The Internet is For Porn: Important Information Parents Should Know

Anyone who has attended one of my workshops knows that I’m not the biggest fan of statistics. They are tough to fully track and they change at the drop of a hat. However, a conversation with a friend about kids and pornography got me a tad curious about the numbers, especially since the conversation spawned from her catching her 5 year old looking at inappropriate content online.

When it comes to pornography on the internet, there are some numbers I thought important for parents to know:

The average age of children being exposed to pornography is 11 years old according to a report released by PornHarms. As kids are receiving smart devices at younger and younger ages, this number age can be expected to lower over the next few years.

90% of pornography depicts violence against women. The Guardian documented the violence of internet pornography in an eye-opening article:

Rape Crisis South London carried out simple research that involved typing “rape porn” into Google and then quantified the results: 86% of sites that came up advertised videos depicting the rape of under-18s, 75% involved guns or knives, 43% showed the woman drugged, and 46% purported to be incest rape.

37% of the internet is pornography. Software security company Optenet did a study, looking at 4 million registered URLS.  Rougly 1.5 million of them contained pornographic materials.

Around 85% of exposure to pornography occurs in the home. While terrifying to think about, it’s actually a positive.  It’s a reminder that, as a parent, you have control of what your kids are able to access in your home. Start with constructive conversations about appropriate usage of the internet and discuss consequences for breaking these rules. Establish standards for your kids and start young to help them develop stronger morals into their teen years.

90% of internet pornography is free. In a study run by International Secure System Lab of 35,000 pornography domains found that 90% of them offered free access to content. These sites are given free content from paid porn sites in an effort to drum up business for themselves.

Have you talked to your kids about pornography? Now might be the time!

First, discussions about pornography should be a part of ongoing conversations about sex and sexuality. As they start to question gender differences and where babies comes from, use this as a gateway conversation. Continue this through the teen years as they start developing relationships with their peers. You know your child best so use your judgment.

Second, as your kids get older they are exposed to more and more of the online world. Be sure to remind them of responsible use of devices. Look into installing safeguards onto laptops, desktops and mobile devices to filter out certain content.

Third, don’t avoid the topic but don’t overreact to it. Many times I’ve heard of parents not wanted to mention a topic because they don’t want to put an idea into their kids head. Trust me, it’s there. It’s important to discuss it with them because it lets them know you have the topic on your radar and might make them this twice. Avoid overreacting as you run the risk of your child shutting down and shutting you out. Let them know you are available to answer questions.

Now’s the time for conversation! Maybe take a nice Pokemon Go walk and have a chat!

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.

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 Keek

This week’s entry comes from a parent in Nebraska who has asked about Keek. I will admit that I was a bit confused by the question regarding the app. Turns out that Kik Messenger and Keek are two completely different apps!keek

Keek is a Toronto based social networking service that allows users to upload video status updates also known as “Keeks.” Keeks can be created on a mobile device or through the Keek website using a webcam.

Videos uploaded to Keek are limited to 36 seconds (much longer than those on Vine and Instagram) and by the end of 2013 the app had over 58 Million users. Followers are able to comment on Keeks with their own videos or text responses and are able to share the videos on the app and through their own social networking sites.

Signing Up For The App
Once you’ve downloaded the app you are able to sign up through your Facebook or Twitter profiles or create an account using your e-mail address. Once your account is created, the app requests some basic information from you including your first name, birth date, country and a short bio.keek002

Privacy
Because of the information needed by the app for your profile, it does require that users be at least 13 to create and account and for users aged 13-18, that they receive parental permission.

Unlike other social networking sites, there are no options for users to set their content to private. According to Keek’s FAQs this option is coming soon but is still not an option for the almost 3 year old app.

Users to have the option of blocking others but it’s unclear if it only blocks them from commenting on content or from seeing the users all together.

Followers are also able to share your content onto their Keek feed as well as other social apps like Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook and a handful of others.

