posted by on Cell phone safety, Cybersafety, Internet Safety, Online Safety, Parenting, Parenting Teens

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Every parent has his or her own suspicions about their child’s cellphone use. With today’s technology the world is literally at the fingertips of our youth. Anything and everything you could possibly imagine can be found on the Internet, thus leading to overprotected parents and heavy monitoring on children. It is natural for a parent to be curious about what their child is doing on social media but there are definitely boundaries that should be set in place. Parents have the right and should be able to monitor their kid’s phone whenever and wherever they please, although there are healthy ways in doing so. Setting limits and boundaries are one of the many ways to do so. Doing otherwise can lead to lack of trust and broken relationships between parent and child.

With smartphones and tablets becoming more and more popular each day it seems like the age at which children first get their very own cellphone keeps getting younger. In fact, the average age for a child to receive their first phone in the year 2016 is between 10 and 11. One of the hardest questions parents find themselves asking at this stage is whether or not they should monitor their child’s phone, and how much. While many experts argue a strong yes or no, there are both pros and cons to each argument and that parents should monitor their kid’s phone as long as strict boundaries are established. For example the age of the child may have a huge impact on how much a parent is checking up on a child, or the amount of time spent monitoring may seem intrusive and over whelming. However, as long as these limits are in place parents should be able to monitor their children without being too overbearing.

Thanks to the evolution of our technology, children with smartphones have a great accessibility to communicating with the world. With that, comes meeting strangers from the Internet and the chance of being stalked or bullied through social media apps like Twitter or Facebook. This in fact is where age comes into play. Every parent’s worst nightmare is for their child to meet up with a stranger that they met online. To keep these things from accruing an age limit should be set for when children should be allowed to make their very own social media accounts. Parents can even opt into making joint accounts where the parent and child both have access and can post simultaneously before the child has reached the age to own their very own. A good age limit to set could be around 15 to 16 years of age. By this age they have finished elementary school and are getting ready to join high school. Parents should sit down with their kids and discuss the level of maturity it takes to create and own their very own social media account. Also only allowing children to download apps that are age appropriate is very important and allows the parent to still gain some control. For example apps like Tumblr or Whisper are specific for teens and adults ages 17 and up and are not suited for 10 year olds. It is very important for parents to check to make sure the child is downloading things that are age appropriate. A little checking up on the child does not hurt, although constant monitoring can cause strain on the parent-child relationship.

No matter how many times one might hope and pray that their child listens to what they tell them not to do, there is always that they slight chance that they will. Therefore, it is natural for parents to want to check up on them and make sure they are doing okay. Part of growing up means kids should be able to rely less and less on their parents. If a parent is too strict about cellphone use this can cause the child to be sneakier about their actions or can even lead to lying. In order for kids to grow up and mature parents must learn to not become intrusive and place trust in their children’s cellphone use. Parents should have boundaries when checking the phones. Without trust and boundaries, parents can abuse the child’s privacy by overstepping too much or too frequently which then can lead to an unhealthy relationship between the two.

Monitoring cellphones can be a tricky task to accomplish. There is no set right or wrong way to do it, which can make it very confusing and difficult. Setting limits and boundaries can definitely help. Parents are in fact entitled to know about what their child is doing, but a little trust and limitation can go a long way.

Contributor:

The KidGuard team consists of technology experts, researchers, and writers to educate parents on solutions to digital parenting problems. Our sole mission is to protect your children online bringing awareness and inspiring solutions on issues of cyberbullying, online predators, teen suicide, and childhood depression in the age of technology.

posted by on Civility, connect safely, Cyber Safety, Cyberbullying, Digital citizenship, Digital Life

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From day one, I have been a fan of #ICanHelp and their mission to Delete Negativity Online. Today they’ve expanded globally! I’m so proud of all they’ve accomplished since it’s a needed organization in a culture of digital hate.

Their campaigns promoting kindness and building empathy from replacing Hump Day to Happy Help Day to the Compliment Wall to erase hate, to Tag Someone Thursday to send an uplifting note, to challenging us to be there for our peers in need — Will You Answer the Call, to two of my favorites — Crumpled and STACK IT. How to un-crumple your words for kindness and encouraging families to unplug for meals and talk face to face (including parents) — there’s no denying — ICanHelp is making an impact on youth, communities and people across the globe.

