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Archive for the ‘Kids’ Safety’ Category

New Data on Sexting from Pew Internet

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Amanda Lenhart from Pew Internet & American Life Project just published a new report on teen sexting, which the report describes as sending “sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images or videos of themselves to someone else via text messaging.” Ms. Lenhart is one of the nation’s leading researchers on youth online behavior. The report differs in some ways from last month’s MTV/Associate Press “Thin Line” study that included research on sexting. Certainly Pew’s research is more rigorous and nuanced. While the MTV study stated that 10 percent of teens had “shared a naked picture of themselves” Pew researches found that actually half that — only four percent — had shared nude photos of themselves.

Previous studies often get misquoted to give the impression that upwards of 25 percent to 30 percent of teens have sent naked pictures of themselves. The new Pew data very specifically states that the number is much, much lower. Of course the cascading effect — meaning the broader distribution of the naked image — can blossom to a much higher percentage.

Another interesting aspect of the Pew study is their acknowledgment that teens sometimes view sexting as a form of “relationship currency.” What is not commonly talked about outside of academic circles is the teen dynamics with relation to sexting are very complex. We as parents have a pretty black and white view of sexting (i.e. DON’T DO IT!). Yet the social pressures and coping mechanisms that result in sexting are not very well understood — certainly not by us as parents. We at GetNetWise applaud Ms. Lenhart for addressing this controversial aspect of the issue.

Of course, we encourage you to read our earlier blog post called “Practical Advice and Dialogue on Sexting” for help.

Remember we told you to set Facebook privacy settings?

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Last year we urged parents to help their kids set their privacy settings in whatever social networking service they used (See the How-To Video Tutorials here). We urged kids to turn the privacy settings to “Friends Only.” Well, things change really quickly on the Internet and Facebook has changed how users can access their privacy settings and even the settings themselves. So, still take our advice about changing your kids’ settings to “friends only” but note that the path to making privacy changes has changed. To get to your Facebook privacy settings simply select in the top right hand corner next to your profile name “Settings” and pull down the menu and select “Privacy Settings.” In our dated How To Video Tutorial “Privacy” was right up at the top, now you just need to take that extra step and select “Settings.” See photo here.

But it really is worth noting that Facebook has expanded the category of what is known as “Personally Available Information.” This is information that users cannot restrict from others. It used to be that in order to find each other on a “social network” you could see each other’s name, networks and fan listings. Now Facebook has expanded that list to include things like a user’s city, gender, photograph, the profile pages you are a fan of, and friends list. So, be aware that you really can’t control whether others see that information about you or your children.

What to do? We recommend taking a different look at what info your teen is sharing by taking a step back. First, log out of Facebook and search for your teen’s name on Facebook through Facebook search and other Web search engines. Take a look and see what you find.  Then log in to Facebook as a non-friend of your teen and search for her name and see what information about her you can find. Make notes on what you can see and what you can’t. Third, and most important, talk with your teen about what you have found. Actually, we recommend performing the above search process together.

If changes are needed go into the “Privacy Settings” and make changes. If you and your teen don’t like how much information about her and her friends must be shared as “Personally Available Information,” write to Facebook.

Technology Can Aid Parents of “Queen Bees”

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Chapter 1 of Rosalind Wiseman‘s update of the best selling book Queen Bees & Wannabes explores the role of technology in the lives of parent and child relationships. It’s worth a read for that chapter alone! Ms. Wiseman offers actionable tips for parents on how they can use technology to keep up with tech savvy teens. In the section “Using Technology for Reconnaissance” Ms. Wiseman advises parents of teens to have them take a camera phone picture of where they are when they are checking in. For a “very sneaky kid, make her take a picture that includes something to indicate the date and time,” according to Ms. Wiseman.

Parents can further take advantage of the technology to fill in the “information vacuums between parents” by befriending other parents using social networking sites like Facebook. According to Ms. Wiseman teens will sometimes exploit the lack of parent-to-parent communication to mask where she is or with whom. It’s an age-old trick — “Jenny’s mom is taking us to pizza and a movie.” Facebook friending and having Jenny’s mom’s cell phone number can seriously reduce that information fog.

Practical Advice and Dialogue on Sexting

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

As a parent or guardian of a teen or tween today, you’ve probably heard ad nauseum about “sexting” and the dangers associated with this risky behavior. What you don’t hear much is practical advice for preventing it and how to talk to your kids about it. Resident experts on youth online safety issues have come to your rescue at ConnectSafely.org with these insightful points on both what sexting is and how to talk about it with your children.

A printable PDF version of the webpage is available along with some thoughtful dialogue on the issue from online safety experts, Anne Collier – “Sexting overblown? – yes and *no*” and Larry Magid – “Teen sexting – troubling but don’t overreact“.

Content control: A new YouTube interface for children

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

If you’ve been looking for an interactive way for your kids to access the wealth of fun, educational and age-appropriate content on YouTube, check out Kideo Player – a new “family safe YouTube” interface. Kideo Player is a parent-created resource that is easy to use, even for the littlest ones. Videos are accessed by pressing the spacebar and are generated randomly – don’t’ like the video showing now? Just hit the spacebar again and up comes the next one.  It’s also ad-free!

The “Poke” button at the foot of the player takes you to the site for the company that helped develop Kideo Player in case you’re interested in sending feedback or seeing what others have to say about the resource.

Listening in on teen safety – some food for thought.

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

This weekend presented a couple of interesting articles regarding teens and their habits for using MP3 players and cellphones. No surprise for any parent (or acquaintance for that matter), teens listen to their MP3 players louder than adults and are rarely using their cellphones to talk but rather to text. While these issues are not directly related to one another, it is always a good time to reflect on how our kids are using their electronics and how we can use these reflections to set boundaries for safe habits.