Using Keek
Once you are signed up and logged in, you are good to go. Using previously recorded videos or new content, you are able to post onto the app or website. Like many other apps, you use Hashtags or “Klusters” to make the video more visible to others looking for that particular content.

Once you post you are giving the option of sharing to your Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites.

Users can also schedule posts (which is something that I use for Twitter to keep my feed active). This is also great because it might slow people down before posting potentially damaging content and make them think before it goes live to the world.

Content
The app’s end user agreement prohibits and sexually explicit content as well as anything that violates trademark or other people’s privacy. Like all these apps, the developers do their best to monitor content but rely heavily on users to report anything that would be deemed inappropriate.keek001

From my browsing of the site there wasn’t anything too awful (nothing as bad as what could be found on Vine). There was some borderline explicit content as well as people performing questionable acts, but a lot of it comes down to your comfort level with the content your kids are viewing.

Should My Child Be Using Keek?
My biggest issue with the app is the total lack of privacy and it should be a concern for parents as well.  I would probably still be against the app with privacy because I have concerns about anything that allows kids the opportunity to possibly share a little too much information or give revealing details about themselves.

Over sharing is a big concerns for apps like this and there’s a change of posting too much information or potentially embarrassing content that could affect your child’s future.

One of concern for parents, as always, are issues surrounding cyberbullying and I haven’t seen or heard too much from the app. Users are able to block and report hurtful or threatening content.

Do you have a questions about an app or social networking site? Please feel free to e-mail your questions to info@joshgunderson.com and I will do my best to find you the answer!

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: Vine Becomes PG-13

Just over a year after its debut, Vine (a Twitter-owned platform) had brought about a major change in their Terms of Service. Last week, Twitter announced and immediate change in the terms banning all pornographic and sexually explicit content.vine001

Twitter and, by extension, Vine had no rules against pornographic material though they did supress the content by putting up disclaimers over the video before playing and kept them from the trending videos pages. Shortly after launching, the app did take action by raising the rating from 12+ to 17+ or a mature rating in app stores.

With little to no restrictions in place, Vine quickly became  home to both shared and homemade pornographic material including explicit videos created by underage users. Though there was an outcry about this content, it seemed to quickly slip out of the limelight and the problems continued albeit under the radar.

Vine became a hot button topic recently when a teen posted explicit videos of himself performing sexual acts with food items.

With that in the news, Twitters announcement couldn’t have come at a better time. In a statement Twitter’s leadership wrote:

“We introduced Vine to make it easier for people to find, watch, create and share videos right from their mobile phones. As we’ve watched the community and your creativity grow and evolve, we’ve found that there’s a very small percentage of videos that are not a good fit for our community. So we’re making an update to our Rules and Terms of Service to prohibit explicit sexual content.”

The new rules prohibit all videos containing sexual acts or any type as well as animation or photographs containing nudity. Exempt from these rules are videos/photos deemed to be containing documentary, artistic or educational materials. Sexually suggestive content is also exempt as long as people in the video are clothed.

While a large number or users are not affected by this change those who are were warned about the change ahead of time. Users were given time to remove content. Those still uploading or refusing to remove content are suspended until they comply with repeated offenders being removed from the site.

Vine, like it’s competitor Instagram, will not be monitoring content full time and will rely on its users to report inappropriate content via the “Report this Post” option.

For more information about this app, check out my post: What Parents Should Know About Vine and Vine vs. Instagram.

As always, if you have a questions about a web site or app send an e-mail to info@joshgunderson.com and we’ll get you an answer!

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.

Social Networking in the Classroom: Talking to Students about Sexting

The issue of sexting is starting to come around again big time and causing a lot of problems for schools. Problems arose when 10 students, aged 14 to 18, at Walpole High School in Massachusetts found themselves being questioned by police regarding illicit messages being sent around the school.

ID-10092889One important piece of information to highlight from this Fox 25 report is that in Massachusetts and many other states, sexting falls under child pornography and comes with many serious consequences including federal charges and possibly having to register as a sex offender.

Police in Walpole are not planning on bringing such serious charges against these first-time offenders but there will be action taken.

