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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By definition, "cyberbullying" is any electronic communication, phone or Internet, that threatens or demeans. Research on this topic reveals some alarming statistics.

Monitoring for Cyberbullying Can Save Your Child

By definition, "cyberbullying" is any electronic communication, phone or Internet, that threatens or demeans. Research on this topic reveals some alarming statistics.

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I have heard dozens of opinions about the need, or lack thereof, for content filtering in the work place. I have heard the side of, "We are all adults here," and "We expect our employees to exercise restraint while in the work place." I have actually talked to company CEO's that have said, "As long as they have their office door closed we don't care what they do on the Internet."

Need for Content Filtering at work?

I have heard dozens of opinions about the need, or lack thereof, for content filtering in the work place.

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Grooming is a process child predators use to desensitize potential victims and to eventually trick them into meeting in person. Grooming most often begins in a chat room. The predator often poses as someone who can better relate to the person (such as a teenager of the same age). Other times they are honest about their age but instead put on a show of sympathy about the child/teenager.

Net Nanny has a great tool whereby a parent can receive alerts if a child has an instant messaging or chat conversation in which a stranger uses grooming language. In fact, this tool recently helped a mother in New York discover that her teenage daughter was being sexually abused by an online predator. You can read about how Net Nanny helped catch a predator HERE.

Net Nanny provided this mother with incontrovertible proof that her daughter was being abused. Hence, she was quick to contact the police and take aggressive action. But, what if the proof wasn't so incontrovertible? What if, after viewing the Net Nanny alerts, she just had a hunch her daughter was being groomed? Where would she go? Who would she tell? Would the police give her the time of day? This ambivalence, which is common among unsure parents, can be dangerous. The following are two resources you can use to easily and quickly report a potential child predator.

Tool 1: Web Browser Pedophile Reporter Plugin
This web browser plugin can be easily installed in all the popular web browsers on Mac and Windows computers. When installed, it places a small button at the top right of your web browser. When you're on a profile page of the individual you think is grooming your child, you click the button and it sends the webpage to an investigator. It also opens up an email you can put additional information in to send on to the investigator. It is simple enough to use that you could teach your child how to use it, so they can send up an immediate report if they feel grooming is occurring.

Tool 2: The Child Predator CyberTipline
This tool, while not as easy to use as the web browser plugin mentioned above, is backed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It provides a very detailed reporting tool that forwards your tips on to law enforcement.

It is important to remember, that these reporting methods should only be used to report "potential" child predators. If you have any evidence that child grooming is occuring, you need to contact your local law enforcement immediately. If they don't take any action on your report, take it to a higher level and contact your local FBI offices.

Not Reporting Potential Child Predators is Dangerous

Grooming is a process child predators use to desensitize potential victims and to eventually trick them into meeting in person. Grooming most often begins in a chat room.

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About a decade ago, something new came online. It was called Napster and it allowed normal people to easily share files online. It's what is called Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing. One person shares a file   and others that download that file share it too, making it easier and easier to find. And it's nearly impossible to tell who is actually sharing them. Today there are a number of Peer-to-Peer networks. Some businesses even use them to distribute files.

Unfortunately, so do people that are sharing porn, software, music, movies, and other files illegally. It's hard to stop because there isn't just one computer that law enforcement needs to shut down- it's all over the world. And its doubly difficult to stop since it's so difficult to tell who is sharing it.

Net Nanny can block these Peer-to-Peer downloads to your computer. Here are four reasons why you should enable that functionality:

  1. Pornography and Other Objectionable Material- Trying to fly under the radar, many people search for and share pornography via Peer-to-Peer networks. They count on the anonymity P2P networks provide to continue their addiction.
  2. Malware- It's an established fact that a large portion of files shared this way are actually malware that will take over your computer if you run them. Sometimes, hackers will just play havoc with your computer. Other times they will quietly start using your computer to help hack into other computers or engage in other illegal activities online. This type of attack can work whether you're using Windows, Mac OS X, or any other operating system.
  3. Lawsuits- If you download software, music, or movies that you don't own, you open yourself up to lawsuits from the companies that own them. And when I say you, I mean anyone using your Internet connection. The MPAA, RIAA, BSA and others are extremely active in protecting their content. Do a search for RIAA + lawsuit and you'll see how active they are. Regardless of how you feel about whether they ought to, they can and do.
  4. Simple Honesty- Whether you believe in the moral need to be honest or simply appreciate honesty in those around you, most of us don't go around taking things that don't belong to us. If you own a business, you wouldn't want customers stealing your products or services rather than paying for them. And if you have a family, you want them to do well in life- not make it a habit to steal. Taking music, movies, or software via Peer-to-Peer file-sharing is easy and in many ways anonymous. But just because the theft is easy doesn't make it right.

