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.

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.

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.

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

Vine vs. Instagram: Which Is The Better Choice For Your Child

Last week’s entries about what parents should know about Vine and Instagram (with video) have created an interesting response in my inbox. Many parents want to know- which is better for my kid?

SPOILER ALERT: The winner is going to be Instagram.vine-vs-instagram

Privacy

Both Instagram and Vine give users the ability to keep their content private. By selecting this option (click “Edit My Profile” in Instagram, “Settings” followed by “My Content” on Vine) the only people that can see posts by a user and the ones that have been approved by the user to follow them. If you do not approve a user to follow you, they cannot see anything you are posting but your profile is still public. (I’m not sure how this applies to “revining” a video as its new to the latest update and I’ve had Vine for about two days).

I will also note that, until the most recent Vine update, there was no such thing as privacy on the app. This is important to know because if you are using the app and now wish for your content to be private- you can do so!

Content

The problem I have with Vine (and the reason that it is the loser in this game) is the content. Within minutes of being on the app I was able to locate pornographic material. Lots of it.

Twitter (who owns Vine) has no policy when it comes to inappropriate content on its site. This has lead to a large amount of mature posts onto the app. Though the app does restrict certain words from being used in hash tags (which users can search to find certain content, like puppies, why aren’t there more puppies?) this has just caused “mature” users to get more creative in how they tag posts. On that falls through the cracks is #NSFW (Not Safe For Work) which you can imagine will be posts that you don’t want to be watching at work.

This lack of content filtering is what lead Apple to request that the age limit for Vine be changed from 12+ to 17+. If you have set age restrictions on your child’s device, they won’t be able to download the app.

Facebook (who owns Instagram) has different views when it comes to inappropriate content. They forbid it. Within the Terms of Service for Instagram you will find the following: “While we respect the artistic integrity of photos and videos, we have to keep our product and the content within it in line with our App Store’s rating for nudity and mature content. In other words, please do not post nudity or mature content of any kind.”

Inappropriate content on Instagram can be reported by users and subsequently investigated and removed by Instagram. Repeat offenders will have their accounts suspended.

So there you have it. If you’re wondering which app is best for your child, I would go with Instagram. You will certainly be able to rest easier knowing that their access to inappropriate material is restricted to the point of non existence (though it’s important to know that borderline inappropriate material can and does exist, it’s likely to be less graphic).

If you’re curious as to which app’s features and interface are the best, I suggest checking out this awesome side-by-side comparison by TechSplurge (I’m also going to take this moment to give them credit for the graphic I used for this post- you’ll recognize it from their entry).

Do you have a preference? Let me know 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 (Now With Video)

This week continues my regular series “What Parents Should Know.” This week’s entry stems from an update about Instagram which I talked about a couple weeks ago. Have something you’re wondering about? Send me a message and I’ll do my best to find an answer: info@joshgunderson.com

With the purchase of my new phone (I went with a new Droid for those that took interest in my ridiculous struggle to pick a phone) came a bunch of shiny new features to a lot of my apps. I was thrilled to discover that my banking app now allows me to make mobile deposits (more on that later), my camera is amazingly awesome, and Instagram now has video!

With that discovery under my belt, I realized that people more than likely have questions about how this new addition affects the Instagram experience and what parents should know about it.Instagram-video-1

If you read my entry about Instagram last month, then you are pretty caught up in the ins and outs of the program. Take pictures, filter as desired and share with the world.

Following in the footsteps of Twitter with Vine, Instagram (read: Facebook) decided to add in their own video feature. Unlike Vine, Instagram’s videos can be up to 15 seconds in length and can be filtered (much like photos).

CHECK OUT: What Parents Should Know About Vine

Privacy
If your Instagram is private, your videos will be as well. Profiles on Instagram are still public even though your content is not so it is important to be sure that your kid’s full name or other revealing information isn’t posted on the site. Remember, a lot of people are posting their Kik Usernames as part of their profiles which allows strangers to message them on their phones.

