What Parents Should Know About DisneyMix

Disney has thrown their hat in the social media messaging ring. This may come as a surprise to some but Disney has been in the social media business for a while with popular platforms like Club Penguin and Marvel Kids.  The app serves to be a contender with apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger and more but with a safer user in mind.

Disney started developing the app with what they had learned from Club Penguin and grew from that point. New tools for moderation and education were implemented to set Disney Mix apart from other apps.

Upon signing up for the service, users agree to a series of community rules that are strictly enforced for all users.

Stay Safe – Don’t share details about yourself with people you don’t know. That includes your real name, phone number, home address, email address, social networking information, school name, and/or personal blog.

Respect Others – Be respectful and kind to other Disney Mix users. Treat others how you’d like to be treated! Bullying and harassment will not be tolerated.

Keep it Clean – Inappropriate language is not allowed in Disney Mix. You should only use language that you would feel comfortable using in front of your parents and teachers.

Users found to be violating any of these rules will find themselves either temporarily or permanently banned from using the app.

tK1wuYl07fPx8uiT4C9zmGYFlWl43vFjo-uOUCvWn8t7AIGnh-5Ayzyp5PMS51yP6g=h900Upholding the rules are a team of moderators that monitor usage but can also be called into situations using the “Whistle” icon at the top of every chat thread. This action reports a chat thread to the moderators who will step in to help handle the situation. Users have the ability to remove people from their friends list with a simple swipe.

Disney Mix is rated 4+ in the app store but will more than likely resonated with older, teen, users and parents.  The chat allows users to send stickers of popular characters like some of my favorites: Flash from Zooptopia, Hank (my spirit animal) from Finding Dory, and my absolute favorite Stitch!

What sets Disney Mix apart from a standard messaging app is the ability to play interactive, built-in games like Spike, Elsa’s Winter Waltz and Cards of Doom. These games can be played with friends within the chat screen.

Is DisneyMix safe for kids? Absolutely! With Disney behind the app, it offers a level of safety and security you won’t be able to find of Kik, Snapchat, Tumblr and others.

The app is username based so the only way people can communicate with users is if they have their username. This puts control of who has access to your account strictly in your kids hands.  Remind them that they should be selective with handing out their username and restrict it to people they know in the real world.

Encourage them to report inappropriate behavior and be sure to go over the Community Guidelines with them.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Instagram Launches “Stories”: What Parents Should Know

I’ve found, over the past year, the best way to describe the difference between Instagram and Snapchat is by looking at how we share. For Instagram we are highlighting moments from our day or week in a one off way that sticks around forever. Snapchat allows a you to share so much more by posting a continuous stream of pictures and video clips into a mini-movie called a story. As each segment of your story is posted, it received a 24 hour expiration. After one day, it’s gone.

This past week, Instragram launched the “Stories” feature on its app. Instagram fully gives credit to the creators of Snapchat for the idea for the sharing format. In a recent interview Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom admitted, ” “They deserve all the credit,” but insisted “This isn’t about who invented something. This is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it.”

Despite it’s insane popularity, sharing on Facebook-owned Instagram was down 15% in the beginning of 2016. The reasoning, according to Systrom, is that people don’t want to overwhelm their friends feeds with photos so they are selective about what is posted and as a result don’t post as often. “Stories” allows people to share those “in between” moments.

Systrom explains that “It basically solves a problem for all these people who want to take a ton of photos of an event or something in their lives, but want to manage what their profile looks like and not bomb feed, obviously, as that’s one of the no-nos on Instagram.”

Facebook has attempted this before with other apps like Poke, Slingshot, and Instragram Bolt but people didn’t want yet another app to keep up with. Instead of trying to create something new, Instagram has decided to go with what works.

