Is Your Teen Hiding Something Online?

teen-hiding-internet-activityThe answer is probably “yes”. According to a McAfee survey last year, 71% of teens admit to hiding some part of their internet activity from parents. It could be harmless (chatting with a girlfriend) or it could be something important like cyberbullying or browsing adult content. If you’re a parent wondering whether there is something about your teen’s online activity that he’s not telling you, below are some things to look for. Don’t forget about their phones. Most things that teens can do on a computer, they can also do an a cell phone.

Deleting browser history – If you check the browser history (by clicking the “History” tab in most browsers) on the computer that your teen uses, and it’s empty, that’s probably not an accident. He might have been looking at something embarrassing, or adult-oriented content. Feel free to ask him.

Minimizing or closing browser window – If your teen abruptly minimizes a window or closes out his browser window when you walk into the room, he is probably doing something he doesn’t want you to know about.

Deleting text messages – Check your teen’s text messages. If the message log is empty, one of two things have happened. Either he recently deleted them, or he exclusively uses a messaging app such as WhatsApp or Kik.

Using more than one browser – If your teen uses a shared computer, and has something to hide, he probably doesn’t use the browser that you use. If you’re using Internet Explorer he is probably using Firefox or Chrome. You can check the browsing history on those too.

delete search historyDelete search history – If your teen has turned off “Web History” in the Google settings, it’s a red flag. If Web History is turned on but the history log is empty, he has deleted it. You can ask him what he has been searching for.

Using a proxy or in private browsing – If your teen is using an anonymity software proxy such as Tor, or “in private browsing” using Google Incognito Mode or something similar, in effect he is hiding everything. Some people have a desire to remain out of the sight of the government and advertisers, and others browse anonymously for reasons you wouldn’t approve of.

More than one email address – I’m sure that you know your teen’s email address. Does he have another one other than the one that you use to contact him. This does not necessarily have to be a red red flag. Some people use a throwaway email address to sign up for things and avoid subsequently getting spam. It could be, though, that he uses it to communicate with people you don’t know about.

Duplicate social media accounts – Some teens are very aware of the fact that parents, college admissions officers and school officials might check them out on social media. If they’re willing to put in enough effort, that might have two accounts on Facebook or other networks – one clean one and one that their friends actually use to connect.  It’s good news that college admission folks won’t see the “bad” stuff, but neither will you if you go looking.

With teens who are very active online, it is nearly impossible for parents to stay on top of everything they are doing. A teen who has already been hiding activity is unlikely to fess up completely, but if your teen knows that you are paying attention and care about what he’s up to online, that alone should be a good first step toward him acting more responsibly, or not slipping into bad habits that he might regret later.


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

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Internet, Text Message and Social Media Acronyms and Abbreviations

Well parents, if your kids have mobile devices or access to a computer, and you’ve ever checked their text messages or social media accounts, you’ve probably encountered some acronyms or abbreviations that had you scratching your head. Particularly if there has been a cyberbullying or other issue, you’ll want to know what the abbreviations or acronyms mean. Here is a list of some common ones:


