I recently attended an online safety conference and met a young man named Wil Craig. Wil was being honored at the conference for his work with ATT's "It Can Wait" campaign.
He has a powerful message to share about the dangers of texting and driving.
Please take a minute to listen.
To learn more about ATT's "It Can Wait" campaign click here: http://itcanwait.com/
What Needs to Happen
In order for Facebook to allow kids under the age of 13 on the site, there are several things that need to happen.
To begin with, Facebook must address the COPPA concerns. For those of you who haven't heard of COPPA, it's the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, a federal regulation that requires prior verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information online from children under the age of 13. Facebook needs to obtain parental permission for kids under 13 to create a Facebook account.
It is essential that Facebook fully explores the preteen age range they're targeting and provides an age-appropriate experience for that age range. Not all existing Facebook features are appropriate for a preteen audience regardless of parental consent and oversight, and some may even vary depending on the age of the preteen. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think Facebook is more interested in capturing the 10-12 year old audience as that's the audience most interested in being where their friends are. And, I imagine at this point, Facebook has a pretty good idea of what that age group is now doing, albeit covertly, on their service. This information could be used to help protect them on a legitimate Facebook account.
Hand-in-hand with providing an age-appropriate experience, Facebook must provide parents with the means to monitor and supervise their children. For instance, Facebook could offer a predetermined, baseline experience for kids under 13 and provide parents with the tools to customize the experience making it either more restrictive or less restrictive based on a combination of factors including their children's age, maturity level, family norms as well as time parents are willing to commit to micromanaging the experience.
Facebook needs to embed a strong educational program into the experience focusing on both digital citizenship and online safety. Embedding education into the experience takes it beyond safety tips at the bottom of a page or a link to Facebook's safety site, but rather places teachable moments throughout the experience, especially at the point of interactivity when crucial decisions are being made.
Lastly, Facebook will have to make it easy for kids to report potential problems and, at the same time, should also employ technological solutions to proactively identify problems.
Assuming all the above needs are met, let's look at the benefits.
Facebook is ultimately offering a solution to the growing problem of underage users on their service, either there with or without their parent's consent. We've heard from Facebook that they remove 20,000 underage users daily from their service and these are only the ones they identify. These children are currently in an environment that offers them no protection for their age group – parental, technological, and/or educational. Creating an environment specifically for children will address these issues.
Connecting parents with preteen children on Facebook starts the parental involvement early on in the child's social media life-cycle. It brings the child into an environment that the typical parent of a preteen has used and has knowledge of, ultimately making the parent the expert if only for a brief time. This is a time when children are still willing to listen and learn from their parents, and less likely to push boundaries.
Relying on parents to oversee the social networking experience early on creates a platform for ongoing conversation. It provides valuable insight to the parent as to the child's expectations with respect to online social interactions. It builds an online collaboration between parent and child that can continue on as the child ages.
Gradual graduation to Facebook from the preteen to teens will make for more informed teens who are well aware of digital citizenship and online safety, including managing their reputation.
Additionally, some of the tools designed for the preteen experience could be utilized for parents to keep a closer eye on their younger teens on Facebook; those ranging from 13 to 15 who typically jump in without any guidance at all. Facebook for under 13's will produce teens who have matured in the social media realm with the expectation that parents play a significant role.
If correctly implemented, Facebook could offer kids and parents a shared platform that would afford kids a safer environment to explore, learn and ultimately understand the responsibility that comes along with social media. Think of it as a virtual 'kiddie pool' of sorts.
With this said, I don't think 'Facebook for Kids' is a bad idea. What do you think?
Popular social networking sites tout that 94% of teens are online with 43% percent of their online profiles set to "OPEN;" meaning that anyone can view profile contents. One popular site asserts that they have 400 million active users with that number doubling every six months. Considering these staggering numbers, crime is only limited by the human imagination.
One growing trend involves "SEXTORTION;" a practice of coercing an individual into sending sexually explicit images/videos and then using those images as leverage to compel the originator to send additional images/videos or even engage in sexual conduct. So, how does this happen?
Often, someone (suspect) creates a fake profile or chat posing as someone else who then makes a request to "friend" or otherwise have contact with the individual. The suspect sends a picture or video depicting the fake persona and requests return pictures/videos. Believing that he/she is sending a picture to a known friend, the victim snaps a few revealing images and hits send. The suspect then begins to threaten the victim. The victim is told to send more compromising pictures or the suspect will post the previous images on a porn site. He/she will often send links to the porn site in order to prove that he/she is serious about the threat. In an effort to further control the victim, the suspect often gathers information from social networking sites and then threatens to send the compromising pictures to parents, friends, etc.
