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.

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.

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.

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.

What Everyone Should Know About Facebook Messenger: Myth vs Reality

It would seem that we have once again found ourselves in a position of being mad at Facebook. I’m not surprised at the issue seems to come up every other year or so. The popular social networking site will make a change, we’ll all get super mad and hate it, there will be threats of shutting down our accounts in protest, and then we get over it, carrying on as normal.

I’d like to take the time to welcome Facebook Messenger to the madness.

This first thing that I’d like to point out is that Messenger is not something new the Facebook just threw us out of left field, in face it hasFacebook001 existed since 2011. In its infancy, it was up to users whether or not they’d like to use the app for messaging or stick to the mail Facebook interface. Personally, I jumped on the messenger bandwagon sooner rather than later because it allowed me to check messages without getting distracted by other’s updates or anything from Buzzfeed.

The only big change that has come up in the past few weeks is that the use of messenger is no longer optional. In order to create a faster and more streamlined experience for users, Facebook has separated the messaging interface entirely for mobile users.

So why the move? In reaction to the backlash, Facebook responded with:

We’re committed to providing a fast, reliable and fun messaging app that anyone in the world can use to reach the people who matter to them. That’s why we’re focusing just on Messenger and moving messages out of the Facebook app. People usually respond about 20% faster when they have Messenger, and we think they’ll find both apps useful in different ways.

The two apps work flawlessly with one another. If you are using regular Facebook and click on a message, you’ll quickly be bounced over to the chat window for that message. Essentially- it’s along the lines of a Kik Messenger with the difference being you can use it to make phone calls over a data connection.

But Josh, Big Brother Is Watching!

If the rumors are to be believed- Facebook has teamed up with the NSA and is working to spy on our every move. They would argue that I’m being so positive about the App because I’m afraid they’ll come for me in the night.

Not the case at all- besides I have an army of attack cats that will protect me from NSA ninjas.

Facebook002For some reason, when looking at the permissions required of the app, people flipped out. In the last week, I received a large number of e-mails from both friends and the general public, flipping out over the app permissions.

My reaction- they’re no different from any other app you are installing on your phone. Kik, Snapchat, Tumblr- they all ask for access to your camera, photos, contacts, location, etc. What Facebook Messenger is asking for is nothing new.

To quickly break it down for you:

Camera Access: Many people really enjoy sharing moments from their lives with others. Be it a group photo with Mickey Mouse at Disney World or a quick selfie in front of Cinderella’s Castle. Facebook messenger recognizes that and wants to help. In order to send those photos to your friends, the app needs permission to access your camera to take that photo.  They are not going to remotely turn on your camera to watch you dancing around your living room whilst lip-syncing into a water bottle to the latest One Direction song.  (Note: these are all things I have personally done in the last 24 hours)

Microphone Access: another feature of the app is the ability to call your fellow users. If you’d like the person you’re calling to hear you, the app needs permission to access the microphone.

Like many other apps you are using, they are not turning on your camera or microphone when the app isn’t in use. It won’t message your friends unless you want it to and the same for phone calls.

While many of the initial reports on the messenger have been corrected to give readers the appropriate information about the app, it’s important to remember that when it comes to news on the internet,  you should try to go to the source to get the full story rather than falling into the conspiracy theorists’ traps.

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 Fling

It would seem that there will be no shortage of strange new apps to talk about.  This latest inductee into the messaging app hall of famefling puts a strange twist on the world of photo messaging.

Fling, which launched to mixed reviews and a top 5 spot in the App Store in mid-June, is the latest in the trend of random messaging. Like I mentioned, there’s a twist.

At first glance, I thought Fling was just another Snapchat. I was both right and wrong.

The app functions as a bit of a virtual message in a bottle. Users create content (text, picture or video) and share them.

The content is “flung” around the world to up to 50 random users. The recipients can view the content and can choose to engage the originator in chat or ignore the content entirely. Receipts can view the originator’s username and general location from which the fling was flung. The content creator can watch their message fly around the world.

It would seem that the overall popularity of the app is coming and going. When it launched in mid-June the app shot to the top of the charts. Since then it has dropped off the top 100 list despite over 250 million “flings”. Part of the reason for the decline might be the lack of availability on the Android platform (though its creators promise that it’s in the works).

Here are some key points for parents on the app:

Privacy

Similar to popular apps like Snapchat and Kik Messenger, Fling functions on usernames.  Normally this is enough to keep users safe and free from unwanted messages. Since Fling randomly sends out your content to random people, you are willingly handing off this information to strangers.

As I mentioned when a fling is flung, recipients receive the originators username and general location. An early bug reveal exact locations but this has since been corrected and limits this to the country of origin.

