Google Introduces Family Link, A Remote Control for Your Kids’ Phones

This week Google is announcing Family Link, its latest foray into the digital parenting game.

Family Link is, for the time being, an Android app available in the U.S. only, and can be used by parents who are Android users, with kid(s) under 13 who are also Android users. The app is invitation only, and you can request an invite here.

Android parental controlsHere’s how it works:

  • Once invited, parents can download the Family Link app. They will need their own Google account first.
  • Parents then set up a Family Link Google account, the one that will have settings applicable to the child.
  • Once installed, each time the child uses the Android device – a phone or tablet – parents will have more control over what the child can do and when.

On what the child can do:

  • Parents can block apps installed on the device from being used (like email, for example)
  • Parents have the opportunity to block or approve each new app download
  • Parents can ensure that Google safe search settings are always on

On when kids are using their device:

  • Parents can set a bedtime, after which the device can’t be used until the next day
  • Parents can set a daily usage time limit, after which the device is locked (for the child) until the next day
  • Parents can remotely lock the device on demand, when it’s time for dinner or for something other than using the device
  • Parents can view weekly or monthly usage reports, by app, whenever they want

Additionally, parents can remotely see the location of their child’s device, which is great for when the device is lost, or when the child is.

A note on privacy: Setting up a Family Link account for your child will result in Google having more personal information on your child than would otherwise have been the case. Google’s privacy disclosures are here.

Family Link seems like a good option for parents looking for more control. If you’re an Android family with kids under 13, we suggest you check it out, but as is the case with any tech solution, this will not take the place of parenting.

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If your teen or tween is active online and you are having trouble keeping up, we can help. We respect your kids’ privacy and give you the tools you need to be a better digital parent. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

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This Week in Social Media News For Parents

Stories for the week ending 12/16/2016

We’ll be on break for the holidays. See you in the New Year.

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Facebook has announced that they have a new Parent’s Portal, a resource for parents to help deal with issues including their kids being cyberbullied.

Social media giant Facebook launches ‘Parent’s Portal’

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In other news, Facebook has been running an initiative to enlist college students to help combat extremism on the site. No word yet on whether it’s working.

Facebook is tapping college students to fight trolls and extremists

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New research reveals that 1 in 25 Americans have been either threatened with the prospect of having intimate images of them posted online, or had it happen. Unfortunately, these numbers will probably be moving higher. Meet the lawyer who is making a career out of fighting for revenge porn victims.

This badass lawyer fights for victims of revenge porn

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Nudity is not permitted at all on Instagram, so of course an enterprising young woman developed an app to help women get around the rules. It’s called Nood and it’s a nope. Rejected by the app stores.

Female nudity app rejected in App Store and the Google Play Store

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“I will never get Twitter. I’m not very good on phone or technology. I cannot really keep up with emails so the idea of Twitter is so unthinkable to me. I don’t really understand what it is. It’s like this weird enigma that people talk about.”
Megastar Jennifer Lawrence talking about Twitter

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Snapchat – already the most addictive app for many teens – now offers group messaging. Now your teen may never get off her phone.

Snapchat Groups are finally here

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Speaking of Snapchat, when you have the app open and a song comes on that really gets you going, you can now Shazam it without leaving the app.

You can now Shazam a song from within Snapchat

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The year in 2016 Google search highlights a number of untimely deaths and a big surprise – Pokémon GO was more popular than Donald Trump. Snorlax in 2020?

Google’s Year in Search makes 2016 seem even more heartbreaking

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Kind of related – we reviewed the Houseparty group video messaging app.

IS THE HOUSEPARTY APP SAFE FOR TEENS?

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Yahoo is the worst custodian of user personal information in the history of the internet. Be right back – I need to go change my password again.

Yahoo discloses hack of 1 billion accounts

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Did we miss an interesting story? Please let us know.

 

 

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Is the Houseparty App Safe for Teens?

houseparty app rankingDoes something look out of place in the image on the right? It’s a partial listing of the top 10 free apps in the iTunes App Store today. In between Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon and Google Maps – all household names – is a surprising newcomer called Houseparty.

