Social Media Safety Tips
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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!
Parent VIP Member
Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.
Director of College Advising
Educator Webinar Attendee
This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.
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Table of Contents
Our friends at Greenbush partnered with local schools in Southeastern Kansas and invited Josh Ochs to give eight school assemblies in four cities in March 2014. Josh presented to more than 2,700 students in under three days. He shared with each of the students how they can be safe and smart on social media.
Here's 7 key takeaways for teaching teens and tweens how to be safe online:
1. Parents need an overview of new apps
Learning about all the popular apps can be overwhelming for parents trying to keep-up with teens. The resources at SmartSocial.com can help parents learn about the most popular and up-and-coming apps.
2. Tweens & teens are leaving Facebook because of their parents
We recommend parents download and create their own social media accounts and "friend" their own kids. However, following what your teen posts is different from engaging and commenting on their posts, which can embarrass the teen. Parents should generally refrain from commenting or liking their students' posts. Instead, just observe the post and use it as something to talk about in person around the dinner table.
3. Teens didn't know Snapchat videos can be downloaded and forwarded
Videos on Snapchat can be downloaded and shared on other networks. This shocks students because they believe Snapchat is a network that safely delivers their media to their friends without any third party intrusion. It takes just 7 seconds for someone to download, share, and ruin their reputation.
4. Teens and tweens need to check their Google results
Are you logged into Google? Log out and see what results appear when you search for your teen's name. This will give students a perspective of what college admissions and future employers will see about them on the web.
5. Most Tweens and Teens don't know their online activities can have very real consequences when colleges and enemies discover their posts
Online posts can have very dangerous consequences in the real world. Celebrities and teens alike can have their futures ruined by posts with poor-taste.
6. Every student's post should represent their community and their school
Many students think their posts have little or no effect on their future. Some of the better principals are letting students know that every time they post something negative (while wearing a school uniform) they are hurting the school's brand image. This hurts the whole community and can cause harm to the school's reputation.
7. Use examples of what *not* to do when posting on social media
While giving eight speeches in under three days Josh Ochs was able to test a lot of content. Kids giggled and were most interested when they heard real examples from celebrities that made mistakes online. In addition to showing bad examples, Josh showed positive posts the students could emulate to impress colleges and employers.
Here's what our friends at Greenbush said about Josh's presentation:
See what students said after the social media safety presentation:
Thanks for coming to Girard High School, I really enjoyed how you engaged your audience as a speaker. And the tips were great too! - Jaxon
You did a wonderful job speaking at GHS today! I really appreciate the pointers and I know it will help me. Thank you! - Alexandria
@JoshOchs you had an awesome presentation today :)! - Kerensa
Oh, & a big thanks to @JoshOchs for visiting Girard schools today! Learned so much, & have many changes to be made to my social media ways - Carly
Dialogue Advice for Parents of Middle School Students
Set expectations and get involved
Whitney Takacs, Rancho-Starbuck Intermediate
One of the best tips for going back to school with your tweens is setting expectations. Digital expectations too. Sometimes we want to back off as parents and let our tweens do their thing when school starts, but they need you. They need you to help them manage their homework and their social lives, but they also need you to help them manage their digital lives. Talk to your tweens. What do you want that phone or Internet usage to look like when they go back to school? What is your timeframe? What can they use and what can they not use? You can even create a contract with your student to set boundaries.
All of the parents say, "Well, I heard they can do this all on their own. I heard the school doesn't want me around anymore because they are out of elementary school and there is no place for a parent on the junior high campus." That is totally wrong parents. We want you and your kids need you. Believe it or not, the kids who have zero parent involvement miss it. They want boundaries and communication with their parents. Stay involved.
Be curious and stay open
Mercedes Samudio, Shame-Proof Parenting
Many parents tell me that this is all new to them when their child enters middle school. But, the same is true for your tween - this is all new for them too. Instead of assuming the worse - or even labeling your tween - be sure to get curious about their behavior before setting limits. Sometimes parents can get overwhelmed with all of the news and the research and the "shoulds" and the "what ifs." I challenge the parents that I work with to set aside their assumptions of what a tween will do and really start to ask questions and be curious about what their tween is doing. The person that they have in their home. When you are being curious, stay open. Listen to the full story and don't make judgements right away especially when it comes to why they didn't do a certain assignment or made a poor decision with a group of peers. Be open and really listen so that you can get a better understanding of how your child is processing these issues and you can have a better understanding of how to guide them through those issues.
The "I heard" that I hear is "I heard that I really need to focus on my kid's academics so they can get into a good high school and they can get into a good college." While I feel like yes, you do need to focus on academics, I also want to alert parents to the fact that their emotional and mental health is just as important as their academic health. So when you see your kid's grades or assignments take a nosedive, don't immediately focus on tutoring or getting them extra credit assignments. Really begin to also look at what is going on with them emotionally. What is going on in their peer groups? What is going on with puberty? Check in with them and see how they are handling the pressures of being a tween.
Parents themselves do not always know what they should be looking out for. We need to educate parents early on that kids have access to almost every Internet device, even if you don’t have it in your home, they can get access at their friend’s house or find WiFi at a local store. You need to have a conversation with teens about what to do and how to handle technology outside of your home.
We should empower our kids to report and teach them how and when to do it. It’s important for us to tell our kids that if they or their friends are having problems to report that.
Ask the teacher for assessments
Walter Duncan, Quick Key
When back-to-school starts and we have that back-to-school night where all the parents and teachers come together and shake hands, that is a great place for a parent of a tween to connect with the teacher. There are two types of data that the teacher should be capturing: checking for understanding on a daily basis and common benchmark informative assessments. These assessments give down to the detail information on what specific areas your child is struggling with and this is so important because the rigor increase significantly for our children when they make that move from elementary to middle school. We want to be able to support them. We can do that by simply asking our teachers, "Please, can you share with me this data so I can target the tutoring and the extra help that I can bring in." If the students do not master these early concepts, it's more difficult later on to build upon them and as a parent, you have a hand in making sure as long as you are willing to connect, listen to, and speak with the teacher.
