Tim Woda

Tim Woda is an Internet safety expert, and a passionate advocate for empowering families and protecting children from today’s scariest digital dangers. Woda was on the founding team of buySAFE, an Internet trust and safety company, and he started working on child safety issues after his son was targeted by a child predator online. While his son was unharmed, the incident led Woda to kick-start uKnow.com. You can follow Tim on Twitter or on his blog.
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digital parentingDigital parenting is one of those topics that can make families uncomfortable. No teenager wants to feel like Mom and Dad are sticking their noses into his or her personal business, and no parent wants to keep their kids from making the most of the advantages the internet can provide.  

It’s important to know what your kids are doing on the internet: it can be a tremendous tool for school and for social interaction. It also opens them up to a whole range of possible dangers including cyberbullying, child predators, and inappropriate content. How do parents keep their kids from undue risk without stifling their independence?

online predatorProtecting their child is the number one objective of any parent. This is the primary role and responsibility. Unfortunately, it is becoming a role that is more difficult with the Internet around. Although the vast majority of people use the Internet for harmless everyday tasks, there are some who use this medium to commit crimes.

Worse yet, many of these crimes are committed against children. Take this headline from the Calgary Herald for example:

digital familyThere once was a time—you may be old enough to remember—where kids actually had to go to the TV and turn the knob to change the channel or adjust the volume, play a game out in the backyard or take turns on a landline phone to call their friends. But nowadays, in this technological world, kids are presented with all kinds of gadgets as parents strain to keep up with everything.

teens texting outsideThanks to evolving technology, teens have a lot more access to the outside world than in previous years. Today, almost every teen has a smartphone or iPhone. Teens use their phones to talk and text but they also use their smartphones and iPhones to download apps to keep in touch with their friends. Sometimes, teens abuse these apps and use them for things the app is not created for.

Video chatting apps, social messenger apps, and messaging apps all offer different styles of chatting with different features. These apps are designed with the purpose of helping users keep in touch with friends, relatives, and even co-workers, but a lot of teens abuse these apps or some of these apps' features. They're often used for things they are not meant for, such as sexting. Simply put: abusing the rules of these apps can put them in serious danger.

Video Chatting Apps

selfieCellphones have created a few dilemmas in digital parenting. Particularly with smartphones, parents have to be sure what their children are doing on social media and other apps.

Let's look at the first dilemma that parents will come across: deciding when their child should have a cellphone. In this discussion, your child is sure to bring up the argument that every other kid in their class already has one.

This is a time when you have to make a personal decision for your child and ignore the pressure from other parents.WebMD covered this topic and provided a few statistics on the matter. Here is some of the background information:

  • 85% of teens aged 14 to 17 have cell phones

Internet safetyAny sensible parent is going to keep their child safe from dangers that present themselves in the real world. This same sense of concern should extend to dangers that present themselves in the online world. Digital parenting is as important as parenting against dangers in the real world. 

texting and drivingTexting is responsible for more teen deaths behind the wheel than alcohol, making it a serious concern for parents everywhere. Stopping the problem requires a multi-faceted approach, along with clear expectations and firm consequences. These tips can help keep your teen safe when they are on the road.

#1: Take Advantage of the Technology

Teenagers don't always tell the whole truth, which means you may have to use their own technology to keep them safe. A text monitoring app can log all their texts, including the time they were sent, for you to view on your phone or computer.

parent teaching Internet safetyThere is never a time too early in the life of a child to start thinking about Internet security. Children of younger and younger ages are starting to get a glimpse into the world of the Internet, and many are potentially at risk if they are not informed of what they should and should not do. 

SmartphoneSnapchat started as a college course project, but has grown exponentially in the last year. Now available, for free, through app stores, the application allows people to send and receive pictures and videos directly to their phone.

The "Snap" is only available for a set period of time (about 10 seconds), then it is deleted from the phone and the server. Snapchat seems like a fun enough venture, but for those trying to parent in the digital age, it can be problematic. 

Potential for Sexting

Because Snapchat only keeps photos for 10 seconds or less, parents have no way of really knowing what content their child is swapping. For many years, Snapchat has been dubbed the "sexting app". Although not every person using Snapchat is sexting away, the app didn't get their nickname for no reason.

digital parentingSomething that parents need to establish with their children early is that using the Internet is a privilege, not a right. This is important because if kids get too accustomed to and reliant on the Internet, it will be harder to end their privilege to it if they go against the rules.

