Category Archives: protecting kids online

5 Hidden Hashtag Risks Every Parent Needs Know

Adding hashtags to a social post has become second nature. In fact, it’s so common, few of us stop to consider that as fun and useful as hashtags can be, they can also have consequences if we misuse them.

But hashtags are more than add-ons to a post, they are power tools. In fact, when we put the pound (#) sign in front of a word, we turn that word into a piece of metadata that tags the word, which allows a search engine to index and categorize the attached content so anyone can search it. Looking for advice parenting an autistic child? Then hashtags like #autism #spectrum, or #autismspeaks will connect you with endless content tagged the same way.

Hashtags have become part of our lexicon and are used by individuals, businesses, and celebrities to extend digital influence. Social movements — such as #bekind and #icebucketchallenge — also use hashtags to educate and rally people around a cause. However, the power hashtags possess also means it’s critical to use them with care. Here are several ways people are using hashtags in harmful ways.

5 hidden hashtag risks

Hashtags can put children at risk. Unfortunately, innocent hashtags commonly used by proud parents such as #BackToSchool, #DaddysGirl, or #BabyGirl can be magnets for a pedophile. According to the Child Rescue Coalition, predators troll social media looking for hashtags like #bathtimefun, #cleanbaby, and #pottytrain, to collect images of children. CRC has compiled a list of hashtags parents should avoid using.

Hashtags can compromise privacy. Connecting a hashtag to personal information such as your hometown, your child’s name, or even #HappyBirthdayToMe can give away valuable pieces of your family’s info to a cybercriminal on the hunt to steal identities.

Hashtags can be used in scams. Scammers can use popular hashtags they know people will search to execute several scams. According to NBC News, one popular scam on Instagram is scammers who use luxury brand hashtags like #Gucci or #Dior or coded hashtags such as #mirrorquality #replica and #replicashoes to sell counterfeit goods. Cybercriminals will also search hashtags such as #WaitingToAdopt to target and run scams on hopeful parents.

Hashtags can have hidden meanings. Teens use code or abbreviation hashtags to reference drugs, suicide, mental health, and eating disorders. By searching the hashtag, teens band together with others on the same topic. Some coded hashtags include: #anas (anorexics) #mias (bulimics) #sue (suicide), #cuts (self-harm), #kush and #420 (marijuana).

Hashtags can be used to cyberbully. Posting a picture on a social network and adding mean hashtags is a common way for kids to bully one another. They use hashtags such as #whatnottowear, #losr, #yousuck, #extra, #getalife, #tbh (to be honest) and #peoplewhoshouldoffthemselves on photo captions bully or harass peers. Kids also cyberbully by making up hashtags like #jackieisacow and asking others to use it too. Another hashtag is #roastme in which kids post a photo of themselves and invite others to respond with funny comments only the humor can turn mean very quickly.

When it comes to understanding the online culture, taking the time to stay informed, pausing before you post, and trusting your instincts are critical. Also, being intentional to monitor your child’s social media (including reviewing hashtags) can help you spot potential issues such as bullying, mental health problems, or drug abuse.

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3 Things You [Probably] Do Online Every Day that Jeopardize Your Family’s Privacy

Even though most of us are aware of the potential risks, we continue to journal and archive our daily lives online publically. It’s as if we just can’t help it. Our kids are just so darn cute, right? And, everyone else is doing it, so why not join the fun?

One example of this has become the digital tradition of parents sharing first-day back-to-school photos. The photos feature fresh-faced, excited kids holding signs to commemorate the big day. The signs often include the child’s name, age, grade, and school. Some back-to-school photos go as far as to include the child’s best friend’s name, favorite TV show, favorite food, their height, weight, and what they want to be when they grow up.

Are these kinds of photos adorable and share-worthy? Absolutely. Could they also be putting your child’s safety and your family’s privacy at risk? Absolutely.

1. Posting identifying family photos

Think about it. If you are a hacker combing social profiles to steal personal information, all those extra details hidden in photos can be quite helpful. For instance, a seemingly harmless back-to-school photo can expose a home address or a street sign in the background. Cyber thieves can zoom in on a photo to see the name on a pet collar, which could be a password clue, or grab details from a piece of mail or a post-it on the refrigerator to add to your identity theft file. On the safety side, a school uniform, team jersey, or backpack emblem could give away a child’s daily location to a predator.

Family Safety Tips
  • Share selectively. Facebook has a private sharing option that allows you to share a photo with specific friends. Instagram has a similar feature.
  • Private groups. Start a private Family & Friends Facebook group, phone text, or start a family chat on an app like GroupMe. This way, grandma and Aunt June feel included in important events, and your family’s personal life remains intact.
  • Photo albums. Go old school. Print and store photos in a family photo album at home away from the public spotlight.
  • Scrutinize your content. Think before you post. Ask yourself if the likes and comments are worth the privacy risk. Pay attention to what’s in the foreground or background of a photo.
  • Use children’s initials. Instead of using your child’s name online, use his or her initials or even a digital nickname when posting. Ask family members to do the same.

2. Using trendy apps, quizzes & challengesfamily privacy

It doesn’t take much to grab our attention or our data these days. A survey recently conducted by the Center for Data Innovation found that 58 percent of Americans are “willing to share their most sensitive personal data” (including medical and location data) in return for using apps and services.

If you love those trendy face-morphing apps, quizzes that reveal what celebrity you look like, and taking part in online challenges, you are likely part of the above statistic. As we learned just recently, people who downloaded the popular FaceApp to age their faces didn’t realize the privacy implications. Online quizzes and challenges (often circulated on Facebook) can open you up to similar risk.

Family Safety Tips

  • Slow down. Read an app’s privacy policy and terms. How will your content or data be used? Is this momentary fun worth exchanging my data?
  • Max privacy settings. If you download an app, adjust your device settings to control app permissions immediately.
  • Delete unused apps. An app you downloaded five years ago and forgot about can still be collecting data from your phone. Clean up and delete apps routinely.
  • Protect your devices. Apps, quizzes, and challenges online can be channels for malicious malware. Take the extra step to ensure your devices are protected.

3. Unintentionally posting personal details

Is it wrong to want an interesting Facebook or Instagram profile? Not at all. But be mindful you are painting a picture with each detail you share. For instance: It’s easy to show off your new dog Fergie and add your email address and phone number to your social profile so friends can easily stay in touch. It’s natural to feel pride in your hometown of Muskogee, to celebrate Katie Beth‘s scholarship and Justin‘s home run. It’s natural to want to post your 23rd anniversary to your beloved Michael (who everyone calls Mickey Dee) on December 15. It’s also common to post about a family reunion with the maternal side of your family, the VanDerhoots.

family privacyWhile it may be common to share this kind of information, it’s still unwise since this one paragraph just gave a hacker 10+ personal details to use in figuring out your passwords.

Family Safety Tips

  • Use, refresh strong passwords. Change your passwords often and be sure to use a robust and unique password or passphrase (i.e., grannymakesmoonshine or glutenfreeformeplease) and make sure you vary passwords between different logins. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible.
  • Become more mysterious. Make your social accounts private, use selective sharing options, and keep your profile information as minimal as possible.
  • Reduce your friend lists. Do you know the people who can daily view your information? To boost your security, consider curating your friend lists every few months.
  • Fib on security questions. Ethical hacker Stephanie Carruthers advises people who want extra protection online to lie on security questions. So, when asked for your mother’s maiden name, your birthplace, or your childhood friend, answer with Nutella, Disneyland, or Dora the Explorer.

We’ve all unwittingly uploaded content, used apps, or clicked buttons that may have compromised our privacy. That’s okay, don’t beat yourself up. Just take a few hours and clean up, lockdown, and streamline your social content. With new knowledge comes new power to close the security gaps and create new digital habits.

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How to Spring Clean Your Digital Life

With winter almost gone, now is the perfect time to start planning your annual spring clean. When we think about our yearly sort out, most of us think about decluttering our chaotic linen cupboards or the wardrobes that we can’t close. But if you want to minimise the opportunities for a hacker to get their hands on your private online information then a clean-up of your digital house (aka your online life) is absolutely essential.

Not Glamourous but Necessary

I totally accept that cleaning up your online life isn’t exciting but let me assure you it is a must if you want to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.

Think about how much digital clutter we have accumulated over the years? Many of us have multiple social media, messaging and email accounts. And don’t forget about all the online newsletters and ‘accounts’ we have signed up for with stores and online sites? Then there are the apps and programs we no longer use.

Well, all of this can be a liability. Holding onto accounts and files you don’t need exposes you to all sorts of risks. Your devices could be stolen or hacked or, a data breach could mean that your private details are exposed quite possibly on the Dark Web. In short, the less information that there is about you online, the better off you are.

