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New Study Uncovers Some Surprising Facts About Kids, Parents, and Internet Activity

monitor internet activityIn November 2014, the Family Online Safety Institute released the findings of a study, titled “Parenting in the Digital Age,” and the data that was gleaned from the research may come as a bit of a surprise to some adults and parents, especially those who are looking for better ways to monitor internet activity of their kids.

First, let’s take a quick look at some of the statistics from the report:
95% of parents monitor their kids’ internet activity to some extent, and 55% of parents say that they monitor internet activity very closely.

80% of parents with young children say that they’e confident in their ability to protect kids on social media sites and cell phone apps simply because they know more about technology than their children; parents of teens between the ages of 14 and 17, however, don’t feel quite so confident. Only 36% of parents with kids in this age group feel that they know enough about technology to protect their kids and monitor internet activity efficiently.

53% of parents note that the internet does possess useful resources for their children, and they believe that the benefits of using the internet outweigh the possible dangers. 42% of parents state that the benefits are about equal to the risks, and only 5% of parents say that the risks of internet usage are greater than the benefits.

So what does all of this mean?
Not only has the importance of internet grown exponentially in the past decade or so, but it’s now possible to access the internet nearly anywhere and on any electronic device.

Secondly, like most technology, parents tend to understand it more than their kids — but only up until a certain age. The older they get, the harder it is to protect your kids online and to use internet content filtering software that they won’t be able to circumvent.

The third point is that many parents want to trust their kids, and many parents do trust their kids — it’s the rest of the internet that they don’t trust. This notion often gets twisted, or even misunderstood, when parents try to explain to their kids why they’ve installed cellphone and social media monitoring software.

Believe it or not, older kids and teens generally understand that the internet can be a dangerous place, and they understand the importance of safe internet practices — this notion is often ignored or understated as well. Ultimately, it tends to be difficult for parents to ensure the safety of their kids online simply because of all these misunderstandings.

What we’re trying to say here is that internet activity monitoring tools can be extremely useful, and they can put you at ease if you’re prone to worrying about what your kids see and do online. But make sure that you also give your kids an opportunity to express their own concerns, understand why their internet activity and text messages are being monitored, and feel comfortable enough to come to you if they see something inappropriate online.

Internet Monitoring Software — Is It Worth It? Is It Necessary?

protect your kids onlineLet’s face it: the argument “I used to be your age once!” doesn’t really work so well with parents explaining rules and restrictions to their kids. Even though parents have experienced those teenage years before, there are two big problems with this argument:

1. Chances are, it’s been a long time since the parent was at that age, and it’s likely that he/she has forgotten just how difficult it was to navigate becoming an adult;

2. When parents were at that age, they didn’t have access to so much digital technology. There were no cell phones, no high-tech video game systems, and if the phrase “Facebook” was used at all, it probably sounded very, very alarming.

It’s common for parents and kids alike to become frustrated by everything. Parents want to give their teens some room to grow and make mistakes, and teens want to be trusted and not have their parents monitor internet activity 24/7. The problem is, it’s getting increasingly difficult to protect your kids online without installing extensive social media monitoring software. But why?

  1. Peer-on-peer bullying is especially prevalent, harmful, and difficult to regulate on social media websites. Even though 68% of teens today agree that cyberbullying is a problem, 95% of teens on social media sites say that they have witnessed cyberbullying take place and have seen their peers neglect to speak up against the bullying.
  2. It’s easy to access multi-media content that contains inappropriate language, depictions of drug abuse, and absurd over-sexualized messages and pictures. It’s very easy for these subjects to make their way into the messages and posts of teens themselves.
  3. Law enforcement agencies are becoming more adept at detecting and catching online predators who target young kids, but some predators still manage to sneak through the cracks.

Considering that experts estimated that over 90% of teens ages 12 to 17 go online regularly, and about 73% of teens have active profiles on social media websites, as a parent, you’ve probably already realized that it’s getting much harder to protect your kids online — but that it’s absolutely crucial to do something about it.

But what do you think? Is it more effective for parents to have open discussions regarding tips for internet safety, or should parents just go with an internet activity monitoring tool? Tell us what you think over in the comments section!

Online Threats are Real: How Parents Can Keep Their Teens Safe Online

internet activity monitorIt seems that these days there’s always a story in the news meant to shock parents — and with good reason. Recently a 52-year-old man was arrested in Salt Lake City for trying to entice a 15-year-old girl to meet him at a hotel. Once he arrived, he was arrested by the city’s police force. The most terrifying part for parents out there is that the man used Facebook — a popular social networking site used by over one billion people around the world — to meet the girl.

