Category Archives: cyberbullying

Top 5 Effective Ways of Dealing with Cyber Bullying

Due to an increase in internet usage, many people can access the internet. Cyber is considered a crime. Most people think that they can get away with online bullying as opposed to in person. Cyberbullying affects adults as much as children. Bullying can make one feel hurt, angry, or sad. You can develop depression or anxiety and low-self-esteem. The worst is that bullying happens in places where one is supposed to feel safe, like the home or even at work. Written words can hurt worse than spoken words since they are permanent. Every time you return to your page, you can see the comments. Here are ways of dealing with online bullying:

  1. Do not Take Negative Comments Personally

The rude comments made by the bullies have nothing to do with you. The bully is just trying to spill his negative energy to you. They may be having some personal issues they are dealing with and want somewhere to vent their sorrows.

  1. Avoid Rereading the Offending Comments

Rereading the offending comments will lead to obsession and further anger. You can report the offending remarks to group moderators for actions to be against them. You can keep away from social media for sometime to allow them to get off your back. For example, consider turning off your phone or computer for a night and organize some technology-free activities like meditating or enjoying a nice meal. You can also switch from social media to getting your news from digital news sites like Lusaka times.

  1. It would be best if you Understood that Not Everyone Shares your Beliefs

You should be open to other people’s opinions and thoughts. Accept that many people can be right and have a different view to yours. After thinking about it,what seems like a rude comment at first might be someone expressing a contrary opinion? To be able to appreciate other people’s ideas, you can read articles on online sites like zambian observer to get different views and events.

  1. Don’t Retaliate with Nasty Post

If you retaliate with the nasty post, the bully will know that they have hit you. Please do not give them the satisfaction of feeling good by putting you down. By ignoring their comments, they may feel you are not bothered and leave you alone. It would be best if you portrayed a picture of being emotionally stable.

  1. You Can Use the 30 Seconds Rule

To make sure that what you write is sober, make a habit of stepping away from your phone or computer for 30 seconds. When you are back,look at your message and reread it and evaluate how you’d feel incase someone writes that to you. By observing the 30 seconds rule, you ensure that whatever you post in social media does not attract negative comments that can lead to bullying.

Being considerate can make your online experience better. Combating cyberbullying should be everyone’s responsibility. If you consider reading from independent sites like Lusaka times help you appreciate different opinions and regard negative comments. You can also raise awareness about cyberbullying in comments sections of sites likeZambian observer. For the internet to feel safe, you should stick up for those who are bullied and shun the vice.

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Is Your Child Being Cyberbullied? What Parents Need to Know

cyberbullying

In this season of social distancing, teens need their friends more than ever. Daily digital connection — through texting, video chat, social networks, and gaming — is critical to keeping friend groups strong. But could increased time online these days lead to an increase in cyberbullying?

While there isn’t data to answer that question definitively, it wouldn’t be surprising for parents to notice some signs of conflict surface as the months continue to creep by. And, with re-open dates for schools in limbo, it’s more important than ever to keep the family safety conversation humming.

For clarity: Allowing more screen time doesn’t mean more cyberbullying or conflict is certain to occur. However, experience has taught us that more screen time does increase the potential for digital conflict.

Social and Emotional Fallout

This unprecedented health event hasn’t been easy on anyone, but kids especially are likely to be holding onto some big emotions about it. A recent Common Sense Media study confirms that social media has been key to helping kids get through this crisis, but one in four kids surveyed feels “more lonely than usual.”

The school year with its milestones — proms, graduations, dates, parties — ended abruptly. It’s logical to assume these losses have sparked feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, and anxiety. And because online is where most kids connect with peers, these emotions can easily play out there in the form of aggressive behavior, conflict, or persistent drama.

Digital Awareness

cyberbullying

So how do you know if your child is being cyberbullied or dealing with conflict online? It isn’t always easy simply because so many kids won’t admit to being bullied. Often they believe telling an adult will make the harassment worse. They may feel ashamed or embarrassed about a regretful situation or the fact that they’re being targeted in the first place. For that reason, one of the best ways to help your child is to be aware of the time they spend online, the people they connect with, and how those digital circles impact their wellbeing.

What to Look For

The many forms of cyberbullying continue to evolve alongside the digital culture. Here are just a few ways kids bully one another.

 

  • Saying hurtful or intimidating things to someone on social media, a text, or email.
  • Making negative comments about a person’s sexuality, race, religion, handicaps, or physical features.
  • Camouflaging hurtful or threatening comments with words like “jk” (just joking).
  • Asking online friends to vote for or against another person, with Instagram polls or captions such as “Is this person hot or not?” or “Would you go out with this person?”
  • Posting or sharing with others the private photos, memes, emails, texts, or secrets without the permission of another person.
  • Intentionally posting unflattering or embarrassing photos of another person.
  • Spreading rumors or false information about another person online.
  • Making any threat to another person no matter how harmless you think it may be.

Signs of Cyberbullying

If your child is getting bullied online, there are some potential signs.

  • Anxious or upset after reading a text, frequently gets sick or nauseous, declines invitations from friends, or bows out of fun family outings.
  • Trouble sleeping or being withdrawn or moody.
  • Being protective of his or her phone, deleting or deactivating social networks
  • Sudden loss of a steady friend group or sudden complaining about once-loved friends.
  • Loss of interest in favorite sports or hobbies or a decline in grades.
  • References to suicide, loneliness, and hopelessness (when severe bullying is taking place).

Know Where They Go

Another way to understand your child’s emotional connection to his or her digital communities is to learn about their favorite platforms and monitor them. Pay specific attention to the tone of his or her social threads. And, if you see concerning comments or posts, ask your child how you can help. If your child is using risky apps such as WhatsApp or Kik, that allows people to use the app anonymously, discuss your concerns with your child. Some social networks are more conducive to cyberbullying than others.

Monitor Gaming Communities

Gaming time can skyrocket during the summer, and when games get competitive, cyberbullying can happen. Spend time with your child while he or she is gaming. Listen to the tone of the conversations and be aware of your child’s demeanor. For your child’s physical and emotional health, make every effort to set gaming limits as summer approaches.

Parenting Moves to Avoid

Bullying experts will tell you that what you don’t do if your child is getting bullied is often as important as what you do. Here’s some insight:

1) Never advise a child to ignore the bullying. 2) Never blame a child for being bullied even if he or she did something to aggravate the bullying. No one deserves to be bullied. 3) As angry as you feel that someone is bullying your child, do not encourage your child to fight back physically. 4) Don’t overreact; escalate accordingly. If you can identify the bully, consider talking with the child’s parents. 5) Don’t lead the charge. Give your child veto power over your involvement. If they say they don’t want you to get involved (unless you suspect physical danger or suicide), respect that. 6) If the bullying continues to escalate, report it, seek help from school counselors or the police if necessary. 7) Even if you are fearful, don’t take your child’s digital devices away. He or she didn’t do anything wrong.

Online Resources

A number of organizations are leading the charge against cyberbullying and have fantastic resources for families. Here are just a few: Cyberbullying Research CenterStopBullying.govStompOutBullying.orgKindCampaign.comItGetsBetter.orgNational Bullying Prevention Center. If you’d like your organization added to this list, please leave a comment.

