Control the Ads Your Child is Seeing Online

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google ad settings

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook ad preferences

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

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

 

 

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

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.

 

Google+ (Google Photos) Updates Terms of Service

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

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

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

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

What’s new/different in the TOS:

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

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

 

Do Your Kids Trust the Internet Too Much?

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

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

Here it is, by the way.

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

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

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

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

 

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.

Google Tools for Online Reputation Management

google+You may not know this, but search giant Google has a wealth of tools and resources on its website for keeping your children (or yourself) safe online, and managing your online reputation.

One helpful section, titled “Me on the Web”, can be used as an ultra simple first step in reputation management, and we recommend parents try it, particularly if your children are nearing the age when college applications or a first job search are going to be part of the landscape.

Me on the Web, is separated into three sections, the first one being “Search for yourself”. Ego surfing, or Googling yourself, is nothing new, but we know from talking to hundreds of parents that many don’t think to do it for their kids. It’s a good idea, as the first step in online reputation management is seeing yourself as others see you in a Google search. Go ahead and try it. If there is anything on the first page of Google results that gives you pause, either positive or negative, it was worth doing.

Google-me-on-the-webThe second section, “Manage web alerts”, is a shortcut to setting up a Google alert for your child’s name. It works fine as is for uncommon names, but if your son is named “Dave Smith” or something common, you can add a geographic qualifier like “Dave Smith NJ” or “Dave Smith Princeton”. You’ll get a new Google alert via email when new web content is posted that corresponds to your alert.

The third section is “Review your Google+ profile”. Not a Google+ user? Not so fast. Anyone with a Gmail account, or who has uploaded or commented on a YouTube video, has some sort of Google+ identity whether he uses it or not.

The foundation for managing your online reputation is to see yourself how others see you online. Google has made the first steps very easy. If you have questions about some troubling content, would like to craft a more favorable online image, or if you would like to do a deeper dive, please feel free to send us an email here.

 

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.