posted by on #iCANHELP, AT&T, Cell Phone, Cell phone safety, Digital Parenting, Distracted driving, Parenting Blogs

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Be a positive role model to your friends.

Be a positive role model to your friends.

I have written several articles on becoming a Cyber-Mentor, creating cyber-shields  and simply being there for someone when they are struggling – online or offline. Peer-to-peer mentoring is being a positive influence on them and being there when they need you.

We have also read the studies that say that parents are the leading influence for their teens.  Although they don’t like admitting it through their trying times, parents need to understand, they are the role models for their children.

It’s no different with teens and their BFF’s! Take the time to #Tag5toSave5.

What if the next few seconds you spend on social media could save a life? New research from AT&T released today shows how we can influence our closest contacts. And tagging these people on social may be the perfect way to get their attention. That’s why today, AT&T launched the #Tag5toSave5 social campaign.

The new AT&T research shows that while many of us have hundreds of smartphone contacts, 2-in-3 people have almost all or most of their smartphone communications with just 5 people. The research also showed that people and their “top 5” have a lot of influence over each other:

  • More than 8-in-10 said they would likely stop or reduce their smartphone use while driving if one or more of their “top 5” contacts asked them to;
  • More than 7-in-10 said they would likely download an app to reduce their smartphone use behind the wheel if one or more of their “top 5” asked;
  • Nearly 85% of people would be likely to stop sending smartphone communications to their “top 5” when they know they’re driving … if only their “top 5” would ask!

Earlier this year AT&T reported that nearly 4-in-10 use social media when they’re driving. AT&T is asking you to tag your “top 5,” whether it’s a best friend or co-worker, in a social post encouraging them to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phone.

Remember:  No post, glance, email, search or text is worth a life … It Can Wait.

posted by on Cell Phone, Cell phone safety, Civility, Digital citizenship, Digital Distractions, Digital Life, Digital Parenting

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Isn't it time to be 'Hands-Free' for your family?

Isn’t it time to be ‘Hands-Free’ for your family?

With every beep, ding, buzz and fancy ringtone there is out there – silence is the most precious one that people are in need of.

We live in a society where it’s not only about our teens and youth that have their smartphones sewn into the palm of their hands – so do their parents.

A question I frequently ask to my audiences is, “What is the very first thing you do when you wake up? Go to the bathroom? Brush your teeth?  Or check your cell phone for messages, emails, texts – etc….” I think you all know the answer to that one.

Digital distractions have literally taken over the majority of many peoples lives. Again, we have to stop labeling this as a teen thing because adults are equally as guilty. Go to a restaurant, mall, airport, or any other area — including walking on a sidewalk, and chances are people are glancing at their devices – if not texting and walking.

Order today! Get your life back!

Order today! Get your life back!

New York Times best selling author, Rachel Macy Stafford just released her latest book, Hands Free Life: 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better and Loving Life.

No is telling you to get rid of your gadgets, it’s about finding that digital balance in your life.  Small adjustments — can change you a lot!

Washington Post spoke with Rachel about her latest book.  In the article she said:

“When I was starting to scale back on all the commitments and distractions in my life, I realized there was internal distraction that was really preventing me from living in the moment and finding joy.” See? Less = more.

In a recent interview she gave to Huffington Post, Rachel says:

We are so tied to our devices and our need to be “busy” that we have forgotten how to be still, how to be alone with our thoughts, what to do if our hands are empty. But the hands-free approach to life provides practical, doable ways to overcome it.

It’s the simple facts of life, there is a life outside of your digital connections.  It’s your real-life.  Until you take the time to seriously want to be part of it, you will be missing so many important moments that you can never get back.

One thing about the teens and kids, they aren’t mature enough to really grasp that life is short. These moments in time you don’t get back. Adults should know better and be the role models for our youth.

Rachel’s book is such a great reminder for all adults and teens alike.

Isn’t it time you get present in your life?

Just a thought, holidays are around the corner, what a perfect gift for someone you feel may need it…. a gentle reminder never hurts.  Life is short.

Sunday, September 13, 2015 is Grandparents Day.  If you are blessed to still have them, reach out to them personally.  Don’t text, email or voicemail – call them or visit them (if you can). Be present, literally. It matters.