Digital clutter can be distracting, exhausting to manage and most importantly, detrimental to your online safety. A thorough digital spring clean will help to protect your important, online personal information from cybercriminals.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a serious crime that can have devastating consequences for its victims. It occurs when a person’s personal information is stolen to be used primarily for financial gain. A detailed set of personal details is often all a hacker needs to access bank accounts, apply for loans or credit cards and basically destroy your credit rating and reputation.

How To Do a Digital Spring Clean

The good news is that digital spring cleaning doesn’t require nearly as much elbow grease as scrubbing down the microwave! Here are my top tips to add to your spring-cleaning list this year:

  1. Weed Out Your Old Devices

Gather together every laptop, desktop computer, tablet and smartphone that lives in your house. Now, you need to be strong – work out which devices are past their use-by date and which need to be spring cleaned.

If it is finally time to part ways with your first iPad or the old family desktop, make sure any important documents or holiday photos are backed up in a few places (on another computer, an external hard drive AND in cloud storage program such as Dropbox and or iCloud) so you can erase all remaining data and recycle the device with peace of mind. Careful not to get ‘deleting’ confused with ‘erasing,’ which means permanently clearing data from a device. Deleted files can often linger in a device’s recycling folder.

  1. Ensure Your Machines Are Clean!

It is not uncommon for viruses or malware to find their way onto your devices through outdated software so ensure all your internet-connected devices have the latest software updates including operating systems and browsers. Ideally, you should ensure that you are running the latest version of apps too. Most software packages do auto-update but please take the time to ensure this is happening on all your devices.

  1. Review and Consolidate Files, Applications and Services

Our devices play such a huge part in our day to day lives so it is inevitable that they become very cluttered. Your kids’ old school assignments, outdated apps and programs, online subscriptions and unused accounts are likely lingering on your devices.

The big problem with old accounts is that they get hacked! And they can often lead hackers to your current accounts so it’s a no-brainer to ensure the number of accounts you are using is kept to a minimum.

Once you have decided which apps and accounts you are keeping, take some time to review the latest privacy agreements and settings so you understand what data they are collecting and when they are collecting it. You might also discover that some of your apps are using far more of your data than you realised! Might be time to opt-out!

  1. Update Passwords and Enable Two-Factor Authentication

As the average consumer manages a whopping 11 online accounts – social media, shopping, banking, entertainment, the list goes on – updating our passwords is an important ‘cyber hygiene’ practice that is often neglected. Why not use your digital spring cleaning as an excuse to update and strengthen your credentials?

Creating long and unique passwords using a variety of upper and lowercase numbers, letters and symbols is an essential way of protecting yourself and your digital assets online. And if that all feels too complicated, why not consider a password management solution? Password managers help you create, manage and organise your passwords. Some security software solutions include a password manager such as McAfee Total Protection.

Finally, wherever possible, you should enable two-factor authentication for your accounts to add an extra layer of defense against cyber criminals. Two-factor authentication is where a user is verified by opt-out password or one-off code through a separate personal device like a smart phone.

Still not convinced? If you use social media, shop online, subscribe to specialist newsletters then your existence is scattered across the internet. By failing to clean up your ‘digital junk’ you are effectively giving a set of front door keys to hackers and risking having your identity stolen. Not a great scenario at all. So, make yourself a cuppa and get to work!

Til Next Time

Alex xx

 

 

 

 

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Clicks & Cliques: How to Help Your Daughter Deal with Mean Girls Online

According to a new report released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), mean girls are out in force online. Data shows that girls report three times as much harassment online (21%) as boys (less than 7%). While the new data does not specify the gender of the aggressors, experts say most girls are bullied by other girls.

With school back in full swing, it’s a great time to talk with your kids — especially girls — about how to deal with cyberbullies. Doing so could mean the difference between a smooth school year and a tumultuous one.

The mean girl phenomenon, brought into the spotlight by the 2004 movie of the same name, isn’t new. Only today, mean girls use social media to dish the dirt, which can be devastating to those targeted. Mean girls are known to use cruel digital tactics such as exclusion, cliques, spreading rumors online, name-calling, physical threats, sharing explicit images of others, shaming, sharing secrets, and recruiting others to join the harassment effort.

How parents can help

Show empathy. If your daughter is the target of mean girls online, she needs your ears and your empathy. The simple, powerful phrase, “I understand,” can be an instant bridge builder. Parents may have trouble comprehending the devastating effects of cyberbullying because they, unlike their child, did not grow up under the threat of being electronically attacked or humiliated. This lack of understanding, or empathy gap, can be closed by a parent making every effort empathize with a child’s pain.

Encourage confidence and assertiveness. Mean girls target people they consider weak or vulnerable. If they know they can exploit another person publicly and get away with it, it’s game on. Even if your daughter is timid, confidence and assertiveness can be practiced and learned. Find teachable moments at home and challenge your daughter to boldly express her opinions, thoughts, and feelings. Her ability to stand up for herself will grow over time, so get started role-playing and brainstorming various ways to respond to mean girls with confidence.

Ask for help. Kids often keep bullying a secret to keep a situation from getting worse. Unfortunately, this thinking can backfire. Encourage your daughter to reach out for help if a mean girl situation escalates. She can reach out to a teacher, a parent, or a trusted adult. She can also reach out to peers. There’s power in numbers, so asking friends to come alongside during a conflict can curb a cyberbully’s efforts.

Exercise self-control. When it comes to her behavior, mean girls habitually go low, so encourage your daughter always to go high.  Regardless of the cruelty dished out, it’s important to maintain a higher standard. Staying calm, using respectful, non-aggressive language, and speaking in a confident voice, can discourage a mean girl’s actions faster than retribution.

Build a healthy perspective. Remind your daughter that even though bullying feels extremely personal, it’s not. A mean girl’s behavior reflects her own pain and character deficits, which has nothing to do with her target. As much as possible, help your daughter separate herself from the rumors or lies being falsely attached to her. Remind her of her strengths and the bigger picture that exists beyond the halls of middle school and high school.

Teach and prioritize self-care. In this context, self-care is about balance and intention. It includes spending more time doing what builds you up emotionally and physically — such as sleep and exercise — and less time doing things that deplete you (like mindlessly scrolling through Instagram).

Digitally walk away. When mean girls attack online, they are looking for a fight. However, if their audience disengages, a bully can quickly lose power and interest. Walk away digitally by not responding, unfollowing, blocking, flagging, or reporting an abusive account. Parents can also help by monitoring social activity with comprehensive software. Knowing where your child spends time online and with whom, is one way to spot the signs of cyberbullying.

Parenting doesn’t necessarily get easier as our kids get older and social media only adds another layer of complexity and concern. Even so, with consistent family conversation and connection, parents can equip kids to handle any situation that comes at them online.

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Digital Parenting: How to Keep the Peace with Your Kids Online

Simply by downloading the right combination of apps, parents can now track their child’s location 24/7, monitor their same social conversations, and inject their thoughts into their lives in a split second. To a parent, that’s called safety. To kids, it’s considered maddening.

Kids are making it clear that parents armed with apps are overstepping their roles in many ways. And, parents, concerned about the risks online are making it clear they aren’t about to let their kids run wild.

I recently watched the relationship of a mother and her 16-year-old daughter fall apart over the course of a year. When the daughter got her driver’s license (along with her first boyfriend), the mother started tracking her daughter’s location with the Life360 app to ease her mind. However, the more she tracked, the more the confrontations escalated. Eventually, the daughter, feeling penned in, waged a full-blown rebellion that is still going strong.

There’s no perfect way to parent, especially in the digital space. There are, however, a few ways that might help us drive our digital lanes more efficiently and keep the peace. But first, we may need to curb (or ‘chill out on’ as my kids put it) some annoying behaviors we may have picked up along the way.

Here are just a few ways to keep the peace and avoid colliding with your kids online:

Interact with care on their social media. It’s not personal. It’s human nature. Kids (tweens and teens) don’t want to hang out with their parents in public — that especially applies online. They also usually aren’t too crazy about you connecting with their friends online. And tagging your tween or teen in photos? Yeah, that’s taboo. Tip: If you need to comment on a photo (be it positive or negative) do it in person or with a direct message, not under the floodlights of social media. This is simply respecting your child’s social boundaries. 

Ask before you share pictures. Most parents think posting pictures of their kids online is a simple expression of love or pride, but to kids, it can be extremely embarrassing, and even an invasion of privacy. Tip: Be discerning about how much you post about your kids online and what you post. Junior may not think a baby picture of him potty training is so cute. Go the extra step and ask your child’s permission before posting a photo of them.

