The Official Net Nanny Blog

The 6 Habits of Recovering Helicopter Parents

Are you worried that you might be a helicopter mom? Safeguarding our children is a priority for moms today but you may think you are stepping over the line.

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Nerd Chicks love a happy ending.  Cliff hangers at the end of our favorite TV shows drive us nuts.  After last week's discussion of types of cyberbullying and the ways our kids are at risk, you may have been left thinking, “Ok, now that we're sufficiently concerned, what's a parent to do?  Never fear, this week we're exploring ways to reduce the risk that your child will become a victim of cyberbullying.

Disclaimer time: you know your kids and your family best.  Some parents may be comfortable with a more hands off approach involving open communication with a trusted child, while others may need a little more control.  We're here to present some options to help you decide the path that's right for your family.  The main components to protecting any child are communication and education.  Teach your kids to be vigilant about protecting their private information.  Check out www.stopcyberbullying.org together to read about the ways cyberbullies target victims and how to get help if you think you've been a victim.  There's even a quiz to help kids determine if they're unwittingly engaging in activities that may be victimizing others.  If you don't find all you need there, www.wiredsafety.org and www.netsmartz.org are great sources of Internet safety information.

E-Mail and Social Networking Sites:  Anyone can create an email address and the person's identification is rarely verified.  Make sure your kids know not to open emails from unknown senders, even if the name looks familiar, and to be especially wary of attachments.  Make sure they never share their passwords with anyone but you.  Set your child's Facebook or Twitter account privacy settings at the highest possible security level to prevent private information from being shared unintentionally and publicly. 

Cell Phones: Talk to your kids about "sexting" and the inherent dangers in participating.  It can be illegal, images can be used against them by a bully, and it may affect their scholastic future.  Encourage them to talk to you if they ever receive a text or picture message that makes them uncomfortable.  Research shows that when parents are involved in their kids' activities they're less likely to engage in these behaviors.  Whether that means limiting their per-month texting allowances or monitoring the texts and pictures they receive, let your kids know that limits you set are to help protect them.

Online Gaming: People who don't "game" don't realize how socially intimate the experience can be. Ask your children about their gaming experience like you ask about their day at school, specifically their interactions with other players.  If you sense that they're forming a close relationship, treat that person like you would any new friend.  What do you want to know about that person to protect your child from a possible threat?  If you suspect your child is being threatened or bullied by someone, contact the game administrators and report the abuse.  In many instances, players can be banned for such activities.

Instant Messaging (IM): IM accounts can be acquired anonymously. Review your child's buddy list for unknown contacts and talk to him or her about the identities of the people on their list. Learn as many of the chat acronyms as you can, such as POS (parent over shoulder) and A/S/L (age/sex/location) so you'll be aware of anyone saying anything inappropriate to your child.

How do you know if your child is being bullied?  They may avoid the computer, cell phone, and other technological devices or appear stressed when receiving an e-mail, IM or text.  They may withdraw from friends or family, or be reluctant to attend school or social events.  If you suspect your child is being bullied, trust your instincts.

Finally, you have technology on your side.  Net Nanny (www.netnanny.com) offers a great parental control and monitoring product that allows parents to limit access to the internet, including the ability to block posting to chats, blogs and forums, and monitor what your child does when they are online.  You can see all posts to social media sites, even on accounts you may not know your child has.  One great resource for parents looking to be alert to potential cyberbullying: the software looks for sequences of words that may be considered threatening and can send you an auto-alert any time you child may be engaged in online behavior that puts them at risk.

For more tips on how to protect your family from cyberbullying, drop us a note on Facebook (facebook.com/nerdsoncall) or email us at nerdchick@callnerds.com.

Cyberbullying, Part 2 - Protecting Your Kids

Nerd Chicks love a happy ending. Cliff hangers at the end of our favorite TV shows drive us nuts.

