posted by on Addiction, College admissions, Digital Life, Online profile, Online reputation, Social Drinking, Social media, Social Networking

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Study reveals binge drinkers ‘consequences’ of social media addiction.

Your online behavior is a reflection of your offline character.

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, today your first impression is what a Google search says about you.

Critical thinking goes out the door when your drinking, no matter what age you are. In today’s digital world it’s especially unforgiving. One lapse of judgment on social media and you could end up on an unemployment line, lose a college acceptance (or worse – a scholarship) and this oops moment can linger for a longtime.

New research in the latest edition of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, surveyed 425 undergraduate students ages 18-25 about their alcohol use in combination with using their social media platforms.

Interestingly, college students who are binge drinkers were most at risk for drunk posting on social media without considering the consequences.

“During these times when young students are feeling disinhibited by alcohol, they may be even more likely than usual to post inappropriate material without considering the future impact,” said lead researcher Natalie A. Ceballos, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychology at Texas State University in San Marcos. “In some cases, these sorts of mistakes have even influenced college admission and later job applications.”

Natalie A. Ceballos, Ph.D.

The other concern is friends who view their buddies’ posts of heavy drinking may then be more likely to perceive intoxication as exciting and fun, Ceballos’s group notes.

It’s important to help our young people understand that being part of unflattering online behavior, by ‘liking it‘, commenting on it, or any other form of endorsing it – is equal to them approving it. It can also be a reflection of their character. Be mindful of the guilt-by-association trap. This was their lapse of judgement – not yours.

The hot spots

According to this recent study, college students most popular social hangouts are Snapchat and Instagram followed by Facebook and Twitter.

“Facebook is waning in popularity among younger users,” the researchers write, “whereas Snapchat is becoming more popular.”

Just before Twitter expanded their characters to 280, a football training coach reminded his students that their online behavior can cost them their offline scholarships.

It’s not only colleges, in 2018 a CareerBuilders survey revealed that 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates before hiring. More than half, (57 percent) have found content that caused them not to hire a candidate.

Social media mentoring

Maybe your teen is in need of a coach or mentoring? Not a sports coach, but someone to give them wisdom about how to use social wisely – to their benefit. Let’s face it – many parents are just as new to the cyber-place as their children.

There’s a coach for that.

Teens and young adults should use their social media accounts as an asset, creating LinkedIn profiles or Twitter feeds that will impress college admissions officers or future employers, says Alan Katzman, founder of Social Assurity, which has coached nearly a thousand high school and college students on this technique.

“You have to learn to post content that won’t generate likes or follows from your group of friends, but toward your future audience, who will [use it to] try to determine who you are,” he says, in reference to his clients’ potential employers and college recruiters.

Alan Katzman

For many young people, the problem is not necessarily wiping clean a social media profile littered with red Solo cups and bikini selfies, it’s simply a lack of anything impressive—like community service or academic accomplishments. “It’s void,” Katzman says when we interviewed him for Shame Nation book.

Peer-to-peer support

Especially if you know your friend has a tendency to drunk post, be there for them. Be an upstander offline – help guide them to understand that what they post in the moment will have lasting and serious ramifications for their future.

  1. Attempt to talk them off their device. We know when people are under the influence they can be unreasonable, however as a friend, we have to try.
  2. Try to contain the damage. If possible, see if they will at least tighten their privacy settings. We know we can’t always rely on them – but we must try. Maybe you can do this for them (?).
  3. When they put their phone down, if they are really out of control, will it hurt if you take the phone for the remainder of the event? When they miss it, you can pretend to be looking for it. Of course turn the volume off – since they will try to call it.

Reality is – drunk posting can and will impact your future. Whether it’s college admissions, potential internships or employment – or if you are already in school or started your career – the majority of workplaces and college campuses have social media policies in place.

We’re all a click away from life changing experiences – and they aren’t always positive.

posted by on Online Life, Online reputation, Parenting, Parenting Teens, Parenting tips, Reputation Management, Uncategorized

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Have you checked your online reflection?

Be a role-model.

We are living in a time where some adults, of all walks of life; parents, teachers, professors, celebrities, athletes and especially politicians — are acting badly online today. This is sending the wrong message to our young people.