As you can see, I’m a big fan of ICanHelp.

Now they are heading to Twitter Headquarters and I’m here to brag about it!

Here’s their press release:

On Monday, September 18, 2017, Twitter will host the first annual #Digital4Good event at their San Francisco headquarters and it will be live streamed to a global audience. #Digital4Good will be a major gathering of highly-engaged students, industry, and educators that are focused on empowering positive tech and media use–digital for good. This exciting event will celebrate student voice and digital leadership, featuring a fast-paced mix of presentations, panels, videos, and the first ever #Digital4Good awards. Unlike typical youth recognition, the #Digital4Good awards are nominated by students for students.

#Digital4Good is being spearheaded by #ICANHELP, a non-profit organization committed to empowering students to play an active role in improving the online environment. The event on September 18th is #ICANHELP’s first national event, and is meant to raise awareness of the power of student voice for social good in social media. Co-founder Kim Karr explains that, “#ICANHELP has worked with thousands of students to be the digital change they want to see. This is an unprecedented opportunity to honor students, showcase the power of student voice and empower even more students to be a positive influence online.”

In addition to bringing students together to share their stories, #ICANHELP is thrilled to be offering the first #Digital4Good awards. “We are soliciting nominations for the awards, which we’ll present at the event,” says co-founder Matt Soeth. “Our goal is to recognize and grow awareness of the great work students and schools are doing, as well as show that there is so much good happening in social media and bring it to light. The focus is always too much on the negative, and we have some amazing youth out there making a difference. We want students to inspire students to be digital leaders.” The form to nominate students for the first annual #Digital4Good awards can be found at: bit.ly/Digital4GoodAwards

By bringing together a broad range of students, educators, and industry people, the #Digital4Good event on September 18 represents a student-centered, student-led approach to solving some of the complicated issues and social problems in social tech use – students as part of the solution not the problem! It is sure to raise awareness, offer real-world best practices, and celebrate the many examples of students using digital for good.

More information can be found at icanhelpdeletenegativity.org. —

Press contact for #Digital4Good:

Matthew Soeth, co-founder of #ICANHELP

209-401-4432

mbsoeth(at)gmail.com

posted by on Cyberbullying, Cybersafety, Internet Privacy, Internet Safety, Online reputation, Online Safety

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There was a time (ahem, the MySpace era) when social media was where you could vent, revel in your drama, and get plenty of ego strokes from your friends. This was before employers were blatantly using social media and other online tools to suss out potential job candidates. No matter how locked down you think your social media is, tread carefully when nurturing drama on these platforms. It’s also easy to forget about who exactly your “friends” are. From your super-conservative aunt who never knew about that low point in your life (and is prone to sharing it with everyone she can) to an old colleague who might be passively trying to recruit you for your dream job, the people we’re connected to on social media likely fulfill many roles.

Social media drama should also be avoided for more serious reasons than embarrassing yourself or preventing future job opportunities. There are full-fledged rehab clinics dedicated to social media addiction—and all the troubles they can usher in. Here are six key reasons to steer clear of social media drama, and in some cases step away from the platforms altogether:

  1. You’re giving important people the wrong impression. It can be tough to see the proverbial forest for the trees when you’re in the thick of your own social media drama. According to The Telegraph, the average Facebook user has 155 friends, and a lot of users have many more. It’s impossible to really “know” 155 people, or even 20 people. You have no control over how they take the drama you offer, share it, and form opinions that may one day negatively affect you. For example? Maybe one of your old college buddies is actually working on founding your dream startup, but will never consider approaching you after seeing your non-stop party photos popping up on her feed.
  2. You’re literally addicted to the drama. Drama addiction is a very real phenomenon according to Psychology Today—it’s always existed, but it’s just become more apparent and easier to fall into those habits thanks to social media. “Venting” isn’t cathartic or a good thing when it’s actually feeding an addiction. Those who have so-called “addictive personalities” and struggle with other addiction issues can be particularly vulnerable to drama addiction. For these people, completely avoiding social media can sometimes be the best action.
  3. It’s negatively helping you with cognitive re-conditioning. Cognitive re-conditioning is a fancy way of describing how we semi-permanently change our character. How we talk to ourselves, or self-talk, is extremely powerful because our brains are very good at making what we think come true. Speaking kindly to ourselves can be a struggle, especially in a society where modesty, sarcasm and self-deprecation reigns supreme. Social media can be a form of self-talk. If we’re always posting about how we “can’t find any decent men” or joking about alcohol or drug abuse, that’s a form of self-talk—however, on social media, we get the added support of our “friends” liking our status or joking back with us. In some cases, this is the most powerful cognitive re-conditioning of all, and it’s directing us down a negative path.
  4. There’s no undoing the damage. Even Snapchat users know that screen shots are forever. What we post on social media is everlasting, screenshot or not. There’s no telling who saw your drama-filled post, and how that’s changed how they see you (perhaps forever!). The internet has long been host to many lurkers, or those who are regularly online, reading posts and otherwise passively “participating” but rarely posting themselves. This makes us forget they’re checking us out, and it doesn’t cross our mind to do any reputation management or repair. Instead, drama is allowed to dictate how our reputation unfolds, and with drama as the driver the results are seldom pretty. Instead, the full effect of our dramatic posts are rarely, if ever, known.
  5. Social media has become less about social and more about reputation management. Even the most unprofessional of social media platforms, like Instagram or Snapchat, have now become routine tools for crafting an online image. Blame the beauty bloggers making millions or the propensity of Lululemon-wearing “fitness models,” but no platform is safe from scrutiny. In the Digital Era, we’ve also blended our business and leisure life to such an extreme degree that separation of work and personal life has faded away. You don’t want to have to go through the sharing settings of every single post just to make sure your newest contacts don’t see your tear-filled post fueled by wine. Just assume a professional demeanor on social media at all times to avoid any faux pas.
  6. It gives us a false sense of comfort. Rather than depending on likes, comments and safe faces or hearts for comfort when you’re really in a pinch, try reaching out via phone. Even better, make it a call and not a text. If possible, meet in person with real friends—or a mental health therapist during those particularly rough times. Social media isn’t a replacement for genuine relationships, but it’s being touted and used that way. Ultimately, social media can make us feel more alone if we overuse it.

Drama is certainly a part of life and it can be a source of bonding and seeking comfort. However, when we blast our drama all over social media, it can come back to haunt us. Sometimes it’s immediate and other times it stews for months or even years before popping up again. When social media is used as a venting tool, it provides very brief and temporary relief. A better approach is talking to a real person, one-on-one, where you can create bonds and get authentic responses and support. There’s only so much social media can provide, and drama diffusion isn’t in its wheelhouse.

Contributor: Trevor McDonald

posted by on Cyberbullying, Cybersafety, Digital Parenting

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Keeping teens and tweens safe online continues to be a growing issue that concerns parents everywhere. Statistics indicate that 20% of youths receive hateful or harassing messages via the internet. This is not what a parent likes to hear.

As a parent, you want to protect your children from dangers both in real life and online. Learning how to keep your kids safe online is a new form of parenting that is integral to this generation. Children as young as two are already using electronic devices for entertainment purposes and will graduate to social media in what feels like no time.  For these reasons, it’s important to educate both yourself and your child about online safety, cyberbullying, digital reputation, and potential predators.

What is digital parenting and is there any way to truly keep your kids safe online?

What is Digital Parenting?

Digital parenting means that as a parent, you are going to become informed and involved with your child’s online social life, and to educate yourself on how to keep your children protected. To tweens and teens, Digital Parenting may seem invasive. But its actual use is to help your children understand how to be safe online and prevent negative experiences with internet use.

Here is what you can do to become a better digital parent and educate your children about potential risks and acceptable online behavior.

Learn about the risks of using the internet

The internet is a great place for children to learn and connect with peers and can be an asset for doing homework, having fun, and strengthening cognitive thinking. However, your job as parental protector becomes much more difficult the moment your child steps onto the virtual streets of the internet.

Even the most careful child can easily get into trouble online. On the internet your child can be at the risk of sexual predators, doxing (hacking for personal information with malicious intent), viewing pornography and violent materials, being cyberbullied, and connecting with strangers online.