Here’s the breakdown of the differences and similarities between the apps:

The same

  • The Stories format laces the last 24 hours of 10-second-max photos and videos you’ve shared into a slideshow you can tap to fast-forward through
  • Everything you post disappears after 1 day
  • You shoot full-screen in the app or upload things from the last 24 hours of your camera roll (recently added to Snapchat with Memories)
  • You adorn your photos with drawings, text, emojis and swipeable color filters
  • You can save your individual Story slides before or after posting them
  • Your followers voluntarily tap in to pull your Story and view it, instead of it being pushed into a single feed
  • People can swipe up to reply to your Stories, which are delivered through Instagram Direct private messages
  • You can see who’s viewed your Story

Different

  • Instagram Stories appear in a row at the top of the main feed instead of on a separate screen like Snapchat, and are sorted by who you interact with most, not purely reverse chronological order like Snapchat
  • Anyone you allow to follow you on Instagram can see your Instagram Stories, though you can also block people, as opposed to building a separate network on Snapchat
  • You don’t have to be following someone to view their Instagram Stories, which can be viewed from their profile as long as they’re public
  • You can swipe right or tap the Stories icon in the top left to open the Stories camera, as opposed to Snapchat defaulting to the camera
  • You can hold the screen to pause a slideshow, or tap the left side to go back a slide, as opposed to Snapchat’s time-limited, constantly progressing Stories
  • You can’t add old content to Instagram Stories unless you re-import or screenshot, while Snapchat lets you share old Memories with a white border and timestamp around them
  • Instagram offers three brush types for drawing: standard, translucent highlighter and color-outlined neon, as opposed to Snapchat’s single brush
  • Instagram offers custom color control for drawing with an easy picker, as well as pre-made palettes like earth-tones or grayscale, while Snapchat custom color control is much more clumsy
  • Instagram currently lacks location filters, native selfie lens filters, stickers, 3D stickers and speed effects, but you can save content from third-party apps like Facebook-owned MSQRD and then share them
  • You can’t see who screenshotted your Instagram Story, while Snapchat warns you
  • You can’t save your whole day’s Story like on Snapchat, but you can post slides from your Story to the permanent Instagram feed

 

For me, I plan on sticking to Snapchat because I have a lot more control over who can see it as my Instagram account is public. But as a business owner and social media personality, I can see the appeal of utilizing a service with an already established audience.

For more information about “disappearing media” be sure to check out “What Parents Should Know About Snapchat“.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Justin Timberlake Encourages All ‘Don’t Waste Your Twenties’

I will admit that I’m not big on award shows especially when it comes to “smaller” ones like the Teen Choice Awards but I have to admit I was curious to check out Justin Timberlake accepting the first ever Teen Choice Decade Award last night. He was awarded the honor for his many achievements in music, movies, television, fashion and philanthropy.

Upon accepting the award, Timberlake delivered an amazing speech aimed at inspiring the younger generation to have respect and compassion for all people.

If you didn’t have a chance to see the awards ceremony which aired Sunday night, I’ve including the text from his acceptance speech below here:

“Thank you, Teen Choice. As a former teen, a while ago, who’s made a few choices along the way, I’m here to tell you that you and your choices matter. In my case, I grew up in Millington, Tennessee, just outside of Memphis, where I was blessed to be raised by parents and a family who taught me some big lessons. They taught me to respect them. They taught me to respect myself and to respect all people on the basis of their character — not where they live, not what they did for a living or the color of their skin. My parents did their best to fill my young mind not with prejudice or hate but with compassion and love. I think it’s part of the reason why to this day I try to live my life working closely with, making music with and spending so much of my time with an amazing group of people: male, female, straight, gay, every walk of life … People who help each other and find a common ground. I was drawn to all these people not because they look like me, but because they think and feel like me. The truth is we are all different, but that does not mean we all don’t want the same thing.

So, message: to all you teens out there, I ask you to not learn from my example, but from the example of all the greats that have come before me. For me, a big moment growing up was when I discovered that there was a music legend living right down the street from me, the Reverend Al Green, who taught the world a lesson that resonates now, I think, more than ever: let’s stay together. I learned from so many music greats: Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Garth Brooks, Stevie Wonder. I even learned a lot from the guy standing next to me onstage [Kobe Bryant] on how to arrive early and stay late — because that’s how you become a champion.

Speaking of great champs, I believe we can all learn from the greatest of all time, a man who grew up just 400 miles down the road from me in Louisville, Kentucky: Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali fought in the ring, but he fought for peace, too. And he became the heavyweight champion of the world because, as we all know, he could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Our world lost that champ this year, so tonight, I want to share three pieces of his undying wisdom that has helped me and may help you along your journey.

