One of the best ways to reach teens is to share with them a real world example. When talking to my kids I use a lot of stories from the news. For example when talking about digital reputation, I showed them “My Embarrassing Photo went Viral.” This weekend, we talked about the celebrity hacking scandal and what kids can do to keep their devices and accounts secure.
Last week, explicit photographs of 100 female celebrities were leaked online. These photographs came from a group of hackers who collected and traded nude pictures online. How they attained these pictures was by breaking into the celebrity’s Apple iCloud account. Reportedly, these hackers were able to access these personal accounts repeatedly and download pictures.
Most of these celebrities were probably unaware their pictures were even stored on iCloud. iCloud is a backup system which automatically saves digital photos, calendars etc. When someone takes a picture with their mobile phone it is automatically uploaded and stored in their iCloud account. Even if they deleted it off their phone, it could still be in iCloud. The benefit to an automatic backup is if someone loses their phone, they would not lose everything.
You can turn off these automatic backups. Without the automatic backup, if they lose their phone and haven’t downloaded their pictures, they could lose all their digital photos. I know many teens who have lost their phone or accidentally broken it. Given the likelihood of something happening to their phone, a better alternative may be to increase security.
Parents should share with their kids how to improve security on their end by:
Setting a Strong Password – An easy password is like closing the door without locking it. Teens and kids should always use strong passwords for their accounts and devices. Never use common passwords like “password” or “1234”. Choose passwords that are hard to guess with both letters, numbers and symbols.
Choosing unique passwords – Once you have that strong password do not use it for every account. If someone happens to guess or sees your password they will now have access to all your accounts. Every account should have a unique password
Turning on 2 factor identification – Once this feature is turned on, a person trying to access an account has to enter a password plus a code before they can login to an iCloud or Google Account. This unique code is sent to a trusted device chosen in advance by the user. Some popular apps, such as facebook, twitter and tumblr also offer 2 factor security.
Watching the oversharing – Keep answers to security questions off social media or don’t use real answers to your security questions. Let’s say your favorite singer is Taylor Swift, the answer to the security question “who is your favorite singer” could be Kanye West.
Finally, it is not bad idea to remind kids there is no such thing as a private digital photo. Even with apps like Snapchat, a photo doesn’t truly disappear. Nothing is 100% private in the digital world.
Every Friday, I am answering your questions and sharing helpful blogs and resources. Today, we are talking about In-app purchases, passwords, reporting online abuse and the Daily Show.
This week, Apple agreed to pay 32.5 million for allowing kids to rack of purchases of virtual items within an app without a parent’s permission. After parents entered their password and bought the app, their child had an open window of 15 minutes to buy stuff without reentering the password. If your one of these parents, Apple should be contacting you with how to get a refund for unauthorized purchases by kids. To prevent future unauthorized purchases, check out Commonsense Media’s 4 ways to prevent in app purchases for Apple devices.
Guess my Password Game is one of my most popular posts. When I first played it with my kid, I guessed her password right away. Yes, her password was one of the top 10 most popular passwords. This week, I updated my game to include the most popular passwords for 2013. It is almost identical to my original list except a bit longer. For instance, 1234 is now 123456. Passwords are getting longer; now we need to work on making them stronger.
Reporting Online Abuse
The Cyberbullying Research Center has a list of popular apps and how to report online abuse for each one. This is a great resource for parents. It is important for us to let these companies know what is happening so they can address the problem and limit this harmful activity. Bookmark Report It.
Daily Show Privacy
Not often does one of my favorite TV shows and privacy collide, but it did this week. Check out Jon Stewart and Therese author Theresa Payton discussing her new book Privacy in the Age of Big Data.
This week, headlines about sexting flooded my dash. This was hardly the first time I had seen headlines about teens sexting, but this headline had me worried. A new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that a significant number of adolescents between ages 12 and 14 sext, and that these children are more likely to kiss, have oral sex or sexual intercourse than their counterparts who did not send such explicit messages. After seeing these headlines and having a mild panic attack, I searched the Pediatric Journal’s website. I found the study- Sexting and Sexual Behavior in At-Risk Adolescents. Fortunately for us middle school parents the headlines were not entirely accurate.
It turns out that the study did not just examine the sexting behaviors of seventh graders, but rather the sexting behaviors of “at risk” seventh-graders. The 420 students were selected, not because they represented your typical seventh grader, but because of behavioral or emotional problems. Of this group, 22% of the students said they engaged in sexting with 17% sending texts only and 5% sending texts and photos. What the researchers concluded was that emotional and behavioral symptoms on which this sample was selected may increase the likelihood that early teenagers will engage in sexting. These kids who had sexted were 4-7 times more likely to have engage in offline sexual activities. The authors noted that these results may not generalize to all middle school students.