Houseparty is the brainchild of the folks who created live video broadcasting app Meerkat, and it looks like it’s a hit. Launched in August of last year, the idea behind Houseparty is that groups of up to 8 friends can simultaneously video chat with each other, like they’re at a party. We thought we’d take a look at whether the app is safe for teens to use, since based on the rankings we can assume that some of them are already using it. According to one estimate, nearly 2 million people used the app in the last month.

First of all, the age limit is 13 years old, but like so many other apps and social networks, they don’t ask a user’s age at signup so they aren’t even trying to exclude the kids. All you need is a smartphone to join and use the service.

Houseparty does collect a user’s name, email and phone number, so those pieces of information are “out there”, but there is no indication that this is more of a risk than with any other network.

Houseparty’s Privacy Policy states that they may collect user location information, which does seem like an unknowable risk to us. If they are using your location to somehow improve the service, it’s probably no big deal, but if they at any point they decide to broadcast user location to other users, that is not safe for teens. If they decide to suggest “friends” based on a user’s location, that could be a nightmare.

Houseparty appA number of types of content are not permitted. From the TOS:

You may NOT post content that:

  • Impersonates another person or entity in a manner that does or is intended to mislead, confuse, or deceive others;

  • Violates the rights of a third party, including copyright, trademark, privacy, and publicity rights;

  • Promotes discrimination, hatred or harm against any individual or group;

  • Is a direct and specific threat of violence to others;

  • Is defamatory, obscene or pornographic;

  • Is furtherance of illegal activities; or

  • Is harassing, abusive, or constitutes spam.

It doesn’t look to us, based on that wording, that plain old nudity is prohibited, but if your teen is looking for a sexting app, this one is no more risky than others out there.

Houseparty has built some safeguards to help users avoid unwanted joiners, which can happen. According to an article at The Verge:

“A friend of a friend can enter your chat, and when they do, a banner warning “Stranger danger!” flashes on your screen. You can “wave” at other users to send them a push notification inviting them to join you — like a FaceTime call, sure, but a bit less thirsty. And you can lock your room for privacy.”

Other than the location tracking, we don’t see any real red flags here. We have reached out to the company for comment on the location thing, and will update this post for clarity if and when we hear back.

 

 

If your teen or tween is active online and you are having trouble keeping up, we can help. We respect your kids’ privacy and give you the tools you need to be a better digital parent. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

The Right Age for Your Child’s First Smartphone

We often get questions related to how old a child “should” be when he or she gets his or her own smartphone, tablet or other personal electronic device. Our answer is almost always, “It depends” – it depends on the maturity of the child, what she needs it for and a host of other factors.

There is new data out of the UK that shows that, nor surprisingly, the average age for kids getting their first device is getting younger. UK regulator Ofcom publishes regular surveys about a host of digital parenting issues, and a look at the 2016 data compared to 2015 paints the device ownership picture pretty well.

iphone-2016In 2016:

  • 41% of kids aged 5 – 15 own their own smartphone, vs. 35% in 2015
  • The most dramatic increase was among 8 – 11 year olds, with a third more kids getting their own smartphone. 32% own their own device vs. 24% on 2015
  • In the 12 – 15 year old group, numbers rose to 79% in 2016 vs. 69% on 2015

So, if your child is 10 – 12 years old, it may be almost true when he says, “All of my friends have a phone”.

Tablet ownership is skewing younger as well:

  • 44% of kids aged 5 – 15 own their own tablet, up from 40% in 2015
  • Toddlers are getting in the game as well, with 16% of 3 – 4 year olds having their own tablet
  • 32% of 5 – 7 year olds own their own tablet
  • 49% of 8 – 15 year olds own their own tablet

The ownership trends are clear – up to the age of 10, kids are more likely to own a tablet. After age 10, tablet ownership declines, and smartphone ownership rises quickly.