Does your teen have a social media account on a site like Facebook? Are you a parent who’s concerned about whom your children talk to online? You may feel that once your child begins using one of these sites, there’s nothing you can do to protect him or her save taking away internet access altogether. However, though some parents may be tempted to cut off your child’s internet access altogether, other options exist. From following basic tips for internet safety to utilizing internet activity monitoring tools, you can ensure that your children stay safe online.

Use the following tips to keep your kids — and the whole family — safe on the internet:

Communicate Openly
As a parent, you should be able to let your children know the risks of being online. Be available for questions if your kids have them, and “check in” to see how they’re doing.

Use Privacy Protections
Common tips on internet safety include the same kinds of things you wouldn’t say or do for a stranger on the street, like giving out your personal information, address, phone number, or school name. Although social media sites make protecting privacy a bit more difficult, encourage your children to only make their profiles visible to friends and family and only take friend requests from people they know in real life.

Limit Computer and Phone Time
It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re looking at a screen all day, whether that’s the TV, the computer, or a smartphone. When it comes to internet usage, you can set limits that will not only ensure that your kids aren’t spending too much time online, but also so they can get some rest and have plenty of quality social interaction — without having a nose buried in their phones. Make sure to set a “bed time” for internet use, and don’t let your kids and teens go to bed with a phone, so they avoid late-night texting, too.

Use Internet Activity Monitoring Tools
If you’re concerned about whom you children speak to online, you can use one of the many internet activity monitoring tools available today. You can also use social media monitoring software for parents to watch your child’s activity on sites like Facebook or Twitter. Approximately 73% of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 have profiles on these websites, and 47% regularly post photos online. As a parent, you’ll want to know who is seeing those photos to keep your children safe.

Current estimates state that 93% of teens use the internet, so the need for better communication, strict limits, and social media monitoring is clear. Do you have more questions about keeping your kids safe? Leave a comment below.

Keeping Your Kids From the Dark Corners of the Internet

internet activity monitorAs if parents don’t have enough to worry about with their kids learning to cross the street and not to swallow nickels — now you have to worry about cyberspace, too? Sadly, the Internet is now and will continue to be a murky place filled with shadowy characters and dark corners. The fact that it’s also one of the single most useful inventions in the history of humanity means that it’s not going anywhere soon.

Over 93% of teens regularly go online, and almost three-quarters of them already have social profiles on one or more sites. As long as there’s an Internet to go to, our kids will go to the Internet. As parents, we’d better learn to shepherd our kids through the trouble spots.

What to Monitor
 How much you as a parent decide to monitor will ultimately depend on what kind of a parent you are. Some parents may allow their children more freedom in many areas of their lives, less in others, or a well-reasoned blend of the two. But whichever camp you side with, there are a few key areas to be aware of:

  • Uploaded Photos and Videos: Almost half of all teens (ages 12 to 17) have uploaded photos of themselves online, and almost 15% have uploaded videos. An Internet activity monitor will let you know where these photos and videos are ending up.
  • Chats: The Internet is a great tool for meeting new people all around the world, but predators know this too, and use it to their advantage. If you don’t know a person your teen chats with, make it a point to find out about them.

How to Monitor
Cellphone and Internet activity monitors are not hard to find these days, but quality and functionality are important when making the choice. You should find software that’s easy to set up, easy to use, and includes social media monitoring software, such as Instagram monitoring tools. Better yet, you should find software that isn’t software. Cloud-based Internet activity monitoring means no installation and no complicated setup, but all the functionality to maintain your children’s privacy while still keeping them safe.

Communication
Above all, talk to your kids. Never monitor Internet activity in secret. Tell them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Let them know where the boundaries are, and what happens if they go outside them. And let them know that, if they have any questions about anything they find online, they can always come to you for answers.

Three Potentially Risky Apps Teenagers are Using Today

social media monitoring softwareFor many teens today, cellphones aren’t a luxury — they’re a necessity for conversing with friends. According to a recent Nielsen survey, 70% of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 now own a smart phone. For many law enforcement officers around the country, this statistic is cause for concern — smartphones, and the apps that can be downloaded to them, pose a large variety of safety risks to teenagers.

According to Detective John Stirling, who is working with the Shawnee Police Department in Kansas, child sex crimes are often being committed now using smartphone technology. Stirling explains that many apps are not inherently dangerous, but can become so in the wrong hands.

“The kids might be completely legitimate, not intending anything bad to happen, but unknowingly, they can put themselves in a bad situation,” says Stirling. He points out that parents can use social media monitoring software.

