Control the Ads Your Child is Seeing Online

For the most part, the internet doesn’t know how old your child is. That’s mostly a good thing. If a predator or some other person up to no good is looking for an “internet user” who is a child or teen of a certain age, you don’t want your child to be found.

Internet advertisers also want very much to know how old your child is, and they have some tools at their disposal. Targeted ads, by age or any other data available, are much more efficient for advertisers. They will use whatever information is at hand to get to their desired target audience.

When it comes to legitimate advertisers, it’s mostly good if they know approximately how old your kids are in one specific way. You’d rather not have your child seeing ads for alcohol and other adult products.

All that being said, if advertisers are guessing which ads your kids should see, or have determined that your child is an adult based on her internet activity, there is help available.

Facebook and Google, tow of the biggest internet advertising platforms in existence, make it fairly easy to help your child control which type of ads she sees.

Here’s how to control which ads Google and YouTube show you:

Here are the categories that Google thinks I’m interested in:

Google ad settings

You can find yours by CLICKING HERE (make sure you are logged into Google). If you don’t want ads on a certain category you can uncheck the box, and the change is saved automatically.

According to Google the list is compiled based on my Google search history, my YouTube video viewing history but not my Gmail history. Gmail ads are served by a different platform.

At the bottom of that page, there is a button labeled “Control Signed Out Ads”. If you click on that, you have the option to turn off interest-based ads on Google sites and off. For children and teens, we don’t recommending turning that off, because your kid is still going to see ads, but the chances will increase she will be exposed to adult ads.

Here’s how to control which ads Facebook shows you:

Below is a screen shot of the ad categories that Facebook has chosen for me. You can see yours by CLICKING HERE while you’re logged into Facebook.

Facebook ad preferences

For each category, you can click it and a list of subcategories will appear. You can unclick any that are inappropriate or that you don’t care about.

By the way, Facebook collects a whole lot of information about you, and they’re free to use it. For example, If you “Like” Starbucks on Facebook, they could take one of your photos and put it in a Starbucks ad. I turned off that setting by CLICKING HERE. (see below)
Facebook ads social actions
 

 

 

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

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Google+ (Google Photos) Updates Terms of Service

Google+, the social network where nothing really happens but lots of people have profiles, got an update this week including a revamped Terms of Service.

Part of the reason why Google+ has so many users if that for a period of 2 ½ years, you had to have a Google+ account to resister a YouTube account (registering allows a user to comment and upload videos; casual video viewers can do so without an account) and the two were linked. Since most teens use YouTube, there’s a good chance your teen already has a Google+ account, and isn’t doing much with it.

google-photos-logoThis week, Google is effectively splitting Google Photos into a separate, standalone app, and has announced that storage and backup for an unlimited number of photos and videos is free. That’s a very good deal.

With the new platform comes an updated Terms of Service for all related platforms – Google Photos, Hangouts and Google+ itself.

What’s new/different in the TOS:

  • Sexually explicit photos and video are still prohibited
  • “Naturalistic and documentary” nudity is allowed, as is nudity used in educational materials
  • Warnings against harassment of any kind have been strengthened
  • Trolls are on warning – no user is allowed to have multiple accounts

The prohibition against multiple accounts is a good one but will be difficult to enforce. It is significant because if someone is harassing you on a social media platform, you can usually block or report that user and make it stop, but the harasser can easily just open another account and continue the abuse. We guess that Google has as good shot at anyone at enforcing that.

There are some privacy concerns, especially related to pictures of users and their families. Google Photos will use facial recognition software, but only to organize user photos by who is in them. Google stated this week that they have no monetization plans for Google Photos yet, so users shouldn’t be seeing ads based on which photos they appear in, at least for now. That is a risk down the road though, as is the risk that user photos actually start showing up in ads.

Overall it looks as though Google is trying to be more user friendly, which is a good thing since it looks as though Google Photos will be a big success.

 

 

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.

 

Do Your Kids Trust the Internet Too Much?

I was having lunch with my boys yesterday and a funny thing happened. I started to question whether young people are at risk of putting too much trust in what they see online, and specifically the search results that Google serves up.

It was a scene that plays out over and over again in our connected society. I asked my older boy, who is 16 and a long-time soccer player, if he had seen the Robin Van Persie header yesterday in the game vs. Spain.

Here it is, by the way.

He said that he hadn’t seen it, and I Googled “Van Persie header” on my phone.

The first couple of results for the autocomplete, and the Google search itself, were something like “Van Persie header Arsenal”, which I assumed had happened in a game vs. his former team Arsenal at some point, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. Kid one was looking at the search results as I did it, and said, “That was probably a better header.”

Hmm. If it was him searching, he might have stopped right there. There is certainly some value in looking for something and instead finding something else, but it pales in comparison to finding exactly what you’re looking for.

It makes sense to talk to your kids about what they’re seeing online, and making conscious decisions about whether it’s accurate, and actually what they’re looking for. Even information indexed by Google is sometimes false, often misleading and can lead you astray. Searcher beware.

