Setting Up Rules and Monitoring Tools for Teens Social Media Use

Setting Up Rules and Monitoring Tools for Teens Social Media Use

Teenagers with access to the internet and social media networks enjoy communicating with friends, following celebrities or sports heroes and chatting with people all over the world who have the same hobbies and interests. However, parents need to be aware of the potential dangers of social media and work with their teens to establish a set of rules to monitor use.

Here are five things that parents can do to establish rules for teens regarding social media:

  1. Talk to teens. Parents may assume that teens know how to behave online and in social media groups, but it’s always a good idea to have the conversation anyhow. Parents should stress that the teens should never post personal information, such as an address or cell phone number. Teens should never share their login information with others, except for with parents. Teens should also be told that they need to report any activity or information that makes them uncomfortable or that is inappropriate.
  2. Establish Check-up Rules. Parents need to let their teenagers know that they will be checking their accounts periodically. Parents should request that teens provide up-to-date login information as part of the conditions of being online and that the information is not negotiable. While teens may resist, claiming that this is an invasion of privacy, it’s important for parents to see what minor children are doing online.
  3. Limit Use. Social media has the potential to take up a lot of time for teens, so parents can set limits on where and when teens have access to electronics. Many parents insist that there will be no electronics during family dinners, after bedtime and when visitors are present (such as grandparents). Parents should also practice what they preach and limit their own electronics use in the same situations.
  4. Learn the Technology. Parents should never voluntarily stay in the dark when it comes to social media. If a teen joins a social media site, a parent should as well. Whether it’s Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook or an online chat room, parents need to become as savvy as possible with social media. Parents should note that if a teen’s social media activity seems to taper off, it’s possible that the teen has set up an alternate account.
  5. Outline Penalties. Often, teens try to push the boundaries and rules set up to protect them when using social media. Parents should establish what the punishments will be for teens that break the rules beforehand. That way, teens know the consequences of misbehaving and parents can easily enact penalties rather than seem inconsistent on enforcing the rules.  Teens will quickly learn that breaking the rules leads to a loss of privilege and most teens would rather keep their electronics and live by the rules.

It is a parent’s responsibility to ensure that their teens are using social media responsibly and are not instigating or receiving cyberbullying. Parents can also help safeguard impressionable teens from online predators. However, parents can only help their teens if they are involved and active, so it’s critical for parents to set up rules regarding social media use for teens.

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Prevent Online Predators from Targeting Your Children

One of the great benefits to the growth of the internet has been the unique communicative methods that have developed. Chat rooms and social networking sites would be among the most entertaining of these online communication venues. However, they can also be the most dangerous since they are often used as a vehicle for predators to target children. This is why parents and guardians need to follow some serious advice: you have to take steps to stop online predators from targeting your children.

The steps to take to protect children from online predators is not difficult. All that is required is following a few basic steps to achieve the desired results.

Inform Children of the Dangers of Chatting Online

You do not want to scare your children when you inform them of the dangers, but you do have to stress to them the seriousness of the issue. This begins with telling them that the internet allows someone to communicate anonymously. This means a person may not be who he claims to be. An adult can pretend to be a child and do so to cause harm to an actual child he is targeted. Letting children know this situation exists allows them to be forewarned about any dangers.

Concrete Steps Parents and Adults can Take

* Talk alone might not prove to be enough. This is why it is necessary to take a number of steps to ensure that children are protected from being targeted by online predators. Here are a number of those steps to take:

* Always look at the history of the browser in the internet tools section. Through examining the history of the browser, parents can have a clear idea of the type of website, social networks and chat rooms the child is visiting. This way, appropriate action can be taken.

* Purchase and install parental control software. Software of this nature is designed to help block access to any sites that might be considered threatening to a child. It also can ensure rules parents put down regarding how a child is to surf the internet is adhered to.

* Place the computer in an area of the home which is a public area. This can allow for greater monitoring of how the child uses the internet. It also makes it impossible for any VoIP or video chats without knowing.