We hope you and your family are staying healthy these days and finding some time to talk about online safety. If you need a refresher, read Part I and Part II of our Online Safety Basics series. And, if you’re looking for a fun school lesson for the day, you can always quiz your kids on any of McAfee’s Family Safety content!

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Is Cyber Bullying Just Kids Being Mean On Social Media, Or Is There More To It?

Whilst there are many definitions out there, to me cyberbullying is any form of communication that is aimed at hurting or embarrassing a specific target. From my personal experience, it has been often used in an attempt by the bully to raise themselves above their target and/or discredit the target. Working within the cybersecurity field, […]… Read More

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What’s the Right Age to Give Your Child a Phone?

iPhone parental controls

“Can I pleeease have my own phone?”

The “first phone” is one of the most loaded questions a child can ask and it can start as early as elementary school. And, with kids homebound most of the time, boredom could be fueling that dreaded request even more.

That’s because phones have become an ever-present accessory for kids. According to a 2018 Pew Institute study, 95 percent of teens have a smartphone or access to one, and 45 percent say they are online on a near-constant basis.

Even so, before you make the leap or give in to the pressure, there’s a lot to consider.

Access Granted

Let’s be real. When you decide to give your child his or her first phone, it’s never about the hardware. It’s about the access a phone provides a child. A phone connects kids to a whole new universe of fun, learning, and limitless media-creation tools. But that world is also brimming with risk.

No doubt, a phone is convenient and can also be a safety tool for a family. It allows you to call or text your child at any time of the day, which is a lifesaver for working and divorced parents, or caregivers.

However, when you hand your child his first phone, you are also giving him a digital portal leading directly to potential cyberbullying, inappropriate content, encounters with strangers, and a sea of contrary ideas and values.

Ultimately, the best answer to the “first phone” question — while the object of endless opinion — is a personal choice that reflects the unique dynamic of each family.

It’s rarely an easy choice. Here are a few things to consider that may help you make the best decision for your family.

iPhone parental controls10 Questions to Consider

  1. Does your child need a phone, or does he want a phone? As a parent, ask yourself the same question. Do you need your child to own a phone, or do you want it to make life easier?
  2. Does your child’s life/family circumstances (i.e., two households, riding public transit, geographic location, or health condition) require him to have a phone?
  3. Each child matures differently from his peers and even his siblings. One way to evaluate maturity is to ask: Is my child responsible? Does he generally follow the rules at school and at home? Does he take care of his possessions, or is he frequently losing or breaking them?
  4. Listening and communicating are foundational to responsibility. Does your child listen? Does he communicate with you and others well?
  5. Does your child understand and demonstrate how to treat others respectfully?
  6. Phones range in cost and functionality. Consider: Can our family afford a phone? What’s the best type of phone for my child’s maturity level (primary, flip, smart).
  7. As a parent, do you have the time to consistently teach your child how to use a cell phone properly?
  8. As a parent, are you able to monitor your child’s phone activity either with parental controls, physical checks, or both?
  9. As a parent, do you understand how to keep your child’s privacy and mental health safeguarded online?
  10. As a parent, are you willing to create, communicate, and follow through with family safety rules?

The impact a new piece of technology can on the family dynamic is also something you may want to explore. Digital access too soon can fast-track a child’s independence and compromise the natural parent-child bonding process. You may want to ask a few other parents how their relationship changed once they gave their child a phone and if they’d do anything differently.

iPhone Parental Controls

If you determine the time is right to give your child his first phone, we recommend parental controls be the first order of business after unboxing the device. The iOs parental controls can be found in Settings under the Screen Time tab. Within Screen Time, parents can set limits on device time, apps, contacts, and block content.

Android Parental Controls 

Enabling Android parental controls is similar to iOS. Tap the Play Store icon on the phone home screen then tap the Menu (three lines, top left). Once in the menu, go to Navigation, then the Settings tab. Scroll down to find Parental Controls and slide it to “on.” Behind this tab, much like iPhone parental controls, you can set screen, communication, and content restrictions.

Getting the settings combinations on your child’s phone will take time and will likely be an ongoing task (kids can easily change them back). Often, it will be trial and error as you discover what kind of content is getting through the phone’s basic filtering settings. This is why it’s also a good idea to add comprehensive monitoring software for an extra layer of protection on family devices. Also helpful is using software that blocks virus and malware scams that can target kids.

The McAfee team continues to produce content specific to the challenges of Working #FromHome and Schooling #FromHome. Our goal is to help you create the most secure, productive, and fun environment as possible for your family during these unique times. Look for those articles here on the McAfee blog.

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Keeping Virtual Play Dates, Hang Outs, and Video Chats Safe for Everyone

virtual play date

Every day we discover (or stumble over) new ways of coping and connecting during this unique chapter in family life. Still, as every age group under your roof finds their favorite virtual play date and hangout apps, parents may need to add a few safety rails to make sure the fun stays fun.

IRL community resurfaces

virtual play date

While this health crisis is devastating in so many ways, it’s also put a spotlight on the many heartwarming ways to connect in real life (IRL). We’re placing teddy bears in our windows for solidarity, creating scavenger hunts for neighborhood kids, serenading shut-ins, publically supporting first responders, celebrating birthdays and graduations with drive-by parades, and so, so much more.

The ongoing infusion of true, human connection has softened the uncertainty. Still, kids of every age need to maintain an emotional connection with peers. Here are a few things to think about as kids of every age connect with friends online.

Pre-K and Elementary Virtual Play Dates

Since health experts have put restrictions on familiar fun for little ones such as playgrounds, sports leagues, sleepovers, playdates, and even visits with grandparents, parents are relaxing screen time rules and looking for ways to have virtual playdates. Free video tools such as FaceTime and Zoom are proving lifesavers for group art, play, and learning, as are safe websites for young ones and phone apps. (If you run out things to do, here’s a great list of fun to tap and great learning sites for every age group).

Keep Them Safe

  • Share online experiences with young children at all times. Sit with them to teach, monitor, and explain the context of new digital environments. Also, keep computers and phones in a common area.
  • Try to keep screen time brief. Even young kids can become too screen-reliant.
  • Maximize privacy settings on all devices and turn on and safe mode or search on websites and apps.
  • Introduce concepts such as cyberbullying and strangers in age-appropriate language.
  • Start family security efforts early. Consider the benefits of filtering software, safe browsing, and encrypting your family’s digital activity with a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Middle and High Schooler Virtual Hang Outs

While screen time has spiked, digital connection while homebound is also essential for tweens and teens for both learning and peer relationships. Kids finding their new virtual hangouts on social networks, group chats, and video games. They are also playing virtual board games using sites such as Pogo, Let’s Play Uno, and Zoom. Netflix Party has become a fun way to watch Netflix with groups of friends.

