in the 21st century! Not only is this extremely invasive, but very public as well. Your teens can put any information out there for people to see, so it’s an uneasy feeling for most parents.

Sadly, if you’re teenager is looking to date or looking for a long-term relationship this probably isn’t going to be the most successful way to achieve this goal. Yes, technology is taking over everything, but tell your teens that it does not have to control their relationships too!

Teen Dating Apps | Tinder, Clover, MeetMe, Kik | parents Need to Know

Dating Apps and romance on your smartphone doesn’t typically result in dating for teenagers. 

Attention Span

Matching with somebody online really isn’t a deep connection. It’s scrolling through pictures and having an attraction for about a minute. The attention span on dating apps like Tinder lead many to believe that they can have their cake and eat it too, so to speak. If one match doesn’t work out then they can just go back on and match with somebody else and try again. Not to mention the amount of matches can be endless, so your teens could be exposing themselves to countless strangers. In some extreme cases, this could expose your teens to the types of people that could possibly stalk them online or worse.

Perception of Teen Dating Apps

As always, with anything on social media there is the risk that the person your teen is talking to doesn’t match their photoshopped or even “catfished” pictures. In light of the MTV show, Catfish many people are now more aware of how common this is in the online dating world. Your teen could easily be subjected to a person playing a cruel joke, messing with their emotions or even someone trying to make financial gain because of what they interpret from your teens online social media profiles. Additionally, many teenagers have reported having their personal photos stolen when putting them on a dating/hookup app profile comes with a set of additional risks.

Hookups

Typically, these dating apps tend to lead to hookups only. Not many romances tend to bloom from Tinder, but that’s not to say that it’s entirely impossible. However, these types of “dating” apps have been typically designed for the purpose of hooking up. Your teen should be cautious if using these apps and aware of the stigma around them because people abuse their online power and taking advantage of teenagers is sometimes easy to do.

Unfortunately, most of these “hook-up” apps are anything but helpful when it comes to dating, especially for teens! As parents, most of us have met our significant others the “old-fashioned” way and it is probably always best to encourage that in your teens as well. At least until they are more mature and more prepared to conquer the online dating world.

Solutions For Parents

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

If the types of apps that your teenager uses becomes a problem make sure that you are using a trust-worthy parental control that will allow you to block inappropriate apps like Tinder, Grinder, or Down on their devices. Encourage your teen to build relationships the “old-fashioned” way by starting a conversation and getting to know potential dates in person so that they won’t need to be swiping left!

Dating Apps Teenagers Are Using | Netsanity

 

 

Safer Internet Day 2017: Tips to Keep Your Family Safe

Safer Internet Day 2017 #SID2017

On Tuesday, February 7th, Netsanity will join others around the world and celebrate Safer Internet Day 2017 (http://saferinternetday.us/), an international education and awareness campaign spanning the globe!  This years slogan is ‘Be the change: unite for a better internet’. From cyberbullying to social networking, each year Safer Internet Day aims to raise awareness of emerging online issues and chooses topics that reflect today’s top concerns.

Safer Internet Day 2017 | Netsanity | #SID2017

With the constant introduction of new technology, social media apps, and online services it helps to get ongoing practical advice. That’s why at Netsanity,  we are always working with safety experts, our parents, educators and communities around the globe – to keep parents informed on what works best to keep your children safe when they go online. Together, we hope to continue to build a community of responsible digital citizens.

Here are some quick suggestions for how to help keep your family safe online.

SID2017 - Safer Internet Day Tips 2017 | Netsanity

Tech Talk

Be clear about your family’s rules and expectations around technology and consequences for inappropriate use. Make sure that your children know that they can come to you for your guidance when they encounter tough decisions or have questions.

Why not take the opportunity today to formalize your agreement on what steps your family will take to ensure online safety.  ​Our team at Netsanity has created a printable family technology contract that makes it easy to set ground rules with your children for safer and more responsible use of technology. During this activity here are a few additional discussions that you may want to have with your child about appropriate behavior online.

  • How should your child respond if someone sends them an inappropriate picture?
  • What’s considered acceptable and unacceptable behavior online?
  • How should your child respond if they are a victim of cyberbullying?
  • How should your child respond if they see that someone else is a victim of cyberbullying?
  • How many hours of screentime a day is acceptable in your family?
  • What parental controls will you be using on your child’s devices?
  • What are the consequences of irresponsible online behaviors?

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. Sometimes cyberbullying can be easy to spot — if your child shows you or you read a text message or spot a comment from a friend on social media, that sounds overly sarcastic or cruel the discussion is easy. However, other acts can be much less obvious, like impersonating a victim online or posting personal information, photos, or roasting designed to hurt or embarrass another person. Some children report that a fake account, webpage, or online persona has been created with the intention to harass and bully them.

Sadly, many children who are cyberbullied don’t dare to tell a teacher or parent, because they fear they could make the problem worse by infuriating the bully or that they may even get their own internet and smartphone privileges taken away by a parent.

Signs of cyberbullying vary, but some signs may include:

  • being emotionally upset during or after being online
  • being secretive when on their mobile devices
  • withdrawing from the family or their regular friends
  • wanting to skip out of regular activities
  • feeling “sick” and wanting to stay home from school
  • declining grades at school
  • changes in mood, routine, sleep, or appetite

If you find that cyberbullying has occurred, immediately take steps to work with your child to block the bully, get help from someone at school like a teacher, principal or guidance counselor. Many schools have protocols for responding to cyberbullying. Additional resources can be found by contacting one of these great resources provided by Gaggle.net.