My "I heard" is "I heard Ms. Juilliard is the meanest, hardest teacher ever, ever, ever" and kids will be saying this. It gives us an opportunity as parents to make sure that we connect with Ms. Juilliard and all of the other teachers not just when a crisis arises. Not when our kids have three detention slips and four tardies. We want to establish that relationship early and make sure that it is healthy with a two-way dialogue so that Ms. Juilliard is watching out for our own child and knows that we support our child. Then we are better able to handle those inevitable moments of crises that make up a life of a middle schooler. We want to be able to help our children to face these crises and help them grow through the process on their journey to adulthood.
Ask your student for help
Jason Ickovitz, Pilgrim School
What you have in your home is an expert in the digital world. If you are not familiar with what is happening, ask your kid to help you. “What is Instagram? Can you help me set up a profile?” Let them be the teacher and share in the experience.
The priority should always be kid’s safety, especially when you are talking about minors. Think about ways to ensure that kids have a safe environment online and what to do when unsafe behavior takes place in that environment.
Act interested in what they are doing
Dr. Casey Weinstein, Family Therapist, Psychotherapist
The best way to gauge the values of teens and kids is to ask them. As a school counselor, if I ask students to explain Minecraft to me their faces light up. You have to be authentic, but ask about the things that you don’t know yet because they love teaching adults.
In one of my parenting groups, we were talking about having fun with your kids and enjoying technology. I said, “Act interested in something that they are doing.” The parent came back the next week and she noticed her son was watching YouTube videos. She said, “Pick the funniest one that you have seen” and he was happy to show her. So now every night they share something that they found on YouTube and for the first time they had this connection. Their relationship improved immediately after that.
It's okay to be different
LaRosha Paul, founder of Big Dreamz Inc.
Social media plays a big role in their lives when it comes to what they think society accepts. So my tip to them has been, ‘I have friends that are different shades and different body images, but the important thing is to love yourself. Be unique. It’s okay to be different, just make sure that you are a leader.
How can you talk to your children about managing their screen time wisely?
Make the most of your time while online
Connie Albers, Speaker, Home Education Expert
With my kids, every Sunday night I would give each of them 10 pennies. Each penny represented 30 minutes of screen time, and they could spend them however they wanted. At first, they usually were gone by Tuesday.
So the next week they realized, ‘Hey, if I spread these out I can get a little bit more screen time.’ So each week they would come back on Sunday, we’d refill their 10 pennies, and they learned how to make the most of their time while they were online instead wasting time online. And they also learned the value of time from a financial standpoint. Time is money.
In your experience, do colleges really look at applicants’ online footprints?
Be conscious of your online reputation
Yariv Alpher, Executive Director of Kaplan Test Prep
One thing we do at Kaplan Test Prep is an annual survey with college admissions officers. In 2008, we started asking the question, ‘Do you look at an applicant’s social media page/footprint?’ Back then 10 percent said they did. And in our last survey, that was up to 40 percent. That’s why we advise students and parents that what you put out there is public information available for everybody to look at.
Colleges are very cognizant of the kind of communities they’re trying to build, so who they let in matters a lot, both for campus safety but also for the kind community they’re trying to foster. So we tell applicants, ‘When it doubt, leave it out. Be very conscious of the kind of profile and reputation you’re building for yourself online.’ Folks bring a lot of experiences by the time they apply to college, and what social media does is give a fuller, more rounded perspective of an applicant to the colleges.
When it comes to being safe online, how can students disengage with bullies so they’re not a part of it?
If you wouldn't say it in person, don't say it online
Tracy Vega, Co-Founder of Simple Self Defense for Women
Think about it—you can’t fight with yourself. So if somebody is bullying you or your child online, but you don’t engage with them, they’re going to stop. On the other side, what we tell the potential bullies is that if you wouldn’t walk up to someone on the street and say, ‘Your shoes look terrible,’ don’t do it online. And don’t encourage your kids to do that.
We don’t need everybody jumping on the bandwagon and bullying one child just because they can hide behind their keyboards. The other thing that’s very important to understand is that a lot of times, parents and teachers don’t know their child or student is a bully or being bullied, and they won’t exhibit the signs. But that’s something people need to look out for. You need to see, is your child withdrawing?
Are they changing their habits? Are they doing something different on social media, or hiding their phone or whatever they’re using to look at their information online?
You really should be able to walk up at any time and say hey, let me see what you’re looking at. And if they’re not willing to share, you might want to take a look and see what’s going on, because there might be something hiding behind the screen.
Quick tips on how to start a digital dialogue with teens
- Dangerous online behavior needs to be eliminated early on - Consider approaching online behavior as a family system, from the beginning, to avoid establishing any dangerous online habits. Lead by example and give your family the foundation it needs to make smart and safe decisions online.
- Let your children teach you about technology - Most teens are digital experts. Spend time learning more about the different apps and sites your teen likes to use. As your teen guides you through their favorite online activities, share in the experience together.
- Take interest in your teen's online activity - Showing interest in your teen's online behavior creates an opportunity for you to bond together. Generally, teens will be excited to show you their favorite things online or to explain a game they like. Continually check in with your teen and create a routine of sharing in technology and spending time together.
3 Tips to Keep Students Safe on Smart Phones
Robyn Spoto, Co-Founder & President, MamaBear Parenting App
1. Create a smartphone contract with your students
How can you ease your worry and protect your kids from too much access from their mobile devices? A great first step is to have a conversation about boundaries and create a written agreement – a contract with your child. Then, be sure to check out parental restrictions offered on most devices on the market.
My favorite points to include in a family cell phone contract are:
- If I drop my phone or damage it in any way, I am responsible for repairing or replacing it
- I will always answer the phone when my parents or siblings call and I will respond to family texts as soon as I get them
- I will not use my phone at the dinner table or at family events
Access the SmartSocial Family Media Dialogue Guide & Agreement Templates
2. Know the passwords to all of your child's social media
Knowing the passwords helps you monitor activity, whether you do it passively with third party services like MamaBear or log in to their account directly.
Awareness of the activity allows you to understand who your child is creating virtual relationships with and allows you to guide them through protecting their digital reputation. This also opens the conversation to knowing all of the social media they are participating and can ask questions about unfamiliar social media. Don’t forget to ask about secondary accounts on the same social site.
You might be surprised by the answer. Talk to you kids about why it’s important to have all their the passwords and include the point in your contract.
3. Have the right conversation: Your approach can make or break it
The research shows that children at the age 12-14 are getting their first smartphone, jumping on social media for the first time and all the meanwhile, seeking greater independence and autonomy from their family than ever before. In our age of digital parenting, we can’t ignore that children have greater risks with so much power at their finger tips and parents have greater responsibility to keep their kids safe virtually and physically. How you handle these conversations you’re responsibly monitoring can make or break your ongoing success of staying in the know.
Like in any relationship, transparency and honesty is the key. Explain up front your intentions for creating a smartphone contract, knowing passwords and social monitoring, setting device restrictions, monitoring location . . . whatever you plan to do in your diligent digital parenting, talk about it.
Don’t overact to any findings and gather more information giving you the ability to offer guidance to help your child learn how to keep themselves safe with as many opportunities as possible.
Benefits of smartphones for teens and tweens
Smartphones allow you to know your child is safe
Nick Droege, SafeTrek
We live in an increasingly unpredictable world and smartphones have a huge role to play in making the day just a little more predictable. The top reason for parents deciding to purchase a phone for their children is to stay in touch and know they are safe. The technology on smartphones is only improving as time goes on. Smartphones have become a medium for parents to give their children the independence they want while also giving themselves the peace of mind to know their kids are safe. To those concerned about the downfalls of their tweens having smartphones: how your kids use their phones is ultimately up to the rules you establish with them from the very beginning. Make your dinner table, home, or vacations phone-free times, but don’t let your concern of overuse and abuse keep you from providing your children with the best tool for them to get help if they ever need it.
Create a smartphone agreement as a family
Varda Meyers Epstein, Kars4Kids
It’s best to start tweens on no-frills cellphone, before graduating him or her to a smartphone. Kids should understand that having a phone is a privilege, not a right, and be willing to prove they have earned that privilege. Let your child show he is responsible by getting his homework done on time; and completing his household chores consistently, each day or week, as the case may be.Once the child shows he is a responsible phone users, parents can graduate the child to a smartphone. Once this is done, parents should work up a smartphone agreement for the child to read and sign.
The agreement should outline details such as:
- Who buys the phone and pays for its usage
- Whether or not the child is allowed to take the phone to school
- Time of day the child is allowed to use the phone
- What is considered appropriate online behavior (this should be detailed and explain what is and isn’t appropriate to share online, and how to deal with stranger danger and cyberbullying)
- What type of monitoring software will be installed on the smartphone with a notation that this is non-negotiable
- Under what circumstances (for instance, behavior changes) the smartphone can be taken away
- What will happen in the event the smartphone is lost or broke
Smartphones create an opportunity to have an open dialogue with your tween
Nancy Weinstein, Mindprint Learning
Benefits of a cell phone can extend well beyond knowing when and where to pick up your child, especially for students with anxiety, social challenges or learning differences.
Reassurance: For children who are anxious in new situations, a cell phone can be great reassurance. Knowing a parent is only a discreet text message away if things get tough can give a child the courage to tackle that new situation on his own.
Avoiding Peer Pressure: Peer pressure is a very real problem. While all students need to learn to “just say no,” a discreet come get me text message can be a lifesaver in a tough situation where a student is uncomfortable.
Better Communication: The reality is that many kids are more comfortable texting than speaking. A simple “hi and how was your day” might lead to a good dialogue. And once they’ve opened up, there will be opportunities to continue the conversation in person.
Learning Supports: Technology can be a life-changer for kids with learning and attention weaknesses. The option to record notes in class, keep an electronic to-do list, or have a dictionary easily accessible are just a few examples.
Younger tweens might be more receptive to learning teen mobile safety
Robin Taylor, Rakkoon
It's a smart move for parents to give kids their first cellphone before they turn into teenagers. As the mother of four kids (8,10,12& 14), whose job requires more than a passing knowledge of how teens and tweens use their smartphones, I have some experience with this dilemma. And while my advice might seem like a radical departure from conventional wisdom, consider this:
Your average 11-year-old may actually be more receptive to learning to use a smartphone safely and sensibly than the average 13-year-old. There’s ample evidence that by the time kids hit puberty, their brains are programmed to seek out risks and to push toward peers and away from parents. There's an argument to be made that an 11-year-old, whose brain is not yet flooded with adolescent hormones, is in a more stable position to appreciate the risks of smartphone use than his future 13-year-old self.
5 ways to protect your kids in the digital age with Guest Titania Jordan from Bark
As the first generation of parents raising children with smartphones and unmatched access to technology, it’s not easy to give kids the support they need while also keeping them safe. While there are many reasons to celebrate technology, today’s digital trends can put children in real danger. Relying on these tips and resources will help you protect your kids in the digital age and make parenting in a tech world much less daunting.
1. Protect your kids by talking early and often
Today’s children can find more than one million answers to nearly any question they may have in half of a second. This is one of the many reasons that you need to begin having those difficult conversations about issues such as cyberbullying, sexting, pornography, online predators, suicide, and violence with your child — before they’re given unsupervised access to the internet. If you don’t believe your child will face issues like these, look at the data surrounding the online activity of tweens and teens today.
The unfortunate truth is that if you are unwilling to start discussing these issues with your child, someone else will. Being the first to sit down with your child and talk through these dangers allows you to control the conversation and will ultimately help your child feel more comfortable coming to you in the future when they encounter them.
2. Get curious
One of the best ways to learn what’s really happening online so you can better protect your kids is to download the apps they are using for yourself and having your kids show you how to use them. Not only will you feel better knowing what your kids are doing on their smartphones, but you’ll also be surprised by their willingness to share this information with you and explain the latest memes, lingo, and viral challenges.
There are also several websites, like SmartSocial, that provide great insight into how appropriate specific apps are for different age groups. Common Sense Media, for example, has reviewed more than 4,300 apps to determine how dangerous they are based on content such as violence, sex, explicit language, and alcohol/drugs. The app reviews give detailed information about what parents need to know and even feature both parent and child reviews of each app.
3. Lean on other parents
At times, it may feel like you’re completely alone trying to navigate how to protect your kids and raise them in this digital age, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, there’s a good chance another family has faced the same difficult situation that you’re struggling with right now. You’d be surprised how much relief can come from simply hearing, “Yes, I’ve been there before, and this is how I handled it.”
