The internet and access to online entertainment have become very prevalent in day to day life, especially for children. Children can often spend more time online interacting with friends than they do in real life. This can be a blessing and a curse to parents trying to create a balance between letting there kids be kids and keeping them safe. Here are 5 things parents can do to keep their kids safe online.
Why Spying is Not the Same as Monitoring
There has been a good deal of media buzz lately surrounding new questions about social media monitoring in our nation’s schools. More and more K-12 schools are monitoring their students’ social media behavior as a way to curb rising rates of cyberbullying and the unfortunate tween and teen suicides that often result from extreme cases of online bullying.
For example, according to a recent article on NPR.org, the Glendale Unified School District is spending $40,000 to have a third party company monitor social media use among its students. “School officials want to know if the kids are posting suicidal thoughts, obscenities or comments intended to bully fellow students,” the article states.
In the article, Justin Patchin of the Cyberbullying Research Center questions new school programs that monitor students’ social media behavior, unbeknownst to them, as a way to stop cyberbullying and other dangerous behaviors before they start. Patchin said he doesn’t recommend schools spying – monitoring kids without their knowledge — “because they’ll find something they have to confront their kids about,” he told NPR, “and is your kid ever going to trust you again?'”
Another article at DigitalTrends.com addresses a similar sentiment: “The Internet is full of nightmares for parents and educators worried about safety,” the article says. “And it probably always will be. But does that make it appropriate for a school district to hire professional social media snoops to digitally tail their students’ moves online?”
While the issue of monitoring can be complex, the team at MamaBear Family Safety App ultimately commends the Glendale Unified School District and other school districts nationwide for being proactive in dealing with a very real, very concerning threat to kids’ safety: cyberbullying. While ultimately monitoring is first and foremost a parent’s responsibility, the district can be a good role model by demonstrating to parents the importance of monitoring social media, and their intentions to protect children are good.
However, parents shouldn’t be complacent by thinking that schools alone should be paying attention to students’ online behavior. Parents must do their part by monitoring their children’s online behavior for signs of cyberbullying and self-destructive behaviors with a family safety app like MamaBear.
Spying or Monitoring?
It’s important for families to build trust among each other. Parents ultimately make decisions to protect their children, but also should respect their children’s need for their own space. And kids should respect their parents’ choice to take safety precautions. So we think spying on our kids is not in a parent’s or child’s best interests.
There is a clear difference between spying and monitoring.
Spying is secretive. It happens without a person’s knowledge. It’s a dirty trick, a way to gather information behind someone’s back.
Using a family safety app like MamaBear provides a way to monitor a child’s behavior. Monitoring, unlike spying, happens with the child’s knowledge and opportunity for more relevant communication.
Keep it Out in the Open
Our recommendation is to not put a monitoring app on your child’s phone without their knowledge or benefit to them. It’s not a good idea to spy or snoop on a child’s phone, just as it’s not a good idea to put a secret video camera in their bedrooms or read their diaries. Instead, openly monitor and talk to your child about why you’re monitoring his or her location and social media behavior.
There are good reasons to use a family safety app like MamaBear, and those reasons can be shared with your children. In many cases, parents don’t trust predators and bullies, and being alerted to the suspicious behavior of others can help you warn them about the consequences their behavior may indicate.
Ultimately, monitoring – whether by schools or by parents — is about safety. While some children might not like the idea of being monitored, others take comfort in knowing that someone has his or her back if something like cyberbullying or interaction with an online predator puts them at risk.
Image Credit: Fixers
A new school year is full of excitement and opportunities for children. New activities and new friendships are forged while a whole new learning adventure begins. Along with the excitement and novelty of a new school year, children with smart phones, tablets and classroom computers can be exposed to threats from online predators and bullies as they are also being exposed to a wide world of information and learning.
Thankfully, there are several precautions a parent can take at the start of a school year to keep children safe while allowing them the freedom to enjoy technology. Taking a few back to school tech safety precautions is every bit as important as buying school supplies and new clothes, meeting teachers and doing all the necessary things to prepare a child for the new school year.
