Category Archives: snapchat

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.

YOLO: What Parents Need to Know About the Anonymity App Kids Use with Snapchat

If your kids use Snapchat, chances are they also use the popular new app YOLO along with it. Since it’s debut in May YOLO has been downloaded over 5 million times, and kids absolutely love it. Whether or not parents love it, however, remains to be seen.

But before rendering YOLO yet one more risky app (because frankly, all apps are dangerous if used recklessly) let’s take a closer look at what the attraction is for teens and how we can equip them to use it wisely.

Why kids love it

Snapchat is already where kids spend a lot of their time, and YOLO is an app specifically designed to work in tandem with the Snapchat interface. YOLO enhances that experience by allowing Snapchat users to invite other Snapchat friends to ask or answer questions anonymously. And who hasn’t been curious about what other people think about them or wish they could access how someone “really” feels about something? Kids can ask any number of questions such as if people think they are funny, if their new hairstyle works, how to lean on a big decision, or if others share their fear of clowns. The possibilities are endless. This kind of connection — without having to put your name on your answer — offers some a fresh level of honesty and peer connection.

What makes it risky

The exact reasons kids love YOLO — anonymity, curiosity, honesty — are why the app could (and by some reports already has) turn into the latest breeding ground for bullying. Similar to anonymous apps preceding YOLO such as Yik Yak and Saraha, users can say whatever they want without attaching their name. Apple and Google stores have banned similar anonymous apps over accusations of hate speech and bullying.

What parents can do 

Talk about the app with your kids. Pull YOLO up and see how your child is using the Q&A app and the kinds of questions and responses he or she is collecting. Discuss any concerns you see.

Discuss the risks of anonymity. There’s a psychological phenomenon known as the online disinhibition effect, which means people feel less attached and responsible for their actions when they feel removed from their real identities. In short, when people can be anonymous online, they tend to say things they’d never say to someone in person. Warn kids that when they open themselves up to anonymous comments, they can also be opening themselves up to hurt. So, proceed with caution.

Check privacy. The YOLO app is very vague about how its user data is shared. As with any popular app, be mindful of the permissions you grant. Periodically, consider going through your phone settings to review and edit what information an app is collecting. Check to see if an app has access to your photos, location, social map, health information, purchasing habits, contacts, calendar, camera, or more.

Limit YOLO circle. Likely, because the YOLO app went viral so quickly, the site does not include app policies or guidelines or how to report abuses, which is a problem. The only nod to safety is in a brief app description in the Apple store: “YOLO is for positive feedback only. Be kind, respectful, show compassion with other users; otherwise, you will be banned. Please, be mindful of what you send.” To reduce potential bullying, advise kids to only send their questions to people they know and trust with kind responses. If problems arise, encourage kids to delete the app.

Words have power. Removing your face and name from a comment does not dilute the power of the words shared. Remind kids that their words can either be used to build someone up or tear them down and that being “honest” with someone doesn’t include giving mean spirited opinions or taking part in online trends that allow an “anything goes” mentality, as was the case with the TBH (To Be Honest) app.

Consider the tone of a text. Remind your child that even when someone posts something, they may consider funny, it may not be funny to the person on the receiving end. Because of the vulnerability factor of Q & A apps, they can cause unnecessary drama. Intent and inflection often get lost online, and even a seemingly small comment can quickly escalate into a big deal. With more social networks taking steps to reduce online hate speech and bullying, users must do their part and think before posting sensitive comments.

Stress responsibility, and empathy. Relating to others with empathy — putting oneself in the shoes of another person to understand and share their feelings — is often harder to do online than face-to-face. Stress to your child the importance of being responsible online and remembering the real people, with real feelings on the other side of a blank text box.

New apps come out every day. Some catch on like wildfire, like YOLO, and others have traction for a while then fade into cyber oblivion. Regardless of an app’s staying power, discuss app safety with your kids openly and often. Also, as an added layer of protection on devices, consider security software to monitor device activity and block inappropriate apps and websites.

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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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Social Underground: Kids Using Google Docs as New Digital Hangout

Over the years kids have succeeded in staying one step ahead of parents on the digital front. Remember the golden days of social? Teens owned Facebook until every parent, auntie, and grandparent on the planet showed up. So, teens migrated to Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat hoping to carve out a private patch of land for their tribe. And, according to a report in The Atlantic, the latest app these digital nomads have claimed as a covert hangout surprisingly is Google Docs.