Abbreviation/ Meaning
.02 My two cents
143 I love you
2DAY Today
420 Marijuana
4EAE Forever and ever
A/S/L? Age/sex/location?
AFAIK As far as I know
AFK Away from keyboard
AIR/ PIR Adult in room, parent in room
ADN Any day now
ATM At the moment
Banana Code word for penis
BFF Best friends forever
BFN Bye for now
BRB Be right back
BTW By the way
CD9 Code 9 (Parents around)
CTN Can’t talk now
CYA Cover your a**
DIAF Die in a fire
DIKU Do I know you?
DILLIGAS Do I look like I give a sh*t?
DOC Drug of choice
DOM Dirty old man
DQMOT Don’t quote me on this
DTF Down to f*ck (willing to have sex)
DTRT Do the right thing
DWBH Don’t worry, be happy
EG, BEG Evil grin, big evil grin
F2F or FTF Face to face
FUBAR F*cked up beyond all recognition (or repair)
FWB Friends with (sexual) benefits
FYEO For your eyes only
GB Goodbye
GMAFB Give me a f*cking break
GNOC Get naked on camera
GTG Got to go
GYPO Get your pants off
HAK Hugs and kisses
HTH Hope this helps / Happy to help
I&I Intercourse and inebriation
IDK I don’t know
IIRC If I remember correctly
ILY/ILU I love you
IMHO In my honest opinion / In my humble opinion
IMO In my opinion
IPN I’m posting naked
IRL In real life
ISO In search of
IU@U It’s up to you
IWSN I want sex now
IWSN I want sex now
IYKWIM If you know what I mean
J/K Just kidding
J4F Just for fun
JIC Just in case
JSYK Just so you know
Kitty Code word for vagina
KPC Keeping parents clueless
LMAO Laughing my a** off
LMBO Laughing my butt off
LMIRL Let’s meet in real life
LMK Let me know
LOL Laugh out loud
MIRL Meet in real life
MOG Oh my God
MOS Mom over shoulder
MPFB My personal f*ck buddy
NAGI Not a good idea
NALOPKT Not a lot of people know that
NIFOC Nude in front of computer
NM Never mind
NMU Not much, you?
NP No problem
NTS Note to self
OIC Oh I see
ORLY Oh, really?
OT Off topic
OTP On the phone
P911 Parent alert
PAW, TAW Parents are watching, teachers are watching
PCM Please call me
PIR Parent in room
PLS or PLZ Please
PPL PPL – People
PTB PTB – Please text back
QQ Crying. This abbreviation produces an emoticon in text. It’s often used sarcastically.
RAK Random act of kindness
RL Real life
ROFL Rolling on the floor laughing
RT Retweet
RUOK Are you okay?
SMH Shaking my head
SOS Someone over shoulder
SRSLY Seriously
SSDD Same stuff, different day
SWAK Sealed with a kiss
SWYP So, what’s your problem?
SYS SYS – See you soon
TBC To be continued
TDTM Talk dirty to me
TIME Tears in my eyes
TMI Too much information
TMRW Tomorrow
TTYL Talk to you later
WB Welcome back
WTF What the f*ck
WTH What the heck or hell?
WTPA Where the party at?
WYCM Will you call me?
WYCM Will you call me?
WYRN What’s your real name?
YGM You’ve got mail
YOLO You only live once
YW You’re welcome
zerg To gang up on someone
ZOMG Oh my God (sarcastic)

For more information on words or phrases that have you at a loss for the true meaning, check out our internet glossary for parents, and you can check Urban Dictionary if there’s a term or reference that has you stumped (warning: some not safe for kids language). Did we miss anything? Do you have a question? Please feel free to leave a comment below.


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Cyberbullying Solutions for Parents

What is the right course of action for the parent of a teen or pre teen who has been a victim of cyberbullying?

Facebook - Report Abuse
Facebook – Report Abuse

Depending on the survey data you look at, 30 – 50% of U.S. youths have been a victim of cyberbullying. Getting that number exactly right is less important than parents having a framework for dealing with an instance of cyberbullying and ensuring that your child, the victim, does not suffer from it repeatedly or endure long-term damage.

If your child tells you that he or she is the victim of cyberbullying, here’s what you can do:

Is it actually bullying? – Normal peer conflict can be difficult to deal with but it is not bullying. If your child is active online, you should have already have had a conversation about the line between conflict and bullying (if you haven’t, you know what to do). Confirm that the aggressor’s intent was to do harm, and that the incident was not just a disagreement. This can be done pretty easily by having your child show you the evidence.

Don’t go overboard responding (you or your child) – In some cases, your child responding directly to the bully is the right course of action, but not always. Avoid doing anything that escalates the conflict, and remember that in many cases not responding at all is the best way to make the issue go away.

Preserve the evidence – Keep a record of the bullying, either by saving a screen shot or printing it out. Bullies can go a long way to hiding the evidence if they suspect they were reported.

Twitter Report Abuse
Twitter – Report Abuse

Block the bully – If your child is being bullied on a mainstream social network like Facebook or Twitter, chances are that there is an easy way to block the bully from being able to contact you. Use this as a teaching moment, and remind your child that she probably should not have been following this person in the first place. If your child’s social networking accounts are set to public, this is a fantastic time to talk about setting them to private as well.

Change cell phone number – If the bullying takes place via text message or messaging app, it is probably coming from someone who knows your child’s cell phone number. Most carriers will assign a new phone number for free it you go online to request the change, so that is a good option.

Report it to the network – Most social networks allow users to report abuse anonymously. If the bully is inflicting pain on more than one person, you’ll be doing the community a favor.

Report it to the school – If the bullying is happening at school, or has an impact on what happens at school, it’s a good idea to report the bullying to the school.

Change behavior – While we would never say that the cyberbullying victim is to blame, examine how your child ended up in that situation in the first place. Choosing a different set of friends or staying off some networks entirely (especially networks that allow anonymous users) might be a good idea.

In a way, cyberbullying is easier to deal with than traditional bullying, in that in most cases there is evidence that you can see and use to get help. Use that evidence to protect your child from future bullying incidents.