In order to practice digital parenting, there has to be set rules that children understand and abide by. These rules vary on a case-by-case basis, but they should require open conversation between children and their parents concerning their activity on the Internet. When the rules are set, parents have to be ready to remove the Internet privilege if their child breaks the rules. It's not just to keep children safe from cyber threats, but also a life-long lesson that they can't take shortcuts and cheat the system.

Internet and Mobile Safety Workshop for ParentsToday’s children represent the first generation to grow up entirely in a digital world. They have spent their entire lives using computers, video games, webcams, digital music players, mobile phones, instant messaging apps and everything else the digital world has to offer. In a sense, our kids are all “native speakers” of a digital language.

They are "Digital Natives". So what does that make this generation of parents?

Those of us who were not born into a digital world are, and always will be, "Digital Immigrants" and we are now in the process of learning a new language while also trying to raise our kids and keep them safe.

textingThe most important segment of society to keep safe on the Internet is obviously our children. Children are the most vulnerable to being preyed online. They are not as experienced in using the Internet and may not understand the dangers that lurk there. Thus, Internet security is an important topic of conversation to have with your children.

In an article about Internet security and children, Microsoft.com recommends preventing the download of free material online that may contain spyware or viruses: 

library wifiWhen it comes to laws regarding Internet security and bullying, there is still a lot of work to be done. Parents are urged to educate their children about Internet security, but there is still a need for real objective policy.

One institution that fights Internet bullying is the Family Online Safety Institute, an international non-profit organization that works towards a safer Internet environment. The CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, Stephen Balkam, recently wrote an article in The Guarding expressing the need for new policy:

Family using computerYou’ve heard countless news stories highlighting instances of kids and social media gone wrong. Headlines about young teens getting involved in cyberbullying, sexting, identity theft and online predator catastrophes practically populate the Internet. Whether you have only heard the buzz about these dangers from afar or personally know a victim, it’s clear that there is a lot going on in the social media world that can wreak havoc on a child’s life.

By all accounts, social media will continue to be a risk to inexperienced tweens, especially since kids are jumping on the social network bandwagon at younger and younger ages every year. It’s about time that safety precautions catch up with this digital danger!

The solution is for parents to become proactive instead of being reactive when it comes to their kids and social media.

digital parentingIn a Huffington Post article, uKnow’s Co-founder Tim Woda asks a simple question – “Do you know who your child made friends with on Facebook yesterday?". Mr. Woda speaks of a very personal experience involving his son’s abduction after accepting a friend-request from an unknown Internet sexual predator.  

He goes on to say that parenting skills have just not been able to keep up with advancing technology and even though it isn’t our fault, it’s certainly our problem. Let’s take a look at some situations that may give us a better understanding of obstacles that make digital parenting more challenging:

Understanding The Generation Gap

smartphoneUndoubtedly, children need to be kept safe when they are online. We also know that they need to use the Internet at this point in time. There is too much going on within the Internet for children to be shielded from it. What needs to happen is safe usage of the Internet by children. 

AppsMonitoring your child's activity on the Internet can be complicated and even frustrating. Your child may demand a certain level of privacy and not be completely upfront with his or her actions. In addition, if you think monitoring your child's Facebook and Twitter accounts is satisfactory, you're sadly mistaken.

identity theftParents do their best in teaching their children to not go anywhere with a stranger, but how many actually teach them to not share personal information with strangers?

Research shows that more than 500,000 children become victims of identity theft every year.  The most amazing fact is that almost half of these children are under the age of six. Practicing internet and cell phone safety can protect children from potential predators, but parents must also have a clear understanding of how mobile and internet child safety can also protect a child’s identity.

There is an alarming story on MSN.com about a teenage girl who was a victim of identity theft at age three. As a teenager, she now owed $750,000 for homes and automobiles an identity thief had purchased in her name.

An estimated one in every 40 households with young children has been impacted by identity theft. All a thief needs is a child’s full name and date of birth. As technology advances with smartphones and an increasing number of apps are available, we can do almost anything on our phones that we can do on our laptops or home computer. As people go to replace their old phones with smartphones, thieves are stealing the personal data left on them.

textingYou may be contemplating whether or not teens and smartphones are a good combination. Perhaps you have seen other teenagers that have smartphones and wonder if you too should get one for your teenager. There are at least a few reasons that you should perhaps hold off on that. 

digital parentingIt is undoubtedly true that most all parents want to be good to their children. They want to protect them and watch them grow up and flourish. If possible, they will keep them away from anything or anyone that might do them harm. As such, digital parenting is a part of their duties.

Online Threats

Online threats come in a variety of forms from bullying by peers all the way up to sexual harassment, intimidation, and more. Taking a look at some of the figures from bullyingstatistics.org can be a real eye opener:

  • Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying