The Official Net Nanny Blog

Setting Boundaries for Tech Addicted Kids (and Parents)

Like most parents, I struggle with setting boundaries with technology that my family will respect. Before setting boundaries, though, it’s important to understand why our kids are on their devices so much. Unfortunately, the truth is that we, as parents, are partly responsible

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This week, Grant Smith, a professor from the University of Utah was arrested for viewing child pornography while on a flight from Salt Lake to Boston.  A courageous passenger seated behind Mr. Smith took a photo of him allegedly watching child pornography on his laptop. The flight crew was notified and Boston police officers were waiting for Mr. Smith as he deplaned.  He was detained, his computer and phone searched, and then arrested. It's important to note that possession of even one image of child pornography is a felony.  

This brazen display of the professor's need to view pornography shows the power of the addiction.

Child pornography involves a very disturbing and dark subculture of Internet pornography. Child pornography is a fast-growing business and the content is becoming much more graphic and violent.  Because of the severity of the penalty for possession, child pornographers typically swap and share images on peer-to-peer networks to avoid publicizing their addiction by paying on commercial pornography sites.

The most disturbing issue is that of those arrested for possession of child pornography, 40 percent had both sexually victimized children and were in possession of child pornography.

Of those arrested between 2000 and 2001, 83 percent had images involving children between the ages of 6 and 12, while 39 percent had images of children between the ages of 3 and 5, and quite sadly,  19% had images of infants and toddlers under the age of 3 yrs old.  I can only imagine that the statistics are worse after ten years of continued devolution.

According to Mark Shurtleff, attorney general of Utah, of those arrested for possession of child pornography, most started out viewing adult pornography but gradually progressed to more hard core images as the addiction advanced. (Source: KPCW radio interview on 30 Nov. 2011 at 9 a.m.)

As parents, we need to be alert to the fact that sexual predators are online in search of prey.  Children are the target and must be protected.  Parental controls software is the best method a parent has in the fight against this sickening trend.  Net Nanny Mobile will launch in January to help protect kids and teens using smartphones and iPods.

(Source: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Child Pornography Possessors Arrested in Internet-Related Crimes: Findings from the National Juvenile Online Victimization Study, 2005).

I work for ContentWatch and all opinions expressed here are my own.

Child Pornography - Serious and Disturbing

This week, Grant Smith, a professor from the University of Utah was arrested for viewing child pornography while on a flight from Salt Lake to Boston.

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Bullies have been around as long as schools. The Internet has created a whole new playground where bullies roam. Cyberbullying—bullying through online means—is now increasing at an alarming rate.

Parents should take precautions to protect children from cyberbullies. But, if cyberbullying does occur, it is imperative you act quickly and decisively to deal with and to overcome the negative impact it can have on your child.  Email, chat and social media are the usual places where cyberbullying occurs.

For example, if your online Internet safety tool, such as Net Nanny, sends an alert of a potential cyberbullying incident, you should act quickly. Remember, the Internet is "on" continually. Things can happen fast. You should act as quickly as the Internet.

Here are five suggestions if you are alerted to a cyberbullying incident:

  1. Address it immediately. Speak frankly and openly about the incident with your child to get all the details. Don’t hesitate to ask direct and detailed questions.
  2. Ask about history. Determine if this is the first time for the incident or if it has been an on-going problem.
  3. Get a clear understanding of your child’s feelings. Is your child annoyed or scared? Does your child feel threatened? Is your child contemplating extreme or dangerous actions such as retaliation or even suicide? Understanding their feelings will help you determine the urgency of the problem.
  4. Create a plan with your child. Your plan will help resolve the problem with your child and literally with the bully. Your plan might include speaking with school officials in dealing with the issue, or changing user names and passwords for your child’s online profile, or even speaking with the parents of the bully.
  5. If the incident warrants, seek professional medical help or counseling for your child. If you suspect any kind of criminal activity, contact local law enforcement.
You can have a great relationship with your child, put in place many safety measures and do everything you can to protect your child, but the bottom line is this: When an incident occurs you need to act very quickly to protect your child.

Our company supports parents, school officials, government agencies and corporations in doing everything possible to protect the rights of school children. For more information go to www.NetNanny.com.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etcLACqSt9w

Cyberbullying - What to do? Act.

Bullies have been around as long as schools. The Internet has created a whole new playground where bullies roam.

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The graphic sexual and violent spam that filled 800 million Facebook users’ pages recently has people on edge. Some users even threaten to delete their account for good. And who could blame them?

My aunt recounted a similar story of distress last week that involved my 15-year old cousin. She said that one evening she received a phone call from one of her neighbors. The mother of four told her to rush to the computer because pornographic videos were displayed on my 15-year-old cousin’s Facebook page. My aunt became alarmed.

She logged on to Facebook to find a pornographic video on her daughter’s Facebook page. It even had thumbs up saying that she liked it. Distraught and confused, my aunt turned to her 15-year-old daughter and asked “Did you post this?

My cousin, with tears in her eyes, said “No, Mom. I would never! Her Facebook page had been hacked.