How much information revealed is up to the users. Once chat has been engaged, users can give out personal information like phone numbers, other app usernames and exact locations.

Privacy is in the eye of the beholder it would seem in the case of this app. I would recommend for users, selecting a different username from your norm (using the same username across apps and sites is generally NOT recommended).

Sexting/Content

10 minutes. That’s how long I was a member of the app before I received sexually explicit content from a complete stranger. Of the five replies to my inaugural fling (a picture of my new kitten) one of them was a picture of a man’s genitals. While one would hope that their teen is smart enough to avoid such dangers but mistakes do happen. Making sure that your kids understand the consequences of sexting both the legal and non-legal ramifications. It’s important to take the time to think before you make a mistake that could affect you now or in the future. This content is permanent and won’t be going away any time soon. The added risk is that this content is being sent to complete strangers all over the world.

Like a good chunk of messaging apps, there are no restrictions on content being created or sent so the chances of your child simply receiving unwanted explicit messages are great. The app store even warns against Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes, Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content and Nudity, Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References, Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor.

Users are able to report unsavory content when it’s been received. Fling has access to each of the messages sent and will investigate and suspend users as it deems necessary.

Why Parents Should Be Concerned About Fling

Right away the app reminds me of how I felt about Omegle. You are sharing with complete strangers around the world. This, right away, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t like the idea of sharing with users unknown around the world and parents should feel the same.

The app is rated 13+ meaning that, like most apps, users must be at least 13 years of age to download the app. Make sure for your younger kids that you have restrictions in place for the app store and Google Play.

Additionally, use this opportunity to have that regular check-in with your kids about the apps they are using and the behavior you expect from them. Help them understand your feelings about sharing and chatting with strangers and what some of the ramifications of those actions can be.

Remind them about sharing too much information and how even a picture can reveal too much sometimes!

It’s important to remember that it’s not technology that’s causing problems, it’s how we are using it!

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.

Teaching Internet Safety: It Takes A Village

There’s a quiet debate taking place in the hallways of schools across the country – no – around the world. Who is responsible for teaching kids about Internet Safety?

I’ve travelled to hundreds of schools around North America and I’ve had this conversation regularly with school administrators, counselors, parents and even students. It would seem the problem is that, on all fronts, people feel they don’t have enough information or education about what it means to be safe in the online world.

As a result parents are looking to the educators, educators are looking to the parents and our student are stuck in limbo trying to navigate between the digital world and the real one.

When I first started talking to people about internet safety six years ago, I would have gladly put the responsibility of internet safety squarely on the shoulders of the parents. In reality, parents are the ones providing their kids with the mobile technology that is getting them into so much trouble. But there has been a shift over the last few years as more and more schools are moving to a 1:2:1 environment where they are providing the students with the technology.

ID-100189110So who is responsible for teaching internet safety and digital citizenship to our kids? We all are.

I’m not one for clichés but in this situation it fits. I turn to the oft quoted African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.”

In a recent survey conducted by internet security company AVG is was reported that parents rely too much on schools to teach their kids about internet safety according to 82% of teachers interviewed. The research brings to light the argument of who is responsible for the education of our kids when it comes to the digital world. Many teachers surveyed feel that the pressure comes from parents who don’t know enough about the online world to educate their kids.

This is an argument that needs to stop.

Rather than passing the buck I think it’s important to start working together on this topic and sometimes it helps to reach outside the box for help.

I look at education and policy like the circus act of the spinning plates. The perform sets up his first plate and gets it going. Then on to the second, the third, the fourth and onward. You get everything going and it looks great. To keep things going you have to go back to the beginning and keep that first plate from falling. You can’t just set things up and rely on them to take care of themselves- you need to keep it going.

Get the Conversation Started

It’s in the beginning that I recommend the outside help. Bring in specialists to work with each level of the conversation.

Educators

For educators I recommend taking a part of an in-service day to get the conversation going. Work with your outside presenter to come up with the best lesson for your educators. For me, I work closely with schools to customize each program to fit the conversation already taking place. I want to make sure everyone has the appropriate tools to great the best digital citizens possible. I’ve even stopped running my “scripted” program to have full-blown candid conversations about the topic. By working together to have this conversations with one another, we are developing the tools to bring these lessons to students.

Students

The outsider is the perfect conversation starter for students. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard the following from an BkPkF-LIgAELD-1educator I’d be a rich man. It’s simply this: “we tell our students these same things all the time and we never get through. You did it in an hour.” The next thing from them is usually asking me what my secret is. The truth is, there’s no secret. I’m just an outsider.

It’s important to use workshops and assemblies as a preventive measure rather than a reactionary one. Setting the stage early is key. Once the lessons have been taught, students are more likely to take a few moments to think before they act in the online world. They might take the time to type out that hateful message, but they’re also going to think twice about posting or sending and in most cases it’ll get deleted before the act.