Content
As Instagram is owned by Facebook, the restrictions on mature content are securely in place. It’s even mentioned in their Terms of Service: “While we respect the artistic integrity of photos and videos, we have to keep our product and the content within it in line with our App Store’s rating for nudity and mature content. In other words, please do not post nudity or mature content of any kind.”

In addition to this warning about mature content, users can report anything they deem inappropriate to Instagram and the offending user will be investigated.

Josh, You’re On Instagram?
Oh yeah! I joined Instagram about a year ago and have had a great time with it. My username is TheJoshGunderson if you care to follow. I will warn you, there are a lot of cat pictures. And Disney pictures. You’ve been warned.

If you’re struggling with the idea of letting you child use Instagram (now with video), I don’t blame you. Even though it’s a photo sharing app, issues like bullying and sexting can come up. I suggest having a conversation with your child about appropriate use of the app and let them know you’ll be keeping an eye on their activity (make being a friend a requirement). Let them know what is and isn’t acceptable to be posting on the app- cat sleeping in the bathroom sink, okay. Your front yard, including your home address, maybe not so okay.

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 Vine

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

I have really had no interest in the Vine app, though I am often asked if I have a Vine Account. Until I sat down to write this post, I didn’t.  I’m a hands-on learner so I have downloaded and began using the app to get a better idea of what it’s all about.vine

Vine was created in June of 2012 and acquired by Twitter in October of the same year. Vine is a mobile app which allows users to create and share short video clips with other users. Since its inception, the app has been used in many ways including coverage of important news events and advertising.

Many of the “vines” I have seen come from friends in the comedy world and are a lot of fun to watch. Friend and TV personality Justin Willman often posts behinds the scenes vines from Cupcake Wars which can be a lot of fun to watch.

That being said, to the question, is Vine safe for children? Should parents be concerned about Vine?

Maybe.

Privacy
Privacy does exist on Vine (at least in the Android version that I have). Under settings, select “Your Content.” This will being you to a screen which gives you the option of setting your Vines to private. Which this setting in place, your Vines can only be viewed by users that you have approved (much like privacy on twitter, those you approve are able to follow your content feed).

While there is this option, it doesn’t stop content from leaking out into the online world. There are web sites out there dedicated to showing recent vines from users, bringing videos from the app to the web. These sites even allow for viewers to record the content onto their computer. Don’t believe me? Check this site out.

User Interactions
If you know Instagram at all, you already have an idea of how to interact with others on Vine. You are able to follow users to create a feed of content for you to view.

When users post or comment they can use hash tags which allow others to search for similar content.

Users have the ability to “like” and comment on content.

Vine also gives me the opportunity to throw back to an earlier post about Kik Messenger. A lot of the mature content I found on Vine had the posters also revealing their Kik Username and encouraging users to get in touch with them if they like that they see.

 

Speaking Of Content
It really didn’t take long for me to find inappropriate posts on the app. Pornography isn’t against Twitters guidelines so those posting graphic content do so without fear of punishment. Because pornographic content violates Apple’s terms of service, on February 5, 2013 Twitter raised the minimum age limit to download the Vine app from 12 to 17 following a request by Apple. Unless you have set restrictions for content on your child’s phone, they are going to still be able to download the app.

Who is on Vine?
The site allows you to follow just about anyone from friends to celebrities. Though there is no set age restriction, the site does comply with COPPA in that users under 13 are not allowed (though it doesn’t nothing to check the age of its users despite the plethora of inappropriate content).

Josh, You’re On Vine?
For now. I created an account to learn more about the app. I plan on playing around with it to get a good feel for it. I may end up keeping it! Who knows!

I suggest parents use their better judgment which it comes to their kids using the app. It’s important to keep in mind that while kids over 13 may join up, the app is rated for users 17 and over. The site does offer a creative outlet for those interested in video and animation, though the availability of pornographic content is cause for concern. If users under the age of 18 are creating this content it can lead to some pretty serious charges against the creators and those looking on.

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.