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.

Awkward Conversations: Please Don’t Post Pictures of My Kids Online

As I mentioned in my last post, I am just months away from becoming a first-time uncle. This is an exciting time for my family as I’m sure you can imagine. We can’t be more thrilled with the idea of having a baby to spoil rotten (as I am a massive Disney nerd, that kid is going to be SO VERY SPOILED).

With my sister’s due date drawing closer, I am reminded of a question I am constantly getting from people regarding the posting of photos of other people’s kids in digital forums like Facebook and Instagram. Most of the time people are wondering how to ask their relatives and friends or even other parents not to post photos of their kids online.

ID-100339518I’m going to be blunt here. The best way to ask, is to just do it.

We now live in a culture where our first instinct in any situation is to share what is going on with those we know and love. This usually means snapping a photo and uploading it to a popular social networking site like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (obviously it isn’t limited to these three). With so many ways to capture and share moments, I can only imagine the frustrations parents may feel when it comes to their kids appearing on other people’s social media accounts.

This is what I like to call an “awkward conversation” moment. With the advent of technology and mobile communication, I have noticed these moments appear more and more. People no longer feel comfortable expressing their feelings directly towards others and will go to great lengths to avoid the conversation because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.

You can’t worry about that.

This is a situation I find myself in quite often, though at this point many of my friends are used to it. At 30 years old, I am obviously at the age where I will get together with my friends either at home or elsewhere to part-take in adult beverages. While my party days are very much over, I still like to have a good time with friends.

While I am out and about, having a good time, I’m also hyper-aware of people taking pictures. As I mentioned, I’m old enough to be out drinking and having fun, but I also have an imagine to uphold. I really don’t want pictures of me drinking all over the internet, especially ones that I can’t control.

Many of my friends know my rule and always are sure to check with me before posting a picture or even before taking it. This is because I was willing to have the awkward conversation. It don’t have to be long and drawn out. Often times it’s very simply, “hey, am I in that picture? Can you please not post it.” or “Can you please check with me before you post a picture?”

Many people are completely okay with this.

This is the same type of conversation you need to have. Have it early and, if necessary, have it often.

For example. My younger sister and her husband are both in the air force and currently stationed in Japan. With my family being scattered all over, obviously we can’t be there in person to enjoy such moments as ultrasound photos and videos. The alternative, of course, is sharing through email and instant messages.

When we received the first ultrasound pictures via Facebook Messanger, the were proceeded with the message, “please don’t share these anywhere online. ” Short and sweet, message received. Any subsequent pictures have been met with the assumption that her feelings remain the same.

Obviously the birth of a baby is an amazing and wonderful occasion and I can’t wait for this little guy to make an appearance in the world. I also know that for a while, I’m only going to get to experience him through pictures so I am eternally grateful for the ability to instantly share moments with my friends and family.

I also feel that it’s a time to remember to slow down and really appreciate a moment in time. That’s a whole other rant though.

As a parent you have the right to dictate whether or not your child ends up on social media sites. Make your expectations of friends and family clear from the beginning. If they aren’t able to respect your wishes then it’s going to have to lead to them being removed from mailing lists or being able to snap a picture of the newborn. It sounds harsh but sometimes you have to put your foot down.

The same goes as your child gets older. Obviously this becomes more difficult, especially as they start to get involved in more group activities like school plays, team sports, or even a sleep over at a friend’s house. These are all fun moments that we would love to be able to capture and share. Do that! But when it comes to sharing online take a moment to remember the golden rule!

As yourself if you would want pictures of your kid posted for everyone to see online. Is the answer no? Then don’t do the same to other people’s kids.

I think it’s perfectly okay to snap a quick photo of a great moment in time so don’t get me wrong on that front. But rather than uploading it to a social site, maybe shoot it in an email or text, especially when other people’s kids are involved.

Again, simply have that conversation!

If your child appears on someone else’s social site and you’re not okay with it. Shoot them a private message or even give them a call requesting that they remove it. Don’t directly comment on the photo as this could create unwanted tension in the situation. Respect them as much as you’d like them to respect you.

When it comes to your child’s school this is a whole other ballgame. I would venture to guess that 9 out of 10 schools send home a photo release form for parents. If not, you may want to have a conversation with them regarding establishing a policy for use of your child’s name and image. To make life easier, I have posted a template on my web site for school’s to use in regards to this policy!

