The Basics Part 3 – What Are You Worried About?

Focus is an important attribute of effective parents.

If you’ve spent time on parenting websites, in forums or reading magazines or newspapers, no doubt you’ve seen headlines like “The Real Risk Online for Teens”, or something similar. Whether the author’s intent is to alarm, inform or sell something, there is a certain element of shock and awe employed to get your attention. Once you start thinking about it, it can be overwhelming.

There are certainly risks associated with teens and pre teens being online and on smartphones, especially unsupervised, and we’ll be the first to tell you that parents need to be engaged in active discussions with kids about safety and acting appropriately. It is very important, but a the quote goes, “When everything is important nothing is.”

On the internet, “everything” is a very large space. The number of websites, social media platforms and apps is growing every day and will continue to do so.

You can’t monitor everything that your child is doing online, and you can’t give appropriate guidance as to every situation, bully or piece of offensive content that they might encounter. In the interest of staying sane and being a good parent, we recommend you ask yourself a simple question:

rz111What are you worried about?

Predator Risk – This one is a doozy, especially for younger kids, since the potential downside is the greatest if your child becomes a victim.

Cyberbullying – It goes without saying that no parent wants his or her child involved in cyberbullying, either as the perpetrator or the victim.

Adult Content – How strongly do you feel about pornography, coarse language, gore, drugs and alcohol references, racism or other offensive content?

Reputation Risk – People of influence will probably look at your child’s internet profile and past activity at some point – a college admissions officer, prospective employer or even the police. How concerned are you about what they might find?

Identity Theft – This is internet 101 – protecting your personal information.

Antisocial Behavior – There is a lot of grey area here. You need to balance the idea that kids and teens at least in part grow and mature by learning and being exposed to new things with keeping them safe. What happens when those new things are racist, sexist,  a cult, or even illegal?

We understand that we aren’t offering any solutions here, but there are plenty of resources on our website and online that can give you great ideas about how to evaluate and deal with specific risks. An important part of the overwhelming concept of keeping your child or teen safe online is figuring out which risk you’re going to educate about and defend against first. Get started, and take it from there.

 

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

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How Long Does It Take To Check Out Your Child’s Online Activity?

Sure, you can check out your child’s online activity, but do you have time?

rz-tf2-2It is a pretty frequent occurrence that parents we talk to are overwhelmed by the idea of what their kids are doing online. Almost every electronic device has an internet connection, and who they’re talking to and what they’re posting and reading can range far and wide. If you’ve ever looked over your kid’s shoulder while she was online and had no idea what site or social media network you were looking at, you may know the feeling.

Less frequently, we encounter parents who are extremely computer-savvy, or view themselves as such, and are convinced that checking out what their kids are doing online is something that they can do themselves.

We aren’t about to argue whether any parent has the skills necessary to ensure that children are using the internet safely and responsibly, but we do question whether a parent would want to spend the time doing so if a viable, confidential alternative were available.

In addition to the time it takes to do a thorough search online using a popular search engine, a parent who wants to stay on top of what their child is doing will have to stay abreast of every new and popular social network. Remember, Google and Bing do not necessarily index all social media content, and if even if they do for a given network, your child may be using an alias or otherwise obscure what they’re up to.

It makes sense to pay a professional to paint your house, cut your grass or plow your driveway. There is no reason that you should be leery of hiring a professional to do something that can have a more significant and longer lasting impact.

 

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.

The Basics Part 1 – Check Your Child’s Browser History

Part 1 in a series – Many parents we talk to are overwhelmed by the idea of what their teens or pre teens are doing online. Here’s where you can start.

If you’ve read what we’ve written here in the past, you probably recall that we are not proponents of checking every website visited or every message sent or post shared by your teen or pre teen. You won’t be able to keep up. We do encourage parents to have a basic understanding of what their kids are doing online, both to ensure that minors are safe online, but also to be able to guide more responsible behavior. Fear of college admission being denied, a scholarship not offered or future employment opportunities being marginalized by a negative online reputation should be very real concerns.

A question we hear from overwhelmed parents frequently is, “Where do I start?”

