Internet Security For Children In Chat Rooms

Chat rooms are one place on the Internet that can cause a lot of fear and worry in parents. With a multitude of stories coming out about terrible things that have happened to children and others as a result of chat rooms, the concern is understandable.

Ultimately, chat rooms are not recommended for children. There is endless potential for online predators and identity thieves to be lurking around chat rooms and disguising themselves as being young and friendly. If you choose to allow your child to visit them, here are a few chat room tips that can help put your fears at ease:

Moderators Of The Service 

There are almost always moderators in any chat room. It is their job to make sure that the conversations remain within the guidelines set by the room and to make sure that anyone breaking the rules is removed from the chat room. Internet security starts with these individuals. Chatdanger.com offers this helpful tip for remaining safe in a chat room,

Look at how the chat could be moderated, and think carefully about who the moderators are. Moderators are in a position of trust over the users.

Blocking And Ignoring 

In virtually every chat room there will be a feature that allows members to block and/or ignore users that are bothering them. This feature is put in place so that specific members can be ignored and not have the opportunity to annoy other members any more. This is an important feature to use at the first sign of someone harassing your child.

Children-Specific Chat Rooms

There are chat rooms set up specifically for children online. They are monitored more closely than other rooms and may not permit certain types of language or pictures from being sent. In theory, these rooms should contain only people who are within an age appropriate range for your child to talk to. However, since it is the Internet, it’s easy for someone who is an adult to create an account under the guise of being a different age. Parents should be just as wary, if not more, when kids are visiting children-specific chat rooms.

Take Notice of Your Child’s New Online “Friends” 

Keep an eye on any new friends or followers your child connects with on their social networks. Chat room predators try to gain the trust of children and may befriend them on other networks in order to further gain their trust. Connecting with targets on social networks makes a predator or thief seem more legitimate.

 

Making Your Teens Your “Friends”

Social media is a little bit like driving a car. If used properly it is a wonderful tool to accomplish good or add enjoyment to your life. If used improperly however, it can not only be dangerous, it can be a weapon. Parents need to be aware of the impact their influence can have not only on their children’s day to day lives but on their future as well.

In this day and age, with few exceptions, there is no keeping teens and social media apart from one another. The lessons parents can teach their children through their interactions on sites like Facebook and Instagram is invaluable. The lessons are not only as to how they use these sites, but why and when.
If your teens are active on Facebook, everything they’ve been taught about social interaction will be represented in how they communicate with friends and how they react to strangers. Parents have a responsibility to teach their children filters. Filters that not only protect them from predators but instruct them on how to stay away from bad behavior from the people they already know.

Parents need to speak with their children about what they are doing. On one hand, respect for another’s privacy needs to be learned by the teens; on the other, hand safety always comes first. That makes communication a key. That communication should include making your teen your Facebook friend, whether you have interest in the social media or not. This isn’t about a parent’s personal enjoyment, rather about their teen’s safety and development.

Most of the same rules will apply to Instagram. Making your teen your Instagram friend is not unlike knowing what they look like when they leave the house. This is a public forum and whether they like it or not, your teens need to accept your ability to see how they represent themselves.

But just like you should allow your teens to hang out with their friends in the basement with just an occasional inspection, so too it’s important not to be too involved in their online interactions. While we recommend that you “friend” your teens and keep an eye on what they’re doing on social media, it’s probably best for parent-teen relationships if you keep any actual social media interactions with them private.

Lastly, keep in mind that what your teens choose to do online can contribute positively to their development. It’s nice for them to express themselves through pictures, but Facebook allows them to hone their verbal communication skills, something useful as they grow into adulthood.

The Impact of Cyberbullying on Young Children

There have been extensive efforts in the 21st century to limit bullying, particularly in schools. Parents now understand how detrimental bullying can be for young children and are trying to put an end to it.

Unfortunately, the emergence of the Internet and social media makes this task quite difficult. The anonymity and speed of the Internet makes bullying too convenient. Parents have to constantly be on the lookout as to what their children are doing online and practice mobile and Internet child safety. Simple conversations can quickly turn into inappropriate behavior that can have long-lasting effects on a child’s mental health.

A recent Huffington Post article discusses cyberbullying and explains why it’s changed the nature of bullying. According to the article, cyberbullying is even more difficult for parents to stop since it’s virtually everywhere:

“…It’s true that among young people, so-called “cyberbullying” is often an extension of school-yard issues. But the Internet and phones do change the equation for a number of well-known reasons, including the ability for mean comments to stick around and be passed with lightning speed. Plus, the Net has created new ways to bully like impersonating someone by getting hold of their phone or password or passing around inappropriate pictures of someone.”

Nowadays, bullying is not so limited that it only occurs on the school playground. Young children are now constantly at risk of being bullied as long as they’re using social media or social apps.

Here are a few harmful long term effects that can result from cyberbullying:

  • Loss of Confidence. A single act of bullying can cause diminished self-esteem that can last a lifetime. A child who is bullied feels powerless and their self-identity as a competent person who is able to protect himself in the world becomes wounded. Although the incident of bullying may have occurred many years, or even decades ago, the damage to the individual’s self-concept may remain.
  • Anxiety and Depression. Increasing feelings of anxiety or depression are often a consequence of a bullying experience as people relive the loss of control and helplessness of the experience. Substance abuse can also occur. These negative feelings can intensify over time and last well into adulthood unless treated with therapy and medications, if needed.
  • Social Withdrawal. The experience can cause the individual to withdraw from social contact with their peers, because they lose confidence in their ability to manage these relationships and no longer trust others to accept them as they are. This reaction can have very damaging effects on the individual who may become withdrawn, which often increases the impact of emotional problems and may even lead to suicide.

