Dangers of Talking to Strangers Online

Dangers of Talking to Strangers Online

When you see your child texting or chatting online, you may assume they are communicating with friends and family. But that may not always be the case.

A study from Cox Communications found that 69% of teens regularly receive personal messages online from strangers. Many parents may be unaware of this because only 21% of teens who receive messages from strangers tell a trusted adult.

Kids aren’t talking about encounters with online strangers, but parents need to.

Know the Facts

If you think your child is safe from online stranger solicitation, you are wrong. The San Diego District Attorney (SDDA) reported that over 45 million children ages 10-17 use the Internet, and among them:

  • close to 60% of teens have received an e-mail or instant message from a stranger, and half have communicated back
  • one in five has been sexually solicited

The odds that your child or teen has encountered a solicitation from a stranger online are high, and there is also a chance that those messages were inappropriate or lewd.

Restrict Stranger Chat Sites

There are a few social sites that promote chatting with strangers. Parents should familiarize themselves with those sites so they can recognize if their children are using them.

  • Omegle – Randomly connects users with strangers and allows them to chat via text or video chat. It is known to often include sexual material.
  • Imeetzu – Randomly connects users with strangers, requires no registration, and permits text, video, and group chats.
  • Tohla – Opens chat windows within the site for chatting one-on-one with strangers.
  • Bazoocam – Is an international chat site that pairs users with strangers for video chat sessions.

Parents should consider banning these sites, so their children fully understand the danger associated with communicating through these channels.

Educate Yourself on Chat Lingo

Because some kids and teens don’t fully understand the dangers of talking to strangers online, they may engage in this behavior. If they know you disapprove, they may attempt to hide it. So educate yourself on the chat lingo they may use to hide their conversations.

ChatSlang has a full list of terms that parents should recognize. Among them:

  • 9 or C9 – Parent in room
  • CD9 – Parents are watching
  • SPROS – Stop parents reading over shoulder
  • KPC – Keeping parents clueless
  • ASLP – Age/Sex/Location/Picture

These are only a few of the acronyms kids use to attempt to keep their parents in the dark. So keep an eye out for any unusual acronyms and question your child if you don’t understand their messages.

Take Safety Precautions

Educating yourself on the dangers of online stranger encounters is the first step in protecting you kids. The next step is educating your kids, and that means talking to them about it.

Related: Protecting Kids from Internet Stranger Danger

The SDDA reports that, “71% of parents stop supervising Internet use by their children after the age of 14, yet 72% of all Internet-related missing children cases involve children who are 15 years of age or older.”

It’s important to continue to protect and educate your children even into their teens. Keep lines of communication open so they feel comfortable coming to you in the event a stranger contacts them online, and stay connect with apps like MamaBear Family Safety (available for iPhones and Andriods) that helps you see who is talking to your kids in social media environments.


8 Back to School Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Internet Safety Tips for Kids. Here are eight important online safety conversations to have with your child before the first bell rings. | MamaBear

As students head back to school, many will take their own smartphones for the first time. Others will enter classrooms where they will start regularly using the internet for school projects. So this year, it’s time to add one more item to your back to school checklist — discussing internet safety tips for kids.

Here are eight important online safety conversations to have with your child before the first bell rings.

1. Use the privacy settings to keep your account private.

Each social media account has their own features for keeping your account private. Go through each account to make sure you are only sharing information with close friends and family and that all personal information is hidden.

2. Don’t give your password to anyone but your parents or primary caregiver.

If a friend, teacher, or babysitter asks for your password, say no. If an adult insists, tell them you need a parent present before you can share access to your account. Friends don’t need your password, and no adult should request it without a parent’s consent.

3. Don’t share sensitive information about yourself or your family online.

Sensitive information includes your: address, name of your school, phone number, and age. If someone repeatedly asks for such information, tell a parent or adult.

4. Don’t share photos or posts that would embarrass or expose you or anyone else.

If you can’t tell what is embarrassing or racy, ask yourself, “Would it be okay if this was shown on television news or attached to a job resume?” If the answer is no, then don’t post it. Images and words create a lasting digital footprint that can be hard to delete, so always think before you post.


5. Don’t accept requests from anyone you don’t know in real life, even if you have multiple mutual friends.

Only accept people that you personally know, and don’t accept someone just because many of your friends have.

6. Never agree to meet in-person with someone that you met online.

People that you know online are strangers in real life, and they are just as dangerous as any other stranger. If someone asks you to meet them, remember the stranger danger rule — say no and immediately tell an adult.

Related: Protecting Kids from Internet Stranger Danger

7. If you see any type of cyberbullying, don’t respond or participate.

Go tell a parent immediately. Even if you are trying to stop someone from bullying, it is better to not get involved. Instead, notify a parent or adult so they can address and help solve the problem.

8. Talk to an adult if you encounter anything that makes you uncomfortable.

Cyberbullying may be easy to spot and identify, but there are other internet dangers that may not be as obvious. If you have any internet encounters that feels weird or unusual or awkward, tell an adult.

It’s important to have open communication about social media and online safety with your child. In the real world, have regular conversations that discuss both the upsides and the downsides of the internet. Then connect through MamaBear Family Safety app to stay connected in the digital world. The free app is available for both Androids and iPhones.

YouTube Parental Controls and What Every Parent Needs to Know

Guest blogger Sandra Mills, a freelance tech and online safety writer discusses YouTube parental controls and internet safety tips. | MamaBear App

The following post is a guest blog from Sandra Mills, a freelance tech, online security, and online safety writer. She is passionate about keeping kids safe when they are online.