This problem is further exacerbated by the growing trend of video chatting with complete strangers. One recent case involved a young girl visiting her friend's home. The two girls decided to have some "fun" on the computer by striking up a video chat with an unknown person. The suspect began to flatter the young girls and encourage them to disrobe and pose in compromising positions. The girls agreed, believing their actions to be harmless, as they were communicating with a total stranger in another part of the country. The suspect captured the video images and began to threaten to disclose the girls' escapades if they did not comply with his demands. Fortunately, an engaged parent learned of the situation and contacted law enforcement. The suspect was eventually arrested and the investigation revealed an additional 25 victims. The suspect reported that his "sextortion" strategies were successful about 85% of the time.
While the internet has many positive benefits, evolving trends remind us of the need to remain vigilant in our efforts to protect our young people. This challenge is too great for any single individual. As such, we must continue to strengthen and educate our community of support. Working together, we will be much better prepared for the evolving dynamics of "Cyber-life."
Brought to you in Partnership with iKeepSafe
Let's face it; most of us may never be in a position of knowing more about technology than those who grew up with the Internet and its devices intricately woven into their lives. However, as parents, we are in a position to impart life lessons such as good judgment, reason, empathy and most important, consequences. This position can be fleeting so the sooner you can start and the more consistently you communicate the most impact it can have.
When it comes to the Internet most teens, and for that matter most adults, may not fully comprehend the concept of permanence. Anything posted online will never truly be erased and can come back to haunt you down the road. Deleting an image or a comment is not an indication that someone hasn't already viewed or copied that image or comment. Being unable to erase a mistake can put the future of today's naive youth in jeopardy. That is particularly so when many colleges and prospective employers frequently research potential candidates on the Internet.
Find any opportunity to remind your teen that everything they post may have an unwanted consequence. Maybe not today, but at some point when it might matter to their future. It may be difficult for many teens to think in terms of their future when it comes to actions they want to take today. But even now, let them consider, is what they are about to post something they would be proud to have a grandparent see?
In 2007 The Ad Council in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice and National Center for Missing & Exploited Children developed some very powerful public service announcements geared to helping teens understand the power of permanence on the Internet. View one of these still very relevant videos below with someone you think that can benefit from the message.
We learned from an early age that bullies can be abusive physically or emotionally, and that they often encourage peers to act the same way towards their intended victim. The social tools of the Internet that appeal most to teens (e.g., the ability to communicate to a lot of people at once, share pictures and videos easily, or pretend to be a different personality or identity) are the tools teens use to easily and effectively humiliate others. And the potential anonymity of it all can make it difficult for parents and teens to identify and report an online bully.
How has bullying evolved?
Before Internet(or "BI"): A bully was restricted by physical location and time. They had to be pretty much standing in front of their target to deliver their verbal or physical attack. This made identifying the attacker easy. And once the victim walked away, the bullying ended.
Now: A bully can be anyone, anywhere at anytime. The Internet never sleeps. And an insulting or abusive message, once put out there, can persist forever and be seen by countless people. Plus, the Internet can be so anonymous that it may never be possible to identify an attacker, making it very difficult to stop. Finally, the bullying can continue even when the victim is safe at home. The content of the abuse follows the victim wherever they go, and can leave the teen feeling helpless.
Tools & Methods of the Cyberbully
Cyberbullying can happen in many ways. These are just some examples:
- -Sending mean text, e-mail, or instant messages
- -Posting nasty pictures or messages about others in blogs or on Web sites
- -Using someone else's user name to spread rumors or lies about someone
- -Sending repeated notes
- -Forwarding supposedly private messages, pictures or videos to others
Teach your kids how to deal with a cyberbully
Tips to avoid being a cyberbullying victim:
- -Don't give out personal information like name, address, phone number, social security number, school or even the names of family and friends. Certainly don't give out your password.
- -Don't exchange pictures or give out contact information (including email) to people you meet online.
- -Don't send a message when you are angry or upset. Once you put something out on the Internet you can't take it back. EVER.
- -Realize that anything you say or do online is never really private. If even one person can see or read it then it can be copied, saved or shared -- even if you try to remove it later.
Detecting cyberbullying and if your child is a victim:
Watch for signs that your child is being bullied online. Are they reluctant to use the computer or go to school?
- -Depending on how your child is being bullied, report any incidents of harassment to your ISP or cell phone provider.
- -Block the harassing email or IM via parental controls or privacy tools provided by your ISP.
- -Do not reply to harassing messages.
- -If bullying includes physical threats, report it to the police.
As we live in an ever increasing digital world, it's important that we take time to understand how our personal information is collected and used as well as how we can take steps to protect that information. iKeepSafe has a list of steps consumers can take to protect their privacy when using electronic devices ranging from laptops, to smartphones, game consoles and e-readers. Take a moment to review the Simple Steps to Safer Devices to help protect your family's privacy.
