Bullies Don’t Take a Vacation

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

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

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

Some Quick Facts On Bullying

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

Your Top Tool: Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Kids Don’t Report Bullying

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

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

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

Dealing with the Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What 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.

New Ask.fm Owner Wants To Eliminate Bullying, Moves Company to the US

In summer of 2013, popular social networking site Ask.fm brought bullying back to the forefront of the minds of people around the world, sparking debates on privacy and digital responsibility (see What Parents Should Know About Ask.FM)

askfmofficeThe site allowed users to interact anonymously by asking and responding to questions. Naturally, young users took advantage of the ability to remain in the shadows of the internet and took to posting mean, threatening and harassing comments to users leading to a number of bullying related suicides.

In a quite deal for an undisclosed amount of money, Ask.fm has been purchased by the owners of popular dating app Tinder and will be moving the company to the United States.

The company behind the deal, IAC, will be working in conjunction with the New York Attorney General’s office and investing “millions” into making the web site safer for users.

A statement by the NYAG’s office reads:

Under the terms of the agreement, Ask.fm will revamp its safety policies and procedures, including creating a new online Safety Center, hiring a trust and safety officer to act as a primary safety contact, and establishing a Safety Advisory Board to oversee all safety issues. Ask.fm will also review user complaints within 24 hours and remove users that have been the subject of multiple complaints. An independent safety and security examiner will be appointed to examine the changes and report on compliance to the Attorney General’s Office for three years.

This is a major relief to parents and educators alike who have seen the site growing in popularity since its introduction in 2010. Today it boasts over 130 million users with roughly 700 posts made each second.

The brothers responsible for the founding of the web site will no longer be involved with its operations as a part of the deal.

“They had a laissez-faire, libertarian attitude,”  according Chief Executive of IAC, Doug Leeds, emphasizing that under the new regime, threats of violence and other distressing content would “not be welcome”.

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

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.

 

Yik Yak (Don’t Come Back!)

If Ask.FM taught the world anything, it was that teenagers and the ability to remain anonymous cannot be mixed. In the summer of 2013, the popular Q&A web site became known worldwide after a series of bullying related suicides. Despite the public outcry, the site’s developers refused to aide in the investigation into instances of bullying and threats.

Social App newcomer, Yik Yak, found themselves being compared to the infamous Ask.FM this past week when stories of threats of violence and bullying caught the nation’s attention.

(Check out What Parents Should Know About Yik Yak to learn more about the app)

The app has been linked to the arrest of an Alabama teen for threatening to shoot someone, countless bullying incidents and bomb threats at schools in California, Georgia and Massachusetts.

Unlike it’s anonymous predecessor, the developer’s at Yik Yak have heard and responded accordingly to the outcry of parents and educators over the last week.

In what can only be described as an unprecedented move, Yik Yak has teamed with Maponics to license GPS data for over 100,000 public and private schools in the US. Using this data they are creating “geofences” around middle and high schools which will actually disable the use of the app while the users is within that area.yikyakbanned

As of early Thursday, these fences have gone live. In a statement, developer Brooks Buffington noted, “If for some reason the app is still accessible on a school’s grounds, all they need do is email us at yikyakapp@gmail.com and we’ll look into it ASAP.”

While I applaud this bold move by the developers, I see this as band aid on a knife wound.

Students will still have access to the app once they leave school grounds and the possibility of bullying, rumors and threats still exist.

It is worth noting for parents that the app is rated 17+ or mature. I encourage parents to set restrictions on their children’s devices to ensure they are not able to download these apps.

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.

SnapChat Seems a bit Fruity Lately

It would seem that security is once again an issue on popular social app SnapChat.( You might remember the App from my entry this past summer highlighting what parents should know.) Once again the users of the App have found their security compromised.

Back in December the App was hacked and millions (4.6 million to be exact) of users phone numbers were exposed by a group wanting to call attention to security flaws within SnapChat.run-by-fruiting-mrs-doubtfire

SnapChat, in turn, responded with “Snap-chas” a security test similar to “Captchas” we’ve become so used to seeing on almost every website. The security tests involve spotting Snapchat’s ghost mascot in a group of nine different images before tapping on the images with the ghost in. The puzzles will attempt to prevent hackers from stealing phone numbers of users.

It’s not worth getting excited about- hackers broke through that security feature in a matter of hours.

This latest security breach involves run-by fruitings. Some friends e-mailed me saying that they have been receiving Snaps of Smoothies with a fishy-looking URL. A quick search has revealed that theirs and friends accounts have been hacked. The link takes you to a weight-loss suppliment site (if your curiosity is burning).

I would advise changing your password (and like with all passwords, change it regularly).

In addition it’s important to remember that using the same username and password for multiple social networking sites (while easy to remember) can put our information at risk. Once a hacker has one, they have everything.

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.