Number one — champ said this: don’t count the days, make the days count. Pretty good. Now you are young, as I once was, but do not think for a moment that what you do doesn’t count. It does. Not just to you, but also to the world and your generation who will someday inherit this world from old-timers like me and Kobe.

Number two, the champ said this: service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth, so be generous, be kind, be fair. It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s the good thing to do. I think we all can agree that with all the tension in the world today that can divide us, we should be part of the solution and not part of the problem. You don’t have to make a difference on a global stage. You can volunteer in your neighborhood or in another neighborhood nearby where people might look a little different from you, and they might teach you a thing or two.

Third, and finally, here’s maybe the greatest thing a teen or anyone in this room and who’s watching on the television at home can learn from the champ … these are words to remember when anyone tries to tell you to give up, tell you to give in because whatever you’re trying to do is impossible. The champ said this: impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing. Greatest quote ever.

So, as a relatively new dad and a former teen, I’m here to say you will make mistakes along the way. You will fall down. I have many times. Even Ali did. But what we do after that fall is how we make history because impossible is nothing. So don’t waste your 20s. They’re gonna be here before you know it, and they will go fast. Be nice to your parents. (I hope my son watches this one day.) They aren’t perfect, either, but they have been through this movie before, and they love you more than you can imagine. So go out, do the impossible and just go on and become the greatest generation yet. Thank you so much.”

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Viral Obituary Encourages All to Ask For Help

An obituary written for 22-year-old Clay Shepard that after his death in 2015 has gone viral. It’s a message of love from his family who’s message for everyone is that is never wrong to ask for help.

The obituary describes Clay’s death of drug overdose and tells of his family’s love and support during several attempts at rehab.

I encourage all to take a moment to read and share this powerful message.

Here is the full obituary via Legacy.com:

Our charismatic and beautiful son and brother died Sunday morning from a drug overdose. Clay was the youngest of four children, raised in a loving home in Apex with two brothers and one sister. Outwardly Clay looked like he had it all: Intelligence, confidence, athletic ability, height, beautiful blue eyes, broad smile, fantastic wit, and the ability to engage and forge a relationship with anyone. Inwardly Clay was sensitive and had struggles that he hid well from his close and clannish family.We loved Clay with all of our hearts, but we now know that was not enough to shield him from the world. This note isn’t an attempt to assign blame for Clay’s death. It’s not to vent our anger and frustration at a world where drugs can be ordered and delivered through the internet. We write this obituary in hope that it may provide an insight to those that need to change their behavior one night at a time. Clay was a solid student, decent athlete, and a very likeable kid. With his seemingly endless positive traits, he had the potential to be anything from a captivating politician to a brilliant engineer, but drugs began to creep into Clay’s life while he was in high school. As trouble hit, his father stepped in and forged an incredible bond with Clay. Although Clay could never be completely honest about the trouble he was in, his love and respect for his father became a lifeline over the last few years. He successfully completed drug rehab several times, but the craving that comes from true addiction was more than he could overcome. 

While we always felt we had some grip on Clay’s issues, his ability to hide and disguise his addiction proved superior to our parental (and sibling) sixth sense. The worry that we have felt watching Clay struggle, has been replaced by a deep feeling of loss that now exists knowing we will never see his smiling face again. Despite these troubles, we can smile knowing that the last communication we had with Clay was a text and answer between mother and son to say “I love you”, just as it should be. 

To all children, this note is a simple reminder that there are people who love you, with everything they have and no matter what you do – don’t be too afraid/ashamed/scared, too anything, to ask for help. To all parents, pay attention to your children and the world that revolves around them – even when the surface is calm, the water may be turbulent just beneath. Clay’s struggles have ended. He is finally at peace. We will miss his keen sense of humor, impersonations, cooking, plant advice and rhythm on the dance floor. 

Goodbye Clay, we love you and miss you dearly. 