Lead by example is an expression we hear frequently, however how many people are actually walking this talk?

Many teens look to their parents, as well as their favorite celebrity or athlete as a role-model, not only offline — but online too. If you have that oops moment, which is possible, since everyone is human, it’s how they rebound that can be the teachable moment.

Today your online reputation is an extension of your online behavior which is a reflection of your offline character. 

-Sue Scheff, author of Shame Nation

What does that mean for you?

The majority of colleges and businesses today are using social media to screen their potential applicants and candidates prior their interviews. Being your child’s role-model online is imperative in helping them step into a bright future.

Schools and cooperation’s consider you an extension of their brand – both online and offline. 

-Sue Scheff, author of Shame Nation

They loved your GPA until they saw your tweets, is not only a clichè, it’s reality today.

Digital you.

What does your online behavior say about you? Take the time to reflect on your social media online behavior. You are what you post.

Re-examine your social feeds in these three easy steps:

  1. Your words and tone matters. Let’s remember, things online can be taken out of context and don’t always translate as we intend them to, especially your words and tone. Re-evaluate what you posted and be sure what you post is not offensive to people reading them. Hint: Review the post as if you were a 20 – 40 – or 60 year old reading them. If all three age groups won’t be offended, you’re good.
  2. Be interested in people and friends. Social media is a two-way highway. It’s important to be engaged with others online. Don’t be one-sided where you’re constantly talking about yourself and never asking about others. Interact with friends, comment on their posts and pictures. Hint: If you notice a friend promoting a service or product, ask how you can help, or be there to wish them the best. You never know when you will need them for the same.
  3. Kindness is contagious, it starts with us. What have you done for your cyber-friends lately? As a role-model online, your kids are watching. Did someone lose a pet? A loved one? Maybe you were an upstander when you saw someone struggling with harassment. Did you reach-out to someone when they posted about a bad day? Hint: While scrolling through your social feeds, you may see some missed opportunities, however it’s never too late for kindness.

Our digital behavior is going to be our legacy, whether it’s for our young people or ourselves. It’s important we all think twice – post once and remember that there’s no rewind online.

posted by on Cyber Safety, Internet Privacy, Internet Safety, Internet Scams, Online Privacy, Online Safety, Uncategorized

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In this current digital era, people rely on the internet for virtually everything. We find our answers online, make friends and share personal information online, and reveal our private financial information in online shopping platforms among other activities.

While the internet has made life a lot easier, it certainly raises serious issues regarding the privacy of the thousands of its users globally. All these activities we perform online are monitored and the information stored. In most cases, we don’t know how far that goes neither do we have control over which information can be stored or shared.

So before you check any boxes to have access to sites or online services, here are some things that you need to know about your online privacy.

1. What Your Digital Footprints Are Sharing

You’ve probably visited a site and seen ads related to some content you were browsing earlier. How does this happen though? Internet service providers (ISP) and carriers often track the activities of their users. Once you subscribe to a particular ISP,they allocate you a unique identity or the IP address.

They then monitor all the activity related to that IP address and even share it with advertisers online. Perhaps this calls for protecting your IP address with VPN’s.

Basically, all information regarding your online presence is often recorded without your knowledge. Monitoring this data constantly gives them a clear picture of your habits, likes, interests, and location, which are all termed as Personally Identifiable Information (PII). These might be shared with third parties,particularly advertisers, who can then manipulate the kind of content you see whenever you go online.

The carriers themselves can also use the information to either block your access to the internet if need be or limit your bandwidth when performing particular tasks online.

The same tracking is done by search engines such as Google. They monitor search data, visited sites, and location and save/archive them under the fallacy that they use the information to provide you with a better browsing experience.

At this particular point, you need to ask yourself whether a better online experience is more important than your personal privacy. And with the ever-growing numbers and strength of hackers, should such valuable information fall in the wrong hands what happens?

2. Social Media: What You Need to Know

Currently, there are quite a number of social media platforms where you can express yourself to your friends and the world. Common ones such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp,and Snapchat have built quite a portfolio mainly from ad sales.