Keep Them Safe

  • At this age many kids (own or will soon own) a smartphone. With increased time online, you may want to review the basics, such as privacy and location settings. This includes gaming devices.
  • With increased internet use and most schools closed for the year, using parental control software and gaming security software can help parents reduce online risks for children of all ages.
  • Be aware of and talk about trending, risky digital behaviors, and challenges that can surface on apps such as TikTok, and WhatsApp.
  • Review and approve games and apps before they are downloaded and consider monitoring your children’s devices as well as social profiles and posts.
  • This age group is quick to jump on public wifi, which puts your family’s data at risk. Exploring using a family VPN is critical for this age group.
  • Discuss the danger of connecting with strangers online. Also, discuss the risks of oversharing personal information and photos, even in seemingly private chats and texts. Don’t let boredom lead to bad choices.
  • Discuss cyberbullying and how to block and report accounts that express hateful, racist, or threatening behavior.
  • Coach your kids on using strong passwords and how to verify legitimate websites and identity online scams.

There’s nothing normal for families about this time, but there is something special. Grab it. Keep talking and laughing, especially on the hard days. Have a daily “heart check-in” with your teen if he or she seems to be isolating. Give one another space for topsy turvy moods. And, don’t forget parents, before this is all over, be sure to nail that TikTok dance with your kids and share it with the world!

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Internet Safety for Kids: A Refresher for Homebound Families

internet safety for kids

Editor’s Note: This is part II of our internet safety for kids series. Part I focuses on younger children and can be read here.

Parents have always been concerned about keeping their kids safe online — especially their tweens and teens. That conversation is even more critical with parents and kids now working and learning at home. But as the days turn into weeks, the line between safe and risky digital behavior may get a little blurry. Maybe we can help by refreshing some basics.

Why is internet safety for kids important?

There’s no way around it. Young and old, over time, we’ve tethered nearly every aspect of our lives to the digital realm. If we want to work, bank, shop, pay bills, or connect with family and friends, we have to plugin. A wired life makes internet safety not just important, but mission-critical for parents.

Kids go online for school, to be entertained, and to connect with friends; only they don’t have the emotional maturity or critical thinking skills to process everything they will encounter on the other side of their screens.

That’s where proactive digital parenting comes in.

If our parenting goal is to raise wise, responsible, caring adults, equipped for real life, that goal must also include helping them safeguard their emotional and physical health from online risk. There’s no such thing as a digital platform or product that is 100% safe. So, our best strategy is to learn and pass on skills that mitigate that risk.

What are the dangers of the internet?

Any danger that exists offline is potentially multiplied when we log online due to the vast access the web affords each one of us. In a few clicks, we can unlock a world of possibilities. The flip side? There’s an ever-present battalion of crooks and bullies out to exploit that access. Online we will encounter the best and the worst of humankind. The daily threats to children include bullying, inappropriate content, predators, and the loss of privacy. Add to that list, digital viruses and malware, phishing scams, sharing regrettable content, and gaming addiction.

How can homebound kids avoid digital risk?

So what can we do to ensure the weeks ahead don’t bring more digital risk into our homes? We start by having consistent, candid conversations with our kids about online safety (even if eye-rolling begins). Truth: Your family’s cybersecurity is as strong as the weakest security link in your family. If one family member is lax about internet safety, your entire family’s security is compromised.

So let’s get started with some internet safety basics to share with your tweens and teens. To read internet safety guidelines for younger children, click here.

11 Internet Safety Basics for Homebound Teens

internet safety for kids

  1. Get candid about content. Your tweens and teens have likely come across inappropriate material online. You can minimize further exposure by discussing expectations and family values around acceptable content — both sharing it and receiving it. Reminder: “Vanishing” Snapchats and deleted content can be easily captured in a screenshot — nothing shared online is private. For extra monitoring muscle, consider adding a parental control software to your family’s internet safety plan.
  2. Keep passwords, software, apps updated. Being homebound gives us all extra time for details. Go through personal and family devices and update all passwords. Keeping device software and apps updated also protects kids from outside risk.
  3. Balance life and tech. Kids can lose their entire day surfing, scrolling, and watching YouTube or TikTok videos. Establish screen limits help kids grow healthy tech habits. Consider scheduling device breaks, no phone zones (dinner table, movie time, bedtime), and installing software that features time limits.
  4. Be a leader online. Yoda was on target — with much power comes much responsibility. Many online dangers can be diminished by consistently teaching kids to be upstanders online. Practicing empathy, respect, tolerance, and compassion makes the digital world safer for everyone.
  5. Address peer pressure. Kids with devices can share unwise, personal photos with friends they trust. When friendships end, however, those photos can be shared or used for bullying or extortion. Discuss digital peer pressure with your child and how to respond.
  6. Look out for scams. Talk frequently about the many forms scams can take, such as phishing, malware, catfishing, fake news, and clickbait.
  7. Don’t friend strangers. Sexual predators create fake social media accounts specifically to befriend kids. In turn, kids share personal info, daily plans, location, and may even agree to meet in person with online friends. Discuss these risky scenarios and other manipulation tactics of predators with your child. Be aware of his or her friend circles, and look for chat apps such as WhatsApp or Kik.
  8. Maximize privacy on social profiles. Help kids maximize privacy settings on social profiles and delete any profile or post information that unintentionally gives away personal data. Consider removing the names of family members, pets, school, hometown, and birthdays. Hackers can piece together this information to crack passwords or create authentic-looking phishing scams.
  9. Consider a family VPN. Virtual Private Networks are becoming the most popular way to conduct business, shop, and safeguard a family’s online activity from outsiders. VPN encryption can protect a child against several virtual threats.
  10. Review gaming safety. If your kids spend a lot of time on games like Fortnite and Call of Duty, they can encounter strangers, bullying, and scams that target gamers. Teen gamers should use a firewall to help block would-be attackers from gaining access to their PC and home networks and as well as a comprehensive security solution to protect devices from malware and other threats.
  11. Monitor devices. Consider spot-checking all devices routinely. Review privacy settings on social networks (kids change them), look for new apps, review browsing history, chats, and texts. Need to go a step farther? Keep your child’s phone for a few hours to check notifications that pop up. You may find activity that wasn’t necessarily visible otherwise.

Taming all the moving parts of internet safety isn’t easy, and balancing your relationship with your child and parental monitoring can get turbulent at times. While kids can experience more drama and anxiety by going online, social networks remain critical channels for affirmation, self-expression, and connection. In the weeks to come, take time to listen, learn, and get to know your child’s digital passions and patterns. Identify safety gaps and reinforce those areas. Good luck, parents, you’ve got this!

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Little Ones Online More? Here Are 10 Basics To Keep Them Safe

protecting kids online

Online safety conversations look dramatically different depending on the age and stage of your child. For very young children, toddlers through elementary school, parents have a golden opportunity to lay the foundations that will shape a child’s digital perspectives and behaviors for a lifetime.

One way to keep younger children safe online is simply to begin. How early, you might ask? From the day they arrive. If you’ve ever seen a four-month-old reach for mommy’s smartphone only to cry when mommy takes it away, it’s clear the baby has observed the culture around him. He knows that the shiny toy that hums is one of mommy’s favorite things. It has the power to capture and hold her attention. It makes her laugh, cry, and influence her routine and emotions.

