I recently spoke at a conference on the risks that youth face online and found myself using the term 'embedded' to describe their relationship with technology. Why embedded? Simply put, their lives can't be separated into an 'online' or 'offline' state, but rather as always on and constantly connected. They live in the Digital World. This is a reality that we, as adults, have created through the rapid adoption and wide-spread use of connected devices, but a concept I don't believe we've fully embraced in terms of practice or infrastructure.
What do I mean by that? Specifically, while we've physically created this always on world - our homes are networked, our schools are wired, and our children are connected; our thought process and approach to personal responsibilities and safety are still very 'online' and 'offline.' Why are we still differentiating? The expectation of knowing and doing right from wrong doesn't alter through the use of technology, nor does personal safety or parental involvement.
The Internet has been mainstream since the mid-90's and has only become more ingrained in our lives through portability and ease of use. Yet, I find we are still discussing how to protect our children at a somewhat basic level. Overcoming this persistent lag will take the realization that we, as adults, must live in the digital world (we can no longer just visit or stay out altogether).
To embrace this mindset, we must embed those once Internet-specific actions, educational efforts and messaging into our everyday lives and the lives of today's children as we have the technology. Let's challenge ourselves - as parents, educators, and others who have a positive impact on young people – not to distinguish 'offline' from 'online,' but view it as one world. Why struggle with determining how we are going to fund or find time to teach our kids online safety when we should be teaching them how to be safe – aren't they one in the same? The structure is there - we parent, we educate, we monitor, we guide, we instill values – let's just tweak the infrastructure so to speak to reflect our digital world.
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.
Most parents worry about their children social networking via personal computers, smartphones, and iPod devices. Most schools also worry about children social networking during English, Biology, and History. As a result, many schools have banned Facebook and social networking websites on school computers. However, children have found multiple ways to sidestep this ban and access Facebook through the use of proxy servers.
Tech savvy students have found websites that contain step by step instructions to unblocking Facebook and MySpace on school computers. A few such websites include unblock.biz and proxypimp.com. Through the use of these websites, students can mystify teachers and parents alike.
Although school administrators and teachers cannot always ensure that students use school computers for educational purposes, parents can encourage them to do so. Talk to your middle schooler and designate limits on computer usage at home, under parental supervision. Some schools have also taken the initiative to educate students about social networking safely, instead of placing bans and blocks.
Social networking is a concerning issue for many parents. Ease your concerns by educating your child regularly about cyber safety.
The arrival and rapid adoption of portable, connected devices has, literally and figuratively, lifted the computer from our homes and dropped it into our child's backpack. These portable, connected devices pose a greater risk to our children than the home computer because they can be pulled out and used anywhere and at anytime on impulse, and most importantly, without supervision.
You can read my entire article on iKeepSafe's Internet Safety News and Information blog: The Internet in Our Child's Backpack.
Like many parents, my biggest fear is of something awful happening to my child. It was heartening to me when I first heard that MapQuest and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC) recently announced the availability of a new widget on MapQuest Local that includes valuable missing child alerts and information from NCMEC.
The new widget features pictures and information about children who are missing from the geographic area for which the MapQuest Local page is set. Also included is the ability to search for missing children by name and link directly to NCMEC's homepage and other missing children resources from NCMEC. The new widget can be found at http://local.mapquest.com
Sexting isn't making anyone any money (that I know of), but 3 in 10 young people report being a part of some kind of naked sexting (either sending or receiving). One in 10 report sending a naked picture of him or herself. This translates into more people sexting than using their cell phone to access pornographic web sites.
Parents are shocked by this, but some teens just see it as a part of life or no big deal.
So what now? We educate the youth. We (as parents) spend time talking with our kids about the realities in the world. We incorporate the new technology into the teachings at school, and we hope for the best. All we can do is teach them about using technology responsibly and the risks that they face. It is up to the youth to decide what to do with the information.
What are your thoughts on how to best educate the youth about the dangers of sexting?
I first checked this blog. I found that Holly posted some good tips for gaming safety of the Wii. I also found some helpful things at the manufacturer's web site (in my case, Wii). I searched the web site for "parental controls" and familiarized myself with how to use them and know to ask Mom and Dad what their password is so I can use it if needed.
Since they are likely going to also want to use my computer, I am also checking my settings on my own computer and installing parental controls. Enough.org, whom I've mentioned before, has some good resources from which parents can learn for all topics technology and safety related. I am more familiar with these topics, but since I haven't had children in the house for any length of time before, I am brushing up.
A few other resources that can help:
ESRB: This is the group who rates all video games by age group and tell why the ratings were chosen (violence, language, etc.) They can tell you
Internet Safety 101 is a resource for all things internet safety related. Since most gaming systems use the internet as part of the play, I am refreshing my knowledge here as well. You can order the entire program for yourself.
Do you have any more tips for my upcoming visit with kids that I may not have thought of?
I don't want to get into all the details about how to sign up and how it works. You can go to the site for those details. Instead, I wanted to share this with you in the interest of sharing knowledge of new uses for existing technology. I don't know how many teens are using this kind of technology, I only learned about it through a few of my friends (all adults).
The basics premise is that you use your cell phone to announce where you are at any given time to your friends on social networks. Here is an example of FourSquare in action when one of my friends went to a local restaurant. (His name and pictures covered for privacy).
Since my friend registered with FourSquare, he has "checked in" 103 times. This means that he posted that he was at a specific location on Facebook and Twitter 103 times.
The badges represent various things including how frequently you go to a specific location and if you have any friends that recently checked in at the same location.
Once you "check in", it shows up on the social networks that you specify. Here is what the check in looks like on Facebook.