* Set time limits on how often the computer can be used per day.

* Children should be limited to only chatting in public chat rooms. They should be specifically barred from any private one on one chats because these type of chats are where predators can behave in a manner that is not being seen by others in the public chat room.

* All age requirements for social networking sites and chat room must be followed. If a member must be 14 years of age or older, then it is of paramount importance no child under that age should be able to sign up.

Small Steps Yield Great Results

These steps may be seen as being very simple, but they are steps that can be successful. Once instituted, these steps can work a great deal towards preventing online predators from effectively targeted young children.

Author’s Bio: David Anderson is a freelance writer, professional blogger, and social media enthusiast. His blog focuses on telecom bloggers and technology bloggers.

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Ways to Keep Your Kids Safe When Online

Ways to Keep Your Kids Safe When Online

Just like the real world, the internet has a seedy side that kids can easily stray into. A seemingly innocent search on bunnies can quickly turn up raunchy images of women wearing skimpy bunny costumes. Porn, excessive violence, misinformation and hate group rhetoric flourish online. Here are some ways to protect your children from the wrong information and online predators:

Getting Involved Online – It is important for parents to be involved in their children’s online activities. Just as it is imperative to check the safety of your child’s playground such as the jungle gyms and swings, it is also essential to check your child’s online playground. It may seem excessive to keep checking on his or her online activity, but playing co-pilot is the only way to ensure you kid’s safety. When the child reaches the age of seven however, being constantly glued to his or her side will not be required. However, it is still important to be in the room during internet usage.

Setting House Rules – Determine the amount of time that you would like your kids to spend online and make a list of the websites that they can visit without your approval. You should talk about the rules with your children and the consequences of breaking them. Posting a short contract or a list of websites they can visit next to the computer is a great reminder for your kids. If there are multiple children in the home, you can set times for certain children to use the computer.

Protecting their Privacy – Whether you are an adult or child, protecting your privacy is one of the tenets of proper internet usage. Even if your child may be too young to know the consequences of revealing personal information online, you should let your kids know the importance of privacy protection. Teach them that they should never reveal their real name, phone number, e-mail, school, age, password and address online. You should also teach them not to open e-mails from unknown senders and to refrain from answering back to hurtful and disturbing messages. The most important lesson of all is to not get together with strangers or so-called friends they met online.

Place Your Computer in a Visible Area – To ensure easy monitoring, you should place your computer in a central location. Even if you have multiple computers, keep those connected to the internet in a highly visible place. This is a way for you to keep tabs on your child’s internet activity.

Be the Consultant – Get your children to come to you when they see something uncomfortable and disturbing whether it be in real life or online. Reassure him or her that you will not overreact, blame him or her or immediately remove his or her internet privileges.

Your ISP Is Your Friend – Before buying extra internet safety software, you should work with your internet service provider or ISP first. Certain internet browsers such as America Online! and Yahoo have free and reliable parental controls. These parental controls can limit your child’s activity to certain websites and disable certain communication channels such as e-mail, chat room, and instant messaging. It also screens websites for age-appropriate content taking note of the time of log-in, type of searches and other choices.

Author’s Bio: David Anderson is a freelance writer, professional blogger, and social media enthusiast. His blog focuses on telecom bloggers and technology bloggers.

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Cyberbullying and the Internet

With the advent of social media, and the never ending updates in our technology, we are connected more than ever before. Teens are updating their Facebook status or sending Twitter tweets at a rapid pace, and mommy blogs are popping up left and right. Everyone is finding a voice on the Internet and plugging in through social networking has skyrocketed. The internet and the wide availability of smart phones has brought us together in ways that were previously unthinkable, but there is a danger to this level of interconnectedness. More and more people, particularly teens and young people, are becoming victims of cyberbullying.