Be sure to actually read the fine print on these! While many schools may require a new signature for every year your child is in attendance, other’s might opt to save a tree and have one permission form for the duration of your child’s time in their school.

These policies typically do not apply to the yearbook which is considered an internal publication. If you wish for your child not to appear anywhere within the yearbook, you’ll have to contact the school directly.

So there you have it. The best course of action is to take action. Speak up and let your voice be heard!

Have you had to have this conversation with friends and family? Share your experience!

Until next time!

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.

Image courtesy of Nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Digital Parenting 101: Preparing Your Kids For the Online World

I don’t post a whole lot of personal stuff here but this news it too exciting to keep to myself: I’M GOING TO BE AN UNCLE! While this isn’t exactly brand spanking new news, I’m finally allowed to talk about it. My youngest sister is expecting her first child and it’s a super exciting time for my family.

While we were chatting recently she brought up some concerns about bringing a child up in today’s world. So much has changed from we were kids including the immersion of technology into every aspect of our lives.

ID-100259855She asked me my advice about raising a child in today’s online world. While I don’t think my little nephew will be joining up on Instagram any time soon, I think it’s important that lessons about the online world start early and happen often.

While many of the most popular social media web sites are restricted to the 13 and over crowd, this doesn’t stop youngins from getting online the internet or taking advantage of communicating through technology. From a very early age they see tech being used regularly. Snapping a cute photo, sharing through social media, texting, finding recipes on Pinterest- they see it all! It’s only natural that they want to be a part of it.

Talk To Them Early

There is no such thing as starting conversations with your child about online safety too early. This is a big part of the reason why I offer Internet Safety programs for elementary students. Even if we simply boil these lessons down to the basics, it’s important that they happen. Before you know it, you’ll be handing over a smart device to your child to Facetime with Grandma or play a game. Be sure they know the rules!

Talk To Them Often

Look for natural opportunities to communicates online safety rules and values with your children as often as possible. Keep an eye on current events and even within the programs your kids are watching for “teachable moments”. Talk about the actions over others and the subsequent consequences along with what your child can do to avoid getting into the same situations.

Don’t just apply this rule to the internet but all aspects of life!

Communicate Your Own Values

Throughout the course of your regular conversations with your child, be sure to communicate to them how you feel about certain situations kids are finding themselves in. Many parents believe that if they avoid having certain conversations, they aren’t planting ideas into their child’s heads about bad behaviour. I have found the opposite to be true. By discussing the heavy issues such as sexting, bullying, inappropriate behavior, etc. you are letting your child know that you are paying attention. This was cause them to think twice about their behavior in the future.

Discuss All the Dangers

While predators, bullies and thieves make the most headlines, there are the other dangers of the internet lurking out there. Remind them to be careful about opening strange emails or clicking on links. Kids are more prone to this behavior especially with so many offers of free games or new technology. Make sure they understand that, while there are many good intentioned people out there, there are those looking to cause trouble including malware, viruses and Trojan horses.

Remember the Golden Rule

Remind your kids often that whether they are online or in the real world, they should always be treating other people like they want to be treated. Regardless of the social media site or the promise of being anonymous, they should always ask the question “Would I say this to somebody’s face?” Remind them of the permanence of the online world. Once you hit that enter button, it’s not going anywhere!

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.

Bullies Don’t Take a Vacation

I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older that each year seems to go by faster and faster. 2015 was no exception. I can barely remember Halloween and my tree is up and my halls are decked. The holiday season has arrived!

Winter vacation is quickly approaching and people all over the world are gearing up to spend more time with friends and family. This downtime also means kids will be spending more time in the cyber world and unfortunately, bullies don’t take a vacation.

ID-100112944With this in mind, it’s important that parents and educators take the time to remind kids how to handle situations involving bullies whether they are online or off. This is a great time to have a conversations with kids about your expectations for responsible online usage and remind them what action to take when dealing with bullies.