Ever wondered what’s in it for them considering that these services are rendered free? Sadly enough collection of user information is not prohibited by law in most regions of the world as long as the collector anonymizes the data.

With advanced data analytics programs such as Facebook’s Atlas program, companies can easily put a face to the data that they have without the owner’s consent. In addition,cases of data breaches especially in social media platforms have become all too common. Talk of the Facebook data breach earlier in 2018.

WhatsApp isn’t that private either considering they are now a Facebook subsidiary following the purchase in February 2014. Therefore, it is critical that you be wary of the information you share on social media.

3. Importance of Reading Your Privacy Settings

One too many times do we click the “accept and continue” in the privacy settings prompts that we receive when using new apps or websites online. While it might feel easier to breeze through these settings maybe because they are too long or you are too anxious to access your new program, you risk losing far much more in the end.

Such settings often carry valuable information regarding what kind of information can be shared by the developer and the kind of apps the program has access to.

A scary fact is that nowadays, most programs come with default settings that allow sharing of your personal data. They make it your responsibility to opt out of these settings. This means that failure to scrutinize the terms and conditions available leaves you susceptible to privacy infringement.

So check the access privileges each app is demanding and decide whether it is relevant or the needed information is safe in the hands of a third party.

4. Be Careful When Using Wi-Fi Networks

Connecting to Wi-Fi networks especially public ones can cause a serious privacy breach.Anyone within an unencrypted public Wi-Fi can easily peek into your personal stuff and even steal valuable information. Information regarding apps on your phone, your location, and internet usage can all be gathered from a simple Wi-Fi connection.

A good solution to this problem is to consider VPN’s for better encryption of your data. VPN Geeks can help you find a great VPN to secure your privacy. For private networks, turn off your Wi-Fi settings when you don’t need it or in public places.

The above aspects might seem a little scary. You might even give up hope of privacy if it means limiting your social life in platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. However, internet privacy is crucial especially when it comes to activities such as emailing, online banking, shopping online, credit card info, and health-related data.

The information on this post gives you control over your privacy to help protect your identity, reputation, and financial details.

Contributor: Jack Foster

This site does not receive fees nor does it endorse any products or services.

posted by on Apps, AT&T, Cyberbullying, Cybersafety, Online bullying, Online Safety, Uncategorized

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New data shows that two-thirds of teens surveyed say they have engaged in at least one risky behavior online.

57% of teens say they know how to hide content from their parents.

The survey1, commissioned by AT&T, polled New York City teens, parents of teens and millennial parents of younger children to gauge how children are consuming media on mobile devices – and what their parents understand of their behaviors. It found 84% of children ages 3-7 and 96% of those 8-12 now have to their own internet connected devices (a phone, tablet, computer, or gaming system), representing a sharp increase since 2017.  

It also found that, 98% of teens have a device and 85% say they spend at least 3 hours a day online. And, although 80% of millennial parents are concerned that their children are spending too much time on a device, nearly 3/4 admit to giving them an internet device to keep them occupied while they focus on other tasks.

The data shows that two thirds of teens surveyed say they have engaged in at least one risky behavior online.

  • 57% of teens say they know how to hide content from their parents.
  • Half of teens say they have experienced some form of cyberbullying.
  • 1 in 5 teen girls surveyed said they have sent sexually explicit photos.
  • 15% said they have met strangers online.

Given this alarming data, any guidance from their parents about how to behave online seems to be having little impact.

  • 60% of millennial parents of young children and nearly half of parents of teens believe they have taken sufficient steps to monitor their behaviors. 

Other findings indicate there are significant differences between what parents think their kids are doing online – be it on their phones, tablets, computers, or gaming platforms – and the reality that their children experience. For more key insights and poll results, click here.

In response to these poll findings, beginning today, parents can bring their phones and tablets to company-owned AT&T stores in the New York metro area – regardless of their wireless carrier – to take advantage of a new program called ScreenReady℠.

ScreenReady will provide consumers with two services at no charge. First, AT&T’s retail-based device experts will provide hands-on guidance within the parental controls and content filter settings on the consumer’s phone and tablet (see video below). These settings, which are built into the operating systems of many devices already, can be hard to understand and navigate.

Second, parents and caregivers will be able to access customized tips, created in collaboration with Common Sense Media, to fit their family’s online safety needs on a newly created AT&T mobile website, accessible in stores on free-to-use display tablets.

In parallel with this NY effort, AT&T’s Later Haters program aims to promote positive dialogue in social media, while its’ Great Game campaign promotes kindness and good sportsmanship  within the online gaming world.

1AT&T and the bullying prevention non-profits No Bully and the Tyler Clementi Foundation completed a survey of 500 New York City teens, 500 parents of teens and 500 millennial parents of younger children from August 31 through October 1, 2018.  For additional information, see AT&T’s Report on Developing Safe and Successful Mobile Device and Online Media Habits

Offline discussions, online safety.

Our teens may always been an app ahead of us or even more cyber-savvy than us, but here is one thing that technology will never be able to provide them – wisdom.

Your children will always need your offline wisdom whispering in their ears as their facing challenging choices online. 

What our young people face online today:

  • Sexting scandals
  • Cyberbullying, harassment
  • Sextortion, revenge porn
  • Ugly poll contests
  • Racial slurs
  • Catfishing
  • Online predators
  • And much more.

Why teens don’t tell their parents about their troubles on social media:

1)  Fear of consequences: Your child’s online existence is a critical part of their social life. With all their friends online, being excluded would be devastating them. They don’t want to risk you banning them from their friends and their digital lives.

2)  Humiliation and embarrassment: Our kids are human and have feelings. Although some kids portray a tough persona and believe they are invincible, deep down everyone feels hurt by cruel keystrokes. Your child may fear looking stupid or weak. If the incident gets reported to their school, will they be able to face their classmates/peers? Imagine the horror of a child hearing from peers after being bullied that they somehow deserved it, brought it on themselves or should have just toughened it out rather than be a snitch.

3)  Fear of making it worse: We have taught our children well so they understand that bullies are looking for attention. By reporting the incident of cyberbullying to a parent, your child may fear it could anger the bully and make matters worse for them online. In some cases bullies will enlist more online trolls to cyber-mob your child. Of course the child’s dreaded fear is his or her parent reporting it to their school and more people knowing whereby they become a possible target in the future.

Having frequent offline chats about online life can help your child trust you are there for them –  you are their advocate – both offline and especially online. You don’t have to be a cyber-tech expert to be a digital parent. You only have to be interested in their cyber-life.

posted by on Cyberbullying, Cybersafety, Digital citizenship, Digital Life, Digital Parenting, Online bullying, Online Safety

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Say goodbye to selfies and hello to more meaningful relationships.
Social media is where the majority of teens reside today.

According to a new PEW survey, Teens’ Social Media Habits and Experiences, the majority of teens (81 percent) feel more connected to their friends because of social media and 68 percent feel as if they have people that will support them if they are going through a difficult time.

Although online-hate is still a concern, 45 percent of teens said they are sometimes overwhelmed by the digital drama – while 13 percent say they feel this way a lot. Interestingly, teens’ resilience is kicking in – as 44 percent reported either unfriending or unfollowing people that harass, bully or are cruel online.

When asked why they’ve digitally disconnected from others, 78 percent of this group report doing so because people created too much drama, while 52 percent cite the bullying of them or others.

Could it be the end of the selfie nation?

Selfies may be popular on social media, but around half of teens say they rarely or never post these images.

Girls are much more likely than boys to post selfies: Six-in-ten girls say they often or sometimes do this, compared with 30 percent of boys.

Living for ‘likes’ and primping for perfection.

Part of building digital resilience is learning that not everything online is reality. Especially with the frequent use of filters.

Sharing their life online, sometimes, can come with added social burdens  — the pressure of perfection. Teens will scroll through their feeds with a compare and despair attitude…. soon it will feel overwhelming.

Around four-in-ten say they feel pressure to only post content on social media that makes them look good to others (43 percent) or share things that will get a lot of likes or comments (37 percent).

Parents still worry about tweens, teens and tech.

