Happy Earth Day! Today, April 22, is Earth Day’s 45th anniversary. For 45 years, people have come together to help our planet by supporting environmental programs, cleaning up their neighborhoods or living a more sustainable lifestyle. This year, I have 5 earth-friendly apps to celebrate Earth Day. Download these apps today to discover how to transform a water bottle into a piece of art, learn more about the environment or make healthier food choices. Continue reading
Moms with Apps asked parents what they considered the most important quality when choosing an app for their child. The number one quality “extremely important” to parents was does the app protect their child’s personal information. Protecting personal information ranked above both educational and age appropriate. How can you tell if the app your child wants protects their information?
It is not easy. In 2012, the FTC investigated mobile apps aimed at kids. After reviewing hundreds of apps for kids the FTC found little, if any, information about the data collection and sharing practices of these apps. In fact, one of the recommendations the FTC made was for companies to provide this information through simple and short disclosures or icons that are easy to find and understand. The website, PrivacyGrade, is trying to do just that.
PrivacyGrade launched in November. Here, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have analyzed over 100,000 apps and assigned each a privacy grade. An app receives a grade from A to D depending on how well it discloses its privacy practices. Like an online report card, parents can look up why an app received a “D” or “A” grade.
This week, I found 3 excellent articles filled with tips for parents on how to talk with kids and teens about media, apps and privacy.
Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image from Common Sense Media examines the role of media and technology in the development of kids’ and teens’ body image attitudes and behaviors. More than just discussing the problem, Common Sense Media offers ideas on how families can support positive images.
CoPilot Family post in medium shares their 3-pronged method for guiding a child’s tech use. Their method clearly illustrates the importance of adopting a holistic approach when it comes to online safety.
Finally, Family Online Safety Institute’s article on teen privacy suggests 6 ways parents can help teens protect their privacy online.
Yik Yak is the #3 app on iTunes top free apps. On Yik Yak, people can anonymously share their thoughts, observations and comments. Ideally, Yik Yak is the digital equivalent of a message board in a college coffee shop. When the app trickled in to high schools, teens did not use it this way. Instead, students posted hateful comments about fellow classmates and teachers. Recently, I received a question about Yik Yak and how schools, parents and teens can work together to take control of it.
Q: What about YikYak, the anonymous service similar to twitter? Now that it’s in our community, how are schools and parents partnering to keep our kids safe?
A: The appeal of Yik Yak is complete anonymity to say anything you want. Yik Yak does not even have usernames. I have more information about Yik Yak in my Parent’s Guide to Yik Yak, but here is a quick overview. Yik Yak does resemble a local twitter feed. Teens can share “Yaks” with other users who are within 1.5 miles of them. Yaks are short messages limited to 200 characters. Once posted, other users can reply to it or promote it within Yik Yak by voting it up or down. Upvoting is essentially a like and downvoting a dislike. They can also share Yaks on Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
When Yik Yak first appeared, it gained notoriety for teens using it to post bomb threats and slam classmates. Police investigated these threats and schools rushed in to ban the app. In the face of this bad publicity, Yik Yak stepped in with its own solution. They chose to place geofences around all the middle schools and high schools in the US. A geofence shuts off all access to the app within 1.5 miles of the school.
Yik Yak has placed geofences around 85% of all high schools and middle schools in the US. If your school does not have one, school administrators can contact Yik Yak and they will create one. Shutting off the app during school hours does reduce the reach of the app. Teens can still post after school but now it is seen by people 1.5 miles from their house. It is the difference between shouting in the school hallways vs. shouting on the street. Gossip can still spread but not as quickly or easily. Parents can also attempt to stop teens downloading this app at home by changing the restrictions on iTunes or GooglePlay.
Banning alone is not the solution. School, parents and students need to work together to change the culture around these anonymous apps. Teens need to realize that anonymity is not a license to say anything they want without repercussions. They are still responsible for their words. On Yik Yak, they are not as anonymous as they may think. When a student posted a bomb threat on this app, the police were able to find him and arrest him. All of our phones carry a unique device ID that can be traced. No one is completely anonymous online.
Teens have a role to play in governing the use of this app. Sometimes, kids are afraid to stick up for someone online because of the fear of reprisals. By speaking up, they can become the target of the abuse as well as unintentionally feed the internet fire. On Yik Yak, teens can moderate this feed without fear. They can downvote the type of content they don’t want to see without anyone knowing who they are. When a yak receives a score of -5, it is removed. If a person’s content is continually downvoted or flagged, Yik Yak will ban them. Furthermore, they can encourage the type of content they want to see by upvoting it.
While researching Yik Yak, I discovered another app that was already moving in to take its place and this one allows pictures. There is always a new app around the corner. Instead of chasing apps, communities need to come together to incorporate digital citizenship in schools, support parents on having the digital talk at home, and teach kids and teens the value of making good choices online. We are still developing social norms for a wired world, it is important to work together to create a supportive atmosphere for our children both online and off.
For more information:
Yik Yak update: How the app came to geo-fence off US schools by Anne Collier
Yik Yak is today’s Anonymous Burn Book by KidsPrivacy
Yik Yak App Review by CommonsenseMedia
- Yik Yak app is wreaking havoc in schools: 11 things parents need to know by TweenUs
Gaming has come a long way in 20 years. In the early 90s, the picture of a gamer was usually a male in the early 20s sitting alone in front of computer screen for hours. Today, 59% of Americans play video games. Most of them are not playing alone. Gaming is becoming a social activity with people playing online with friends and families. While playing games is a great way for families to connect, it can also be a source of conflict. Many of the most popular games such as Halo or Call of Duty are not for kids. Sometimes, trying to find a game that works for the entire family is a challenge. Thankfully, the ESRB is there to help families make the right choice.
The ESRB, Entertainment Software Review Board, is a non-profit, self-regulatory body that assigns ratings for video games and apps so parents can make informed choices. They began rating games back in 1994. Over the last 20 years, ESRB ratings have appeared on nearly every computer or video game sold at retail in North America.
The ESRB is more than just ratings. On their website and mobile app, parents can read reviews and find out the reasons behind the rating. In our house, I turn to the ESRB and Common Sense Media, when I have questions about a game. What I love is before my kids ask to play a game they check these sites as well.
Over the last few years, I have talked with Dona Fraser,Vice President of ESRB Privacy Certified, several times about protecting kids privacy while playing games as well as how to choose the best games for your family. She always has lots of great advice for parents. To celebrate ESRB’s 20th Anniversary, I have pinned some articles about games and kids.
Finally, the ESRB asked me to be a ESRB Parent Ambassador. I am excited to be a part of an amazing group of parent bloggers. Below is the list of the Ambassdors. (Thank you techsavvymama for the list!) Please check out their blogs for more information on choosing and playing games safely.
ESRB PARENT AMBASSADORS
Monica Vila, The Online Mom
Mary Heston, Mrs. Video Games
Leticia Barr, Tech Savvy Mamas
Sarah Kimmel, Tech 4 Mommies
Tina Case, Parent Grapevine
Ana Picazo, Bongga Mom
Eric & Camila, Geek Junior
Anne Livingston, Kids Privacy
Caryn Bailey, Rockin’ Mama
Beth Blecherman, TechMamas
Kimberly Kauer, Silicon Valley Mamas
Kris Cain, Little Tech Girl
Lori Cunningham, Well Connected Mom
Kathleen Bailey, Gaggle of Gamers