Visit Rachel’s website, Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

posted by on Digital citizenship, Digital Life, Digital Parenting, Facebook, Online Life, Social media, Social Networking

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We know we live in a digitally connected society, with 92% of adults attached to their cell phones, 52% of them are fully engaged in social media (Facebook being their favorite by 71%) and now research has revealed that it’s not only women (which has been leading the social media force) men have arrived!

In the latest survey from PEW Research, men are catching up with women on social media.

In 2010 53% of men compared to 68% of women were engaged on social media.

Today in 2015, 73% of men compared to 80% of women!  The gap has narrowed quite significantly.

Although the overall percentage of men and women who report using social media is now comparable, there are still some gender differences on specific platforms. Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram have a larger female user base, while online discussion forums like Reddit, Digg or Slashdot attract a greater share of male users.

It’s interesting that men and women are both engaging in social media, maybe in different platforms however spending time connected.

Overall this analysis reported that men were more engaging in forums rather than Facebook or Instagram platforms.  Personally I do see more women than men posting on Facebook and especially Pinterest (which I still haven’t figured out). This isn’t to say men aren’t on Facebook, since I also see many. Especially men that are advocates in something they are passionate about, they will engage in Facebook groups.  Huh, interesting, I just said – they mostly engage in groups, which are like online forums.

On the other hand, online discussion forums are especially popular among men. One-in-five male internet users say they read or comment on sites such as Reddit, Digg or Slashdot, compared with only 11% of online women.

PEWGenderSTudy
My hope is that these men and women are also parents that are now engaging on social media and learning about their children’s new playgrounds.  We know the moms are there – and with the increase of men, it’s a good sign that they are now on board with becoming involved too.

Forums can be a place to find out more about parenting issues, asking questions and getting support if you are going through rough patch in life.

It’s great that men (possibly dad’s) are reaching out to others and possibly helping others too. We need to created a cyber-society of compassion and support for each other whether it is on Facebook, Tumblr or any forum. No matter what gender you are – chances are very good you have something you can offer another person.  A simple kind word or maybe a referral or recommendation to a local restaurant!  Civility and good manners start at home.

Most importantly, you are a digital role model for your child. Mind your cyber-etiquette in any social media platform you are mingling in.

posted by on Cell Phone, Cell phone safety, mobile phone safety

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Parents must lead by example.

Parents must lead by example.

We often read reports and studies about youth and their constant connection to the Internet or especially their cellphones.

PEW Research recently released Americans’ Views on Mobile Phone Etiquette and it revealed some very interesting statistics for grownups.

  • 92% of U.S. adults have a cellphone, and 90% of them say they have it with them frequently
  • 31% of them say they never turn-off their phone, while 45% say they rarely turn it off.

These stats alone are enough to start a conversation about leading by example for parents. We expect our children, especially teens to find a healthy digital balance in life, yet adults seem to be having the same struggle with unplugging – or should we say – un-stitching the cellphone from their physical body.  Whether it’s the palm of their hand or a fancy carrying case, it is never far from their fingers.

When I speak around the country on social media and my story of digital cruelty, I often ask the audience….. “What’s the very first thing you do when you wake-up? Brush your teeth? Use the bathroom? Or check your cellphone for text messages, emails or voice mails?” I think we all know the answer the audience gives. Yes, technology rules at all ages.

Benefit of the doubt:  More families are cutting back costs and removing a landline and only using mobile lines, however like with landlines, you can put that mobile phone on a charger and walk away.

Most adults can agree that using cellphones can be distracting in a social settings, yet a full 89% admitted to using their smartphone during a social gathering while 86% said they witnessed others using their gadgets during an event.

I go back to role modeling for our youth.  We are constantly discussing and reading about how rude and disrespectful our younger generation is today, however when we read about statististics of 89% and 86% — grownups really need to start thinking about their own social behavior.

PEW89MobileStudy
Let’s review this graph.

How many times have you asked your child or teen to put their cellphone down while you are talking to them or during mealtime and especially at bedtime? They just want to send that one last text message – or finish up a photo – maybe downloading an app.

In reality, it seems that parents and youth have a lot in common when it comes to their mobile phones.  They enjoy them.  Let’s face it – we have become a society that relies on our smartphone for many valuable resources – from directions (GPS), ratings for  restaurants, apps for games and more, movies, books, Amazon, music and so much more.  I haven’t even touched on social media which connects us to our friends and family instantly.

Read the entire study here.