If your child is aged 8 – 12, how do you decide whether she is ready for her first smartphone? Here are some of the questions that you might want to ask yourself:

  • Is your child mature enough to put it the device when appropriate?
  • Does she need a phone so that you can keep in touch?
  • Is your child able to identify potential risks when she sees them?
  • Are you ready to have tough conversations with her in advance, about sexting, cyberbullying and predator risk?
  • Is she willing to turn to you for guidance if she finds herself in an uncertain situation?
  • Are you willing to have a set of rules in place, and enforce them?

Handing over a smartphone to a child, knowing that much of the use will be unsupervised, is a tough decision, but one that every parent is forced to make at some point. If you’ve had a difficult or encouraging experience in your household, feel free to leave a comment below.

 

If your teen or tween is active online and you are having trouble keeping up, we can help. We respect your kids’ privacy and give you the tools you need to be a better digital parent. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

This Week in Social Media News For Parents

Stories for the week ending 12/9/2016

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Two companies are being sued in the U.S. and Europe over new internet-connected toys that are collecting an alarming amount of kids’ personal information. That data collection looks to us like a clear violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

Privacy groups urge investigation of ‘internet of toys’

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More toy problems, just in time for Christmas – Motherboard is reporting that the parental controls on one tablet designed for kids just don’t work.

It’s Trivially Easy to Watch Porn On a Restricted Tablet Made For Kids

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A Russian startup has developed facial recognition technology that promises to allow anyone with a picture of you to find you on social media. It doesn’t exactly work that way, but makes for some juicy, clickbaity headlines.

The Russian App That Has Destroyed Privacy Forever

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A petition on Change.org to ban the use of the Yik Yak app on U. Conn. campus has gotten a whopping total of 9 signatures. The petitioner claims that “The majority of our herd’s community has proven time and time again that they cannot use this app in a positive/non-abusive way.” Sigh.

Petition to disable U. Conn’s Yik Yak receives lukewarm reception

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Meanwhile, Yik Yak has laid off more than half of its staff. It’s probably dying all on its own.

Anonymous social app Yik Yak slashes workforce

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As many as 5% of American gamer kids may be addicted to video games, and some of their stories are a horror show for parents.

Video games are more addictive than ever. This is what happens when kids can’t turn them off.

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Never content with its already massive piece of the online activity pie, Facebook has launched its own handheld gaming suite via Facebook Messenger Instant Games.

Facebook Messenger launches Instant Games

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Locations filters (thanks Snapchat!) may be coming to Facebook.

Another Snapchat feature is coming to Facebook

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Did we miss an interesting story? Please let us know.

 

 

NEW: For a limited time the ThirdParent audit is FREE (normally $49). You can cancel at any time. Sign up today!

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Instagram Offers More Tools To Fight Cyberbullies

For the third time this year, Instagram is offering new tools to users that both allow users more ways to manage their accounts if they’re being cyberbullied, and promote more positive interaction on the app.

Instagram logoWe have to give Instagram credit here; users have been asking for changes and more protection – users from high profile celebrities to random users who are being targeted by trolls and cyberbullies. Further, users typically don’t know how they want to be protected or what will work, so Instagram continues to iterate what they offer.

Today’s changes:

Comment Control – Users can now go to the advanced settings tab in the app and turn off others’ ability to comment on posts. Comments are where most of the rudeness and cyberbullying occur.

Like Comments – Before today, users could tap the heart button for posts, but not for comments. Now, if you see a comment that makes you smile, you can share the love.

Unfollow Users From Private Accounts – If your account is private (most teen accounts are – way to go kids!), and you’ve accepted a follow request, until now the only way to unfollow that account was to block them, in which case that user is notified. Now you can unfollow the user, which removes them from your feed without notifying them.

Below is some smart commentary from Bloomberg on the changes.

Nice job Instagram. Your move, Twitter.