Keep tracking and monitoring in check. Just because you have the means to monitor your kids 24/7 doesn’t mean you should. It’s wise to know where your child goes online (and off) but when that action slips into a preoccupation, it can wreck a relationship (it’s also exhausting). The fact that some kids make poor digital choices doesn’t mean your child will. If your fears about the online world and assumptions about your child’s behavior have led you to obsessively track their location, monitor their conversations, and hover online, it may be time to re-engineer your approach. Tip: Put the relationship with your child first. Invest as much time into talking to your kids and spending one-one time with them as you do tracking them. Put conversation before control so that you can parent from confidence, rather than fear.

Avoid interfering in conflicts. Kids will be bullied, meet people who don’t like them and go through tough situations. Keeping kids safe online can be done with wise, respectful monitoring. However, that monitoring can slip into lawnmower parenting (mowing over any obstacle that gets in a child’s path) as described in this viral essay. Tip: Don’t block your child’s path to becoming a capable adult. Unless there’s a serious issue to your child’s health and safety, try to stay out of his or her online conflicts. Keep it on your radar but let it play out. Allow your child to deal with peers, feel pain, and find solutions. 

As parents, we’re all trying to find the balance between allowing kids to have their space online and still keep them safe. Too much tracking can cause serious family strife while too little can be inattentive in light of the risks. Parenting today is a difficult road that’s always a work-in-progress so give yourself permission to keep learning and improving your process along the way

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How To Help Your Kids Manage Our ‘Culture of Likes’

As a mum of 4 sons, my biggest concerns about the era of social media is the impact of the ‘like culture’ on our children’s mental health. The need to generate likes online has become a biological compulsion for many teens and let’s be honest – adults too! The rush of dopamine that surges through one’s body when a new like has been received can make this like culture understandably addictive.

 

Research Shows Likes Can Make You Feel As Good As Chocolate!

The reason why our offspring (and even us) just can’t give up social media is because it can make us feel just so damn good! In fact, the dopamine surges we get from the likes we collect can give us a true psychological high and create a reward loop that is almost impossible to break. Research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, shows the brain circuits that are activated by eating chocolate and winning money are also activated when teens see large numbers of ‘likes’ on their own photos or photos of peers in a social network.

Likes and Self Worth

Approval and validation by our peers has, unfortunately, always had an impact on our sense of self-worth. Before the era of social media, teens may have measured this approval by the number of invitations they received to parties or the number of cards they received on their birthday. But in the digital world of the 21st  century, this is measured very publicly through the number of followers we have or the number of likes we receive on our posts.

But this is dangerous territory. Living our lives purely for the approval of others is a perilous game. If our self-worth is reliant on the amount of likes we receive then we are living very fragile existences.

Instagram’s Big Move

In recognition of the competition social media has become for many, Instagram has decided to trial hiding the likes tally on posts. Instagram believes this move, which is also being trialled in six other countries including Canada and New Zealand, will improve the well-being of users and allow them to focus more on ‘telling their story’ and less on their likes tally.

But the move has been met with criticism. Some believe Instagram is ‘mollycoddling’ the more fragile members of our community whilst others believe it is threatening the livelihood of ‘Insta influencers’ whose income is reliant on public displays of likes.

Does Instagram’s Move Really Solve Address our Likes Culture?

While I applaud Instagram for taking a step to address the wellbeing and mental health of users, I believe that it won’t be long before users simply find another method of social validation to replace our likes stats. Whether it’s follower numbers or the amount of comments or shares, many of us have been wired to view social media platforms like Instagram as a digital popularity contest so will adjust accordingly. Preparing our kids for the harshness of this competitive digital environment needs to be a priority for all parents.

What Can Parents Do?

Before your child joins social media, it is imperative that you do your prep work with your child. There are several things that need to be discussed:

  1. Your Kids Are So Much More Than Their Likes Tally

It is not uncommon for tweens and teens to judge their worth by the number of followers or likes they receive on their social media posts. Clearly, this is crazy but a common trend/ So, please discuss the irrationality of the likes culture and online popularity contest that has become a feature of almost all social media platforms. Make sure they understand that social media platforms play on the ‘reward loop’ that keep us coming back for more. Likes on our posts and validating comments from our followers provide hits of dopamine that means we find it hard to step away. While many tweens and teens view likes as a measure of social acceptance, it is essential that you continue to tell them that this is not a true measure of a person.

  1. Encourage Off-Line Activities

Help your kids develop skills and relationships that are not dependent on screens. Fill their time with activities that build face-to-face friendships and develop their individual talents. Whether it’s sport, music, drama, volunteering or even a part time job – ensuring your child has a life away from screens is essential to creating balance.

  1. Education is Key

Teaching your kids to be cyber safe and good digital citizens will minimise the chances of them experiencing any issues online. Reminding them about the perils of oversharing online, the importance of proactively managing their digital reputation and the harsh reality of online predators will prepare them for the inevitable challenges they will have to navigate.

  1. Keep the Communication Channels Open – Always!

Ensuring your kids really understand that they can speak to you about ANYTHING that is worrying them online is one of the best digital parenting insurance policies available. If they do come to you with an issue, it is essential that you remain calm and do not threaten to disconnect them from their online life. Whether it’s cyberbullying, inappropriate texting or a leak of their personal information, working with them to troubleshoot and solve problems and challenges they face is a must for all digital parents.

Like many parents, I wish I could wave a magic wand and get rid of the competition the likes culture has created online for many of our teens. But that is not possible. So, instead let’s work with our kids to educate them about its futility and help them develop a genuine sense of self-worth that will buffer them from harshness this likes culture has created.

Alex xx

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Backpacks Ready, Pencils Up – It’s Time for a Back-to-School #RT2Win

It’s time to unpack the suitcases and pack up those backpacks! With the summer season quickly coming to an end, it’s time to get those college cybersecurity priorities in order so you can have the best school year yet. As students across the country get ready to embark on—or return to—their college adventure, many are not proactively protecting their data according. A recent survey from McAfee. found that only 19% of students take extra steps to protect their academic records, which is surprising considering 80% of students have either been a victim of a cyberattack or know someone who has been impacted. In fact, in the first few months of 2019, publicly disclosed cyberattacks targeting the education sector increased by 50%, including financial aid schemes and identity theft.

From data breaches to phishing and ransomware attacks, hitting the books is stressful enough without the added pressure of ensuring your devises and data are secure too. But you’re in luck! Avoid being the cybersecurity class clown and head back to school in style with our A+ worthy Back-to-School RT2Win sweepstakes!

Three [3] lucky winners of the sweepstakes drawing will receive a McAfee Back-to-School Essentials Backpack complete with vital tech and cybersecurity supplies like Beats Headphones, UE BOOM Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker, Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera, DLINK router with McAfee Secure Home Platform, Anker PowerCore Portable Charger and so much more! ($750 value, full details below in Section 6. PRIZES). The best part? Entering is a breeze! Follow the instructions below to enter and good luck!

#RT2Win Sweepstakes Official Rules

  • To enter, go to https://twitter.com/McAfee_Home, and find the #RT2Win sweepstakes tweet.
  • The sweepstakes tweet will be released on Tuesday, August 13, 2019, at 12:00pm PT. This tweet will include the hashtags: #ProtectWhatMatters, #RT2Win AND #Sweepstakes.
  • Retweet the sweepstakes tweet released on the above date, from your own handle. The #ProtectWhatMatters, #RT2Win AND #Sweepstakes hashtags must be included to be entered.
  • Sweepstakes will end on Monday, August 26, 2019 at 11:59pm PT. All entries must be made before that date and time.
  • Winners will be notified on Wednesday, August 28, 2019, via Twitter direct message.
  • Limit one entry per person.

1. How to Win:

Retweet one of our contest tweets on @McAfee_Home that include “#ProtectWhatMatters, #RT2Win AND #Sweepstakes” for a chance to win a McAfee Back-to-School Essential Backpack (for full prize details please see “Prizes” section below). Three [3] total winners will be selected and announced on August 28, 2019. Winners will be notified by direct message on Twitter. For full Sweepstakes details, please see the Terms and Conditions, below.

