Middle school is tough. Suddenly, your little kid is almost as tall as you. They greet all family activities with an eye roll and a heavy sigh. Every time you look at them they are texting their friends. There always seems to be some sort of drama happening at the middle school. Someone said something or someone was upset because they were not invited somewhere.
Today, cliques and drama are not limited to the school halls. It goes on 24/7 with the pictures of the party they were not invited to on Instagram or the list of the 5 prettiest girls/cutest boys on Facebook. And sometimes, middle school drama can escalate to the point where a kid feels powerless and bullied. According to the School District’s 2012 Healthy Youth Survey, 27% of 6th graders and 24% of 8th graders at IMS reported being bullied in the last 30 days.
On May 16th, the IMS PTA is hosting a parent education night to discuss bullying and cyberbullying. We will be using the book Sticks & Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy by Emily Bazelon to guide our discussion. We will talk about the stories in the book, and we will explore how we teach our kids empathy, foster resilience and create an accepting community. The challenge is how to do this in the age of the internet, where peer relationships and social jockeying occurs 24/7.
We are using excerpts from the book to kick off our discussion, but you are not expected to have read it. Some of the ideas, we will be discussing are:
Last week, I gave a talk at the middle school about what apps and sites are popular with kids. Last year I spent most of my time talking about Facebook, not this year. Kids are moving off Facebook to other sites. My talk focused on the big 5 sites but I also mentioned a few up and comers. One site, I am hearing a lot about is Omegle.
Omegle pairs up random strangers for a chat. Everyone is anonymous. On Omegle, you are identified as “YOU” and everyone else is “STRANGER”. Kids can chat with a stranger either via text or video. To kick off the conversation, they can ask a question or type in an interest. Based on this information, Omegle will pick a stranger for you. Kids can also allow Omegle to use their Facebook likes to find a compatible stranger. Once paired up, you and the stranger chat until someone chooses to disconnect. After chatting, kids can post or save their chat or just move on to a new stranger. Omegle is available as an app or on the desktop. Currently, the app only allows for conversations via text. On its website, kids can video chat or text.
I tried out Omegle. All of my chats began with “hi” or “hello” then some form of ASL – Age, Sex, Location. Depending on my response, the stranger either disconnected or asked for more information.
I tried adding a few interests and asking a question. I had the same conversation regardless of my question or my interests. I did not find anyone willing to have a non-sexual chat. Continue reading
This week I am guest blogger for CSID. CSID is a leading provider of global, enterprise level identity protection and fraud detection solutions and technologies.They recently published a study on Child Identity Theft: A Parenting Blind Spot.
5 Pieces of Information Kids Should Not Share Online
When I talk to my kids about what not to post online, I focus primarily on information that would allow a stranger to contact them. Their information is also valuable to identity thieves. Thieves search kids’ social media accounts looking for personal information. They use their information to open fraudulent accounts or attain pieces of ID such as a driver’s license. With a child’s information, they often can impersonate them for years without being detected. According to a study by CyLab at Carnegie Mellon, identity theft is 51 times more likely with children than adults.
Recently, CSID conducted a survey to find out what parents know about child identity theft. The survey found that most parents do talk to their kids about sharing information online and, like me, they do so because of concern about their child sharing information online with strangers. Only 18% of parents were concerned with identity theft, however, and although concerned, most (52%) are not taking action to protect their children’s information. The survey found that when parents are aware of the issue they want to take action, but don’t know what to do or where to begin.