Safe Internet Day - Cyber Safety Online Safety 2017 - SID2017 | Netsanity

Screentime

As parents, we are ultimately the ones responsible for teaching our children how to manage their time so that they  can find a balance between being able to use technology for school, social media for fun and still have time to find time in their days to fit in healthy activities that do not involve technology! Setting an example with our own use of our smartphones and tablets  is always the first way to approach the problem! A few tips include:

  • Set time limits each day with a trustworthy parental control and communicate this with your children so it isn’t a surprise!
  • Plan to have dinner as a family and talk during car rides: About two-thirds (64%) of young people say the TV is usually on during meals. Studies show that a family’s most meaningful conversations will often take place during meals and in the car.
  • Encourage other activities and provide the necessary resources (books to read, board games, art supplies, and/or sporting equipment).Tips for Safer Internet Day | Safer Internet Day Resources

Privacy

Privacy on the Internet is a ever growing concern. As parents, it is crucial that we take steps to keep our personal information protected by securing our online accounts and limiting the information that we choose to post on public forums. Yes, this even includes photos of our children that might embarrass them if they show up in a public search in the future! Our lives are being publicly documented like never before. Just do an online search of yourself and you’ll see comments you posted on a news article, your home address, and even personal photos that have may have posted on various social networks. Private information can be used in numerous embarrassing and even harmful ways, so it is increasingly worthwhile to pay attention to privacy issues–and to pass along good advice and habits to your children. Setting a good example goes a long way in teaching your children to be good digital citizens.

Be Involved

We feel that it is important to make sure that your children are only allowed to message and accept friend requests on social media from people that they and know in person. You will find as they get older that sometimes the number of friends they have on a particular app or social media site can become a popularity contest. Many children have been known to friend strangers to increase these numbers. Sadly, strangers with bad intentions realize that and will sometimes try and contact children by masking as someone of the same age or someone who has a similar interest or hobby as your child.

Make sure that you also become friends and contacts within your child’s social media circles and that you continually monitor their posts. The best way to monitor? Be open and do spot checks that allow you to look at your children’s mobile devices instead of depending on any type of spy or hack software. This will ensure that no apps or secret accounts are being hidden or used.  Set this expectation from the very beginning (it is never too late to set these expectations even if you didn’t start that way) and it should not be a problem in your family. As your children get older, they will not want Mom and Dad looking at their personal messages to their friends and that’s ok if you want ensure them that you are monitoring and not sitting around reading their personal messages word for word.

Most importantly, look to see what apps are installed, take a mental inventory, and if you are not familiar with a particular app, go online and do your research. If you aren’t sure about something that you see on their devices ask them questions.

Reputation

These days it’s more important than ever to talk to your kids about their online reputation, especially on social networks and apps, and how it can have impact their lives offline. Children need to learn early on that what they post on the  internet is not private. Chances are good that a post or message seldom stays only with the person that it was intended for.  Friends often share private messages or photos, hackers are everywhere and companies have been known to change their privacy settings or policies often!  Does anyone really read those policies? Before your child is ever allowed to use social media or email they should be made aware that everything that they post online should be viewed as if it is public information. Remind them that someday —an employer or a college admissions counselor just might see it. Once something is posted on the internet it is permanent and yes, can easily become public!

Safeguard

Parental controls are the first line of defense in keeping your children safe online. Protect all the devices that your child uses. Their computer isn’t the only way they can stumble across explicit or dangerous content. In fact, most children and teen use their mobile device exclusively.

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 smartphones and tablets.
  • Discuss 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.
  • If your child is younger and ready to have their own email address we suggest starting with a service like KidsEmail.  The have a safe email service for kids and families. KidsEmail allows younger kids have a safe email account while allowing parents to be aware of any correspondence their children send and receive.Kids Online Safety Tips for Parents | Safer Internet Day February 7 2017

Solutions

Staying safe isn’t just a one-day thing – technology evolves and so will the needs of your family. Make sure that you keep up an ongoing dialogue. Re-establish your family’s ground rules on a regular basis, check in on everyone’s progress and set aside time to talk at regular intervals. Be consistent. Use the internet in the way you’d like your children to, safely and responsibly, and set the example!

We’d love to know how you are celebrating Safer Internet Day 2017! Be sure to join the conversation on Facebook!

“MeetMe” App: What Every Parent Needs to Know

Although the MeetMe app possesses a 4-star Google Play rating and over 100 million users, MeetMe is one of the most dangerous apps available to teens.  This app is designed to closely imitate other popular social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram.  Unfortunately, these similarities mask a far greater danger.  Teens naturally gravitate toward social media apps, especially ones that hold the promise of new friendships and relationships.  MeetMe paints a tempting picture to teens, but parents should remain extremely vigilant if you decide to allow your teens to use this app. In most cases, avoiding the app might be the best course of action! Here is what you need to know so that you can make the best decision for your family.

After you read this post be sure to try our all new interactive online demo. Free to use. Just click and go. >> Parental Controls Demo

How the App Works

MeetMe focuses on creating new relationships for your teen. While Facebook and similar apps prioritize reaching out to old and current friends, MeetMe works almost exclusively to connect your teen with strangers. While there’s nothing wrong per say with building new friendships, it isn’t always safe or ever recommended by us to reach out to strangers via the internet.

Immediately after creating an account, users set up their profile using an active Facebook account or email address.  In a matter of seconds, various profiles pop up for other users in the nearby area.  Users can glance through a long list of public information for those who live nearby.  Users are encouraged to chat regularly and even meet fellow users in person.

