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“.
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.
February 25th, 2009
Consumer electronics retailer Best Buy announced last week that they are opening their free electronics recycling initiative to all of their nationwide stores. This was cause for joy in my household, where there are currently two out-of-date laptops, one dilapidated desktop and no fewer than four old cellphones lounging about taking up precious space. Did I mention this is a free service? There are a few notable exceptions to what they will accept (nothing with freon) and there is a $10 fee for monitors, TV’s and CRT’s. But they are offsetting that fee with $10 gift cards in exchange. Not too shabby!
Spring cleaning is almost upon us, so this is a great time to take an inventory of those old CE products you have that need to be recycled. Also, take a look into other options for recycling and additional resources for where you can drop off at www.MyGreenElectronics.org. This site also offers important advice on how to protect your privacy by deleting information off of your old hard drives and cellphones.
Here are a few other notable green campaigns to check out:
Verizon Wireless’ HopeLine Program (recycle cellphones and accessories for victims of domestic violence)
AT&T’s Cell Phones for Soldiers (turn your old cellphone into a prepaid phone for our troops overseas)
Apple & the Environment (iPod and cellphone recycling)
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!
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.
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.
August 12th, 2008
Two of the pieces of computer jargon that often come up in the context of safe computing are Adware and Spyware. It is important to note that these are two separate items, but often contain overlap in terms of the risk they pose to the individual.
Adware is a piece of computer code that resides on your computer that is designed to display advertising to you. Adware can cause pop-ups, slow down your computer by increasing the number of programs running, and can generally be somewhat annoying. Adware is often bundled in with legitimate downloads.
Spyware is a piece of computer code that resides on your computer that monitors you. Spyware can collect information on your Internet browsing habits, including any information that you type into your computer while on the web (such as usernames and passwords). Spyware is generally seen as having greater potential harm to the individual than Adware. Spyware is commonly bundled with illegitimate downloads; it is often times seen in files found on file-sharing networks. To learn more about the risks that file-sharing has for safe computing and kids’ safety, watch Ari Schwartz on identifying Spyware Symptoms (Video in RealPlayer format)
Both Adware and Spyware are not good for safe computing. So how can you help protect yourself from Adware and Spyware? There are two ways. The first, preventative measures you can take to help keep your computer clean. Pre-ventative Tips:
• Know the symptoms of spyware: Before you can protect yourself from new spyware you have to make sure you do not currently have any on your computer. Learn more about spyware symptoms.
• Learn about examples of the most devious programs: The trickiest part of spyware is that there is not one clear-cut type. Knowing the many forms in which spyware may appear on your computer will help you remove or prevent it. View specific examples of spyware.
• Explore steps you can take to prevent spyware: Prevention is the key to a safe and secure computer. The tips to help you prevent spyware will also help keep viruses and hackers from taking advantage of your computer. Learn more about these prevention tips.
Secondly, there are many tools that will help you rid your computer of Spyware or Adware. You should know that each of the tool providers might define Spyware differently. You, the user, should be able to decide for yourself what you find annoying and want to uninstall or disable. GetNetWise offers a list of many different types of Spyware removal tools here: http://spotlight.getnetwise.org/spyware/tools/
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.
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.
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.