Is Pokémon GO Safe for Kids? A Guide for Parents

If you’re a parent you’re probably already tired of hearing about Pokémon GO, the mobile Augmented Reality video game that has absolutely taken off over the last week.

You’ve probably also heard that it may or not be safe for young users, which in the game are called Trainers. Since Pokémon has for years been a franchise focused on kids, you can guess that lots of kids will want to play. Here’s the rundown the safety claims from the past week, made by safety experts and general media Pokemon Gotypes alike:

The game could steal all your Google data. That appears to be FALSE.

Playing Pokémon GO opens you up to hackers. That appears to be TRUE, but lots of mobile activity is risky.

Pokémon GO has over eager players walking into traffic, revolving doors and trees. TRUE. Be careful out there, kids.

Trainers have been lured unsuspectingly then robbed or mugged. TRUE but the same could be said for most social or messaging apps. Since Pokémon GO makes little of your personal information (no real name or phone number) available for others to see, we’ll give them a pass on this one.

If your kids are already playing Pokémon GO, or are about to start, here are some tips for keeping them safe while playing.

What we thought we’d do this week is take a look at what almost no parents are going to read – the fine print. Here’s what you need to know from the Pokémon GO Terms of Service (TOS) and Privacy Policy (PP).

Note: the TOS and PP are currently offline. We assume it is due to the fact that yesterday Senator Al Franken requested a significant amount of information from the company regarding their data collection and sharing policies.

First of all, the age limit is 13. There is an age gate, and new users are asked to enter their birth date. If your child entered an age under 13, he would have been prompted to get your parental consent. If your child is in fact aged 13 or above, there’s nothing to see here. If he lied about his age and accepted the TOS, according to their rules that means that you have accepted the TOS.  If your child is under 13, Niantic, Google, Nintendo and/or the Pokémon Company are illegally collecting your child’s data. If you are worried about that, you should delete the account.

You can’t sue. Let’s say that your child is injured because something in the game creates and unreasonable risk, or his personal information is compromised. Agreeing to the TOS means that in the event of a dispute, you’ve waived your right to sue Niantic and the other companies involved. Instead, you’ll go to arbitration, and probably lose. The NY Daily News does a good job describing that heavy-handed policy here.

They say the right things about cyberbullying. According to their Trainer Guidelines, “Treat other players and bystanders with respect and courtesy, and conduct yourself in an appropriate manner while playing Pokémon GO.” They go on to say:

“We will review reported or flagged player accounts and content and will determine whether or not they violate the Terms of Use and/or these guidelines. Accounts are penalized for violations of the Terms of Use and/or the Trainer guidelines—we may issue a warning, suspend you from the game, or (for serious or repeated violations) terminate your account.”

If they follow through on that, it seems pretty solid.

Ads are coming. According to an interview with the CEO in the Financial Times, Pokémon GO will soon feature sponsored locations. Even if your child is not paying money for in-game accessories, if he is lured to a merchant location that is a featured Pokémon Gym or Poke Stop, he will probably be spending money to hang out there.

While they aren’t accessing your complete Google profile, email and images, they are collecting personal information. They will collect and may use your child’s IP address, message and locations visited history, age (as stated at signup) and info related to the device your child is using to play the game.

If your child plays the game responsibly, plays with friends if he is young and resists the urge to get lured to a place that looks unsafe or too good to be true, the game looks relatively safe to us. Of course, you can expect some bumps on the shin. For all the potential red flags above, we expect to revisit them if and when issues develop.

 

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. 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!

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How To Keep Your Accounts Secure Online

In the wake of recent large scale hacking incidents that seem to occur weekly, we thought it would be a good idea to revisit an interesting survey conducted by Google last year. In the study, Google asked security experts and non-experts the five most important things to do to ensure security online.

Not surprisingly, some of the things listed by non-experts and experts were the same, and some were quite different. The differences can be informative.

Google online security

The most common ground was around the topic of passwords. Non-experts had “use strong passwords” and “change passwords frequently” in the top five, while experts listed “use strong passwords”, “change passwords frequently” and “use a password manager” as three of the top five. Unless you have a perfect memory, and who does, a password manager is essential to being able to effectively use a different password for each site you visit and app you use. This is significant. If you use site A and it is hacked, the hackers could find out the user name or email and password you were using. If you are using those login credentials elsewhere, you are vulnerable on those sites as well.