As an extra feature, users can also earn “MeetMe Credits,” also nicknamed “Lunch Money,” to build their profile and gain more profile views.  These credits allow their profiles to gain more attention. It also allows them to use various search filters to search for fellow users based on their relationship status, age, sex, location, and even their body type. These credits are earned through various app activities such as:

  • Frequent activity (logging on daily)
  • Purchasing credits
  • Frequently viewing others’ profiles
  • Regularly interacting with other users
  • Connecting with “secret admirers” during gamesWhat Is the MeetMe App and What Does It Do?

Red Flags

As a parent, it’s easy to see what makes this app so dangerous for teenagers. Despite being advertised as an easy way to make “new friends,” MeetMe is regarded as a dating app. Users are encouraged and even rewarded to view profiles of the opposite sex. The Huffington Post included this app in a list of the top 6 dating apps teens secretly use. Dating apps in and of themselves are dangerous temptations for teens; MeetMe goes to a whole new level of risk with these red flags:

  • Age Requirements

Although the app states that users must be at least 13, there is practically no age-verification process to keep this in check.  With approximately 194.2 million views in the United States alone, it’s safe to assume to a huge range of age groups regularly visit this app.  While our teens may think they are chatting with a fellow teen, they may really be connecting with someone twice their age.

  • Negative Reinforcements

With MeetMe Credits, users are encouraged to perform various tasks on the app. This gives the app an “arcade-like” feel; teens may forget that their actions on the app have very real, real-world consequences.They can become so caught up winning the app’s games that they forget they are playing with real strangers.

  • Lack of Privacy

MeetMe possesses an “open-door” policy in regards to its user profiles.  There are no privacy settings; every detail your teen adds to their personal profile will be present for anyone to see.  The app encourages users to be very open and share personal details to “help” them build connections with fellow users.  It’s very common for sexually explicit and even pornographic material to find its way into user news feeds.  Everything–including your teen’s information–is out in the open and easy for everyone to see.MeetMe App Information and Dangers

Consequences of Stranger Danger

In 2014 San Francisco’s City Attorney sued MeetMe after 3 specific sex crimes were directly traced back to the MeetMe users.  In August of that year, a 29-year-old man was charged with multiple counts of sexual impropriety with a minor.  MeetMe was one of the social media platforms he used to send explicit pictures and messages to his underage victims. The same year, a 21-year-old man was arrested after pretending to be a 16-year- old boy to trick two underage girls into performing sexual acts with him.

When interviewed over the lawsuit against MeetMe, City Attorney Dennis Herrera stated:

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a company that has been as irresponsible in terms of not advertising the proper privacy protections and actually violating guidelines that the (California) attorney general has put in place.”

He also bluntly explained, “The purpose of MeetMe is to allow strangers to interact and meet online.”

Although MeetMe is still operating as a thriving social media platform, the negative fall-out of this dangerous app is still present.  Unknowingly, many underage teenagers are still connecting with dangerous predators, completely unaware of the life-changing impact this app holds.Meet Me App and Information for Parents | Netsanity

Keeping your Teens Safe

Your teenager may simply be looking for new friends; they may not be concerned or even aware of the hidden dangers.  Talk with them and help them see the risk of reaching out to strangers or sharing personal information.  If they still wish to seek new friendships, point them in safer directions such as local after-school clubs, teen groups at your local church or synagogue, sports teams, and other well-regulated sources.

If you’re concerned your teen is already using MeetMe, carefully discuss with them their activity and explain the danger.  Try to find out what information they’ve shared and whether or not any strangers have attempted to make contact. You may need to do some damage control and possibly contact authorities if your child is being targeted by potential predators through the app.  If you have concerns, always consult trusted authorities before deleting the app.  It may contain information they need.

Whether or not your teen uses this app, regular safety checks on their phones and internet devices are key to avoiding dangerous apps such as MeetMe.  Using a trustworthy parental control  is also a great way to block apps that you consider dangerous or inappropriate.  Knowledge is key.  See what other apps you can block in an instant when you use Netsanity.

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.

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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.

Teen Peer Pressure and Social Media in the Digital Age

Teen Peer Pressure

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

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

Drugs

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

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

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

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

Sexting

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

Nothing is Private

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

The Competition

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

Real Life Pressure

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

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

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

Teens Face Peer Pressures Daily | Netsanity

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

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

Help! When Other Parents Don’t Use Parental Controls

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

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

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

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

parental-controls-friends

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

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

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

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

friends-block-apps

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

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

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

 

Digital Addiction: Protecting Your Child

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

The Consequences of Excessive Screen Time

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

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

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

digital-addiction-netsanity3

Screens in Schools

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

Managing the Digital Addiction

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

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

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

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

 

New Resolutions: Technology and Device Goals for 2017

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

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

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

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

Resolution #2: Set device-free times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

This Holiday, Give Your Kids the Gift of the Present

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

Volunteer and Let Them Lead the Way.

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

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

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Make it a Contest.

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

Have a Pancake Bar Breakfast.

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

holiday-gift-present

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

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

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

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays from us at Netsanity!

Social Media Creeping: Is Your Child Guilty?

Social media stores everything. It’s not just the latest events in a person’s life that splash their way across those pages; instead, it’s page after page of information that allows viewers to look as far back as they’d like. Middle school drama? Check. High school angst? It’s all on display. Unfortunately, that readily available information can quickly suck people into social media creeping–and that can be a serious problem.

