Unlinking Google+ and Gmail, Updating Snapchat and more

rewindHappy Friday!

Every Friday, I am answering your questions  and sharing other helpful blogs and resources. Today, we are talking about Google, Snapchat and Kids in the House.

Gmail & Google+

If your kid  has a Gmail account chances are they have a Google+ profile. Google automatically creates one for every Gmail account. This week, Google announced that now, anyone who is on Google+ can send a message to your Gmail. If you don’t want strangers emailing you, kids and parents should change their Gmail back to its original settings. To do this go to the settings page by clicking on the gear icon and choose General. Now, scroll down until you see “Who can email you via your Google+ profile?” and change it to from “Anyone on Google+” to “No one”. After you change it, remember to click “Save Changes” at the bottom. If you want to completely delete the Google+ profile check out this guide from Yoursphere.



To follow-up with my post from this week, Talking to your Teen about the Snapchat Hack, Snapchat has updated their app. Yesterday they released a new version that improves Find a Friend and allows users to opt-out of linking their phone number with their username. This option is available in Settings > Mobile #. This weekend, remind your teen to update their app to take advantage of these new features.

Kids in the House

If you prefer watching to reading, I found the perfect parenting resource for you. Kidsinthehouse.com is an educational website about parenting. It has over 8,000 videos posted from top experts including physicians, psychologists, researchers and educators. The videos are short around 2 minutes and loaded with great advice. The technology experts address a wide range of topics including everything from How can I upload and share videos safely? to What is Ask-FM and what do I need to be aware of? If you still prefer reading, the website has transcripts for many of the videos.


Talking to your Teen about the Snapchat Hack

snapchat ghostAlthough you may have lost sleep over the Target breach, chances are it barely registered with your teen. The breach that should concern them is Snapchat. One of the reasons teens flock to Snapchat is privacy. Here, they can send funny photos and silly messages to their friends that disappear. Teens can have fun without leaving a digital trail. But, one cannot have privacy without security.

Snapchat became less private this New Years Eve. A website posted 4.6 million Snapchat usernames and their corresponding phone numbers. They attained this information by exploiting Snapchat’s “Find My Friends” feature. This feature allows users to look up their friends by uploading the phone numbers in their device’s contact list and searching for accounts that match those numbers. What the hackers did was upload a phone book. Snapchat searched through all these numbers and sent the corresponding usernames.

Fortunately, the published information was limited. It did not contain photos or messages. Also, the published phone numbers had the last two numbers redacted. Although some security sites mentioned the ability for people to request the original list with the entire number.

Gibson Security, who identified this potential security flaw four months before the attack, has set up a website where teens can look up their username. The site will tell them if their information appeared in this breach. If so, there is not a lot they can do. Snapchat does not allow you to change your username and it is a pain to change your phone number. Concerned teens can delete their account and start over. They may want to go this route especially if their username is their real name.

Even if your teens information is not on public display, there are still a few lessons here.

  • Mobile Spam

Data has value. Adaptive Technology has an excellent piece on how hackers could use this information. Active mobile phone numbers are worth money within the spam industry. Couple a phone number with a name and hackers can send a personal phishing message. Teens should know how to identify potential security scams.

  • Unique Usernames

Many teens use the same username for their Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts. Yes, this makes it easier to connect with friends but it also ties together a lot of personal information. If your friends can easily find you so can others. Keep information separate by creating unique usernames for each account and different passwords.

  • Update apps

Snapchat is working to eliminate this security hole and improve find of friend. To receive these security updates, teens need to download the latest version. They should always keep their apps updated.

Privacy does not exist without security. Sit down with your teen and look up their username. While looking up their name talk to them about security. They are growing up in world where breaches are becoming more common. The best security you can give them is teaching them how to spot potential trouble

Top 5 Posts in 2013

Happy 2014!

KidsPrivacy is starting off 2014 with a new look. I am closing in on my 3rd anniversary and felt the site needed an update. Not only does KidsPrivacy look better, it has some new features. I have expanded the menu so you can easily find posts about the latest apps, devices and online safety & privacy concerns. If you have questions about specific apps or kids living life online, please post them on Ask KidsPrivacy and I will answer questions every Friday.

Besides updating the site, I took some time to review my most successful posts in 2013. Overwhelmingly, the posts you were most interested in talked about what parents need to know regarding specific apps and websites. In 2014, I will continue to focus on keeping you up to date on the latest apps.  But, we need to do more than just follow our kids from app to app. Soon, I will publish a guide on having the digital talk with your child and/or teen.

Thanks for a great 2013 and looking forward to 2014!

top 5  KidsPrivacy’s Top 5 Posts in 2013. 

myYearbook — Social Network meets Online Dating
What parents need to know about Kik
Omegle – Have a chat with a Random Stranger
What parents need to know about ask.fm
Guess my Password Game

snapchat ghost

Snapchat’s only privacy setting is a good friend

snapchat ghost

When I watch my kids online, I often wish the internet was a bit more forgiving. I am not talking about the freedom to do whatever they want without consequences. I am talking about sharing a silly moment without it stalking them for they rest of their lives. The Snapchat app appears to promise kids this freedom by allowing them to send a disappearing photo.

Screenshot_2013-02-12-08-22-29 (1)

Snapchat lets kids take and send photos to their friends that cannot be saved. It does this by including a self-destruct button. Kids decide how long their friend can view the photo, with a maximum viewing time of 10 seconds. When time is up, the photo disappears. Snapchat photos cannot be saved by the recipient.

Snapchat is intended for kids over 13. It is one of the top 5 apps for teens. Over 60 million photos or messages are sent each day on Snapchat. The latest version will let teens send videos that self-destruct within 10 seconds.

When Snapchat first launched, many people wrote about the potential for teens to use it for sexting. A self-destructing photo seemed the perfect way for teens to send naughty pictures without worrying about the photo ending up splashed all over the internet. Some teens probably have used Snapchat for this purpose and parents should definitely talk to their teen about the dangers of sexting.

silly snapchat photoAn online search for #Snapchat reveals a lot of teens are using it to take funny pictures of themselves. They are making an ugly face or drawing a mustache. These pictures share a silly moment then disappear. They can have fun without having their crazy duck face follow them into adulthood. Unfortunately, these faces may not always disappear.

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top 5

Do you know the 5 sites teens are on?

In December, Josh Miller interviewed his 10th grade sister about how she and her friends are using technology. His interview inspired Gerry Tan  to conduct a survey of teens and young adults about which services they used regularly. For teens, he found the top 5 sites were Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat and Twitter. The most used site for teens was Tumblr, even more popular than Facebook.

social network usage

If your teen is on one of these sites or asking to use it, I have added articles about these sites to my Privacy Tools. If you do not want to click over, I included the same links below.

These articles explain how these services work as well as what kids and parents need to watch out for. Even if your kid is not asking about these sites – yet, it wouldn’t hurt to familiarize yourself with them. You may even find one you want to try.

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