PS:  I love my smartphone and couldn’t live without it now! I am fairly a newbie too, it was only about 3 years ago that I graduated to one. I will admit, it’s hard putting them down – and turning them off. It’s a habit you need to do, which I have learned. I also learned not to give out my cell number frequently anymore. It really cut down on texts and calls. Keep in mind, your phone can be put in the silence mode for a reason, use it when you are with others. Vibrate is still distracting.

posted by on Cybersafety, Internet Safety, Online Safety, Parenting, Parenting Blogs

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TeensDigitalFrom the time they are babies, your kids see you checking Facebook from your phone, posting photos to Instagram on your tablet and finding great recipes on Pinterest from your laptop. It’s only natural that they want to be part of the great online world of social media. But to make sure your kids are properly prepared for the digital world, check out the following tips:

Start Talking to Them Early

You don’t have to wait until your kids are opinionated tweens to discuss what to do and not to do online. OnGuardOnline.gov advises that as soon as your kiddo starts to use a tablet or computer to play games or text grandma is the time to start talking about online safety and appropriate behavior.

Communicate Your Values Often

Online safety is not a topic that can be covered in a quick chat over ice cream cones. Instead, plan on talking about your rules, values and concerns over the course of many talks. Let your kids know that you will listen to them and their feelings about online activity without judging them. Look for opportunities to bring up the topic naturally, too. For example, if you are watching a show together where one of the young characters opens up a social media account without her parents knowing, you can talk to your children about the character’s online safety.

Over the course of several conversations, discuss important and heavy issues, including inappropriate contact, cyber bullying and identity theft. Explain that the sad reality is that not everyone online is nice. You also should mention what is appropriate for them to see and do online as well as what they need to avoid. For instance, if they are watching a video that contains foul language, they should exit out of it immediately.

Teach Them About Malware

In addition to talking about unsavory people who lurk online, it’s important to go over digital attackers, such as viruses, worms, spyware and Trojan Horses. LifeLock explains that a great way to combat malware is by installing antivirus software and frequently updating applications and operating system software.

Because kids are are more prone to opening attachments from unknown sources that promise a free game upgrade or funny video, you need to explain that doing so may result in a virus attacking their computer. Tell them that they should never open any attachment without asking you first and that they need to exit out of all pop-up ads. Show them what the antivirus software alerts look like, and ask them to tell you when they show up, so you can check them out together.

Discuss Appropriate Behavior

Before you let your child open his or her first social media account, have a serious talk about kind and appropriate behavior. The Guardian suggests telling your kids that if they wouldn’t do something in person, they shouldn’t do it online, such as saying something mean to an acquaintance from school. Tell your tweens that they should imagine their beloved grandma is standing right behind them watching what they are doing on social media, and if she is happy with what they are posting or watching, then it’s okay. Also, it’s important to teach your kids about the permanence of the Internet and how all posts (even if they are deleted) remain in the digital world forever.

posted by on Adult Bullying, Adult Cyberbullying, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Digital citizenship

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keyboard_and_mouse-625x1000Whenever I see these headlines I want to cringe.

The fact is, it’s sad we need headlines to remind us to continue to be kind to others, to continue to discuss with our children as well as our friends and colleagues about the importance of being an upstander when you see someone being shamed online and most importantly — it’s a reminder that this digital cruelty is not going away anytime soon.

The fact is – there is a live person on the other-side of the screen. Whether it is a smartphone, a laptop, a tablet or a PC – you have the potential to destroy someone’s life with your keypad.  Yes, keystrokes (with a click of a mouse) have become a deadly weapon at all ages – and in many cases – it’s completely legal.

Just as many schools are opening in August, I read that exact headline with  a study of more than 16,000 Boston-area high school students suggests cyberbullying is on the rise.  You can read more of the details in the article, which says that girls in particular are targets for online harassment.

We now live in a society where the majority of people live their lives online.  This includes grownups too.  I am firm believer that we can’t exclude parents from the way they are behaving online as well as their lack of understanding their role in educating their kids and teens on empathy, cyberbullying awareness and online safety and security.

Cyberbullying is a concern for everyone and if you believe it can’t happen to  you, you are sorely mistaken.  No one is immune to cyber-bullets – and the worse part about cyberbullying is it can happen when you least expect it and from a person that you thought was a friend.

We can focus on cyberbullying rising or we can empower ourselves to be upstanders for not only our family, but for others we see that are struggling online.