If you’re not comfortable asking local friends for advice, there are several private Facebook groups with parents just like you, worrying and wondering if they’re doing the right thing. So whether you’re confused about what a Snapchat “streak” is or you’ve just found out your child has been communicating with strangers on Instagram, lean on other parents for answers.
4. Create clear rules and consequences
You can have open conversations with your kids and do hours of research to learn about the latest apps and devices, but if you don’t establish clear rules and consequences for your family’s activity online, those efforts will be for naught. The instructions need to be as detailed as possible so that both you and your child know what to expect should a rule be violated. Sit down as a family and answer questions such as:
- What apps can your child download?
- Can your child download apps with or without your consent?
- Is your child required to share their passwords with you?
- Is your child required to approve your follow/friend request?
- What kind of content is appropriate for your child to post?
- What kind of content is appropriate for your child to view?
- What kind of information can your child share?
- Who is your child allowed to talk to?
- What privacy settings need to be used on each platform?
- How much screen time is allowed each weekday?
- How much screen time is allowed on the weekends?
- Is your child allowed to keep their phone in their room at night? If not, what time do they need to hand it over to you?
As you review these questions, consider holding yourself accountable too. Think about the reasons why you discourage your child from spending too much time on their device or sharing personally identifiable information. Use them as a reminder to set a good example for your kids. Once you and your child decide what makes the most sense for your family, create a technology contract together to solidify your plan.
5. Take advantage of parental controls
Much like you wouldn’t give your bike without a helmet, you shouldn’t give your child access to the internet without using parental controls to keep them safe online. Even if your child always follows the rules, the digital world introduces complex dangers that kids may not be mature enough to recognize.
While setting up parental controls can be a no-brainer for parents, kids typically aren’t thrilled about the decision. However, it’s important that you candidly discuss the use of parental controls with your child to establish trust and foster productive conversations around the need to protect them online.
Creating a safe environment for your child online can be complicated, with different instructions for everything from apps and games to messaging and email platforms. Fortunately, you can take advantage of parental control resources such as the Barkomatic. This free tool provides step-by-step instructions for setting up parental controls on everything your kid uses — all in one place.
As a company dedicated to helping keep kids safe online and in real life, we’re aware of the worst that exists in the digital world, even when technology contracts and traditional parental control settings are in place. But while digital platforms do carry risk, there are tools, like Bark, that help make the Internet safe for kids to use. Bark uses advanced machine-learning technology to monitor texts, chat, email, and 24+ social media platforms for signs of potential issues like cyberbullying, adult content, suicidal ideation, sexual predators, and more.
Visit SmartSocial.com/bark/ or use code SmartSocial for a free, one-week trial of Bark!
Family Online Safety Institute shares parent tips
We sat down with Stephen Balkam who is the CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute to talk about trust and civility in a challenging world. Learn Stephen's best tips and tactics for keeping kids safe online.
Listen along on our podcast
Key takeaways from Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Online from an Expert
- Do simple things to create non-tech zones and non-tech time zones in your home
- We have to curb our own addictions to technology. Be a good digital role model. Provide good examples on how often and how to use devices
- When there are a thousand new apps uploaded everyday, it is important to talk with your kids. The digital safety conversation with your children is not one-and-done. It has to be an ongoing dialogue
How can new connected toys affect how our kids are being seen online?
We are launching new research on November 16th at the conference at the Newseum in Washington DC; it's called Connected Families. Parents feel and think about connected toys, wearables, and the "Internet of things" like it’s the first of its kind. I don't think parents have ever been asked these questions. What are your hopes and aspirations for your kids but also what are your fears and concerns? Kids take to technology very naturally. They'll walk into a kitchen and start talking to Alexa asking ridiculous questions and even barking orders at it.We're starting to see this new development where parents are complaining that their kids are acting towards them the way they would to an artificially intelligent box in the room. My hope is that in the future, Alexa, Siri, and the others will demand pleases and thank yous. I find myself almost unconsciously thanking my Alexa and she always says you're welcome afterwards. However, those manners haven’t been encoded yet in children.
What are some of the things parents can do to set a positive example for their kids so that the outside world will not influence them to behave in a certain way?
First, we say to parents to check their own media and technology use. Comcast came out with a survey that showed, 52% of parents admitted that their kids had asked them to put their phones down at dinnertime. The kids are complaining to us that they can't get their parents attention because they're always on their phones or laptops. We have to curb our own addictions to technology. Provide a good set of examples, both in the how often we use devices and how we use them. Model good digital citizenship online.
What are common misconceptions parents have when it comes to giving a cellphone to their children?
We've seen this sudden drop in the age in which kids get smartphones. We're finding kids in kindergarten showing up with mom and dad's old iPhone. A lot of parents think “Oh at least this will be for safety, now I'll be able to get hold of my child in an emergency”. There are plenty of phones or for that matter just tracking devices that you could use if that's your main concern. Don't hand your seven-year-old more computing power than NASA had to put someone on the moon back in the 60s.
What is your opinion about healthy dialogue with your kids?
The most popular download on our site is the seven steps to good digital parenting. Number one is talk with your kids. Keep that dialogue going. It's not the birds in the bees conversation. It's not one and done. You've got to keep it going. Number two goes back to being a good digital role model. When I talk to parents at PTA meetings I ask them how many of them use their phone as an alarm clock. And most of the hands go up and they have big smiles on their faces. I say “No, don't do that”. The reason is if you use it as an alarm clock what's the last thing you're going to look at at night. And what's the first thing you're going to look at even before you get out of bed and brush your teeth? Kids come into their parents rooms and they see this. Have a closet downstairs. Make sure everyone is recharging it in the same closet. Turn off the router. Just do simple things to create non-tech zones and non-tech time zones in your home.The other thing I suppose is it's okay to say no. Check in and have that conversation. Do it in a dispassionate way, don't get heavy-handed and yell. Have a reasonable conversation typically based on some kind of contract. We have one and there's many out there that you can download. Look for family safety contract and sit down and figure out the rules of the road with your kids.