What apps are teenagers actually using today, and what are the potential risks connected with these apps? Here are three apps you should know about.

1. Instagram
It’s worth noting that teens like to converge where parents aren’t. This means that monitoring a Facebook wall is unlikely to show you anything anymore. Teens are instead going to sites like Instagram. What many don’t realize is that certain social media apps, like Instagram, come with location services that alert anyone as to where they are. It is also possible for strangers to view images that teens might have only intended for their friends to see. Instagram monitoring tools can be used to make sure that children are not sharing inappropriate information with strangers, without realizing it.

2. Kik Messenger
Messaging apps are increasingly preferred over texting for many teens. Two popular apps are Whatsapp and Kik messenger, which grew from 50 million to 100 million users in 2013 alone. These apps are often a problem because the majority of parents don’t even realize they exist — so they don’t know to keep an eye out for them. Kik can be a problem considering that strangers can message teens, and some apps within Kik are designed for adults. Kik also has “photo bomb,” a feature similar to Snap Chat, which encourages teens to take risky photos under the assumption they will just disappear. Internet parental control software can be used to alert parents when new apps are downloaded or used.

3. Ask.FM
Although many of us look at internet safety with the goal of keeping kids away from predators, there’s another threat lurking in many chat spaces: bullies. Many sites, such as Ask.FM, encourage teens to leave anonymous questions and statements for each other. Not surprisingly, these confrontations can often become ugly and devolve into bullying. While some parents might not want to use social media monitoring software, it can be important for uncovering these things.

Do you have any tips for internet safety? Do you use social media monitoring software? Let us know in the comments.

The Silver Bullet to Keeping Your Kids Safe Online

how to protect kids onlineIt would be nice to say that the Internet is not always a willfully malicious place. But the simple truth is, some sites on the Web really are out to get you. As an adult in the Age of Information, you’ve probably developed a few precautions and habits that keep you relatively safe from the less-than-savory aspects of the Internet.
But what about your kids?

While you may know how to monitor Internet activity to avoid threats, knowing how to protect kids online — and teaching them how to protect themselves — might not be as easy.

For very young children, it’s always best to surf the Web right alongside them. Not only does it provide bonding time (which we can always use more of), but it also gives your kids a hands-on example of what and what not to do. And it will keep your computer free from malware, viruses, and the like, any of which could easily be downloaded by an errant click from little hands.

But the teenage years are where knowing how to protect kids online becomes crucial — because you can’t be with them all the time as they go online. Among teens ages 12 to 17, 93% of them spend time online, 73% already have social networking profiles, nearly half have uploaded photos of themselves, and almost 15% have uploaded videos. And the things that go onto the Internet stay on the Internet.

Just as you teach your kids not to run with scissors and to look both ways before crossing the street, you can teach your teens basic tips for Internet safety that they can use the rest of their lives. The trick, however, is to get them to understand the importance of it all (after all, scissors and crosswalks are pretty self-explanatory).

Making the task even more difficult is the fact that many of the online things you want to protect your kids from are not overtly aimed at your kids — they can simply be things you don’t want them to stumble across. Sexually explicit material and violent videos and images are all over the Web. To cross your fingers and hope that your kids will never encounter them is both naive and negligent.

So what’s the solution? Social media monitoring services? Iphone monitoring software? These can help, yes. But the silver bullet of how to protect kids online is the same silver bullet of how to protect them in the real world — communication. Talk to your teens about what’s out there. Have the discussion. You’ll not only prepare them for what they might encounter (and contextualize it as you do), but you’ll further strengthen the bridge of trust, and let your kids know that you’re where they can go if they have questions.

Enjoy Staying Connected? Use These 5 Tips to Prevent Personal Information From Getting Stolen Online

tips on internet safetyAccording to a California-based security firm, Securi Security, all of the top 1,000 sites on the internet have been patched after “Heartbleed” exploited security flaws all over the internet. As of last week, only roughly 2% of the top million were still exposed. Unfortunately, “Heartbleed” will probably not be the last hack of its kind, and online information is always prone to attack, even on the most secure websites. Because of that, finding and using some helpful tips on internet safety is always a good idea. Whether you love to shop online, or you enjoy the benefits of online banking and paying bills, you should take steps to better protect vital information and your identity.

Don’t Go Phishing
One of the most important tips for internet safety is to watch out for phishing websites that ask for personal information. While they might look legitimate, they are often meant to do nothing more than steal passwords and other data. So before typing in any information, make sure you are on the website you are actually looking for.