With headlines pronouncing an epidemic of teen sexting, it is easy to feel sexting is just part of teen culture. But, even the scariest studies find that most teens do not sext. Headlines declaring an epidemic do more harm than good. It is natural for teens to look toward their peers. This is part of growing up and becoming an independent-thinking adult. Why tell a group that is heavily influenced by their peers that everyone is doing it. Headlines should declare, “majority of teens do not send inappropriate texts or pictures” or perhaps “sexting not the norm”.
Now, a lack of an epidemic does not get parents off the hook for the sexting talk. Parents should talk about sexting beginning in early adolescence. Even if most likely they won’t sext, they could be the one that does. Even if they don’t, they may receive an inappropriate picture or pressure someone to send one. It is important that kids realize healthy relationships are positive both on and offline.
To help parents, Amy Lang, fromBirds+Bees+Kids, created an excellent script on how to talk about sexting. The sex talk is not the most comfortable conversation to have or initiate with your teen. Starting your talk early with sexting may be an easier way to transition to the big sex talk later.
This holiday season, one the most popular gadgets for kids is a tablet. In the UK, 24% of kids under 16 are asking for a tablet. Here in the US, there has been a five-fold increase in ownership of tabletsfor families with children under 8 years old. If your child has a tablet on their list or you are tired of sharing yours, I discovered some great resources on how to choose a kid friendly tablet.
There are so many tablet options. Do you get a tablet specifically designed for kids? Do you go with a family tablet? Do you want your child to be able to take photos? Do you want internet access? To answer all these questions, start with the Kid’s Tablet Guide 2013 from the Ireland Technology Blog. This article does a nice job of breaking down all the options available and what to look for when buying a tablet.
Once you decide on what you need, the next stop is Kid Tablets with wifi. This site reviews and compares different tablets for kids and families. Basically, your choices for tablets come in 3 categories: Learning Tablets, Kid Tablets and Family Tablets.
Learning Tablets (ages 2-6)
Learning tablets have a close system that only allows educational games and apps. According to PCadvisor, the two main kids’ learning tablets are Leapfrog’s LeapPad and VTech’s InnoTab. These tablets are great for younger kids. Kids can only download age appropriate content from the Leapfrog or VTech store. So, parents do not need to worry about them stumbling upon a YouTube video of Elmo swearing.Both of these tablets are cheaper than most but their apps are more expensive. Both received 4 out of 5 stars on Toys R Us and Amazon. If you cannot decide between the two, Kids Tablets with wi-fi has a side by side comparison. Continue reading →
I will admit that when our eldest got a phone we did not think too deeply about it. She was babysitting and participating in more after school activities and we wanted her to be able to contact us. We knew she would use it to text her friends, but we didn’t think that was a big deal. Now a few years a later, we have another child entering middle school and this time around we are not as cavalier about getting her a phone.
There are days I love the phone and days I wonder why she has it. I love that she can call if she needs a ride or has a problem and I can reach her if there is a change.I am more comfortable letting her venture out knowing she has a phone. All of this connection can also lead to disconnection. She is on her phone a lot. Some days, I swear she never looks up and it is a constant battle to limit time. We also struggle with how much to monitor her use. It is hard to guide her if we don’t know what she is doing on her phone. We want to make sure she is using her phone responsibly but we don’t want to read every text.
Before buying a phone, parents and kids should discuss time and use. Ultimately, whether a kid is ready for a phone depends a lot on them and you. Some questions to think about are:
How responsible are they with their current devices?
How well are they doing with time management?
Are they managing friendships well in the real world?
Are you ready as a parent to manage and guide their use?
If you decide it is time for a phone, remember a phone and internet can be separated and introduced at different ages. Your 6th grader may need a phone to get picked up at school. It doesn’t mean they need internet access. Contrary to what they may tell you, not everyone has a smartphone.
Once you have decided on a phone, parents and kids should sit down and talk expectations & consequences. Working together, you and your child can create a family phone contract. Creating a contract together is a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page. I like the idea of a contract vs. a list of rules. It gives you a chance to hear their thoughts and talk about responsible phone use. Ultimately, their safety and privacy must be protected so not everything is negotiable.
Parents should decide how they are going to monitor time and use. Keeping chargers downstairs is a great way to limit late night texting. Parents may also want to set a no phones at the dinner table rule. To keep track of use, we have surprise cell phone checks and I know other parents who use monitoring software. Whatever you decide for your child make sure that monitoring and education go hand in hand. The goal is for monitoring to lead to a dialogue.
We are all learning the rules of the road for this new technology. They will make mistakes. When they may make a mistake or see something that upsets them, you want them to come to you. Mistakes are an opportunity for everyone to learn.