The best thing parents can do is create awareness of cyberbullying and take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen to their child. Parents should inform their kids of the threats that exist in the Internet and have open conversations about their activity online.

Other options include monitoring your children’s online activity. In order to maintain trust with your child, however, this should either be discussed openly or approached cautiously.

Parenting your Children is the 24 hour battle – Keeping Children Safe

Parenting your children is something that takes skill and grace. It is sometimes a struggle when they want to resist you and your expectations of them. This is made even harder for some parents in the area of digital parenting.

When asked to set rules for their children and monitor those rules in the online realm, some parents feel helpless. However, there are a few things you can do to keep your children safe.

1. Have A Frank Conversation With Them

It all starts with talking. Many parents believe that the things that they say go in one ear and out the other with their children, but this is really not true. Your child does hear and understand what you are saying. If they choose to listen to you or not largely has to do with what enforcement tactics you use to make them obey.

2. Block Certain Websites

On your computers at home, you have the option to block certain websites from your children’s use. Make sure that you set the password to unlock said sites to something that they will not easily figure out. You will want to block any websites that you do not want them to see. This could include websites with adult content, chat rooms, and social media sites just to name a few.

3. Real World Rules Apply

Teaching your child that real world rules apply to the online world for them is an important part of keeping them safe. If they would not talk to a stranger in the real world, then why should they do so online? You have to show them that there are true dangers in the online world as much as there are in the real world. Making it real for them like this shows them that this is serious and that they should follow the rules.

It is a 24-hour battle with your children to make them mind the rules you have set for them in the online world. Do not be afraid to have that battle though. It could protect your child from danger.

What’s going on with Instagram

Instagram, one of the fastest growing social media platforms is a lot of fun for kids. It allows them to share photos of things they find interesting, and add filters and captions to those photos. Like a micro-blogging site, with pictures, Instagram’s popularity with teens has exploded in the last three years. With that being said, Instagram is also constantly evolving, and while it can be ‘good clean fun’, there are some dangers that lurk on the social media app.

Throughout the past few years, Instagram has experienced some major changes that you might not be aware of. We’ve collected a few of these more recent changes and feature additions, and have assessed how they may affect your child’s Instagram safety.

Picture Map

In 2012, Instagram rolled out their “photo map” feature. The photo map, which is now being used by millions of Instagram users, tracks were pictures have been taken, and, in some cases uploaded. This location sharing feature, which is meant to help individuals keep track of their travels, can be dangerous especially for young children.

The map, literally, pulls the pictures up on a map. Other users, if the profile is not private, can see where pictures are taken and uploaded, and, in some instances, zoom in on the exact location. It doesn’t take much digging to get a general idea of where a user might live, or regularly frequent, which is a huge Instagram safety issue, in our opinion.

Staying Safe With Instagram’s Picture Map: To keep Instagram safety intact, make sure your child’s location services are turned off in their phone. Without location services, the map cannot generate where the pictures were taken. You can also turn the map off in Instagram, but disabling location services for pictures is a good idea, especially for a child who uses multiple social media services. Be sure to discuss this issue with your child, and how this feature puts their Instagram safety at risk.

Tagged Photos

In May of 2013, Instagram rolled out a “tag” feature. The tag feature, similar to tagged photos on Facebook, allows users to tag other friends and users in their pictures. This feeds directly into a “tagged” tab on the Instagram app. These pictures can be seen by others, but they do not require the tagged user to accept the tag, automatically. This could potentially be problematic, especially if your child is being bullied.

Staying Safe In Instagram’s Tagging Feature: To keep better tabs on your child’s Instagram life, be sure to check what photos they are tagged in. The “tagged” tab is separate from their picture feed, and is available on their main profile. It is the furthest tab to the right of the profile, next to the “map” tab. You can also change the settings to manually add tagged photos. Click the settings, and check “add manually”. This will ensure all tagged photos have to be approved before being added to the profile of the tagged user.

Instagram Direct

Instagram Direct, a feature that was released just last year, may seem innocuous. It is an easy way for individuals you do not know to privately contact a user, especially if they are sharing photos through the Explore feature using hashtagsHashtags allow users to search for pictures that have been posted using specific hashtags, like #dogsofinstagram. The searching user can choose to send a picture directly to any user they find, along with a caption.

Staying Safe in Instagram Direct: These direct messages are much like messages on Facebook or private e-mails. To keep kids safe by keeping an eye on their direct messages. You should also regularly check to ensure their profile is private. While general profile information can be seen by anyone with Instagram, a private profile won’t share any photos with individuals who are not already approved.

The “photo map” and “tagged” tabs can’t be seen with a private profile either. If your child gets an inappropriate direct message, simply report the inappropriate content and block the offending Instagram user. Instagram will deal with all appropriate content.

The Bottom Line

Instagram can be a fun, engaging and interesting way for kids to interact with friends and family, but Instagram can also be used for nefarious purposes. To ensure your child is safe on social media, whether it is Instagram or Twitter, you should first speak with your child about the associated dangers of these social media sites. You should also have a discussion about appropriate and inappropriate content.