The American Family Survey just released their latest report over half of parents of teenagers ranked overuse of technology as a top issue facing today’s teenagers. Only a third said drugs and alcohol.

It might be a valid concern since the majority of kids spend most of their time connected, but it’s also more reason for parents to get more involved in their child’s online life – offline.

Learn more – Parenting in the Age of Social Media.

posted by on Cyber Safety, Cyberbullying, Digital citizenship, Digital Parenting

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Ways you can be a cyber-mentor to your teenager.

Teens may always be an app ahead of us, or even more cyber-savvy than most parents, but there is one thing that technology will never be able to give them — our parenting wisdom.

Being a cyber-mentor is not only leading by example and being their role-model online, but it’s being their digital parent with your own behavior on social media.

More and more we are watching adults, of all walks of life, (parents, teachers, celebrities, athletes, and especially politicians) acting badly online – and this is sending the wrong message to our young people.

As a cyber-mentor, we must become more self aware of our digital conduct and content.

Becoming an upstander.

An upstander is someone that recognizes that something is wrong online and acts to make it right.

Especially has a cyber-mentor, we must be socially responsible online to reach-out to people that are hurting or struggling.

1) Stop the hate.

What would you do if you witness cruelty online?

  • Report and flag abusive content.
  • Don’t forward or retweet cruel comments or mean memes.
  • Liking a distasteful or harmful post is equal to endorsing it.
  • Don’t engage in hate – it will only perpetuate, energize and bring credibility to it.
2)  Reach out to people struggling.

What would you do if you saw someone being harassed online?

  • Private message them or if you are comfortable, publicly let them know you are in their corner.
  • Text them.
  • Call them.
  • Email them.
  • Let them know they are not alone.
3) Lead by example.

How would you want your teen to treat others? It’s time to reflect on your own social behavior.

  • Your words and tone matters. Your online behavior is a reflection of your offline character.
  • Be interested in your teen’s online life. (Help them understand that social media is a two-way highway. Be interested in others).
  • You are the greatest influence in your child’s life. Remind your teen, that they never know when someone is looking up to them online. Being a cyber-mentor is an honor and privilege.
  • Kindness is contagious – it starts with us.

Order Shame Nation book for more insights for becoming a cyber-mentor to the next generation.

Also read developing digital resilience.

posted by on Adult Bullying, Adult Cyberbullying, Bullying, Civility, Online bullying, Online harassment

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Adults Acting Badly: When Bullying Behavior No Longer Is Child’s Play

In a recent survey by Anti-Bullying Alliance, children aged 11 to 16 believe that adults are setting a poor example by behaving badly to each other face-to-face, online or in the media.

The majority, 97 percent said they would like to see more respect shown between grown-ups.

Who are the role-models?

This same month Ireland released a study entitled The Cyberbullying of Post-Primary Teachers by Pupils.  

Parents, who are supposed to be the role-models to their children, as well as pupils (their children) are engaged in cyberbullying of school teachers according to the above referenced study.

It starts at the top.

With these two recent reports, isn’t it about time adults check-in with their behavior? Many people like to blame it on the political climate or the rise of incivility, however we all need to start taking accountability for our own online and offline behavior.

When our children are now asking us to take control of ourselves, and we are witnessing parents and students harassing professionals (teachers), it’s time to stop this insanity.

Implementing digital wisdom.

At all ages using digital wisdom grounded in civility is where we need to start.

The 3-C’s of online behavior starts with your keypad.

  1. Conduct: We’re living in contentious times. The fact is, your keypad can be used as a tool or a weapon, it depends on how you use it. Your keystrokes can be used 4 ways – to help, heal, hurt, or harm. Be sure before you pick up your keypad – you check-in with yourself, become self-aware of your emotions before you post your comments.
  2. Content: We’re living in a world of post remorse and tweet regrets. Everyone is quick to post for short-term gratification and may suffer with long-term ramifications. Is what you’re about to post going to embarrass you or humiliate someone? Take the time to consider your content before putting it on the permanent Internet.
  3. Caring: Most of us know to treat people online as you would offline, but many tend to forget this when you have a screen between you. I like to tell people to “care enough about yourself” to know when it times to click-out if you feel  you’re about to say something nasty or snarky.  You are the role-model, this is your online presence – and it’s likely you will regret it later.