Get involved

Nobody wants to be a helicopter parent, but when it comes to your tweens, it’s important to have access to their social media accounts. You must  get to know about the different social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and Tumblr, as well as potentially dangerous or inappropriate platforms for your child to be on such as Kik, Tinder, and Reddit. Get familiar with these forms of social media so you can better understand your child’s digital life.

Check Internet History and use Internet Tools

Another part of being involved means checking the internet history and setting protective passwords.

You can download an add-on to your internet browser that is password protected. This add-on will allow you to block access to particular websites and keywords. This is great for blocking pornography. Just make sure you do it across all browsers you have, as well as on your child’s phone. Otherwise, they will be able to get around this add-on.

Another great tool to use online is called SpectorSoft, this program will take snapshots of your computer screen and then play the file like a video. This will let you know exactly what goes on when your child uses the internet. 

Set Rules

To ensure your child has less opportunity to get into trouble online, set ground rules that must be obeyed. This may include not being on the Internet via computer or phone past a certain time of night, or on certain days. Have your computer in the main living space of your home that faces outward so nothing can be hidden.

Setting rules ensures there is no confusion about what is and isn’t acceptable when using the internet. 

Explain the Importance of Privacy

There are some things your child is going to know are wrong after hearing your ground rules such as watching pornography or talking to an adult online. But, reiterate to them the importance of online privacy. Do not have your young child put their personal information such as last name, school, age, address, phone number, e-mail, or photos of themselves on the Internet. If your child does post photos on an account such as Instagram, have the account made private so that only people they know in real life can access their information. 

Cyberbullying

Your child may be a victim of cyberbullying; an epidemic that is only growing as the years go on. This commonly involves someone, or a group of people, harassing and bullying a child via social media.  Opposite of this, your child could be on the opposite end of the spectrum. They could be the bully. Keeping an eye on their social accounts will help you monitor potentially hurtful situations.

Talk openly about cyberbullying and underline the important of your child coming to you if they are bullying or being bullied, and also if they see someone else being bullied. 

Sexting

Sexting is extremely dangerous for children, whether they are texting an adult or a child in their class.

This can have devastating effects on their social lives and mental state. Explain, in age-appropriate terms, what sexting is and why they should not indulge in this behavior. 

Online reputation

Your child’s online reputation is important. What goes on the internet stays there forever. Even if they are young now, sending sexual photos or catfishing another person can stay with your child well into adulthood. Talk about your child’s online reputation and how important it is to protect it. 

Keep the flow of Communication Open

The best way to ensure your child stays safe online is to keep the flow of communication open. Express how vital it is that your child come to you whenever they feel uncomfortable online. Don’t jump down their throat when they tell you something that you don’t approve of. Instead, listen patiently, express logical reasons why the behavior or action concerns you, and talk respectfully. This will make your child feel more comfortable about coming to you in the future.

Author Bio: Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy, happy marriages. Follow her on FacebookTwitterStumbleUpon, Google+ and Pinterest.

 

posted by on Cyber Safety, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Cybersafety

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The facts about cyberbullying are sobering. More than 40 percent of kids say they have been bullied online, 87 percent have witnessed cyberbullying and yet only one in ten victims will report the abuse to an adult. Kids who are bullied are at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and in extreme cases, suicide. Furthermore, kids spend the majority of their internet time on smartphones, making it the likeliest place for cyberbullying to take place. These statistics are enough to give any parent pause about arming their child with a smartphone and sending them out into the scary online world alone. Keeping kids offline altogether and forever denying them a phone of their own is near impossible and, in most cases, undesirable. Instead of shielding children from smartphone and Internet use in an effort to prevent online abuse, use their phone as a tool to protect them. Here are three ways to use your kid’s smartphone to guard against cyberbullying:

1. Set Limits

The first piece of advice doesn’t require any technical know-how from you. A smartphone opens your child up to the internet and all the awesome and awful things that includes. And as you would with anything else potentially harmful or addictive, you need to educate and set limits for your kids. In addition to talks about topics like internet permanency, privacy and dangerous adults, talk to your kids about cyberbullying from friends and acquaintances, letting them know about trusted adults they can talk to about being bullied, what to do if they witness bullying and about acceptable and unacceptable behavior online. Consider limits on time and usage, like who your child can call, what times of day and where she can use the phone, what apps and websites are acceptable and what are the consequences for breaking the rules. Limits will help your kid from being consumed by their newfound freedom and let you keep a better watch over their internet use.