Listen to MomTalk podcast and hear Beth and Rachel discuss tips for keeping kids safe on social media
5 parenting tips for digital and internet safety
We caught up with Robert Reichmann, Founder and CEO at Visr, an app for parents to keep their kids safe on social networks and asked him to share with us his 5 parenting tips for digital and Internet safety.
1. Be a role model
- Just like in real life, kids learn much of their online behavior from others, including you! You’re probably aware of keeping your language and behavior appropriate while offline, but are you as conscious about your online behavior?If you are a tech-savvy parent, chances are you are probably using a couple of social networks yourself. If you’re not, then we strongly recommend you get yourself familiarized with them, so you know how people use them. If your kids are using social media, it’s a good idea for you to follow/friend/etc them, but not before making sure that your social accounts are appropriate for your kids to see. Remember to lead by example and not have any content that you wouldn’t want to see on your kids social media, e.g. bad language, mean-spirited commentary, questionable pictures, etc.
2. Review the rules
- This is a great time of year to ensure that you and your child are on the same page when it comes to digital awareness and responsibility. Not sure where you stand when it comes to technology rules? Not to worry, Janell Hofmann, author of the book iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know about Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing Up, has share the rules she created for her kids with the world. Her iRules can be easily modified to fit your parenting style and personal preferences when it comes to technology.
3. Bringing offline accountability online
- Many of the behaviors we see online, whether positive or negative, are just online manifestations of behaviors that exist in real life. As parents, we need to be diligent in providing our children with skills to deal with problems when they arise, and helping them understand that they can use these strategies online too.‘Cyberbullying’ is the term often used to refer to these behaviors online, ‘Stop Cyberbullying’ defines it as when a child or teen is ‘tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed by another child or team using internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.’Unfortunately, other children are not the only perpetrators of online harassment, other adults may have bad intentions and use social media as their preferred medium to find victims.Modern parents need to consider how traditional offline dangers to their child may transfer online through new technologies and methods of communication, which leads us to our next point.
4. Stay in the know
- How our kids communicate online is constantly changing, just in 2014 we saw younger audiences shift their attention to new social networks like Snapchat and Vine. Older social networks are constantly changing too, releasing updates and thereby changing how information is shared on their platforms.In order to stay in the know about new social networks and updates to existing ones, its important that you track their progress, news, and updates. How can you make sure you don’t miss any updates?
- Social media savvy parent
- If you’re a big user of social media, then follow the social networks your children use on social media, they will post updates about any changes on their social channels. You also need to stay updated with any new social media, which you can do by following social media news sources like Mashable, Social Media Examiner, TechCrunch, CNET, or Social Times.
- Not social, but tech savvy
- You can also follow the ‘social media’ sections on tech media blogs like Mashable and Wired, they summarize new updates as they are released. If you’re an avid reader of blogs, then add Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram's official blogs to your reading list.
- Traditional news reader
- Someone has to keep the media industry alive! Pay close attention to the ‘technology’ section of your newspaper. Online sources like Business Insider to stay on top of social trends.
5. Use technology
- By this point you are probably considering how time consuming and complicated it would be to stay updated on all the latest social networks, this is without even consider your child’s (or children’s) particular online habits.There are companies out there who are striving to help parents and their kids navigate the social media landscape safely together. We are one such company. If you are feeling unsure of how to keep your kids safer through the use of social media, we can help.
Social media safety tips from law enforcement
Learn how private features in popular apps can lead to dangerous online situations, how employers and college admissions monitor you on social media and how police departments are using social to connect with their community.
Here are some social media safety tips from law enforcement:
Recognize that popular apps can have private messaging capabilities
Parents should be aware that apps like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have private messaging capabilities that can leave their child susceptible to dangerous online interactions
Everything that gets posted on social media is searchable
Employers, college admissions officers, and public agencies will search and monitor your online presence, so be sure that every post is a positive representation of yourself
Officers use social media to connect with their community
If you are looking for real time information from your police department, check their social media channels. Oftentimes police officers will turn to social media to answer questions, promote events, and raise awareness
How can police organizations across the country be more savvy when it comes to social media?
Officers have been taught to do more with less. All of our police agencies at one point had a community relations department and most police departments no longer have that. As Officers, we turn to social to reach out to our community and we are as social as can be with our community. One of the goals is to build a relationship with the citizens of our community through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and NextDoor. We also talk to people in person. We have a big event that happens nationwide, that is basically a big neighborhood watch meeting, and we used Facebook, Twitter, Facebook Live, Snapchat stories, and Instagram stories to promote the event. This event was so big, the turnout was so amazing and it translated not only in a digital environment but in a social environment. Our community now knows who we are, what we do, and what we are about. We are having amazing interactions with our community now. –Marc Marty, Montebello Police Department
What is the future of social media? How can it be used to prevent crimes?
It’s a virtual audience that kids are looking at on the Internet and within that, there is a voice whether it be other students or teachers or strangers. We want to see what people are saying online and if someone is being negative and struggling with depression. We meet with the students when teachers find these messaging or posting trails on social media and we try to find a way to help students cope, before things escalate. We also now have a unit in Los Angeles that is dedicated to monitoring this type of thing on social media. –Rudy Perez, Los Angeles School Police Department
How can we take a proactive role as parents or educators or law enforcement professionals?
Recognize that even simple “photo apps” such as Instagram can still offer private video, image, and messaging options to your kids. Every aspect of social media has some sort of chat feature to it that most parents do not realize. So private is only as private as a kid wants it to be, but unfortunately the trend with kids is to build popularity by trying to get people to follow you and so kids make poor decisions. –Tim Martin, Huntington Beach Police Department
Develop a relationship with your child and be proactive with your child. Take that extra step to understand. Children are smarter than us when it comes to technology. –Marc Marty, Montebello Police Department
As a police officer, I use Facebook Live, Periscope, and Snapchat. I like being able to be front and center with my colleagues and allow people to ask us real questions in real time. They get to see the real people behind the badge. I think being vulnerable with individuals within the community is how you build trust. –Alan Weinreb, Hawthorne Police Department
There are two rooms in a house that children’s tech devices should not go into and that is the bedroom and the bathroom. Children have no business at all having devices in those rooms. –Mike Bires, Azusa Police Department
What are some examples of the influence of social media? What can we do to combat bad influences?