It Starts Innocently

As The Odyssey notes in “The Four Stages of Social Media Creeping,” most social media creeping episodes begin innocently. No one sets out to say, “All right, I’m going to spend four hours scrolling through past social media posts this week!” There are several situations that can lead to inadvertent creeping:

  • Reconnecting with an old friend, often locating them on social media for the first time, and trying to “catch up” on all those important events in their life.
  • Checking out a new friend or potential romantic interest and trying to learn more about their likes, dislikes, pet peeves, and personality.
  • Looking for more information about a friend who is acting out of character or who the “creeper” hasn’t had a chance to connect with recently.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long before creeping becomes less innocent. A quick look over recent events turns into hours spent scrolling the friend’s Facebook timeline. Instead of simply looking through the pictures of a single event, the individual finds themselves digging back through albums spanning the past several months or years.

stalking-social-media

When It’s Less Innocent

Social media creeping doesn’t always have to start innocently. In many cases, it starts with a romantic relationship gone wrong. Suddenly, instead of moving on, the “creeper” begins to obsess over both current and past social media posts. Every picture or mention of a friend of the opposite sex becomes something they can obsess over. In other cases, a current romantic interest becomes the target of creeping, often to the point of obsessive behavior.

Monitoring Obsessive Behaviors in Your Teens

It’s always important to keep an eye on your teen or tween’s social media usage. It’s even more vital, however, if they’re starting to engage in creeping behavior. Watch for these signs:

  • Spending more time than usual on social media accounts
  • Obsessing over past events
  • Over-analyzing social media posts, especially if you find it’s coming up frequently in conversation

If your child is starting to obsess over a friend’s social media account, take steps quickly! The longer you wait, the more difficult it can be to break the habit. Tweens and teens are often prone to obsessive behavior anyway, and social media makes it easier than ever for them to keep an eye on past romantic relationships, current friends, and anyone else inside their social circle.

social-media-creeping

Breaking the Cycle

If your child has taken creeping too far, here are a few useful tips for helping them break the cycle. First, it’s important to make sure that your teen understands the full extent of the behavior. Have them take a look at the time they’ve really spent creeping that social media profile. How many hours have they lost looking at things that don’t have any real relevance to their current position? Next, ask your teen to come up with solutions. Unfollowing, unfriending, or blocking a friend they’ve been creeping may be very difficult for them, but it might also be the only way to separate themselves from the behavior. If the behavior goes too far, it may be necessary to temporarily disable the social media accounts that are creating the problem.

stalking-creeping-social-media

Keeping up with your teen or tween’s internet usage is difficult enough without factoring creeping into the equation. Creeping, however, is rarely healthy behavior. Taking steps to get your child out of that cycle before it has a chance to go deeper is the best way to help them go on to enjoy healthy relationships in the future as well as healing from a current breakup or other situation. Sometimes the solution is simply finding balance!  A trustworthy parental control that prides itself in not being easily defeatable by even the most tech-savvy teens is Netsanity. They offer a suite of services for parents. For instance, their appblocker is a must have. With one-click, you can block more than 50 previously profiled, internet-based apps that you find inappropriate and even the ones that you feel your tween or teen just needs to take a healthy break from.

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

Tech-free Gift Ideas: 2016

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

Get Crafty

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

tech-gifts-2016

Get Your Game On

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

Stocking Stuffers

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

tech-free-gifts

Other Ideas

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

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

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

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

Thanksgiving: A Great Time to Teach Online Kindness

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

Cyberbullying Is Still On the Rise

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

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

Encouraging Kindness

thanksgiving-online

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

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

Online Etiquette

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

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

happy-thanksgiving-netsanity

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

Roasting: Is It Glorified Bullying?

Sometimes, it seems difficult to keep up with all the forms of bullying your child can be exposed to. The latest craze sweeping through many teenage circles is roasting, a cyberbullying trend that has many parents in an uproar. Understanding roasting and how it has the potential to impact teens and tweens is one critical step in monitoring your child’s online behavior.

What Is Roasting?

A roast is a form of bullying that is often mistaken for humor between friends. Many teens and tweens see it as simply another form of the banter that takes place at school or via text. During a “roast,” however, several individuals–often girls, who are more likely to engage in verbal bullying–gang up on another individual in an effort to mock them. In many cases, roasting continues until the individual “cracks” or has a meltdown as the insults reach increasingly higher levels.

Most teens and tweens don’t recognize roasting as a form of bullying. Instead, they see it as a continuation of normal behavior. They’ll insist that it’s “all in good fun” or that the victim “doesn’t mind.” In some cases, the victim may even have started the roast, putting out a picture and asking for people to roast them.

roasting-bullying
The Gender Bias of Roasting

In many cases, girls are more likely than boys to participate in roasting. Often, girls will band together in an effort to seem cool or in control. Their preferred target is often–but not necessarily–a boy. This bias continues through memes and other types of media posted by girls and their friends as increasing numbers of them join in on the so-called fun. Girls are highly competitive with one another. When they begin this negative behavior, they’ll often try to one-up one another, coming up with increasingly negative comments and jokes.

This gender bias, however, doesn’t mean that girls are the only perpetrators or that boys are the only victims. Girls can roast other girls, boys can roast girls; anyone can be a victim of roasting. It’s important that parents recognize that their children have the potential to be either bully or victim in order to understand the risks associated with this behavior.

Is Roasting Really Harmful?