Mom & Dad, Cole, Wade & Jess, Jean & Lucas

For more information about talking to your kids about substance abuse you can read from the archives: “Cory Monteith: Lessons From Tragedy

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Snapchat’s NSFW Lawsuit and What Parents Should Know

JOSH’S NOTE:  The following blog post is going to contain some language that may be offensive to some. Please know that it is only included for the sake of passing along the appropriate information. If you feel that you may be offended you might want to pass on this blog post.

Since its inception, Snapchat has gone through many great changes for users  as well as some done for the sake of increasing revenue. Once such feature is the “Discover” area where users can look into trending topics like the recent Pokemon Go craze or taking a walk down the red carpet. Recently, a number of topics showing up have been a little bit more off color than should be made available the Snapchat’s rated audience of “Teens.”

snapchat-600Attorney Mark Geragos has taken notice of this issue and has taken action by filing a class action lawsuit against the company for allegedly exposing children to “sexually explicit” content through the Discover Tab.

Geragos is seeking a $50,000 payout for each alleged violation of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

HISTORY LESSON! The Communications Decency Act of 1996 was the government’s attempt to regulate pornography on the internet. More through the link.

Geragos is claiming that Snapchat has violated this act through allowing content such as “I Got High, Blown and Robbed When I Was a Pizza Delivery Guy,” “What It Is Really Like to Let People Finger You in Public” and a BuzzFeed post entitled “23 Pictures That Are Too Real If You’ve Ever Had Sex With a Penis.”

Geragos is also requesting that the courts require that Snapchat warn users of NSFW (Not Safe For Work) or inappropriate content.

Snapchat is also facing suit in the state of Illinois over face-scanning technology which one man claims is in violation of the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act. More on both stories to follow as they develop.

Another recent lawsuit saw the app developers being sued when a speeding teenager was in a near-fatal accident while trying to snap a high MPH filter.

For parents I recommend keeping an eye on the content your kids are being exposed to through their favorite apps and setting expectations for their use of them.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Pokémon Go: Fact and Fiction (But Mostly Fiction)

I don’t even know how to start this. Seriously, I’ve been staring at the screen for an obscene amount of time trying to start this entry. I have to admit, I’m a little annoyed. I apologize now if this is jarred but I’m getting this off my chest.

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been a casual player of Pokémon Go, the augmented-reality game that has taken the world by storm. I haven’t been as intense as others, I have found a small chunk of joy in world that seems to be quickly running out.

Others have found amazing benefits from getting out and playing the game (check out this article!).

With someone making literally millions of people happy, you’d think non-Pokémon fans would just leave well enough alone.

HA! You’re wrong.

The game has earned its fair share of haters and the result has been a lot of fake or exaggerated news hitting the world wide web and casting doubt on the safety of the players.

First and foremost is the personal data aspect of the app that people don’t understand at all (I’m having flashbacks to the Facebook Messenger debate). I purposely left this out of my recent entry of What Parents Should Know because I felt it didn’t need mention. People seem to think the app is out to do everything from reading your email to stealing your baby brother after you have a temper tantrum (that’s the Goblin King you’re thinking of). It’s an argument (yes, argument) that I’ve had a lot this past week alone. I’m going to dispel the rumor now:

99% of the information you’ve seen about the app collecting personal data and emails is false.

In reality the app requires some basic information like your email address and birth date for the sake of registering users (an aspect just about every social media medium requires). From there the game does require knowing your physical whereabouts for the sake of simply playing the game. It’s an augmented-reality, map-based world. It needs to be able to track your movements to play.

There was, admittedly a hiccup in the original version (which was corrected in a recent update) that made it seem that Pokémon Go was requiring “full account access.” Niantic (the company behind the game) owned up to the mistake, corrected it, and released a statement to help clarify what had happened:

We recently discovered that the Pokémon GO account creation process on iOS erroneously requests full access permission for the user’s Google account. However, Pokémon GO only accesses basic Google profile information (specifically, your User ID and email address) and no other Google account information is or has been accessed or collected. Once we became aware of this error, we began working on a client-side fix to request permission for only basic Google profile information, in line with the data that we actually access. Google has verified that no other information has been received or accessed by Pokémon GO or Niantic. Google will soon reduce Pokémon GO’s permission to only the basic profile data that Pokémon GO needs, and users do not need to take any actions themselves.