A New Way to Pain

Cyberbullying is using the internet, cell phones or other devices to post pictures, text, videos or other information intended to hurt or embarrass another person. According to the National Crime Prevention Association, cyberbullying affects almost half of all American teens. Although many feel cyberbullying is not a big deal, the consequences can be severe. As evidenced by the rash of suicides—particularly by teens—in the last few years, cyberbullying can have a devastating affect on the victim and their family.

Stealing a Growing Identity

However, there is another side to this coin. Identity theft is another way internet users can harass and embarrass others. Stealing an identity and making fraudulent charges to someone’s account, or hacking into a social media account and posting things the user would not have posted is a risk many users take.

Never post identifying information—social security numbers, bank account numbers, mailing addresses or passwords—online anywhere, and be wary of people or companies who require suspicious information. There are many services that can provide guidance on staying safe and being cyber-smart, monitor information across a variety of networks, can watch bank accounts for suspicious activity, and will alert users to any suspicious activity in any of these areas. Keeping your personal information is key in this interconnected web world we live in.

Be careful about posting your location online. Many social media sites now offer the option to “tag” yourself and others in specific locations. Although this is a fun tool, be aware of the privacy settings that are set up, and be careful about where you tag yourself and others. Tagging friends at the water park or the movies may be fine, but an identity thief can use this information to track movements and discover more information that was originally posted.

How to React

There are some simple ways to prevent cyberbullying. If the aggressor is just one person, simply blocking them from communicating may be enough. Sites like Facebook and other social networking sites make it fairly simple to prevent specific people from communicating via that site. Most mobile service providers also have a system to block numbers, so aggressive texts and phone calls can be blocked.

Deleting messages without reading them, and not rising to the bait of responding to cyberbullying can also help stop the problem. Reporting any incidence of cyberbullying to an adult or school administrator can also help prevent and deter cyberbullies.

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What Are They Really Saying?

A few years ago, I spent a week with my sister and her kids. While I was there, I noticed that her tween-aged boys picked up some of my lingo. Because I spend a lot of time on my computer and my phone, I often speak in acronyms. It never occurred to me they didn’t know what I was saying. Finally, my sister pulled me aside and asked me, “What is OMG?”

It might seem simple enough to those of us who use computers or texting a lot, but for those of us who don’t, it can be confusing. And the hardest part is, new acronyms are created everyday. There are whole websites created just to help those of us who aren’t “in the know” figure out what is really being said. Most acronyms used in chat are just shorter ways to type common phrases. For example, BRB is be right back. But how many of you know what “IKR” is?

When I was in college, a friend of mine spent a lot of time chatting with her boyfriend over the Internet. He was often away and at that time, it was cheaper to chat online than it was to call long distance. She had a code phrase for her significant other that would let him know she wasn’t alone. She created their secret phrase to help keep their conversations private. While both of these individuals were adults, you probably wouldn’t be comfortable with the same thing happening with your twelve-year-old daughter or your ten-year-old son. It’s hard the draw the line between allowing their chat to be private and being aware when something that is being shared is inappropriate.

As a parent, it’s important to know what’s being said in email, online chat and even text messages. So here’s a few steps to help you decode what is really being said.

First, if you find that your child is hiding messages or minimizing the screen when you’re around, you may want to dig a little deeper. It could be that they just want their privacy, but it’s worth being safe to find out who they’re talking to and taking a quick glance at what’s being said. Second, respect your child’s privacy. They may be a child, but they still want to feel like they can express themselves without an adult being involved. Kids will feel the need to express their emotions, and it’s important to remember when reading these communications that they intended for them to be private. And finally, if you find that you can’t understand what’s being said, use a chat decoder like this one: If you find that a particular acronym or phrase is popping up a lot and you can’t seem to find it online, then it may be one your child created with their friend. If you’re concerned that this may be an inappropriate communication, speak with your child. Discuss the acronym or phrase and take appropriate action if needed.