If it’s just a bunch of kids having fun together, roasting can’t be that bad, right? Many parents may at first overlook this type of behavior, assuming that the kids are just joking with each other. Unfortunately, roasting can be incredibly harmful to kids. What one child intends as a harmless joke may hit another one way too hard. Other children will choose to pretend to ignore the behavior in an effort to appear cool. Meanwhile, internally, it’s causing damage. Cyberbullying is becoming an increasingly common cause of depression, self-harming behaviors, and even suicide among teens and tweens–and that means that, good-intentioned or not, roasting behavior can not be condoned.

roasting-glorified-bullying

Watching for Warning Signs

Any time one group of teens or tweens gangs up on another, especially if a group gangs up on a single person, it’s a good indication that the behavior needs to stop. These days most “roasting” takes place online.  It’s often done among friends, so parents can’t rely on the sudden appearance of an unfamiliar individual on their children’s social media pages to key them in to trouble. If you suspect that your child is engaging in roasting, don’t wait for it to get out of hand. Instead, sit down and have a conversation with your child about appropriate online behavior and the risks associated with roasting–including why it’s not “all in good fun.”

Keeping your child safe online, monitoring their online behaviors, and teaching them to become positive online citizens can feel like a full-time job.  It makes most every parent nervous when their teens are exposed to the pressure and drama of using certain types of social media.  Your first reaction might be to just ban your tweens and teenagers from downloading apps like Instagram or Snapchat, it’s important to remember that they have positive aspects as well. Sooner or later, teens will need to learn how to navigate the online world responsibly. That’s why it’s a good idea to sometimes allow access to various apps, but to keep an open and ongoing conversation on the subject. We recommend monitoring on a regular basis by having spot checks on the actual mobile device itself because it is easy for teens to set up  a second secret account that they have not given parents access to. 

Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children of all ages are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software. Netsanity offers a suite of services like their Appblocker for both Apple iOS and Android Samsung devices is a must have. With one-click, you can block more than 50 previously profiled, internet-based apps if you find them inappropriate or you just want your child to take a break from them. If you have a Samsung device, you can also disable any app instantly! Additionally, parents can set a timeout allowing your teens to take a much needed break from their devices to finish homework on spend quality time with their family!

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

The Bright Side of Social Media

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

building-connections

Building Connections

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

Sharing Experiences

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

Increasing Awareness

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

Anonymous Opportunity

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

 

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Final Thoughts

Social media might have its dark side, but the reality is, most teens and tweens are choosing to use it positively. For many, it’s an incredible connection to mentors, peers, and others outside their computer screens. The key for most parents is simply finding balance: controlling social media access and monitoring it in order to ensure that their children are among the ones using it appropriately.

When setting goals to keep your kids and teens balanced and safe from dangerous content and apps on their mobile device us parents have  a lot to consider because most parental control apps and “safe routers” are easy for kids to circumvent. These days, it is critical to not be lax about what your kids and teens are doing on their mobile devices and it is crucial to be proactive. Allowing unfiltered internet in your home and on your kid’s smartphones, can be dangerous. It is in their nature to test your limits and be curious. As parents it is our  job is to make sure they stay safe and don’t make bad choices which can harm them for years to come. One trustworthy parental control that prides itself in not being easily defeatable by even the most tech-savvy teens is Netsanity. They offer a suite of services for parents. For instance, their appblocker for Apple iOS mobile devices is a must have. With one click, you can block more than 50 previously profiled, internet-based apps that you find inappropriate. If you have a Samsung device, you can disable any app instantly!

What Are Teens Doing Online?

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

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

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

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

The lives of children in cyberspace

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

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

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

Why do teenagers spend so much time online?

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

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

Parents are struggling to keep up

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

Conclusion

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

Solutions

online-dating

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

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

Family Dinners: A National Movement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family laughing around a good meal in kitchen

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

Some suggestions for getting everyone to the table:

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

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

Happy lovely family eating pizza

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

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

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

Teens Confess to Smartphone Addiction

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

By the Numbers

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

Smartphones in Schools

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

group of young students studying in the classroom with tablet

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

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

Battling Smartphone Addiction

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

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

Options

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

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

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.

Teen Driving and Smartphone Use

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

Then Why Do Teens Still Text While Driving?

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

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

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

Risk Assessment Is Still Developing

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

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

How Do We Get Our Teens to Drive More Safely?

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

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

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

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

 

 

Recognizing Digital Addictions in Tweens & Teens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Digital Disconnect

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

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

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

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

Why It’s Important

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

Controlling the Risk

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

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

Clear Social Media Rules

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

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

Parental Control Software

Teenage girls sitting on grass and taking selfie with mobile phone

The “Sexting” Talk: What is Sexting?

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

The Dangers of Sexting

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

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

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

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

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

What is Sexting - Netsanity Explains

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

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

How They’re Sexting

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

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

Talking About Sexting With Your Kids & Teens

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

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

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

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

What Is Sexting | Netsanity Guide to Sexting

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

Using Parental Controls to Make Sexting a Non-Issue

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

Cyberbullying Friends: Teens Targeted By Those Closest To Them

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

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

Mother Worried About Unhappy Teenage Daughter

What’s a Parent to Do?

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

Discuss clear expectations for online behavior

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

Monitor your child

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

Take it to the school

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

Monitoring Friends

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

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

Solutions

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

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

Danger Ahead: Social Media Dare Games

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

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

The Dangers of Social Media Dare Games

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

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

The Choking Game:

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

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

The FireSpray Challenge:

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

The Cinnamon Challenge:

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

The Kylie Jenner Challenge:

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

The Salt and Ice Challenge:

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

group of young students studying in the classroom with tablet

Talk To Your Kids About The Dare Culture

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Why Teens Are So Obsessed With Social Media

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

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

Why Teens Are So Obsessed With Social Media?