Some Quick Facts On Bullying

  • 7in 10 young people are victims of cyberbullying.
  • 37%of them are experiencing cyberbullying on a highly frequent basis.
  • 20%of young people are experiencing extreme cyberbullying on a daily basis.
  • Facebook (including Instagram), Ask.FM and Twitter found to be the most likely sources of cyberbullying, being the highest in traffic of all social networks.
  • Cyberbullying found to have catastrophic effects upon the self-esteem and social lives of up to70%of young people.

Your Top Tool: Communication

When it comes to students the one item I have on repeat is “take time to think.” For parents it’s much simpler: “COMMUNICATE!”

A tidbit I share all the time is how my mother raised us. Rather than lecturing about one issue or another, she would ask what we knew about something. She would take the time to get to know what we were into and who we were friends with.

It was an easier time for her with the lack of mobile technology and social media but I think that this ideal can easily translate into the digital world.

Stay on top of what is going on in the world by following news stories about bullying and other online issues and talk to your kids about them. Ask them what they have heard and if they have any thoughts about what is going on.

Checking in with them regularly and having conversations will help them feel more comfortable coming to you in the future with these types of issues.

By avoiding going into lecture mode, you will be establishing a great sense of trust for your kids. That’s what I loved about my mom. She hardly yelled or lectured and in turn we were more likely to come to her with problems.

Why Kids Don’t Report Bullying

1) Consequences- Technology has become an essential part of daily life and therefore people’s social lives. Many kids fear that if they report being harassed through digital means, parents will ban them or take away access to technology.

2) Humiliation- Many kids are afraid that when an incident is reported to parents or teachers they will appear weak or stupid in the eyes of their classmates.

3) Fear of Making It Worse-In addition to classmates learning of them telling, many kids fear that the bully will continue their harassments and even enlist others to take part.

Dealing with the Issues

So what to do when your child comes to you with an issue? Keep that communication going.

Ask your child what they would like you to do with the information they have given you. Do they simply want you to be aware of what is happening or would they like you to take action. If action is the answer, what kind? Talk to the other child’s parents? Talk to school administrators?

Let them be a part of the decision making and they will feel more in control for themselves. It will teach them the valuable skill of standing up for themselves and not always relying on someone else (mommy or daddy) to take care of all their problems.

Let them know that you are always and forever on their side no matter what!

Have your own thoughts? Please feel free to share them below!

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.

Image courtesy of Marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What Parents Should Know About Meerkat

This week I am continuing to review live-streaming apps. These apps have been taking the social media world by storm and allowing users to share their lives in real-time. While these apps have been embraced by many in the celebrity world, it has turned into a genuine cause for concern for parents as their kids begin sharing a little bit too much information.

Last week I took a look at the popular app Periscope which launched in March of 2015. Today I am taking a look at a very similar app called Meerkat.

Meerkat

Launched in February of 2015, Meerkat went viral after widespread use at the South by Southwest festival.

Users are able to broadcast whatever they like. Unlike its rival, Periscope,  Meerkat offers users the opportunity to schedule when broadcasts will happen which is a great perk for musicians planning a show to live-stream, etc.

Content

For the most part what I experienced on Meerkat wasn’t too shocking. There were some people running Q&A’s (there was one interesting one going on about the music industry that I actually watched for a while) and another was a cooking Screenshot_2015-08-04-18-05-40demonstration which was also quite interesting (I love to cook so it won me over).

At first glance it seems that, for the most part, the younger crowds have opted for Periscope over Meetkat. The worst of what I found in the hour I spent sifting around was a group of three guys who were obviously inebriated sitting around talking and smoking a bong.

That’s not to say that others aren’t using the app inappropriately, they just happened to be otherwise occupied while I was on. I would like to think that the lack of any sort of privacy along with the broadcast of one’s location is enough to discourage such behavior.

Bullying

While I didn’t witness anything too bad while on the site, there is still the potential for negative interactions through Meerkat similar to what I had witness on periscope. The site does allow for reporting of those making a broadcast but I couldn’t find a way to report individual users who were posting inappropriate content. At the same time I wasn’t able to block anyone either, leaving the app open to all sorts of issues.

Privacy

Upon starting the sign-up process for the app I was prompted to enter my phone number in order to receive a conformationScreenshot_2015-08-04-17-57-32 code to complete registration. This is an instant red-flag for me as I hate giving my phone number out to anyone or anything. The fine print insists that numbers are never given out but that’s not a comforting thought for me. If you’re not comfortable with your child revealing their phone number to a company, than this is the point where you shut it down.

