Beware of Cyberbullying: 9 Apps To Watch Out For

Sad teen with a phone in her bedroom

Cyberbullying can happen at any time. Abuse and harassment online often follow children home from school, and kids often feel like there is no escape. As a parent, you want your child to be able to explore the internet safely. And they can, with adequate knowledge of the risks involved. Check out our blog for tips on keeping your child safe online.

It’s also important to be aware. Here is a list of sites and apps where cyberbullying commonly occurs.

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The 10 Types of Cyberbullying

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and schools across the United States are standing up against bullying, and educating on prevention. But before we work to prevent it, it’s important to understand what cyberbullying is.

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7 Tips On Keeping Your Child Safe Online

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Children learn about stranger danger from a very young age. We remind them about the importance of their safety whenever they step out of the home. Those same cautions should be applied to the cyber world.

Children are beginning to use the internet at younger ages. They have access to oodles of information at their fingertips and the ability to network instantly across distances. But there are some real risks and safety concerns when it comes to the world wide web.

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Popular Teen Apps Parents Need To Know (Part 2)

Part 1 explored safety concerns and hidden dangers of social apps popular with teens today. But the more we researched, the more risky apps and websites we found. So today we are bringing you Part 2, an investigation into more popular teen apps.

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Popular Teen Apps Parents Need To Know (Part 1)

On average, teens spend about 9 hours a day using media. With summer break, that number may increase. The apps most popular among teens and tweens may seem harmless; however, there are real safety concerns that parents need to be aware of:

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Social Media Challenges: What Adults Need To Know

Teens are suffering second-degree burns from purposefully rubbing salt and ice on their skin. Laundry detergent pods are being swallowed resulting in hospitalizations. Recently, a student at a New Jersey High School died after playing something called the Choking Challenge.

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The recent rise of social media challenges is putting teens at risk of serious physical harm. So why are these internet challenges so appealing? Why would teens purposely inflict harm on themselves for fun?

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Guard Yourself Against These 3 Things

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October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Each week in October is dedicated to a different cyber security theme, and features appropriate resources to help all internet users protect themselves from threats online.

Both children and adults should be cautious of their interactions online, while also considering whom they are dealing with:

BOTS

Bots are useful tools and potentially constitute 60% of website traffic. However, they are oftentimes employed to conduct cybercriminal activity. They are a type of malware, allowing hackers to remotely take control over the infected computer.

Bots can be website scrapers and spammers, while extensive “botnets” (an army of infected computers) can take down a website in mere seconds called a Denial-of-Service Attack. Bots send viruses and are often used to steal personal information (credit card information, bank credentials, social security numbers), putting victims at risk of fraud.

STRANGERS

The digital age promised to bring the world closer – and indeed the younger generation seems to be reflecting the sentiment, sharing increasingly more personal information with strangers online. The study extrapolates that 1 in 5 people share sensitive data (including passport scans, bank information, and personal documents) online with others they do not know well.

Neglecting to install proper security measures or voluntarily sharing personal information introduces many risks, from Venmo scams and fraud to sexual predators.

PEERS

Incorporating people from your physical environment into your online social community may seem like a natural extension. However, a recent study by Robin Dunbar of Oxford University shows that most of your online friends are in fact not your “real friends”. In fact, cyberbullying is more likely to come from a teen’s peers than from internet trolls or strangers. Exceptions occur in cases where aggressive “strangers” were exposed as peers operating under fake accounts/names.

Online communication platforms are efficient, but “the lack of face-to-face interactions makes it difficult to invest in a relationship for maintaining an essential level of ‘emotional intensity.’” This lack of empathy and selective sharing on social media garners a feeling of detachment, which empowers cyberbullying. October is also National Bullying Prevention Month. Cyber Security can be integral in bullying prevention. Both campaigns intersect, working towards the same goal: safety.

To learn more about how we keep kids safe online, visit our website:

Learn more about our Built-In Cyberbullying Detection

Your Digital Citizenship Resource Guide

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What is Digital Citizenship?

Essentially, it is responsible technology use rooted in community awareness. In order to be practice good digital citizenship, you must consider how your actions online can compromise your safety, and also of those (virtually) around you. In recent years, many school districts have begun implementing digital citizenship education for educators and students. Why? Digital citizenship education is not only essential for student online safety but also integral for cyberbullying prevention.

At the advent of personal computing, many focused mainly on digital literacy, the ability to understand and integrate into a digital society. However, understanding the technology is not enough. By contrast, digital citizenship is all encompassing. Common Sense Media defines multiple components of digital citizenship including awareness of Internet Safety, Privacy and Security, Relationships & Communication, Cyberbullying, Digital Footprint, Self Image & Identity, Information Literacy, and Copyright Laws.

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Google Trends search frequencies for “digital citizenship” vs “digital literacy” from 2012 – present.