Protecting kids online

Modeling balanced screen habits is a powerful way to influence behavior as toddlers begin to discover television, apps, interactive toys, and online learning sites. At this stage, intentional steps such as limiting screen time, reviewing content, and talking with your little one in simple concepts about the images and stories encounter will help grow their digital IQs. Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping all screens turned off around babies and toddlers younger than 24 months.

Move With The Curve

As kids move into elementary school, technology is often part of the learning experience. Some children (depending on the household) may even own smartphones. Because the integration of technology begins to increase, this stage requires parents to move with the curve of a child’s online safety needs. Priorities: Securing devices kids take to school, setting filters on web browsers, limiting screen and gaming time, encouraging physical activity and hobbies, and having consistent, age-appropriate conversations about the online world is more important than ever.

10 Online Safety Basics for Younger Children

  1. Keep devices in a common area. By locating all computers, TVs, and devices in a common area, parents can easily monitor a child’s online activity. This simple step also helps kids get used to parental monitoring and responsible digital behavior.
  2. Follow family device rules. Establish family ground rules for technology use and repeat them to your younger children. Every child’s maturity and self-control level is different. If you think your child’s connection with his or her technology begins to tip toward the unhealthy, make adjustments as you go. If you set a 20-minute game time limit, be ready to enforce it consistently. In our experience, inconsistency in enforcing technology rules when kids are young is one of the biggest regrets among parents of teens.
  3. Introduce password security. As we accumulate IoT devices, it’s common for younger children to interact with home assistants, SmartTVs, digital toys, and online games. When password prompts come up on a login screen, explain to your child what you are doing (use your password) and why passwords are necessary. Get into the habit of using 2-factor authentication for passwords and locking your device home screens with a pin code.
  4. Filter content. Younger kids accept content at face value and don’t have the critical thinking skills process information or to be alone online. If you allow younger kids online, consider sitting with them, and explaining the content in front of them. To avoid the chance of your child encountering inappropriate content by mistake, consider adding parental control software to family devices.protecting kids online
  5. Start the privacy conversation. Kids of all ages understand the word “mine.” As your kids interact with the online in the early years, explain why it’s essential to keep their name, picture, family member names, school name, and address private.
  6. Introduce VPN use early. Browsing on a secure network (VPN, Virtual Private Network) from an early age reinforces the concept of privacy online. Explain to your child how the private encryption “tunnel” your content (searches, activity, messages) passes through and how that keeps other people from grabbing your private information. Even a text conversation with Grandma could accidentally give away information.
  7. Explain the concept of scams. When age-appropriate, explain how (and why) some people online try to trick you into clicking a box or a link to learn more about you. Discuss why you shouldn’t click on pop-up ads, hyperlinks, and messages that could contain malware or phishing links. To guard family devices against malicious links, consider free tools like Web Advisor.
  8. Discuss digital stranger danger. When you open a web browser, you open your home to content and people you don’t know. Children of any age can inadvertently run into digital danger zones. Teach young children not to talk to a stranger online or send (or share) photos with others. It’s also a good idea to cover the camera lens on your laptop or tablet, advise children to never stay on a website you would not approve of, and to never download or click a link without asking your permission.
  9. Introduce safe social networking. Online communities are here to stay, so consider starting social network safety talks early. Several kid-friendly browsers, apps, and social networks exist online for younger kids and are perfect for teaching them about privacy settings, how to collaborate and interact with others online.
  10. Start talking. Keep talking. Of all the principles we’ve featured, we’ve saved the best for last. Creating an open, trusting dialogue with your child is your #1 security tool in keeping your child safe online today and into the future.

While schools introduce kids to internet safety basics to protect kids online and do well to refresh concepts along the way, it’s the consistent, intentional work of parents that shape the values and skills a child needs to navigate the online world. By putting some of these foundational principles in place early and committing to consistent follow-through, it’s possible to maintain critical influence as your children move into different phases of their digital lives.

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WhatsApp Security Hacks: Are Your ‘Private’ Messages Really Ever Private?

WhatsApp hacks

WhatsApp one of the largest instant messengers and considered by many a social network of its own. So, in continuing our app safety discussion, we’re diving into some of the top security hacks and questions many WhatsApp app users and parents may have.

But first, what’s a security hack? In short, it’s an attempt to exploit the weaknesses in an app, network, or digital service to gain unauthorized access, usually for some illicit purpose. Here are just some of the concerns WhatsApp users may have and some suggestions on boosting security.

WhatsApp Hack FAQ

Are WhatsApp conversations private?

Yes — but there are exceptions. More than any other app, WhatsApp offers greater privacy thanks to end-to-end encryption that scrambles messages to ensure only you and the person you’re communicating with can read your messages or listen to your calls. Here’s the catch: WhatsApp messages (which include videos and photos) are vulnerable before they are encrypted and after they are decrypted if a hacker has managed to drop spyware on the phone. Spyware attacks on WhatsApp have already occurred. Safe Family Tip: No conversation shared between devices is ever 100% private. To increase your WhatsApp security, keep sensitive conversations and content offline, and keep your app updated. 

Can anyone read my deleted WhatsApp messages?

A WhatsApp user can access his or her own deleted messages via the chat backup function that automatically backs up all of your messages at 2 a.m. every day. WhatsApp users can delete a message by using the Delete for Everyone button within an hour after sending though it’s not foolproof. Here’s the catch: Anyone who receives the message before it’s deleted can take a screenshot of it. So, there’s no way to ensure regrettable content isn’t captured, archived, or shared. There are also third-party apps that will recall deleted messages shared by others. Another possibility is that a hacker can access old chats stored in an app user’s cloud. Safe Family Tip: Think carefully about sharing messages or content you may regret later.

Can WhatsApp messages be deleted permanently?

Even if a WhatsApp user decides to delete a message, it’s no guarantee of privacy since conversations are two-way, and the person on the receiving end may screenshot or save a copy of a chat, video, or photo. On the security side, you may delete a message and see it disappear, but WhatsApp still retains a “forensic trace of the chat” that can be used by hackers for mining data, according to reports. Safe Family Tip: For extra security, turn off backups in WhatsApp’s Settings.

WhatsApp hacksHow can I secure my WhatsApp?

It’s crucial when using WhatsApp (or any other app) to be aware of common scams, including malware, catfishing, job and money scams, spyware, and file jacking. To amplify security, turn on Security Notifications in Settings, which will send an alert if, for some reason, your security code changes. Other ways to boost security: Use two-step verification, never share your 6-digit SMS verification code, disable cloud back up, and set your profile to private. Safe Family Tip: Install comprehensive family security software and secure physical access to your phone or laptop with a facial, fingerprint, or a passcode ID. Don’t open (block, report) messages from strangers or spammers. Never share personal information with people you don’t know. 

How do I delete my WhatsApp account from another phone?

To delete a WhatsApp account go to > Settings > Account > Delete My Account. Deleting your account erases message history, removes you from groups, and deletes your backup data. According to WhatsApp, for users moving from one type of phone to another, such as from an iPhone to an Android, and keeping the same phone number, your account information stays intact, but you won’t be able to migrate messages across platforms. If you’re not keeping your number, you should delete WhatsApp from your old phone, download WhatsApp to your new phone, and verify your new phone number. Upgrading the same phone type will likely include options to migrate messages. Safe Family Tip: Before you give away or exchange an old phone, wipe it clean of all your data.