The first step should be checking your child’s computer – whichever one he uses most frequently – to see which websites or social media sites he has been visiting. It’s easier than you might think, and unless your kid clears his browsing history after every online session, the results should be illuminating. Keeping in mind that you need to know which browser your child is using, here’s how:

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 10.02.16 AMChecking browser history in Google Chrome:

Open a new Chrome browser window and click on the Tools Menu (usually the right-most icon in the toolbar – the one with the 3 straight lines). Then click on “History”. Websites visited on this computer will be displayed in reverse chronological order.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 10.11.41 AM
Google Chrome Browsing History

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Checking browser history in Internet Explorer:

Open an Internet Explorer browser window and click on the Favorites button (the gold star in the top right corner). Next, click on the History tab and select a time period. Checking the last week should give you a good idea of what you’re dealing with, but you can look back farther if you’d like.

Checking browser history in Safari:

Checking browser history in Safari is probably the easiest of all. Open a Safari browsing window and from the main menu in the upper left, click on History. The history will be displayed in the open window, with the most recent sites listed at the top.

Checking browser history in Firefox:

Checking the browser history is also a snap in Firefox. Open a Firefox window and as with Safari, click on the History tab. The history will be displayed in the open window, with the most recent sites listed at the top.

Now that you’ve checked, what is the next step? For any unfamiliar sites, you can visit the site and see for yourself, or Google “What is ABC.com?” Don’t be dismayed if there are lots of sites you haven’t heard of, or some that look like they are not age-appropriate for your child. Use what you’ve learned to have a real conversation with your child about why he is using certain sites, and what he is using them for. Some sites run the gamut of having some excellent content and some of a seedier variety – there could be a good reason your child goes there. Some sites that have mostly what seems like adult content may actually be harmless.

By arming yourself with some basic information, having a meaningful conversation with your child will be a great starting point to show him that you care, and remind him of the risks of making bad decisions online.

 

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.

Are Your Kids Aware of Online Stranger Danger?

It’s no secret that your kids have more than one way to connect online. Once online, via computer, cell phone, tablet, iPod or gaming console, as long as there is a wifi connection or they’re using a phone they can also communicate with their friends. Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 12.01.07 PMUnfortunately, cyberbullies or strangers, even those who may be predators, can also contact them.

My two boys, 14 and 15 years old, are big fans of online video games. I make it a point of spending some time with each of them to figure out who they’re communicating with online, with a frequent reminder that the other player in the chat box may not be who he claims or appears to be.

Last weekend, I sat down with my 14 year old while he was playing Minecraft, headphones on and the chat box open. This was the conversation as I remember it:

Me: “Who are you talking to?”

Kid2: “Taco.”

Me: “Who’s that?”

K2: “Some kid. I think he’s like a grade behind me.”

Me: “How do you know it’s not some 40 year old creeper.”

K2: “I just know.”

Me: “Where does he live”

K2: “You can’t ask that.”

Apparently, there’s an unwritten rule that you can’t ask online players their location or other identifying information. That is a terrific rule, unwritten or not.

Me: “What’s your screen name today?” (I know that he changes screen name from time to time to disguise his identity from the players who he’s familiar with.)

K2: “Stranger Danger.”

Me: “What? Do you know what stranger danger is?”

K2: In a gruff voice, “Hey kid, do you want some candy?”

We talked for a while longer and it was evident that he is very aware of stranger danger, and guards his own identity very closely when online. We also talked about cyberbullying, and he assured me that it hasn’t been an issue for him. Keep your kids safe, folks.

 

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.

New FOSI Research on Teen Online Privacy, Identity Theft

rz-tf2-2The big annual Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) show is going on this week in Washington D.C., and as they usually do, FOSI has released some new research concurrent with the event.

This week’s key research covers online activity of U.S. teens, and is entitled “Teen Identity Theft: Fraud, Security and Steps Teens are taking to Protect Themselves Online.”

Notable metrics and developments versus 2013 from the report, which surveyed 558 teens between 13 – 18 years of age and was conducted in October of this year, are as follows:

Teens are more concerned about online privacy – 76% of teens surveyed are very or somewhat concerned about their personal information online, up from 65% in 2012

Girls more so than boys – 81% or girls are very or somewhat concerned about their personal information vs. 72% for boys

Teens are still sharing passwords – 34% have shared user names and passwords with someone who is not their parent

Not using privacy settings – Only 57% of teens are using privacy settings for all of their devices and social networks. 10% use no privacy settings at all

Preferred networks are shifting – Teens reporting using Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine and Ask.fm have all increased vs. last year, or numbers were so small as to not be reported last year

The results offer a pretty clear warning in two areas and are easy to fix; teens (and older users) need to keep their passwords to themselves, and should be taking advantage of the privacy settings offered by the social networks they use.

 

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.