Making sure your Child is safe online –Information to Parents
The internet is amazing. And can be a great learn, create and connect opportunity and tool – opening up a whole world of exciting possibilities. But with the digital world changing all the time, how can you make sure your child’s staying safe? Here are steps you can take to ensure your child is safe online.
Parental controls are an important way to keep your child safe online.
Parental controls can be used to block upsetting or harmful content, control in-app purchases, or manage how long your child spends online. And the good news is parental controls are really easy to set up.
What are parental controls?
Parental controls are software and tools which you can install on phones, tablets, games consoles, or laptops – and even your home broadband.
You can also use them to help you block or filter the content your child sees when searching online. And family-friendly public WiFi can help when you’re out and about.
Parental controls are also available to help you to:
- plan what time of day your child can go online and how long for
- stop them from downloading apps that are age inappropriate.
- Manage the content different members of the family can see.
So whatever your child is doing online, there’s a way that you can help keep them safe. For more information on this contact your broadband provider and they will be able to guide you on how to do this and most services are free of charge.
Safety beyond Facebook: Most parents know about Facebook, but most teenagers no longer use facebook as a social media app. So do you know the apps available in the market today? It is so important that you keep a regular track on your child’s phone.
Top 12 apps frequently used by teenagers which could be Dangerous.
Yik Yak is pretty loosey-goosey. The producers of this app call it “the anonymous social wall for anything and everything.” All users are anonymous (registration requires no personal information, other than a user’s location), and their posts are called “Yaks” and show up in a live feed for other users — or “Yakkers” — in their area. The app’s content-generation and moderation is entirely in the hands of its users (who can “vote” posts up or down in the news feed; after two “down” votes, a Yak disappears). The app is rated ages 17+ and targets college students, who can use it to spread the word about parties and events or share their thoughts. But younger users are easily getting their hands on the app and using it to post hurtful comments and rumors about their peers.
This app allows users to interact in a question-and-answer format — with friends, peers, and anonymous users alike. The app is rated ages 13+ and is most popular in Europe, but is catching on in the U.S. Some kids have used the app for hurtful cyberbullying that has been linked to suicides, including the death of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick of Florida. British schools have sent home letters calling for students to stop using ask.fm because of its use in several cyberbullying incidents there and it’s loose regulation and lack of monitoring. In response to the uproar in the U.K., the site added a button where users can report abuse, but some parents feel it’s too little, too late. Check out Webwise’s Ask.fm Guide for Parents and Teachers.
Kik is a mobile app that people can use to text with friends at high speed and with more of a “face-to-face feel” than regular texting (users’ profile pictures appear in a little bubble next to their text, and they can quickly text photos, sketches, or even pre-designed greeting cards to individuals or groups). The app is rated ages 17+, but there is no age verification so anyone can download it. Like some other instant messenger apps, Kik allows your teen to connect with others using just a username (rather than texting from her phone number). But it begs the question: Should teens be texting with people beyond their phone contacts? Reviews in the App Store and Google Play store reveal that many people use Kik to meet strangers for sexting. The app has also been connected with cyberbullying. Rebecca Sedwick, the Florida bullying victim who killed herself, reportedly used Kik and Voxer in addition to ask.fm — receiving messages like “Go kill yourself” and “Why aren’t you dead?” — without her mother even knowing about the apps. It’s no surprise Kik has landed on some parents’ “worst apps” lists. Check out bewebsmart.com’s advice on Kik.
This walkie-talkie PTT (push-to-talk) app allows users to quickly exchange short voice messages. They can have chats going on with multiple people at a time and just have to tap the play button to hear any messages they receive. Although it largely has an adult following, including some people who use it for their job, it’s becoming popular among teens who enjoy its hybrid style of texting and talking. Hurtful messages from cyberbullies can be even more biting when they’re spoken and can be played repeatedly. Surprisingly, the app is rated ages 4+ in the App Store.
Snapchat is an app that allows users to send photos and videos that disappear from view within 10 seconds after they’re received. It’s rated ages 12+. Some kids are using the app to send racy pics because they believe the images can’t be saved and circulated. But it turns out that Snapchat pics don’t completely disappear from a device, and users can take a screenshot before an image vanishes in the app. And while recent studies revealed that “sexting” (sending sexual messages and images, usually via text message) is not as popular as parents had feared, “disappearing photo” apps like Snapchat might embolden kids to send more explicit photos and texts than they would have before through traditional texting. Check out connectsafely.org’s “A Parents’ Guide to Snapchat.”
