One of the biggest concerns every parent has for their children is to keep them safe, whether online or offline (At home, at school, at play).
Some new developments are making online safety easier and improving offline safety as well. In this blog we will look at some of the newer features and products making our connected world safer.
Facebook have recently added a few great new features which go a step towards making things safer in the online world.
Firstly they introduced Privacy Checkup which you can access from the drop down box under the “lock” symbol on your Facebook profile.
This will run through your settings and help you to tweak them and is a great way to start a conversation with the family about online safety.
More recently the Facebook Safety Check has been released which determines your location based on either the city listed in your profile, the city you are using the internet or if you use “nearby friends” the last location you were in. It then sends a message to anyone in the vicinity of a natural disaster or other major incident which may be of threat. You can immediately let family and friends know you are ok by tapping the I’m Safe button. (See illustration below courtesy of Facebook.com). You can also indicate you are not in the area, and access a list of friends to check they are ok as well. Great for peace of mind and definitely a step in the right direction. Of course if your friends don’t use Facebook often (or at all) they may not use it, and I can see issues with people worrying because the “I’m safe” button has not yet been pressed.
So what else can we do? Certainly we need to constantly be educating ourselves, having conversations with our children, friends, relatives, neighbours, work colleagues, teachers about staying safe online and understanding more clearly how communication is evolving in the age of the Internet of Things. Continually sharing experiences and learning helps to develop a much more grounded understanding of the online world, and helps to remove some of the “fear” factor.
Concerned developers have been looking at other ways we can use the amazing technology available to us to help create a safer world. Recently whilst I was in the States I met up with one of the creators behind KidTrackMobile™. They invited me into a voluntary role as a project advisor for their app and I was happy to be involved at the ground level.
There is much debate about how much we should monitor our children as they navigate the world, both online and offline, and equally much debate about “marshmallow” parenting, “helicopter parenting” and not allowing our children the freedoms they need to develop into confident young adults, whilst trying to balance keeping them safe. I personally am passionate about being respectful of people’s views, privacy and opinions; however through my work I often observe damage being done through poor understanding of modern communications technology, and I believe we need to take early action, to help our children grow up with a safer mindset.
Is it “spying” ?
I personally believe that as parents we must show respect for our children’s interactions on line. They have a right to privacy and therefore as a rule we should not be reading everything they write and checking on them every other minute. When a parent feels there is an issue, then that is reasonable grounds, but I also believe that parents should review with the child present ensuring they are aware that their conversations may be read and there should be transparency. It is often enough just to know that a parent “might” look to keep online behaviour at a more reasonable level.
Some people say to monitor or track your children is invasive of their privacy but I would like you to consider these facts, and if they ring true for you, to consider using an app such as KidTrackMobile™.
KidTrackMobile™ is an app (currently Android only) which allows a parent (if they choose) to monitor where their children are “playing” online (what products they are using and how they are engaging with them) and the location your children are in. There is also an add-in option to actually set “no go” zones for them, so that the parent is alerted should a child end up somewhere they were not supposed to be.
Before you get hot under the collar about this being “invasive”, I would like to put to you that your child is possibly using platforms and apps right now that let a complete stranger know where they are when you don’t! We have to look at our current amazing connected world in both the good and bad light, and start making changes now.
There are more smartphones being “born” (produced) than humans at a ratio of around 4:1. That’s a lot of smartphones. There are literally millions of apps for almost every possible purpose, and many of the include ways to find, speak, connect by video and meet up with total strangers as well as friends. This also means you can be
When you first decide you are giving your child a smartphone or tablet, you are not handing them a toy, or just a phone, but an incredibly powerful computer and location device all in one. The first things most people do (adults and children/teens alike) is to start adding apps to their smartphones. They want to make their lives easier, manage their fitness, play games in their spare time, help them become more organized and connect with others. There are millions of apps out there, and many are free. Often you get what you pay for. Free apps can be filled with malware or may be more susceptible to being hacked or compromised. At a recent Google developer’s conference it was noted that that there are now around 1 billion Android users vs 470 million iOS (apple) users. Statistics show that Android users spend half as much as Apple users on apps, preferring to use free apps. Android systems are still more susceptible to security breaches than iOS so it’s a very interesting observation.
Apps such as KIK for example, can expose your child or teen to unsavory adult content and is a known app for grooming by sex predators (just google KIK and pedophiles and be prepared to be shocked). There are many apps which have even more exposure than KIK and they keep on being produced.