We had an issue where a child was being abused by a family member and it was through social media that a family member found out, and we used that as law enforcement officers. We do something where we try to figure out what is going on with an exploratory phone call and our detectives get involved as if they were the child so the gentlemen that had abused the child admits to everything through social. –Marc Marty, Montebello Police Department
Anything on social media is public and searchable and most employers, particularly public agencies, are going to look at your social media. They are going to monitor and watch what type of person you are, who you follow and who you interact with. There is a great example where a guy got a job for a large company in the Bay area and on his way home he tweeted, “Now I have to deal with all the boss BS” and they promptly fired him. –Tim Martin, Huntington Beach Police Department
This post is an excerpt from the 2017 Digital Citizenship Conference in Los Angeles. The conference was a rich environment for educators, law enforcement officers, and parents to openly discuss issues and solutions for helping students shine in the digital world.
Expert tips for safe smartphone use for students
From basic security questions to how to talk with teens about smartphone use, parents and educators have a lot of questions about helping their teen learn how to use their smartphone. We asked 6 experts to share their experiences and tips to help students learn to use their smartphone safely and with a positive purpose.
Watch the 38-minute panel discussion or read a re-cap of the answers to questions about safe smartphone use for students below:
What are some basic security problems?
Lieutenant Tim Martin, Huntington Beach Police Department
Hashtags are the worst thing that you can do if you want to keep your account private, as is pinning the location of things. If you post something from your house about something that happened at the zoo with your children and you have the location setting on, then you’re showing people where you’re posting the picture from, so all that information is out there.
Kirsten E. Hoyt, Academic Dean University of Phoenix
How many of you have answered Facebook surveys? Or a questionnaire that one of your friends has posted, that says “Hey what's your dog's name” or “What's your favorite food”, or “Where have you lived” or, any one of those questionnaires, they're all public, whether you’ve got your Facebook settings to private or not.
You are giving away free information. Every one of those is designed to capture some sort of data or information around you and it can all be used, so be careful, right? Don’t answer. I don't click on anything on Facebook.
Tim Martin, Huntington Beach Police Department
Everyone's got a Snapchat or an Instagram or a Facebook if they don't have all three. So, I think the really important part of a parent talking to their kid is, the kid shouldn’t be finding out about bad stuff for the first time on the internet. 'I really think it’s important that the parents, at some level, depending on the kid's age and everything, sits down and goes over: “This is why we want the location setting off", and "this is why we don't want you to be tagged in photos". Because, it doesn't matter how locked down your kid’s account is, you're only as weak as your friends, and your friends can tag you in a picture, drinking beer at a keg party, and you don't even know it exists, but you're tagged in it. It takes constant diligence on the part of parents.
Jayme Johnson, Director of Academic Technology at Village School
It only takes three pieces of photographic evidence to pinpoint you and I've carried that back to my school and it's something I talk to parents about all the time. If you're in your school uniform, in front of your house, people can get a lot of information just from one or two photographs.
What are some tips for better communication with our kids?
Alex Abramian, Content Director at Forcefield
I feel like one really compelling way for parents to have a better ongoing conversation about the digital world is to meet their kids online. There’s research about co-playing on apps and video games that show when parents and kids play together it can have an amazing impact on families. Especially “tween” girls who play video games with their parents. There was a study in Utah and these girls had increased confidence that they brought into their school work after playing video games with their parents. I think a lot of kids are dying to share their online world with their parents and maybe parents don't want to play Minecraft or Pokémon Go, which I can understand, but I feel that being the person that says “yes” to online interactions with my kids, in addition to the person that also says “no”, gives me a lot more leverage. There are some apps that I absolutely love like Word Bubbles. I found that the positive screen time gives me such a better connection with my kids. Recently, when my daughter put Musical.ly on my phone because “everyone at school has it.” I allowed it on two conditions: We set it to “all private” and, I told her, "You could have Musical.ly, but it has to be on my phone." She was able to sign off on that because I hadn't said no to everything. Small steps!
Nimisha Jain, SQE Google
As a teenager, what do you want to do? You want to be cool and sometimes being cool means nothing too straight edge, not having all the rules in place, not doing all the things you’re supposed to do. I think there are a lot more teens than we think that are not using passwords, not locking their screens, allowing plenty of other people to know their passwords, or play on their phone. And that's a good gateway to a world of trouble. So, finding a middle ground where, yes, they can have some flexibility and freedom, so maybe they do share their passwords.
If that's going to happen, you have to accept it, but make sure all their apps are on “lock” or change the passwords, make it really difficult to log into Facebook. Another thing that makes this more fun, is if you can introduce things like picture passwords, especially for the younger kids so they can just make it a habit every time they say “hello” to their phone they have to draw a :-) This will make them used to the fact this interaction begins with unlocking a phone, that's what I do with the younger crowd.
Alex Abramian, Forcefield
I think not underestimating our kids is really important and having these discussions in the calm times is also very important. Common Sense Media did a survey recently, almost fifty-five percent of kids themselves said that they spend too much time online.
I think that it’s really powerful to involve them as stakeholders in the time management discussion. I think if we can have this discussion with kids in the calm times and have them be stakeholders… you know there is a lot of talk about internet contracts and those are sort of destined to fail because everyone’s needs of what they are going to do online are constantly evolving, so it goes back to the continual conversation. Listening to your student and their own questions about self-regulating online is important. We all have issues with self-regulating online. So, let the kids have a voice in it, and be the parent.
People are just living more of their lives through their smartphone and how it tethers us to low self-esteem and all these issues. I would say that there's really interesting information about that out there, that says what your kids do off-line, is going to determine how they behave online. So, really pay attention to that offline behavior that has nothing to do with their smartphone. There was a group of kids that were studied in Italy, those that stayed in organized sports. They didn't experience cyberbullying less, they experienced at the same rate as kids that didn't participate in sports.
The difference was, it didn’t escalate. The fact that they were involved in sports and they had an identity not solely based on how many likes they were getting on Instagram but maybe they had a coach, or they had a skill that was entirely offline that provided inoculation to protect them from when a cyberbullying incident normally skyrockets.
So, I feel like the conversation, while we do want to have settings in place, so you make sure kids are safe while they're online, I think that we really need to preserve a lot of these offline activities that have always rooted kids in identity and family and skills and all those things. I think that will ultimately provide way more than spyware or any of these things, it will provide the true protection for kids.
