Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Social Media - How Young is Too Young?

I'll admit, I'm new at this. I don't have adult children inundated with wisdom from their storied on-line pasts. Instead I have (as I write this post) two intermediate elementary school aged children, both of whom are electronically savvy with a curiosity and appetite for social media.

I do, however, have opinions. I think that when it comes to kids and the internet, no amount of supervision is too much or too intrusive. "Their privacy" is for a face to face chat with a BFF in a safe environment such as a basement rec room, and not for on-line social escapades that can't be undone. Think screen shots, servers, forwards and re-tweets.

I also have questions. Is it better to allow for closely supervised exposure and capitalize on teachable moments, or is it wiser to simply deny access?

Am I doing the right thing letting my tween have an Instagram account? We follow each other, and she has to check with me before each post she makes. We scrutinize her pictures for potentially troublesome content, such as backgrounds that show too much of the inside of the house, that could possibly divulge location or that showcase other personal details that could be used against her. I also veto anything that might be interpreted as being ill-mannered. In other words, we sanitize her posts.

Each photograph creates a communication opportunity that reinforces a previously perused safety issue or broaches a new one. Conversations are key.

"Never post anything that you wouldn't want broadcast on the evening news."

As a tween, is she too young? I still have her attention. I still have the upper hand when it comes to social media fluency. She is still interested in what I have to say.

The teaching window is open.








WebEyesOpen Home

Monday, March 15, 2010

Friendship Misdefined

I LOVE the internet. I honestly can't imagine my life without it. I see keeping pace with my kids and technology as an enjoyable pastime, rather than yet another parenting task.  Honestly, my day would not be complete without a good cup of coffee, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs.

Now that I have that established, here's an aside...

My five year old:  "Click on that one!! Click 'add me'!!"

His sister's seven year old friend: "No!!! He's already one of my friends!"

Really?


friend (frend) noun
  1. a person whom one knows well and is fond of; intimate associate; close acquaintance
Why do we call social media contacts (who we've never met in real life) "friends"? Why couldn't we call them "contacts"?  You can still have social on-line interactions with "contacts", and there would be no terminology confusion.

Friend = Janey, known since preschool, taken swimming lessons together, been to all of eachother's birthdays for the past four years, wrote eachother's names a thousand times on "BFF" lists, wore matching clothes to school, swapped hair ties (to name only a few things)

NOT

Friend = strangerwhoyouknownothingabout123


WebEyesOpen Home

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Friending Stranger Danger

Here's a link worth reading:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/facebook-fears-after-sex-offender-logged-on-to-murder-1918330.html

To summarize, a 33 year old sex offender pretended to be 19 on Facebook, where he fooled and befriended a 17 year old girl, and eventually got her into his car and raped and murdered her.

Thank goodness this is a rare occurrence. For the most part, social media is harmless and fun ("most strangers are good people"), but every now and then there's a nasty person lurking. How do I explain rape and murder to my seven year old daughter? I walk around the issue carefully, sparing her most of the gruesome details, other than to say that some strangers are bad and can hurt you.

SO...

In this house, you are not allowed to have Moshi Monster friends unless they are people you know in person. I don't care what your seven year old friend's parents say she can do. There are different rules for different houses, and in this house we don't have on-line friends that we didn't already know before logging on.

It stuns and saddens me that someone who is nearly an adult (17) could be victimized this way, especially since she had a profile herself and knew how easy it is to upload a picture and insert any profile details at whim. My heart goes out to her family.

Yes we can maintain a system of monitoring the on-line activity of sex offenders, but what about the ones who haven't been convicted yet? There will always be new creeps out there.

Educating and setting limits for our kids has to be the first step. Being the "mean mom" and making the unpopular rules has to happen when they're young, and age appropriate explanations and education has to be forthcoming.  We can't just assume that the risk is low and they'll know better when they're older. The reason they'll know better is because they've been taught by us, and the sooner that starts, the better.

WebEyesOpen Home

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Moshi Monsters

As I write this post (March 2010), my kids are five and seven years old, and have Webkinz accounts.  Yesterday they were introduced, by a seven year old friend, to www.moshimonsters.com

It's free to sign up, and it seemed kid friendly enough, so I helped my kids each adopt a monster and create a profile. I also set up a profile for myself, and while I haven't had much of a chance to browse through the site, I thought I'd share the two internet lessons my kids have already encountered.

1) Personal information: Your new monster welcomes you, with a few questions.  I had no problem with the country and gender questions, but when the cute, endearing creature on the screen asked for a birthday, this prompted our first internet safety lesson. NEVER give out personal information. Even though the monster asks for month and day only, and not year, it's still unacceptable in my opinion. Unfortunately you can't continue unless you enter something, so we made up random dates.

2) Unscripted messaging and stranger friending:  My daughter's seven year old classmate, who showed us the site, turned to me at one point to ask for help spelling a word. I looked at her screen and saw that she was typing a message to someone on her friends list. When I asked her who her friends were, she said they were people she didn't know in person, and told me what countries they were from.

Really? You're SEVEN, typing freely, to people whose identities you know nothing about?

This prompted my immediate further involvement: I created my own account, adopted my own monster, and friend requested my two kids (in my opinion, the best way to learn and protect is to participate). As I am a silver-lining kind of person, I am going to use this as an opportunity to teach my kids more about internet safety. Also, in the defense of Moshi Monsters, (because I try and be fair) their forum is moderated.

Still, this is a site, in my opinion, that requires direct supervision.