How do you know your WhatsApp is scanned?

WhatsApp users can easily sync devices by downloading the WhatsApp web app and activating it (Settings > WhatsApp Web/Desktop). Devices sync by scanning a QR code that appears on your laptop screen. You know your device is scanned when you see the green chat screen appear on your desktop. Safe Family Tip: It’s possible for a person with physical access to your desktop to scan your QR code and to gain account access. If you think someone has access to your account log out of all your active web sessions in WhatsApp on your mobile phone.

How long are WhatsApp messages stored?

According to WhatsApp, once a user’s messages are delivered, they are deleted from WhatsApp servers. This includes chats, photos, videos, voice messages, and files. Messages can still be stored on each individual’s device. Safe Family Tip: The moment you send any content online, it’s out of your control. The person or group on the receiving end can still store it on their device or to their cloud service. Never send risky content. 

How secure is WhatsApp?

There’s no doubt, end-to-end encryption makes it much more difficult for hackers to read WhatsApp messages. While WhatsApp is more secure than other messaging apps — but not 100% secure.

Is it true that WhatsApp has been hacked?

Yes. Several times and in various ways. No app, service, or network has proven to be unhackable. Safe Family Tip: Assume that any digital platform is vulnerable. Maximize privacy settings, never share risky content, financial information, or personal data.

Is WhatsApp safe to send pictures?

Encryption ensures that a transmission is secure, but that doesn’t mean WhatsApp content is safe or that human behavior is predictable. People (even trusted friends) can share private content. People can also illegally attempt to gain access to any content you’ve shared. This makes WhatsApp (along with other digital sharing channels) unsafe for exchanging sensitive information or photos. Safe Family Tip: Nothing on the internet is private. Never send or receive pictures that may jeopardize your privacy, reputation, or digital footprint.

WhatsApp isn’t the only popular app with security loopholes hackers exploit. Every app or network connected to the internet is at risk for some type of cyberattack. We hope this post sparks family discussions that help your kids use this and other apps wisely and helps keep your family’s privacy and safety online top of mind.

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Is the TikTok App Safe for Kids?

TikTok safety

Everyone’s talking about the TikTok app. In addition to talking, tweens and teens are swiping, laughing, and sharing TikTok videos. Meanwhile, parents are concerned with one thing: Is TikTok safe?

What is TikTok?

Based out of China, TikTok is a video-based social networking app that replaced the Musical.ly app, which ended its digital run in 2017. The app allows users to create an account, make and post short 15-60-second videos, as well as view, comment on, and share videos from other users. According to reports, TikTok has 1 billion active users in 155 countries. Approximately 60 percent of TikTok’s audience is between 16 and 24. Guidelines state that anyone 12+ can use the app, though there’s no age-verification process.

Why Do Kids Love TikTok?

TikTok is the latest and greatest digital hangout that has become the main channel for kids to discover new and creative ways to express themselves. They can follow their interests, be entertained, and be rewarded with views, likes, and shares for their artistic efforts. Tik Tok has built-in editing tools, free music, and dialogue clips, and filters that make creating videos easy for any skill level. Users can share funny sketches, lip-sync videos, and spontaneous, personal raves or rants. According to app reviews posted by teens, TikTok is also a go-to creative outlet, a place to de-stress, and a confidence-builder.

What are the risks?

Apps aren’t inherently risky. Rather, it’s the way individuals use an app that puts themselves or others at risk. That’s why understanding how your kids engage on TikTok, and how to make the experience as safe as possible, is important. Here are some of the risks your child could encounter on TikTok:

Contact from strangers. According to news reports, predators use TikTok to connect with kids. Anyone who follows a TikTok user can privately message them and initiate private conversations outside of the app.

Exposure to mature content and lyrics. Apps attract users of all ages, which means if your child has a TikTok account, he or she has access to the public video feed. With 1 billion users, your child will likely see videos containing sexually suggestive or explicit images and hear explicit lyrics (we saw and heard plenty). They may even unknowingly use music clips for their videos that contain explicit lyrics.

Spam and malware. Recent reports reveal software flaws that could potentially open up TikTok accounts to a range of malicious attacks. Researchers say hackers could have exploited the flaws to send legitimate-looking text messages loaded with malware, made private videos public, and accessed personal data.

Excessive screentime. TikTok is a curiosity magnet for kids, which can lead to excessive screen time, lack of sleep, and a host of other negative outcomes from too much time online.

TikTok safety

Cyberbullying. TikTok users have been known to create “cringe compilations,” which are videos they deem to be odd, uncool, or cringe-worthy. Several of these cruel compilations have been posted outside of TikTok and have gone viral.

Quest for likes. As with any social network, some users can become preoccupied with amassing views, likes, and followers. This obsession can lead to bad decisions, risky behavior (such as challenges), cyberbullying, and sharing harmful content.

Oversharing. Some kids share their daily activities through TikTok videos and inadvertently expose personal information such as their school, their location, home address, and other personal data.

10 Family Safety Tips

Should you allow your child to use TikTok? The answer to that question depends on a few things, including the age of the child using the app and how they use it. Here are a few tips that may help in that decision.

  1. Download the app. The best way to understand TikTok is to download it, create an account, and explore. Take some solo time to search a few hashtags, scroll some feeds, and get a feel for the content. Visit the app’s safety center for an overview of safety tools. Visit the privacy center to see how your child’s data is being used.
  2. Go through the app together. Sit and browse content with your child. Discuss the pros and cons of the content and how it does or doesn’t align with your family’s digital ground rules.
  3. Max privacy settings. By making a TikTok account private, only approved followers (known friends) can view your child’s videos or send your child messages. When an account is public, anyone can comment, send messages, or share your child’s videos.
  4. Explore restricted mode. TikTok has a Restricted Mode for minors that will allow you to filter out inappropriate content.
  5. Explore Family Safety Mode. This TikTok feature allows a parent to link their TikTok account to their child’s to manage screen time, direct messages, set restrictions, and control friend and comment filters.
  6. Control interactions. Users can disable comments on a specific video, block people they don’t know from following them, and report abuse.
  7. Monitor social circles. Kids can change privacy settings and eventually be wooed into making more connections and getting more exposure. Consider monitoring who your child follows and who is following them. Consider the TikTok influencers they follow and the type of content they share.
  8. Monitor screen time. It’s easy to burn through countless hours on TikTok. The app has a digital wellbeing element that alerts users every two hours. Consider filtering software that adds another way to set screen limits.
  9. Talk about being an upstander. Creating and sharing original content online takes courage — and attracts bullies, making TikTok a potentially unsafe environment for kids. Encourage your child to be an upstander online and offer encouragement and support to peers when needed.
  10. Block the app. If you determine TikTok’s content isn’t a good fit for your family or that the risks outweigh the opportunities, both Android and iOS have built-in parental controls in Settings that allow you to block any app (consider rechecking these settings weekly).