When it comes to non-verbal communication, you can never be too careful. Knowledge is your strongest defense.

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Cyberbullying is a very real and devastating form of bullying that is only hindered and coerced by the constant access to social media, internet and cell phones. Unlike bullying in years past, cyberbullying doesn’t leave visible marks and can scar much deeper than some physical injuries. “Cyberbullying” is defined as when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.

As a parent, you may have several questions in regards to cyberbullying and your child. First, how do you know when your child is being cyberbullied? As always, it’s important that you have an open communication with your child. Anytime your child is using any social technology such as the internet, social websites, cell phones and multiple other mediums, you should be aware and involved in their activities. It is important that prior to their use of such devices, they should understand that anytime anything that makes them feel uncomfortable happens, they should report such occurrences to you. Be aware of what types of websites your child is visiting and who is able to contact them through such sites. Check in on your child and watch for warning signs of undesirable behavior.

Second, what do you do when your child is being cyberbullied? Unfortunately, because every instance is different, each situation must be handled differently as well. There is no cookie-cutter answer to this difficult problem. First, be advised to not ignore instances of cyberbullying. Unlike bullying that takes place physically, cyberbullying can follow your child everywhere they go and has no ends to the number of individuals who can take part in such bullying. At the same time, it is important to not over-react. Probably the best thing you can do for your child is to create a support system. Keep teachers, guidance counselors, therapists, family doctors, religious figures, adult role models and even friends of your child on hand to help support your child and to make sure that the bullying does not escalate into something more serious. It is important to note that children have committed suicide and even killed other children after cyberbullying incidences. So this is not something that should be overlooked!

And finally, remember, you are not alone. There are multiple resources available to you. As a parent, you must take cyberbullying seriously and evaluate your child’s needs. The best things you can do for your child is be there for support and use all of your resources to prevent the cyberbullying from continuing. Please remember that is never okay to take the law into your own hands. Taking action against a child who is cyberbullying your child will only make matters worse for you and your child and make the cyberbully the victim.

Below are lists of some websites that are full of information that can help you as a parent understand, prevent, and see the signs of cyberbullying.

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What makes a good online password?

You’ve seen them many places on the Internet:  “Create your password fields.”

They all have different criteria.  Some want a length of 8, while others only 7.  Some require you to have a number or symbol, or both.  So why would you need to have a symbol or a number in your password?  Is there a secret to the length?  What is a dictionary attack?  Now I want to keep this pretty basic, so I won’t get too techy on you. 

A dictionary attack sounds like it’s limited to words from a dictionary.  It can be, but it goes a lot deeper than that.  For starters, it sounds logical that if I use the word “love”, it falls into this category.    A dictionary isn’t where an actual dictionary like Webster’s is used. It’s more like a list or index of words that it’s being compared to.   Someone could have a huge database of words which it can rule out by comparing each entry with your password.

Adding additional characters decreases the likelihood of your password ending up in somebody’s dictionary.  The regular U.S. English alphabet has 26 characters; a-z.  Most systems recognize the difference between lower and upper case.  So now we have A-Z and a-z.  Adding numbers, adds 10 more, and adding various combinations of symbols … well you get the point.

Educating people about passwords help… a lot!  However, while we are confident that we have chosen our unbreakable password, we can’t forget about the often overlooked hacking technique:  Social Engineering.   What is this?  Simply put, I will try to find your password by asking you random questions, looking for sticky notes under your keyboard, or in your drawer.  It’s the process of using communication and good ol’ fashioned detective work.   I think most people understand that the name of your pet, or spouse is NOT a good password.  How easy is it to find out your mother’s maiden name, a dog’s name or your first born?  You would be surprised at how many people have their password on a sticky note applied to the bottom of their keyboard.  Also, another thing that’s not uncommon is a password that is visible while sitting at the computer, e.g., brand of monitor or keyboard, a word on a poster or calendar.  Overlooked things like this make it possible for people to gain access to your computer or websites you’re registered on.