Adam Reeve, the man behind the original claim, even admitted that he never tested the claims he made in his blog posts.

So please rest easy knowing that your emails and other information are safe.

Next comes the exaggerated story of the young man lured to a Pokestop and mugged at gunpoint. This one seemed so very true because it was widely covered by credible media outlets and not just the internet. But the story was exaggerated to generate views and interest in the story.

Here’s the real story directly from the victim of the attack: “I am the guy who was robbed at the Pokestop at Feise and K. In the interest of objective truth, everyone is reporting this wrong. There was never any lure. I was walking down a dark street towards a slightly out of the way pokestop and I got robbed by four kids in a black BMW. Everyone is reporting this as cunning teenagers use a lure to capture unsuspecting Pokémon players, and that’s not quite correct.”

Sorry internet.

Then there are the many stories of auto accidents as a result of drivers playing the game. One such article from CartelPress (read it here) was written as satire and was taken far too seriously and prompted the viral hashtag #DontPokémonAndDrive over this past weekend. Which, I mean, yeah… don’t Pokémon and Drive. Let’s practice common sense, but I also hope that no one would slam on the breaks in the middle of a highway for a Pidgey.

There is a great teachable moment in all of this in that you really can’t believe everything that you read on the internet and it’s important to do a little bit of research before jumping conclusions.

It is important to realize that there are some dangers to the game and the idea of “Don’t
Pokémon and Drive” should be on the top over everyone’s list. But people should take care into venturing off alone, especially at night, into unfamiliar territory. Take time to look up from your phone, looking out for others, obstacles and traffic.

Mostly, don’t let the haters bring you down. Plenty of people have tried to harp on me for playing and I am having none of it. The past month has been a rough one for a lot of people a hunting little fictional animals has been a very welcomed distraction from it all.

Now, if you don’t mind, there is a Charmander somewhere near my house and I need to beat the neighborhood children to him.

Happy hunting!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

What Parents Should Know About Pokémon Go

I will be the first to admit that until about a week ago, I really knew nothing about Pokémon other than the absolute basics. I never was much into the card game though I totally rocked it on my GameBoy (I might be old). Love em or hate em, those adorable little creatures are back with a vengeance!

Within homaxresdefaulturs of launching, Pokémon Go became the most popular gaming app, beating out Candy Crush by an impressive margin.

The game was released to mixed, overall, reviews due to constant app crashes and server issues. The app seems to be stabilizing and I have a feeling a good chunk of the problems were due to the insane and instant popularity.

The game is a location-based augmented reality game that allows users to hunt and capture Pokémon in the real world.

Pokémon Go has had some amazing, unexpected benefits that I think are important to know about before I get into the nitty gritty of it all.

Physical Health: In order the catch Pokémon you have to get out into the real world. As a result people are out and about a lot more. I’m an active person already but the game has definitely added to that. In addition having to get out of the house to catch Pokémon, the game requires you to be moving to perform actions like hatching captured Pokémon eggs and earning badges.

People Are Exploring Their World: Within the game are places called PokéStops where486234394 players can earn items  required for capturing and caring for their Pokémon. These stops are centered around landmarks such as art instillations and historical points. Not only are people getting out of the house but they are also exploring the world a bit more closely than before. When I was playing with a friend we decided to go for a morning walk before going to breakfast to catch some Pokémon. We ended up discovering an amazing bakery and opted for breakfast there over heading to Starbucks.

Community Impact: People have become social again! I grew up in a small town where people always said “howdy” when they passed you in the street. This mentality seems to have waned with the advent of social media an mobile devices. No one really talks to each other anymore.  Pokémon Go has changed that. While playing my friend and I encountered groups of kids who were more than happy to chat and share tips and good spots to catch some Pokémon. It was a welcome change from everyone just ignoring each other.