2. Privacy Settings

Most smartphones have privacy settings and child safety controls that will let you decide if you want to turn off features like texting or downloading apps, or restrict the websites they can visit. For example, using iOS on the iPhone 7, you can turn on parental controls through the Restrictions folder in Settings. Under Restrictions, you can turn off access to the social aspects of the Game Center or prevent apps from accessing your child’s current location. In the Messages app, you can filter iMessages from people who aren’t saved in your child’s Contacts. If your child is receiving harassing texts or calls, you can also block phone numbers or contacts in the Phone app.

Likewise, any social networking app should be at the highest privacy setting so that strangers are not able to view your child’s page or profile. Ensure that you have access to your kid’s social media pages by friending or following them, even requiring them to turn over their passwords, and let your kid know that you will be monitoring the accounts regularly. Knowing a parent has access will curb bullying behavior by your kid and let you watch out for it from others. Also, be aware that many kids have “finsta” accounts (fake Instagram), that they keep hidden from their parents.

3. Download Anti-bullying Apps

The last way to use your kid’s smartphone to protect against cyberbullies is to download anti-bullying apps that can educate your kids on what to do if they or someone they know is bullied, help you monitor their online behavior and make it easy to report bullying to a trusted adult.

a) KnowBullying – The KnowBullying app was created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and released in 2014. This app is an education tool that will open the discussion between parents and kids and give tips on how to deal with cyberbullying.

b) STOPit or Bully Block – Check with your child’s school to see if they participate in Stopit, which is an app that allows students to anonymously take screenshots of cyberbullying and send them to the administrative team. Similarly, Bully Block lets the user record and report bullies.

c) Monitoring Apps – There are multiple apps that allow parents to monitor internet activity. Go Go Stat monitors Facebook, while Safety Web tracks texts and instant messages as well as Facebook and Twitter. Other more comprehensive monitoring apps include Social Shield, Mobicip and Net Nanny.

posted by on Cybersafety, Internet Privacy, Online Privacy, Online Safety, Online Security

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Identity theft is at an all-time high. More than 15 million consumers fell victim to some kind of identity theft in 2016, according to Javelin  Strategy & Research. This is up from about 13 million in the prior year.

As technology evolves with new ways to keep thieves out of our wallets, hackers find new ways to steal credit cards and other sensitive information.

You may think it can’t happen to you. You’d be wrong. No one is immune to identity theft, but armed with current information and a bit of caution, you can outwit even the smartest thieves.

Dangers of identity theft

Identity theft occurs when someone uses credit cards or personal information as if they were you. Essentially, they are trying to get you (or someone else) to foot the bill for whatever they purchase. They may also use your information for non-monetary things that can show up on your credit report, like employment.

Identity theft can ruin your chances of getting new credit, cause you to pay higher rates and affect your job hunt. To avoid such major headaches, here’s what you need to know about identity theft and how it can be prevented.

  1. Thieves don’t need your credit card number

You’d be surprised at how far a thief can go with just one or two pieces of information. Let’s say they know your email and the answer to one of your security questions. That may be enough for them to gain access to one of your accounts. Once they are in one, the criminal may learn more information that can help them access more accounts.

  1. You may be able to protect yourself by finding small charges

Have you ever noticed an unauthorized charge for a small amount of money? It may be one penny or one dollar. Thieves use these small amounts to test whether a card is still active, so you may notice a small charge before a larger one. If you do, contact your bank immediately.

  1. ATMs and store card readers aren’t immune to tampering

It’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security when you see the familiar bank logo, but if something looks off, trust your gut. Thieves can tamper with ATMs and store card readers too. Look for loose keypads and card slots. And be wary of strangers loitering nearby. They may be attempting to read your pin.

  1. You’re more susceptible to identity theft on vacation

There are a few reasons why thieves prey on tourists. Tourists are prime targets because they are in an unfamiliar place and more likely to be disoriented. People are also more relaxed on vacation, which means they are likely to let their guard down. Enjoy your vacation, but stay alert, especially in public places.

  1. It is extremely difficult to recover from identity theft

It’s much easier to prevent identity theft than to clean up your credit report after fraud. Follow steps and use your best common sense skills to keep your information safe, so you don’t have to spend time and effort trying to prove that your identity was stolen.