Want more insights for digital wisdom? Read my latest book Shame Nation.

posted by on Adult Bullying, Adult Cyberbullying, Bullying, Civility

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Can we bring civility back to this shame nation?

We are living in such divisive times now that we are witnessing adults treating each other with the utmost disrespect, and many times their own children are watching this outrageous behavior. 

Since we now live in a world where the majority of Americans are armed with smartphones, there’s no doubt when someone wants to act inappropriately (and they are proud of their actions) someone will be videoing it. Quickly it’s viral for the world to see.

From politicians to celebrities to athletes — no matter who you are, being publicly harassed or humiliated, especially in front of your family on your private time, is unacceptable.

Many of us were taught when we were little that if we were playing in a public park and saw a child you didn’t like, you shouldn’t go up to them and call them names or berate them. You simply walk away and don’t engage. So why are adults behaving the opposite when they see a person they dislike immensely in public? What message is this sending to their children?

These are definitely contentious times we are living in, many of us realize it starts at the top. We have a leader that seems to enjoy this conflict and divide, but does that mean we have to be part of this hostility?

Bullying verses activism.

In a culture of rising incivility, combined with many that are both sensitive and passionate about their beliefs, people are using bullying or harassing behavior and labeling it as activism.

People on both sides of the political aisles are feeling the incivility of adults as they attend their normal lives. It’s so disheartening to watch grown-ups treat each other like bullies on a playground with no self-control.

As Nancy Pelosi was leaving an event in Florida she was not only heckled, she was confronted with, “You don’t belong here you f–king communist f–k,” a voice is also heard saying on the video. “You and your f—ing Democrats.”

Over in Kentucky, diners confronted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife as they tried to have dinner at a local restaurant.

When activism turns into digital or civil warfare, the message will likely get lost and all people will remember is static noise. Change can’t and won’t happen through this type of behavior.

We have choices.

As we watch people in authority behave inappropriately as well as adults, business owners and others, it’s up to us to lead by example.

Being an activist is admirable. You don’t have to be a bully—be constructive and respectful with your behavior (comments), not combative. There is never a reason to use profanity, mock people or especially wish death to others.

One lasting thought, you are your online presence. Your immediate gratification to insult someone for what you may believe is activism, will be attached to your digital resume forever. Short-term vindication is rarely worth the long-term ramifications.

Having a bad day? Give yourself permission to sign-off.

Compassion and empathy.

Perhaps the first place to start is a renewed emphasis on empathy and compassion to each other online and offline. Remember you are the role model to the next generation, and we can’t afford for this shame nation to continue.

Order Shame Nation book today.


posted by on AT&T, Bullying, Bullying prevention, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention

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National [Cyber]Bullying Prevention Month

According to, 1 in 4 kids in the U.S. are bullied on a regular basis. While face-to-face bullying is still common at school, cyberbullying – bullying via email, text messages, social media, chat rooms, pictures, instant messaging, and videos – has become one of the most prevalent types of bullying among teens. In fact, about 80% of high school students have encountered bullying in some fashion online.

With this being National Bullying Prevention Month, AT&T is sharing tips and resources to help parents protect their children from what some are calling an epidemic.

Know Bullying (Free, Android & iOS) – Research shows that spending at least 15 minutes a day talking with your kids can build the foundation for a strong relationship, develop their resilience to peer pressure, and help prevent bullying.

The Know Bullying app provides conversation starters to talk with your child, tips about bullying for specific age groups,  warning signs to watch for, access to online resources, reminders to talk with your child when the time feels right, and even a section for educators to help them prevent bullying in the classroom. The Know Bullying app is a free resource providd by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Bully Button for Parents and Kids (Free, Android & iOS) – With this free app, kids who are victims of bullying or witness it can easily record the incident and send the recording to their parents.

The app has 2 modules: one for the parent, the other for the child. The dashboard of the parent’s app will display all the bullying incidents recorded by the child. Parents can add in emergency contact information in the child’s module of the app, so the child will have quick access to help.

