Back to School: 5 tips for getting your digital house in order

calendarI am not ready!  As you can see from my lack of posting I have enjoyed my summer. Although I have appreciated these quiet, relaxing summer days, I have dug a bit of hole for myself. This past week has been a mad scramble to turn in forms, dig through school supply bins and brave a trip to the mall. I am not only playing catch up in the real world, I have been a bit neglectful in the digital world as well. If you are like me and enjoyed summer perhaps a little too much, here a few tips for getting your digital house in order.


Create  or Update Family Media Rules/Device Contracts

One of the best digital parenting tools is to create a family media agreement and/or a device contract depending on the age of your child. If you have one already, now is the perfect time to review it. These contracts provide an opportunity for parents and kids to talk about expectations and values around online behavior.

Check in

After updating their contract, take a tour. Depending on your family’s contract, they can show you around or you can check it out yourself.  Either way, it is important that they are beside you so you can ask questions. This is not about getting them in trouble but creating an opportunity to guide them and talk about sharing smart and staying safe online.

Set new passwords

Parents should talk with kids and teens about the importance of setting and periodically changing passwords on their apps and devices. Kids and teens should not share passwords but some do. As the move on to a new grade, friendships may ebb and flow. So, the rule is new grade – new password.

Review Privacy Settings

Most kids are looking to share with their friends and classmates online not the entire world. Most apps have some privacy protections. They should make sure their privacy settings match their perception and when at all possible set their posts and profiles to private.

Update those apps

Kids should not ignore those updates for apps or their operating system on their devices. Many of these updates contain important security patches that will protect their device from viruses. While updating, remind them that malicious applications are often published outside of trusted app stores so kids should only download apps from legitimate sources.


For more back to school tips, check out…

Building a Digital Dialogue and Relationship with Our Kids – by a Platform for Good
Back-To-School Online Safety Tips for Families – by CSID
Family Tip Sheets – by CommonSense Media

Ask Kids Privacy: Question about Privacy on Kik

kik logo

Kik is a messenger service app that is popular with teens and Ask KidsPrivacy has received questions from readers about monitoring, unwanted messages and accessing kik. This week, I received a question about kik and privacy. Kik does not have private and public accounts but teens can protect their privacy by managing their contacts and not sharing their username. Below are some helpful tips on privacy and kik. If you have other questions, kik has an excellent Parent Guide and Help Center.


Q: How do you put your kik on private so that only people you want can see it ?

A: Kik does not have private and public accounts like Instagram or Twitter. On kik, anyone who knows your username can send you a message and see your profile. In order to keep your profile private, kik recommends users protect their privacy by:

  • Choosing a username that’s hard to guess. Do not use the same username for all your social network accounts. Your kik username should be different from your instagram, twitter or  tumblr accounts. Kik also recommends choosing a name that incorporates letters, numbers and special characters.
  • Keeping your username name private by not sharing it publicly. Do not post #kikme messages on public networks such as twitter or instagram. Once you share your username, anyone who sees it can send you a message. Only share your username with friends and family and ask them not to share your username.
  • Using the Block and New People features to manage messages. You should turn on “Ignore New People” under Notifications. This will send all new contacts to a separate list that can be deleted. You can also block a contact which will hide all messages from this person.  For more information on these features, check out How can I keep my Kik account private? from the Kik Help Center.

Remember, kik has no logout button. If someone has access to your phone, they can go in to your kik account. You should always set a password on your phone. You can also force a logout by resetting kik but resetting will not only log you out it will wipe your conversation history deleting all your messages. For more helpful tips, check out a platformforgood’s safety tips for kik.

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5 websites to keep parents up to date all summer long

pta sunIn Seattle, we have rainy day summer activities and sunny day summer activities. So far, we are spending most of our days outside in the sun. As I sit writing this post, I am looking at the clouds looming in the south and I know we are in for a few wet days. In our house when the rain comes out, the devices come out. When the first raindrop falls, I guarantee my 10-year-old will be asking to download Clash of Clans. Before I agree to download any app, we sit down together, read through the reviews and ratings. We talk about why a game is rated for a certain age and how they can play safe online or how we need to find a better alternative.

Below, I have listed my 5 favorite websites for app reviews and safety information. I also have a list on my Apps & Websites page of the most popular apps and networks with links to reviews for parents and kids. These our great sites to bookmark for when you hear, “I am bored, can I download….” If you have a favorite, please share it in the comment section.

commonsense media

Common Sense Media is an outstanding resource for parents. It provides information and tools to help families choose and manage media in their lives. If you have questions about a specific app or need tips on managing screen time this is the site to turn to first.  If you’re looking for a new app, CommonSense Media has a Summer Guide to Educational Apps.

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ConnectSafely is a nonprofit organization that publishes safety tips, parents’ guides, advice, news and commentary on all aspects of tech use and policy. Both Anne Collier and Larry Magid write thought-provoking pieces about growing up digital. They also have parent guides on some of the most popular apps as well as new guide on mobile safety. 

esrb icon

Most parents know the ESRB from their ratings on video games but the ESRB’s rating system also includes mobile apps. When out and about, parents can use the ESRB’s free mobile app available on iTunes or GooglePlay to check out the review and rating for apps and games.

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iKeepSafe is a nonprofit organization that focuses on helping families and communities have safe and healthy experiences with technology and the internet. They have developed the iKeepSafe BEaPRO™ Parent app as well as produced parenting guides and app reviews.

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Mary Kay Hoal is the creator of Yoursphere a social network designed for kids. She also writes a blog Yoursphere for Parents that provides app reviews, how-to’s, tools and information to empower parents to help their families have a healthy and positive online experience.