Back to School Technology Safety Tips
Here are some back to school tips to help keep your children safe during the school year:
- Monitor your children’s online and social media behavior. According to an article at Education World, you can do this in a number of ways: by talking to your children, monitoring their apps and by setting up internet usage rules. You can also install the MamaBear Family Safety App on your child’s Apple or Android device to monitor your children’s behavior on Facebook and Instagram, including when they make new friends and are tagged in posts, photos or at locations. Be aware when inappropriate language or indication of bullying is posted to their profile with restricted word alerts. Also, teach your child that if you wouldn’t say something in person, you shouldn’t say it on social.
- Set up parental restrictions on their mobile devices. iPhones have a great parental restriction settings to monitor age appropriate content, music, apps and gives parents the opportunity to restrict in-app purchasing, adding apps or deleting apps. On iPhones go to settings/general/restrictions to set them up. On Android devices, a recent update to the operating system allows for some device restrictions for parents. Right now Android 4.3/Jelly Bean is available on Nexus devices but manufactures of other device types are anticipating a roll-out of the new operating system. Until then check Google Play for other apps that help with device restrictions.
- Control internet use at home. Place your children’s computer in a public area so they can’t isolate themselves when online. Limit the amount of time to use the Internet, or simply disable WiFi at certain times of the day to restrict his/her internet access. Set rules for mobile devices too. For instance, charge phones overnight in a common area, not in their bedrooms at night. Check up on their browser history on their phones for use of unacceptable content.
- Be aware of your child’s computer use at school. Ask questions about what their computer use is in the classroom. Create an open dialog that holds your child – and his/her teachers – accountable. Also, know your child’s school’s internet policy. Be aware of how your school district handles internet safety by visiting the school’s website and/or talking to school faculty and administration. If you have concerns about the policy, consider working to improve the Internet safety standards of the school district.
- Pay attention to warning signs. Be aware of whether your child is spending an increased amount of time online or on their phones, is isolating themselves, appears withdrawn or is exhibiting troubled behavior. These could be signs that your child’s safety is threatened. Awareness is one of the best ways to keep your children safe with their mobile devices.
Going back to school is one of the most exciting times of the year for parents and their children. Keep that time fun and special by following these back to school internet safety tips, protecting your child so that she can safely embark on the adventure of a new academic year.
If you have ever shared your location on a mobile device, you may have used Google Latitude. Google Latitude allows users to find friends and family on a map as well as share where they are with friends and family. The user controls who gets to see their location and at what level of detail.
Google recently announced that they are retiring the Latitude service as of Aug. 9. According to Google, “Products being retired include Google Latitude in Google Maps for Android, Latitude for iPhone, the Latitude API, the public badge, the iGoogle Gadget, and the Latitude website at maps.google.com/latitude.”
If you used Google Latitude with your iPhone or Android device, the retirement means you’ll no longer be able to share your location using Latitude. Also, Latitude is no longer a feature on the latest version of Google Maps for mobile on Android and will be removed from iPhone on the App Store. That and your list of Latitude friends will be deleted.
You can read more about the change and what it means here.
Using the MamaBear App as a Google Latitude Alternative
With Google Latitude’s retirement, other location tracking apps will attempt to fill the void. While there are many choices for Latitude alternatives, for families there is no better replacement option than MamaBear. The MamaBear Family Safety App offers the best Google latitude alternative for Androids and iPhones.
Adding MamaBear to your iPhone or Android device provides you a way track your children’s locations, making sure you are aware of where they are and where they’ve been. The app also allows you to schedule alerts for location activity and it gives your kids a one-click opportunity to check-in, or send you an emergency notification. This gives your children a sense of freedom while also easing your own worries and enabling you to keep the whole family safe and secure. In addition, you can selectively share your current location with your children.
For concerned parents wanting to protect their growing children and give them the freedom they need to roam and explore, MamaBear goes a step further than Google Latitude.
MamaBear doesn’t just tell you where your kids are on a map. The app alerts you if they leave school or a scheduled activity early or they visit a restricted place you set. MamaBear monitors your kids’ social media behavior with notifications about new friends or followers, photo uploads, tagged photos or posts and restricted words you deem as signs of bullying or inappropriate on Facebook and Instagram. MamaBear can even let you know if they are in a speeding vehicle.
Without Google Latitude, parents still have options for sharing their location and tracking their children. MamaBear is one GPS tracking system for mobile devices that offers the same features at Latitude, along with so much more.