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Ask KidsPrivacy: How to keep Kik videos private

talking digital logoOne of the challenges for parents and teens is keeping up with all the new features added to apps. A year ago, a parent may have agreed to a simple photo sharing social network. Flash forward a year later and that same app now allows users to share videos and send direct messages. Kik messenger has added many new features over the years including video. Here is the answer to a question I received about recently about privacy and Kik videos.

Q: If someone invites me on Kik what should I do? How can I make a video private on Kik?

A:  A new feature on Kik is the ability for users record videos of up to 15 seconds and share them during a chat. Users can also share videos previously saved on their smartphone. Friends can save shared videos by tapping on the video and choosing save or opening it up on full-screen and choosing the download arrow.

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If you receive a video from someone who you have not chatted with before, their message will first appear in the “New Chats” section. In this section, profile pics are blurred and you cannot see the message until you open it. If you know them, you can start a chat. If you do not, you can delete, block or report them as spam.

Everyone should be skeptical of these new messages. Unfortunately, Kik does have a problem with porn bots. These bots seem to be real people but they are not. These are fake profiles designed to scam people. If an invite looks phony or contains suspicious links, you should mark it as spam and report it to Kik.

As for privacy, Kik is a messaging app that allows the people you are chatting with to see your video. It is not like Instagram or Twitter where a user can have a public account and anyone can see it. Remember, people you are chatting with can save videos and pictures as well as take screenshots of conversations. Kik chats do appear on Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube. Nothing is ever truly private online so always be careful about what you choose to share.

Below are links to a few past posts where I have shared some Kik privacy tips. The key to privacy on Kik is keeping your username off public networks and only sharing your username with friends. Your username is your identity on Kik. Once someone knows or guesses it, they can send you messages. The Kik Help Center is an excellent resource and offers these tips for protecting your username.

  • Turn off Address Book Matching. This will stop Kik from looking for other Kik users in your contact list on your smartphone. Now, only the friends you personally tell will have your username.
  • Choose a username that is not easy to guess by using letters, numbers and special characters.
  • Do not share your username on public social networks like Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram.
  • Keep your username off your social network profile. Even if your account is private on Instagram or Twitter your profile is still public. Never include your Kik username on your profile.

kik logoFor more information on Kik, check out these other blog posts.


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GooglePlay makes it easier to evaluate apps

ESRB_app_1a TornadoThese hot and hazy days seem to bring out the devices. In the afternoon, my worn out child plops himself in front of the fan, grabs his tablet and starts trolling for new games. Before downloading a new app, he has to ask me to enter a pincode. Most of the time, I have heard of the app and I can make a quick decision but sometimes he comes up with some stumpers. Before downloading the mystery app, we look up the rating and reviews.

I have to admit I have always found GooglePlay ratings confusing. What is “medium maturity”? The term itself is vague and after reading the description, it still is not easy to determine exactly what age group this geared toward. With GooglePlay, Apple and video games all having different ratings systems, it is not easy to figure out if “Medium Maturity” is like 17+ or “T”?

I was glad to hear that GooglePlay has adopted the ESRB rating system. This change is part of an effort to standardize ratings worldwide. Keeping up with a child’s digital world is enough of a challenge without having to decode different rating systems. So, the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) is working to streamline the process for assigning age and content ratings for video games and mobile. The goal is that all digital consumers, especially parents, will be able to see well established, credible and locally relevant ratings for these products, regardless of the device.

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Now on GooglePlay, parents can find the same ESRB ratings elements:

  • Rating categories for age appropriateness;
  • Content descriptors indicating content that may have triggered a particular rating and/or may be of interest or concern. ESRB currently uses close to 30 different content descriptors for depictions involving violence, suggestive themes, language, gambling and controlled substances, among others.
  • Interactive Elements provide information describing certain features that can be found in digitally delivered games and apps, which may include the sharing of personal information or the user’s location, if the game or app enables the purchase of digital goods, and/or if users can interact.

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Parents can also use these ratings to set the parental controls for each device. By changing the content restrictions, parents can block a child from downloading apps above a certain age rating. Once set, these controls only apply to that particular device.  This is true even if everyone shares a GooglePlay account. If a child has their own tablet or smartphone, parents need to change the GooglePlay settings on their device.

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When deciding whether to let a child download or not download an app, parents cannot beat the one two punch of the ESRB rating and the CommonSenseMedia review.  I check these two sites so often, that when my kids come to me to ask to download an app they already have the ESRB rating and CommonSenseMedia review in hand. In case you missed my post on choosing apps, here are few more tips for evaluating apps.



New phone this summer? New Phone Contract Template for 2015

tipsOne of my top tips for parents on how to manage and guide their family’s technology use is building a family phone contract. I am not talking about a list of rules. Kids will mindlessly sign anything to have that phone in their hands. I am talking about sitting down together and building a contract. By taking the time to create one together, parents can see what their child already knows and where there are some gaps in knowledge. This is a chance for everyone to share their ideas, their expectations as well as outline consequences. These contracts do not need to include every possible thing they may encounter from now until they graduate. It is important to focus on the now and update the contract every years as they grow and their use changes and they show they are reasonable.

Recently, I updated my contract and included some ideas for getting the digital conversation rolling. Below is my updated template for a phone contract 2015  and check out these other great contracts as well.

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Free Book for Internet Safety Month

June is Internet Safety Month. To celebrate, I am offering my ebook, Talking Digital: A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Kids How to Share Smart and Stay Safe Online, free until June 23.

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I will be releasing an updated version in Fall 2015. If there is a topic or question you would like included in the next book, please let me know. Happy Reading!




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What Parents need to know about YouNow

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YouNow is part of the new live streaming trend. The best way to describe YouNow is Live TV with audience participation. Instead of passively watching a video, teens can watch their favorite performer or classmate broadcast live and message them questions or comments. The person responds to them immediately during the live broadcast. YouNow has over 100 million sessions a month. Scrolling through these live broadcasts, I saw many young faces.

Teens appear to dominate YouNow. While teens make up the majority of performers, anyone can watch the live broadcasts without registering. Simply, go to YouNow and click around to watch trending people and topics. It is only if someone wants to take part in the chat or broadcast themselves live do they need to sign up. Teens must sign up through their existing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Google+ account. Once they sign up, they create their public profile and start broadcasting.

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