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Do most Teens have a Smartphone? New Study says Yes

pew study cover 2When my kids were little, I belonged to a co-op preschool. At the co-op, we had monthly parent education meetings. During these meetings, we shared what was going on with our little ones. I usually left feeling relieved that my child was not the only one who could not write their name and had a few strategies for how to make carrots more interesting.

Often I think back to these meetings, when I give my digital parenting presentations. My favorite part is talking with parents and hearing about what is happening in their house. Most parents are asking the same questions. Is my kid the only one who is on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat? Who are they sharing with on all these sites? Does everyone really have a smartphone? Usually, we discover most of our kids are doing similar things. For better or for worse, we are all in the same boat.

Last week, the Pew Research released Teen, Social Media and Technology Overview which answered some of these same questions. Pew Research asked American teens, ages 13-17, about what technology they used, what social networks they frequented and what they were doing online. As I read through this study, I found it reflected what I am seeing and hearing from parents.

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Ask Kids Privacy Answers Questions about Kik

kik logoCurrently, my most popular post is What parents need to know about kik. Kik is a messenger service app that is popular with teens. Given its popularity, it is no surprise that many of the ask KidsPrivacy questions I receive are about kik. Here are my answers to several recent questions about viewing kik messages and receiving messages from unknown users. Need more information? Check out kik’s Tips for Parents.

Q: My girlfriend had someone hack into my phone and retrieve my phone log. Will she be able to do the same thing if I’m using the kik app??

A: Kik does not have log out button. So, if she access to your phone’s apps, she can open the Kik app and see the undeleted messages. Kik displays the last 1000 messages for each undeleted conversation.

The bigger question is why is your girlfriend hacking into your phone? In an honest and healthy relationship, partners should not be spying on one another. MTV AThinLine has some excellent advice for teens on how to deal with this situation. I included the relevant answer below and urge you to check out their section on Digital Abuse – Spying .

mtv spying

Q: How are strangers able to message my daughter on Kik?

A: Anyone can send someone a message on kik as long as they have know the kik username. Some teens post their usernames on public social networks with the hashtag #kikme. So, if their username is easy to guess or they posted it publicly on Instagram or Twitter, they may receive a request from someone they don’t know.

Now, some of these strangers may not be real people. Symantec recently reported about adult web cam sites targeting kik users. When users share their kik usernames publicly on social networks, spammers can collect them and send these users a direct message. The profile pictures for these unsolicited messages are often inappropriate and the messages themselves provocative.

Kik is working to eliminate these porn bots. For now, when a user receives a photo from a random kik user, kik blurs the profile picture and the sent image or message. Kik also keeps messages from new people separate and users can turn off “notify for new people” option in Settings under Notifications.

kik ignore chatWhen they receive a message from a someone not in their contact list, teens can choose to ignore or chat. Teens should click ignore. From there, they can choose to delete, block or report these users as spam. If the message violates kik’s policy, they can also report the user by sending a message to kik.

To limit chats to just friends and family, teens should not post kik usernames publicly and if they do receive an unwanted message they should take advantage of kik’s reporting and blocking options.

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5 Ways to Protect your Kid’s Phone

Privacy and security go hand in hand. This is especially true with a kid’s mobile phone. Their phone contains lots of personal information that anyone who has access to it can see. In order to keep their information private, kids need to keep their device secure. With kids, the two big security issues are losing their phone or downloading a bad app.

According to Lookout, 30 billion phones are lost a year. In Seattle, we lose our phones on average twice a year. So far, my kids have not lost of device although one did go through the washer and dryer. But, at some point someone is going to lose a phone. Anyone who finds their phone will have access to their information such as contacts, pictures and messages as well as their open accounts such as Twitter, or Facebook.

The other threat kids may encounter is downloading a bad app. A report by McAfee found 1 in 6 mobile apps contain malware or spyware. Kids who love to download apps may end up with one of these characters. These malicious apps can do anything from sending annoying pop up ads to stealing personal information.

To protect privacy, make sure your kids are implementing these simple security tips. Continue reading


Protect Privacy by Blurring Faces in a Photo or Video

For many families the start of school also means the start of fall sports. At most games, parents are on the sidelines shooting videos or taking pictures. Often these shots include not just their child but faces of other kids as well. Before sharing online, people should ask permission. But in a photo or video containing so many faces, this is an impossible task. Thankfully, technology has come to the rescue.

For pictures, I use Obscuracam. Obscuracam is an app developed by the Guardian Project. The Guardian Project originally envisioned this tool to protect human rights activists. It is also works for parents who want to protect the identity of their kids or friends online. As an added bonus, Obscuracam removes all identifying metadata from the photo, including location.

This app is quick and easy to use. First, it highlights the faces in the photo. But if it misses a face, you can simply tap on the missed face to select it. For fun instead of pixalating or redacting faces, you can add a groucho mask.

Obscuracam also has a video option. I tried this app on one of my videos. Unfortunately, it did not work for me. Reading through the comments in Google Play, I am not alone in having trouble with video. Obscuracam is only in its first release, hopefully later versions improve the video option.

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New school year, new phone: how to wipe the old one

We recently upgraded all of our phones. I knew it was time to divorce my G1 when my friends were making fun of me. Now, we are trying to figure out what to do with the old phones. Before moving them along, we need to remove all of our information such as emails, contacts, pictures, videos etc.

I thought simply removing the SIM card would remove most of this information. This may work on older phones, but not on smartphones. When I removed the SIM card from my G1, my email was gone but not my contact list, my pictures or my videos. The only real change was an initial alert “no sim card”.

I found out smartphones store information in two places: on a SIM card and the phone’s internal memory. I needed to remove the SIM card as well as erase the internal memory. Erasing the memory required resetting the phone back to its original fresh out the box factory settings.


Removing all internal information from an Android phone, such as a G1, is a two-step process. First, I went to Settings and chose “SD Card and Phone Storage”. Then, I selected “unmount SD card”, followed by, “format SD card”. For the next step I went back to the main settings menu and this time after I selected “SD Card and Phone Storage”, I chose “factory data reset”.  For other Android phones, the factory data reset is in the “Settings” menu under “Privacy”. Android phones vary slightly but the factory reset is usually somewhere in “Settings”.


My kids are usually willing to help me with this blog. This time, I had no volunteers for letting mommy erase and restore their iPods. According to Apple, it is quite easy. To restore factory settings on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, go to the settings menu, select General then select Reset and choose “Erase All Content and Settings”.  That’s it. This may take a while so Apple recommends fully charging the device before starting.

REMEMBER: Before wiping the memory transfer all information you want to keep such as pictures and videos to your computer.