Then, with personal computing came to the rise of social media and cyberbullying. However, though cyberbullying awareness has increased over the years, the numbers for digital citizenship queries are dismal – especially given the positive relationship between them. In fact, many schools require digital citizenship education as part of their 1:1 Acceptable Use Policy. Some states even mandate digital training for students and administrators for school districts to receive funding. Florida House Bill 5101, grants at least $250,000 for digital classroom development. To receive this funding, each district must submit a digital classroom plan which includes provisions for digital citizenship education.

digital citizenship, digital literacy

Search frequency for “cyberbullying” and “digital citizenship” (2012-2017) – we need to close this gap.

 

The following free education resources are intended to impart digital citizenship best practices in the everyday technology usage of parents, educators, and students:

Teach InCtrl

The Internet & Television Association (NCTA) launched InCtrl to provide free lessons for both teachers and students on digital citizenship. InCtrl is unique from other online curriculums in two main ways:

  • it provides guides for teaching digital citizenship across different subject areas, giving specifics for how to integrate digital citizenship into English/Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, Math, and Library/Media.
  • the curriculum is based heavily on collaboration and communication

Common Sense Media Curriculum

Common Sense Media has crafted a Digital Citizenship curriculum intended to teach children how to make “safe, smart, and ethical decisions online”. Lesson plans come in a variety of formats (PDFS, iBooks, Nearpod, videos, interactive games, etc), segmented by grade (K-12) and subject. 76% of public schools across the US use these guides. However, it is not isolated only to the classroom. They also provide separate modules for professional development, teacher training, and family education.

Microsoft Digital Citizenship Training

Last month, Microsoft released their “Digital Civility Index” in honor of the 5th anniversary of Safer Internet Day in the US. Despite their findings, Microsoft is still optimistic for a safer Internet and has started a new initiative The Digital Civility Campaign. This is an addition to their newly released training courses published for the public on their Microsoft Education platform.

Their 30 min Digital Citizenship course provides a toolkit for educators to use in their classrooms and is based on three pillars: (1) Digital Literacy, (2) Digital Civility, and (3) Information Literacy.

iKeepSafe Generation Safe – New Media Mentor for Digital Citizenship

The iKeepSafe organization provides benchmark tests (ex: 360 Self Assessment) to help schools examine the school’s e-safety competence. They then break down Digital Citizenship Success into six tenets: each page devoted to an individual element provides (1) comprehensive definition (2) tips for schools (3) tips for youth and (4) guiding questions to assess readiness. iKeepSafe also breaks down concepts into three action items – Prevention, Detection & Intervention, and Incident Management & Response – accompanied by worksheets and themed curriculums for classrooms.

 

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How to Balance Trust and Safety in Digital Monitoring

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Malware, spyware, online predators, phishing, etc. – your child faces these threats each time they log in to their device. The internet can be a devious place, with questionable content tucked into its darker corners.  As parents, you are inclined to install every safety measure possible to protect your children from harm.

Sure, these precautions are imperative for younger, elementary school-aged children. However, as kids become teens – chances are they won’t want you tracking their movements, monitoring their online activity, and/or filtering their content. To them, it is a breach of their privacy and a lack of trust. Perhaps this sentiment is merely a front for content they are trying to hide, but let’s not start off too skeptical. Psychologist Michael Rubino has worked with teens and families for 20 years; he says teenagers often ask, “If they want me to be responsible, how can I be responsible if they do not give me a chance?”

This in turn often leaves parents with the question: How do I walk the line between trusting and monitoring my teen?

It is possible.

In most cases, parents buy their child’s device (smartphone, laptop, etc.) and parents pay for the data service. Thus, it is important to remind your kid that their screentime is a privilege and thus can be taken away. Although this seems rather authoritarian, it is a point often taken for granted.

On a lighter note, the following includes more collaborative practices for establishing trust, while maintaining your child’s safety:

1. Transparency

“Spying” is masked with an incredibly negative connotation that lies in deception and secrecy. Tracking all of your child’s online activity without their knowledge already diminishes the chance of parent-child relationship built on trust.

It is best to tell your child of the x,y, z security measures you have installed to avoid feelings of betrayal, and later retaliation. By being frank with your child, you are establishing an openness intended to be respected/reciprocated. It sends the message: “Hey, I think these security measures are necessary. I can see what you’re doing. I’m giving you the responsibility to make decisions, and I’m holding you accountable for them.”

2. Compromise

48% of parents have read through their teen’s messages, and 61% monitor their browser history. However, this does not encourage an atmosphere of trust. A recent NYT article Should You Spy on Your Kids? claims: “A parent who constantly micromanages a teenager’s life — Why did you stop here? Why did you go there? — risks stifling the independence needed to develop into an adult.”

Please, do allow your child more freedom as they move through elementary school and onto middle and high school – but this does not mean you have to relinquish all responsibilities as the protectorate. Oscar Wilde once said, “With age come wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.” Although a bleak statement, this lends to the more moderate notion: although the transition from child to young adult marks a large jump in maturity, there is still a lot to be learned.