Yes — Google Docs — that boring looking online tool many of us parents use at work to collaborate on projects. Google Docs is perfect when you think about it. The app can be accessed on a tablet, laptop, or as a phone app. It allows multiple users to edit a document at the same time — kind of like an online party or the ultimate private group chat.

To interact, kids can use the chat function or even highlight words or phrases and use a comment bubble to chat. Because teachers use the application in the classroom, kids are using Google Docs to chat during class without getting busted or dupe parents at home into thinking they are doing their homework.

Another big perk: Schools have firewalls that block social networking sites during school hours, but Google Docs is officially cleared for school use.

The Risks

As with any app, what begins as a covert, harmlessly chat channel between friends, can get malicious quickly as more and more people are invited into a shared document to talk.

Kids can easily share videos, memes, and hurtful, joking, or inappropriate content within a Google Doc. They can gang up on other kids and bully others just as they do on any other social network. Similar to the way images disappear on Snapchat in 24 hours or on Instagram stories, the “resolve” button on Google Docs chat function, allows kids to instantly delete a chat thread if a teacher or parent heads their way or hovers too closely.

Because Google Docs live on the cloud, there’s no need to download or install a piece of software to use or access it. Any device connected to the Internet can access a Google Doc, which means kids can also use it as a digital diary without a digital trail and hide potentially harmful behaviors from parents.

10 Ways to Coach Your Kids Around Digital Safety 

  1. Know where they go. Just as you’d ask where your child where he or she is going offline, be aware of their digital destinations online. Check on them during homework hours to be sure they aren’t chatting away their learning time.
  2. Check for other apps. If you’ve grounded your child from his or her smartphone for any reason, and they claim they have online homework to do, check their laptops and tablets for chat apps like Kik, WhatsApp, hidden vault apps, and of course, as we now know, Google Docs (see right for the icon).
  3. Remember, it’s forever. Even if an image or video is “resolved” on Google Docs, deleted on Instagram or Twitter, or “vanishes” on Snapchat, the great equalizer is the screenshot. Anyone can take one, and anyone can use it to bully, extort, or shame another person anytime they decide. Remind kids of the responsibility they have with any content they share anywhere online — privacy does not exist.
  4. Sharing is caring. If your child is on Google Docs and you have a hunch, they aren’t doing homework, ask them to share their document with you so you can monitor their work. Just hit the big blue “share” button and insert your email address and you will have immediate access to the homework document.
  5. Keep in touch with teachers. If your child’s grades begin to slip, he or she could be distracted at school. Ask about what apps are used in the classroom and alert the teacher if you think your child might be distracted be it with technology or anything else.
  6. Parental controls. Hey, we’re busy because we’re parents. Enlist some help in monitoring your child’s online activity with parental control software. This will help you block risky sites, limit excessive app use, and give you a report of where your kids spend most of their time online.
  7. Look for red flags. Everyone needs and desires privacy even your teen. The tough part is discerning when a teen is being private or trying to hide risky behavior. A few red flags to look for include defensiveness when asked about an app or chat activity, turning off a device screen when you come around, and getting angry when you ask to see their screen. Another sign of unhealthy app use is an increase in data use and fatigue at school from lack of sleep.
  8. Connect with other parents. Here’s the snag in the whole plan: The rules that apply to homework and devices at your house, may not apply at other people’s homes where kids often study. Bullying or inappropriate online behaviors often take place under other people’s roofs. So get intentional. Keep in touch with other parents. Find common ground on digital values before letting kids go offsite for homework time.
  9. Talk, talk, talk. Your best defense in keeping your kids safe online — be it using apps or other sites — is a strong offense. Talk with your kids often about what they like to do online, what their friends do, and address digital issues immediately.
  10. Be flexible. Parental monitoring is going to look different in every family. Every child is different in maturity, and every parent-child relationship varies greatly. Find a monitoring solution that works for your family. Coming down too hard on your kids could drive them into deeper secrecy while taking a hands-off approach could put them in danger. Try different methods until you find one that fits your family.

Remember: You won’t be able to keep your finger on everything your child is up to online, but you can still have a considerable influence by staying in the know on digital trends and best online safety practices.

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