What are some safety risks that kids encounter with smartphone use?
Erica Spiegelman, Addiction and Wellness Specialist
As a drug and alcohol counselor, a lot of the kids I talk to get their drugs from Craigslist, and this is extremely important for parents to know. I had a client recently who was from somewhere else, and her first week here, she relapsed, she found drugs, and I asked her “Who do you know, how did you get these drugs?” She said, “It’s Craigslist, you just put in ‘Black Tar Roofing’, and that is heroin”. In a minute, she had a call back, in ten minutes, he was meeting her to sell her heroin. This is prevalent for any drug out there. Craigslist is one of the ways that teenagers and young adults who want to find drugs, find them, and I’m sure there are other sites out there so if your kids are on Craigslist, ask them, you may want to see how familiar they are with that, so be careful and be mindful that that is going on.
Tim Martin, Huntington Beach Police Department
It’s not just Craigslist, it’s Backpage, it's the new List It, it's everywhere. There are even cases of Pokémon Go. If I want to set a lure out, then this applies to not only drugs but predators and people who want to rob people, they'll take the Pokémon Go app and they'll put a lure out and what a lure is, you pay some money, you put a lure out. It’s guaranteed to have the little critters out there for the kids to come and catch and get their points. So, anyone could do this, anyone could pay to put the lure out and there are several cases across the country where predators and crooks who put the lures out to catch kids and they do either for predatory reasons or for stealing their phones. Hey, you want to get a good iPhone real quick? It’ll get all these kids to come by with these phones.
Alex Abramian, Forcefield
The time online is important. The more hours kids spend on social media, the more likely they are to be exposed to cyberbullying. So, it’s not that you can’t be on Facebook or Snapchat, it’s that it has to be a reasonable amount of time. When you start getting into these really high users, where it’s going into more than two and three hours a day, those are the people who, their instances of cyberbullying, both sides, victim and perpetrator, skyrockets. So, that’s information that I think kids can actually hear and respond to if they are armed with the information.
This post is an excerpt from the 2017 Digital Citizenship Conference in Los Angeles. The conference was a rich environment for educators, law enforcement officers and parents to openly discuss issues and solutions for helping students shine in the digital world.
6 Tips for teaching teens how to be safe online
Teens are constantly on the Internet shopping, emailing, watching videos, talking to friends and posting on social media, so it's important to teach them how to be safe online. If your child is at home on the computer, you might take comfort in knowing he or she is safe at home, but what you don’t realize is that there are plenty of security risks that stem from spending time online.
Teens have grown up with unlimited access to the Internet – it’s almost second nature to them – so they tend to be more online savvy than their parents, but they also tend to be more careless when it comes to protecting their identity. Between sharing passwords, leaving devices logged in at friend’s house or reusing the same password, teenagers generally don’t realize their lax security habits are making them susceptible to attacks from hackers and predators.
Industry expert Kevin Shahbazi shares his best tips for teaching teens how to be safe online. Here are 6 ways you can teach your teens how to be safe online
1. Identify phishing sites
- We’ve all seen those clickbait headlines – “The Hot New Phone Everybody Is Talking About” or “You Won’t Believe What Justin Bieber Just Did!” – that pull us in to find out more. Clickbait is a tactic that phishing sites use to deliberately fool readers into giving up personal information in order to infect their devices with malware, or intrusive software that allows a hacker to access personal information. When gauging the validity of a site, show your teen how to hover his or her mouse over a link to see the destination of the site and avoid links leading to unfamiliar websites. If you’re unsure about the validity, check to see if the site has a social media presence, how many people are following its pages and if they post content on the site often. If there are no social pages, have fewer than a couple thousand followers or haven’t put up any recent content, you should likely avoid that site. Before you open an email, make sure you are familiar with the sender. Other red flags are emails that ask for personal information or ask you to click on a link leading to another website. Know that if something seems suspicious, it probably is.
2. Protect your passwords
- Passwords provide access to all of your teen’s important personal data, so it’s crucial to practice good password hygiene yourself so that your teen can learn from you. Your number one rule should be stop reusing passwords. Although using multiple variations of the same password is convenient, it’s equally as convenient for hackers to steal it. Strong passwords should be unique, include random numbers and letters, leave out personal information like a birthday, and be different for each and every account. Sharing passwords for Netflix, Hulu and other services should also be avoided completely. A friend logging into your teen’s account on a faulty network could result in rendering your accounts, including financial ones. The best way to keep passwords strong and securely share passwords is to use a password manager.
- A free password manager, like LogMeOnce, ensures you can keep track of who has access to what passwords and also provides additional layers of security. Password managers allow you to create random, unique passwords for each site you use to ensure the password is as secure as possible. Password managers can help your teens stay organized and productive online by storing login credentials so they only need to remember one master password to access all of their online accounts quickly and securely, making it easy to deter from duplicates.
3. Shop safely online
- When your child reaches his or her teenage years, it’s common for parents to start giving their teen the freedom to make purchases online. This brings the risk of fraud and card theft, not to mention overspending without permission. Allow your teen to get comfortable with this new responsibility by providing them with a prepaid credit card. Teach teens to properly judge the reliability of websites and online vendors by showing them how to use a website analysis site, like Comodo Web Inspector.
- All you have to do is copy a suspicious website’s URL (address) and paste it in the search section; secure URLs begin with https://. After making a purchase, delete credit card information on any website and clear your cookies.
4. When and when not to download software
- Aside from the ethical concerns about illegally downloading pirated music and movies, doing so also increases the risk of downloading viruses and malware – even entering a pirated site could put your devices at risk. Make sure your teen avoids downloading software and visiting untrustworthy websites. Similar to phishing, an untrustworthy website provides false information typically with the intent of stealing personal information. Take the initiative to download security software on your teen’s devices like Avast and Panda Free Antivirus.
- Familiarize your teen with legitimate ways to stream or download content online through services like Spotify and Crackle, and teach them about the implications of doing so illegally.
