10 Quick Online Safety Tips For Teens and Tweens

Sometimes a new year is all about getting back to the basics. It’s a great time to recharge and refresh and, most importantly, remind yourself about the important lessons learned from years past to move forward with great wisdom and ease.

So with that in mind, I wanted to share some quick tips (hopefully a reminder for many) on staying safe online as well as some pointers on responsible social media usage.

Enjoy!

  1. Think before you post.
  2. Respect other people online, avoid gossip.
  3. Ask for permission before you meet online friends in-person.
  4. Don’t feed cyberbullies—block the sender, ignore mean messages, file a report with the website or police.
  5. Speak up if you see someone getting bullied.
  6. Clean up your profile, eliminate your page of everything too personal, embarrassing, and illegal.
  7. Use the privacy settings.
  8. Monitor what others post about you.
  9. Keep adults in the loop—tell them when you add new sites, new friends or see something suspicious or harmful.
  10. Use your voice for good—use social media to do something productive for you or a cause.

What tips would you add to the list?

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy Central 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.

Resolve to Stay Safe Online

It’s the first day of a new year and the time when people are making big plans for what they want to accomplish in the days and months to come. While many of those goals are centered around getting into shape, going on a lavish vacation, or saving up for a dream house, I do encourage you to take some time to review your goals in the cyber world. Specifically? Being a safe and smart user!

Here are some quick tips to consider going into the new year!

Data Security: Be sure to back up your data from both your mobile devices and computers. Consider investing in an external hard drive. They are inexpensive and a 1 terabyte drive would be more than enough for the casual user. This helps keep your information safe and gives you peace of mind should something happen to your device.

Reputation Security: Now is a great time to take a look at those social media contact lists and clean up shop! Clean up any posts or photos you wouldn’t want popping up should an employer go searching for you. This doesn’t make it go away forever but it does help make it harder to find. Take a look at your social media privacy settings and tweak them accordingly.

Financial Security: Keep all of your devices and securities up to date to patch up any holes in safety. Make sure to check regularly for any updates released throughout the year and update them immediately!

Mobile Security: Secure your devices with a pass code and other built-in security features. This will make it more difficult for an outsider to get into them should you misplace anything.

It is also around the new year that many social media sites and apps will update their policies. Take them time to understand what these updates mean for your privacy and safety.

Here’s to a happy and wonderful 2018!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy Central 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.

Internet Safety Tips for Holiday Travel

Wow! We are just one week away from Christmas and, if you’re anything like me, you had no idea it was this close! With all the hustle and bustle of the busy holiday season, it’s sometimes easy to forget about keeping ourselves safe in the online world.

Here are a few tips to keep you safe while spending time with your family and friends this holiday season- be it at home or on the go!

Update! Make sure all of your devices’ software is up to date before leaving home. This includes the devices that you are leaving behind. This helps close any holes that hackers could use to crawl through.

Back it up! Travelling can be unpredictable. Create a backup of the data on your laptops and other devices just in case anything happens. I recommend investing in an external hard drive. These days they are relatively inexpensive for a lot of space! I personally use a Western Digital Hard Drive, which you can also purchase for a Mac.

Be Careful with Free Wifi! Think twice before logging in to unsecured, free wi-fi. Sometimes it’s worth the upgrade to pay for a secure connection than risk compromising your information.

Browse Safely! Be sure to use secured wireless connections whenever available. If you are not able to connect to a secure system, avoid doing any personal business (paying bills, logging into bank accounts, other sensitive business) if you’re not sure of the security.

Think Before You Post! It is always so tempting to share your adventures and family fun while visiting for the holidays but it is important to resist. You never know what may accidentally end up public or who might be watching. It’s especially important to make sure not to share high-end gifts that you’ve received as well. It’s the same principal about buying a new TV and leaving the box out at the curb for trash.

Shut Down Your Wireless! Switch off wireless connectivity on phones, tablets, laptops, and other devices when they are not in use. This prevents hackers and criminals from potentially accessing your device on an open network without you even knowing that it happened.

Keep an Eye On Your Devices! While traveling in airport or otherwise, keep track of your devices. If you plug in at the airport, don’t go more than a few feet from your device and don’t let it out of your sight. Consider investing in a portable charger rather than trusting that you’ll be able to keep an eye on a public power outlet. This way you can keep your phone, tablet, etc in your bag. Double check your surroundings before moving to ensure you have everything. Double check before getting on the plane that you haven’t left anything in or around your seat.

Here’s hoping that you and yours have a wonderful holiday season, wherever your travels take you! I look forward to bringing you more in the new year!

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.

Cyberbullying: We Still Need to Be On Alert

Truth be told, tracking down any solid numbers on cyberbullying has proven hard. I know because I have spent the better part of the night searching for them. In all of this, I have found many conflicting statistics on the subject. This is mostly because the surveys being run are among smaller, control demographics.

One thing that I can say for certain simply based on recent news stories is that issues of cyberbullying have been on the rise over the last year.

In Pennsylvania police are investigating the death of a 9th grade student, Julia Morath, stating that bullying may have pushed her to commit suicide. In Michigan, 11-year-old Tysen Benz committed suicide after being pranked on social media. And in California, two Marines (out of almost 500 being investigated) are facing punishment in a sex-shaming and cyberbullying incident.