Enjoyous young girl make a selfie with his mobile phone

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

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

To Them Online Life Is Real Life

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

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

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

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

Tired Teenager sleeping on the Bed with Tablet Computer

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

 

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

Back to School Boundaries: Smartphones and Tablets

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

Set Consistent Limits

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

Happy African American Girl with TabletSchool Time Matters

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

Monitor Social Media Use

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

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

Observe Your Child’s Behavior

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

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

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

Click here for your special deal: BK2SCHOOL16

group of teenagers making fun selfie in classroom

Remember Other Activities

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

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

Today’s Teens Are Tired!

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

The Problem With Technology

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

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

Taking Control of Technology

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

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

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

 

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

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

Sisters sitting on the sofa and using smartphones

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

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

How to Promote Good Mobile Technology Use with your Kids

It seems as though kids in today’s world are constantly attached to a mobile device of some sorts. While this helps to connect them to the world in a unique way, there are great dangers in this type of ability. Parents have fears that their child will become socially challenged because they are not interacting with others outside of an online setting.

Another issue that is caused by constant use of technology is the increased exposure to bullies. When a child is bullied online, it is something that they feel as though they can never escape from. This can cause detrimental damage to the child and their future. Because of these reasons and others, parents are now looking for ways to promote good mobile technology use with their kids. Here are a few ways that you can do just that.

 

Set Time Limits

The best way to promote good mobile technology use is to limit the amount of time that your children and teens and be on their devices. While this is something that can be a challenge, there are some things that you can do to make the mission a bit easier.

For starters, communicate with your child and explain why you are looking to control their time. You are looking to teach them how to be in control of the device rather than the other way around. Also, keep in mind that you are in charge of the security of your child and limiting their time will help them to learn how to respond to bullies and set boundaries.

There are also many apps and tools that you can use to help monitor the time that your child spends on their mobile device. Make sure that you are using them to your ability. However, don’t fully rely on these apps and tools. They will never be able to fully replace your personal attention.

Zwei jugendliche Freunde mit Smartphone am idyllischen TeichPlan Family Activities

Helping your child manage their mobile technology use is much easier when your child has alternatives. Sometimes the best ways to provide alternatives is to have family activities that are fun and entertaining for the whole family. This can help to control the use of technology and bring you closer as a family.

You should also have certain times during the day when technology is not allowed. For example, make sure that no one uses their mobile devices at the dinner table. Having dinner together as a family nightly is also important and will help you to monitor how your child is reacting to the world around them.

Mother and daughter at cafe using smart phone Teach your Kids about Technology

One mistake that many kids make is not realizing how their use of mobile technology will affect their future. For example, some kids post pictures online that are very damaging to their reputation. Not only could this make your kids look bad now, but it can also cause them to have trouble in the future.

More and more businesses and colleges are spending time searching through social media when they are looking at applicants. If your child has negative posts and photos online, this could mean that their chances of getting a job or accepted into the college that they are interested in could diminish. Teaching your kids how to properly manage their online reputation is very important because of these issues.

Parents are quickly losing the battle when it comes to controlling the way their kids use mobile technology. Some are simply too busy and others don’t want to look like the bad guy. Other parents find that they are unskilled when it comes to using the devices themselves and therefore have a difficult time when it comes to controlling what their kids are doing.

However, as parents, it is more important than ever that we teach our kids how to set boundaries. One of the most important boundaries comes in the form of how they use their mobile technology. In order to make sure that your kids stay healthy and successful, make sure that you are taking the necessary time to learn what you need to about monitoring their technology use.Smartphone users

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

Netsanity has a suite of services – their Timeblocker scheduler, can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities this summer and all year long. If your tweens have an Apple mobile devices, Netsanity has a great feature called Screenlock. It can be used on a regular basis to completely block them from using their mobile device for texting, or other activities whenever you feel that they need a healthy break, sleep, or to ensure they are focusing on other activities.

Netsanity now offers a 14-day free trial on all their plans, so its worth checking out if your child has an Apple mobile device. They will soon be releasing a version for Android as well!

What Parents Need to Know: Musical.ly

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

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

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

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

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

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

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

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

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

 

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

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!

Smartphones and Smart Summer Rules

Today’s kids are spending more time on their devices than ever. From texting friends on their smartphones to staring at the screen as they plow through “just one more level” on their latest video game, kids can quickly waste their entire summer staring at once device or another. If you’re hoping to still keep your kids tech smart this summer, don’t delay because even if your summer vacation has already started it is not too late to incorporate some  technology rules.

Keep Them Busy

Many kids are spending as much as 75 hours per week using technology. While you can’t keep them busy every minute of every day, providing your kids with other activities can help keep their summers on track and encourage them to spend more time doing things that are healthy, educational, or fulfilling. You don’t have to be on them every minute to provide them with plenty of options.

  • Invest in a swimming pool club or amusement park membership for the summer and take the kids often.
  • Offer opportunities for family bonding activities that don’t involve technology. Board games might be corny, but they can also be a lot of fun!
  • Encourage teens to look into the possibility of a summer job. From babysitting or mowing lawns to flipping burgers, there are plenty of opportunities for your child to earn some extra cash and stay busy with something that doesn’t have a screen.
  • Take a fun road trip to a popular cake or ice cream shop…especially if they were on Food Network, teens love that!
  • Put together a summer reading list at the beginning of summer–both books that interest your child and books that you think would benefit them in some way. Encourage them to see how many of those books they can complete over the summer.
  • Plan outdoor activities often throughout the summer. Go for hikes, visit the beach, or simply hang out in the back yard: there are plenty of activities that will catch the kids’ attention and help them leave technology behind.

friendship, leisure, summer, technology and people concept - friends with smartphones sitting on sandy beach

Set Reasonable Tech Rules

Let’s face it: if you’re stuck in the car for hours on your way to your summer vacation destination, you aren’t going to adhere to a rule that says the kids can only spend a certain number of hours per day on their devices. If they’re quiet, not fighting, and not complaining about the cramped conditions in the car, you’re not going to rock the boat! The rest of the summer, however, setting reasonable technology rules in place is the ideal way to keep your kids’ technology use on track instead of allowing it to get out of control. Try some of these rules, or adapt them according to your family’s needs.