We wrote about strong passwords and password manager software last month.

Non-experts listed “use antivirus software” as the most important element to keeping secure online. Experts who were surveyed agree that antivirus software is important but did not list it in the top five. According to them, the use of antivirus software can create a false sense of security for internet users. No antivirus software if foolproof.

An often-overlooked practice was as listed as most important by the experts – consistently installing software updates. Many users view software updates as a nuisance, and in some cases updates aren’t perfect and result in a worse user experience, but many updates are patches to repair security flaws or identified vulnerabilities. If you ignore the updates, you are open to known vulnerabilities.

Finally, the experts listed utilizing two-factor authentication (2FA) as the third most important online security practice. 2FA is defined as combining a username and password together with an additional piece of information that only the user knows to make it harder for potential intruders to gain access and steal that person’s personal data or identity. Many sites offer 2FA, and users should take advantage.

We encourage parents to help teens get up to speed with best practices for online security, and to start early. Once credit cards and online banking get added to the equation, the price you’ll pay if your accounts are hacked rises quickly.

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. 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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YouTube Updates Cyberbullying Policy

ThirdParent YoutubeGood news and bad news for YouTube users – especially young users. The video network has updated its harassment and cyberbullying guidelines, and they are much more strict than the previous version.

The good news here is that it’s time for YouTube to take a tougher stand. Cyberbullying is more prevalent on YouTube than most parents realize, in our experience, and exists in two forms: cyberbullying in the comments section, which is rampant, and original videos that call out an individual in a less than kind way. The latter type of video certainly exists, but the rules seem like they will be awkward to implement fairly since there is a fine line between satire (which society mostly tolerates) and harassment or cyberbullying.

The new rules, in their entirety:

Harassment may include:

  • Abusive videos, comments, messages

  • Revealing someone’s personal information

  • Maliciously recording someone without their consent

  • Deliberately posting content in order to humiliate someone

  • Making hurtful and negative comments/videos about another person

  • Unwanted sexualization, which encompasses sexual harassment or sexual bullying in any form

  • Incitement to harass other users or creators

The bad part of this change is that some satirical accounts are already having videos deleted. In one example, YouTuber RiceGum posted a video for his 2.3 million followers in which he criticized the Instagram account of a 10-year old girl, the daughter of a rock star. In the video, he said:

“[she] wears “quite a bit of makeup for her age,” and sarcastically claims, “Wow, they grow up so fast, already learning how to, you know, arch their back a little bit, kinda, you know, poke out the behind area.” The comedian also notes that Instagram’s Terms of Use state that one must be at least 13 years old to have an account.”

That video has been removed.

We are all for social networks policing cyberbullying, but we hope that YouTube can do a good job responding to genuine harassment without stifling too much comedy or creativity.

 

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. 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.

 

A Few Words on Passwords

Much has been written about the fact that strong, unique passwords are important. The fact of the matter, from what we’ve seen, is that most people – including teens – ignore that advice. They’re ignoring it at their own peril.

I got a message this week from a site that I’d mostly forgotten about called Have I Been Pwnd. The way the site works is that you enter your email and it tells you whether any sites or apps where you use that email address have had user account data compromised. If are told that your account(s) are at risk, you should go to that site and change your address immediately.Have I Been Pwned

Once you’ve entered your email address, they will also send you an email in the future if there is a hacking incident. The email I got this week was to inform me that my Myspace account (!) had been hacked. I don’t use Myspace for anything other than research so no big deal, but it got me thinking about passwords.

Many people may think that its not worth the hassle to have a strong, unique password for each site that you use, but for those who do, there are Password Manager programs that are happy to help.

The Department of Consumer affairs has been nice enough to compile what looks like the go to resource of password manager reviews, along with the following video:

The Consumer Affairs Password Manager Reviews site compares all of the major password manager programs based on password encryption, secure resource usage, self-containment, user friendliness, verifiable design and master password security.

That may be more information than you need but trust us; they’ve done the research for you. If you’re looking to up your password game, the help you need is right here.