What Every Parent Needs to Know About YouTube

Not only is YouTube the number one online video website, it’s the second most popular U.S. search engine, only falling behind Google. Chances are, you’ve visited the site yourself, and it’s very likely your child is spending time on there as well. But since you can’t be looking over their shoulder at every moment, the question remains: What are they watching? And even more importantly: Are they posting videos of themselves? To protect your child, there are some things you need to know about YouTube, in terms of what they have access to and who has access to them.

Questionable Content

YouTube is a great place for viewing all sorts of valuable content. But let’s be honest. In their free time, your children probably aren’t using YouTube to learn how to solve an algebra problem or watch legendary orators deliver powerful speeches. They’re probably looking for something more entertaining: something silly, weird, or downright shocking. There is a lot—a lot—of content on YouTube, and for every video with a wholesome message, there are hundreds more that would make a parent raise an eyebrow.

Consider these statistics from 2013, provided by Media Smarts, Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy:

  • There are more than 1 billion unique visitors to YouTube each month.
  • Every minute, 100 hours of video are uploaded to the website.
  • 6 billion hours of video are watched on YouTube each month.

With numbers like that, there’s no questioning that your child runs the risk of stumbling across videos they probably shouldn’t be watching, even if they aren’t seeking out the type of content they wouldn’t want to watch with you looking over their shoulder. It’s entirely possible for them to click on a music video by their favorite artist that may turn out to contain questionable material.

Moments in the Spotlight

Just like Facebook and Twitter, YouTube is a social media site. When a user posts a video, they can enable options that let other users comment on it and “like” it. This can quickly become a negative space, where a child places their self worth in the number of likes they receive on a video or a comment that is directed towards them. If this becomes the case, and you see your child has become to victim or even the aggregator of hurtful language, it’s best to shut down their account, and have a discussion about Internet bullying.

While YouTube may be a difficult place to engage socially, it can be a great place for children to express themselves creatively. But have a conversation with them beforehand about what sort of things are appropriate to post. Common Sense Media suggests talking to your child about why they’re motivated to post videos of themselves online. Is it because they want to feel famous, or because they want to feel accomplished? Can they differentiate between those two things? And, most importantly, would they want you to see what they’re posting?

YouTube Parental Controls: A Step Further

If your child uses YouTube for any reason, consider laying down some ground rules. The site itself has its own rules of regulations in place, but users can find ways around them. Some videos require the viewer to be 18 to watch, but children can easily work around that by doing some simple math and “verifying” their age with the correct birthday.

Don’t forget to take advantage of privacy settings—they’re there for a reason. Make sure that, if your child is posting videos of him or herself, that they never use their real name, where they live, etc., and be smart about who they add to their friend list. You can also make sure that their channel’s privacy settings are set such that only friends can see their content.

Additionally, there is a YouTube safety mode parents can activate in an account that filters search results, but those filters only apply when you’re logged into the account. It’s a good idea to take parental controls a little further. Keep the family computer out in the open, and limit YouTube use on smartphones and tablets.


Comparing Family Safety Apps: MamaBear and Net Nanny

Choosing the right family safety app isn’t easy. That’s why we’re taking the time to compare the features of MamaBear with a few other family safety services now on the market.

Let’s take a look at Net Nanny and review it’s similarities and differences compared to MamaBear.

Net Nanny created internet filtering software that allows parents to be in control of web browsing – preventing selected sites to be viewed while allowing others. Initially the software was created for computers and now has extended to mobile web browsing. They clearly state their benefit as families being able to “use the Internet as a resource for homework and fun without fear of accidental exposure to undesirable material, or encounters with dangerous individuals.” Net Nanny has added social media monitoring and mobile device monitoring.

The Net Nanny service allows parents to:

  • Set filtering for nearly twenty categories of online content to either block the site, send a warning or allow the child to view;
  • Send a warning message or completely block access to adult content like pornography;
  • Limit the total number of hours spent on the internet in a 24-hour period OR set specific times of the day when a child is allowed to be online;
  • View a web page without being bombarded by vulgar language;
  • Monitor social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, Tumblr, Google+)  in order to protect kids from online threats and monitor activities related to your child’s “friends,” cyberbullying, sexual predators, privacy concerns and reputation-damaging pictures or videos;
  • Send parents reports and mail alerts about a child’s online activity;
  • Check usage reports, change a child’s profile settings and much more remotely from any computer with an Internet connection;
  • Use preset user profiles or customize settings for each family member; each computer can have unlimited user profiles.

Mobile device monitoring on iOS and Android replaces the mobile browser being used with Net Nanny’s browser for secured browsing.   Net Nanny can also set time controls and monitor apps used on Android devices.

See Also: Protecting Kids from Internet Stranger Danger

MamaBear’s main similarity to Net Nanny is social media monitoring.  Both allow parents to monitor a child’s social media accounts to protect them from cyberbullying, predators and other threats. Both apps send parents alerts based on a child’s online activity.

There are some key differences between the services as well. Net Nanny is primarily a web browsing monitoring service for desktops and mobile devices with added service for social. MamaBear is taking a mobile first strategy focusing on the child’s location, social media activity and driving speed delivering all communication through the parent’s mobile device reducing the amount of emailed reports to thumb through and figure out.

Location monitoring and driving speed awareness are services offered through MamaBear.  These features are not a part of Net Nanny’s service. With MamaBear parents receive an alert when their child drives or rides over a preset speed limit that tells them how fast they were going and where they were when they exceeded the preset limit. You can also view the child’s location history and pattern for the day.

See Also: Monitor Teen Driving with the MamaBear Driving Monitor App

There are many wonderful apps and protection services that offer a variety of useful features to fill different needs for families. Some apps, like Net Nanny, are designed to focus on web browsing behavior on both desktop computers and mobile devices; others, like MamaBear, track children’s behavior both on social media and in real life situations. It’s helpful to know what the options are so parents can choose a service to help them keep their families safe while allowing freedom without worry.