While great strides have been made over the past decade to put an end to bullying, these stories only stand to prove that we need to continue working towards safer schools, communities and cyberspace for our kids.

Now, more than ever, is a time when parents and educators need to come together to bring this topic back into the spotlight in schools and encourage students to be on the lookout for bullying behavior and work together to put an end to it.

So many times issues of bullying are a flash in the pan conversation. While assemblies, rallies and awareness weeks are a great start they should never be an end game, they need to be the start of something bigger.

One of my biggest goals for 2017 is to find ways to continue to work with schools and communities to continue the conversations begun during my visits.

With the school year winding down over the next few weeks, I encourage teachers to find ways to bring lessons on bullying into the classroom before students are set off for the summer months. All too often we start to see incidents of cyberbullying spike while students are on break from school.

Bullies don’t take a vacation.

Plant the seed in their heads now to take care of themselves and their community during this time outside of school.

Now is also a good time to start looking at programs to bring in during the early months of the coming school year. September is “Back to School Month” as well as home to “Suicide Prevention Week.” October is “Bullying Prevention Month” as well as “Cyber Security Month” as well as home to “World Day of Bullying Prevention”, GLAAD’s “Spirit Day” and “National Character Counts Week.”

Take advantage of these opportunities to get students energized and use them as a launching point for continued conversations throughout the year.

From there it is important to keep that conversation going. Have student create posters to hang around the school highlighting the messages they learned. Find teachable moments from the news to help keep them aware of issues happening in real-time in the real world.

Over the coming weeks and leading into the new school year, I will be posting more on this and many more topics so please be sure to follow or subscribe to stay updated!

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

 

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

Pokémon Go Update Encourages User Safety

Okay. I’m sure at this point people are getting sick of me talking about Pokémon Go but I honestly can’t get over how much hate the app is getting. Now, I will argue that there are a number of updates I’d still like to see come to the app but if I’m being honest, they all pertain to game play.

So you’re probably thinking, “But Josh, you’re all about safety and clearly this app isn’t safe. Don’t you want to see updates to make it safer?”

Have you not been reading?

I’ve said it time and time again that social networking application and sites as well as these games WANT their users to be safe. They have done everything in their power to help their users be safer but when it comes down to it, there requires a degree of common sense.

In the latest update for the app, Pokémon Go has taken steps to ensure that users are safe.

Now, if you recall from “What Parents Should Know About Pokémon Go” the loading screen for the app features a Gyarados (I literally just learned what it was today when I caught one) with the warning “Remember to stay alert at all times! Stay aware of your surroundings!”

This warning has been there since day one.

Today, they have taken those reminders a step forward. As the app finishes loading, before the user can enter game play, a dialogue window will pop up with a new warning that users have to click on to make go away. Giving them a small reminder of safe game play.

Additionally , another aspect of the app is a speed sensor. As the app requires GPS to be on in order to catch Pokémon and as a result it knows your movement and how fast you are doing it.

Now, walking is a big part of the app as you can earn medals, find new Pokémon, hit the PokéStops and hatch eggs. In all generations of the app there has been a speed sensor and anyone moving faster than 12 MPH don’t receive “credit” for walking and it won’t count towards hatching eggs.screenshot_2016-08-09-21-25-22-1.png

In this latest update, Niantic has taken it a step further. When the app detects you going over a certain MPH (the exact number is unknown to me, I have experimented with it as a passenger and it varies too much to give a good answer).

The game itself won’t deactivate after a certain speed level but the warning is enough to give anyone pause.

Now, at the end of the day, it all comes down to whether or not the user chooses to heed the warnings.

So is Pokémon Go safe for your kids?

Yes.

The app is as safe as the user. I encourage parents to talk to their kids about safely using the app to hunt Pokémon.  Please review my warnings in my previous post “What Parents Should Know.”

I know I come across as defensive on the subject off Pokémon Go and I’m okay with it. Over the past month I’ve had a number of conversations (read: argument) about the safety and security of this app. Many people cite robberies and accidents (please read my post debunking rumors about the app) and others will point me towards news articles citing violence involving the app.

My problem is that a lot of these articles are what is known as “click bait”. They are purposely using words and phrases that will encourage someone to click on the link to earn money from advertisers. They will cite Pokémon Go as a part of the newsworthy event because it’s going to gain more attention.

This drives me insane.

Today, when my app updated, I was walking around Universal Studios playing the game with my friend. The game itself has been a major help to me over the past month. With all that has been going on in my hometown of Orlando and my anxiety disorder, it has been very difficult for me to do the things I love which is going to theme parks.

I don’t do well in crowds as it is but recent events have intensified that. Having the distraction of hunting down Pokémon has been a big help. I was able distracted from the summer crowds and even able to survive a 75 minute wait for a ride (I typically can’t handle more than 15 minutes).

It may not seem like much, but this little game has meant a lot.

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 DisneyMix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instagram Launches “Stories”: What Parents Should Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

The same

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

Different

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

 

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

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

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

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