Back to the subject.  What makes a good password?  We know eventually all passwords can be broken.  That is no secret.  Changing it often helps.  Here are some tips:

  • Use at least 7 characters.  Some say 8, but 7 is sufficient for most things in my opinion if you use a good variation.
  • Do not include your name, username, company name
  • Do not use “123” just to satisfy the rule of using numbers.  E.g. mygirl123
  • Use a combination of upper and lower case letters numbers and symbols (!@#$%^)
  • Use L337 if necessary.  Wait!  What is L337?  Some refer to it as leet (elite) speak, or teen chat code.  For example, I use the word “greatscott”  I could use Gr347$coTt or Gr34TSC0T.  You can see the pattern. Zero for O, 1 for L or I. etc.
  • Use a different type of obfuscation, for example,  replace vowels with the number of the alphabet.  Gr21tSc44t.  AEIOU = 12345

Now, I’ve only listed a few easy ways to create a good password.  Whatever pattern you use or create, remember it.  Remember the pattern and it will help you remember the password.  A password isn’t any good if you can’t remember your own!

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Posting Pictures of Your Children Online

I have a few thoughts regarding posting pictures of your children on the Internet.   Although it may seem harmless at first, we need to look at the bigger picture.

You’ve heard of temporary internet files located on your computer.  These files are cached images, downloaded by your browser for quicker viewing when you revisit that page.   The content can range from icons, background images to photographs.

Now picture yourself (sorry for the pun) viewing someone’s photo album on their Blog, Facebook or MySpace.  As you browse through that person’s photographs, your computer has downloaded these images and saved them onto your hard drive.  While this seems perfectly harmless, pretend these images are of your family and children.  Every person that views these images now has a copy.    Furthermore, Google Images has most likely “crawled” your site, thus caching these images.

Now before you feel the need to freak out about this concept, there are a few precautions you can take when putting photos of your family and children online.

  1. Think twice before you do. Ask yourself, “Do I really want this picture online?”
  2. Check to see if the photograph reveals your home, child’s school or location where they can be contacted.  If it does, do not upload this photograph.
  3.  Does the image include GPS coordinates?  Most mobile devices will embed this location into the photograph. If it does, do not upload this photograph unless you strip out the GPS metadata.  Facebook and some other sites do this automatically.
  4. Consider resizing the photograph to a smaller size, so detail isn’t as high.
  5. Don’t name the file “Jenny at the beach.jpg”  Consider an obfuscated or random type identifier in the filename, such as “j23abc001.jpg”  And under any circumstances, do not put your child’s name in the filename.

The bottom line is really, think twice, and consider the consequences.  Many parents want to share the images with their family, friends and relatives.  The bottom line is really, think twice, and consider the consequences. (yes we said that twice for emphasis)    Some sites have privacy settings and passwords you can set before someone can gain access.  Consider those options.

ZooBuh has many resources available from parents to teachers that can help with questions you have.

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Internet Safety for Children and Parents

Five years ago, I found myself in front of a classroom full of computers. Behind each machine sat a child barely big enough to peak around the big screens. I considered myself to be fairly tech savvy, but to my surprise, these kids were just as savvy as I am. In fact, they were often more so. While the school did have filtering software and blocked sites, most of the students knew how to get around that and to the sites they wanted to see. As innocent as their curiosity is, it’s not hard to come across something that we’d rather our children not see. It’s likely no surprise to parents that their children know more about computers than we ever did as children and probably more than the parent in most cases.

I watch the news every night. While it’s not a daily occurrence, it is more frequent now than it ever was before to hear horrific things that are happening with our children because of computers and the Internet. This week, a local school had two 11-year-old boys use a school computer to look at pornography. We’ve all seen episodes of “How to Catch a Predator” where predators solicit underage children. There are horror stories of child predators on popular social networking sites. In March of this year, just one of the fifty states found that more than 2100 of its registered sex offenders were on one of these popular networking sites. Even more upsetting is that this news came a month after this same popular networking site had booted more than 90,000 sex offenders.