 

If your teen or tween is active online and you are having trouble keeping up, we can help. We respect your kids’ privacy and give you the tools you need to be a better digital parent. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Tech Giants Team Up Against Terrorism

We are in the business of giving parents advice when it comes to kids, teens and social media. Frankly, in a lot of situations the right advice is telling parents, “Talk to your kids” or, “Make sure your kids are talking to you.” Unfortunately, some of the time that involves telling your kids not to do something they were intending to do, or something “all their friends are doing”.

Still, it’s good advice. Here’s another thing you should talk to your kids about, and it doesn’t involve telling them that they’re doing something wrong. Talk to your kids about reporting possible terrorist activity if they see it online.

Today social media giants Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft (Skype and LinkedIn) announced that they will be collaborating to share best practices around preventing the spread of terrorist activity online. According to the Facebook release:

“Starting today, we commit to the creation of a shared industry database of “hashes” — unique digital “fingerprints” — for violent terrorist imagery or terrorist recruitment videos or images that we have removed from our services. By sharing this information with each other, we may use the shared hashes to help identify potential terrorist content on our respective hosted consumer platforms.”

Of course, if you’re an adult and you see some terrorist-related online – a threat, possible recruiting activity – you report it, either to the social media company or the police. Are you sure that your kids would do the same?

Consider school fight videos that are constantly being shared online. In addition to the person filming the video that was posted, the bystanders are often standing around filming the event rather than stepping in to help. It happens too often.

Surveys show that kids and teens are similarly reticent to report cyberbullying and other toxic behavior when they see them online. That’s another issue, but when it comes to terrorism, there is no excuse for not saying something. And the downside for falsely reporting something that is not terrorism (if you think it is) is zero.

Make sure your kids know that reporting terrorism is the right thing to do.

 

 

If your teen or tween is active online and you are having trouble keeping up, we can help. We respect your kids’ privacy and give you the tools you need to be a better digital parent. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Google’s New App Will Help You Safely Track Your Kids

Google, like most companies that profit from online advertising, make it their business to know everything possible about what you’re doing online, and when possible offline. For parents who value knowing the whereabouts of our kids, Google may be turning this into a benefit.

google-trusted-contactsThis week Google is launching Trusted Contacts, an Android app designed to allow your closest family members to quickly access information about your whereabouts and online activity. There’s no word as yet about whether an iOS version s forthcoming, or when.

If you’re a parent giving your child his or her first phone, this is something we’re likely to recommend after we’ve had chance to see how it works in the real world.

After downloading the free app, the parent or child can log in using the child’s Gmail credentials and activate the location history in Google Maps – a log of all the places you’ve been with your phone GPS turned on. Note: this is one reservation we have about the app. Kids and teens will need to be careful to have location turned on for this app, but should keep it off for most others with some exceptions (i.e. Google Maps is okay, but Facebook checkins can be an unnecessary risk).

After parent and child have both turned on and logged into the app, a parent can:

  • See a log of the places his child has been
  • Request the precise location of the child at any time
  • See the phone’s activity status to make sure that it is on and connected

Additionally, kids using the app can send a message to a parent any time they are lost or feel unsafe. Parents responding will have the luxury of knowing exactly where the distressed child is.

With kids getting smartphones earlier and earlier, this app could be a big help in a number of situations. If a parent is unsure whether that kid made it to the after school event, or on a family trip to the zoo when one child wanders off, this is a great solution.

Google already collects a ton on information about all of its users – many would argue too much information. That they’re now offering a free product principally promoting user safety is a very good thing.

 

 

If your teen or tween is active online and you are having trouble keeping up, we can help. We respect your kids’ privacy and give you the tools you need to be a better digital parent. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

This Week in Social Media News For Parents

Stories for the week ending 12/2/2016

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Young Snapchat users are among the most dedicated social media users interns of user engagement stats. It’s the go-to method of communication for many teens. University of Wisconsin Green Bay gets it, and has begun sending acceptance offers via the little yellow ghost.

University accepting students using Snapchat

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Snapchat’s popularity and fantastic user engagement aren’t lost on Instagram, whose product team continues to copy Snapchat’s key features.