Parents need to make time, maybe weekly to learn something new as it pertains to online safety, security and digital citizenship (this includes cyberbullying prevention and awareness).  This doesn’t replace your regular chats with your kids on cyber-life.  It can enhance it.  Some great sites to get resources from:

We turn to kids, tweens and teens who spend the majority of their time connected.  Sure I could repeat all those PEW stats, but you already know – our kids have their smartphones sewn into the palm of their hand!  This is the first thing parents need to address.

Boundaries — and this goes for parents too.  Un-stitch that phone from the palm of their hand, especially during meals and at bedtime. I shouldn’t have to mention – while driving!  The catch… that means “parents” too!

Parents have to lead by example.  It’s that simple.  (Well, not really), but it should be.

CyberMentor2So what can kids do?  Lead by example too! 

Reminding your child that someone is watching their posts, keystrokes and their comments – they are potentially someone’s mentor whether they realize it or not. It could be their younger sibling, it could be their cousin or a neighbor that looks up to them.

In a recent post for Gaggle, I wrote about being a Cyber-Mentor.  This is a role for all ages, and one that can benefit each party.  It can help reduce cyberbullying and help give your child a support online when they feel hopeless – they have a peer that understands them.

Yes, cyberbullying might be rising, but let’s start talking about how upstanders and kindnes online is growing too.  Talking is great, but let’s start doing something.

It’s more than wearing t-shirts, wristbands or even singing songs – it’s about literally reaching out online when you see that cyber-bullet strike.  It’s about sending a message of support to that person when you see that the are being humiliated or embarrassed.  It’s about publicly saying to others – “that is wrong.”  It’s about standing up against online shaming – not only talking to others about it, but doing something about it.

Parents that assume their kids would never do that – or that their kids could never be a victim of cyberbullies, please don’t be that naive.  No one is immune.  No one.

KindnessWinsDoing more than talking about it:

In conclusion:  Cyberbullying is on the rise.  We will combat it through empathy and kindness.   Parents and their children need to start engaging in more conversations and role playing about this important topic as well as other digital trends.  Turning the talk into action!

Eventually we will see headlines saying:  Upstanders on the Rise!

posted by on Cyber Safety, Internet Predators, Online activity, Parenting, Parenting Teens, Security Online, Sexual Predators, Social media, Social Networking

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If you haven’t seen the social media experiment video that has gone viral by now, it’s about time you view it and share it.

(Kudos to Colby Persin for addressing an important topic.)

Let’s take some facts.  92% of teens visit the Internet on a daily basis, as a matter of fact, 24% of them said they are go on constantly (according to PEW Research).  Parents – this is a reality check – the digital world is not going away.

Another study from PEW Research reveals that 57% of teens have made friends online and 20% have meet their new online friends offline. We can’t fault them for that, social media has been proven, even for parents to be a wealth of support and information for each other.  PEW substantiated it in their study Parents and Social Media as 79% of parents agreed they turn to social media to look for support from each other – even if they only know the person virtually.

What has to be a priority and improve, is our communication with our family offline.  

The Internet and social media is a wonderful gift, educational tool and a phenomenal way to find support when you need it.  However like with all great things, there will always be the dark-side or downside.  There will always be those that want to ruin it for others or are simply cruel and evil people.  From online trolls to Internet predators to cyber-hackers – they won’t discriminate who they harm.

Let’s discuss the video.

The parents, in my opinion, are a bit aggressive although I understand they are so upset and were scared to death.  I don’t believe in fear-based teaching – and sometimes the scared-straight tactics are only short term.  (I actually have experience with this in my other life profession).

You can show your emotion calmly, with tears of genuine concern and discuss this horrific incident with compassion and love – and immediately start your digital conversations (that they were probably sorely missing) on a regular basis.

Yes, every parent (hopefully) has that discussion about stranger danger offline and online – but how many times?  Today it is about repetition, and hopefully even role playing.  It is about have it regularly, because on a daily basis new predators and new cyber-scams are popping up!

Just as common as you ask your child how their day of school was, you need to be asking them how their day online is!  After-all – go back to that statistic…. they spend a lot of time in cyber-land!

(BTW – so do parents) and there is nothing wrong with it, but let’s be safe.

What is disturbing is when tweens and teens will lie about their age on social media.  This is something parents need to seriously discuss with their children.  In a recent McAfee study, 42% of teens create alias profiles.  This doesn’t mean all are changing their ages, however it is a high percentage changing their identity.  Be an educated parent – learn more about this.