To foster a relationship built on mutual trust, discuss trade-offs. This can be as simple as being “friends” on Facebook or keeping Location Services on, but no reading through messages. When approached correctly, these tools should need not feel intrusive.

3. Talk Boundaries   

First and foremost, teach your children how to properly use technology as with great power, comes great responsibility. Impart digital literacy and digital citizenship practices and make clear what sites should and should not be accessed. Set ground rules and discuss expectations with your young adult as soon as possible: this includes individual screen time limits as well as restrictions on interacting with others on online platforms. In doing their part, parents should also be aware of the current technological climate.

On the other hand, if your teen is sharing a part of their world with you (being friends/sharing updates on social media) show the same respect by being courteous and following online etiquette: do not comment on every post, do not like every photo, etc. Check out this guide “How Parents Should Approach Their Teens on Social Media” for helpful tips to navigating this fairly new type of relationship.

4. Data Usage/Limits

Relative to the other practices, this is quite simple. Parents can set the data plan through their wireless provider to limit their teen’s browsing and app usage. This includes specifications like (1) app access only through Wi-Fi or (2) blocking texts, calls, and browsing during a designated time. These simple implementations limit access to online content (and also saves money), while still giving teens the freedom they crave.

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How to Be a Digitally Aware Parent

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Kids are trading in swing sets for headsets and see-saws for Slither. There are apps developed specifically for 1-year-olds, and on average, a child receives their first smartphone at the age of 10. It’s 2017 – parents must be cognizant of the virtual playground, just as they looked on while their children scaled the jungle gym.

This constant influx of technology – and at increasingly younger ages – poses a variety of risks for children that range from compromised cybersecurity to impaired cognitive development. However, the best way for parents to ensure online child safety is to be digitally literate and digitally aware themselves. And here’s how:

1. Know the Trends

To understand your child’s device habits, it’s important to know what types of content they are consuming.  For parents who feel that monitoring browser history is too overbearing, this is a less intrusive way to gain insight into what type of material their kids are exposed to. Business Insider surveyed a large group of teens to see what the biggest trends were among young adults this past year.

App Annie regularly reports top download apps and games by category: social networking, kids, entertainment, etc. Google Trends reports top searches and YouTube populates the most viewed videos on their home page.

2. Use Your Resources

The US government has compiled a list of resources centered around cyber safety and cyberbullying prevention. Additionally, there are a variety of tools available that are designed to help parents monitor and protect their children online at all times:

Web filters block inappropriate content, protect from malware, and can detect instances of bullying or self-harm. For full coverage, these apps allow parents to track and regulate their kid’s activity undetected. Google’s My Activity feature compiles watch and search history across all Google Apps, including YouTube. It also tracks devices, where they have been, and what apps you have used; these settings are adjustable. Although controversial, checking your child’s “My Activity” is a free way to follow their digital footprints.

3. Engage With Your Child

Younger Children

A recent study focused on how toddlers learn from touchscreens. Researchers observed the difference in a child’s retention and reproduction of a puzzle pattern when the puzzle-assembly tutorial was (1) demonstrated by a “ghost demonstration” on a tablet and (2) performed by an adult sitting next to them. The results: “The 2- and 3-year-olds who saw the ghost demonstration had a hard time replicating the task — but did well after they saw the human hand. Researchers concluded that having a human guide — often referred to as having social scaffolding — helped these young children learn.”

Young Adults

Reassign the hours usually devoted to scrolling through social media apps or online shopping in for a “device-free”, family activity time: start a project with your children, decide upon a book to read together, or introduce a regular time to catch-up and talk about your day. Being attuned to your child’s behavior on-and-off screen is an integral part of keeping them safe. Many young adults fall victim to cyberbullying and serious consequences may ensue. However, many teens do not reach out for help;. Spotting the signs early through shifts in your child’s behavior can prevent the devastating consequences, and ensure they are receiving the proper support they need.

Signs your child may be experiencing cyberbullying:

  • Becomes withdrawn
  • Suddenly stops using the computer
  • Loses interests in hobbies once enjoyed
  • Stops using computer or dims the screen when someone is nearby
  • More can be found here

4. Connect with Other Parents

Many parents have the same concerns when it comes to privacy and internet safety. CommonSense Media, a non-profit that works to promote safe technology usage, has created a trusted forum for parents to voice their concerns. Parents can both “Ask an Expert” and receive guidance from other parents. The forum is segmented by age group.

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5. Set Guidelines for both Parents and Kids

In 2016, parents spent a daily average of 9 hours and 22 minutes interacting with some sort of screen media. About 8 of these hours were devoted to recreational use. To effectively set screen time boundaries for children, parents must lead by example and consciously make an effort to forgo picking up their device.  Set “no-phone zones”, schedule outdoor activity time, and impose daily screen time limits. Also, make sure that children do not use their device directly before bedtime; studies have shown that this disrupts sleep patterns and can lead to poor academic performance.

It’s especially important to limit screen time during early stages of development. Check out these new guidelines for screen time exposure by age group, abridged from an American Academy of Pediatrics report.

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