Cultural Impact: With PokéStops being located at places of cultural significance, places like museums have seen increased attendance since the game has launched. Many businesses have embraced this by placing “lures” (more on those in a bit) at the Stops to drive even more people to them.  Charitable organizations have gotten in on the actions by asking players to walk shelter dogs while playing adding a benefit to the player and the animal.13716248_668832679948316_2126915807547160753_n

Mental Health: With people being forced to get up and out of the house to play, many have seen a positive impact on mental health especially for those dealing with depression and social anxiety.  According to Kashmira Gander of The Independent, the social nature of the game provides easy avenues for those with social anxiety to interact with people of all backgrounds. Numerous players also reported increased motivation to exercise and improved moods. Dr. John Grohol, founder of Psych Central, stated that Pokémon Go was unique in the magnitude of people “expressing the benefits of playing video games to their real-world mental health status”. According to Grohol, the game facilitates exercise and creates a “strong reinforcement for people to go out and become more active” He also attributed the premise of the game, social interaction and fun rather than for exercise, as a key factor in its success.

With all that in mind there are some key things parents should know and be aware of before they send their kids out to catch ’em all.

Hidden and Not So Hidden Costs: While the game itself is free, there is the ability for in-app purchases so parents should be aware and set up restrictions on your child’s phone to prevent unauthorized purchases.  Additionally, the game depends and operates on constant location tracking which requires the use of your phone’s data. Be sure to monitor your child’s data usage or look at upgrading your plan to avoid overage charges.

Stranger Danger:  While it’s great that communities are coming together and people are chatting with one another, there is a danger in that as well. Encourage kids to Poke hunt in groups and avoid going into unfamiliar areas. Each PokéStop and Gym require you to be nearby and this can draw people from all walks. Be sure to set up guidelines for your kids when it comes to talking to strangers as well as curfews to help avoid issues.

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings: A downside of the game is that you need to be paying attention to your screen and this can lead to some major problems. While it’s hardpokemon-go-loading-screen to sort myth from reality, there are many stories of people getting injured while playing the game. From walking into objects or, worse, into traffic, there are dangers out there.

Don’t Hunt and Drive: For teenagers, be sure to reiterate the importance of keeping the phone off while driving. No fictional creature is worth getting into an accident.

Be Respectful: The game is designed for Pokémon to spawn anywhere in the world but that doesn’t mean that we should be pulling out our phones every second of the day.  I’m personally hoping the games geofences areas like cemeteries, the Holocaust Museum , etc, places where people have, thoughtlessly, disturbed the solemn nature of the memorials looking for Pokémon.

Don’t Trespass: It’s important to be sure not to enter places that you shouldn’t be going for the sake of finding Pokémon. Remind kids to respect other people’s property and places that are off-limits.

All said and done, I see no big fault in the app aside from some safety concerns mentioned above. While many people have taken to hating on the game, I think it has been a welcome distraction from the current state of the world. People of all ages have taken to hunting Pokémon and it’s something that’s made them happy, gotten them out exercising and socializing.

Let’s get out there and be happy!

Good hunting all!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Explaining Tragedy: Talking to Your Kids About Current Events

This is, truthfully, a topic I have been avoiding writing about. I’ve been asked about it many times and I just haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. The events of the past month haven’t really changed my mind but have certainly proved that it has to be done.

It would seem that the world has gone insane and adults aren’t the only ones paying attention. Recent events have had a ripple effect for those all over the world and with the internet and a 24/7 news cycle, there’s really no escaping it. In my own backyard we witnessed the tragic murder of singer Christina Gimmie following a concert. Within almost 24 hours we were hearing news of a mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub.

Since then we’ve seen violence across the country and all around the world.

As we are bombarded with the news of these events, it can be a lot to take. For me personally, it has been overwhelming.

In today’s connected age, kids are receiving news and information about these events more than ever.  This information shows up in the form of snapchat filters, news clips, instagram posts, facebook updates. While the internet and social media has many upsides, I’ve seen a lot of down in the recent weeks.

The biggest issue has been the sharing of insider footage, looking at this events as they unfold through shared video that may not always been the most appropriate for young eyes. With a large number of kids with personal devices like cell phones and laptops, parents can’t always be around as they are receiving news of tragic events.

Bigger still is the slew of misinformation that can pop up following these events.

It’s a lot for adults to handle and process, more so for younger minds.

Regardless of age, upsetting news can affect kids emotionally. Feelings of anxiety, worry, anger, fear and guilt are all common and many times these feelings linger long after the story has left the news cycle.