Use Unique Passwords
Lists of internet safety tips for everyone should include the use of unique passwords for multiple sites and making sure that those passwords are complex. Simply using “password” or “123456” can leave you more prone to hacking, so taking some extra time to create complex passwords is a smart choice.

Install Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware Programs
The best programs available today will automatically update themselves and scan your computer automatically to help keep personal information safe. They are often the easiest means of protecting yourself against hackers and identity theft.

Don’t Share Personal Information on Social Media
Though it might sound obvious, you should never post personal information on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites. Though you might want to show off your cool new credit card with a big rewards program, taking a picture of it and posting it online is never wise. For added protection against both your mistakes and other web users’ actions, social media monitoring software can also be helpful.

Use Reputable Websites
No tips on internet safety will be useful if you are constantly visiting and using sites that are not trustworthy. Whether you are shopping on strange sites because it looks like they are offering great deals, or downloading computer games, you should always make sure that the site you are using is reputable.

With the boom of online shopping and the internet becoming more entwined with daily life, everyone should use helpful tips on internet safety. Without them, attacks like “Heartbleed” could put credit card numbers, bank accounts, and other personal information into the wrong hands.

Parenting versus Policing

Guest post from Josh Shipp

Let’s discuss the important difference between parenting and policing.

Here’s the uncomfortable truth: most parents either tend toward being too permissive (and lose authority because they don’t enforce rules) or being too authoritarian (and lose authority because they’re not loving enough).

Every parent I’ve ever met (myself included) tends toward one of these two extremes.

Here’s how to navigate that minefield.

I. POLICING PARENTS: Advice For Parents Who Tend to Be More Authoritative.

If you want to be more effective as a parent, you’re going to have to do something that’s not always easy. You need to spend time intentionally ENCOURAGING your child and being PATIENT and LOVING WITHOUT PERFORMANCE CONDITIONS.

Not by barking orders at them.

Here’s how most kids spell love.  T-I-M-E.

They need time with you. I call it: The “Be With” Factor.

Just “Be With” your kid. When they have a difficult time communicating their feelings and seem distant — taking time to be with them is pretty much all you can give. And that’s pretty much all they need. I would sit down and intentionally make a list of questions that you genuinely would like to know the answer to.

1. Who is your best friend? What makes them your best friend?

2. Who is someone in your school that you have a hard time getting along with? Why?

3. Who is your favorite teacher at school? Why?

4. What is your favorite song? Play it for me. Why does that song mean so much to you?

Being a parent means being “a student of your kid.” And for teens, it’s all about the “be with” factor.

So “be with” them.

Believe me. They need time with you and want time with you and need your approval and love more than you can possibly know. YES, even when they don’t exactly articulate it.

II. PERMISSIVE PARENTS: For Parents Who Tend to Be Less Authoritative.

Parents in this camp generally feel as though things are happening in their home that make them feel out of control. Often their teen is openly rebellious or defiant or disrespectful, and the parent is at a loss for what to do.

The key to setting boundaries is to involve your entire family in the process, getting everyone on the same page. Literally. I call that page, “The Family Contract.”

Here’s how you can make Family Contracts work for you.

MAKE THE CONTRACT

First off, I want to be as clear as I can. Family Contacts, to work, must be written with all the parties involved. Kids. Parents. Everyone.

The Contract must have three sections. Privileges, expectations, and consequences.

SECTION 1: Privileges.

This outlines what kind of age-appropriate privileges parents will provide the kids. In other words: freedoms.

SECTION 2: Expectations.

Just like your kid will have not have any problems listing privileges they desire, you likely won’t have to brainstorm too long to figure out what kind of behaviors you want to see from your kid in your home.

SECTION 3: Consequences.

Simply state that the consequences for these expectations not being met. It’s important this is determined in advance, to help you follow through.

FINALLY: 
No matter which side of the spectrum you line up on, there is good news. If you take these steps to counteract your natural parenting tendencies, you’ll see your influence actually grow because your relationship with your teen will be so much stronger. And you’ll be parenting from a position of influence, love and empowerment.

Teens Are Leaving Facebook – So Where Are They Going and What Does it Mean for Parents?

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, announced a fact that many, including Pew Research, had already observed: Teens are leaving Facebook.

But don’t think for second that this means kids are getting bored with social networks. Most parents know about other popular sites, like Instagram and Twitter, but sites and mobile apps like Ask.fm, Pheed and Snapchat are becoming increasingly popular for teens. In addition to these sites, kids are using group messaging apps, like Kik and WhatsApp, to keep in touch with many friends at once.