 

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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Sextortion Cases Are On the Rise

Bad news for parents: according to New Jersey law enforcement officials and the FBI, sextortion cases are on the rise, and far too many of then go unreported.

sextortionSextortion is the act of coercing or blackmailing a victim – often a minor – to obtain compromising or nude photos or video using the threat of exposing the victim to family and friends, usually by sharing previously taken images.

The sinister set up is fairly simple. The perpetrator, usually an older man, sets up a fake social media or messaging app profile and pretends to be a teen around the age of his intended victims. He then sends friend requests and messages until he has established a “relationship” with a victim. After an initial exchange of images, he will ask for more that are increasingly intimate. Once the victim has sent one that is scandalous enough that the victim would be mortified if her friends or family found out, the perp threatens to do just that unless more media is delivered. This can go on for a long time and usually ends badly.

If your child has a smartphone, laptop or computer and at least occasional unrestricted access, he or she is potentially at risk. What are parents to do?

Communicate – Begin talking to your child about the risks of both meeting strangers online and sending risqué images before they are given their first connected device. If they already have one, start talking now, even if the child is young.

Monitor – You don’t need to track every keystroke, but you should be generally aware of what you child or doing online, and who she in talking to.

Be available – Your child should know, without any doubt, that any time she feels uncomfortable or at risk because of something happening online she can come to you. Even if what she has done to get into the situation was stupid, put off sending that message until you’ve rectified the problem. Use difficult situations as learning opportunities.

It’s tempting to think that since you’ve raised a “good kid”, this could never happen to him or her. It does, so try to stay on top of things.

 

 

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.

 

Facebook Drug Ring is a Warning to Parents

A Colorado investigator sent a strong message to parents this week in a way that we haven’t exactly seen before.

The story started with a 15-year old Jefferson County teen who had been suspended from school for problems including a “serious drug problem. The mother of the girl, who could be nominated for Digital Parent of the Year (not a real reward but it should be), had done enough digging into the girl’s smartphone that she was able to discover that the teen was a member of a secret drug trafficking group on Facebook. She reported it to the police and the Jefferson Child Sex Offender Internet Investigations unit got busy.

Colorado Facebook drug ringThe investigators found that the Facebook group, Fly Society 420, had over 900 members, and 171 of them were local middle and high school students, some as young as 12-years old. The group had facilitated sales of not just marijuana (420, legal in Colorado but not for minors), but also LSD, cocaine, prescription drugs and Ecstasy.

The investigators arrested the admin of the group, an adult, and contacted Facebook to have the group shut down. The group is gone and none of the minors were arrested.

Next, investigators issued a very strong message to parents, saying that parents have to take their teens’ phones, log into Facebook, and see which groups they belong to. Investigator Mike Harris said:

“It’s harder when you have high school kids. They don’t want to give up that freedom, but I call it parenting. All you need to do is take the wrong kind of drug and quantity and we could have a dead kid.”

If your teen is looking to buy drugs online, or find someone online who sells them, it’s not just Facebook that’s the problem. Actually, Facebook does a pretty good job of policing drug sales. You can find then using the right hashtags on Instagram or Tumblr, you can find a dealer on Tinder or can get hooked up via a messaging app if you ask the right friend.

It’s impossible for parents of teens with unrestricted internet access to know everything that’s going on but it’s worth making an effort to know most of what is happening. If you need help figuring out what is going on, 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.

 

How To Be a Teen Social Media Star

There are good reasons and bad reasons for trying to elevate your social media status. Good reasons include (1) wanting to present the best possible image to college admissions officers and future employers, and (2) if you have a side business or special talent and you want to get more exposure in order to make it a career, or at least move in that direction.

A not so good reason is if you want to be internet famous for the sake of fame, especially if you are taking risks in order to garner exposure – risks such as putting too much personal information out there, accepting friend requests from strangers or tolerating cyberbullying because that’s part of the game. We don’t recommend any of that.

If you are looking to up your social media game for legitimate reasons, there are some things that you absolutely should do, and some you should avoid. High quality, appropriately sized images are a must. Catchy headlines on your posts will attract more attention. It’s important to know the best days to post your content, and the optimal times.