Protect your home and business from the consequences of illegal file-sharing today. In Windows, go to the Net Nanny Admin Tools, choose Additional settings under Filtering, and make sure 'Allow Access to Peer-to-Peer' is unchecked. Click 'OK' to save your settings. In Net Nanny for Mac, on the main screen click 'Others' on the far right of the toolbar and make sure 'Block peer-to-peer' is checked.

One more way we're watching out for you!

Four Reasons To Block Illegal File-sharing

About a decade ago, something new came online. It was called Napster and it allowed normal people to easily share files online. It's what is called Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing.

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Parents have a natural instinct to keep their kids out of harm's way. Most parents would not house a stranger, adult film star or the school bully. It wouldn't be logical. Yet, that is what parents are doing when they don't make the Internet safe for their children.

It is wise to put Internet safety precautions in place to protect children online. The problem is, kids sometimes seem to have a technological advantage over their parents and can often find ways around Internet safety measures put in place. In fact, your children may already be aware of loopholes allowing them to circumvent house Internet rules, both on your home computer and on their smartphone.

In honor of June being Internet Safety Month I've listed six loopholes that parents need to be concerned about when their child gets online:

  • Using proxy websites, web pages within a web page that allow teens to circumvent web filters and anonymously surf the web.
  • Children can use peer-to-peer sharing to download content that may be infected with inappropriate content or viruses that can aid predators in finding your child's location or in hacking your identity.
  • Wikis and blogs are comprised of user-generated content that can have objectionable content and can't be monitored in real-time by most web filters.
  • Parents that allow their children to use Facebook may not know that their children can create Facebook aliases they can't see or find.
  • Giving children access to a computer with open administrator rights is a common mistake — this will allow them to potentially uninstall web-filtering or other software.
  • Using a website's IP address to bypass a web filter is an easy way to gain access to inappropriate web pages. Most web filters do not block IP addresses and they can be found simply by doing a Google search.

Apart from being aware of these loopholes there are many precautions that families can take to minimize the risk placed on children and teenagers using the Internet. Some ideas parents can implement in their homes include:

  • Keep the home computer in a place visible to the whole family.
  • Set clear house rules on computer/phone time usage, viewable web pages and other guidelines that you may feel are applicable to your family.
  • Password-protect any computers that may be used by children.
  • Tell children to avoid chat rooms and forums that may lead to cyber bullying or Internet predators.
  • Talk to your children about not giving out any personal information online for any reason.
  • Use strong web filtering software such as Net Nanny (www.netnanny.com).
  • Monitor the web browser's history to look for inappropriate web pages.
  • Instruct children not to respond to emails or chats that may seem inappropriate, violent or unfamiliar.
  • Create an open dialogue where children can feel free to talk about things they see online.
  • Know if your children are using other computers away from the home.
  • Teach the family about never meeting someone in person that they met online first.

Beware of Loopholes in Internet Safety

Parents have a natural instinct to keep their kids out of harm's way. Most parents would not house a stranger, adult film star or the school bully. It wouldn't be logical.

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Good Android tablets seem to be MIA. Many big name companies showed tablets at the CES event in Las Vegas last January but have either put their Android tablet on hold or have removed it from their product lineup all together. One key reason could be that consumers aren't buying, and demand is really weak. Who can afford to sell something people don't want?

Where are all the "good" Android Tablets?

Good Android tablets seem to be MIA. Many big name companies showed tablets at the CES event in Las Vegas last January but have either put their Android tablet on...

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A few recent articles discuss CTIA's call for a unified "rating" system for mobile apps. Note: CTIA is the Cellular Telecommunications Internet Association, a nonprofit that includes wireless carriers and suppliers of wireless data products and services.  The articles are informative and interesting but the rating system is still in discussion phase.

Rating systems are a practical method to help set expectations. Most are familiar with the Motion Picture Association of America's rating system for movies (NR, R, PG-13, PG, and G) and perhaps somewhat less familiar with the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) system of rating video games. 

The mobile app rating initiative is a noble venture. Parents would be enabled to make educated decisions about the apps their children want. Even though most app markets have a version of content ratings, the system needs improvement. For example, in the Android market, you won't see a content rating until you tap the “More drop-down box to get a complete description of the app. Unless a parent is conscious of its location, a rating will go unnoticed. I wasn't even aware of these ratings until I read an article discussing the new system.  I consider myself fairly informed, too.