Tips for preventing identity theft

If you don’t have time to review your credit card and bank statements or daily activity, you can hire a company to do this and alert you of any suspicious activity. There are many companies that offer this service and a simple Google search will turn up various options.

If you’re monitoring activity on your own, look into what your credit cards offer. You may be able to setup phone notifications or email alerts every time you make a purchase. This may seem overwhelming, but it offers a way to review purchases as they happen. If something seems off, you can contact your bank immediately.

Shred any documents with sensitive information. Even if it is a only a generic invitation to apply for credit, shred the document. It’s better to be safe.

Avoid accessing financial information, such as logging in to your bank or credit account, while on public wifi. Also, avoid making payments with your credit card when on public wifi. If you don’t want your neighbor to have the information you’re sharing online, don’t share it.

To be safe, don’t store credit card information in your browser or on any website for future use. The fewer places your card information exists, the more protected you are.

What to do if your identity is stolen

First, review the charge to determine whether it was one you made. Sometimes, the company name listed on your bill is different than the company name you purchased from. It may also be a subscription you didn’t remember starting. If you have any doubt, call the company listed on your statement. If the charge is clearly unauthorized, call your bank and ask to speak with someone in the fraud department. They will walk you through the next steps.

Next, order a copy of your credit report and review it for suspicious activity. If you notice anything, be sure to report it as fraud to the bank or lending institution. You may also report any unauthorized items to the credit bureaus as fraud, but beware that the act of doing so may prevent you from opening any new accounts for a period of about six months. This will help prevent thieves from opening any new accounts in your name.

Note: There are three credit bureaus (Transunion, Equifax and Experian). You must report the same item to each bureau separately.

Contributor: Trevor McDonald

posted by on AT&T, Cell Phone, Cell phone safety

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May is National Teen Safe Driving Month

Prom season is here, and that means many teens will be driving on that special night. And of course, most will have a smartphone in hand to capture the memories. But AT&T wants to remind young drivers during this, National Teen Safe Driving Month, to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phones while driving.

According to AT&T research, many drivers today are snapping selfies, posting to social media, instagramming, even video chatting, all while behind the wheel.

To help keep those prom memories happy ones, AT&T is offering these tips:

  • Take the pledge to NEVER drive distracted at itcanwait.com, and get your friends to do the same. AT&T research shows pledging matters and makes a difference. According to the findings of a 2016 survey, almost half of people who pledged said they now don’t use their smartphones while driving. Those who share their promise or pledge with others are even more likely to stop, and more likely to speak up to others.
  • Use #TagYourHalf on social media to pressure your friends to never drive distracted. New AT&T research shows 57% of drivers would stop using their phones behind the wheel if pressured by a friend. The #TagYourHalf social media campaign encourages you to tag your better half, your BFF – the one person you can’t live without – encouraging them to stop driving distracted. Also, a teen survey conducted by AT&T also revealed 90% of teens say they would stop texting while driving if a friend in the car asked them to.
  • Download a free app, like DriveMode, to help curb the urge to text and drive. AT&T DriveMode is available to customers of all wireless carriers for iPhone and Android users. It can silence incoming alerts and phone calls so you stay focused while driving. Its auto mode feature automatically turns on the app when you reach 15 MPH and turns it off after you stop. The app can automatically respond to texts on your behalf letting the person know you’re behind the wheel and will get back with them when you reach your destination.

AT&T started the It Can Wait campaign against distracted driving in 2010. Since then, people have made more than 15 million pledges to not drive distracted. The campaign has also resulted in 13 million downloads of the AT&T DriveMode app.

posted by on Cybersafety, Digital Life, Digital Parenting, Internet Safety

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By the time children reach the teenage years, tech is entrenched in day-to-day activities, from school work to socializing. Teens are eager to explore the digital universe, which presents many dangers alongside its advantages. That puts parents in a tricky situation as they seek ways to protect their teens from the dangers lurking online without cutting them off from the digital world entirely.

Balance: The Right Approach to Teens and Tech

“Parents often struggle with the many questions surrounding this issue,” explains Angela Stringfellow, Managing Editor at Family Living Today. “Should your teenagers have their own smartphones? Should you permit them to join popular social networks and download the hottest messaging apps? And to what degree should you monitor your teen’s online activities, demonstrating that you trust them yet being diligent enough to identify and mitigate potential risky behaviors? There are so many what-ifs that parents often just don’t know where to begin.”

So what’s the best approach for parents who want to ensure their teen’s safety in the digital world, yet aren’t sure how to monitor and manage their teen’s online activity without watching their every move? “Like so many aspects of parenting, the technology issue is about balance,” Stringfellow suggests.

If your teen is venturing into the digital world, here are a few ways to encourage safe online behavior and ensure that your teen stays safe in the online world without going overboard and sacrificing trust.

  • Talk to Your Teen About Safe Online Behavior: Teens first navigating the social media landscape may not realize that habits that seem ordinary could actually be exposing them to risks. Make sure your teen knows the safety risks of putting personal information online publicly – such as their phone number, home address, the name of their school, and personal photos. Agree to some guidelines together so that your teen feels like she’s participating in laying the groundwork. For instance, you and your teen might agree that she won’t accept friend requests from people she doesn’t know personally, at least without running it by you first. It’s also a good idea for teens to keep their profiles private, meaning that only people they’re connected with can see the information they share.
  • Monitor, But Don’t Helicopter: Monitoring is a fair solution, but just how much monitoring you should do depends on factors such as your teen’s age, maturity, past behaviors, and any history of questionable encounters online. “This doesn’t mean that you have to have to approve every post your teen publishes. And you don’t have to sit with your teen as she or he use the Internet,” says Peggy McKibbin, a school nurse, in an article for the Family Online Safety Institute. “Just check-in every once in a while to see what sites your teen is visiting and how much time he or she is spending online.”
  • Watch Out for Troubling Apps: Knowing what apps your teen has installed on her smartphone or tablet is a fair approach that gives parents an idea of how their kids are spending time online. The tricky part is that there are thousands of apps, and the must-have app of the moment can change from day to day. What’s more, some apps are disguised as something they’re not, designed to fool parents into thinking that a calculator is a calculator, when in fact it’s a secret photo messaging app. Stay on top of the most popular apps for teens and the associated risks with sites like Common Sense Media, which rates the safety of apps for different age levels and analyzes any risks that they present.
  • Keep Open Lines of Communication: Parents are in the best position to proactively address many of the challenges of parenting teens (digital media, peer pressure and bullying, sex, drugs, and the like) when they have open lines of communication with their kids. When your teen feels like she can talk to you about anything, she’s more likely to come to you for guidance when she encounters situations she’s uncomfortable with online.
  • Consider Tech Tools Designed for Parents: There are a variety of apps and services that help parents more efficiently monitor their kids’ online behaviors, such as TeenSafe, an online service that enables parents to monitor their teens’ texts, social media, phone calls, and phone location. This is the juncture at which many parents struggle. Your teenager may resist the idea of you having total visibility into all their communications, but for some parents, this is the right choice. Also, remember that you don’t have to view every chat message and conversation, but having the ability to do so when needed can provide peace of mind.

Don’t Focus so Much on the Negatives That You Lose Sight of the Positives

While it’s important to take precautions and remain vigilant, parents also shouldn’t ignore the creative and educational possibilities that exist in the digital world. “While we want our teens to be safe online, we also want them to feel empowered by the possibilities and resources the Internet offers,” says Kerry Gallagher, Director of K-12 Education for ConnectSafely.org. “There are opportunities for creativity. My teacher friends with kids from age 11 up through high school age have told me they create their own YouTube channels with original, upbeat video podcasts like Kid President or how-to videos like Club Academia.”

Gallagher points out that kids who engage in these types of online activities engage in skills such as brainstorming, drafting, and storyboarding, and parents who have safety concerns have options, such as setting videos to private.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for keeping teens safe in the digital world, but parents who follow these best practices can gain some peace of mind in knowing that they’ve laid a solid foundation – allowing their teens to explore the valuable opportunities for education and enrichment the online world has to offer, while setting the stage for a safe online experience.

Contributor: Cynthia Lopez

posted by on Bullying, Bullying prevention, Cyberbullying

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Sometimes it can be very difficult to know for sure if a loved one is being bullied or abused. Often the victim will not share their true feelings out of fear. They may be afraid that no one will believe them or that their abuser will punish them. For children, they may think how they are being treated is normal, so it is important to talk with kids about bullying and what to do if someone is treating them poorly.

Bullying is a major problem in the United States, leading many teens into depression, self-harm, addiction, eating disorders, or even suicide. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among young people. According to BullyingStatistics.org, 14% of high schoolers have considered suicide. This is why it is so imperative to recognize if a loved one is being bullied and have constant communication with them.

Some of the warning signs are more subtle, while others can be more obvious. Of every successful teen suicide there were at least 100 attempts. Talking about suicidal thoughts should not be taken lightly or looked at as “attention seeking”. Suicidal ideation or suggestions should be treated medically. If a teen says they can’t handle life anymore, or constantly talk about death, this could be a big red flag for bullying.

Some other warning signs of bullying include:

Personality changes

Victims of domestic violence or bullying often display a noticeable personality change. They begin to isolate from friends and family and display more sadness. They may become very tired and unmotivated. Often bullying victims will begin to lose interest in favorite activities and start to miss work or school. These should all be clear signs that something is wrong.

Low self-esteem

Bullying victims will often begin to have very low self-esteem and self-worth. They may suggest they “aren’t worth people’s time”, or “don’t want to be a hassle”. They are afraid to let people give them time or go out of their way to help them. They may insist they aren’t smart enough for school or work. Sometimes teens will become sexual promiscuous in an attempt to gain self-worth. 

Substance abuse

Bullying and addiction have a very significant correlation. Often victims will become depressed and look for external stimuli to give them comfort. Drugs or alcohol can give victims a false happiness or confidence that quickly becomes addictive. Substances can offer a “safe place” for someone who is constantly living in fear and depression. Here are some signs of addiction.

Self-harm

Bullying victims, especially teens, often engage in reckless behavior or self-harm. Cutting is more popular among youth, and can often be found on wrists or thighs. This behavior becomes addicting for victims because it gives them a sense of control and can help “relieve” emotional pain, replacing it with physical pain. Eating disorders are also common among teen girls, like bulimia or anorexia. Rapid weight loss or refusal to eat meals should be a major concern, especially if the person is displaying other signs of bullying or domestic violence.

Here are some ways to help again bullying.

  • Always take someone seriously if they threaten suicide or show signs of suicidal thoughts. Pep talks are not appropriate, but rather medical help from psychiatrists and psychologists.
  • Talk to children about bullying and insist that they can always come to you for help if someone is abusing them or being mean to them.
  • Monitor a teen’s social media outlets. Unlike bullying of the past, a lot of bullying takes place online. Many suicides have been attributed to cyber bullying.
  • If a child complains about bullying, take it very seriously. Talk to school authorities and look for solutions to solve the problem. If school authorities offer little help, take it up with police of attorneys. Many states are putting laws in place to stop bullying, whether it be inside or outside of school.
  • For domestic violence, offer a domestic violence help line. If you know for a fact a person is a victim of domestic violence, contact local authorities.
  • If you suspect a child is a victim of child abuse at home, contact Child Protective Services in your state.

Contributor: Trevor McDonald

posted by on AT&T, Cell Phone, Cell phone safety, Distracted driving

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April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, but beginning Monday, April 11th, AT&T started encouraging the public to join the  #TagYourHalf conversation on Twitter.

#TagYourHalf is based on new AT&T research that says 57% of people are more likely to stop driving distracted if a friend or passenger pressures them to.* That means half of people are just waiting for someone to tell them to stop! So, tag your better half, your BFF – the one person you can’t live without – encouraging them to stop driving distracted.

The #TagYourHalf social media campaign is part of AT&T’s It Can Wait public awareness campaign focused on a simple, powerful message: Distracted driving is NEVER ok.

AT&T launched the It Can Wait campaign in 2010 to help save lives by changing the behavior of all wireless users who engage in dangerous smartphone activities while driving. To date, more than 15 million pledges – and counting – have been made by people at www.itcanwait.com to not drive distracted.

If you haven’t take the pledge yet, AT&T encourages you to do so.

*Ongoing online survey with 1,804 respondents conducted by Kantar Added Value. Data represented here was collected September 26 – December 18, 2016. National panel sample (ages 15-54, drive and have a smartphone).