It is so common place for kids to be tech savvy that even modern day commercials poke fun at it. Recently, a large cell phone company aired a commercial about texting and using acronyms. New acronyms are becoming part of speech everyday. A few years ago, I visited my sister for a week. Her kids at the time were 11, 9 and 1. They were quick to pick up my speech and to my surprised had picked up some acronyms I use in daily speech. Surprisingly enough, my sister had no idea what any of them meant. That is often the case with parents as kids pick up and learn new things everyday.

So how do we keep our children safe?

There’s really only one way to keep your child safe and that begins with you. As the parent, the guardian, the teacher, the adult, it all begins with you. You absolutely must be involved in the child’s online experience if you are to guarantee the child’s safety on the Internet. I’ve listed a few tips below to help you.

The first tool to keeping our kids safe is communication. Parents need to talk to their children about internet safety in the same way that we talk to our children about crossing the street. Guidelines must be set. Children must understand that there are certain sites that are trusted and safe for them to use. It is important for kids to know that they should never give out personal information online. Addresses, last names, and phone numbers are all information that should remain private. Even pictures should not be shared. Too often information can be picked up from just one innocent picture. Kids should know that anytime anything inappropriate happens online, they should speak with a parent or trusted adult immediately.

Once you’ve spoken with your child about Internet safety and set up guidelines regarding computer and Internet usage, it’s time to find the right place for the computer in your home. A good rule of thumb is to never have a computer in your child’s bedroom. This isolates you from keeping a close eye on them. I tell people, if they aren’t sure, to look where the carpet is worn the most. This indicates a high traffic area in your home. The family computer should be located near this area with the screen in view. It’s also important to make a mental note of where your child’s friends keep their computers. While you may not have any control over where your child’s friends keep their computers in their homes, it is very likely that at some point your child will use a computer with a friend in their home under someone else’s supervision.

Finally, invest in software, programs, and sites that will help you keep control over your child’s computer and Internet experience. There is no price too great when it comes to your child’s safety. There are browsers designed just for children, network software and even email and blogs that were created with your child in mind. Find what works best for you and your child.

It’s important to remember that the answer is not keeping our children from computers and technology all together. With all that bad, there is a whole lot of good. Computers provide extensive information at our finger tips. Children use computers and the Internet to learn about history, current events and so much more. Computers aid in helping children learn to read, type and even write. Children want to be connected now more than ever.

While this article does not address the issue of spy ware or viruses, it’s important to remember that you can always replace a computer. You can never be too safe when it comes to your children.

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Internet Safety 101

As a parent, you often wonder what is the best way to tell your kids how to behave online.  Simply put, making rules before hand, makes your job easier.  If the rules are known ahead of time, your child will know the consequences of not following them.   This solves the dilemma of not knowing how to reprimand your child after the fact.   Set some ground rules before they start.  Parents should always determine the age where the child can use the Internet without parental supervision.

Some suggested rules of internet safety for kids are as follows:

  1. NEVER talk to strangers
  2. NEVER give out any information like your name, home address, or phone number
  3. NEVER tell someone where you go to school
  4. NEVER send a picture of yourself
  5. NEVER agree to meet anyone from the Internet in person
  6. NEVER give your password to anyone, even your friends
  7. NEVER threaten anyone online and ALWAYS behave appropriately
  8. NEVER download or install any program without parental permission
  9. DO TALK to your parents about your online experiences
  10. ALWAYS ask your parent questions if you have them, no matter how small

Parents, you can modify or add to this list as you see fit.  Nobody knows your child better than you.  Make sure they understand these rules before you allow them online–even if you are present.

Just remember, the more you interact with your child, the better off they will be.  Make sure you take Internet Safety seriously.

A fun colorful reminder that can be printed out is available here:

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