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

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New Skim App is Like Snapchat for Text

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 9.07.06 AMWhat’s the scoop with Skim, a new text-messaging app whose principal feature is that text messages disappear forever while they are being read?

Edit 8/2014: Skim has changed its name to Peek.

Some people – smart ones – make an evaluation of the importance of a new app or network based on the amount of money that shrewd investors are willing to put into it before it has real revenue. By that measure, Snapchat is a fantastic idea. Venture capitalists and angels have invested $73 million in Snapchat – the picture messaging app without any sign of revenue on the horizon, valuing it at more than $800 million.

Snapchat’s claim to fame is that picture messages supposedly self-destruct after they’ve been viewed. That feature has proven to be anything but foolproof, but users have embraced that app and are sending 350 million snaps per day according to the latest data.

skim-home-screenIt’s no surprise based on the rapid user uptake and the amount of money raised by Snapchat that the makers of Skim are betting on similar popularity for an app that makes text-based messages self destruct. It looks like Skim does just that.

A colleague and I downloaded it this morning (it is free for now) to test it out. Users are required to use Facebook or Twitter to sign up, a shortcoming in my view – some people like to keep platforms separate. As for how it works, I have an older iPhone and my colleague has a 5S. The app worked perfectly on his device with my message melting away as he read it, but on mine, rather that seeing the message disappear as it is supposed to, the app shut down as I viewed each message. I’m due to get a new phone so I’m willing to assume it was my device acting up.

Skim is only available of iPhone for now. According to the company’s Twitter feed, it will be available on Android soon.

Skim is a cool idea and a potential problem for parents who have the password for their kids’ phones and like to do a surprise check of their text messages from time to time.

Someone, perhaps Skim, is likely to be successful in this space. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.


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Urban Dictionary – Deciphering Teen Communication

Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 9.16.14 AMYou might have noticed the news last week that a bunch of new words and acronyms were added to the Oxford English Dictionary (online edition). If you’re a parent, some of those words may mean absolutely nothing to you. If your teen or pre teen has a cell phone or uses the internet, chances are that he has heard many more of them than you have, or even used them.

It’s actually a little bit misleading that the news accounts are ballyhooing this as the first inclusion of some words in the dictionary. They’ve been in one since shortly after they were coined, perhaps years ago, and it’s called Urban Dictionary.

If you’ve ever picked up your son’s cell phone and been baffled by some of the words in his text messages or social media posts, Urban Dictionary might be something you can use.

Did you know what Twerking was before Miley Cyrus put on that horrid performance at the VMA awards last weekend? You could have consulted Urban Dictionary:

Twerk:  The rhythmic gyrating of the lower fleshy extremities in a lascivious manner with the intent to elicit sexual arousal or laughter in ones intended audience.

Was there a time you didn’t have a clue what a subtweet is? You could have checked our Internet Glossary for Parents, or consulted Urban Dictionary:

Subtweet:  It’s the shortening of “subliminal tweet” which is directly referring to a particular person without mentioning their name or directly mentioning them and it basically indicates that the tweet in which the hashtag is used is a subliminal tweet.

Basically, it’s talking about someone behind their back but sort of in their face on Twitter!

Be warned, Urban Dictionary is not for the faint of heart – the definitions include plenty of profanity and sexual references – but if you’re trying to decipher your teen’s text messages or social media posts, it is a good place to start. Instead of being three steps behind your teen, you might only be one step behind.


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Facebook, Twitter Have Different Policies on Bullying

A story is playing out more and more often in high schools and on social media this year that has parent and school administrators across the country up in arms: some version of an anonymous school confession page.

facebook-twitterIn these situations, typically a student sets up an account on Facebook or Twitter named something like XYZSchoolConfessions or ABCSchoolCrushes. The account spreads by word of mouth initially, and eventually grows to have hundreds of followers. While some students use the account to genuinely express crushes or other positive feelings, too often the messages include some form of bullying, profanity or sexually inappropriate material. Needless to say, the negative messages carry more weight and have more powerful implications than the positive ones, and present a problem for the schools.

In the case of a Newton, IA school last month:

“We had had students that were so shaken by comments made on the web that they didn’t want to go to school the next day,” said (Commissioner) McDermott. “(The students) don’t get to worry about things like worrying about school, having fun with their friends or being involved in activities when they have other things hanging over the head, like these negative things on the web.”

As a school administrator, in addition to reminding students about appropriate behavior and the downside of bullying, obviously you’d like to make the account go away. What is happening in these cases?