  • Set specific blocks of time where they can indulge in certain technology-based activities, including video games and phone time. Whether that’s a single hour or in the evening after dinner. Some families like to make a list of chores that have to be completed before you change Timeblocker settings!
  • Set specific “off times” for technology. There’s absolutely no reason to bring phones to the table, nor should they be present during family time. Whatever their friends have to say will wait for a few hours.
  • Adhere to your own rules. If you want their technology turned off during certain times, keep yours put away as well if you can! We do understand that sometimes work calls and if it does explain that to your children and they will understand the difference! Also, keep in mind that the more times you allow your children to make excuses for sliding past your rules, the less likely they’ll be to adhere to them long-term.

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

You might not be able to go off the grid entirely for the summer, but you can keep your kids’ technology use in check and encourage them to make far more productive use of those hours out of school. Fill your summer with activities that your kids will really enjoy, family time that will leave you connected, and opportunities for them to grow.  It is always easier to help your children and teens to maintain balance in their lives with mobile devices when you use a parental control software.

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

 

Overall, balance this summer will leave your family healthy and rested for when everyone starts back to school in the Fall!

Why Smartphone and Tablet Restrictions Are Vital for Families

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Three Important Conversations to Have With Your Teen About Their Instagram Account
What apps are the most popular with tweens and teens?

As a parent, it’s important to know what apps are the most popular with tweens and teens when discussing online safety. Whether it is dating apps or instant access to media, teenagers are constantly placed in situations where they must know how to act appropriately. One such place where this is especially crucial is Instagram.

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

Since launching in 2010, Instagram has grown to more than 400 million active users. The service, which began as a photo sharing platform, is now a primary method for teens who are looking to connect and communicate with their peers. This idea of digital “connectedness” is integral to what it means to be teen in today’s society. It simply isn’t a feasible option to restrict all access from your child. With that said, many tweens or teenagers – are not mature or responsible enough to handle managing their own social media identity. Here are three questions you can use to start the security advice conversation about safe Instagram use with your family.

Is your account private?

By default, Instagram accounts are public. This means that anyone with web access can see what is posted on the account. Accounts are usually public for one of two reasons; either the user doesn’t know it is not private, or they don’t feel that they have anything to hide and therefore there is no reason to secure the account. Discuss with your child why it is important to keep an Instagram account private. Think of it this way – even if you had no valuables in your car, would you feel comfortable leaving all of the doors unlocked? Even if it is innocent pictures of friends and family, your child needs to recognize that their content is vulnerable.

Do you know your followers? Do you know who is following you?Group of kids on their mobile device

Many teens feel that there is a social etiquette when it comes to Instagram followers. Simply put, if someone follows you, you follow back. While this reciprocation seems polite, it allows strangers easy access into a private account. It is commonplace for anonymous or parody accounts to be created for a school, sport team, or other organization that your child may belong to. Just because the name is familiar, doesn’t mean that the account is safe. Discuss with your teen the importance of knowing exactly who has created an account before they follow it. Make sure they understand that a familiar name or account picture does not necessarily make the account safe to follow.

Are your posts appropriate?

Many teens get a sense of false safety when they feel that they are protected behind a private account. Smart phones and tablets make it easy to screenshot content and then share across other accounts or platforms. Many teens find trouble when images or text that were shared on one account are captured in a screenshot and shared with other people. Discuss with your teen how anything posted on the web becomes permanently accessible and out of their control. The Internet never forgets. This is an important message to share regarding all online activity, not just Instagram.

blog1What else can parents do?

Conversations about social media use with your child should be an open opportunity to discuss what they are posting, who they’re posting it with, and whether it is appropriate to post in the first place. Understanding these makes teens more responsible online, but also establishes norms and etiquette that not only applies to Instagram, but across other social media platforms as well.

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


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

Ensure Child Internet Safety with Controls, Conversations

girl-at-night-looking-at-ipad-600X400Communication is Key

No technology can replace the importance of parental conversations with children about the dangers that exist in the digital world. This fact remains true even in the face of the emerging educational trend of teachers using Internet access for classroom instruction. These days, apps for phones, tablets and other mobile devices carry games, lesson plans and assignment information to and from many students. The data collected is voluminous, not just on the subject matter, but also on the student, as every response, inquiry and entry is recorded and saved for later retrieval. Program developers can track the data and develop profiles based on the student-entered information. A challenge now being recognized is that the resulting databases are not uniformly protected by state or federal law from exploitation by unscrupulous marketers or hackers.

Why Communication is Important

The education software industry is now worth an estimated $8.4 billion dollars, according to the Education Technology Industry Network. Although student information is to be used only for educational purposes, that didn’t stop the College Board from selling the personal information of ACT and SAT test-takers to marketing firms. They, in turn, sold it to colleges, summer camps and test-prep firms. The data-analysis firm InBloom recently shut down because the data it collected could be sold to marketers or stolen by hackers.

Other apps used by people under 21 include many that img-1allow anonymous postings, such as Yik Yak, Secret, and Whisper. Even though the sites may be scanned for flags (bomb, kill, cut), it is virtually impossible to scan the hundreds of thousands of entries added every day. Cyberbullies thrive in the anonymous environment.