Continuing the sign-up process you are asked for your name and a username. As always, usernames should shy away from revealing personal information like names, locations, age etc. Another interesting aspect was that I was required to upload a user picture before I could continue. Same rules, as always, apply when selecting a user picture- be aware of everything depicted as it might reveal too much!

When broadcasting the one and only setting is public. Anything being streamed will be seen by anyone that cares to watch. Additionally, something that really bugged me, the location Screenshot_2015-08-04-18-03-55of the broadcast was shown to anyone watching. For example, mine read Orlando, FL and I could find no way to turn that option off. This is another major issue that I think is enough cause to want to keep kids off of the app.

Unlike Periscope, however, the broadcasts are one and done meaning that there is no saving or rerunning the broadcast once it has ended. Periscope allows users to save videos for up to 24 hours.

Additionally, anything you do on Meetkat is automatically broadcast to Twitter which is something else that bugs me about the service. Every comment you make automatically becomes a tweet. I refrained from any interaction during my time on the site for this reason.

Should Parents Be Concerned About Meerkat?

Short answer, YES! Despite seeing less inappropriate content on the app, too many red flags went up for me in regards to the user experience. I don’t like how much information and linking is required in order to use the app and that every little thing is broadcast out to your Twitter followers. This is definitely one of the apps that is best to avoid.

The app is rated for teens which is 13+ in compliance with COPPA.

As always if you have questions about this or other apps please do not hesitate to send an e-mail to info@joshgunderson.com. The “What Parents Should Know” blog series will be posted weekly throughout the year as time in our schedule allows.

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 Periscope

Good morning world! I have been away for a longer time than I had anticipated but various projects kept me from having the proper time to sit down and write out blog entries! Hopefully that trend ends now as I prepare to return to life on the road!

Over the past few months, live-streaming apps and websites have gained a large following. Today’s entry will take a look at the most recent addition to this fad: Periscope.

Periscope

Officially launched in March of 2015 the Twitter-owned app gain instant popularity with both the general public and many celebrities.

The app allows users to live-stream from their phones or computers (equipped with a web cam) to the world around them. I know this service has been popular with a number of my friends who enjoy live-streaming parades and fireworks from Disney World to friends around the world that aren’t able to be there in person.

During my brief time playing with the app this afternoon I witnessed the following:

A young man talking about a new pair of shoes he purchased.
An Irishman conducting a Q&A about drinking.
Someone getting a haircut.
A teenager driving. Yep. Driving. While looking at his phone and responding to comments.
A grown man with his two children in the car (not seat belted) driving and responding to comments
Two teen girls conducting a Q&A session and receiving inappropriate questions.

Privacy
ToScreenshot_2015-08-04-16-32-21 join the app, users much also be a member of Twitter and the two accounts will be linked. Upon signing up you are able to create a username different from your twitter account, if desired. As always, I recommend staying away from usernames that reveal a lot of personal information including full names, locations, age, etc.

When it comes to broadcasts, the default setting is Public but users do have the ability to change over to private and, from there, select which of their followers are able to view that particular broadcast. When left public, the broadcast is shot out to the world. As far as I can tell (with Android at least) there is no way to limit narrow down viewable broadcasts to those around you.

Sexting/Content

While the app’s community guidelines prohibit content of a sexual nature, it doesn’t stop users from broadcasting such things. While surfing around the app I did come across some rather adult situations which I reported but there seemed to be no response from the app as the broadcast continued and now seems to be archived to the user’s account. Broadcasts are able to be saved for up to 24 hours on the user’s accounts for those that aren’t able to see 2015-08-04 16.11.56it live.

Common sense is the name of the game but in a world where becoming social media famous seems to be on everyone’s mind, that idea seems to go out the window. While briefly viewing a broadcast being conducted by two 16-year old girls they were being bombarded with questions and comments like, “what is your bra size?”, “Are you virgins?”, “What’s the furthest you’ve gone with a guy?”, “You two should make out!”

Thankfully in this case those questions and comments were ignored but I fear for those who decide to get provocative for the sake of gaining more likes and followers.