If you want to see a review of some of the apps which pose a risk, you can read here.
Add to the mix the risk that your child might decide to meet up with a stranger, and suddenly apps have a whole new factor that can make a parent worry.
Using apps such as KidTrackMobile™ provides peace of mind. It enables you to allow your teen/tween some freedoms, whilst knowing you can easily check on them, and you can see where they are via the Geolocating inclusion.
I recommend that you have a conversation with your child and tell them you are purchasing this type of product because you love and care for them, and that you won’t be invading their privacy unnecessarily; but that they need to earn your trust in the way they use a smartphone. I’m not saying this will be an easy conversation, it totally depends on the age of the child and perhaps how much freedom they have previously had. If the consequence is that the smartphone is “grounded” you might get further (after initial grumbles). I do think that in the end, with a bit of time to think, they will agree it’s a small trade off teaching them responsibility and respect for the equipment you have given them, their own safety and your trust.
Often as parents we get an inkling that something is not right when it comes to bullying and cyberbullying, or worse still grooming. Our child may become withdrawn or angry and either lock themselves away from us or become quite obsessed with checking statuses and their phones constantly. As a concerned parent with some apps you can even set alerts, so if particular words are used in a conversation you are notified. Although this to some may seem invasive (and well, to a point it is), but this is allowing us to be proactive, and to step in before things get too bad. Early intervention in a supportive environment is far better than having your child suffer bullying for months. It can also alert you to your child’s actions if they are in fact, submitting others to bullying behavior.
It is important to note that this is only a first step, we strongly advise that you seek professional advice in the event of your child being bullied or harassed because intervening in the wrong way can make things worse. Show your child you are on their side, even if you disapprove of what they are doing, but make it clear they are loved and that you are willing to negotiate. It may be that you increase your monitoring of your child’s online activities until things settle down.
Not all apps are alike. Another reason I like KidTrackMobile™ is that it sits inside the operating system so your child cannot remove it like a normal app. It is not free and there are different subscription levels depending on your needs. As one of the voluntary Project Advisors I am able to offer my readers special prices on this product – in fact my readers can obtain up to 73% of the 12 month platinum subscription (see link at the end of this post).
Another Android only app, is Time Away. This app helps you to monitor just how much time your growing darling is spending online and provides additional features such as monitoring downloads of apps, usage, location and like Kidtrack™ also enables turning off devices during family events (which is something I would like to see more people doing). This apps allows you to monitor your kids’ device usage & app downloads, locate your child on the go and set schedules for school time and bedtime which are device free. You can also set time limits and block apps.
According to reviews it has had a few glitches. Both of these apps enable remote monitoring by parents.
If you search online you will find a range of apps which can help to offer peace of mind. Prices range from free basic entry to $70 or more a month. It is worth checking features vs price before purchasing.
This is an iOS (apple) app which is not as fully featured as many of the other and is not so much a tracking app as an app that lets you create private circles with family and friends. This means you don’t have to share locations with the public. You can communication one on one or in a group and receive notifications when family and friends check into favourite places.
Another ioS app, this one provides parents the ability to set up a schedule and parental control from their own device remotely. It allows you to track time on apps and internet as well as purchases of apps and other content. A downside is that the child is able to delete their profile.
Sometimes people say that all problems stem from the content that is online, and often look to blame Google as the main search engine. Google a tool which enables access to all kinds of material (as do other search engines).
Thankfully Google is becoming more proactive around issues of safety and have deveoped a online safety centre to help education in the safe use of the internet. The “explore” section guides you through tweaking settings and limiting types of words and phrases to make searching online much safer. You can visit them here.
Google also have a child friendly search engine called Safe Search Kids where tighter settings are always on. I would still highly recommend parents be close by when young children are using the net) .
As mentioned earlier in this article, if you would like to read more about KidTrackMobile™ and perhaps take up their generous offer, please follow this link.
Online Parenting Conference
Parenting is no easy job these days. We are really excited to be part of the 2014 Happy Parenting Raising Adolescents Online Conference.
You’ll hear great tips, tools and strategies to help you:
- Communicate better
- Establish loving connections with your teens
- Keep your teens safe
- Grow positive happy healthy confident young adults
This conference runs from 10-14 November and is FREE during the live sessions. You are also able to sign up for a very reasonable cost to enjoy the full content of over 20 experts at your leisure. Click on the image below to find out more.