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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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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I was at a friend's house last week and I was shocked when he said "I really wish I could control what my kids do with their iPhones and iPods". It was almost this helpless, "Oh well" tone from him.

iPod/iPhone/iPad controls, not really that hard

I was at a friend's house last week and I was shocked when he said "I really wish I could control what my kids do with their iPhones and iPods".

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As parents, it's easy to rely on ratings. They are an extremely simple way to judge how 'good' or 'clean' a movie is. At least that's what we tell ourselves. Have you ever seen a PG-13 movie and thought "That's not clean enough for my 13-year-old. Or even me!"?

In the beginning, movies weren't rated at all. Then in the 1920's Hollywood began producing increasingly risque films. Concerned citizens recommended a code of standards which the head of the movie industry, Will Hays, liked and put into use. Starting in 1934 and lasting for nearly thirty years, nearly every movie made in the US had to abide by the Motion Picture Production Code. And it wasn't a graded rating system like the one used today- you either passed or failed and failure meant the movie wasn't released.

Over time though, the code was rewritten to be more and more lenient until by the late 1960s, it was just a few bullet points that let nearly anything through. And movies that failed to pass were starting to be released anyway. So on November 1, 1968, the MPAA came out with the graded rating system we know today.

The government has nothing to do with the ratings. A bunch of movie industry employees watch the movie and give their personal opinion about it and they take those opinions to make a rating. When you see NR or Unrated it means the film wasn't even submitted to this process. But the MPAA does not have a published guideline on what qualifies for which rating. When you see a rating- it doesn't mean much.

So the movie ratings are made by the movie industry. And TV ratings? Made by the TV channels. That's right. The company that displays the show decides what rating should go with it.

In both these cases, when you look at a rating, it's a somewhat arbitrary judgement call by a group of people in an industry whose first responsibility is to sell movies and TV shows. They do not care about your family- they are in business to make money and the only reason they use ratings is that they prefer doing it themselves to having the government (or you) get involved.

Luckily, the Internet doesn't have to be this way. The Net Nanny internet filter, for example, has default settings to keep your family safe online, but you can customize those settings to be what you think they should be. You don't have to go along with what everyone in the US, your state, or your neighborhood think. You can make the choice yourself. Your standards, your Internet. Online peace of mind because you're making the decisions instead of a panel of strangers.

What Goes Into a Movie or TV Rating?

As parents, it's easy to rely on ratings. They are an extremely simple way to judge how 'good' or 'clean' a movie is. At least that's what we tell ourselves.

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