#RT2Win Sweepstakes Terms and Conditions

2. How to Enter: 

No purchase necessary. A purchase will not increase your chances of winning. McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes will be conducted from August 13, 2019 through August 27, 2019. All entries for each day of the McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes must be received during the time allotted for the McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes. Pacific Daylight Time shall control the McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes, duration is as follows:

  • Begins Tuesday, August 13 at 12:00pm PST
  • Ends: Monday, August 26, 2019 at 11:59pm PST
  • Three [3] winners will be announced: Wednesday, August 28, 2019

For the McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes, participants must complete the following steps during the time allotted for the McAfee Back-to-School Sweepstakes:

  1. Find the sweepstakes tweet of the day posted on @McAfee_Home which will include the hashtags: #ProtectWhatMatters, #RT2Win and #Sweepstakes
  2. Retweet the sweepstakes tweet of the day and make sure it includes the #ProtectWhatMatters, #RT2Win, and hashtags.
  3. Note: Tweets that do not contain the #ProtectWhatMatters, #RT2Win, and #Sweepstakes hashtags will not be considered for entry.
  4. Limit one entry per person.

Three [3] winners will be chosen for the McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes tweet from the viable pool of entries that retweeted and included #ProtectWhatMatters, #RT2Win and #Sweepstakes. McAfee and the McAfee social team will choose winners from all the viable entries. The winners will be announced and privately messaged on Wednesday, August 28, 2019 on the @McAfee_Home Twitter handle. No other method of entry will be accepted besides Twitter. Only one entry per user is allowed, per Sweepstakes.  

3. Eligibility: 

McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes is open to all legal residents of the 50 United States who are 18 years of age or older on the dates of the McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes begins and live in a jurisdiction where this prize and McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes not prohibited. Employees of Sponsor and its subsidiaries, affiliates, prize suppliers, and advertising and promotional agencies, their immediate families (spouses, parents, children, and siblings and their spouses), and individuals living in the same household as such employees are ineligible.

4. Winner Selection:

Winners will be selected at random from all eligible retweets received during the McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes drawing entry period. Sponsor will select the names of three [3] potential winners of the prizes in a random drawing from among all eligible submissions at the address listed below. The odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. By participating, entrants agree to be bound by the Official McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes Rules and the decisions of the coordinators, which shall be final and binding in all respects.

5. Winner Notification: 

Each winner will be notified via direct message (“DM”) on Twitter.com by August 28, 2019. Prize winners may be required to sign an Affidavit of Eligibility and Liability/Publicity Release (where permitted by law) to be returned within ten (10) days of written notification, or prize may be forfeited, and an alternate winner selected. If a prize notification is returned as unclaimed or undeliverable to a potential winner, if potential winner cannot be reached within twenty-four (24) hours from the first DM notification attempt, or if potential winner fails to return requisite document within the specified time period, or if a potential winner is not in compliance with these Official Rules, then such person shall be disqualified and, at Sponsor’s sole discretion, an alternate winner may be selected for the prize at issue based on the winner selection process described above. 

6. Prizes: 

McAFEE BACK-TO-SCHOOL ESSENTIAL BACKPACK (3)

  • Approximate ARV for Prize: $750
    • McAfee Backpack
    • McAfee Water Bottle
    • McAfee Notebook
    • D-Link Ethernet Wireless Router with McAfee Secure Home
    • McAfee Total Protection, 5 devices, 1-year subscription
    • Beats EP On-Ear Headphones
    • Ultimate Ears BOOM Portable Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker
    • Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera with Mini Film Twin Pack
    • Tile Mate – Anything Finder
    • Anker PowerCore 10000, Portable Charger

Limit one (1) prize per person/household. Prizes are non-transferable, and no cash equivalent or substitution of prize is offered.

The prize for the McAfee Back-To-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes is a ONE (1) Back-to-School Essential Backpack, complete with the above supplies, for each of the three (3) entrants. Entrants agree that Sponsor has the sole right to determine the winners of the McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes and all matters or disputes arising from the McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes and that its determination is final and binding. There are no prize substitutions, transfers or cash equivalents permitted except at the sole discretion of Sponsor. Sponsor will not replace any lost or stolen prizes. Sponsor is not responsible for delays in prize delivery beyond its control. All other expenses and items not specifically mentioned in these Official Rules are not included and are the prize winners’ sole responsibility.

7. General Conditions: 

Entrants agree that by entering they agree to be bound by these rules. All federal, state, and local taxes, fees, and surcharges on prize packages are the sole responsibility of the prizewinner. Sponsor is not responsible for incorrect or inaccurate entry information, whether caused by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes, or by any technical or human error, which may occur in the processing of the McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes. entries. By entering, participants release and hold harmless Sponsor and its respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, directors, officers, employees, attorneys, agents, and representatives from any and all liability for any injuries, loss, claim, action, demand, or damage of any kind arising from or in connection with the McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes, any prize won, any misuse or malfunction of any prize awarded, participation in any McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes-related activity, or participation in the McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes. Except for applicable manufacturer’s standard warranties, the prizes are awarded “AS IS” and WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, express or implied (including any implied warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose).

8. Limitations of Liability; Releases:

By entering the Sweepstakes, you release Sponsor and all Released Parties from any liability whatsoever, and waive any and all causes of action, related to any claims, costs, injuries, losses, or damages of any kind arising out of or in connection with the Sweepstakes or delivery, misdelivery, acceptance, possession, use of or inability to use any prize (including claims, costs, injuries, losses and damages related to rights of publicity or privacy, defamation or portrayal in a false light, whether intentional or unintentional), whether under a theory of contract, tort (including negligence), warranty or other theory.

To the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, in no event will the sponsor or the released parties be liable for any special, indirect, incidental, or consequential damages, including loss of use, loss of profits or loss of data, whether in an action in contract, tort (including, negligence) or otherwise, arising out of or in any way connected to your participation in the sweepstakes or use or inability to use any equipment provided for use in the sweepstakes or any prize, even if a released party has been advised of the possibility of such damages.

  1. To the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, in no event will the aggregate liability of the released parties (jointly) arising out of or relating to your participation in the sweepstakes or use of or inability to use any equipment provided for use in the sweepstakes or any prize exceed $10. The limitations set forth in this section will not exclude or limit liability for personal injury or property damage caused by products rented from the sponsor, or for the released parties’ gross negligence, intentional misconduct, or for fraud.
  2. Use of Winner’s Name, Likeness, etc.: Except where prohibited by law, entry into the Sweepstakes constitutes permission to use your name, hometown, aural and visual likeness and prize information for advertising, marketing, and promotional purposes without further permission or compensation (including in a public-facing winner list).  As a condition of being awarded any prize, except where prohibited by law, winner may be required to execute a consent to the use of their name, hometown, aural and visual likeness and prize information for advertising, marketing, and promotional purposes without further permission or compensation. By entering this Sweepstakes, you consent to being contacted by Sponsor for any purpose in connection with this Sweepstakes.

9. Prize Forfeiture:

If winner cannot be notified, does not respond to notification, does not meet eligibility requirements, or otherwise does not comply with the prize McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes rules, then the winner will forfeit the prize and an alternate winner will be selected from remaining eligible entry forms for each McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes.

10. Dispute Resolution:

Entrants agree that Sponsor has the sole right to determine the winners of the McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes and all matters or disputes arising from the McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes and that its determination is final and binding. There are no prize substitutions, transfers or cash equivalents permitted except at the sole discretion of Sponsor.

11. Governing Law & Disputes:

Each entrant agrees that any disputes, claims, and causes of action arising out of or connected with this sweepstakes or any prize awarded will be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action and these rules will be construed in accordance with the laws, jurisdiction, and venue of New York.

12. Privacy Policy: 

Personal information obtained in connection with this prize McAfee Back-to-School #RT2Win Sweepstakes will be handled in accordance policy set forth at http://www.mcafee.com/us/about/privacy.html.

  1. Winner List; Rules Request: For a copy of the winner list, send a stamped, self-addressed, business-size envelope for arrival after August 13,2019 before August 27, 2019 to the address listed below, Attn: #RT2Win at CES Sweepstakes.  To obtain a copy of these Official Rules, visit this link or send a stamped, self-addressed business-size envelope to the address listed in below, Attn: Sarah Grayson. VT residents may omit return postage.
  2. Intellectual Property Notice: McAfee and the McAfee logo are registered trademarks of McAfee, LLC. The Sweepstakes and all accompanying materials are copyright © 2019 by McAfee, LLC.  All rights reserved.
  3. Sponsor: McAfee, LLC, Corporate Headquarters 2821 Mission College Blvd. Santa Clara, CA 95054 USA
  4. Administrator: LEWIS, 111 Sutter St., Suite 850, San Francisco, CA 94104

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How to Help Kids Steer Clear of Digital Drama this School Year

Editor’s note: This is Part II of helping kids manage digital risks this new school year. Read Part I.