Red Panic Button (Free, Android & iOS) – This is a great app to download to your child’s device. If a child finds herself in an emergency situation, like bullying, she simply presses the red panic button on the app, and her current position and address, in the form of a Google Maps link, will be sent to all the numbers stored in the Red Panic Button contact list via text and email.

The child can even post in real-time a panic Tweet to her entire list of friends and followers, sharing her current address and a Google Maps link.

#LaterHaters – #LaterHaters is a campaign AT&T started to empower teens to rise above online negativity. The Later Haters campaign is focused on getting young people to use their devices to spread online love vs. engaging with haters.

The Later Haters web site also provides links to numerous resources for both parents and teens, such as a parent guide for discussing online behavior with your child and links to Facebook’s Bullying Prevention Hub, Common Sense Media, and more.

Digital You – The AT&T Digital You web site provides parents with tips to help stop cyberbullying and help your kids stay safe online. The site includes a powerful short film, titled “There’s a Soul Behind That Screen,” about online bullying that was created by high school students for a national contest.

The film combines some of the winning submissions and tells an important story for parents and educators. It’s a must-see for parents of teens.

Courtesy of AT&T.

posted by on Adult Cyberbullying, Cyberbullying, Digital Life, Online reputation, Online Shaming

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Dealing with Digital Disaster and Combating Cyberbullying

(Excerpt from Shame Nation book)

If your attackers are coming after you hard, it might be time for a more forceful response. Has your online reputation suffered irreparable damage? Has it gotten so bad that you are fearful for your safety? Should you consult an attorney or file a police report?

It’s certainly possible that you could be facing some of the mentally unstable people on the Internet who take trolling to the extreme. One woman, “Sarah,” first got sucked into an online flame war with one of these people years ago, when she was in grad school and brushed with an anonymous poster on Lena Chen’s Sex and the Ivy blog. “At that point, I’d never engaged with anyone online,” she recalled when I spoke to her. “I made a couple of comments. It didn’t even occur to me anyone would care; I was nobody.”

But her harasser, in retaliation, targeted her for years, creating rambling posts calling her a fat-ass, questioning her professional work, and even claiming that she had rape fantasies.

In fact, she says, this deranged stranger ultimately went after a dozen women who posted comments supporting her, trashing their reputations and getting at least one fired from her job as a teacher. “I’ve never encountered a situation quite like this one,” Sarah admits. “I was being called a fat, ugly slut who wants to be raped.

He spent eight years, on and off, trying to make me unemployable, undateable, trying to make me a target for crime—he’s accused me of having STDs, publicly claimed I was fired from jobs for sexual misconduct. That level of effort into trying to hurt someone… It is hard to understand. All I can think is this is someone deeply unhappy, and probably a sociopath. There are people out there who will think nothing of trying to hurt other people.”

“This is not trolling,” states researcher Lindsay Blackwell, in her talk titled “Trolls, Trouble, and Telling the Difference.” “This is harassment. It is violence, and it is very, very difficult to control.”

According to a 2014 Pew Research Center report, 18 percent, or nearly one in five, of Internet users surveyed were the victims of “severe” online abuse, such as stalking or physical threats.

Advising victims to get off the Internet doesn’t work either, Blackwell adds. “The Internet is real life. For many of us, it’s where we make a living, it’s where we make friends, it’s where we live our lives, it’s an extension of where we live our lives… Telling victims of online harassment to log off…[isn’t] helpful… It’s so, so important that we stop telling victims of harassment to not feed the trolls.”

Sarah’s experience has impacted her life in so many ways. When it came to dating, she would only give out her first name, then field comments from suitors who came across what was posted about her online. “I had someone tell me I shouldn’t mention it to men, [that] they would think I invited drama into my life,” she recalls.

Now an MBA student seeking employment, Sarah has needed to discuss her situation with career counselors, add explanations to her cover letters, and warn potential roommates.

She has filed police reports and consulted with two pro bono attorneys, but to date, has been unsuccessful in unmask­ing the identity of the perpetrator, leaving her understandably bitter. “You can’t sue someone if you don’t know who they are,” she explains. She hesitates, then adds flatly, “This sounds awful, [but] I would love to destroy his life in the way he’s tried to destroy mine.”