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I want to start by saying my gambling experience has been confined to the slot machines in the diners I have stopped at on my way through Nevada.  So I did some research and it I was surprised to find that gambling can become a problem for individuals and families both financially and emotionally.

Over at the National Council on Problem Gambling - ncpgambling.org

  • 2 million (1%) of U.S. adults are estimated to meet criteria for pathological gambling in a given year.
  • Another 4-6 million (2-3%) would be considered problem gamblers. 
  • Research also indicates that most adults who choose to gamble are able to do so responsibly. 
  • Approximately 85% of U.S. adults have gambled at least once in their lives; 
  • 60% in the past year. 
  • Some form of legalized gambling is available in 48 states plus the District of Columbia.

A number of states allow children under 18 to gamble, and youth also participate in illegal forms of gambling, such as gambling on the Internet or betting on sports. Therefore, it is not surprising that research shows that a vast majority of kids have gambled before their 18th birthday, and that children may be more likely to develop problems related to gambling than adults. While debate continues on this issue, there appears to be a number of factors influencing this finding.

  • Parental attitudes and behavior play a role.
  • Age of exposure plays a part, in that adults who seek treatment for problem gambling report having started gambling at an early age. 
  • A number of adolescents reported a preoccupation with everything related to gambling prior to developing problems.

According to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission Report, legalized casino gambling in America grew 10 percent in 1975. Compare this to 29 percent growth in 1998. Meanwhile, playing the lottery increased from 24 percent to 52 percent. The commission estimates that 125 million U.S. adults gamble, and 7.5 million of these are either problem or compulsive gamblers. Between 1993 and 2003, total gambling revenue in the U.S. more than doubled, from $34 billion to $72 billion.

That's just going to a casino to gamble.  The Internet has opened a whole new way to gamble.

It has been estimated that between 1997 and 1998, Internet gambling more than doubled—from 6.9 million online gamblers to 14.5 million. The generated revenue increased even more—from $300 million to $651 million. For 2004, this figure increased to $6.6 billion, and industry experts project total revenue of $20.8 billion in 2005 (www.winneronline.com). The online poker industry alone grew threefold in 2004 (www.rgtonline.com).

Although online betting is illegal for American companies to offer, a U.S.-based company may still establish an overseas operation to dodge the law. Most online casinos are based in the Caribbean. In 2003, the United States accounted for an estimated 60 percent of all Internet gambling worldwide, despite the fact that wagering with U.S.-issued credit cards or checks is also illegal (www.foxnews.com). The World Trade Organization, in a recent case brought against the United States by the Caribbean nation Antigua and Barbuda, ruled that American laws against cross border gambling are in violation of free trade standards (www.bbc.co.uk). In a related development, the British Parliament is expected to approve Internet gambling soon, including specific provisions to allow gaming companies to accept bets from parties outside the U.K. This is viewed by some as purely a push for new tax revenue, and some observers expect America to follow in Britain's footsteps soon. (The Lure of Gambling, realtruth.org)

If you go looking there are a lot more facts and figures that talk about the difference between a "problem gambler" and "pathological gambler" and the phases they can go through. But I was most surprised by the fact that gambling can start in the tween and teen years.  Most online games now are for points or prizes.  The lines are becoming blurred between online game sites and online gambling sites.  Make sure access to credit cards is limited or supervised.  Internet gambling can start with gambling games at home as toy stores now offer poker and blackjack kits.  The best protection is to know and understand the prize systems on the gaming sites your family accesses, and to talk to your kids about how gambling has affected other's lives.

Gambling - Recreation Leading to Addiction

I want to start by saying my gambling experience has been confined to the slot machines in the diners I have stopped at on my way through Nevada.

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Would you drop your children off alone in the crack house district of Los Angeles? How would you feel about dropping them off at the famed Red Light District in Amsterdam, alone, and unsupervised? Every day unsupervised children inadvertently find their way to internet porn sites. The average age of a child’s first exposure is 11 years old (Family Safe Media, December 15, 2005).