Parents may be asking themselves how they can keep up with where their kids are going online, just like they would in the real world. For one, it’s probably a good idea to assume that kids are going to be exploring social networking sites − including those with which you’re not familiar. Parents can also pay attention to what kinds of apps kids are putting on their mobile devices. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the ones that ZABRA currently monitors, all have mobile apps that enable kids to share status updates, locations and pictures from wherever there’s a cell tower or wi-fi connection. If there’s an app on their phone that you don’t know about, ask them what it is. And if you’re curious to learn about what other sites are out there, here’s a great article from Mashable: http://mashable.com/2007/10/23/social-networking-god/.

Also know what tools can keep you informed about these changes. In the growing world of social networking, a tool like ZABRA can be invaluable for parents looking to keep their kids safe. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news on popular sites kids are using.

Wherever your kids are spending their time online, it’s important to have an open discussion with them about the potential dangers of using these sites. Challenge them to be good cyber citizens – take the pledge, if they haven’t already – and come forward with anything they see online that concerns them.

Your Teen’s #1 Influence?

Guest post from Josh Shipp

It is nearly impossible for me to overemphasize the importance of good cyber behavior among teens. Actually, that is a lie.

It is easy for me to overemphasize the importance of good cyber behavior among teenagers.  For example, I could say, “The primary cause of World War II was a lack of good cyber behavior among teenagers.”  That, obviously, would not be true.

That being said, every parent of a teenager knows this instinctively: the internet and mobile devices have fundamentally changed the relationship between information, time and space, especially for teenagers.  And especially since the time when you and I were teenagers.  When I was in high school, I used to write notes to girls I liked. Using paper.  And a pen.  And then I had deliver that note to her.  In person. To most teenagers today, that’s the equivalent of using smoke signals.

If you’re a parent of a teenager, you know that their world is very, very social.  And one of the primary outlets of their communication and their lives is social media. For example, here are some fascinating/horrifying statistics:

  • The average teen sends 60 texts per day
  • 88 percent of American teenagers have a cell phone
  • 95 percent of all teens ages 12-17 are now online and 80 percent of those online teens are users of social media sites
  • 12 percent of the ENTIRE Internet is pornographic in nature
  • 19 percent of teenagers say that they have been bullied in the last 12 months either in person, online, by text or by phone
  • 24 percent of teenagers have participating in “sexting” – sending sexually explicit pictures or texts to someone else

And that’s just counting the stuff that’s fairly easily quantifiable.  Teenagers on social media also have to navigate through other issues that are complex, like friends who are engaging in dangerous behavior like drugs or alcohol or self-harm, cyberbullying and all sorts of other issues.

All pretty depressing, right?  Well, no.  Because this next bit of raw data is the one that you most need to read.

  • Teens rely most heavily on their parents for advice about online behavior and coping with challenging experiences.

That’s right.  Parents in the United States are still the primary gatekeepers and managers of their teens’ internet experience. Parents are the most often cited source of advice and the biggest influence on teens’ understanding of appropriate and inappropriate digital behavior.

THE MOST EFFECTIVE PARENTS ARE HANDS-ON
Most parents I know truly want to help their teenager, but sometimes feel paralyzed.  “What exactly can I do,” they ask me. Here’s my answer.  It doesn’t really matter: just do something.

Here’s what we know: the most effective parents are the most hands-on.  The teenagers who said their interaction with social media was mostly positive, and who felt equipped and prepared to deal with challenges of the new internet age had parents who did many of the following:

  • Talked with their child about ways to use the internet and cell phones safely
  • Talked with their child about ways to behave toward other people online or on the phone
  • Talked with their child about what you/he or she does on the internet
  • Talked with their child about what kinds of things should and should not be shared online or on a cell phone
  • Checked to see what information was available online about their child
  • Checked their child’s social network site profile
  • Checked which websites their child visited
  • Friended their child on social media
  • Used parental controls or other means of blocking, filtering or monitoring their child’s online activities
  • Used parental controls to restrict their child’s use of his or her cell phone
  • Enacted a formal cell-phone contract

IN CONCLUSION
There are three things every kid needs to know:
1. You are loved unconditionally.
2. You are valued by your parents.
3. You are capable of accomplishing anything you put your mind to.

You can never over-communicate these three things. Being involved in your child’s life means being involved in the things that matter to them, and social interactions, no matter where they happen, truly matter.  Talking about those experiences shows that you value your teen.  And helping them successfully navigate through that gives them the tools to let them know that they agency in the world to accomplish positive things in their life.

So go out there.  Talk to your teen.