So what can you do as a parent? As always, I have gathered the best information I can from life experience and, of course, a little bit of internet research. As I continue to sort through my own feelings and reactions in this time, I can’t even begin to imagine having to explain to a child what is going on.

For Elementary (Ages 10 an Younger)

Turn it Off: I’m not suggesting an ostrich approach but I highly recommend keeping the images of these events away from young eyes. My biggest pet peeve with social media and even the news is the tendency to broadcast the worst. After the Boston Marathon bombings and Pulse, we saw the same footage of victims over and over again, bloody, crying, scared. These are images no one should have to witness, especially young eyes.

Be Together and Stress Safety: If the topics is brought up, enforce the idea of safety with your kids. Explain to them the protective measures that are in place to help keep them safe. Be sure to listen to them and take care not to belittle their fears. Provide distraction and physical comfort (nothing beat a tight hug and a good Disney movie. This goes for everyone).

For Middle Schoolers (Age 11-13)

Be Available for Conversations: I have often said that this group is my favorite to teach because I’m reaching them at a time that they are discovering their own morals and beliefs. It’s important to keep that thought in mind when it comes to events like what we have seen recently.  You may need to take stock in your own beliefs in times of events such as the Pulse Shooting or the shootings in Michigan and Dallas.

Trust that what you say in these conversations will stick with your kids for their rest of their lives. It’s important to explain the basics of prejudice, civil and religious strife and bias towards others. Be very careful of broad generalizations.  Make sure you have the facts straight and don’t be afraid to admit if you’re sure about something. Kids are going to take your words to heart.

Ask them what they know and have a constructive conversation from there. There’s a good chance they have pulled information from the web or from friends and there may be a need to correct information before something wrong is ingrained in them as fact.

Talk About the News: It’s an unfortunate truth that our news outlets are more interested in competing for viewership than they are simply providing the information. As a result many can be found to rush information before the facts are straight, or go straight to broadcasting images far too grisly to be decent. Make your kids aware of this and take care to limit their exposure. Same for when it comes to the internet. Make sure you are aware of what they are looking at while online when it comes to coverage of these events.

For High Schoolers (Ages 14+)

Check In Early And Often: With a device in the hands of almost every teen, there’s a good chance that they have learned of these events independent of you (in some cases, even before you). Be sure to check in with them and talk about what is going on. This can help you gain a sense of what they have already absorbed. Take their insights to heart and share your own (taking care not to dismiss their budding beliefs and sense of morality).

Encourage Them To Express Themselves: Everyone deals with tragedy differently and is affects us all whether we are directly involved or not. Most everyone knows Orlando. It’s the theme park capital of the world and home to the Most Magical Place on Earth. Hearing of events such as the shooting at Pulse or the death of Lane Graves at the Grand Floridian Resort at Disney is sure to trigger something. They are aware of what is going on in the world and more so of the unfortunate truth that their own lives could be affected by violence.

Listen openly to their concerns and address them as best you can without dismissing them entirely. If you disagree with something in the news or media, explain that to your teens and help them discover appropriate mediums through which to receive information.

For Everyone

Not All Kids Are the Same: Remember that no one kid is the same. Your elementary student may be more advanced and in tune with the world. I’ve created the best guide I can but I rely on your own knowledge of your child on how to tackle these issues.

Keep Positive: Oh boy. Okay. Here’s the tough one and I’ll be completely honest that I’m struggling here as well. On June 12 I lost three friends at Pulse Nightclub. The pain in my heart from not just that loss but an attack on my home, on my community, has been a burden. From there the news cycle has been non-stop with more and more stories of violence and pain. The American flag has spent more time at half-mast this past month than fully raised. It’s a lot.

As I sit and reflect on all of this. As I reflect on what I saw and experience in Boston following the marathon, I can see hope. I can see how we come together to be better and stronger.

There is a quote from Fred Rogers that has been tossed around a lot, especially here in Orlando, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

Make sure that your kids are seeing the stories of the helpers. Those lining up to give blood. Those on the front lines doing what they can. Those making donations of clothing, food, money and time to help those in need.