Controlling a Disaster

Reading comments online, especially twisted truths or outright lies about yourself, can be horrifying—I know this firsthand. The emotional toll that it can take on a person is enormous. Know that you don’t have to go through this alone. There are many outlets to help you through this cyber-torture.

What options are available for the average Joe, who doesn’t have an entourage, a high-powered publicist, or the star power of a celebrity to mobilize support or fund a legal battle?

To take control of a digital disaster, begin with these basic steps:
  • Document the attacks. Take screenshots of all the evidence. You might want to just push delete, delete, delete. But if things escalate, you’ll need to have some documentation. Print it out, keep it in an online folder, put it on a thumb drive, download any videos to an exter­nal hard drive—but do save it.Some even advise using a web-archiving service, such as Page Vault, which officially documents the date, time, and web address, allowing it to be legally permissible in court. This is an area where your friends and family can help you.Ask them to monitor the abusive content for you, so you don’t have to read it over and over again. “There was a point where I started to have an anxiety attack every time I thought about Googling my name; I felt like I needed to see if anything new was posted,” recalls Sarah, who had her father take over that unpleasant task. “Mitigating how much I was exposed [to] was really important.”


  • Block the offenders. Blocking functionality is available on social media platforms, as well as phone calls, texts, apps, and email. One tool offered by Twitter, under the guise of protecting your well-being, is quality filtering, which prevents you from seeing anything that a specified poster has posted about you.


    In November 2016, Twitter also expanded this mute feature to include specific words or users you choose to block.But some experts are not fans of this “ignorance is bliss” credo. Blackwell points out that if you enable this feature, there is no way to be aware of—and stop—what is being said behind your back.


  • Report the offenders. Review the website’s or platform’s Terms of Service (TOS) or Code of Conduct, to identify what actions are considered violations, then politely ask the service to remove offensive comments, in accordance with its guidelines, and to ban the violator from the platform.
    Beware—some sites, especially those that seem to foster harassment and revenge porn, have been known to thumb their noses at victims and reprint emotional takedown requests, so don’t get overwrought in your tone. Stick to boilerplate legalese.


  • Try to identify the attackers. Are you being harassed or stalked, and it’s escalating? Maybe you are fed up with the cyber-slime an anonymous user is posting about you. To identify that person’s IP address, you will need to file a crime report with law enforcement, says California Senior Officer Mike Bires. “After reviewing the facts of the case, the detectives can obtain a warrant, which can be served upon the social media platform in question, requesting all of the information relevant to the case and the suspect.”But if you don’t want to contact the authorities, there are other ways to find out who’s behind the IP, suggests security expert Theresa Payton, CEO of Fortalice Solutions and coauthor of the bookProtecting Your Internet Identity: Are You Naked Online?. “When you are in the digital world, you can feel powerless,” she says. “Consider hiring a cybersecurity company to unmask the aggressor, if the case is more serious.Unfortunately, my company has been increasingly hired to do this. It’s not a sure thing that you can unmask them, but often you can, if [you have] suspicions [about] who is harassing [you]. Everyone has a digital pattern, so watching the harasser’s patterns [may lead] you to the real-life person.”


  • Cut the criminals off. If you ever find yourself being extorted for money over explicit materials, treat it like you would any other form of blackmail, recommends ReputationDefender’s Rich Matta. “Cut off all ties with the extortionists. Block their email addresses and social accounts. Realize that a payoff is unlikely to change their behavior or resolve the issue. If videos or materials have been posted ‘privately’ along with a threat to go public, fill out the appropriate online forms to request removal from YouTube, Vimeo, Google, GoDaddy, or whichever hosts or service providers are hosting the explicit material.If appropriate, contact the authorities.”Officer Bires says, “Agencies throughout America are receiving information, tips, bulletins, and training every single day on social media and cybercrimes.” He recom­mends that if you become a victim of sextortion, report the crime to your local law enforcement. Bires continues, “ Granted, not every police department has the expertise to investigate such technical crimes, [but] these same agencies know there are law enforcement professionals who can assist them in completing an investigation.”


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