Adolescent Substance Abuse and Technology Abuse: Similar Dangers

Would you drop your children off alone in the crack house district of Los Angeles? How would you feel about dropping them off at the famed Red Light District in...

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These days we spend more of our lives online than ever before and our kids are certainly no exception.  Parents and caregivers hear more and more about the risks our kids are exposed to on the internet and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the flood of risks and tips.  One question we get over and over from parents is how to protect their family from cyberbullying.  In this 2-part series, we'll explain the lingo and give you some tools to arm your kids in cyber-land so you can protect them even when you're not with them.

There are so many terms that refer to online abuses; it can be hard to keep them straight.  "Cyberbullying" is harassing or intimidating someone over the internet through mediums such as email, instant messaging, social networking sites (e.g. Facebook and MySpace) and cell phones.  There are several types of cyberbullying:

Flaming and Trolling - sending or posting hostile messages intended to “inflame the emotions of others.

Happy-Slapping - recording someone being harassed or bullied in a way that usually involves physical abuse, then posting the video online for public viewing.

Identity Theft/Impersonation - stealing someone’s password and/or hijacking their online accounts to send or post incriminating or humiliating pictures, videos or information.

Photoshopping - doctoring digital images so that the main subject is placed in a compromising or embarrassing situation.

Physical Threats - sending messages that involve threats to a person’s physical safety.

Rumor Spreading
- spreading gossip through e-mail, text, or social networking sites.

Unfortunately, anytime your child is online they can be targeted.  From social networking sites to online gaming (both via the computer and through a console like X-Box or PS3), to texting and chat rooms, our kids are spending more time exposed than ever before.  However, it's not as scary as it sounds, I promise, particularly if your kids avoid riskier behaviors that can leave them more vulnerable.  Recognizing the risks and communicating about how they can protect themselves is the first step to keeping them safe.

Cell Phones:  A recent study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project (www.pewinternet.org) shows that teens (ages 12-17) use text messaging to communicate with their friends more than e-mail or instant messaging.  "Sexting" is a sexually-explicit text or picture message sent by one minor to another.  According to Pew, only about 4% of the teens they surveyed say they have sent sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude image of themselves to someone via text message; however, 15% have received one, and older teens are more likely to be the recipient.

Online Gaming:  Online gaming allows your child to communicate with hundreds (sometimes thousands) of other people inside a giant chat room.  The anonymity can provide your child with some safeguards - if they don't tell anyone who they are then no one is likely to target them. However, they can leave themselves pretty exposed if they share too much personal information, or get too emotionally invested in the game.  These games often have a competitive aspect to them, from fighting with other players for in-game items to "killing" other players, sometimes extremely realistically.  Bullies may feel empowered to be mean and can go to extreme lengths to follow another player around, mock them, repeatedly "kill" them or spam them with nasty messages.

Social Networking, Email and Instant Messaging: Children sometimes forget that what they share or post can be forwarded just as instantly as it was received, setting themselves up as a potential target if they share private information.  Some kids intentionally post or share intimate details of their lives because they believe it will help them gain popularity. This can leave them a prime target for a cyberbully.

With all the ways they’re potentially exposed to danger, should you just unplug and live off-grid?  Next week we will share our tips and tricks to help keep your kids safe online.  In the meantime, drop us a note on Facebook (facebook.com/nerdsoncall) or chat LIVE with a NERD at www.callnerds.com for help with your family’s cyber situation.

Nerd Chick Adventures: Cyberbullying, Part 1 - What It's All About

These days we spend more of our lives online than ever before and our kids are certainly no exception.

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Recently a close friend had a life changing event. He went to purchase a car and was denied a loan due to poor credit. After he investigated the cause of the poor credit he found out that someone else had been using his identity for over a year. This person had taken out loans and then never paid back a cent, all in my friend's name. According to the credit report he had defaulted on nearly 30 thousand dollars of loans.