Once it’s out there, there is a chance of it resurfacing. Periscope is not safe from apps and tricks that allow viewers to record or screenshot what they are watching and sharing it elsewhere with others. A quick google search told me all I need to know about saving broadcasts both on my phone and computer!

Bullying

Again, after just a few moments of joining someone’s broadcast I was witness to some hard words and speech being thrown around by other users. One young man, 14, was conducting an “I’m bored” Q&A which was being viewed by about 100+ people. One user in particular seemed relentless about asking whether or not the broadcaster was gay. When the questions was initially ignored, the viewer became agitated and resorted to some more colorful language. The broadcaster responded that he was straight and had a girlfriend. The user, not satisfied with this answer proclaimed “Well you seem like a fa**ot!”

While the app does allow for users to block and report one another, the wording in their terms of service makes me nervous about what Twitter (Periscope’s parent comany) does with these reports. As stated in their Terms, the have the right to monitor and investigate users but are under no obligation to do so. I feel like this invites nothing but trouble and should certainly be something parents keep and eye on if they allow their kids to use this service.

Should Parents Be Concerned About Periscope?

Of all of the live-streaming apps/websites that are available right now, Periscope seems to be the safest with the ability to at least limit those who are viewing what your are broadcasting.

That being said, I would place Periscope in the same boat as Omegle and Fling. I spent the better part of my time on the app terrified that I was going to stumble on something that would get me into trouble. My every gut instinct with apps like this is to avoid at all costs.

The app itself is rated Teen within the Google Play store meaning that it is following the COPPA standard for social networking sites which means that users must be at least 13 years or older to be a part of the site. This obviously doesn’t stop kids from lying to get onto the site. I encourage parents to set up safeguards to prevent younger kids from downloading the app to their device.

As always, take the time to talk to your kids about apps like this and remind them that sometimes something they think is harmless fun can cause them a world of trouble.

As always if you have questions about this or other apps please do not hesitate to send an e-mail to info@joshgunderson.com. The “What Parents Should Know” blog series will be posted weekly throughout the year as time in our schedule allows.

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 ooVoo

We’re getting back into the new year with our regular blog series “What Parents Should Know” where we explore popular apps kids are using and break them down for parents. For the first entry of 2015 I was asked at a recent parent night in Armonk, NY about the video chat app ooVoo.

Ooovoo004ooVoo is a video client, similar to Skype, which allows users to communicate through instant messaging, voice and video chat. The conferencing software allows users to communicate with up to 12 others simultaneously. The app is available through both Android and IOS as well as on desktop or laptop computers.

While Facetime through iPhones and iPods is popular with most students, it is limited to one on one chatting. ooVoo allows large groups to communicate making it great for homework study groups.

After playing around with the app and the desktop site I find no real issues with the program as long as users are smart about privacy and safety.

Here is my advice to create a safe and private environment on ooVoo!Ooovoo002

1) As a reminder, like a large majority of social apps out there, users must be at least 13 years old in order to sign up for ooVoo.

2) While creating your profile, you are not required to put your entire name. Youngsters should just be putting their first name to help keep themselves safe.

3) Create a username that doesn’t include personal information like your name, location or age.

4)  When adding a profile picture, video or status update be sure that there is no revealing information that can be found in them. Remembering that little things can add up to a lot when it comes to information posted online through pictures and these updates.

5)  Take advantage of the privacy settings (seen here)

Ooovoo003

For my ooVoo account, I set it up so only those with my e-mail address or username can find me in searches. I highly recommend this over the “Anyone” setting as it allows you to control who has access to you.

Also note that your profile picture, display name and online status are always public in your profile.

As I’ve mentioned before with a number of username based apps, it’s important to keep this information private. Reminds kids not to share usernames to chat sites within their profiles elsewhere. It drives me insane when I see Kik, Snapchat and other usernames posted within public Instagram or other profiles. By keeping these usernames private, it limits those who have access to them.

So to answer the question about whether or not parents should be concerned about their kids using ooVoo, the answer is no. Like most apps available, ooVoo does its best to ensure the safety and privacy of its users.

It’s up to parents to remember to have regular conversations regarding online safety and etiquette.

As always if you have questions about this or other apps please do not hesitate to send an e-mail to info@joshgunderson.com. The “What Parents Should Know” blog series will be posted weekly throughout the year as time in our schedule allows.

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.