Millions of others can tell their tragic story of pornographic hacking. The worst part is that innocent teenagers, like my cousin, who don’t want to view pornography, aren’t always protected by being on “safe sites. Web surfers stumble upon questionable material and the statistic is that just after 20 minutes of exposure to pornography, a person can become addicted.

How can you protect your family?

Circumstances arise that are beyond your control, such as the Facebook spamming, leave you no choice but to have a good defense. If my cousin’s computer had had an internet filter on it, her mother wouldn’t have had to see the pornography on her Facebook page. 

I just recently downloaded Net Nanny on my laptop.  I’m a college student, but after hearing all of the horrible stories of Facebook hacking and seeing the effect on those around me, I’m thrilled that I can protect myself from any unwanted websites. Net Nanny blocks pornographic images, “hate sites, questionable chat rooms and other dangers of the Internet. www.netnanny.com

Here are some tips on how to stay safe on Facebook.

Facebook Spamming

The graphic sexual and violent spam that filled 800 million Facebook users’ pages recently has people on edge. Some users even threaten to delete their account for good.

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Friends and family gathered around your house to celebrate your 10th wedding anniversary last week. You have three children who are growing up fast, two already in grade school. Life is crazy, but very fulfilling. You decide to go out with some girl friends for the evening, leaving your husband to put the kids to bed.

Does Your Spouse Have a Pornography Addiction?

Friends and family gathered around your house to celebrate your 10th wedding anniversary last week. You have three children who are growing up fast, two already in grade school.

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Based on the information Nina Laltrello shared with us last night in our webinar, sex addiction can be one of the most difficult addictions to overcome. Elevated dopamine levels actually rewire the brain, breaking down the decision making processes in the brain. Seeking the same high becomes more frustrating while people go to greater extremes. Without incorporating new behaviors that rewire the neuron circuitry, recovery is next to impossible.

Recovery from Sex Addiction is Not Easy

Based on the information Nina Laltrello shared with us last night in our webinar, sex addiction can be one of the most difficult addictions to overcome.

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The American Society for Addiction Medicine says addiction is "about brains…it's about underlying neurology, not outward actions."  In simple terms, we all have reward circuitry in our brains that make food and sex rewarding. This is a survival mechanism.

In a healthy brain, the food and sex rewards have feedback mechanisms for knowing you'd had enough. For an addict, dysfunction causes the message to become ‘I want more.' This leads to the pursuit of rewards and/or relief through abuse. Internet pornography, unlike the girly magazines from the past, has the power to override natural satiety mechanisms in many brains. This increases the risk of addiction-related brain changes.

With respect to pornography, it's not about the time spent viewing or what you're looking at that determines whether your brain has changed. Instead, watch for these signs:

  • Inability to refrain from viewing
  • Impaired impulse control
  • Craving
  • Diminished grasp of one's problems
  • Problematic emotional responses
The American Society for Addiction Medicine publishes a very detailed list of questions to ask yourself at http://www.reuniting.info/download/pdf/ASAM.exp.pdf.  This list of questions (and beware, some are quite graphic) will help identify signs of addiction.

Some of the questions are not those you might normally associate with pornography addiction and relate to an addicts social interaction, loneliness, feelings of self worth, procrastination, self-motivation, anxiety, and more. Pornography has far-reaching effects.

Pornography Addiction Self-Test

The American Society for Addiction Medicine says addiction is "about brains…it's about underlying neurology, not outward actions." In simple terms, we all have reward circuitry in our brains that make...

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You know what I'm talking about, the inexplicable feeling of being locked behind mounds of tasks piling over you. The outdoors is that thing beyond the pane of glass, moving like a magic picture—constantly reminding you where you are not. Friends and family are those things that distract you from your ever mounting task list, and the phone is that demon which can take seconds from your day.
When this thought process happens, it's time for a break, especially from technology. The LCD lights behind our monitors, tablets, and phones can hypnotize us into believing that all which matters in the world is what crosses that very screen when, actually, what matters more is what crosses your path in the family room.
You don't need me to tell you this. Work/life balance has been the subject of watery-eye dramas and after-school specials for decades. What our kids might not realize, however, is that this very lesson applies to their own tech-savvy lives.
The danger of kids spending too much time in front of a screen include, but is not limited to, believing in a world that only exists in a 22 screen. When Facebook posts seem larger than life, could it be because this is what life looks like to our youth?
If balancing work and life is difficult for adults, it only stands to reason that balancing technology and life is near impossible for youth. Hence the reason to help kids experience more than just the keyboard in the den.  Here are some tips to help your kids get off the computer.

  • Implement time controls: This may seem a little Machiavellian, but if a child knows they are limited, they are more likely to use the computer as a tool and not a pastime.
  • Recognize and encourage developing talents: An idle mind is the devil's playground, but giving kids something they love to do (other than the latest Facebook game), will make it easier for you to get them off the computer.
  • Watch yourself: Could your kids be following your example? Or could you make an effort to spend more time with your kids? Monkey see, monkey do.


Kids Need Focus Too

You know what I'm talking about, the inexplicable feeling of being locked behind mounds of tasks piling over you.

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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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