More importantly, show them. Be kind to those around. Teach them that way of the world.

Be kind to one another.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Twitter Polls Become Cyberbullying Tool

In late October of this year Twitter introduced a new way for its 500 million users to interact with one another by launching Twitter Polls. While Twitter has always offered ways for users to gather information and opinions TwitterPollsthrough hashtags or simply having users cast their vote through either retweet or favorites, this new polling option offers an easier alternative. While the poll questions and tallies are public information, who voted and how is kept anonymous.

Unfortunately, teens across the world have twisted this new option into a new form of cyberbullying.

Since being launched, reports of cyberbullying through Twitter polls have surfaced in middle and high schools in Utah, Montana, and Michigan.

How the Polls Work

The Twitter polling system is rather simple in nature. Users ask a question TwitterPolls02and can add up to four options as an answer. Once the poll has been broadcast the ability to respond remains active for 24 hours before polling is closed.

How Students Are Using It

In some cases, students have stated that the polls being posted were just jokes but soon they took a turn for the worse. Some polls being posted included: “Who is the Ugliest Girl In School”, “Who is Dumber: John or a Brick”, “Who is the Biggest Slut?” While the polling closes after 24 hours, the results remain on the account.

Is This Cyberbullying?

Absolutely! Bullying is defined by actions that are deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviors intended to harm another. Cyberbullying has been defined by The National Crime Prevention Council: “When the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.” These polls have added an entirely new level to this.

Who Is Responsible: Parents or School?

I’ve spent the last hour pouring over all of the articles regarding this subject and there seems to be a common theme- no one wants to take responsibility over the issue. One school principal currently dealing with this issue had this to say in one story, ” the school has no connection to or control over the polls. That hasn’t stopped parents calling the school with concerns about what is being posted. He said he hopes Twitter can shut the accounts down before one of the polls leads to tragedy.”

I bring this up because it seems to be a common theme when it comes to social media, bullying and the law.

It’s important to first remember that each state has a different law when it comes to bullying both online and off. To learn more about your state’s law, I encourage you to visit bullypolice.org for a breakdown.

From there I want to remind both educators and parents that when it comes to raising our kids it takes a village. It’s corny. It’s overused. It’s true.

It’s important that communities work together to educate and prevent these issues from coming up in the first place.

Rather than turn myself into a broken record, I’m going to point you to an entry that I wrote last year regarding internet safety: Teaching Internet Safety: It Takes A Village. While a bulk of this entry talks about internet safety, I think the lesson can be applied to situations surrounding bulling. From there I’ll also recommend another entry for parents: Fight The Bully: What Parents Can Do.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Krispy Kreme Promotes “KKK Wednesday” on Facebook

It’s that time of the week! Another fantastic teachable moment born of my one simple philosophy, “TAKE TIME TO THINK!”

A Krispy Kreme Donut location in the United Kingdom released a weeklong series of in-store events to bring in business during the midterm break for students. Included in the activities are board-games, face painting and coloring pages.

On Wednesday, however, the week of fun took a turn with a promotion entitled “Krispy Kreme Klub Wednesday” which was meant to be a day for kids to come in a decorate their own donuts. The event title was shortened to “KKK Wednesday”.

KKK is, of course, more infamously associated with the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist hate group. Users following the location on Facebook were quick to point this out once the advertisement went live.

Oops.

The gaffe apparently went unnoticed by the creator of the advertisement (seen here) and all those who approved it.KrispyKreme

“We do believe this was a completely unintentional oversight on the part of our longtime franchise partners in the U.K.,” according to a statement released by company spokesperson Lafeea Watson and I completely agree.

This was an honest, yet completely avoidable mistake if everyone involved had taken those few extra moments to think and look at the bigger picture.

The event was isolated to the singular store in Hull, United Kingdom and all promotion materials have since been removed from official social media for the store. That hasn’t stopped this story from going viral, earning it world-wide attention.

“We are truly sorry for any inconvenience or offense this misstep may have caused our fans,” the company statement says, also noting that the location would be “taking greater precautions with their publicity materials in the future.”

So again I ask everyone to learn from this mistake and always remember to Take Time To Think!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.