If you report an account to Twitter that is being used for bullying, harassment or threats, they will take it down. If you report a similar account to Facebook, they will not take it down unless it clearly violates their community standards, which beyond nudity and gore are pretty lax. Facebook may agree to delete individual posts, but they generally won’t fully delete such accounts. It is worth noting though that this week a school in Hong Kong managed to have a Facebook confessions account taken down because of a copyright violation. If the account uses the school name, admins may have grounds to have it taken down.

This week a Mentor OH High school successfully had two Twitter accounts taken down:

The concept was innocent, as were many of the tweets, but several of the posts took on a sexual nature by Monday evening. The new account is almost entirely filled with explicit language.

As a parent, I can take comfort in the fact that Twitter applies a more aggressive policy against bullies, but as a free speech advocate I understand Facebook’s stance. What these sites are required to do in the longer term will be dictated by the courts. The Newton school above is considering legal action against Facebook.

For parents and school admins, it is important to remember that the social media sites are not the problem, the bullying is. Social media might make the act of bullying easier or more anonymous, but the only way to truly combat it is with education. We need to get to the root of the problem.

Follow these links to read more about Facebook and Twitter account policies.


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Facebook Is Losing its Luster Among Teens

You may have seen the above headline a few times, or read about it here. A survey by a Wall Street research analyst this month found that Facebook is losing ground as the most popular social network for teens.

facebook-drawingMost adults who are on the internet have a Facebook account themselves, and if you are reading this you probably do too. Once your kids started using Facebook, how did you react? Perhaps you “friended” your kid, hoping to keep tabs on her or even because you genuinely want to interact with her online. Maybe you avoid her on Facebook, choosing to let her and her friends be themselves. If you are friends on Facebook and are uncomfortable with some of the things you’ve seen, or if you’re avoiding her and hoping for the best, perhaps the fact that Facebook is losing some popularity among teens is a relief.

Not so fast.  Leaving Facebook doesn’t mean your teen is leaving social media altogether. She is probably going to another platform, or several, and possibly somewhere that will make it more difficult for you to keep track of her. Where did she go?

Kik, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Vine – Sending text messages is nothing new. Some teens send hundreds per week, or more. A new class of smartphone apps has emerged that allow users to text messages, pictures or video to friends or groups. Under normal circumstances these messages are mobile-only, so you won’t find them on the internet if you are looking for them, unless someone posts a message to another network, which can be serious problem.

Twitter – Aliases are permitted, and many people use them. Twitter may be the most popular network for kids who are seeking attention, and can also be the medium where bullying show up.

Instagram – Mobile photo sharing app is growing fast and home to troubling activities such as junior high beauty contests.

Tumblr – Building your own blog has never been easier, many users are anonymous and sexually suggestive content and nudity are permitted.

Reddit and 4Chan – The wild west of social media. These no holds barred message boards are home to some NSFW activity that would make most parents blush.

Because of the nature of Facebook (find your friends!), most people use their real name and real email address when they sign up, so it’s relatively easy to find your kids on there. They want their friends to find them so you can too. Other networks make anonymity much easier. At some, it is even encouraged.

If your kid has stopped using Facebook, or is using it less, does not mean that you no longer need to be worried about what she is doing online. Stay vigilant and keep the conversation going with your teen, or as we like to say, trust but verify.


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

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Snapchat’s Pornographic Spam Problem

Well, parents, if you’ve allowed your teen to use a Snapchat account despite the recent horror stories, you’ve got another thing to snapchat-porn-spamworry about. This week, students at a school in Glen Rock New Jersey reported receiving unwanted pornographic images from strangers via Snapchat – adult pornographic images.

Snapchat is a popular picture-messaging app, in which the pictures self destruct within a short time period defined by the sender, between 1 and 10 seconds. Numerous problems have been reported, particularly by high school students, in which photos that were meant to be private were captured and posted elsewhere on the web or social media networks. In the case of nude or semi nude photos sent by underage users, this has proven to be quite serious.

Snapchat was built for sexting, basically. Why would a parent allow a teen to use Snapchat in the first place? Perhaps a child is very responsible and can be trusted beyond a doubt to act responsibly. In that case perhaps the trust has been warranted until now.

This case, where anonymous users were able to send inappropriate adult images to teen users with public accounts, changes everything.

Snapchat posted comments on its blog after being contacted by users:

“Early this morning, some Snapchatters alerted us that they had received unwanted snaps from people who weren’t their friends. Upon initial investigation, it appears that an individual created multiple accounts and sent snaps to Snapchatters with public accounts.

Our engineering team responded quickly (nice work guys!) by temporarily turning off new account creation and preventing Snapchatters from receiving snaps from friends that they had not previously added on Snapchat.”