I found out from my friend that a little common sense and effort on his part could have helped him avoid this entire scenario. Together we identified 5 things that we felt would have helped my friend mitigate the effects or possibly stop the identity theft he experienced. Most of these are just common sense.

The 5 simple things we came up with were...

  1. Use your credit card before your debit: The monitoring and protection associated with a credit card are much better than that of a debit card. I frequently get calls from my credit card company that have stopped a charge because it was suspicious, but my bank has no such service.  The liability with a credit card is usually limited to a small sum, but debit cards can have an unlimited or much higher liability amount.
  2. Actively monitor your accounts: I cannot tell you how many people I know that don't look at the bank statements except to check the total available balance. I have close friends that pay their credit card bill every month without reviewing any of the charges. You can't know there is an issue if you don't look at your accounts. 
  3. Look at your credit reports: Most people only check their credit when it's time to ask for a loan. This is a scary way to find out there is an issue. Checking our credit report is incredibly easy and gets easier and cheaper all the time. I suggest you check your credit report 3-4 times a year at least.
  4. Don't shout out your private info: I am still shocked when I am standing in the line at the grocery store and I hear someone reading their credit card info out loud over their phone to another person. This is a simple suggestion: Be cautious and discreet when giving out your personal information. Look around before you start giving out info on the phone, look over your shoulder before you type in your debit card code. Be smart about how and where you share info.

    Here's a concept for you: If your bank account secret question and answer is your birthday, and your birthday is published on your Facebook page how secure is your bank account?
  5. If someone asks you for your info, question why and make sure it's a legit reason: Although it is still considered theft, I have a hard time feeling bad for the person who gives out their SSN, credit card info and other personal details to the anonymous caller  who is just calling to verify your bank account info. I was once asked at the Doctors office for my SSN, when I asked why they needed this info. The receptionist told me that she “didn't really need it. I then responded “then I won't be sharing it with you.

I will be honest, I don't think these steps are the end all solution for protecting your identity, but I think they would be a good step in the right direction.  Do you have any other ideas?

Identity Theft: Who's Fault Is It?

Recently a close friend had a life changing event. He went to purchase a car and was denied a loan due to poor credit.

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I think I am a typical Android phone owner. I love free apps. I check the Google Market at least once a week for something “fresh and exciting. I will randomly browse through the apps to see what I could add to my phone. I have no idea why I need 200 apps on my phone but I keep adding more all the time.
Most of the time when I am in the Google Market, I don’t have a specific need and I am not searching for a specific application. I suppose it would be fair to call me an Android Market window shopper.
As I have randomly browsed the Google Market, I have found many applications that I would not want my child or teenager exposed to. Things like “super sleazy wallpapers and “hide the porn. These were real applications, not made up names.
The point I am trying to make is that the Google Market is a little bit like hanging out in the parking lot at your local Walmart. There is definitely some time wasting going on there, but most of the people that come and go in the parking lot are normal/regular people that would not make me nervous in the least bit. The majority of the people coming and going are good upstanding everyday people, but there are occasionally some really scary folks, too.
The same concept applies to the Google Market. Most of the apps found in the Google Market are random apps that most people would not find offensive even if they are time wasters, but occasionally you will run across something that will make your jaw drop.
I am not talking about spyware or malware, (see one of my older blogs for this topic). I am talking about adult or X-rated content that I would not want my child, teen (or myself for that matter) exposed to while window shopping the Google Market.
Luckily Google has been actively addressing this topic. Google has actively started a rating system for the applications that are being posted on the Market. Google currently is attempting to categorize all applications into 4 categories.

  1. Everyone
  2. Low Maturity
  3. Medium Maturity
  4. High Maturity
I won’t go into the details of what these levels mean because you can easily find that info on Google’s site. The application rating system is not perfect, but it is getting better all the time. Some great news is that you can setup your device to only show applications below a specified maturity level, and it is very easy to do.
Google calls this feature “Content Filtering which in my opinion is a misnomer, but the feature is still useful. To use this feature open the Android Market on the device you wish to manage, then use the Menu button on your device and tap on Settings. Tap on “filtering level and select the level you wish to set.
You can also lock this feature by setting a PIN. This means you could lock the features on a phone and they cannot be changed without the PIN.
This is far from a full featured parental control set, look to Net Nanny Mobile for that solution in the very near future. But until then, this is a good start on filtering out those unwanted apps.