The first few weeks back to school can be some of the most exciting yet turbulent times of the year for middle and high schoolers. So as brains and smartphones shift into overdrive, a parent’s ability to coach kids through digital drama is more critical than ever.

Paying attention to these risks is the first step in equipping your kids to respond well to any challenges ahead. Kids face a troubling list of social realities their parents never had to deal with such as cyberbullying, sexting scandals, shaming, ghosting, reputation harm, social anxiety, digital addiction, and online conflict.

As reported by internet safety expert and author Sue Scheff in Psychology Today, recent studies also reveal that young people are posting under the influence and increasingly sharing risky photos. Another study cites that 20 percent of teens and 33 percent of young adults have posted risky photos and about 8 percent had their private content forwarded without their consent.

No doubt, the seriousness of these digital issues is tough to read about but imagine living with the potential of a digital misstep each day? Consider:

  • How would you respond to a hateful or embarrassing comment on one of your social posts?
  • What would you do if your friends misconstrued a comment you shared in a group text and collectively started shunning you?
  • What would you do if you discovered a terrible rumor circulating about you online?
  • Where would you turn? Where would you support and guidance?

If any of these questions made you anxious, you understand why parental attention and intention today is more important than ever. Here are just a few of the more serious sit-downs to have with your kids as the new school year gets underway.

Let’s Talk About It

Define digital abuse. For kids, the digital conversation never ends, which makes it easier for unacceptable behaviors to become acceptable over time. Daily stepping into a cultural melting pot of values and behaviors can blur the lines for a teenage brain that is still developing. For this reason, it’s critical to define inappropriate behavior such as cyberbullying, hate speech, shaming, crude jokes, sharing racy photos, and posting anything intended to cause hurt to another person.

If it’s public, it’s permanent. Countless reputations, academic pursuits, and careers have been shattered because someone posted reckless digital content. Everything — even pictures shared between best friends in a “private” chat or text — is considered public. Absolutely nothing is private or retractable. That includes impulsive tweets or contributing to an argument online.

Steer clear of drama magnets. If you’ve ever witnessed your child weather an online conflict, you know how brutal kids can be. While conflict is part of life, digital conflict is a new level of destruction that should be avoided whenever possible. Innocent comments can quickly escalate out of control. Texting compromises intent and distorts understanding. Immaturity can magnify miscommunication. Encourage your child to steer clear of group texts, gossip-prone people, and topics that can lead to conflict.

Mix monitoring and mentoring. Kids inevitably will overshare personal details, say foolish things, and make mistakes online. Expect a few messes. To guide them forward, develop your own balance of monitoring and mentoring. To monitor, know what apps your kids use and routinely review their social conversations (without commenting on their feeds). Also, consider a security solution to help track online activity. As a mentor, listening is your superpower. Keep the dialogue open, honest, and non-judgmental and let your child know that you are there to help no matter what.

Middle and high school years can be some of the most friendship-rich and perspective-shaping times in a person’s life. While drama will always be part of the teenage equation, digital drama and it’s sometimes harsh fallout doesn’t have to be. So take the time to coach your kids through the rough patches of online life so that, together, you can protect and enjoy these precious years.

The post How to Help Kids Steer Clear of Digital Drama this School Year appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

5 Digital Risks That Could Affect Your Kids This New School Year

digital risks

digital risksStarting a new school year is both exciting and stressful for families today. Technology has magnified learning and connection opportunities for our kids but not without physical and emotional costs that we can’t overlook this time of year.

But the transition from summer to a new school year offers families a fresh slate and the chance to evaluate what digital ground rules need to change when it comes to screen time. So as you consider new goals, here are just a few of the top digital risks you may want to keep on your radar.

  1. Cyberbullying. The online space for a middle or high school student can get ugly this time of year. In two years, cyberbullying has increased significantly from 11.5% to 15.3%. Also, three times as many girls reported being harassed online or by text than boys, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
    Back-to-School Tip: Keep the cyberbullying discussion honest and frequent in your home. Monitor your child’s social media apps if you have concerns that cyberbullying may be happening. To do this, click the social icons periodically to explore behind the scenes (direct messages, conversations, shared photos). Review and edit friend lists, maximize location and privacy settings, and create family ground rules that establish expectations about appropriate digital behavior, content, and safe apps.Make an effort to stay current on the latest social media apps, trends, and texting slang so you can spot red flags. Lastly, be sure kids understand the importance of tolerance, empathy, and kindness among diverse peer groups.
  2. Oversharing. Did you know that 30% of parents report posting a photo of their child(ren) to social media at least once per day, and 58% don’t ask permission? By the age of 13, studies estimate that parents have posted about 1,300 photos and videos of their children online. A family’s collective oversharing can put your child’s privacy, reputation, and physical safety at risk. Besides, with access to a child’s personal information, a cybercriminal can open fraudulent accounts just about anywhere.
    Back-to-School Tip: Think before you post and ask yourself, “Would I be okay with a stranger seeing this photo?” Make sure there is nothing in the photo that could be an identifier such as a birthdate, a home address, school uniforms, financial details, or password hints. Also, maximize privacy settings on social networks and turn off photo geo-tagging that embeds photos with a person’s exact coordinates. Lastly, be sure your child understands the lifelong consequences that sharing explicit photos can have on their lives.
  3. Mental health + smartphone use. There’s no more disputing it (or indulging tantrums that deny it) smartphone use and depression are connected. Several studies of teens from the U.S. and U.K. reveal similar findings: That happiness and mental health are highest at 30 minutes to two hours of extracurricular digital media use a day. Well-being then steadily decreases, according to the studies, revealing that heavy users of electronic devices are twice as unhappy, depressed, or distressed as light users.
    Back-to-School Tip: Listen more and talk less. Kids tend to share more about their lives, friends, hopes, and struggles if they believe you are truly listening and not lecturing. Nurturing a healthy, respectful, mutual dialogue with your kids is the best way to minimize a lot of the digital risks your kids face every day. Get practical: Don’t let your kids have unlimited phone use. Set and follow media ground rules and enforce the consequences of abusing them.
  4. Sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation connected to smartphone use can dramatically increase once the hustle of school begins and Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) accelerates. According to a 2019 Common Sense Media survey, a third of teens take their phones to bed when they go to sleep; 33% girls versus 26% of boys. Too, 1 in 3 teens reports waking up at least once per night and checking their phones.digital risks
    Back-to-School Tip:
    Kids often text, playing games, watch movies, or YouTube videos randomly scroll social feeds or read the news on their phones in bed. For this reason, establish a phone curfew that prohibits this. Sleep is food for the body, and tweens and teens need about 8 to 10 hours to keep them healthy. Discuss the physical and emotional consequences of losing sleep, such as sleep deprivation, increased illness, poor grades, moodiness, anxiety, and depression.
  5. School-related cyber breaches. A majority of schools do an excellent job of reinforcing the importance of online safety these days. However, that doesn’t mean it’s own cybersecurity isn’t vulnerable to cyber threats, which can put your child’s privacy at risk. Breaches happen in the form of phishing emails, ransomware, and any loopholes connected to weak security protocols.
    Back-to-School Tip: Demand that schools be transparent about the data they are collecting from students and families. Opt-out of the school’s technology policy if you believe it doesn’t protect your child or if you sense an indifferent attitude about privacy. Ask the staff about its cybersecurity policy to ensure it has a secure password, software, and network standards that could affect your family’s data is compromised.

Stay the course, parent, you’ve got this. Armed with a strong relationship and media ground rules relevant to your family, together, you can tackle any digital challenge the new school year may bring.

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FOMO: How to Help Digital Kids Overcome the Feeling of Missing Out

What happens when you give hundreds of teenagers smartphones and unlimited access to chat apps and social networks 24/7? A generation emerges with a condition called Fear of Missing Out, or, FOMO. While feelings of FOMO have been around for centuries, social media has done its part to amplify it, which can cause some serious emotional fallout for teens today.

What is FOMO

FOMO is that uneasy and often consuming feeling you’re missing out on something more interesting, exciting or better than what you are currently doing. FOMO affects people of all ages in various ways since 77% of humans now own phones. However, for uber-digital teens, FOMO can hit especially hard. Seeing a friend’s Paris vacation photos on Instagram or watching friends at a party on Snapchat can spark feelings of sadness and loneliness that can lead to anxiety and even depression.

As one mom recently shared with us: “My daughter called me a few months ago saying she wanted to drop out of college and travel the world. When I asked her what sparked this and how she planned to finance her adventure, she said, ‘everyone else is doing it, so I’m sure I’ll figure it out.'”

