A Pennsylvania school district is being investigated by the FBI for remotely activating the web cams on the laptops they issued to students. The school district says that they were wanting to track online behavior when the students were supposed to be doing homework. The parents of these students disagree, saying it was a clear privacy violation. It is still unknown how the FBI will find, but I would not at all be surprised to find this a question posed to either the state's or the U.S. Supreme Court.
What do you think? Privacy violation or good intentions communicated poorly?
All of the online safety experts have the same advice about how to keep our families safe online. There are a few variations, but the basics are always the same: Keep your personal information private, block people who aren't nice and don't open unknown files, and finally, report anything that upsets you.
It is not always easy for parents and teachers to clearly express these messages to kids and teens, especially when you either are upset. Click Clever Click Safe, from the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, has come up with a clear message we can all follow.
Zip It: Keep your personal stuff private and think about what you say and do online.
Block It: Block people who send you nasty messages and don't open unknown links and attachments.
Flag It: Report anything upsets you or if someone asks to meet you offline.
If you can remember to Zip It, Block It, Flag It, you can advise your teen to report the behavior to the provider, block the person who said the mean things. As a bonus, this takes only a matter of seconds and you have empowered your teen to stand up for herself without retaliating with more hurtful words.
Hopefully your teen will never encounter this type of harassment. But it is a good idea to talk to the kids and teens in your house. If they are old enough to go online, they should learn these simple things to help keep their time online enjoyable. What ways would you suggest to open the conversation with your kids and teens about online safety?
Of the top 100, I was not at all surprised by what was searched, but I have to admit that I was quite surprised how highly ranked some of the search terms were - especially 'sex' and 'porn'.
There are things you can do to help mitigate your child getting to search results that are not age appropriate. The article mentions several and AOL Parental Controls can also help.
This article made me think. Thankfully, my daughter isn't old enough for the computer, but I am not sure how I would react if I discovered she was searching on these terms. Now that you read their article - what (if anything) will you change about your online habits at home?
Viruses are spread through programs and platforms that are most commonly used because of the law of numbers. Cybercriminals know that the more chances you have to spread the virus, the higher the impact it will have. So they attack things that "everyone" uses. This is a big reason why Windows PC's have a higher rate of viruses over the Mac. Does this mean you should toss your PC? Not at all! It does mean that we should take everything said online with an extra grain of salt.
McAfee, a popular antivirus software company, said: "Cybercriminals have long picked on Microsoft products due to their popularity. In 2010, we anticipate Adobe software, especially Acrobat Reader and Flash, will take the top spot." in its report (PDF).
Many of the apps and games found on social networking sites are created using Flash. The popularity of those apps and games combined with the popularity of social networking sites makes it a perfect place to target, if you were a hacker.
How can you protect yourself?
- -- Make sure your virus software is up to date. Most software that is available has regular updates available from the company's website. All of the virus protection software that I am familiar with has an option to automatically update the software every time there is an update. I like this option - takes out an extra step for me to do. If you think you may have downloaded a virus, run a virus scan.
- -- Don't trust everything you read online - even if it looks like it is from your friend. If you get a random request from a friend asking to do something unusual on your profile (or email, or anywhere else), question your friend. It is possible your friend's profile was compromised and the hacker sent the request (in hopes you will help further disburse the virus they are spreading)
- -- Report things that are viruses or you think might be a virus. Most social networking sites have a way to report violations. The companies normally work to get the viruses added to virus databases which, in turn, protect future people from that virus.
- -- Many companies offer similar things, but AOL does have a good product suite for safety and security, including free parental controls, free spam control, and free to paying members and discounted to everyone else, there is McAffee security suite.
There are a few that are not surprising at all; taking nude pictures with the cell phone, for example. Talking on the phone or texting while driving, even though it was never a good idea, is illegal in many states and cities.
Other ways to break the law with technology made me stop and think.
Just my own memories of being picked on gives a whole new perspective for those growing up with the Internet. When I went home, my friends in the neighborhood were not cruel, my parents were supportive and I had a sanctuary. There are a lot of teens who are being picked on now, come home and sign on to find that the harassment continues in their "sanctuary" (a.k.a. online).
According to this Forbes article, one in 10 students is affected by cyber bullying.
Since that is 10% of students, I have 10 tips that may help:
In 1969 'Sesame Street' refused to admit a common thought, that television was "bad for kids".
- Know that "sexting" is a term that the media has placed on the act of sending sexually explicit texts and photos via cell phones or online. Because it's been in the media so much, teens probably know what it means, but it probably isn't (or at least wasn't) the word they use. This might be a good way to bring it up with your teen. Ask him/her what students in their class call it. I have heard terms such as "hooking up", "phone sex", "booty call". Some don't have a name for it at all; they just know it when they see it.
- Use articles or news stories to spark the conversation. In recent months, there have been many articles about teens who were arrested for sexting. Ask your teen his/her opinion about if it is actually child pornography? What should the punishment be? Should it even be a crime?
This sounds like a far better use of time compared to my last day of school every year -- usually spent watching the clock.
While the article was interesting, I was intrigued by the comments. It is clear which comments are from teens and which are from worried parents.
When I was a teen, I was mortified when my parents violated my perceived divine right to privacy. In fairness to them, they didn't violate it often. And in hindsight, I was more protective of things they probably would not have cared about than I needed to be, but I still needed my sense of privacy.
The balance of what privacy and a parents' need to know debate will continue over dinner tables for many years to come. I think that most people would agree on the extremes. If their child is in danger, a parent will go through every text or email ever written if they think it will help. On the other hand, teens are learning about themselves and part of that is having a sense of privacy. The challenge is in the middle.
Where do you think the balance is? Do parents have the "right" to read every message their child/teen sends? What level of privacy do teens deserve?
In our effort to bring you the latest information on hot topics related to Internet Safety, we have invited guest bloggers to post relevant articles on our site. This blog is provided by one of our friends of SafetyClicks, Netsmartz Workshop, written by Amani Rushing.
When social networking site MySpace announced the removal of 90,000 registered sex offenders from its websites many heard the word "pedophile" instead. For any concerned parents or guardians, hearing this may have prompted them to get their children off of these sites right away. After all, if 90,000 pedophiles were removed from the site, how many might still be on? But before pulling the social networking plug, parents should take a minute to recognize the distinctions between the words "sex offender" and "pedophile." Understanding the differences may help parents and guardians better understand the risks their children may encounter online.
We've all seen headlines like these time and time again. They are alarming, especially to parents whose children have made the Internet part of their daily lives.
However, we need to keep things in perspective. Remember, the good clearly outweighs the bad on the Internet. Children and adults now have nearly unlimited access to information, resources and, in turn, to opportunity. It's brought people together regardless of physical proximity and enhanced their ability to communicate and share, and it's enhanced our ability to teach as well as learn. It's used in classrooms, for homework purposes and even to take classes.
Yes, there are challenges. The traditional ills of society do not simply vanish on the Internet. Sadly, the world has always known con artists, predators and other bad characters. Whether online or offline, we have to educate ourselves and our families to the good, to the bad, and how to protect ourselves as we live our daily lives.