Our friends at On Blast Blog put together an infographic titled Everything You Need to Be a Social Media Rock Star. Check it out below:

Social Media Cheat Sheet
Credit: On Blast Blog

Click the link above to see tons of interesting and valuable facts about the most popular social networks.

 

 

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.

Do you 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.

 

Watch Out for the New Magic Kinder App

Magic Kinder AppA new app called Magic Kinder advertises itself as a way for kids to connect with video and images, read stories, draw, paint and learn, all free of advertising and totally safe for kids.

The problem is, according to a couple of articles out of well known tech research groups, the app could leave your child open to receiving unwanted images and video from strangers who are up to no good. According to an article at Softpedia:

Magic Kinder app“[B]ecause the app doesn’t use encryption in any way or form, an attacker, via a proxy on the local network, can intercept traffic coming from a device with the Magic Kinder app installed. By modifying a few parameters in the HTTP requests here and there, he found out that he could send any type of data he wished to any app user. Since all that the “hacker” had to do was to modify simple user ID numbers, the attack is quite easy to carry out…”

According to one researcher, the company did not respond to emailed questions when the vulnerability was discovered. The company behind the app is Italian candy giant Fererro, who should have the resources to avoid a situation such as this.

Joe Bursell, a tech researcher further commented to tech blog The Register:

“These are not subtle, hard-to-find issues. You’d see those IDs in the proxy within minutes of testing and the first thing you would do is manually increment/decrement them. There are no authorisation checks on any of the requests. This means that anyone can: send a message to your kids, read your family diary, and change other data about people, e.g. gender.”

According to media reports, the app has been downloaded 500,000 times. We haven’t done a full review of the app and we don’t intend to at this time. We strongly advise parents avoid the Magic Kinder app.

Thanks to Greg at CoppaNOW for bringing this to our attention.

 

 

DID YOU KNOW?: The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). 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.

Managing Parental Restrictions On Your Child’s iPhone

We wrote recently about how to determine the right age to give your child her first phone. When that time comes, you might opt for a cheap, simple phone or you may decide that the iPhone is the right choice.

Apple updated its operating system to iOS 9.3 this week, and it looks to us as though the restrictions settings have changed, so we thought we’d walk you through how to manage the restrictions if you’re doing it for the first time.

ProTip: If this is a new phone, or your child’s first phone, set the restrictions before you give the phone to your child. None of the restrictions are permanent, so any or all of them can be set for an hour or a year; it’s up to you.

Let’s get started

iphone-parental-restrictions

 

The first step is to set the passcode. Go to Settings > General > Restrictions and you will be asked to enter a passcode. The initial Restrictions passcode will be the same as the passcode for the phone’s home screen. To change it to one only you will know, after you’ve entered the passcode, tap “Disable Restrictions” on the top of the next screen. Then tap “Enable Restrictions” and you will be asked to set a new passcode. You’ll be asked to enter it twice. Don’t forget this passcode because if you do and want to adjust the restrictions in the future, you’ll need to reset the phone entirely.

 

 

Features

IMG2The first section determines which of the phone’s features you want your child to be able to use. The default option is “on” (green). If you tap the green button, it will change to white, meaning that you have restricted the use of that feature. In terms of what each does, most are self-explanatory, but for parents who are new to Apple:

Safari – This is Apple’s internet browser. If you don’t want your child browsing the web on her phone, disable Safari.

Camera – If you want to restrict the ability to take pictures, disable Camera. This may be a good idea temporarily if you’re going to church or to a funeral.

Siri & Dictation – Siri is Apple’s digital assistant. Her job is to answer questions that you speak into the phone. Dictation can be used for talk-to-text.

Facetime – Facetime can be used to video call other iPhone users.

Airdrop – Allows iPhone users to share photos, videos, websites, locations, and other files with Apple device users who are nearby.

CarPlay – Connects the iPhone to your car’s dashboard display and controls. If you want to blast your kid’s tunes while driving him to soccer, don’t touch this setting.

Downloads and Media

IMG3For the next section of restrictions, your choices are on/off as well, as in “allow” or “don’t allow”.

iTunes Store – Leaving this on will allow your child to download songs from the iTunes store if she has money in her iTunes account.