Instagram is adding live video and Snapchat-style disappearing messages

And

Just like Snapchat! Instagram’s new update will notify you if friends takes screenshots of DMs 

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Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 11.27.22 AMMeanwhile, two UK 17-year olds did their part to lower our opinion of teens, if just a little. They Snapchatted themselves urinating on a WW1 Memorial.

Two disrespectful teenagers urinate on a war memorial and film it for Snapchat – leaving veterans outraged

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Does your teen use Uber? If so, you might want to read the latest update to their Terms of Service. Starting this week, Uber will collect passenger location information, even after the trip has ended.

Uber Now Tracks Passengers’ Locations Even After They’re Dropped Off

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The CEO of Reddit got himself in hot water last week after he revealed that he had altered some users’ comments, an act that the called “trolling the trolls”. He is out this week with an apology, and a promise to get tougher on abusive users.

Reddit is finally cracking down on its most abusive members after its CEO was targeted

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A school in Ottawa has rules for teachers about what they shouldn’t post on social media. Pictures of drugs and alcohol are on the list, which seems reasonable to us. The list also prohibits “scantily clad photos on the beach”. Maybe they should rethink that last one.

Should teachers be banned from posting ‘scantily clad’ photos? Ottawa board seems to think so

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If your teen is using anonymous browsing platform Tor to use the internet, that alone could be grounds for the FBI to hack into his account, according to a new law passed this week. One opponent describes it as, “unprecedented authority to hack into Americans’ personal phones, computers and other devices.” They’ll still need to get a warrant, though.

FBI to gain expanded hacking powers as Senate effort to block fails

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Oops – Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had his Twitter account suspended last weekend. Internal mistakes were made.

Twitter mistakenly suspended its own CEO’s Twitter account

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Did we miss an interesting story? Please let us know.

 

 

NEW: For a limited time the ThirdParent audit is FREE (normally $49). You can cancel at any time. Sign up today!

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Teen Boys at Risk in Webcam Extortion Cases

Head up parents! There are some new crime stats out of the UK that may make you reconsider what kind of risks your teens may encounter online.

The UK National Crime Agency reported this week that cases of webcam extortion for financial gain are up over 100% this year, with 864 reported cases vs. 385 last year, and the year isn’t over yet. We haven’t seen similar statistics reported here in the U.S.

The real eye opener from these numbers (for us) was that in 95% of the reported incidents, the victim was male. The largest population of victims was men aged 21 – 30, but boys between 11 and 20 form a “substantial portion.”

We, and parents we talk to, have assumed that females are more at risk of this type of threat, but these UK statistics tell another story.

The agency implies that normal boy-girl online relationships are not what are driving these numbers. social-media-sleepRather:

  • Professional criminals are posing as available females online in an attempt to lure young men into a relationship
  • Bad actors are posing as gay men online, again attempting to establish an intimate online relationship with a gay man

In either case, the victim is enticed to send a nude video to the perpetrator. The perp then uses the threat of posting that video publicly online, or sending it to the victim’s relatives, friends or even his boss, as a means to extort money.

This isn’t just a UK phenomenon. A Minnesota man was sentenced to 38 years in prison this month after pleading guilty to sextortion in 155 cases involving teenage boys over a four-year period. In some cases he posed as a young girl; in others he claimed to represent a modeling agency.

A spokesperson from the UK’s National Crime Agency describes this as a large global “business” where the bad guys are often overseas and do not feel like they at risk of being caught.

Risk of being exposed or potential financial loss isn’t the only downside here. The UK reports that webcam extortion has led to 4 victims committing suicide.

We didn’t think that catfishing would become a big business, but perhaps it has. The one and only defense against this is to make sure you know, and your teens know – without a shadow of a doubt – who you are talking to online before committing any intimate acts.

 

 

If your teen or tween is active online and you are having trouble keeping up, we can help. We respect your kids’ privacy and give you the tools you need to be a better digital parent. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.