 

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How To Avoid Getting Emails from Creeps Via Google+ and YouTube

We wrote last week about how pending changes at Google could make YouTube a lot less safe for young users.  We’ve gotten a look at the official email from Google and taken a look at the settings ourselves. The way Google tells it, the changes are designed to allow your “friends” on Google+ to reach you via email even if they don’t know your email address.

Google Gmail People You Dont KnowThe problem as we see it is as follows:

  • Most kids and teens, from what we’ve seen, use YouTube
  • As of last year, Google requires people leaving comments on YouTube to use their Google+ account to do so
  • People (especially kids) trust messages in their email inbox more so than they would a random message on YouTube or other social platform
  • Your “friends” on Google+, according to this Google policy, aren’t necessarily people you know, rather they’re people who have added you to a circle

So, let’s say your tween watches a video on YouTube. As long as she has a Gmail account, she has a Google+ account for all intents and purposes. If she leaves a comment on the video, other users can see her YouTube user name, and therefore her Google+ name. A user who is up to no good can add her to one of his Google+ circles then send her an email. For predators and cyberbullies, this seems to good to be true.

According to Google, all users will be initially opted in to the program, but there is an opt out available. We would encourage parents of users who watch YouTube videos with their own Google account to opt out as soon as the feature becomes available.

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 10.19.33 AMTo opt out, log in to your Gmail account and click the gear icon in the top right

  • Click on “Settings”
  • Under the “General” tab, scroll down to “Email via Google+”
  • Click the drop down menu and click on “No one”

Note: if you are an active Google+ user, you may want to click on “Circles”. By doing that, someone who you really are friends with on Google+ (in your Circles) can email message you.

We aren’t against kids watching YouTube videos, but parents do need to stake steps to make sure they are safe.

 

 

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YouTube’s New Comment System Is More Kid-Friendly

Screen Shot 2013-11-10 at 8.33.55 AMYou may have heard this week that YouTube’s parent company Google has announced a new policy for commenting on YouTube videos. If you’ve ever watched a YouTube video then scrolled down to leave a comment, or just read the existing comments, you know that people leaving comments feel free to say exactly what’s on their mind, even if it’s vulgar, racist, sexist or otherwise hateful.

Two things parents should find interesting about YouTube’s new comments policy are that:

  • People hate it
  • It will be more kid friendly

Until this week, all a YouTube user needed to leave a comment was a YouTube account. Many YouTube account names are/were vague and gave no clue as to who the user really is. As such, comments were effectively anonymous, and users could post any vile comment without having it linked to their real identity. With the new policy, users are required to have a Google+ account to leave a comment. When signing up for a Google+ account, you are required to use a real name. It may not be your true real name, but it can’t be “xyz123”, and is by default linked to a Gmail account.

It appears that some people don’t like it because it forces them to use Google+, but no doubt others don’t like it because it takes away the anonymity factor. Sure, Google is trying to drive engagement on its Google+ platform, and linking to YouTube, with over one billion monthly users, is a perfect platform to achieve just that.

Screen Shot 2013-11-10 at 9.23.01 AM

Two things about the new policy will end up being more family friendly: no more anonymous comments will mean that people will think twice before bullying or trolling, and the new comment platform makes it easier to report spam or abuse. One thing that may be less user-friendly is that comments can now include a link to another site, so expect the spam merchants to be all over this.

Recognizing that many children watch YouTube videos, we still recommend that comments are hidden from view for the young crowd. That being said, this new policy should end up making YouTube a safer place for young users.

 

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

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

Stop Google From Using Your Picture and Opinion in Ads

News broke this week that beginning November 11th, Google will start using your images and opinions in ads. That’s right, if you post a picture, +1 a business or product on Google+ or post a review on Google + Business or Local, Google can use that info for advertisers’ benefit. The program is called Shared Endorsements, and Google disclosed it in this week’s Terms of Service update:

If you have a Google Account, we may display your Profile name, Profile photo, and actions you take on Google or on third-party applications connected to your Google Account (such as +1’s, reviews you write and comments you post) in our Services, including displaying in ads and other commercial contexts. We will respect the choices you make to limit sharing or visibility settings in your Google Account. For example, you can choose your settings so your name and photo do not appear in an ad.

Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 5.48.10 AMThat’s bad news, and very much like what Facebook does. Google has until now done a pretty good job of acting like a middleman, serving you information when you want it. It has been a little more heavy handed with Gmail but there has been little user backlash. The only exception to this policy is that it doesn’t apply to users under 18.

There probably won’t be much backlash for this either, but if you want to opt out, there is a way. To turn off Shared Endorsements, go to this Google+ page and unclick the box as pictured below, or go to your Google Accounts page and switch the Shared Endorsements option to “off”. By the way, Google’s privacy settings are head and shoulders better and easier than Facebook’s.

Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 6.01.54 AM

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

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