Apple Music Connect – Allows music fans to interact with content direct from their favorite artists.

iBooks Store – If you want her to be able to buy books to read on this phone (or iPad), leave this on. Again, she’ll need to have to have money in her iTunes account.

Podcasts – These are digital audio or video files that can be downloaded to the phone.

News – A selection of news articles curated by Apple.

Installing Apps – If you want to approve each app download, tap this restriction. In that way, your child will have to ask you to remove the restriction with each new download. This is a big one for younger kids.

Deleting Apps – If there are apps that you want to stay on the phone no matter what, tap this restriction.

In-App Purchases – Many games allow players to make game-related purchases (upgrades, game tools) in the course of playing. If you plan to fund your child’s iTunes account, but don’t want the money spent on gaming, tap this restriction.

Content

IMG4The next section is Allowed Content. Your options here are a little more complicated. All content in the iTunes store is labeled or rated, either by the creator or a third party.

Ratings For – Select your home country from this list to ensure that the age/other ratings are accurate for your area.

Music, Podcasts & News – Here you can choose whether you want to allow your child to be able to access explicit content – words, lyrics, images or video.

Movies – Your can choose “No Movies”, “All Movies” or approve according to rating – G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17. If you leave the checkmark beside the PG, for example, your child will be able to watch PG-rated movies on this phone.

TV Shows – Again, you can enable no TV shows or all TV shows, or restrict by rating from TV-Y (okay for young viewers) to TV-MA (mature audiences only).

Books – In this section you can prohibit the download of books with explicit sexual content.

Apps – Every app in the App Store is age-rated. You can allow all apps or none, or choose one of the age limits suggested by Apple, which are 4+ (okay for kids 4 and older), 9+. 12+, 17+. FYI, an app that is rated 17+ will not do anything effective to prevent a 12-year old from using it. You need to apply that setting here.

Siri – There are two options here. The first is to prohibit Siri requests that include explicit content. You should tap on this one. The second is whether you want Siri to search the web for content requested by the speaker. This one is up to you.

Websites – You can allow access to all websites, prohibit web access to sites with adult content, or type in specific websites that you don’t want accessed from this phone.

Location and Services

IMG5Location Services – If the location services are turned on, there are many ways that your child can unknowingly divulge her location, in real time, to strangers. Location services can be enabled or disabled for the entire phone, or on an app-by-app basis. For the youngest kids, we recommend turning location services off and tapping the Don’t Allow Changes button so that your child can’t turn it on. If you use an app to track your child’s location, this solution won’t work for you.

The list of apps and services that may use the phone’s location are listed below. Each of them can be set to Never or While Using. For example, let’s say your daughter takes a selfie and sends it to a friend. If the Camera’s location setting here is set to “While Using”, the picture will include data that shows the location where the picture was taken. This can be unsafe.

Contacts – This setting controls which apps will be able to access the phone’s contacts list. If there is an app that you don’t trust, your child shouldn’t be using it, but if you’re at all unsure, tap the green button beside that app, then tap the Don’t Allow Changes button at the top.

You can safely ignore the next two – Calendars and Reminders.

Photos – If your child is using an app and you don’t want her posting pictures to that app, this section is for you. Tap the green button beside the apps you want to restrict, then tap the Don’t Allow Changes button at the top.

Share my Location – If you use the Find My Friends app to keep track of your child’s location, tap Don’t Allow Changes here.

Gaming

IMG6There are a few other restrictions at the bottom that we don’t need to get into, but there is one of note for parents, and that is Game Center.

Tapping to restrict Multiplayer Games will limit your child’s game options to those that are single player only. Doing this is a good idea if you’re worried about your child being cyberbullied in multi player games. I use this setting for my daughter. Tapping the Adding Friends button will restrict the phone from adding new contacts in the game center, and from using the phone’s contacts list to send game invitations.

In summary, Apple has done a great job giving parents the flexibility to lock down areas and functions that concern them. From what we’ve seen Android phones have a similar set of capabilities, and we’ll review those in the coming weeks.

If you still have questions, you can leave them below and we’ll respond by email.

 

 

DID YOU KNOW?: The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). 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.