One look at today’s headlines, and it’s tempting for a parent to want to delete every app like TikTok. Only we know a similar app will soon surface. Another approach is to jump into the digital mix. Know what apps your kids love and why. Understand how they use their favorite apps and who they are talking to. And, always remember: It’s never too early or too late to start these critical conversations with your kids. You’ve got this, parents!

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TikTok Challenge, Hoop App, and Other Headlines You May Have Missed

TikTok Challenge

Digital news that affects families seems to be dominating the headlines these days. To keep parents in the know, here are some of the stories you may want to give extra family discussion time to this week.

Skull Breaker Challenge Proving Unfunny 

Apps — video apps especially — can help kids tap into their creativity and give kids a critical way to connect. Where the fun can take a dangerous turn is in the way kids choose to use their technology. In this case, the poor choice is in the Skull Breaker Challenge (also called the Trip Jump Challenge), a prank resulting in some kids being hospitalized.

The prank, designed to get laughs and accumulate TikTok views, includes two kids tricking a third friend into making a dance video together. Three kids line up side by side for a planned group dance that will be videotaped and posted. As everyone jumps as planned, the two kids on either side swipe the legs out from under the middle person causing him or her to fall backward. According to reports, the prank is surfacing mainly on TikTok but also Youtube.

Safe Family Tip: Consider talking to your child about the dangers of online challenges and the risks already reported in the news. 1) Discuss the physical dangers doctors are warning the public about, including neck strain, concussion, skull fracture, long-term complications, or even death. 2) Using current news stories, explain personal responsibility and what can happen legally if your child hurts another person during a prank.

Snapchat’s Hoop App Being Called ‘Tinder for Teens’

Snapchat users (over 2.5 million in fact) are flocking to a new Tinder-like app called Hoop that interfaces with Snapchat. The developer app allows other Hoop users to swipe through other Hoop users and request to connect via their Snapchat profile name.

While the app asks a user’s age, much like other social sites, there’s no way to prove a user’s age. And, users can change their age at any time after creating an account. This type of app format can be tempting for kids who are naturally curious and seeking to meet new friends outside of their familiar social circle. There’s a potential for common issues such as catfishing, predator behavior, and inappropriate content. Kids as young as 12 can form connections with strangers. While their profile may be harmless, they can’t control the type of content that pops up on their screen from other users. Another red flag: Hoop users are rewarded with “diamonds” for sharing their Snapchat name and getting others to join Hoop, so the incentive to daily share and connect with a wide circle outside of one’s known friend group may prove tough for some kids to resist.TikTok Challenge

Safe Family Tip: While it’s challenging to stay on top of the constant array of new apps, it’s not impossible. One way to understand where your child spends his or her time online is with comprehensive monitoring software. Another way of monitoring activity is to physically check your child’s phone once a week for new app icons (see right) and take the time to talk about his or her favorite apps. Consider explaining the dangers of connecting with strangers and the real possibility that a new “cute 16-year-old” may be a predator attempting to win your child’s trust (it happens every day). Review and agree on which apps are considered safe and the expectations you have for your family’s online choices.

Another app to keep on your radar is Wink. Nearly identical to Hoop, Wink interfaces with Snapchat and is being promoted as a “new friend finder.” It has a similar “swipe” feature that connects kids to random Wink users and is currently ranked #15 in the app store.

Should phones be banned from schools?

A conversation gaining a quiet but consistent buzz is the merit of prohibiting phones from schools — a law France has enforced for two years that has parents, educators, and legislators talking. Several recent studies reveal that phone bans can lead to higher test scores, higher test grades and attention spans, and increased cognitive capacity. Some schools in the U.S. have independently taken steps to curb and ban phones in hopes of focusing on distracted students.

Proponents of phones in school say a ban would be impossible to enforce and that technology is needed to help parents stay in touch with kids during the school day, especially for emergencies. Others say phones at school are a critical part of learning and raising self-sufficient, tech-savvy students prepared for a digital workforce.

Safe Family Tip: Begin the discussion with your child about the pros and cons of devices at school. Listen closely to his or her perspective. Discuss potential device-related issues that can be amplified during the school day such as cyberbullying, group chat conflicts, sexting, gaming during class, and using devices to cheat. Review expectations such as using phones only before and after school to connect with parents.

Stay tuned in the weeks to come as we take a closer look at other apps such as TikTok and WhatsApp Messenger that — when used unwisely — can lead to some surprising risks for kids. Until then, keep the digital safety conversation humming in your home. You’ve got this, parents!

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Timeless Principles to Help Your Child Develop Social Superpowers

online relationships

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” ~ Dale Carnegie

Each year it’s my tradition to re-read a handful of books that continue to shape my perspective. One of those books is the 1936 self-help classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

I’ll admit, I’ve never liked the book’s overly-schmoozy title, but its content is gold. And 84 years later, it’s still relevant to our ongoing family discussion of how to model leadership and get a more meaningful return on our digital connections.

Slow down, look around

It has become easy, and almost habitual, to move fast, skim content, and make quick judgments. We upload details about ourselves, our opinions, our activities, our agendas, our wins.

Carnegie’s approach (condensed and paraphrased): Slow down and look around. Take a genuine interest in the people around you. Make room for different points of view. Steer clear of drama, criticizing others, and conflict. And never make anyone feel “less than.”

Social superpowers

Carnegie’s principles, applied online, are tools parents can use to help kids develop their social superpowers. The simple act of slowing down and listening instead of clicking is a big step toward more genuine connections.

On the safety side, slowing down can help kids become more aware of and avoid threats such as cyberbullying, scams, catfishing, and online conflict.

Here are a few more Carnegie power tips (condensed and paraphrased) to help build up your family’s social superpowers.

More meaningful connections

Take a genuine interest in others. “If we want to make friends, let’s do things for other people – things that require time, energy, unselfishness, and thoughtfulness.”

Encourage your child to step out of the “selfie” mindset as a first step in forming more genuine friendships online (as opposed to amassing followers). Brainstorm ways to do this. Maybe it’s more face-to-face time with known friends, keeping track of other people’s birthdays, and hand-writing cards and sending them in the mail. Paying attention to the details of a person’s life — their hobbies, family members, values, and goals — is the heartbeat of a real friendship.

Smile, be welcoming.  “Actions speak louder than words, and a smile says, ‘I like you. You make me happy. I am glad to see you.’”

Sounds simple but a smile — in this case, the way we welcome others online — can go a long way. The attitude we express through our online interactions communicates can make or break our relationships and reputation.

Encourage your child to review and delete negative or harmful content that lacks a spirit of inclusion and kindness. Our social profiles may be the first impression others — including teachers, colleges, and employers — may have of us.

Another plus: Choosing a digital “smile” when we post (over drama and making fun) sends a powerful message that can ease cyberbullying, build empathy, and be a source of strength for others who may be struggling.

Note: Choosing to smile online as a general principle doesn’t include faking it or only sharing a heavily-edited or overly positive version of your life. Be real. Be honest. Be you.

Affirm others. “. . . a sure way to [people’s] hearts is to let them realize in some subtle way that you realize their importance and recognize it sincerely.”

