June is Internet Safety Month

June is Internet Safety Month, which is the perfect time to take a look at your family’s mobile and internet safety plan to make positive changes that will keep everyone in the family safe from cyberbullying, predators and even identity theft. We’ve compiled some tips any family can use this month and every month to keep their kids safe online and on their mobile devices.

  1. Have frequent conversations about safety. Keeping an open line of dialog with your children, no matter what age they are, is the most important thing any parent can do to keep their children safe in real life and on any device.
  2. Encourage them to stand up for what’s right. Being a leader and taking a stand against negative peer behavior is a hard, ongoing learning and life experience. If their friends want to prank or cyberbully a peer, give your kids the words to refuse to engage and help discourage their peers from cyberbullying.
  3. Teach your kids how to report inappropriate behavior. If they witness cyberbullying or comments that are hurtful, reassure telling an adult who can intervene. If they hear of a peer who is experiencing inappropriately sexual behavior from an adult, that behavior can be reported via the website http://www.missingkids.com/cybertipline. According to The CyberTipline® they have “received more than 2.3 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation between 1998 and March 2014.”
  4. Connect with local schools and their resources. Every year schools devote more resources to internet safety. Learn your school’s internet safety policies, make sure your children are aware of and follow those policies. Talk to teachers and school administrators when you have any concerns about students’ behaviors inside and outside of school.
  5. Install a family safety app like MamaBear. Stay in the know about their social media activity by installing a family safety app like MamaBear. MamaBear allows you to monitor activity on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In addition you can stay connected with information about location and driving speed. This provides peace of mind to parents and gives kids an opportunity to stretch boundaries.
  6. Encourage your kids to adopt practices that help them avoid identity theft. Tell them to always log out of a computer in public places, always be aware of where their mobile devices are (and not give them to friends). Caution against giving out any personal information online (name, date of birth, phone, address, etc.) This website offers advice for how to keep one’s personal information safe online.

Knowledge is power. Stay informed. Read articles outlining current trends in internet safety. Follow blogs like this one, which are constantly reviewing internet safety trends and sharing them with our fans. Then, share that information with your children. They may not seem like they are listening, but that information will sink in and will help them learn how to keep themselves safe online.

Helping Your Teen be Safe on Social Media

social media safety for teens

About the author: Naomi Broderick is a professional writer who loves being a parent and everything that goes with it. When she’s not having to watch her three children in the front yard she loves to cook and keep updated on the most recent technologies and ways of keeping children safe in the home and the neighborhood.

In our current culture, there are more and more ways that people, especially teens, can connect with one another. We now live in a digital world that is the preferred method of connecting and communicating with others. While today’s teenagers may seem that they are growing up more and more quickly, and seem more digitally savvy than their parents, they are still young. They lack the maturity and life skills to get themselves out of trouble in these new social settings. Helping them to prevent dangerous social interactions in the first place is the ideal thing to do. Here are some tips to help your teen be safe on social media.

Use Privacy Settings

Not only are there worries about having to having to keep your family safe in the real world, but in our current culture there are now worries about having to protect your family and teens online. One of the best ways to do this is to have your teen use the privacy settings on social media sites. Keep your teen’s profile private so that only family and people you know and trust can see photos, important dates such as birthdays, and other information. It would be best if they didn’t put any personal contact information such as phone numbers, home addresses, or other information on their social media sites. Also, make sure that your teen has a strong password that cannot be guessed easily and that they change it fairly regularly (approximately every 3-4 months). Making sure that your teen does not accept any friend requests of people that they do not know will help give you piece of mind knowing that strangers are not able to access your teen’s profile.

Have Open Discussions with Your Teen

There is one thing that any parent has to accept: teens are going to experiment and try new things. But, if you want your teen to be open an honest with you about what they are doing, you need to have an open dialogue with them. Parents need to be ready to actively listen and talk with their teen about what is going on in their life if they want the teen to come to them more often for help and guidance. Help them get over the situation but make sure that they learn from their mistake.

No Compromising Photos or Videos

Help your teen be smart about what they post online. Everything that they post on social media sites can be shared with the entire world and could hurt their integrity. If teens that are underage post sexy or nude photos of themselves not only they could get in trouble but parents as well. The parents are responsible for the original sender and could face jail time and be required to register as a sex offender. Teens could also be asked to leave sports teams, humiliated, or lose future educational opportunities. Talk to your teen about being smart and using good judgment about taking and posting photos, and that they know the serious consequences of what can happen for both them and you if the pictures are inappropriate.

Using Apps to Keep Track of Your Kids this Halloween

halloween-safety-tips

Every kid wants to enjoy the fun of going house-to-house with friends in the dark trick-or-treating on Halloween night. Many of us parents remember the sheer joy of running through the neighborhood in the dark with friends collecting ungodly amounts of candy. Back then, our parents sent us out the door and let us go. Sure, they worried about urban-legend-inspired razor blades in apples, but didn’t worry as much about stranger danger as we do today or reputation damaging photos on social media.

Related: Protecting Kids from Stranger Danger

Today, things are a bit different. Sending our kids off into the the dark isn’t something we are all comfortable with. And while many neighborhoods around the country have designated trick-or-treating events to keep children and families safe, sometimes that is not enough to reassure parents worried about sending kids off to trick or treat with friends or to attend a Halloween party.

Halloween Safety Tips for Parents and Children to Help Keep Your Family Safe

  • Make sure costumes are safe. Kids don’t want to be restricted in how they wear their costume, but tell your children that there are some common sense rules they should follow. For example, make sure they keep their faces exposed so they can breathe and that their costumes don’t cover their eyes. Discourage them from wearing full masks when trick-or-treating in the dark. Of course, flame-retardant costumes are a must to prevent fire accidents and be sure it’s the right size so they don’t trip over it.
  • Increase visibility. Make sure your child wears bright clothing or even small reflectors. No one wants to worry about their child being hit by a car if they aren’t able to be seen. Encourage younger children especially to choose light-colored costumes. Give them glow sticks and flashlights to carry with them so they can be seen by drivers.
  • Travel in groups. Older kids are going to want to trick-or-treat on their own, without a parent. If they do, make sure they go with at least one friend, preferably more.
  • Monitor social media.  Remind your children to think about the consequences of a picture before it’s posted or messaged to anyone. Halloween is a high traffic time for photo sharing. Monitor your kids being tagged, or comments being made about their spooktakular attire. The MamaBear App can help you monitor your child’s social safety.
  • Track your child’s location. Install a family safety app like MamaBear on every family member’s smartphone so you can monitor your children’s whereabouts. The app allows your children to check in with an emoticon to share where they are and how they’re feeling. Children can also request rides from parents or send SOS messages if they are in trouble. Alerts can let you know if your child has indeed made it to that Halloween party and when they leave.

See Also: Halloween and Safety Tips from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Thankfully, parents have resources today to keep their families safe during the free-for-all that Halloween night can be. Reminding your kids of these safety measures and monitoring their location  and social activity provides peace of mind while allowing your children to enjoy all the candy, haunted houses and other Halloween fun we loved when we were kids.

For more child safety tips visit the MamaBear blog or follow us on Facebook.

Image Credit: Kids Activity Blog

Cyberbullying: Schools Monitoring Social Media

Why Spying is Not the Same as Monitoring

Schools Monitoring Social Media
Fixer Sophie Thorne, from Swindon, experienced abuse via text messaging and social media. Now she is raising awareness of cyber-bullying to prevent others enduring similar experiences.

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.

The MamaBear app helps parents around the world worry less about their children. Download the app today for iPhone devices here and Android devices here.

Image Credit: Fixers