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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can’t worry about that.

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

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

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

Many people are completely okay with this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, simply have that conversation!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time!

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

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

Image courtesy of Nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Digital Parenting 101: Preparing Your Kids For the Online World

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

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

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

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

Talk To Them Early

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

Talk To Them Often

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

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

Communicate Your Own Values

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

Discuss All the Dangers

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

Remember the Golden Rule

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

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

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

Bullies Don’t Take a Vacation

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

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

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

Some Quick Facts On Bullying

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

Your Top Tool: Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Kids Don’t Report Bullying

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

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

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

Dealing with the Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What 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.