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 11/4/2016

~

If you’ve spent much time thinking about the facial recognition technology being used by Facebook and Google, you might have concluded that it is either fascinating or an incredible invasion of privacy. The latter could be true depending on how they are planning to use it, which is unknown right now. Whether it is an illegal invasion of privacy will be decided by the courts, maybe soon.

Facebook says users can’t stop it from using biometric data

~

Prince William wants tech and social media companies to get tougher on cyberbullying. He’s thinking about flying to Silicon Valley to take his message to the bigwigs in person.

Prince William is expected to hold talks with Facebook and Apple about online trolling

~

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 11.27.22 AMA UK insurance company wants to access your Facebook account to determine whether you’re likely to be a safe driver, and therefore eligible to receive discounts. Not so fast, says Facebook. That sort of screening is against their developer rules.

Facebook blocks UK insurer Admiral from profiling users for discounts

~

Prediction: Instagram shopping is going to be a big hit.

Instagram Wants to Ease Its Users into Shopping

~

Good news, of sorts. Ryan Collins, one of the hackers behind the brutally widespread celebrity hacking incident of 2014 has been sentenced to 18 months in jail. The married father of two worked tirelessly over a two-year period to hack into more than 100 celebrity Gmail and Apple iCloud accounts. Now he’s going to pay.

Celeb nude photo thief Ryan Collins sentenced to 18 months in jail

~

A young woman from Maryland has gone viral on Facebook after she aggressively called out a stranger threatening to post nude videos of her that he obtained illegally. Maryland police and the FBI are investigating.

Her response to ‘cyber bully’ who threatened to release naked video? Go public

~

Prediction 2: This will end quickly. Facebook allows advertisers to profile which users they target with ads based on “ethnic affinity.” And Facebook decides which race you’re aligned with.

Facebook draws criticism for ‘ethnic affinity’ ad targeting

~

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

 

 

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.

 

New Statistics on Teen Screen Time

It’s official: For UK teens (and from everything we’ve seen for North American teens as well), the television screen is no longer the “first screen”. For teens, the first screen is now a phone, computer or tablet.

UK research outfit Childwise completed its latest annual survey, the Childwise Monitor Report 2016, in which they sampled more than 2,000 kids aged 5 – 16 and asked about their media habits.

child-online-safetyOverall, the most headline-worthy detail is that among all kids aged 5 – 16, over the last year TV time remained constant at 2.1 hours per day, while online time grew 50% to 3 hours per day. Among the 15 – 16 year old cohort, online time is up to 4.8 hours per day (we’ve seen higher numbers but the direction is clear).

In terms of TV time, scheduled programming is quickly losing significance. Only 25% of 15 – 16 year olds watch TV shows as they are broadcast, and 60% of kids overall watch TV via phone, tablet or laptop.

Gone are the days when parents needed only to be within earshot of the family TV to know what kids are watching. When you think about it, monitoring TV and movie consumption is now similar to monitoring web activity. It can happen anywhere inside or out of the house, and on any device. And, if your kids are anything like mine, they are usually wearing headphones.

Assuming that you can’t perfectly monitor your child or teen’s consumption of online or TV media, teaching your kids to be their own monitor is more important than ever. The difficulty is that as soon as a child has unrestricted phone or tablet access, the idea of them consuming media exclusively in a central location of the home goes out the window. A few tips to get started, not matter how old your kids are:

Start early – Even when your child is “too young” for adult content, start talking about it in broad strokes so she’ll know what to avoid, and why.

Explain the risks, and why – Go ahead and say why you think some things are inappropriate. If you think that pornography leads to unhealthy attitudes about sex, talk about that. If you think violence and gore can make people less compassionate, your child should know that. Don’t forget to talk about sexting.

Ask your child what he is interested in online – If your child’s online interests are different from what he’s into in real life, he may be going astray.

Check that phone frequently – You child or teen’s smartphone is the most personal of all electronic devices – a window into her digital soul. You should know what’s on it – which apps especially, and how she uses them. You don’t need to monitor every keystroke, but if you know in general what she’s doing online, you can have more effective conversations about what not to do.

The shift to digital requires a shift in parenting strategies, and we fear that many parents are behind in making that shift. If you need help, 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.

 

Google Under Fire for Collecting, Misusing Child Data

In their own words, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. That’s a tall task. This week they’ve announced that they are taking on a very powerful opponent – Google.

The EFF’s claim, filed in a complaint with the FTC yesterday, is that Google is spying on children’s data, including their internet search history, enabled by their role in a vast effort to provide updated technology tools to schools. EFF claims that a number of Google actions violate the Student Privacy Pledge, a legally enforceable document that has been signed by over 200 vendors who sell or provide technology products to schools.

EFF-spying-on-studentsAs part of EFF’s Spying on Students campaign, they examined Google actions related to school Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education, and claim that, without parental consent:

  • Google collected and data mined students’ personal information
  • Google tracked and stored records of “every internet site students visit, every search term they use, the results they click on, videos they look for and watch on YouTube, and their saved passwords”
  • Google also may have shared student personal information with third-party websites

As of yesterday, and ahead of any FTC investigation, Google has agreed to a partial modification of its practices, but it appears that EFF thinks there is a lot of work left to be done.

We talk to parents all the time whose children use school-issued (and mandated) technology devices, software and services, and they have concerns. What we don’t hear is that one of their concerns is the data privacy of their children, but there have been rumblings in the media over the last year that student Gmail privacy might be an issue. EFF is making the issue a broader one.

Google is a huge company with a great position in the education market and a lot to lose. We expect them to do the right thing here.

 

 

 

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.

 

New Canadian Teen Cyberbullying Survey

The kinder, gentler nation to our north has revealed the results of a new teen cyberbullying study, and in summary it contains some red flags and some significant positives. The survey, conducted by Canadian communications company Telus, along with MediaSmarts and PREVNet, took the pulse of 800 teens between 12 and 18 on the topic of electronic bullying.

Areas of concern from the survey:

  • 42% of teens surveyed had experienced cyberbullying in the prior 4 weeks, and 60% had witnessed it happen to someone else

It is worth noting that the former number is very high. Most other recent surveys indicate that the canada-flagnumber of teens experiencing cyberbullying runs between 10 and 25%. We doubt very much that overall bullying is more prevalent in Canada than in the U.S. – the higher numbers are probably (we hope) a product of how the questions were asked, i.e. “Have you been subjected to something online that made you feel bad?” would likely elicit a higher number of positive responses than, “Have you been cyberbullied online the last 4 weeks?”

Another difference in this survey is that boys (45%) were more likely to experience cyberbullying than girls (38%). Just this week, a UK survey indicated that female teen cyberbullying is more common.

The results weren’t all negative. The positives:

  • Overall, 71% of respondents had intervened at least once when witnessing cyberbullying
  • 58% feel that they would do something each time they witness cyberbullying
  • Even if they didn’t know the victim personally, 37% said that they would intervene

He number of teens taking action is much higher in this study that in others we’ve seen, which is good news. Teens responding to bullying were more likely to privately comfort the victim (71%) than privately (47%) or publicly (37%) confront the bully. That’s not all bad – taking matters into your own hands is a risky endeavor.

Incidentally, of the teens surveyed, 67% think that they get helpful advice from adults on handling cyberbullying, and 57% of teens think that going to a parent or teacher is likely to help. Of course, it would be great if those numbers were closer to 100%. As parents, we must try to keep the lines of communication open and offer support and guidance when we can.

 

 

 

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.

 

CarefulParents – A New Online Community By Parents For Parents

We had the good fortune recently of meeting – online, of course – the two gentlemen behind CarefulParents.com. They have taken it upon themselves to create something they felt was missing online. Child rearing questions are an age-old problem, and it is one careful-parentsto which they’re bringing a new angle.

As the name implies, CarefulParents looks to help parents keep their kids safe, both in real life and online. We really like the concept and how they’ve structured the site – the content of the site revolves around “Alerts” – each of which is an issue submitted by a parent to the community that they feel will he helpful to other parents. In the words of the founders, the Alerts are “a way for parents to share dangerous activity their children could be involved in.”

Created by John Michels and Tim Sabens as a side project, CarefulParents is a growing community with lots of potential. According to Michels speaking in a recent interview with CBS 4 Indy:

“Michels and [Sabens] had the idea to create the site after learning about the Slender Man case out of Wisconsin in which two girls are accused of stabbing their friend 19 times as a way to impress the online character. “As I was watching the story I was thinking to myself how do parents keep up in today’s world with what their kids are doing. Whether it be online or through texting or different phone apps,” said Michels.”

Think about the value of the site in this way: If you Google “Is Snapchat safe for 11 years olds?”, you will likely be taken to a site like this one that attempts to provide information on a wide range of internet safety issues for kids and teens, one of which happens to be Snapchat. You’ll get your answer, but what if you’ve never heard of Snapchat? You wouldn’t have performed that Google search in the first place. Wouldn’t it be helpful to get an unsolicited heads up from a parent/peer who has seen things you haven’t? We think it would.

careful-parents-alerts

We get these informal alerts all the time in our everyday lives – from friends, family members and coworkers. CarefulParents expands your network to increase your chances of getting more info that will really help. We are going to start posting alerts soon (yes, we’re parents too) and encourage you to join the community and get involved.

The most recent addition to the site is the forum section, which allows parents the opportunity to ask questions or start discussions around topics not yet covered by the site. It’s brand new, so if you have a question, that is a great place to start.

We wish CarefulParents the best of luck in growing their community. There are no ads on the site, and both the signup process and navigation are effortless to navigate – a pleasure to use.

Free help for parents, from parents; it’s a good thing.

 

 

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.

 

New Kickstarter – A Free Version of ThirdParent Social Score

Kickstarter-buttonWe are pleased to announce that we are taking ThirdParent in a new direction, and launching a Kickstarter campaign today to get the ball rolling.