Poke is Facebook’s app that, similar to Snapchat, promises that photos sent will “self-destruct” within seconds after they’re received. While Poke isn’t nearly as popular as Snapchat, it is still gaining young users who can use it for sexting. Also like Snapchat, the images sent via Poke can be saved or viewed with certain workarounds. The App store rates it ages 4+ (but it is connected to Facebook, which is a 13+ site).
Vine is Twitter’s mobile app that allows users to shoot and share short loops of video (6 seconds or less). It’s rated 17+, but children and teens are still downloading it. As with any multimedia app, the content on Vine runs the gamut from naughty to nice. “With the most basic creative searching, kids can find nudity, sex, drug use, offensive language, hardcore sexuality, and more,” Common Sense Media says in its review of the app. “While there are plenty of cute, fun videos, even adults might be shocked at some of the things they find.”
This 17+ app’s motto is: “Share Secrets, Express Yourself, and Meet New People.” It has a similar feel to the now-defunct PostSecret app, which was discontinued shortly after its release because it filled up with abusive content. Whisper lets users set up anonymous accounts to make their messages or confessions overlap an image or graphic (similar to e-postcards), which other users can then “like,” share, or comment on. While it allows for creative expression, it can also take overly personal content viral. The app also shows a user’s location. Although the app is geared toward older teens and adults, younger children are finding their way to it. A 12-year-old girl in Washington was reportedly raped by a 21-year-old man who met her on Whisper.
Many children and young teens are also active on this 17+ photo-sharing app. It can also be used for sharing videos and chatting. Common Sense Media says Tumblr is “too raunchy for tykes” because users can easily access pornographic, violent, and inappropriate content. Common Sense also notes that users need to jump through hoops to set up privacy settings — and until then, all of a user’s photo and content is public for all to see. Mental health experts say that Tumblr can be damaging to adolescents’ mental health because it tends to glorify self-harm and eating disorders.
This hugely popular photo-sharing site is owned by Facebook, so you may be more familiar with it than with other photo-sharing apps. Users can add cool filters or create collages of their photos and share them across Facebook and other social media platforms. The app is rated 13+ and may be slightly tamer than Tumblr, but users can still find mature or inappropriate content and comments throughout the app (there is a way to flag inappropriate content for review). “Trolls” — or people making vicious, usually anonymous comments — are common. A user can change the settings to block their location or certain followers, but many users are casual about their settings, connecting with people they don’t know well or at all. Check out connectsafely.org’s “A Parents’ Guide to Instagram.”
Shots of Me
Justin Bieber has invested in this 12+ “selfie-only” photo-sharing app in part because he was attracted to its “anti-trolling” aspect; it does not have a comment section under photos posted on the app. Instead of a public comment area, the app has a direct-messaging feature where users can only send private messages to one another. The anti-trolling feature might also help ward off cyberbullying among teens who like to put meanness on display (but teens could still be nasty via private message). The app does show a user’s location and how long ago a photo was added unless those features are managed in the app’s settings. Shots of Me is currently available only for Apple devices. It’s not the only “selfie-centered” photo-sharing app — another one called Frontback has a split screen that allows users to simultaneously share a regular photo and a selfie (think: a photo of the ocean and a selfie of the photographer sitting happily in a beach chair), and easily reveal their location.
Jailbreak Programs and Icon-Hiding Apps
These aren’t social media apps — and they’re confusing — but you should still know about them (especially if you have a tech-savvy teen or have had to take away your child’s mobile phone privileges because of abuse). “Jailbreaking” an iPhone or “rooting” an Android phone basically means hacking your own device to lift restrictions on allowable applications — meaning, the user can then download third-party apps not sold in the App Store or Google Play store (read: sometimes sketchy apps). It’s hard to say how many teens have jailbroken their mobile device, but instructions on how to do it are readily available on the Internet. Cydia is a popular application for jailbroken phones, and it’s a gateway to other apps called Poof and SBSettings — which are icon-hiding apps. These apps are supposedly intended to help users clear the clutter from their screens, but some young people are using them to hide questionable apps and violent games from their parents. Be aware of what the Cydia app icons look like so you know if you’re getting a complete picture of your teen’s app use.