What Parents Should Know About ooVoo

We’re getting back into the new year with our regular blog series “What Parents Should Know” where we explore popular apps kids are using and break them down for parents. For the first entry of 2015 I was asked at a recent parent night in Armonk, NY about the video chat app ooVoo.

Ooovoo004ooVoo is a video client, similar to Skype, which allows users to communicate through instant messaging, voice and video chat. The conferencing software allows users to communicate with up to 12 others simultaneously. The app is available through both Android and IOS as well as on desktop or laptop computers.

While Facetime through iPhones and iPods is popular with most students, it is limited to one on one chatting. ooVoo allows large groups to communicate making it great for homework study groups.

After playing around with the app and the desktop site I find no real issues with the program as long as users are smart about privacy and safety.

Here is my advice to create a safe and private environment on ooVoo!Ooovoo002

1) As a reminder, like a large majority of social apps out there, users must be at least 13 years old in order to sign up for ooVoo.

2) While creating your profile, you are not required to put your entire name. Youngsters should just be putting their first name to help keep themselves safe.

3) Create a username that doesn’t include personal information like your name, location or age.

4)  When adding a profile picture, video or status update be sure that there is no revealing information that can be found in them. Remembering that little things can add up to a lot when it comes to information posted online through pictures and these updates.

5)  Take advantage of the privacy settings (seen here)

Ooovoo003

For my ooVoo account, I set it up so only those with my e-mail address or username can find me in searches. I highly recommend this over the “Anyone” setting as it allows you to control who has access to you.

Also note that your profile picture, display name and online status are always public in your profile.

As I’ve mentioned before with a number of username based apps, it’s important to keep this information private. Reminds kids not to share usernames to chat sites within their profiles elsewhere. It drives me insane when I see Kik, Snapchat and other usernames posted within public Instagram or other profiles. By keeping these usernames private, it limits those who have access to them.

So to answer the question about whether or not parents should be concerned about their kids using ooVoo, the answer is no. Like most apps available, ooVoo does its best to ensure the safety and privacy of its users.

It’s up to parents to remember to have regular conversations regarding online safety and etiquette.

As always if you have questions about this or other apps please do not hesitate to send an e-mail to info@joshgunderson.com. The “What Parents Should Know” blog series will be posted weekly throughout the year as time in our schedule allows.

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

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

What Parents Should Know: Vine Becomes PG-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Parents Should Know About Kik Messenger

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

I’ve been asked about Kik Messenger before during programs (mostly by parents) over the last couple years. It’s one of those apps I’ve never paid much attention to because I have no use for it. With Kik being this week’s topic, I went about my normal methods of learning about the app.

kik-blackberry1

 

Unlike last week’s post about Omegle, I’m less inclined to issue a straight up warning against the app. Instead, I think parents just need to understand the ins and outs of the app and come to their own conclusion about whether or not their kids should be using it.

So what is it? Kik Messenger is an instant messaging application for mobile devices. The app utilizes a phone’s data plan or available wi-fi to allow the user to send messages without having to use their phone company’s messaging plan. It can be used on smartphone platforms as well as app-enabled devices like tablets and iTouch. The app allows users to send text messages as well as pictures and videos.

I decided to take the hands-on approach to this week’s app and downloaded it to my phone. The first thing that struck me as odd were the number of reviews for the app. To give you an idea of what I mean- I compared Kik Messenger’s number of reviews to that of equivalent messaging services. Others averaged around 200,000 reviews, Kik had just under a million.

The reason for this made itself very clear right away. Users were posting their Kik names in the reviews and asking people to get in touch with them (see the pictures below…these are the tame examples. Click to enlarge the image).

2013-07-16_12-46-18 2013-07-16_12-46-57

Kik is another sad story about social apps gone wrong. Meant to be used as an inexpensive way to chat with friends has turned into a breeding ground for sexting and other problems. That’s not to say that everyone using it has ill intentions, it just means that parents should be very aware of what their kids are using the app for.

Privacy
In terms of privacy on Kik, it’s up to the user to determine how safe they want to be. Like old-school AOL Instant Messenger, in order to contact a Kik member, you need to have their screen name. If your kids are using the messenger, establish a rule that, much like their phone number, they should keep their screen name private and limit who is allowed to have it (friends, family, etc). The messenger does access your current contacts to tell you who has the app as well (a blessing, a curse, and the reason I removed the app when I was done with it.)

Personal Information
The most personal thing the app asked for was my name and e-mail address and, as far as I can tell, there is no way to search for a user with this information. With that in mind, it’s important to note that the only way anyone would obtain this information is if another user gave it to them.

Is Kik Messenger safe? Yes- it’s a safe as long as users are smart. In terms of whether or not your child should be using the messenger, that’s entirely up to you as the parent. Setting guidelines for the appropriate use of technology is important and making sure you are upholding the rules that you have set.

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.