Help For Parents Struggling to Monitor Internet Activity

If you’re a parent who is not particularly active in the world of social media and apps, what is your reaction if you encounter one of the following?

  • You see on the news that a local school has been evacuated and a teen arrested after a threat was posted on the anonymous app Yik Yak
  • A local TV station runs a story about a pre teen girl who was abducted after being contacted by an adult on Instagram
  • A nearby high school football team is suspended after taunting another team on Twitter
  • The school sends home a letter warning parents about a rash of cyberbullying incidents, particularly on messaging apps and a social network called fm

tween-online-activitySome of the above are fairly rare, but some are all too common, particularly cyberbullying. As a concerned parent, what do you do if you’ve never used Instagram, never heard or Yik Yak or Ask.fm and generally don’t know where to start when talking to your kids about internet and social media safety and responsibility?

Too often, parents’ reaction is to offer a vague warning to their kids, or shrug their shoulders and hope for the best. After all, your kids are good people, and they know right from wrong.

That response leaves a little to be desired.

Of course, your mindset and response could be more proactive. For example, this week Toni Birdsong from Intel’s McAfee division wrote a great article titled “7 Overlooked Ways To Figure Out What Your Kids Are Up To Online”, which is a very good primer for a parent who wants to get started with monitoring and guiding internet behavior.

All of her suggestions are good, but some of them do pose a challenge for a some parents – they either require at least a minimum level of sophistication in dealing with the internet, apps and social media, or they take time – perhaps lots of time.

What about a software solution? Well, installing keyloggers on devices will take even more time to monitor. Installing blocking or filtering software can invoke evasive behavior that you may never know about.

If you’re a parent who only uses a smartphone to make calls and don’t even have a Facebook account, or find that there are nowhere near enough hours in the days as it is, ThirdParent has a solution for you.

We offer the digital parenting industry’s first solution that outsources the work of finding your child’s public accounts and monitoring activity to a third party (us!). We give you access to a confidential Parent Portal with your child’s accounts and activity, and recommendations on how to correct, fix or clean up unsafe or inappropriate activity.

We do the work for you, while at the same time respecting your child’s privacy by not requiring you to submit user names or passwords. Private content stays private, and we give you the tools to correct the public missteps that have been made, or prevent them from happening in the first place.

When it comes time to apply for college or a job, if there’s a cyberbullying accusation at school, or if you are simply worried about your child staying safe in a world where you don’t spend a lot of time, the ThirdParent solution can put your family in the best position possible.

Have a question? Please let us know.

 

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 Test of Instagram’s Policy for Deleting Minors’ Accounts

We aren’t going to stop writing about Instagram leaving parents powerless deleting their child’s account until something changes. Here we go again.

instagram-sq-logoThe backstory:

Instagram’s age limit is 13, but it is not enforced in any way. If a parent finds out that a child (under 13) has joined Instagram, she should be able to contact Instagram to have the account deleted. In practice, she can’t, except for in a narrow set of circumstances. Several parents in the last few months have contacted us asking for help deleting their child’s Instagram account. Help doesn’t exist.

Instagram claims that they’re helpless in cases such as these. According to their Tips for Parents section under “How do I report an underage child”:

“Generally, privacy laws don’t allow us to give unauthorized access to someone who isn’t an account holder. All people on Instagram ages 13 and older are considered authorized account holders and are included in the scope of this policy.”

We have been discussing this issue with a friend of ours, Greg at coppaNOW. COPPA is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and Greg is a go-to resource for us in this area. We decided to do a test to see whether we could determine a set of circumstances in which Instagram would delete the account of a child under 13.
mz-8-11

One of my kids is 15, and I started off by finding a few old pictures of him. I then created an Instagram account in his name, and listed his age as 11 in his profile. I also posted the picture at right, inviting anyone who cared to his 11th birthday party. We let a couple of days go by, and then Greg reported the account to Instagram.

Guess what? Instagram deleted the account within 8 hours.

Greg, who reported him, was obviously not his parent. It appears, as we suspected, that Instagram will only delete an underage user’s account if there is clear proof in the account itself that the user is under 13. We have helped parents report plenty of other accounts, to no avail. Some even mailed in a copy of the child’s birth certificate. It appears that only if Instagram is at risk of being sued for violating COPPA will they act; not simply because a parent wants them to.

delete-instagramSince Instagram uses no age verification system, it goes without saying that a parent is more capable of vetting a child’s age than Instagram is. Plus, it’s their child. Clearly, they have the ability delete underage accounts in a timely fashion – they did so in this case. We are calling for them to add the staff and resources necessary to implement a way to give parents the control that they should rightly have. This needs to change.

Read more about this:

Parents are Powerless as Instagram Will Not Delete Underage Accounts

How to Contact Instagram – It’s Difficult, Even for Parents of Minors

 

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.