Conversations and thoughts to consider with your teen to increase their social wisdom:

  • Never stop your daily/regular conversations about digital life.
  • Share your new finds on social media, and ask them what they have to share with you.
  • Empower your teen with the understanding it’s okay to click-out of a website or chat-room if they are feeling uncomfortable.
  • Have an understanding with your teen, that if they make new friends online, you will always be made aware if you they are taking it offline.  Build a strong bond of trust with your teenager.
  • Let your teen know that no matter what, you are there for them whenever they are in a difficult situation online.  You will never judge them.  Drop this comment regularly.  They tend to forget.
  • Remind them of sexting consequences, this is important since predators will encourage youth to send sexual content before meeting.

I want to re-post conversation starters from Common Sense and Family Dinner Project.  You never want to run out of topics to talk about!  Remember, whether you are in the car, eating a meal or watching a ball game – there is always time to find out what’s going on in your teen’s digital life.

Common-Sense-FDP-and-Waring

 

 

 

 

posted by on Cell Phone, Cell phone safety, Online Privacy, Online Safety, Parental Controls, Parenting, Parenting Blogs

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CellSecurityDevice security is incredibly important in today’s world. This is evident when you hear about major companies and celebrities being hacked. Securing your device is necessary if you want to be sure your contacts, texts and data are all safe from unauthorized users should your phone be lost or stolen. Especially if you’re considering buying a phone for your teenager, you need to make sure he or she knows how to be safe. According to Intel’s 2015 security report, 79 percent of children learn about online safety from their parents, while 59 percent learn in school and 33 percent learn from friends. This means you play an important role in keeping your teen’s information safe.

Samsung Galaxy

Teens can be careless and forgetful. You don’t want anyone to have access to your child’s private information if he or she forgets his or her smartphone at school or loses it on the bus. Fortunately, the Galaxy offers several different screen lock options to defend against unauthorized access to the phone. You can use a conventional PIN or the Face Unlock feature, which uses the smartphone’s front-facing camera to compare your child’s face to a stored picture of him or her. While it is a quick way to make sure only your teenager has access to the phone, it is still somewhat unreliable, so be sure to set up a PIN as a backup. As a parent, you also may want access to your teen’s phone, which is another time the PIN comes in handy.

The Galaxy also offers encryption, which keeps the contents of your child’s phone and SIM card safe. Before you encrypt any data, make sure the phone is fully charged as it can take over an hour to secure your data. To start the encryption process, simply head to the Settings menu, then the Security sub-menu and select Encrypt. Don’t interrupt this process while it is encrypting, or you risk losing data.

If your teen’s phone is lost or stolen, the Galaxy’s Remote Control feature helps you track it down, remotely lock it or erase its data. To track a lost phone, you first need to create an account on your provider’s page. Afterward, simply head to the Security menu and configure the Remote Control Options. Again, this option is helpful if your teenager tends to lose his or her belongings.

iPhone 6

The iPhone 6 has many built-in security features that are easy to configure. Just like with the Galaxy, you should start by setting a passcode for your teen’s device by entering the Settings menu and turning the feature on. That security passcode will then be required to change any security features in the future to prevent an unauthorized user from accessing the phone. Be sure to write the passcode down in case your teenager forgets it or you need to get into his or her phone.

From here, you can configure a Touch ID to secure the device. A Touch ID reads your child’s fingerprint from the Home button to unlock his or her phone. It is considered to be one of the most reliable security features on the iPhone 6. To set up a Touch ID, make sure the Home button is clean, and open the Touch ID and Passcode feature in the Settings menu. Enroll your teenager’s fingerprint by having him or her touch the Home button and hold his or her finger there.

Finally, be sure to set up the Find My iPhone feature on the official Apple site to track your teen’s device if it is stolen or lost. The easiest way to compromise your device is to simply misplace it, so be sure to set up this feature before you regret it.

Security is of the utmost important when it comes to your child’s personal information. He or she may not understand how to set up of these features, so be sure to do your research on whatever device you decide to purchase and make it as secure as possible. Make sure your teenager learns the correct ways to protect him or herself online by setting a good example.

posted by on Facebook, Online Safety, Parenting Teens, Parenting tips, Social media, Social Networking

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Teenager-with-Laptop

You’re never alone when you have friends online.