After further discussion, the mom discovered that her daughter’s idea to drop out was a combination of intense FOMO and lack of sleep. It was exam week, the pressure was high, and scrolling Instagram made her daughter question her life choices. When exams ended, her daughter got some sleep and took a few days off of social media and remains in school today.

Signs of FOMO

  • Constantly checking social media (even while on vacation, out with friends, or attending a fun event)
  • Constantly refreshing your screen to get the latest updates and to see people’s responses to your posts
  • Feeling you need to be available and respond to your friends 24/7
  • Obsessively posting your daily activities online
  • Feeling of needing new things, new experiences, a better life
  • Feeling sad, lonely, or depressed after being on social media for extended periods of time
  • Feeling dissatisfaction with one’s life
  • Making life choices or financial decisions based on what you see online

Coaching Kids through FOMO

Nurture JOMO. The Joy of Missing Out, JOMO, is the opposite of FOMO. It’s the feeling of freedom and even relief that we’ve unplugged and are fully present in the moment. To encourage more JOMO and less FOMO, parents can help guide kids toward personal contentment with more phone-free activities such as reading, journaling, face-to-face conversations, outdoor activities, and practicing mindfulness.

Other ways to encourage JOMO: Remind kids they have choices and don’t have to say “yes” to every invitation and to ask themselves, “Is this something I really want to do?” Also, consider challenging them to turn off their phone notifications, try a digital cleanse for a day or even a week, and read and discuss this great JOMO Manifesto together. A big perk of embracing JOMO is also “missing out” on some of the digital risks such as oversharing and risks to reputation and privacy.

Keep a thought journal. Changing your thinking is hard work. Experts suggest that kids suffering from anxiety, depression, or FOMO keep a thought journal to track, analyze, and reframe negative thoughts in more realistic, honest ones. For example, an initial thought might be: “I can’t believe my friends went to the concert without me. They must not want me around.” After thinking honestly about the situation, that thought might change to: “I don’t even like that band, wouldn’t spend money to see them, and my friends know that. Anyway, I had a blast with Ashley at the movies tonight.”

Cut back on social media. Cutting back sounds like an obvious fix, right? That’s the thing about unhealthy habits — they can be very tough to break and sometimes we need help. Most kids will be quick to argue that the amount of time they spend online doesn’t impact their emotions at all but numerous studies and common sense contradict that reasoning. They say this because the thought of cutting back on their social media habits can strike panic. It’s a love-hate routine they don’t quite know how to stop and it is their go-to remedy for boredom. So persist in helping your child reduce screen time. Be creative by offering alternate activities and helping them stay on track with their goals.

Curate for quality. This tip will, no doubt, challenge your kids. You may even get a flat “no way” when you suggest it. When it comes to photo-based platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, challenge your child to think about why they follow certain friends or accounts. Challenge them to delete feeds that are not encouraging, useful, or post quality content. They may not want to reduce their friends’ list (follower and friend counts matter) but they can mute accounts so they don’t have to see content that triggers FOMO feelings.

FOMO is a very real feeling so if your child shows signs of it be sure to validate their feelings. Periodic feelings of exclusion and hurt are part of being human. Don’t, however, allow faulty, streaming perceptions to push out the true joys of real-life experiences. Be the bridge of reason for your kids reminding them that social media spotlights the best versions of people’s lives — the filtered versions — but that nothing compares to showing up and living the real adventure.

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4 Ways for Parents to Handle the Facebook Messenger Bug

9 out of 10 children in the U.S. between the ages of six and twelve have access to smart devices. And while parents know it’s important for their children to learn to use technology in today’s digital world, 75% want more visibility into their kids’ digital activities. This is precisely why Facebook designed Messenger Kids to empower parents to monitor their children’s safety online. However, the popular social media platform had to recently warn users of a security issue within this app for kids.

The central benefit of Messenger Kids is that children can only chat with other users their parents approve of. Yet one design flaw within the group chat feature prevented Facebook from upholding this rule. Children who started a group chat could include any of their approved connections in the conversation, even if a user was not authorized to message the other kids in the chat. As a result, thousands of children were able to connect with users their parents weren’t aware of via this flaw.

Luckily, Facebook removed the unauthorized group chats and flagged the issue to all affected users, promising that that potentially unsafe chats won’t happen again. While Facebook has not yet made a formal public response, they confirmed the bug to The Verge:

“We recently notified some parents of Messenger Kids account users about a technical error that we detected affecting a small number of group chats. We turned off the affected chats and provided parents with additional resources on Messenger Kids and online safety.”

Now, Facebook is currently working on still resolving the bug itself. However, there are still many actions parents can take to ensure that their child is safe on Facebook Messenger, and social media apps in general. Start by following these four best practices to secure your kid’s online presence:

  • Turn on automatic app updates on your child’s device. Updates usually include new and improved app features that your child will be excited to try. But more importantly, they tend to account for security bugs. Delaying updates can leave apps vulnerable to cybercriminals and turning on automatic app updates ensures that you don’t have to worry about missing one.
  • Get educated. Some parents find it helpful to use the same apps as their child to better understand how it works and what safety threats might be relevant. Facebook also offers resources online that provide guidance for staying safe, such as how and when to block a user and what kind of content is or isn’t risky to share. Additionally, it’s always a best practice to read the terms and conditions of an app before downloading to make sure you’re aware of what your child is signing up for.
  • Keep an open dialogue about online safety. It’s important to discuss your child’s online activities with them and walk them through best internet practices, such as changing passwords every so often and not clicking on links from unknown sources. That way, they’ll be better prepared for potential cyberthreats. Making the internet a part of the conversion will also help your child feel comfortable coming to you about things they might be skeptical about online.
  • Consider leveraging a security solution with parental controls. Depending on your child’s age and how much of a window you want into their online behaviors, you can leverage a solution such as McAfee Safe Family that can be helpful for creating a safe online environment. You can block certain websites and create predefined rules, which will help prevent your child from sharing comprising information.

And, of course, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Family Safety: Twitter, Instagram Beef Up Measures to Fight Hate Speech, Bullying

The past few weeks have proven to be wins for family safety with several top social networks announcing changes to their policies and procedures to reduce the amount of hateful conduct and online bullying.

Twitter: ‘Dehumanizing Language Increases Risk’

In response to rising violence against religious minorities, Twitter said this week that it would update its hateful conduct rules to include dehumanizing speech against religious groups.

“Our primary focus is on addressing the risks of offline harm, and research shows that dehumanizing language increases that risk . . . we’re expanding our rules against hateful conduct to include language that dehumanizes others based on religion,” the company wrote on its Twitter Safety blog.

Twitter offered two resources that go in-depth on the link between dehumanizing language and offline harm that is worth reading and sharing with your kids. Experts Dr. Susan Benesch and Nick Haslam and Michelle Stratemeyer define hate speech, talk about its various contexts, and advise on how to counter it.

Instagram: ‘This intervention gives people a chance to reflect.’ 

Instagram announced it would be rolling out two new features to reduce potentially offensive content. The first, powered by artificial intelligence, prompts users to pause before posting. For instance, if a person is about to post a cruel comment such as “you are so stupid,” the user will get a pop-up notification asking, “are you sure you want to post this?”

A second anti-bullying function new to Instagram is called “Restrict,” a setting that will allow users to indiscreetly block bullies from looking at your account. Restrict is a quieter way to cut someone off from seeing your content than blocking, reporting, or unfollowing, which could spark more bullying.

These digital safety moves by both Instagram and Twitter are big wins for families concerned about the growing amount of questionable content and bullying online.

If you get a chance, go over the basics of these new social filters with your kids.

Other ways to avoid online bullying:

Wise posting. Encourage kids to pause and consider tone, word choice, and any language that may be offensive or hurtful to another person, race, or gender. You are your child’s best coach and teacher when it comes to using social apps responsibly.

Stay positive and trustworthy. Coach kids around online conflict and the importance of sharing verified information. Encourage your child to be part of the solution in stopping rumors and reporting digital skirmishes and dangerous content to appropriate platforms.

Avoid risky apps. Apps like ask.fm allow anonymity should be off limits. Kik Messenger, Yik Yak, Tinder, Down, and Whisper may also present risks. Remember: Any app is risky if kids are reckless with privacy settings, conduct, content, or the people they allow to connect with them.

Layer security. Use a comprehensive solution to help monitor screentime, filter content, and monitor potentially risky apps and websites.

Monitor gaming communities. Gaming time can skyrocket during the summer and in a competitive environment, so can cyberbullying. Listen in and monitor game time conversations and make every effort to help him or her balance summer gaming time.