A couple of observations:

  1. It is not OK for teens to have accounts set to public. It is vitally important that they approve users before those users are allowed to send messages.
  2. Snapchat imples that they “now” do not allow users to receive messages from non-friends. Why did they do that in the first place? What other glitches are there that could put your child in harm’s way?

Be careful out there.



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

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What is on Your Kid’s Phone?

Have you looked at your kid’s phone lately?

Lots of kids are good kids. For that reason, it makes sense that many parents, despite the seemingly endless barrage of news about teens screwing up on the internet or social media, trust their kids to make good decisions in real life and on their electronic devices and computers. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Kids are spending way more time on their phones than used to be the case.  Before the smartphone era, pretty much all you could do on a phone was call or text someone. Now, almost everything a teen would want to do on a computer, with the exception of homework and some heavy duty gaming, can be done on a cell phone. Just because you limit your child’s internet time on computers, or even monitor what she is doing on her laptop, doesn’t mean you are getting the real picture.

top-apps-social-1Take a look to the right at the top free social media apps currently being downloaded on the iPhone:

  1. Vine – Twitter’s short video posting app. Vine is mobile-only.
  2. Path – A personal social network – Path allows users to share pictures and messages with up to 50 friends. Path is mobile-only.
  3. Twitter71% of Twitter users access the network from a mobile device.
  4. Facebook57% of Facebook users access the site via a mobile device; 20% of users are mobile-only.
  5. Kik – free messaging app available on all major phone platforms. Kik is also available for iPod Touch.
  6. Pinterest – popular photo sharing app
  7. LinkedIn – networking site for job seekers
  8. Skype – free phone and video calling app



top-apps-social-2Many parents who didn’t grow up in the smartphone generation underestimate the amount of “stuff” a digital native can do – at no cost – on a smartphone. At a minimum, parents should take a look at their kids’ phones every couple of months. See for yourself what apps they are using, and perhaps who they are communicating with. Talk to your kids about how, even though the phone might seem like a private device, can expose a teen to real risks. Your kid could be sending or viewing something that is completely inappropriate. A “friend” can disseminate one-on-one communications to a wider audience. A simple act of teasing can be construed as bullying.

In a nutshell, what should parents be looking for? Evidence of:

  • Inappropriate conduct
  • Risky contact, especially with potential predators
  • Viewing or interacting with inappropriate content

All of the above can be accomplished on a smartphone. Do yourself a favor and check out what your kid is actually doing with her phone.



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Teens and Inappropriate Language: Where to Draw the Line

Warning: foul language ahead

My oldest is 15 years old and I’ve never heard him use inappropriate language. Not with his friends, not on the soccer field. I’m not naïve, I’m sure that he knows the words. He just opts to not use them around my wife or me. Overall this is a good thing, as I assume he uses the same restraint around other adults.

I am not going to take credit for ultra-strict parenting either. I give him (and his 13 year old brother) lots of leeway to come onto contact with inappropriate content, believing that they are going to come into contact with unsavory words or images sooner or later. Plus, I don’t want them feeling like they have to hide anything from me.

We were at my mother in law’s house for Easter. They stayed an extra day, I came home solo. While there the kids helped me cut some firewood and we built a fire. The topic of roasting marshmallows came up and while I didn’t say yes, I didn’t say no. I would have had to go to the grocery store, and decided against it since the kids were filing up on Easter candy anyway.

teen-text-foul-languageAfter I got home, my son and I exchanged the text message conversation in the picture.

My issue isn’t that he knew the word, or that he used it. I expected to hear some foul language come out of him by now, at least when he’s hanging out with friends, but haven’t. I’m wondering whether we have reached a tipping point where his view of his status has changed. If so, is that his status with me, or his status in the world? Either way we were going to have a talk about it as soon as the coniditions permitted.

Fast forward to today.

I spoke to him last night when we had some one on one time.

Me, “Do you remember the last text you sent me the yesterday?”

Him, “Uh, yeah.”

Me, “Did you think it was OK to use that inappropriate word?”

Long pause…

Him, “Well, I thought it was OK with you. I’ve heard you say worse and it was just between us.”

Me, “Do you think it would be OK for you to use that language around a teacher or other adult?”

Him, “No. It was just you.”

Feel free to disagree, but basically, I’m all right with that exchange. I believe him. I’ll be watching, though. I understand there can be a point when you are too friendly with your kids, particularly as they grow older, such that it becomes more difficult to be the enforcer when required. The most important thing for me at this point is to know that he understands the line he must not cross. Like I said, I’ll be watching.


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