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.

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.

What Parents Should Know About Omegle

This week continues my regular series “What Parents Should Know.” This week’s question comes from a concerned parent in Hawaii. Have something you’re wondering about? Send me a message and I’ll do my best to find an answer: info@joshgunderson.com

If you were to stop me on the street and ask “Josh, should my teenager be on Omegle?”  I would more-than-likely start laughing while trying to get the word “no” out.  The site’s slogan is “Talk To Strangers!” At 28-years old, if I were to tell my mom that I was using a web site with that slogan, I’m pretty sure she’d ground me. I don’t even live with her!

ID-10067793

Image courtesy of sixninepixels / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Launched in 2008 by a 18-year-old, Vermonter, Leif K-Brooks, Omegle is a a free online chat website that allows users to communicate with strangers without registering. The service randomly pairs users in one-on-one chat sessions where they chat anonymously using the handles “You” and “Stranger”. In early 2009 the site added video conferencing feature in addition to chat.

In compliance with COPPA, the site requires users to be at least 13 year old to use the service but as it collect no personal data, it’s not that hard to get around that requirement. It also asked that users under the age of 18 get their parents’ permission before using the site.  Cause that’ll happen.

omegle002

This warning features prominently on Omegle’s home page. It’s also enough to tell me I don’t want to be on this site. You should feel the same way.

 

Stick with me here, it gets worse.

The site, according to its privacy policy, participants’ IP addresses are recorded and stored for up to 120 days. They record the following: “the time your chat began, your IP address, a randomly-generated ID tag assigned to your computer, your chat partner’s IP address, and your chat partner’s randomly-generated ID tag.” Why? For “purposes of law enforcement.” Is anyone else seeing the red flag’s here?

Because of complaints, the site now had moderators keeping an eye on chats to make sure that only appropriate things are happening. However, one can easily click on the option to join an unmoderated chat if you pinky-swear that you’re over 18. How do they check this? Well, this nifty window pops up, and then you just click OK.

Trying to escape the moderators? Just click on the link for unmoderated chat. They ask you to confirm that you're old enough to be there without asking for any information to verify.

Trying to escape the moderators? Just click on the link for unmoderated chat. They ask you to confirm that you’re old enough to be there without asking for any information to verify.

 

Once a chat is ended, each user has the option of saving the transcript (when it’s saved, it lives on Omegle’s servers forever). Free software has also allowed people to trap and record video conferences- many of which can be found on tame sites, like YouTube.  An image search on Google gave me enough reasons to never go near the site.

I strongly encourage parents to have a conversation with their kids about sites like Omegle. Remind them that talking to strangers, even with a computer screen and, potentially, hundreds of miles between you, is never a smart idea. It is so easy to give out loads of personal information without even realizing it. Also remind them that the internet is forever and any videos that may be perceived as inappropriate can have a lasting effect on their future.

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: Blogging, Part 1

A few weeks ago I introduced my new series “Social Networking in the Classroom” and the response has been inspiring! In the introduction to the series, I weighed the pros and cons of integrating social networking in the classroom. In the following weeks I discussed Facebook followed by Twitter. This week’s topic? Blogging!

This week’s topic is being broken into three parts! Why? There’s so much to talk about! This week’s entry will look at some blogging platforms I think are pretty awesome for the classroom environment. Next week I’ll talk about the pros of blogging in the classroom. In the third part I will share ideas for blogging in the classroom. (The other reason is that I wrote the whole entry and saw how long it was so breaking it into multiple parts just made sense to me.)

ID-10067450

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You might notice right away that I have avoided specifying one specific blogging platform to use. There’s a very simple reason for this, there are so many! I think it’s best to find what works best for you and your students. I’ve done a quick web search just to get an idea of the best blogging platforms for a classroom.

These are in the order that I thought of/discovered them and I promise I’m not getting anything special for promoting them…unless they want to give me something. Free Edublog? Hint hint WordPress!

WordPress- Since starting this blog back in June, I’ve really grown to love all that WordPress has to offer. The platform is simple to use and pretty straight-forward. It’s free to use though a premium account offers a few more perks but they aren’t important if you’re looking to keep things simple (I’m a simple user and paying $99 a year doesn’t seem worth it to me… I need that money to support my Starbucks habit!) The only drawback I would see with WordPress is that each student would need to create an account in order to become a contributor on the classroom blog. The perk I see with that, is that students are free to continuing their blogging once the class has ended!

Edublogs– Edublogs is exactly what it sounds like- blogs for education! The site is run by the people at WordPress and has all the same features!  The site is safe, secure, and for education only. While a simple blog is free, if you want to be able to embed video and HTML, you must pay for an upgrade. $35 will get you a year of Educator Pro and is great if you want to be able to facilitate blogging in your classroom and create accounts for students.  You can moderate students entries and comments with this feature as well.