5. Keep your identity private
- Your teen should never give out your address or their location online. Even small clues like sharing what high school your teen attends on their Facebook profile or tagging their location on Instagram when on vacation is enough information for a hacker or predator to target them. Tell your teen not to post a picture of a boarding pass or a new driver’s license to social media because it is an easy way to give hackers access to personal information. Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers and any financial information is private and should stay that way. Even if they want to enter their birthday to sign up for an app or game online, developers may share that information with marketers and other companies without their knowledge, which can be used to send targeted phishing emails.
6. Avoid using public Wi-Fi
- Free public Wi-Fi is available everywhere and may save you on your phone bill, but the risk that comes with using public Wi-Fi is high because it’s an easy way for hackers to access financial or personal data. Connecting to public Wi-Fi is inevitable, but you can tell your teen to take precautions on your phone like telling it to “forget” the network you were just on once you’re finished with it, keeping your phone updated to the latest version of the system update and even changing the passwords to sites you visited on public Wi-Fi to help prevent hacking. To be safe online when using public Wi-Fi, enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) which includes a password and, in addition, something like a fingerprint or a code that gets texted to your phone number. Enabling 2FA requires your teen to enter a second piece of information that intruders are not aware of. Encourage your teen to refrain from sharing any sensitive data on public Wi-Fi by making online purchases or accessing a bank account.
It’s important that your teen begins practicing good cybersecurity habits as early as possible to minimize the possibility of falling for a hoax or being hacked in the future. If storing their personal information online, be sure they understand how to store their data in a secure location and educate them on proper security procedures.
How else do you teach your kids to be safe online? Let us know in the comments below!
About our guest blogger
Kevin Shahbazi, CEO of LogMeOnce, is an experienced industry executive with over 27 years of proven leadership in business management and technology. An accomplished serial entrepreneur, he has co-founded multiple successful companies, including Applied Technologies, Trust Digital, eView Technologies, and Avocado Security. Learn more about Guest Blogging for SafeSmartSocial.com
Internet safety tips from a SmartSocial VIP member
We asked a SmartSocial.com VIP member, Valley Hildebrand, to share her best internet safety tips. She is a mother of two girls 10 and 12 years old and an 18 month old son. Learn how she works to be the best mom she can be and know all the apps her children use.
Listen along on our podcast
Internet safety tips and key takeaways:
- When students begin to realize that they need a better digital footprint, it can't be fixed. Students need to be careful of what they post
- Strive to have a solid understanding of digital citizenship before giving your children access to devices or social media
- The VIP membership helps families start a conversation about social media, explain why it’s important to be cautious when posting, and stay safe online
Why did you join the VIP program? What are the biggest frustrations you have that led to joining SmartSocial.com?
I was over at a friend's house and she asked if my kids have phone restrictions. I didn't know what she meant, and that was the start for my family. We started looking at screen time boundaries and I've set some restrictions. I was already a user of Instagram and Snapchat, which are the two big ones for my 12-year-old. Instagram and Snapchat is starting to be my 10-year-old's’ interest as well. So I joined them so that I could keep an eye on what is going on. Being on Instagram and Snapchat helped me pay attention to what was being posted and what other kids were posting. However, I realized I don't know much about the apps. I didn't know how they worked but Instagram kind of became easier to understand. On the other hand, I have no idea how to use Snapchat. What's posted disappears, and I have a hard time understanding how it works. I have a husband who’s a schoolteacher, he teaches ninth graders. He comes home and imparts things that are going on with kids nowadays. How kids behave on social media. Ways that kids post that are destructive and risky to themselves. He also shares how social media is being controlled and viewed inside the schools. I started to realize that I have to begin focusing on social media and digital safety. My friend recommended SmartSocial.com, I checked it and was very impressed with what I saw. I was so relieved to find a way to learn these apps and have a conversation with my kids on why they are dangerous.
How has the VIP membership helped your family?
The biggest thing that I found out is that children like taking inappropriate pictures of themselves. They post it because they think it disappears. That is not true, someone can take a screenshot of their photos and send it to other kids in school. Then it reaches the parents, who reprimands their children for being friends with these kids. The repercussions have been bigger than what kids realize. They don't know that there is a possibility that these images will not disappear in five seconds. My understanding is that Snapchat images are kept in storage and can be traced back to the original user. So, later in life when you start wanting your image to be different, it can't be changed. Some kids are sending images about teachers while they're at school. Some of those posts get pulled up and when the teachers find out about them the kids get suspended or expelled. There's definitely some big dangers that can happen and affect your education, your school, and those sort of things.
Our VIP program opens the doors for conversations. Even being the one that likes the picture or being in the background of the picture triggers the conversation. All of those things matter. Having a better understanding of digital citizenship allowed us to open up the conversation with our kids and ask them questions about the things that are happening. Asking our kids, “what are some crazy things your friends have posted and how did that make you feel when you saw that picture of your friend doing that?” has helped our family tremendously. We found our kids making spam accounts which they thought were safe because the accounts didn't have their name in it. SmartSocial.com helps us explain to our kids how everything they do is connected to them and represents them. It's been helpful and we've been through the videos online in the VIP program with the kids. It allowed us to say this isn't something that we're getting for you, this is for everyone. We encourage our children to focus on the positive and talk to their friends about it, help them be better, and have a better future.
What would you say to parents that don't watch the videos in the VIP program with their kids?
My ten-year-old has a device with Wi-Fi access and she wants to do everything her big sister is doing. Our question was, do we allow her access to the same social media and apps her sister is using? What we've realized is that social media is even worse at 10 years old because as a middle schooler, they start to worry about what people think about them. They start becoming a little more interested in their appearances but she's ahead of that. We have to have conversations with her about recreating what she's seen in magazines or on TV and explain the repercussions to her. When she's at a friend's house with Wi-Fi we have to know what's happening outside of our supervision.For my generation, social media is new for us. We don't know how it works and what the dangers are. My husband and I tried to be aware on how we're using social media. It has definitely opened our eyes to start paying attention to what's happening. I wish that we had known about the VIP program and to be conscious of what's happening before giving our kids devices. Now we're having to undo some things.
What's one tip that you'd give to parents?
I definitely think slowing down a little bit and taking the time to learn the basics. Crawl before you walk. Learn what your children are thinking and how you can come together. Mistakes are inevitable. Focus on opening the doors to have a simple conversation, slowing down, and taking time to break it apart. Start building good fundamentals. It will get easier as you go.
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