Parents who appreciate the benefits of technology, but are also serious about protecting their children from its associated threats are looking for filtering software that gives them a modicum of control over their child web-cruising activities. While there may be specific, community-related concerns, generally recognized threatening sites for kids include those with photos or text of an adult nature; drugs and drug culture; violence or hate language; racism; gambling, tobacco or alcohol.When you use a quality parental control like Netsanity you will find it easier to protect your kids and teens on their iPhone’s and iPad’s since they offer so many great features. One that you will find very useful is Catblocker. This feature makes it easy to keep kids and teens safe from accessing dangerous content on their mobile devices.

Solutions 

Parents may also want to manage the whenof their childs web access, and even set times for when to shut down, or limit the hours in the day that their mobile devices are internet accessible. One of  Netsanity’s most popular features is their Timeblocker scheduler, it can be used regularly to ensure that kids enjoy other activities or spend time finishing homework. They have a free trial so its worth checking out if your child has an Android or Apple mobile device. Additionally, many parents choose to follow their kids along on the social media apps that they use such as Facebook or Instagram. I always remind parents that with today’s tech savvy kids this might not be full proof since they could set up two accounts. One that you follow along with and another that they may keep hidden from you. I discuss this in detail on a previous blog about hiding apps.  No matter which of these (or other) concerns raise red flags about your child use of the internet, there are some things you can do to allow safe, healthy web cruising while limiting exposure to inappropriate people or activities.

Even when using a parental control software it is crucial to communicate with your kids and teens regularly about internet safety and the dangers associated with going online. Also, remind them often that what they post will stay there forever. It is important that they understand not to share personal information or speak to anyone in away that is rude or hurtful. Girlsondevices-450px

A parents opinion is often the strongest contributor to a child decision-making process, even when that not apparent to the parent. Honest conversations about staying safe online will do more to keep your child safe than virtually 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.

Tips for Teens: Your Social Media Accounts and Applying to College

Teenage Couple at Social Dance

You’ve worked hard for years to get into a good college. You’ve studied hard, made the grades you need, and participated in more extracurricular activities than you should have had time to fit into your schedule. Unfortunately, there’s still something that could ruin your chances of getting into your first-choice college: your social media accounts. Today’s college admissions departments are familiar with social media, and they’ll check out anything that you’ve made public before they decide what to do with your application. If you’re ready to apply to college, there are several steps you should take to make sure your social media accounts pass the test.

Lock down your privacy settings. Your privacy settings should be strict anyway. You share things on your social media accounts that you don’t mind your friends and family seeing, but strangers certainly don’t need to view. As you’re applying for colleges, however, your settings need to be tighter than ever before. Keep your privacy settings as high as they’ll go. Then, view your account from an account that isn’t on your friends list or while you’re logged out. What can you see? Keeping visible information as clean and professional as possible will be a point in your favor.

Clean up all of your accounts. If you’ve posted offensive content in the past, including inappropriate pictures, inappropriate remarks, or comments that could be misconstrued, now is the time to delete them. This includes your Pinterest account, which is always publicly searchable. That funny picture that caused your friends to howl with laughter might not be so funny to your future professors. If you simply must have that x-rated information for future reference, save it to a “private”

Angry lonely teen listening to music and expecting a call

board to avoid it being seen by someone you’d rather keep in the dark about your personal activities. You should also check out your Facebook “likes,” the people you follow on Twitter, and anything else that gives a potentially negative view of your personality and interests. From here on out, resist the urge to post that information whenever possible. Remember, it’s not just your college admissions department that will be searching your social media accounts. Future employers are also tech-savvy and interested in what you’ve posted–so keep it clean!

Google yourself regularly. Include not just your name but also your city and state of residence to ensure that you’re pulling up information that’s actually about you instead of wading through pages of irrelevant information. What comes up when you search for yourself? Keep in mind that your habit of never posting anything questionable might not be enough to save you if your friends are posting pictures of your least-appropriate weekend activities and tagging you or calling you by name in them. You can’t know what’s out there in blog posts, public records, and other people’s accounts unless you take the time to check in regularly.

Hire a professional if necessary. Have you let too much information about yourself get “out there” where anyone can see it? If you can’t clean it up yourself, it’s time to call in a professional. Hiring a service to clean up your internet presence can be the difference between an acceptance letter and an, “I’m sorry, but we don’t have an opening for you at this time.” One of our favorite resources is Social Assurity LLC, check them out now before you even start the application process.aloneonphone_cropped

Make your social media sites work to your advantage. Your college expects you to have a social media presence. While keeping it locked down tightly is one way to portray yourself as a responsible student, there are other ways to improve your standing in their eyes. For example, what are you posting on public pages that anyone can view? When you’re respectful but passionate, it looks great to the colleges that are checking you out. Engage in discussions on pages relevant to your interests. Keep in mind that, while grammar and spelling might not matter as much online, it will create a much more professional appearance if you correct those mistakes every once in a while.

For parents of younger children and teens, you can help instill good technology habits before they even begin to dream about a future college or career by utilizing a trustworthy parental control service.  Netsanity for example, offers a variety of parental controls for Apple and Android mobile devices. This can be a great way for parents to instill balance and safe use of social media on mobile devices. Parental controls work best when they are actively used by parents in tandem with great discussions along the way about using social media wisely and in moderation.

Your social media accounts can work for you to create the image of a student that any college would love to have, or they can work against you to create the image of a student that they don’t even want to let darken their doors. If you’re applying for colleges, there’s no time like the present to start cleaning up your accounts.


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

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