Looking to connect the entire school? Edublogs offers that as well. Create a massive blogging community of students and educators. The cost varies by the number of blogs you wish to create. You can contact Edublogs for a quote. Not sure if Edublogs is a right fit for your school? They give you a free 30-day trial to give it a chance!

ClassPress- ClassPress is much like WordPress in its functionality. A one year subscription is the same at $35 with discounts if you subscribe with 5 or more teachers. Once you are a member you are able to create an unlimited number of students accounts. The site also automatically filters content in students entries unlike other which require you to actively look out for inappropriate language. One thing I really like on ClassPress is the drop-box feature which allows students to submit assignments digitally into one place. There’s no worrying about students misspelling your e-mail address. This also allows the teacher to upload files for download by students. Supported formats are Microsoft Word, Excel, PDFs and Powerpoint. Want the kids to have a record of their blogging at the end of the year? You can download PDF journals that can be printed, e-mailed or loaded onto a thumb drive!

Kidblog-While featuring all of the perks of the above platforms, Kidblog goes a step further to ensure the privacy of its users. Student accounts are private by default and the site is fully COPPA compliant, not requiring any personal information from students using the site. Comment privacy settings allow for filtering out unsolicited outside comments. As the audience is fully limited to those in the class, the site allows for the creation of password protected parents and guest accounts. As far as I can tell, the site is free to use but I’m not 100% on that.

Have you used any of these platforms in your classroom? Have any suggestions for other sites that can be used (I know they’re out there!)? I would love to hear more in the comments section 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.

What Parents Should Know About Instagram

After my post about SnapChat, I’ve had a number of parents e-mailing and asking about other Apps and Social Media. Inspired, I’m now making answering these questions a regular series on the blog. These entries will be posted on Fridays. Have something you’re wondering about? Send me a message and I’ll do my best to find an answer: info@joshgunderson.com

I will admit that I’m a big fan of Instagram. I joined and posted my first picture just over a year ago and I’ve been hooked. One of the reasons I love it so much is because it allows me not only to share photos from my time on the road, but geo-tagging helps me create a fun map of places I have been. This past spring, I began taking photos of schools I have visited and using these posts to give a shout-out to the great audiences and allow students and teachers to comment and share their thoughts on the program.

instagram

While I’m having a lot of fun with the app, it seems others are having a less enjoyable experience. Parents are growing very concerned with the safety and well-being of their children. I’ve compiled some things all parents should know about the app and how to best keep their kids safe.

Privacy
Like most social apps, Instagram allows users to protect their privacy by selecting the option “Photos are Private”. By selecting this you are hiding your photos from the outside world and you, from there, can select who is able to follow your posts. Please note that this only hides your photos- information like your name, bio and profile picture are public no matter what.

Geo Tagging
While it’s great to have a map of your travels, it’s important to understand what it means to be creating this map. The option to “Add to Your Photo Map” is turned off by default. Once it’s turned on, however, it remains that way until you turn it back off. It’s important to make sure you are aware of what setting is active when uploading, especially when doing so from home. Forgetting to turn it off will allow others to see where you were at the time of upload.

Sharing
Instagram allows users to share their photos beyond the world of the app and onto social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. If a user chooses to share beyond the app, it’s important that they check the privacy settings on that particular network. For instance, on Twitter, the photo and location will be public unless your profile is set to private.

Friends
Keeping your friends real is the best thing you can do with this app and all social networking. My general rule of thumb is: if they aren’t a contact in my phone, they aren’t my friends. I would even expand that out to: if I’ve never been in the same room as this person, I’m not going to be their friend. In the digital world you can’t be too safe!

Keeping Safe

Like on Facebook, Instagram (which is owned by the Zuckerberg empire) users can be tagged in the photos of others. It’s important to keep an eye on what photos you or your child are being tagged in and how they could affect them. It is possible to untag yourself if the person’s profile is public. Otherwise, you’ll have to ask that you be removed.

Instagram also allows for a user to block another. Once a user is blocked, they will not be able to see your profile or pictures, tag photos of you, or mention you in comments. This is a great tool if you don’t want someone having any access to you or if they are repeatedly harassing you.

Users can also be reported for violating Instagram’s Community Guidelines. If you or your child find that someone is misusing the app or violating anything mentioned in the guidelines, report them. The claim will be investigated by the folks at Instagram and appropriate action will be taken.

As always, I encourage you to learn as much as possible about the app and share in your child’s experiences. Ask them questions or even ask them to teach you how to use the app on your own phone. Follow them and their friends and let them know that you’re keeping an eye on the things they post.

What have your experiences with Instagram as a parent been like? I’d love to hear about it!

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 Source