One students, after hearing my assembly program, started a campaign in his school entitled “What would Josh do?” Using the lessons learned from the assembly, he created posters that were then hung around school depicting different scenarios often found in the online world (sexting, bullying, etc) and simply wrote “What would Josh do?” on the bottom. He also included my Twitter handle and e-mail address, giving his fellow students the reminder that I am always available to answer questions.

It was a brilliant idea that sparked a movement for his classmates. I spent a lot of time responding to their questions via social networking and that’s something I’ll never have an issue with. It tells me they’re thinking about what we discussed.

Parents

Get the parents involved as soon as possible. I love parent nights. Over the last six years I have conducted well over 100 even programs talking to parents about the online world. These are essential in bringing the conversations into the home environment.

What I always recommend is booking both students and parent nights back to back.  The reason being that I use a lot of the same material presented to the students in an effort to facilitate the at home conversation. Simply saying to your child, “Josh talked to us about this- what did he tell you?” and from there having a thoughtful conversation. I also given parents additional information and tools not presented to the students in order to give them what they need to bring more light to a topic. I won’t always be around, but you will.

Keep the Conversations Going

You’ve got the plates spinning and now it’s time to keep them in the air. Don’t just look at this as a one and done conversation. It needs to happen early and it needs to happen often.

For educators, take some time during each in-service day to discuss the online world. Keep tabs on news stories from around the world. Use current events to talk to students about what is happening to people their age. In the last year along I posted stories about how sexting is getting many teenagers into trouble, how apps like YikYak are landing students in jail and how one tweet can change your entire life.

I’m, of course, going to recommend following my blog and tweets to keep up with the current events (because I can) but just watching the news each morning will give you what you need. Honestly, if I hadn’t been watching the news at the gym, I would have never known about the eraser challenge.

Blogging is key. I recommend that the school take a look at blogging platforms (I offer my recommendations in last year’s Social Networking in the Classroom series) and use them. Get your principals, school counselors, resource officers and teachers blogging. Get your parents following those blog posts and tweets.

As you hear about a news item, write about it! Or share what has been written about it. Keep those conversations going and keep everyone in the know. Even if it’s not happening in your school, your district or even your state- it’s important to keep tabs on the world. We are incredibly connected today and so are out students. They have access to a wealth of information, articles and videos- you should be just as connected.

Don’t Be Afraid to Bring it Up

Last year I visited a school district right around the time that YikYak was causing problems in schools. In a candid conversation with the principal prior to the start of the assemblies I mentioned the app and the issues coming up around it. He point-blank asked me not to mention it to his students at all since it hadn’t become an issue in the school. His reasoning- if we don’t talk about it, they won’t know about it.

Not the case at all.

As we are hearing news stories, so are students. Just because they aren’t talking about it doesn’t mean they aren’t using it.

By bringing the conversation to the table as educators and parents, we are telling our kids that we are aware and on the lookout for these issues. This is enough to make them think twice when they find themselves in a situation.

Get the Students Involved

Remember that campaign I talked about earlier? What would Josh do? A student came up with that. It’s funny, it’s relevant and it’s hilarious (not to mention flattering).  Some of the best experiences I’ve had as a speaker have come from events where the students were heavily involved.

Give them an opportunity to impress you.

One district in Indiana hired me to come in not because the school wanted it, because the students did. With the help and sponsorship of local businesses, student created  their own digital citizenship week. They had poster and video contests, pep rallies, assemblies, t-shirts. They went all out. The students did the leg work with the support of their local community, their parents and their administrators.

Get your student body involved in the conversation because, at the end of the day, this is their world.

Keep Those Plates Spinning

It’s important to have this conversation with everyone as early as possible. Start the school year off on a positive note and keep that song going. Get students excited about the idea and find ways to keep them energized and engaged.

Keep your educator blogs going with current events and bring those conversations into the classroom.  If, as an educator, you use current events as a part of your curriculum keep an eye out for news stories involving the digital world. Use them to facilitate thoughtful conversations with students. Ask them if they think how people are being punished is fair. Ask them what they would have done in that situation.

Share these stories with parents and fellow educators in your own social media feeds (yes, I encourage you to join twitter and use it often!).

Bring your specialist back! I work with many schools that bring back regularly, if not every year it’s every other. It’s a chance for students to see a familiar face and hear a familiar (always updated) message. It’s a great refresher and reenergizer for all.

I had no intention of this entry being so long when I started writing it! This is just a stepping stone to what it takes to get things going. I would love to hear thoughts and feedback from others about what they feel about this topic and how we can work together to get things going in our communities!

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 of Young Mother And Daughter Looking At Laptop courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net