Time.com featured an article on CNN this morning about preventing hearing loss from MP3 players. While this article mentions the iPod specifically, I think it’s better to relate this to ALL MP3 players and personal music electronics, including cellphones – many of which are now being used in place of a separate MP3 player. The Consumer Electronics Association has a great reference guide for parents concerned about this issue at their site, DigitalTips.org, “The Safety of Your Ears is in Your Hands”.

The Washington Post ran a piece in the Sunday Technology section, “6,473 Texts a Month, But at What Cost?”, regarding a local mother and her surprise about the number of text messages her 15 year-old daughter sent and received. It used to be that parents would be taken by surprise at the physical cost associated with texting, not having an unlimited texting plan with their carrier. The concern in this article was related more to the potential toll of always trying to resolve life’s problems in 140 characters or less. As someone who, though not in the same demographic, also prefers to text over talk, this piece made me stop and think about my own habits. For some great information regarding wireless kid safety, check out these tips from CTIA – the Wireless Association. Food for thought!

Safe Eyes Mobile: Internet safety app for iPhone.

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Safe Eyes Mobile is a new product announced two weeks ago by InternetSafety.com of Atlanta, GA. It’s an internet safety tool for the iPhone. With the new Andriod app store on the horizon, it will be interesting to see more apps like this being developed!

More info about Safe Eyes Mobile is available at www.safeeyes.com/iphone.

GetGameSmart – A smart addition to the online safety community.

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

GetNetWise is a partner of the new GetGameSmart initiative from Microsoft – visit their website at http://www.getgamesmart.com/. We are thrilled to be apart of this much needed coalition to educate parents and caregivers about becoming more informed about what kids are watching, surfing and gaming.

Do You Know Where Your Kids Go Online? Monitoring Kids Web Use through Browser History

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Many parents respond affirmatively when asked in surveys whether they check up on where their children travel on the Internet. Research done by the Pew Internet & American Life Project indicates that 46% of parents monitor their child’s history (or “travels”) online. We suspect the vast majority of them likely monitor their children’s Internet usage by checking the History and Cache files within the Web browser that their child uses. At GetNetWise, we recommend that parents tell their children that they are keeping track of their online travels if they are doing so. Marian Merritt of Norton’s safety blog “Ask Marian” happens to agree. That conversation alone is a great opportunity to talk to your kids about online safety.

For younger children under 10 years old this is a moderately effective approach for parents to get a sense of the sites their kids are visiting. For instance, the browser History will show names and addresses of sites visited in recent days but very little detail about what the child did while there. Yet, this strategy has real limitations for older, savvier kids and teens.

Even though parents may make it a rule that children should not remove, alter, or delete browsing history, there are very simple workarounds to remove, alter, delete, or even never record a browsing history. One such work around is a simple function available in the Safari browser called “Private Browsing” that turns history recording off.

When Private Browsing is engaged the Web browser goes into stealth mode — no browsing history cookies or cache will be recorded. This feature can be switched on and off very easily, leading to a History and Cache that is incomplete. It is also relatively easy to altering a History to remove individual websites visited.

Private Browsing

It is important for parents to keep these types of workarounds in mind when considering whether they are effectively keeping track of their kids’ footprints online. Children younger than eleven would seem less likely to “work-around” history, than teenaged users. It is vitally important that parents clearly define rules for appropriate browsing behavior and talk about Web safety with their kids. If you as a parent decide you want to monitor your child’s online used and are concerned that he or she is manipulating the browser’s history and cache files you may want to consider using a more a robust approach to keeping track of Internet usage. To supplement Internet usage monitoring, there are many monitoring tools available on the market [See GetNetWise Tools Database for a list]. Many of these tools help parents keep an active eye on a child’s footsteps through cyberspace.

NSFW Tag, The New Content Rating for the Net?

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

The Internet often spawns its own language. Shorthand phrases like “LOL” (Laughing-Out-Loud) organically emerge as part of the Internet vernacular. Recently we’ve noticed a new, online shorthand phrase that is used to indicate that the content of the message or Web page is not appropriate because it is off-color at best or sexually explicit at worst. It is called “NSFW.”

Families and users should be on the look out for this phrase, which is actually an acronym that stands for “Not Safe For Work (NSFW).”  This phrase is used as a “warning” about content. It is often used in the context in which a link, or piece of material is being categorized by someone as having qualities which may not make it suitable for a workplace environment. This can be because of language, sexual content, violence, or any number of other traits that may make it inappropriate. Of course, if it’s not safe for viewing in the workplace, it’s probably not safe to view in your home with children around.

You will most often see NSFW posted in email message subject lines, next to web link headers and on message boards. An example of how this might be seen on the Web follows:  http://www.somepage.com/adultcontent.html (NSFW)

While this information may be typed out, sometimes it is additionally carried as computer code (“meta-data”) embedded within a link. Mozilla Firefox has a plug-in which allows you to avoid links tagged as being NSFW.

It is important to note that this is not a universal standard. It is up to the individual to “tag” content as NSFW. This means that the tag is entirely subjective; the tag is applied based on the perspective of the individual providing the link.

The lack of detail about the content of the link can be frustrating, but this tag may spawn widespread grassroots adoption. While traditional media is rated and tagged according to different trademarked ratings systems, there is no such assurance that trademarked systems will take root on the Net. In fact, according to sources from the tag’s Wikipedia entry, a trademark claim to NSFW was denied. Grassroots labels such as NSFW may become the new wave of ratings guides.

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