And here is what it looks like on Twitter
While there are some benefits to using applications like FourSquare, you want to be careful how you use it. I think it is obvious that you wouldn't want to post your home address. What may not be obvious is that there is some level of risk that if you post your location and often visit the same locations at the same times.
The purpose of this article is to simply show you how existing technology is being used in new ways. It is up to you to decide if and how to use it for yourself and your family. What are some of the benefits you see in using FourSquare? What are some of the risks you see?
This year my nephew, who is 15, got a cell phone. He, of course, had been asking for a cell phone for a long time, citing that all of his friends had cell phones (which is true). One of the contributing reasons he got the phone was that he began to miss out on various messages from his friends because of his lack of a cell phone. He missed messages such as a change of location for whose house everyone was going to, where they were going to eat lunch, etc. These are huge things to a 15-year-old.
The question hasn't changed much since I was a teen. How much is too much? My mother used to worry if I was spending too much time on the telephone (attached to the wall). Now the phone travels with teens. It travels with them when they are driving, in school, at the dinner table.
Do you text? Has the age-old worry just been slightly changed with new technology? Or is this just a matter of teaching cell phone etiquette, but the amount of communication is OK?
- The Time Machine Children's Time Management System
- Time's Up! TV and Gaming Time Limiting Device
I have not used, nor can I endorse these items, but I am intrigued by them. Have you ever seen something like this in use? What do you think of them?
First Lady, Michelle Obama told CNN that in their household, there is no TV, Internet or phones for the kids during the week. I am curious how Sasha (age 9 this year) and Malia (who turns 12 this year) feel about this policy.
What are the rules in your house about Internet, TV and telephone use?
The specific action items are: (From broadband.gov)
Goals & Action Items Highlights
Goal No. 1: At least 100 million U.S. homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits per second.
In order to be a world leader in access to broadband by 2020, the plan has recommendations to foster competition, drive demand for increased network performance and lower the cost of deploying infrastructure. These will help inform consumers about broadband performance, expand services and infrastructure, and reform access to rights-of-way to lower barriers to entry for firms.
Goal No. 2: The United States should lead the world in mobile innovation, with the fastest and most extensive wireless networks of any nation.
Without enough spectrum, the wonderful potential that wireless and mobile broadband promise will remain unrealized. The Plan recommends making 500 megahertz of spectrum available by 2020, including 300 megahertz within the next five years, for both licensed and unlicensed use. In addition, the Commission recommends initiatives to ensure greater transparency and access in allocating spectrum for various uses.
Goal No. 3: Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose.
Not only is our world increasingly accessible online, but Americans have more opportunity for civic engagement than ever. But for these exciting online tools to be useful, every American must: have access to a network; be able to afford that access; and have the opportunity to develop digital skills. The Plan proposes reprioritization of resources and strategic targeting of efforts in order to achieve the goal of a 90% broadband adoption rate by 2020.
Goal No. 4: Every community should have affordable access to at least 1 gigabit per second broadband service to anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals, and government buildings.
The plan makes recommendations to upgrade the E-rate and improve the Rural Health Care support programs. Reforming incentive structures, licensing, and data interoperability, ensure that public priorities take advantage of the benefits broadband networks offer. And once community anchors are connected to gigabit speeds, it will become less expensive and more practical to get the same speeds to homes.
Goal No. 5: To ensure the safety of American communities, every first responder should have access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable broadband public safety network.
Often, first responders from different jurisdictions cannot communicate effectively with each other at the scene of an emergency. A nationwide broadband safety network should be robust enough to maintain performance in the aftermath of a disaster, and should allow every first responder to communicate with each other and share real-time data over high-speed connections.
Goal No. 6: To ensure that America leads in the clean energy economy, every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption.
The United States must lead by encouraging renewable power, grid storage, and vehicle electrification. Real-time data can also inform automated thermostats and appliances, allowing consumers to save energy and money while reducing the need for expensive new power plants. Consumers should be able to access real-time usage information from smart meters and historical billing information over the Internet.
What do you think about these goals? Do you think it is about time? Or would you change it?
- Rearrange Files: PC Magazine describes how to defrag your hard drive (PC users). This process will take apart files and put them back in order to maximize space on the hard drive (kind of like what I should be doing in my hall closet).
- Back Up, Back Up, Back Up: Thriftyfun.com reminds us to back up important files regularly (before losing that irreplaceable picture of your kids). You don't need to back up programs if you have the original disks, but do back up the files you created. This would include pictures, documents, etc. and put them all on an external hard drive, CD or some other system. This is also a good chance to delete the duplicate files you have and getting rid of the pictures you don't want to keep.
- Dust Off the Computer: This one is also from Thriftyfun.com. I won't tell you how much dust and who knows what I had on my top of the computer tower in my office. I'll just remind you that this is also good to do a couple of times a year. Maybe more.
- Out With the Old: Microsoft lets us know that it is OK to delete that program that you got a few years ago, tried once and never used again. Really - it is OK. Even if you did need it in the future, it has probably been updated so many times it is worth starting from scratch anyway.
- Don't Forget the Kids: SafetyClicks reminds you to review the parental controls you have for your kids. Look through sites the kids request access to, see what they have been doing. Is it time to adjust the limitations now that the kids are getting more mature and their needs are expanding?
- Nothing Replaces You: Again from SafetyClicks. Talk to your kids about how to be a responsible digital citizen and what you expect of them while they are online. Even if they roll their eyes, you can make sure your kids get the message about online safety if you tell them.
Do you have any other Spring cleaning tips for the computer or online safety?