The nice thing about the MPAA and ESRB is that when kids go get to a point of sale at the movie theater or retail store, they should be stopped by the clerk prior to purchasing mature content.  In the world of smartphones and tablets, however, there is no one waiting at checkout asking for proof of age.

More important is the issue that unless app management software is installed on a smartphone, a parent won't truly know what apps are installed. Consumers are likely to revolt if asked to indicate their age somehow on their device. This is due to privacy concerns, and even recent lawsuits against Google and Apple regarding location tracking.

A unified rating system would be well received but given the complexity of enforcing the rules, it would seem impossible to protect identities and block mature content without the aid of some type of smartphone app manager.  An app manager should be able to block downloads of mature applications, alert parents when downloads have been attempted, and describe the downloaded content.

I hope the CTIA is able to introduce a well designed rating system, but I also think it's important for consumers to recognize that it's only one tool in an overall solution. Without an app manager, kids will sneak past faster than they do at the movie theater.

Ratings are not enough for mobile apps

A few recent articles discuss CTIA's call for a unified "rating" system for mobile apps. Note: CTIA is the Cellular Telecommunications Internet Association, a nonprofit that includes wireless carriers and...

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Being in the industry of protecting families makes me more aware of issues like online predators than the average person. Curious whether I had an over inflated view of the issue, I randomly asked a 14 year old girl (whom I know) whether she has ever been approached by a strange man online. She responded by saying, "More than once." I have no statistical data to back up this claim, but I assume that for every report we hear in the news, there are substantially more cases of online stalking that haven't been detected or reported. For as much as we protect our kids from talking to strangers on the playground, it is equally important, if not more so, to teach our kids to not talk to strangers online. 

I read an article posted in the beginning of the month (you can read it here), that tells a story of a man in Florida who picked up a girl in Nebraska to bring her back home. The lengths this predator went through are no less than shocking and a little scary. The story includes a list of tactics online predators use to "catch" the innocent and what parents can do to prevent this from happening. Following are a few points I found most relevant:
 Predators' tools

Grooming, aka Online Predator Behavior

Being in the industry of protecting families makes me more aware of issues like online predators than the average person.

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It's true. YouTube loves Net Nanny and hates all the other Internet filters. Here's why... most Internet filters on the market use a pre-determined list of sites that are either safe or not safe for kids. The good sites go on to a "white list" and the bad ones go on to a "blacklist." Imagine, having to categorize every new website as good or bad. That's how the majority of Internet filters still work.

Now imagine if there was a site that had both good stuff and bad stuff on it. Then you'd have to categorize on a page by page level (vs just blocking/allowing the full website). Such is the case with YouTube. There's tons of great stuff. But there's also a bunch of trash you wouldn't wish upon your worst enemy. A lot of the Internet filters out there realize this is an impossible task, and so they just give you the option to block or allow all of YouTube. There's a couple brave Internet filters out there that attempt to categorize all pages, but they fail miserably.

And here goes YouTube, introducing their latest and greatest feature that returns a whole slew of new "exploration" results when you search for a video. It's a great feature. I'd explain it but it'd triple the of this already expanding blog post - so you can just read about it HERE.

YouTube and every other respected website is constantly changing their features and web pages. Keeping up with the changes is tough. Thus, we've built Net Nanny to intelligently look at the content of the webpage and block or allow pages dynamically, based upon the content, and not their url. Pretty smart huh? It works too - just take a look at the Net Nanny reviews.

Net Nanny. Loved by YouTube, loved by you too.

YouTube loves Net Nanny

It's true. YouTube loves Net Nanny and hates all the other Internet filters. Here's why... most Internet filters on the market use a pre-determined list of sites that are either...

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I just read an article from www.dynamicbusiness.com entitled, "Website fitlering boosts staff productivity." The writer shares some pretty interesting statistics about cyberslacking in the workplace: 30-40% of internet use in the workplace is not related to business; and 37% of workers surf the web constantly while at work. As someone new to the business, I can't say this information is surprising despite the fact that it is shocking. The internet provides a quick and undetectable escape for employees from their regular workdays. The surprising thing I found on this page, however, was a link to a related article entitled, "Study proves surfing web boosts productivity." The author here sites a study done by the University of Melbourne, which claims to prove employees are more productive if they give themselves cyber breaks here and there, a practice dubbed, "Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing."  You can watch a YouTube interview with the leading professor here.

A Boost to Productivity?

I just read an article from www.dynamicbusiness.com entitled, "Website fitlering boosts staff productivity." The writer shares some pretty interesting statistics about cyberslacking in the workplace: 30-40% of internet use in...

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