Make profiles and photos private. Require kids under 18 to make all social profiles private. By doing this, you limit online circles to known friends and reduces the possibility of cyberbullying and online conflict.

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Kids Obsessed with YouTube? How to Help Them Stay Balanced, Safe This Summer

If you haven’t seen your kids in a few hours but can hear outbursts of laughter from a nearby room, chances are, they — along with millions of other kids — are watching YouTube. The popular digital video hub has more viewers than network television and soaks up more than 46,000 years of our collective viewing time annually. Chances are your kids will be part of the YouTube digital mosh pit this summer, but do you know the risks?

Types of screen time

The quality of online time for kids usually shifts during the summer months. For example, there’s active screen time and passive screen time. Knowing the difference between the two can help your family decide best how to balance device use — especially when it comes to consuming endless hours on YouTube.

Active screen time requires a person’s cognitive and/or physical engagement and develops social, language, or physical skills. Engaging in activities such as researching, creating original content, learning a new program, and playing educational games is considered active screen usage. Active screen time tends to go up during the school year and down in the summer.

Passive screen time is passively absorbing information via a screen, app, or game for entertainment reasons only. This includes scrolling through social networks, watching movies binge watching), and watching YouTube videos. Little to no thought or creativity is required when a person engages in repetitious, passive screen activities.

According to a Common Sense Media study, children ages 8 to 12, spend nearly six hours per day using media, and teenagers average closer to nine hours a day (numbers don’t include school work). It’s safe to say that during the summer, these numbers climb even higher — as do the risks.

Here are a few ways to balance screen time and boost safety on YouTube this summer.

YouTube: 5 Family Talking Points

  • Explore YouTube.The best way to understand the culture of YouTube is to spend time there. Ask your kids about their favorite channels and what they like about them. Get to know the people they follow — after all, these are the people influencing your child. Here’s a sampling of a few top YouTubers: MattyBRaps (music), JoJoSiwa (music, dance), Brooklyn and Bailey (vlogs, challenges, music), Baby Ariel (challenges, vlog), Johnny Orlando (music), PewDiePie (comedy), Jacy and Kacy (crafts, challenges), (Bethany Mota (shopping hauls), Grav3yardgirl (makeup), Smosh (comedy).
  • Respect age limits. YouTube is packed with humor, tutorials, pranks, vlogs, music, reviews, and endlessly engaging content. However, age limits exist for a good reason because the channel also has its share of dangerous content. The darker side of YouTube is always just a click away and includes sexual content, hate content, harassment and cyberbullying, violent and graphic content, and scams.
  • Turn on restricted mode. By turning on the restricted mode you can block videos with mature content from a user’s searches, related videos, playlists, and shows — this is a big deal since many “up next” videos (on the right side of the screen) are cued to play automatically and can lead kids to sketchy content. In addition to the restricted mode, consider an extra layer of protection with filtering software for all your family devices.
  • Opt for YouTube Kids. For kids under 13, YouTube Kids is a safe video platform, specially curated for young viewers. Kids may snub any platform designed “for kids,” however, if you are worried about younger kids running into inappropriate content, this is your best video option.
  • Discuss the ‘why’ behind the rules. As a parent, you know the possible ways YouTube — or other social platforms — can be harmful. Don’t assume your kids do. Kids are immersed in their peer groups online, which means danger and harm aren’t primary concerns. Even so, before you lecture kids about the dangers of YouTube, open up a dialogue around the topic by asking great questions. Here are just a few to get you started:

  • Do you understand why it’s important to filter YouTube content and respect age limits (inappropriate content, cyberbullying)?
  • Do you understand why unboxing and makeup videos are so popular (advertisers want you to purchase)?
  • Do you understand why we need to balance between screen time this summer? (mental, physical health)
  • Do you know why this piece of content might be fake or contain questionable information (conspiracy, hate, or political videos)?

As the public increasingly demands social networks do more to remove harmful or objectionable content, one thing is clear: Despite strides in this area by a majority of platforms, no online social hub is (or will likely ever be) 100% safe. The best way to keep kids safe online is by nurturing a strong parent-child connection and having consistent conversations designed to equip and educate kids about digital risks and responsibility.

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5 Digital Risks to Help Your Teen Navigate this Summer

S’mores.
Sparklers.
Snow cones.
Sunburns.
Fireflies.

Remember when summer was simple? Before smartphones and social networks, there was less uploading and more unwinding; less commenting and more savoring. 

There’s a new summer now. It’s the social summer, and tweens and teens know it well. It’s those few months away from school where the pressure (and compulsion) to show up and show off online can double. On Instagram and Snapchat, it’s a 24/7 stream of bikinis, vacations, friend groups, and summer abs. On gaming platforms, there’s more connecting and competing. 

With more of summer playing out on social, there’s also more risk. And that’s where parents come in. 

While it’s unlikely you can get kids to ditch their devices for weeks or even days at a time this summer, it is possible to coach kids through the risks to restore some of the simplicity and safety to summer.

5 summer risks to coach kids through:

  1. Body image. Every day your child — male or female — faces a non-stop, digital tidal wave of pressure to be ‘as- beautiful’ or ‘as-perfect’ as their peers online. Summer can magnify body image issues for kids.
    What you can do: Talk with your kids about social media’s power to subtly distort body image. Help kids decipher the visual world around them — what’s real, what’s imagined, and what’s relevant. Keep an eye on your child’s moods, eating habits, and digital behaviors. Are comments or captions focused only on looks? If so, help your child expand his or her focus. Get serious about screen limits if you suspect too much scrolling is negatively impacting your child’s physical or emotional health.
  2. Gaming addiction. The risks connected with gaming can multiply in the summer months. Many gaming platforms serve as social networks that allow kids to talk, play, and connect with friends all day, every day, without ever leaving their rooms. With more summer gaming comes to the risk for addiction as well as gaming scams, inappropriate content, and bullying.
    What you can do: Don’t ignore the signs of excessive gaming, which include preoccupation with gaming, anger, irritation, lying to cover playing time, withdrawal and isolation, exchanging sleep for gaming. Be swift and take action. Set gaming ground rules specific to summer. Consider parental control software to help with time limits. Remember: Kids love to circumvent time limits at home by going to a friend’s house to play video games. Also, plan summer activities out of the house and away from devices.
  3. Cyberbullying. Making fun of others, threatening, name-calling, exclusion, and racial or gender discrimination are all serious issues online. With more time on their hands in the summer months, some kids can find new ways to torment others.
    What you can do: Listen in on (monitor) your child’s social media accounts (without commenting or liking). What is the tone of your child’s comments or the comments of others? Pay attention to your child’s moods, behaviors, and online friend groups. Note: Your child could be the target of cyberbullying or the cyberbully, so keep your digital eyes open and objective.
  4. Smartphone anxiety. Anxiety is a growing issue for teens that can compound in the summer months if left unchecked. A 2018 survey from the Pew Research Center reveals that 56 percent of teens feel anxious, lonely, or upset when they don’t have their cell phones.
    What you can do:
    Pay attention to your child’s physical and emotional health. Signs of anxiety include extreme apprehension or worry, self-doubt, sleeplessness, stomach or headache complaints, isolation, panic attacks, and excessive fear. Establish screen limits and plan phone-free outings with your child. Set aside daily one-on-one time with your child to re-connect and seek out professional help if needed.
  5. Social Conflict. More hours in the day + more social media = potential for more conflict. Digital conflict in group chats or social networks can quickly get out of hand. Being excluded, misunderstood, or criticized hurts, even more, when it plays out on a public, digital stage.
    What you can do: While conflict is a normal part of life and healthy friendships, it can spiral in the online space where fingers are quick to fire off responses. Offer your child your ears before your advice. Just listen. Hear them out and (if asked) help them brainstorm ways to work through the conflict. Offer options like responding well, not engaging, and handling a situation face-to-face. Avoid the temptation to jump in and referee or solve.

Summer doesn’t have to be stressful for kids, and the smartphone doesn’t have to win the majority of your child’s attention. With listening, monitoring, and timely coaching, parents can help kids avoid common digital risks and enjoy the ease and fun of summer. 

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Study: Fortnite Game Becoming the Preferred Social Network for Kids

According to a study recently released by National Research Group (NRG), the wildly popular video game Fortnite is growing beyond its intended gaming platform into a favored social network where kids go daily to chat, message, and connect.

The study represents the most in-depth study on Fortnite to date and contains essential takeaways for parents trying to keep up with their kids’ social networking habits. According to the NRG study, “Fortnite is the number one service teens are using, and audiences cite its social elements as the primary motivators for playing.”