Everyone person on the planet has a fundamental need to be noticed and feel valued. With the amount of anxiety, depression, body image issues, and cyberbullying kids face online, what young person couldn’t use a genuine word of encouragement?

Discuss the many ways to affirm others on and offline. Encourage your child to be aware and willing to complement the strengths of others, cheer on accomplishments, and support a cause or passion they’ve expressed.

Avoid arguments and criticizing others. “Criticism is dangerous because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his [or her] sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”

If we could all master these two Carnegie principles online, the world’s collective mental health might be on a happier, healthier trajectory.

Encourage your child to pay attention to his or her emotions and avoid engaging others if they feel angry, anxious, or tired. Discuss the importance of empathy and forgiveness. Challenge them to allow others to express their ideas without judgment.

Avoiding conflict doesn’t mean you ignore injustice or become a doormat. On the contrary, responding with grace in a tense situation requires strength and self-control — especially when it comes to trolls and bullies.

Carnegie wrote his book during the Great Depression when the practice optimism and simple truths were critical to a person’s hope. So, some perspectives will feel odd or passé. But stick with it. Savor and apply the gems and enjoy the process of deepening your digital connections.

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Safer Internet Day 2020

What Can You Do To Make The Internet a Better Place

In 2020, you’d be hard-pressed to find an Aussie teen who doesn’t spend a fair whack of their time online. And while many of us parents don’t always love the time our offspring spend glued to screens, most of us have come to accept that the online world is a big part of our kids’ lives.

So, let’s accept that the internet is going to be a feature of our kids’ lives and work out how best we can keep them safe.

Together For A Better Internet

Today is Safer Internet Day  – an international annual event that encourages us all to work together for a better internet. The perfect opportunity to find out what we can do as parents to ensure our kids are as safe as possible online.

Organised by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network, with the support of the European Commission, Safer Internet Day is held each February to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology, especially among children and young people. Safer Internet Day is all about inspiring users to make positive changes online, to raise awareness of online safety issues, and participate in events and activities right across the globe.

What Can We Do As Parents?

As role models and life-educators, parents play an enormous role in shaping our kids’ behaviours and opinions – particularly before they get to the teenage years!! So, why not use Safer Internet Day as a prompt to freshen up your cybersafety chats with your brood.

Not sure where to start? Here are my top messages to weave into your chats with your kids

  1. Be Kind Online

Spread love not hate online. A better internet includes building an online culture where people share positive and encouraging posts and comments. It may be as simple as posting a positive message, liking a post that is encouraging or sharing an inspiring article. Image

It may sound obvious but before you post a comment or a tweet, ask yourself whether the message could offend someone or impact them negatively. And remember to NEVER like, favourite, retweet, post or comment negatively online.

  1. Learn How To Disagree Respectfully Online

No matter how much we try, there will always be some people online who get a kick out of being unkind. If you come across this behaviour, I encourage you to call it out and report it but ALWAYS do so in a respectful fashion. Reciprocating with harsh words or name-calling will only further inflame a toxic situation. A logical, factual response that is respectful will always triumph!

  1. Protecting Your Online Reputation (& Others Too)

If you’re planning on hiring someone or even going on a date with someone, the chances are you’re going to ‘Google’ them first. And what you find online and the opinion you form decides whether the person’s digital reputation is acceptable or not.

So, it’s essential to remember that everything you post online is permanent and public; not to post inappropriate comments or pics of yourself or others; ensure all your online profiles are set to private to avoid strangers ‘screen-grabbing’ your private info and photos; don’t respond to inappropriate requests and most importantly, take a breather when things are getting heated online and you may regret your comments and actions.

  1. Passwords!!!!!

Managing passwords is one of the best ways of taking control of your online life and creating a better internet. Ensuring you have a separate password for every online account means that if you are affected by a data breach, your other online accounts are not at risk. Always choose passwords that have letters, numbers and symbols and ensure they are complex and not obvious. I love using a nonsensical sentence! And if all that’s too hard, why not consider a password manager that not only creates complex passwords for each of your online accounts but remembers them too. All you need to do is remember the master password! Awesome!!

So, why not pledge to change up your cybersafety chats with your kids this Safer Internet Day? And remember – they are watching you too! So, ensure you always model online respect, take your online responsibilities seriously and, also manage your passwords carefully. Because every little step is a step towards a positive change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where’s the Truth Online? How to Build Your Family’s Digital Discernment

fake news

Note: This is Part I of a series on equipping your family fight back against fake news online. 

Fake news is chipping away at our trust in the government, the media, and in one another. And, because our kids spend much so much time in the online space, it’s more important than ever to help them understand how to separate truth from fiction.

How dangerous is the spread of misinformation? According to one study, 75% of people who see fake news believe it’s real. This inability to discern is at the core of how a false piece of information — be it a story, a photo, a social post, or an email — spreads like wildfire online.

Fake news erodes trust

A 2019 Pew Institute study reveled Americans rank fake news as a bigger problem in the U.S. over terrorism, illegal immigration, racism, and sexism and believe the spread of fake news is causing ‘significant harm’ to the nation and needs to be stopped.’

At the root of the issue is that too much news is coming at us from too many sources. True or not, millions of people are sharing that information, and they are often driven more by emotion and than fact.

According to Author and Digital Literacy Expert Diana Graber, one of a parent’s most important roles today is teaching kids to evaluate and be discerning with the content they encounter online.

“Make sure your kids know that they cannot believe everything they see or read online. Give them strategies to assess online information. Be sure your child’s school is teaching digital literacy,” says Graber.

Kids encounter and share fake news on social networks, chat apps, and videos. Says Graber, the role of video will rise as a fake news channel as AI technology advances.

“I think video manipulation, such as deepfake videos, is a very important area to keep an eye on for in the future. So much of the media that kids consume is visual, it will be important for them to learn visual literacy skills too,” says Graber.

The hidden costs of fake news

A December Facebook post warning people that men driving white vans were part of an organized human trafficking ring, quickly went viral on several social networks.

Eventually, law enforcement exposed the post as fake; people shrugged it off and moved on. But in its wake, much was lost that didn’t go viral. The fake post was shared countless times. With each share, someone compromised a small piece of trust.

The false post caused digital panic and cast uncertainty on our sense of security and community. The post cost us money. The false information took up the resources of several law enforcement agencies that chose to investigate. It cost us trust. Public warnings even made it to the evening news in some cities.

The spread of fake news impacts on our ability to make wise informed decisions. It chips away at our expectation of truth in the people and resources around us.

Fake news that goes viral is powerful. It can impact our opinions about important health issues. It can damage companies and the stock market, and destroy personal reputations.

In the same Pew study, we learned about another loss — connection. Nearly 54 percent of respondents said they avoid talking with another person because that person may bring made-up news into the conversation.

The biggest loss? When it’s hard to see the truth, we are all less well informed, which creates obstacles to personal and cultural progress.

Family talking points

Here are three digital literacy terms defined to help you launch the fake news discussion.