By following some simple steps, consumers can protect their data privacy when using electronic devices.
Consumers of all ages are using more and more digital devices to do more than just check their email. Today, devices are used to do things such as: access the Internet, carry out banking transactions, social networking, and shopping. For children and adults alike, using these wonderful devices brings some unwanted risks.
Here is what consumers need to do to keep information secure on those devices:
Protecting a computer or laptop
Every computer and laptop needs:
- Strong security software. Any computer that is linked to the Internet will be infected if it isn't protected. Whether you use a Windows PC, or a Mac, all computers and laptops need security software. When Apple devices were a tiny minority of the total market, designing malware to attack them wasn't very lucrative, but those days are long gone; iUsers are now profitable targets.
- An active firewall. Computers come with firewalls (a set of programs located on your computer that protect it from being accessed by other computers). These firewalls are turned on by default, don't turn the firewall off!
Additional considerations if the computer/laptop is used by a minor:
- Consider the full range of functionality the computer or laptop offers. Are there features that should be turned off-like location tracking? Webcam chats? iKeepSafe recommends that computers used by minors should be secured with filters and parental controls such as K9 Web Protection or Norton Online Family. These provide a safer experience for youth and protect your machine from unwanted malware.
- iKeepSafe also recommends that parents maintain administrator control of computers, giving children a "limited access" account. This will prevent children and friends from inadvertently downloading malware and illegal content.
- Talk with your child. Make it clear what is and is not acceptable use of the device, including times of day the device is used, the ethical treatment of others, the types of downloads permitted, and so on.
DURHAM, N.H. – Two new studies from the University of New Hampshire Crimes against Children Research Center suggest that concerns about teen sexting may be overblown. One study found the percentage of youth who send nude pictures of themselves that would qualify as child pornography is very low. The other found that when teen sexting images do get to police, few youth are being arrested or treated like sex offenders.
The studies were carried out by researchers at the University of New Hampshire's Crimes against Children Research Center, and published online today by the journal "Pediatrics." The research is presented in the studies "Prevalence and Characteristics of Youth Sexting: A National Study" and "How Often Are Teens Arrested for Sexting? Data From a National Sample of Police Cases."
In the first study, UNH researchers surveyed 1,560 Internet users ages 10 through 17 about their experiences with sexting -- appearing in, creating, or receiving sexual images or videos via cell phone or the Internet. The study found that 2.5 percent of youth surveyed have participated in sexting in the past year, but only 1 percent involved images that potentially violate child pornography laws -- images that showed "naked breasts, genitals or bottoms."
"Lots of people may be hearing about these cases discovered by schools and parents, because they create a furor, but it still involves a very small minority of youth," said lead author Kimberly Mitchell, research assistant professor of psychology at the UNH Crimes against Children Research Center.
In the second study, researchers discovered that in most sexting cases investigated by the police, no juvenile arrest occurred. There was an arrest in 36 percent of the cases where there were aggravating activities by youth, such as using the images to blackmail or harass other youth. In cases without aggravating elements, the arrest rate was 18 percent.
The second study was based on a national sample of 675 sexting cases collected from a systematic survey of law enforcement agencies. The study also found that the very few teens who were subjected to sex offender registration had generally committed other serious offenses like extortion and forcible rape.
Since its inception, this feature has caused much hype in IT magazines and online forums. Many ardently claim that this feature compromises privacy and endangers safety, while also presenting opportunities for stalking and other malicious activities. Also, friends can check into a certain location and broadcast who they are with, thus sacrificing the privacy of others. In contrast, other blogs state that while some may view it as privacy infringement, Facebook allows one to alter his or her privacy settings so that Places does not apply to them. It is a service for only those who wish to use it and Facebook works perfectly fine without it.
It is critical to explore this feature and make an informed decision before using it. To its credit, Facebook has implemented certain in built privacy settings for those who choose to avoid Places. First, this is an opt-in instead of an opt-out option. This means that Facebook users must manually choose to enable it; it is not a default setting. Secondly, even if friends have tagged you while "checking in," you can choose to reject the tag. This allows your friends to remain checked in and you to remain incognito simultaneously. The simplest way to disable this feature altogether is to uncheck a box in the privacy settings, under "Applications and Websites." This way, users don't have to worry about instantly untagging themselves.
Although Facebook Places does provide added entertainment and some convenience, it is a feature that must be used with complete awareness and prudence. As with all social networking websites, it is extremely important to steer clear of unsafe online behavior.
Simmons mentions that one of the biggest threats posed by cyberbullying is that it follows your daughter home, exists in school, and is a constant part of her social life. She cannot just come home and shut the door on it; it resides within her cell phone and her computer. According to Simmons, teenage girls often lack the communication skills necessary for conflict resolution; it is much easier for them to text their anger.