The popular game now claims more than 250 million users around the world, and for its audience of teens (ages 10-17) who play at least once a week, Fortnite consumes about 25% of their free time, cites NRG adding that “Fortnite presents a more hopeful meta-verse where community, inclusivity, creativity and authentic relationships can thrive.”

Summer gaming 

With school break now upon us, the NRG study is especially useful since screentime tends to jump during summer months. Here are some of the risks Fortnite (and gaming in general) presents and some tips on how to increase privacy and safety for young users who love this community.

Fortnite safety tips 

Activate parental controls. Kids play Fortnite on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and iOS. Parents can restrict and monitor playing time by going into the Settings tab of each device, its related URL, or app. Another monitoring option for PC, tablets, and mobile devices is monitoring software.

Listen, watch, learn. Sit with your kids and listen to and watch some Fortnite sessions. Who are they playing with? What’s the tone of the conversation? Be vocal about anything that concerns you and coach your child on how to handle conflict, strangers online (look at their friend list), and bullying.

Monitor voice chat. Voice chat is an integral part of Fortnite if you are playing in squads or teams. Without the chat function, players can’t communicate in real-time with other team members. Voice chat is also a significant social element of the game because it allows players to connect and build community with friends anywhere. Therein lies the risk — voice chat also allows kids to play the game with strangers so the risk of inappropriate conversation, cyberbullying, and grooming are all reported realities of Fortnite. Voice chat can be turned off in Settings and should be considered for younger tween users.

Scams, passwords, and tech addiction. When kids are having a blast playing video games, danger is are far from their minds. Talk about the downside so they can continue to play their favorite game in a safe, healthy way. Discuss the scams targeting Fortnite users, the importance of keeping user names and passwords private (and strong), and the reasoning behind gaming screen limits.

Social networks have become inherent to kids’ daily life and an important way to form meaningful peer bonds. With new networks emerging every day such as Fortnite, it’s more important than ever to keep the conversation going with your kids about the genuine risks these fun digital hangouts bring.

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Oversharing: Are You Ignoring Your Child’s Privacy When You Post Online?

Take it down, please. 

The above is a typical text message parents send to kids when they discover their child has posted something questionable online. More and more, however, it’s kids who are sending this text to parents who habitually post about them online.

Tipping Point

Sadly — and often unknowingly — parents have become some of the biggest violators of their children’s privacy. And, there’s a collective protest among kids that’s expressing itself in different ways. Headlines reflect kids reigning in their parent‘s posting habits and parents choosing to pull all photos of their kids offline. There’s also a younger generation of voices realizing the effect social media has had on youth, which could be signaling a tipping point in social sharing.

Ninety-two percent of American children have an online presence before the age of 2, and parents post nearly 1,000 images of their children online before their fifth birthday, according to Time. Likewise, in a 2017 UNICEF report, the children’s advocacy group called the practice of “sharenting” – parents sharing information online about their children – harmful to a child’s reputation and safety.

Digital Footprint

This sharenting culture has fast-tracked our children’s digital footprints, which often begins in the womb. Kids now have a digital birth date — the date of the first upload, usually a sonogram photo — in addition to their actual birth date. Sharing the details of life has become a daily routine with many parents not thinking twice before sharing birthdays, awards, trips, and even more private moments such as bath time or potty training mishaps.

Too often, what a parent views as a harmless post, a child might see as humiliating, especially during the more sensitive teen years. Oversharing can impact a child’s emotional health as well as the parent-child relationship, according to a University of Michigan study.

Diminishing Privacy 

So how far is too far when it comes to the boundaries between public and private life? And, what are the emotional, safety, and privacy ramifications to a child when parents overshare? The sharenting culture has forced us all to consider these questions more closely.

Children’s diminishing privacy is on advocacy agendas worldwide. Recently, the UK Children’s Commissioner released a report called “Who Knows About Me?” that put a spotlight on how we collect and share children’s data and how this puts them at risk.

5 safe sharing tips for families

  1. Stop and think. Be intentional about protecting your child’s privacy. Before you upload a photo or write a post, ask yourself, “Do I really need to share this?” or “Could this content compromise my child’s privacy (or feelings) today or in the future?”
  2. Ask permission. Before publicly posting anything about your child, ask for his or her permission. This practice models respect and digital responsibility. If posting a group photo that includes other children, ask both the child’s consent and his or her parent’s.
  3. Keep family business private. Resist sharing too much about your family dynamic — good or bad — online. Sharing your parenting struggles or posting details about what’s going on with you and your child could cause embarrassment and shame and irreparably harm your relationship.
  4. Consider a photo purge. With your child’s wellbeing, safety, and privacy in mind — present and future — consider going through your social networks and deleting any photos or posts that don’t need to be public.
  5. Talk to kids about the freedom of expression. Every person who logs on to the internet can expect fundamental freedoms, even kids. These include the right to privacy, how our data is shared, and the freedom of expression online. Discuss these points with your children in addition to our collective digital responsibilities such as respect for others, wise posting, downloading legally, citing works properly, and reporting risky behavior or content.

When it comes to parenting, many of us are building our wings on the way down, especially when it comes to understanding all the safety implications around data privacy for children. However, slowing down to consider your child’s wellbeing and privacy with every post is a huge step toward creating a better, safer internet for everyone.

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Are Your Kids Part of the TikTok App Craze? Here’s What Parents Need to Know

What phone app has over 150 million active users and more than 14 million uploads every day? You might guess Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, but you’d be wrong. Meet TikTok — a video app kids are flocking to that is tons of fun but also carries risk.

What Is It?

TikTok is a free social media app that allows users to create and share short 15-second videos set to favorite music. If your child was a fan of Musical.ly, then he or she is probably active on TikTok since Musical.ly shut down last year and moved all of its users to TikTok. Kids love the app because it’s got all the social perks — music, filters, stickers — and the ability to amass likes and shares (yes, becoming TikTok-famous is an aspiration for some).

The Upside

There are a lot of positive things about this app. It’s filling the void of the sorely missed Vine app in that it’s a fun hub for video creation and peer connection. Spending time on TikTok will make you laugh out loud, sing, and admire the degree of creativity so many young users put into their videos. You will see everything from heartfelt, brave monologues, to incredible athletic stunts, to hilarious, random moments in the lives of teens. It’s serious fun.

Another big positive is the app appears to take Digital Wellbeing (tools in the app that encourage screen time), privacy, and online safety seriously. Its resources tab is rich with tips for both parents and kids.

The (Potential) Downside

As with any other social app, TikTok carries inherent risks, as reported by several news sources, including ABC.

For instance, anyone can view your child’s videos, send a direct message, and access their location information. And, while TikTok requires that users are at least 13 years old to use the app and anyone under 18 must have parent’s approval, if you browse the app, you’ll quickly find that plenty of preteens are using it. A predator could easily create a fake account or many accounts to strike up conversations with minors.

Another danger zone is inappropriate content. While a lot of TikTok content is fun and harmless, there’s a fair share of the music that includes explicit language and users posting content that should not be viewed by a young audience.

And, wherever there’s a public forum, there’s a risk of cyberbullying. When a TikTok user posts a video, that content instantly becomes open for public comment or criticism and dialogue can get mean.

Talking Points for Families

Most social media apps have an inherent risk factor because the world wide web is just that — much of the planet’s population in the palm of your child’s hand. Different age groups and kids will use apps differently. So, when it comes to apps, it’s a good idea to monitor how your child uses each app and tailor conversations from there.

  • Download the app. If your child uses TikTok, it’s a good idea to download the app too. Look around inside the community. Analyze the content and the culture. Are the accounts your child follows age appropriate? Are the comments and conversations positive? Does your child know his or her followers? Is your child posting appropriately?
  • Talk about the risks. Spend time with your child and watch how he or she uses TikTok. Let them teach you why they love it. Encourage creativity and fun, but don’t hesitate to point out danger zones and how your child can avoid them.
  • Monitor direct messages. This may seem invasive, but a lot of the safety threats to your child take place behind the curtain of the public feed in direct messages. Depending on the age of your child (and the established digital ground rules of your family) consider requiring access to his or her account.
  • Adjust settings. Make sure to click account settings to ‘private’ so only people your child knows can access his or her content and send direct messages. Also, turn off location services and consider getting comprehensive security software for all family devices.

Apps are where the fun is for kids so you can bet your child will at least check out buzz-worthy platforms like TikTok. They may browse, or they may become content creators. Your best social monitoring tool is to keep an open dialogue with your child. Keep talking with your kids about what’s going on in their digital life — where they hang out, who their friends are, and what’s new.  You may get some resistance but don’t let that stop you from doing all you can to keep your family safe online.

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