  1. Fake news: We like the definition offered by PolitiFact: “Fake news is made-up stuff, masterfully manipulated to look like credible journalistic reports that are easily spread online to large audiences willing to believe the fictions and spread the word.”Discuss: Sharing fake news can hurt the people in the story as well as the credibility of the person sharing it. No one wants to be known for sharing sketchy content, rumors, or half-truths.Do: Sit down with your kids. Scroll through their favorite social networks and read some posts or stories. Ask: What news stories spark your interest, and why? Who posted this information? Are the links in the article credible? Should I share this piece of content? Why or why not?
  2. Objectivity: Content or statements based on facts that are not influenced by personal beliefs or feelings.Discuss: News stories should be objective (opinion-free), while opinion pieces can be subjective. When information (or a person) is subjective, you can identify personal perspectives, feelings, and opinions. When information (or a person) is objective, it’s void of opinion and based on facts.Do: Teaching kids to recognize objective vs. subjective content can be fun. Pick up a local newspaper (or access online). Read the stories on the front page (they should contain only facts). Flip to the Op-Ed page and discuss the shift in tone and content.
  3. Discernment: A person’s ability to evaluate people, content, situations, and things well. The ability to discern is at the core of decision-making.Discuss: To separate truth from fiction online, we need to be critical thinkers who can discern truth. Critical thinking skills develop over time and differ depending on the age group.Do: Watch this video from Cyberwise on Fake News. Sit down together and Google a current news story. Compare how different news sites cover the same news story. Ask: How are the headlines different? Is there a tone or bias? Which story do you believe to be credible, and why? Which one would you feel confident sharing with others? 

The increase in fake news online has impacted us all. However, with the right tools, we can fight back and begin to restore trust. Next week, in Part II of this series, we’ll discuss our personal responsibility in the fake news cycle and specific ways to identify fake news.

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Lessons Learned: A Decade of Digital Parenting

digital parenting

Give yourself a high-five, parents. Pour yourself a cup of coffee or your favorite celebratory drink and sip it slow — real slow. Savor the wins. Let go of the misses. Appreciate the lessons learned. You’ve come a long way in the last decade of raising digital kids, and not all of it has been easy.

As we head into 2020, we’re tossing parenting resolutions (hey, it’s a victory to make it through a week let alone a year!). Instead, we’re looking back over the digital terrain we’ve traveled together and lessons learned. Need a refresher? Here’s a glimpse of how technology has impacted the family over the past decade.

In the last decade

• Smartphone, social, gaming growth. Social media and gaming platforms have exploded to usage and influence levels no one could have imagined. Smartphone ownership has increased and as of 2019: 81% of adults own a smartphone and 72% use social media, 53% of kids own a smartphone by the age of 11, and 84 % of teenagers have phones.

• Video platform growth. Video platforms like YouTube have become the go-to for teens and tweens who spend nearly three hours a day watching videos online.

• Streaming news. Smartphones have made it possible for all of us to carry (and stream) the world in our pockets. In 2018, for the first time, social media sites surpassed print newspapers as a news source for Americans.

• Dating apps dominate. We’re hooking up, dating, and marrying using apps. A Stanford study found that “heterosexual couples are more likely to meet a romantic partner online than through personal contacts and connections.”

• The rise of the Influencer. Internet influencers and celebrities have reached epic levels of fame, wealth, and reach, creating an entire industry of vloggers, gamers, micro and niche-influencers, and others who have become “instafamous.”

• Lexicon changes. Every day, technology is adding terms to our lexicon that didn’t exist a decade ago such as selfie, OMG, streaming, bae, fake news, the cloud, wearables, finsta, influencers, emojis, tracking apps, catfish, digital shaming, screen time, cryptojacking, FOMO, and hashtag, along with hundreds of others.

What we’ve learned (often the hard way)

Most people, if polled, would say technology has improved daily life in incalculable ways. But ask a parent of a child between five and 18 the same question, and the response may not be as enthusiastic. Here are some lessons we’ve learned the hard way.

Connection brings risk. We’ve learned that with unprecedented connection comes equally unprecedented risk. Everyday devices plug our kids directly into the potential for cyberbullying, sexting, inappropriate content, and mental health issues.  Over the past decade, parents, schools, and leaders have worked to address these risks head-on but we have a long way to go in changing the online space into an emotionally safe and healthy place.

Tech addiction isn’t a myth.  To curb the negative impact of increased tech use, we’ve learned ways to balance and limit screen time, unplug, and digitally detox. Most importantly, it’s been confirmed that technology addiction is a medical condition that’s impacting people and families in very painful ways.

The internet remembers. We’ve witnessed the very public consequences of bad digital choices. Kids and adults have wrecked scholarships, reputations, and careers due to careless words or content shared online. Because of these cases, we’re learning — though never fast enough — to think twice about the behaviors and words we share.

We’re equipping vs. protecting. We’ve gone from monitoring our kids aggressively and freaking out over headlines to realizing that we can’t put the internet in a bottle and follow our kids 24/7. We’ve learned that relevant, consistent conversation, adding an extra layer of protection with security software, and taking the time to understand (not just monitor) the ways our kids use new apps, is the best way to equip them for digital life.

The parent-child relationship is #1. When it comes to raising savvy digital kids and keeping them safe, there’s not a monitoring plan in existence that rivals a strong parent-child relationship. If you’ve earned your child’s heart, mind, and respect, you have his or her attention and can equip them daily to make wise choices online.

The dark web is . . . unimaginably dark. The underbelly of the internet — the encrypted, anonymous terrain known as the Dark Web — has moved from covert to mainstream exposure. We’ve learned the hard way the degree of sophistication with which criminals engage in pornography, human trafficking, drug and weapon sales, and stolen data. With more knowledge, the public is taking more precautions especially when it comes to malware, phishing scams, and virus attacks launched through popular public channels.

There’s a lot of good going on. As much negative as we’ve seen and experienced online over the past decade, we’ve also learned that its power can be used equally to amplify the best of humanity. Social media has sparked social movements, helped first responders and brought strangers together in times of tragedy like no other medium in history.

Privacy is (finally) king. Ten years ago, we clicked on every link that came our way and wanted to share every juicy detail about our personal lives. We became publishers and public figures overnight and readily gave away priceless chunks of our privacy. The evolution and onslaught of data breaches, data mining, and malicious scams have educated us to safeguard our data and privacy like gold.

We’ve become content curators. The onslaught of fake news, photo apps, and filter bubbles have left our heads spinning and our allegiances confused. In the process, we’ve learned to be more discerning with the content we consume and share. While we’re not there yet, our collective digital literacy is improving as our understanding of various types of content grows.

Parents have become digital ninjas. The parenting tasks of monitoring, tracking, and keeping up with kids online have gone from daunting to doable for most parents. With the emotional issues now connected to social media, most parents don’t have the option of sitting on the sidelines and have learned to track their kids better than the FBI.

This is us

We’ve learned that for better or worse, this wired life is us. There’s no going back. Where once there may have been doubt a decade ago, today it’s clear we’re connected forever. The internet has become so deep-seated in our culture and homes that unplugging completely for most of us is no longer an option without severe financial (and emotional) consequences. The task ahead for this new decade? To continue working together to diminish the ugly side of technology — the bullying, the cruelty, the crime — and make the internet a safe, fun experience for everyone.

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