Android App Market can be like a Walmart Parking Lot

I think I am a typical Android phone owner. I love free apps. I check the Google Market at least once a week for something “fresh and exciting.

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The Brain

The human brain is programmed to motivate behaviors that contribute to survival.  The brain rewards eating and sexuality with powerful pleasure incentives.  It’s called the mesolimbic dopaminergic system.

The Brain, Addicted

The human brain is programmed to motivate behaviors that contribute to survival. The brain rewards eating and sexuality with powerful pleasure incentives. It’s called the mesolimbic dopaminergic system.

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The latest big thing from Google is called Google+. It’s been out there for over a month but it’s still something you have to be invited to. Luckily, with millions of users, odds are you can get an invite if you really want one. Google+ is very much like Facebook- it’s a social network that lets you share with people you know.

You’re probably thinking “I’m already frustrated with keeping track of my kids on Facebook! Why would I want another social network?

Now I don’t think Google+ is going to kill Facebook. But I do think that Google+ is better than Facebook. Maybe it’s just me and the way I think, but aside from some other great features, Google+ is built on what they call Circles. Circles are separate lists of friends that you can share with, that are ridiculously simple to set up. With Circles, you can be connected with everyone you know without sharing the same things with all of them.

That’s all great, but what does that have to do with you as parents?

I think most of our kids in a conversation would be more careful about what they were saying if a stranger walked up and started listening in. If the phone rang and someone asked them for personal information, I hope our kids would hang up the phone.

Facebook has taught the current generation not to care about privacy. They share all kinds of things with everybody. It’s bad for when they’re searching for jobs and employers pull up bad things they’ve shared. It’s even worse when the things they’ve shared give predators and strangers information on when and how your kids can be contacted or approached.

Google+ lets your kids share with different people in different ways. I have my family in one Circle, coworkers in another, friends in another, and acquaintances in another. When I post something on Google+, I can share with one or more of these groups. So my family can hear about us being away on vacation, my coworkers can hear about what the status of that new project is, and acquaintances that I barely know are left with a few ramblings about the state of the economy. Each group gets to know the things I choose to share with them- nothing else. I can have as many Circles as I want. They’re extremely easy to set up. And I choose to share what I want with each. I know what each Circle gets because I decide who is in each Circle.

Google+ Circles makes it possible for your kids to learn to share wisely.

No matter what you think of Google+, Facebook will have to improve in response to Google’s challenge. I have no doubt that your kids’ privacy will improve as a result.

Google+ Is A Good Thing

The latest big thing from Google is called Google+. It’s been out there for over a month but it’s still something you have to be invited to.

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Here at ContentWatch we work to provide a product that fills an unusual need. With everything in Pop culture leading to a more sexualized society, we help people stand against the current of less clothes and more steam. I learn a lot in this industry. Maybe too much. Even so, I never fail to be surprised by headlines declaring another arrest for child pornography, of which there are many. I never fail to be fascinated by the research that suggests pornography is harmful. Once in a while, however, I come across a story that reminds me, on an emotional level, that there is a higher purpose for our company.

Your kids will have a story to tell

Here at ContentWatch we work to provide a product that fills an unusual need. With everything in Pop culture leading to a more sexualized society, we help people stand against...

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As a mother of I what I consider “pretty good" kids, I want to give them access to the latest technologies and allow them the freedom of surfing and playing games on the internet. 

Encouraging Responsible Behavior on the Internet

As a mother of I what I consider “pretty good" kids, I want to give them access to the latest technologies and allow them the freedom of surfing and playing...

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