WebEyesOpen Home

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

10 Signs Of Cyberbullying


How can you tell if your child is the victim of on-line harassment? There might be an issue with cyberbullying if your child:
  1. looks nervous or agitated when on computer, and quickly exits when someone walks by
  2. out of nowhere, "loses interest" in the computer, and avoids discussion about it, or suddenly starts spending more time on-line(reading what's been posting, searching for more postings, etc.)
  3. is upset after using computer
  4. is emptying history folder after being on-line and attempting to hide browsing history
  5. suffers sleeping disturbances or mood swings
  6. has a change in eating habits
  7. engages in anti-social behaviour, including withdrawing from friends and family
  8. is preoccupied with self harm
  9. has physical symptoms such as nausea or headache
  10. has a change for the worse in school grades

What you can do:

  1. Educate your child: a) don't reveal personal information; b) don't say anything on-line that you might want to take back (sleep on it before you post it); c) don't post when you're angry; d) don't respond or retaliate to attacks. Don't engage in the conflict, or give the bully any more fuel.
  2. Talk to them about the real reason kids bully: because the bullies themselves are unhappy, and it very seldom has to do with the victim.
  3. Use technology to block the bully.
  4. Participate in your child's on-line life: the more information you have about what he/she is doing on line, the better equipped you will be to help.
  5. Teach your child to save the evidence.
  6. Don't take away internet time - this may prevent disclosure from your child ("if I tell, they won't let me on-line anymore"). Instead, teach your child to come to you for help.
  7. Keep the computer in a central room (do not allow internet in an unsupervised area).

WebEyesOpen Home

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Opening My Kids' Eyes To Fake Profiles


A friend once forwarded me an e-mail featuring skillfully edited photographs of "blended animals", such as a cat with a beak, and a dog with wings. They looked amazingly real. I showed the photos to my kids, and as they ooohed and laughed over the images, I couldn't help but think how beautifully the pictures illustrated a very important lesson.

You cannot believe everything you see online, no matter how convincing or real it appears to be.

Kids can be taught to not give out personal information, but what happens when they start to believe that the online alias they're chatting with is real, and then let their guard down?

What if...

...I sat down at the computer with my kids, and I built my own online alias while they watched. Not as a Mom, but as another kid.

I could make up a nickname, create a web mail account with that nickname, and then build an online profile. I could google and surf for some pictures, and show them how easy it would be to "right click save as" to add them to my profile to make it more convincing. This is where we would discuss copyright, as well as: "see how careful you have to be with pictures? If you upload a picture of yourself, anyone can copy it and use it!!". (I wouldn't feel right about actually inserting the pictures into the profile, but hopefully my kids would see how easily someone could.)

I could then use this new profile and register for a chat room, and strike up a conversation with another kid. As a fellow kid. (For the sake of that child it would be an short and harmless chat, after which I'd simply log off). Then I'd delete the false profile.

"Wow, Mom! She totally thought you were ten years old."

That's right, she did. I was convincing, wasn't I? It was wrong to lie, and maybe even against the law to create a false identity, but at least she wasn't hurt, because it was just me.

...and not a bad stranger.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

TOTLOL and YouTube

My kids spend a lot of time at www.totlol.com. It's a website featuring kid safe videos that have been screened by viewers. Once you view a video, you can add your own rating. You can also save a favourites list of videos your kids particularly like.

Imagine my surprise when I turned my back for a moment on my then four year old son, only to look again to see that he'd left Totlol.com and was on YouTube, and about to click on a not so kid friendly video. He'd gotten there because the YouTube vids on Totlol have a YouTube link in the bottom right corner that your child can click on, that transfers you to the adult site.

Don't get me wrong, I still love Totlol. I'm assuming they would not be allowed to use the YouTube videos without the YouTube logo, but there should be some way to disable the link. (Am I wrong that there isn't? I just checked again and couldn't find a way).

It just goes to show that even "kid safe" sites require parental supervision. We just can't be too careful!

Monday, October 12, 2009

How Vulnerable Are Our Children Online?


Here's one (of many) ways. This is a summary of a true story, told to me by a friend:

  • a "tween" aged girl (11 years old) had a conversation with a friend via social media.
  • she divulged three critical pieces of info: where she played soccer, when she played, and what her number is.
  • an under cover police officer (thank goodness!) used this information to find her and follow her home.
You can imagine the shock felt by the family when the police officer knocked on the door and informed them how easily their girl could have been taken, if he had been an Internet predator rather than a cop.

Scary.

One of my objectives with this blog is to collect such stories to not only share them with other parents, but with my kids as well. They need to think about things such as:

  • what shouldn't the girl in the story above have revealed?
  • what would have been another way to arrange a meeting with her friend, without giving away her location?
  • just because you don't give out your name, address and phone number, is everything else safe to talk about?
I don't think it's possible (nor is it entirely beneficial) to keep our kids entirely off the internet. Instead, we need to teach them to think before they type.

Do You Have An Eye Opening Internet Story?

I'm looking for examples of how on-line carelessness can get us in trouble. Do you have a story to share, either from personal experience or word of mouth? If so, please leave a comment after this post, and I may highlight your comment in a future post. The more stories we hear, the more aware we become, so thanks for your input!

Do You Have Any Internet Safety Tips?

This is the place to contribute, if you have any Internet safety tips to share: please leave a comment to this post, and I may highlight your input in a future post. We can all work together to make the Internet a safer place, so thanks for taking the time to leave your Internet safety tip.