Some tips Simmons offers for parents include not letting your teens sleep with cell phones next to their beds or under their pillows. Additionally, set an example by not constantly using your cell phone and engaging in other activities with your daughter. Teens frequently learn from example, with parents being their greatest influence.
NPR offers further coverage of the interview here, including more tips and precautions for your teenager. Social media makes it easier to make and keep friends, but it also comes with drawbacks. Encourage your teen to protect her privacy online and to be aware of the dangers of social networking.
Most social networkers are familiar with the format of Facebook and MySpace, but Google+ has a brand new look with entirely new features. Since its member base is increasing day by day, it is necessary for parents to familiarize themselves with the interface. The most distinguishing thing about Google+ is its registration process. Currently users cannot open an account unless they have been invited. This invitation must come from a registered member and a new account can only be created upon acceptance. This is beneficial in that your teen will probably only get invites from one of her friends, not from strangers who wish to add her online.
The layout of Google+ is centered on five main features: circles, hangouts, instant upload, sparks and huddle. Circles is essentially a creative way to set up privacy settings, the user can choose to place different people in different circles and share specific information with each. If the user wants to share Christmas photographs with Grandma and party pictures with friends, he or she can do so conveniently. Hangouts let specific people, or entire circles, know that you are "hanging out" and are free to chat-face to face or through messaging. Instant upload allows pictures and videos to be shared directly from your phone to avoid the traditionally lengthy process of uploading. Sparks is, in my opinion, the most innovative feature of all. Once a user tells sparks what he or she is interested in, whether it be fashion or sports or music, the feature provides them with articles or videos that pertain to their hobbies. The last feature offered, Huddle, is particularly applicable to social butterflies. This feature enables you to enter group chat via Google+ on your phone, making it significantly easier to make plans with a large group.
If you wish to learn more about Google+ and its features, the interactive tutorial offered by Google is highly informative. It's critical to keep up with technology, especially those that your teens are using. As Google+ becomes the next big thing, keep your teen safe and informed about its use.
Explaining the perils of social networking to a preteen can be arduous and often unfruitful. It can also be useless to forbid preteens from social networking while all of their friends utilize Facebook via mobile phones or personal computers. Fortunately, there is a happy medium. Instead of using mainstream websites which generally cater to 13 plus audiences, NPR has compiled a list of Top Ten Social Networking Sites for Kids.
These websites offer top notch safety features to satisfy parents but they also successfully incorporate the varied interests of tweens. Some of these websites offer games and "hangout" opportunities, while others serve as forums for upcoming fashionistas and music gurus. There are several available websites such as GirlSense and Sweetyhigh that are restricted to all-girl membership. Others, such as WhatsWhat.me offer social networking for children over the age of seven.
The truly impressive aspect of these websites lies in the innovative safety features offered. Yoursphere, for example, subjects parents to background checks before their children can create an account. In addition, it vets its members against a registered sex offender database to further ensure safety. Imbee offers excellent opportunities for parents to remain involved while their children learn to network online.
There is no foolproof way for parents to ensure cyber safety; however, educating youth about their cyber footprints and the need for caution is a critical first step. As we become further engrossed in this age of iPhones and Facebook, both parents and tweens can find solace in remaining informed.
The Internet age has obviously impacted the corporate world dramatically. However, the increasing availability of Internet and media resources within the common household has had consequences that are not always apparent. Parental concern regarding child safety online has increased tenfold as phones, IPods, and computers all come equipped with ways to constantly remain connected. Not only personal devices, but computers at local libraries and schools are being utilized for social networking and Web surfing. Under these circumstances, it becomes extremely important and rather difficult to educate and maintain Internet safety and security.
What parents can do however, is teach to their kids instead of preach to their kids. While parents are aware of the dangers that lurk online, children are often blissfully ignorant. There are ways to impart knowledge about Internet safety that are creative and interactive. I recently came upon a website showcasing the teachings of Professor Garfield. Most of us are familiar with the chubby orange cat of Sunday comics, but his professor avatar is one that parents of younger children will find particularly useful. This website uses interactive games and videos to define common Internet dangers. For example, it encourages children to explore cyberbullying-what it is and how to stop it. Through the use of comedic videos starring Garfield, children can learn to combat Internet predators.
As someone who was a teenager not so long ago, I can attest to frustrations that arise from listening to parental lectures and advice. Although I now understand that my parents always had my best interest in mind, it was not so clear during my moody teenage days. Instead of preaching to children about the rights and wrongs of Internet safety, one can use resources such as the ever-charming Garfield to entertain and educate. Oh and mom, these videos are enjoyable for adults also.