The fact of the matter is that when we launched ThirdParent, we knew that we were introducing a new and different way of offering digital parenting support. Our beliefs about the current state of affairs at that time, most of which are still true, were as follows:

  • Parents weren’t doing enough to ensure safe and responsible internet behavior. This goes not just for older teens, but also for younger kids new to the internet
  • Part of the reason was that existing tools fell far short of providing a good solution
  • Blocking or filtering software could be worked around by resourceful teens
  • Keylogging or other spying software fell short in the privacy department, and required a huge time commitment of the part of parents

Since our launch, the social media and app landscape has only gotten more complex, and the available digital parenting resources haven’t improved that much.

The ThirdParent solution, which respects and protects kids’ privacy while giving parents an accurate snapshot of what kids are doing publicly online solves most of these issues.

We are launching this Kickstarter campaign in order to build out a free version of the ThirdParent product.

That’s right, we’re going to make a Lite version of our service free. If we are successful, parents will be able to access what we think is the best digital parenting resource for free. We want to help parents understand what kids and teens are doing online, and we want our solution to be accessible to everyone.

If you could take a moment to check out our campaign on Kickstarter, share it with friends or even donate, we will be extremely grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

New Interactive Demo of our Parent Portal

We made some changes to the ThirdParent website in the last few weeks and among the biggest is the addition of a live, interactive demo or our Parent Portal.

thirdparent-parent-portalThe Parent Portal is our output for parents who sign up for the service, and was designed to give parents exactly the information they need to enable better digital parenting.

The demo portal portrays a fabricated kid, with clickable links and representative examples of what we find in the course of an audit. A few of the sections may contain information that is not immediately obvious to someone who isn’t a subscriber. Let’s walk through some of them:

Aliases – Listed in this section are aliases or screen names being used by your child that were found by ThirdParent in the course of your audit. If your child’s Twitter handle is @MattyWingnuts rather than his real name, we let you know.

Found Social Networks and Websites – The social media or website icons listed in this window correspond to the online content that we found in the course of your audit. You can click on each icon for a link to your child’s account.

Your Safe Grade – In this section, you will find a letter grade of A, B, C or F. The Safe grade applies only to possible risks related to safety issues, such as predator risk, unsafe contact or indications that your child may be the victim of cyberbullying. Accounts with a Safe grade of A have no issues. Accounts with a Safe grade of B or C have issues that may need attention. Accounts with an F grade have at least one issue that in our opinion requires immediate attention.

Your Clean Grade – This section also provides a letter grade of A, B, C or F. The Clean grade applies only to possible issues related to proper conduct and content. Accounts with a Clean grade of A have no issues. Accounts with a Clean grade of B or C have issues that may need attention. Accounts with an F grade have at least one issue that in our opinion requires immediate attention.

Profile and Content Scoring – Your account is graded Good, Warning or Bad on 14 metrics that we look at. Please note that your account will only receive one score for each metric. For example, if your privacy settings are unsafe on multiple social networks, you will only receive a warning on 1/13 metrics.

Description of Flagged Content and Recommendations – In this section you will see a description of any issue(s) being flagged as unsafe or inappropriate, and recommendations for resolving issues if they are readily available. Please keep in mind that there may be some issues flagged that you do not feel are problematic.

Screenshots of Content – You can click on any image in his section and see a larger version of the content that we deemed to have a potential issue.

Links to Content – If one is available, a link to flagged content will be found here. You can view it in a new browser window.

Summary – More Information including links to helpful resources and the date your audit was completed.

You can check it out now.

 

 

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.

 

Racial Taunts at Summit / North Plainfield High School Football Game Could Have Broader Consequences

A terrible thing happened at a New Jersey high school football game Friday night. It may end up having wider-reaching implications than the players involved, and possibly others, were anticipating.

The game in question pitted Summit High School against North Plainfield High School. If you’re not familiar with New Jersey, we can tell you that even though the schools are only 10 miles apart, the schools’ student bodies are very different. The North Plainfield school has a much higher concentration of black players than does the Summit school.

In the incident Friday, when the North Plainfield team arrived at Summit for the game, the team found bananas had been placed in the locker room – a gesture that they view as certainly racially charged. There was also a banana placed in a hole in the locker room door, and when a player removed it, someone on the other side of the door reportedly continued to put bananas through the hole.

No doubt the incident will be investigated, and North Plainfield Assistant Superintendent said last night that details had already been forwarded to the NJSIAA, the group that governs NJ high school sports, for an external review.

We have no doubt that the Summit team, if the allegations are proven to be true, will face stiff penalties. There may also be additional parties who are dragged into the mess. Consider the tweet below:

summit-football

It looks as thought the tweet was posted by another NJ high school football player, but we have redacted the name and are not going to dig any further. If it is indeed a NJ high school athlete, that player, and those who favorited or retweeted the message, could also face stiff penalties. The NJSIAA has a zero tolerance policy against trash talking, and the above tweet certainly qualifies. The wrestlers from Phillipsburg NJ whose season was ended last year over a single photo posted to social media can attest to that.

If the person above or any of those who interacted with the tweet are current players, they should know better. In this day and age, trash talking has no place on the high school field or on social media.

 

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

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.