I am someone that truly knows the gift of social media.  The support it can give you when you are feeling down.  The friends you can make and the groups you can join that have common interests.

PEW Research just released their latest study on Social Media, Teens and Friendship.  Like adults, teenagers can find support through their online friends.

  • 70% of social media-using teens feel better connected to their friends’ feelings through social media.
  • 68% of teen social media users have had people on the platforms supporting them through tough or challenging times.
  • 83% of teen social media users say social media makes them feel more connected to information about their friends’ lives.

As a reminder, in last month’s PEW Research, Parents and Social Media, they discovered that 79% of parents found support from other parents on social media.  Human nature it to help each other, only today we have it through digital lives – at all ages.

In a recent CNN article, Teen Depression and how social media can help or hurt, Dr. Melinda Ring shared how one tween used Instagram as a platform for support and positive messaging to help him and others through adolescent depression.

Oversharing is still an issue that teens struggle with, however it is when friends posted about events or activities that they were not invited to.  As expected, this can cause hurt feelings (being left out).  The other issue, as with adults, is when teens’ exaggerate (humble braggers) about their lives online,  this leads them to make negative comparison to their own life.

  • 88% of teen social media users believe people share too much information about themselves on social media.
  • 53% of social media-using teens have seen people posting to social media about events to which they were not invited.
  • 42% of social media-using teens have had someone post things on social media about them that they cannot change or control.
  • 21% of teen social media users report feeling worse about their own life because of what they see from other friends on social media.

PEWSupport

Communication is key to all relationships.

It isn’t any different from when we were young and burning up our parent’s phone lines and people would get that dreaded busy signal. Or you were waiting for a call, you would constantly pick up the phone to be sure there was a dial tone.  We wanted to stay connected to our friends.  It’s no different today.

Teens are fortunate today, there are many ways to stay connected to their friends, but texting is the leader. Honestly, it is definitely a great form of communication especially if you only need a quick question answered.

Teens still love chatting with their close friends.

Teens still love chatting with their close friends.

Don’t be fooled though, according to the PEW Research, 85% of teen still talk to their closest friends on the phone and 19% said they chat with them on a daily basis.

Yes, we can hear a lot of negativity about online activity such as cyberbullying or Internet predators – but as I continue to write about the many positive aspects that the web offers – and the good things people are doing, what kids are doing, teens are doingwhat teachers are doing,  hopefully someday this will outweigh those trolls and all the Internet hate that continues.

posted by on Cyber Safety, Cyberbullying, Internet profile, Internet Safety, Internet Scams, Online Safety, Online Scams, Uncategorized

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Two blue birds with FAQ balloonsGuest post by Janita Docherty

How do you view your social media world?

The first thing that springs to mind is communication.

Communication with your friends, family and other users in groups and forums that share a common interest.

The second is sharing.  Sharing of our photos, sharing of our life’s moments and sharing of information about us, how we feel, what we think, where we are going.

The social media world as brilliant as it is, has a darker side.  Most know of the trolls, the haters, the cybercreeps and the scammers, but in my business of speaking with victims targeted by these individuals.. one thing is similar in each case, they never thought it would happen to them.

But lets face it .. if you are online, you are a potential target.  The world can see you, there is no privacy and the permanent record of your online life, can reproduce itself with every google search.

One of these instances takes the form of fraudulent accounts – phony social media profiles being made in your name, representing you in an exact or very similar format.  Same name, same profile pictures and likes.  The accounts display personal information about you, causing anxiety, unrest and stress.

In most cases they are information stealing ‘revenge accounts’.  Usually made by people you know, who wish to attack at the very jugular of your confidence.  For the victims who endure this, it is initial shock and worry, followed by a sense of helplessness and feelings of humiliation.. they can’t control the situation and know full well it may take time for the social media company or other organisation to assist in removing the counterfeit profile.

During this time victims try to comprehend the situation, with fear and emotional destruction weighing in as their mind spins with proposals. What can be done? How do I fix it?  What else will they post? Where are they getting the information from? Who would do this to me and why?

Who would do this?  The majority of fake accounts are made by those who are known to you.  Friends that have had a falling out, adults who wish to make another feel uncomfortable and cause undue worry. There are a small number of users who are simply out to troll for nothing more than to cause anxiety, so yes on occasions it can be someone you do not know.  But mostly fake profiles are made up are someone you do know.