This series of events is a great learning opportunity not only for the students involved, but for students, educators and parents everywhere.

I highly encourage teachers to look into this story and take advantage of some great resources that are available online.

One lesson that I have found that I really enjoyed is linked below. Both are from Common Sense Media which offers lesson plans and other great resources for educators and parents.

The first link is to the Lesson Plan which can be downloaded as a PDF.

Overexposed: Sexting and Relationships

The second link is a video of this lesson in action in the classroom, offering some great tips and ideas for working with students.

Teaching Students about the Dangers of Sexting

Additionally it’s important for students to realize both the legal and non-legal ramifications of sending illicit images and messages through social media. Realizing that having to register as a sex offender for this type of offense is not something that goes away easily. It will affect every aspect of their future including where they live and getting a job.

On the non-legal side, there is the embarrassment and reputation damaging factors. Looking into current events with high-profile offenders like Justin Bieber, Anthony Weiner, and Tiger Woods can offer a great warning for students.

Social Studies teachers can look into current events including those at Walpole High School to enlighten and educate their students. I suggest following this story and others to the outcome to see what kind of harm can come from just sending one photo.

There are also many educational programs available if you think an outsider might have better luck reaching your students. More information about my programs for students, parents and teachers can be found on my web site at www.joshgunderson.com.

Any questions can be directed to info@joshgunderson.com

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 Adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What Parents Should Know About Yik Yak

We’re back with the “What Parents Should Know” series. This entry is ripped straight from the headlines in my own backyard after a pair of bomb threats caused Marblehead High School caused an evacuation. This isn’t the first issue schools are having with the app as rumors of violence and instances of cyberbullying are running wild within the three-month old app.

Yik_Yak

About the App (from the Android Store): Yik Tak is anonymous, local and social – interact with other around you by posting Yaks… With Yik Yak, you can talk about anything and everything- share your stories anonymously… Yik Yak lets you post anonymously or under an alias.

As you can see, one of the biggest problems with the app is a user’s ability to remain anonymous. This is allowing people to post anything they’d like without fear of repercussion.

Upon downloading the app I quickly learned that users enjoy the anonymity because the app doesn’t require that a profile be set up. Once you have the app loaded you are good to go with posting. The app works off your phone’s GPS, allowing a user to see and be seen by the 500 closest users within a 5 mile radius of your location.

Given the lack of profiles on the app my normal method of reporting on an app isn’t going to work so I’m going to bullet point the pertinent information.

Age Restriction: the app is limited to users 17 and over or “mature.” However this is moot if age and maturity restrictions are not set on your child’s phone.

Location: in order to use the app, your phone’s GPS must be broadcasting your location

Content: The app actively encourages users to share anything and everything. It then allows other users in range to “upvote” on the story. While posts are limited to 200 characters this hasn’t seemed to stop users from getting into trouble.

Anonymity isn’t real: Police arrested a student after receiving help from Yik Yak to locate user who had posted threatening material on the app. You’re not as safe as you think you are.MHSbombthreat2a

Reporting Inappropriate Content: The app does allow for users to report inappropriate content. One way is to click the “report inappropriate” button a post. The catch being that it takes multiple reports for the app to take action. Users can also screenshot the content and e-mail it to the developers.

While that is all well and good, this will not stop users from bullying or harassing others. As no profile is required for users, all the developers are able to do is remove the current harassing content and nothing more.

The screenshot to the right (click to enlarge) are the two bomb threats posted in regards to Marblehead High School. In addition to finding these I found a large number of Yaks that proved that foul language, sexually explicit content, threats, and cyberbullying rein supreme on the app.

Given the nature of the problems already associated with the app in its infancy, I wouldn’t recommend allowing your child to download the app to their phone. Utilizing the ability to restrict the maturity and app rating levels your child can download to their phone is key. To assist with this I will be posting instructions on how to do this as soon as humanly possible.

Do you have a questions about an app or social networking site? Please feel free to e-mail your questions to info@joshgunderson.com and I will do my best to find you the answer!

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.