It was recently published that fake accounts are being made as a new trend to use for cyberbullying.

This is not a new trend, it has been going on for some years. Teens make fake accounts to target individuals who they may be annoyed with over a social situation, or to cause a stir or anxiety to the original account holder….because they simply don’t like each other. At times there is no thought process, it is simply a case of jealousy.

Some accounts are nothing more than an annoyance, a copycat of the original profile, with no harmful posts or damaging content.  Others are more aggressively targeted with more than one profile being made and placed on dozens of social media sites and unsavory websites.

It’s not new it’s been the way things are managed by teens (and some adults), when they wish to cause upset and distress to another. In their minds they feel this is a better way of attack, because of their thoughts on anonymity and a selfish component of wanting to control the targets reactions, usually close enough to watch the emotional roller coaster unravel.

How do we fix it – here is my advice:

  1. Change your Password!   This is why sharing of passwords needs to be taken seriously.  The consequences that come from giving away the key to your social media personal life.. can be devastating.  I know a number of teens are getting the message and are not sharing passwords, however with access to social accounts being easily accessible on mobile devices, do ensure you have a passcode and try to cover the log in to better secure your device.  If you think someone has hacked your Facebook account this link may be of assistance.
  2. Lock down your account settings and Log Out– it may be a hassle to keep logging into your account but this is one of the safe options to securing it.If the fake account is using your same cover photo or profile picture, change yours so friends can decipher between the two. All Facebook cover photos and profile pictures are public, so where possible use an avatar photo that does not identify you.  Clean up your friends list.  If you believe your settings are all in place, then information is likely to have been gleaned from someone in your friend list.
  3. Just breathe.Your mindset will be spinning, your emotions will be chaotic. So immediately you are aware… seek help. Talk to someone you trust that can help you and get you the appropriate assistance.  It is wise to see a medical practitioner, or call a Help Line if you are not coping in these circumstances. It is also a good idea to alert those around you – especially trusted family, friends, school teachers or work colleagues, as they can offer emotional support and are mindful of your situation.  Although difficult try not to ponder and manifest the situation in your thoughts. Incidents like this unfortunately happen on a daily basis around the world, but one thing is for sure, this time will pass… Just breathe.
  4. Report them.  A lot stems from the account being able to ‘get ground’, meaning it can’t fly if it has no wings and is best ignored.  Any mutual friends who are asked to connect with the account, should always check with their real friend via alternative means, to verify the accountability.Friends who connect with fake Facebook profiles can place their account in jeopardy too.

Check when the account was created and although some of these accounts will attempt to gain or buy fake followers to boost the account status, social media algorithms are now in a better position to flag these accounts and close them.

Report them and block.

FBTwitterInstaThese links can be of assistance to report fake social media accounts.

This link may be of assistance for Friends to report a fake Facebook account.
Report an imposter Facebook account, or if you do not own a Facebook account.
Report imposter Twitter Accounts.
Report imposter Instagram Accounts.

A recent report mentioned that children as young as 10 are victims of fake accounts. If this is your situation – the following links may assist parents.

Facebook
Instagram
Twitter

Ensure the child is reassured that it is not their fault and monitor their emotional wellbeing. Take time offline to do fun things and make special moments.  Follow steps above in getting medical assistance and help from sympathetic and supportive friends if needed, both for yourself as a parent/guardian and for your child. 

  1. If emotionally able – take ownership. Although not easy at this time, but be brave.  Nothing is more dis-empowering to the creators of the phony account if they do not get a reaction.  This is what they are seeking.. so shut them down.. give them nothing.. take away their strength… and show them up as the cowards they are.  If you involve authority agencies to deal with this situation- take screenshots and note the date, time, the URL, fake account name, who you involved and what has occurred, as this can be helpful to an investigation.

All the best and stay safe online – Janita.

Janita Docherty

Janita Docherty

Janita Docherty is the founder and Director of – CyberActive Services.  A recently retired police officer of 21 years’ service, Janita conducts internet safety presentations in Australia and the United States, assisting with proactive measures to protect users and their children online.  Janita is a specialist in Facebook for personal use and safety and has conducted training for law enforcement personnel both in Australia and the United States on social media investigation.   Follow her on Twitter and join her on Facebook.

*Disclaimer:

This article is an advisory piece for information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice, legal opinion, or in lieu of gaining consultation from relevant organisations or authorities for assistance with an online incident.