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Prom Night Digital Decorum: Preventing Teens From Oversharing

By Steven Woda on April 21, 2015 at 8:36 PM

Prom is a very exciting event for most teens who have finally reached the age of being able to attend this important milestone. While in the past students and their guests were limited in communicating about prom, present day social media has created a whole new form of communication for them to let others know about their plans and activities in real time. This, of course, has its pros and cons.

While sending texts to friends to coordinate meeting times or showing pictures can be reasonably safe, using social media can be problematic when it comes to safety and security.

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Photo Leaks: The Latest Scary Digital Trend

By Steven Woda on January 2, 2015 at 3:18 PM

Today, news stories about teens getting caught up in sexting and resulting photo leak scandals are a dime a dozen. As parents, we usually say to ourselves “that could never happen to my child” when we see stories like these, but the truth is that a digital slip-up like a photo leak can happen to anyone.

Just a few years ago, advancements in video, photos and messaging technology all seemed so harmless. Now, sexting seems to be all the rage as teenagers experiment with these advances in technology. Disturbingly, sexting photo leaks appear to be becoming somewhat a trend among teens and, as sexting continues to be prevalent, the images are imprinted on technology forever.

Here are a few synopses of photo leaks that have happened in towns across the US. An especially disconcerting facet about these photo leaks is that each case has occurred in just the past six months:

  • In November, two students from McLean High School in Virginia acquired and organized folders containing compromising photos of 56 female classmates. They passed around the folders to other students in a carefully concealed Dropbox page. The 16 and 17-year-old teens plead guilty to three misdemeanor charges each for distributing obscene material.

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iCloud Safety: What Parents Can Learn from the Celebrity Photo Hack

By Steven Woda on November 7, 2014 at 1:27 PM

It's likely that you have heard about the recent celebrity photograph hack incident, where the private photographs of numerous celebrities were stolen and leaked on the Internet. It is reported that the photo hack stemmed from a criminal either breaching the iCloud system or hacking stars' personal account usernames and passwords.

Although the attacker responsible for this crime was clearly targeting celebrities, it is important for parents to know that these kinds of breaches can happen to anyone. Learn about how to secure both account usernames/passwords and the iCloud service.

The Cause of the Celebrity Photo Breach

There is a dispute regarding the source of the hack and this, in itself, is an indicator of how tricky security can be. The photos were obtained from Apple's iCloud service, but the exact nature of the iCloud breach remains in question - Apple maintains that the pictures were obtained through targeting usernames and passwords, but others suggest there was a more fundamental breach of the iCloud.

In reality, for the purposes of many people, the source of the hack is a secondary consideration - both methods are entirely plausible and whichever was used here, either could be used in the future. In consequence, to ensure security of things such as pictures, both factors should be given consideration. Parents seeking to ensure their children's privacy should take steps to ensure both that usernames and passwords are secure and robust, and that a future iCloud breach has only limited information to steal anyway.

It Can Happen to Anyone

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Two Teen Sexting Incidences Reported in New Jersey This Week

By Tim Woda on May 18, 2014 at 11:54 AM

New Jersey is one of the few states that has a somewhat "lenient" sexting law, which punishes most minors caught sexting with mandatory educational programs. The state is having quite a trying week, with the recent news of two sexting incidences reported in separate New Jersey schools. 

According to ABC7 Eyewitness News, nude photos of several students were discovered on multiple students' phones in Somerset County's Basking Ridge Middle School. Superintendent Nick Markarian sent out a letter about the incident to parents, informing them on the events and providing them a chance to "clean things up" before criminal charges are soon filed. Markarian is encouraging parents to have their kids delete and cease distribution of the viral nude photos.

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Everything You Need to Know About Flickr

By Steven Woda on April 30, 2014 at 4:10 PM

What is Flickr?

Flickr is an image sharing site and online community. Users upload and manage photos, comment on others' pictures, subscribe to image feeds, and communicate with up to 3,000 contacts on Flickr.

How do you sign up?

Only a Yahoo email address is required for sign up, which is by default hidden from users who aren't designated as “friends and family.” A person's real name and current city, if provided, are public by default.

Who can add photos on Flikr?

Registered users can geotag their uploaded photos, tag and add notes, organize albums, and join groups of similar pictures taken by other people.

What sort of privacy settings are there?

Users set a privacy level for each photo and designate who can download it. They also assign the photo license (“all rights reserved” is the default) and the safety level of the photos.

  • “Safe” means appropriate for everyone

  • “Moderate” is mature (Flickr specifies that “bare breasts and bottoms” fall into this category)

  • “Restricted” means definitely not for minors

It's important to note that users themselves are responsible for designating safety levels, not Flickr. Users can flag inappropriate or incorrectly rated photos they view.

What can a parent do?

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Trend Alert: 6 Messaging Apps That Let Teens Share (Iffy) Secrets

By Steven Woda on April 7, 2014 at 11:40 AM

Information-sharing apps are becoming increasingly popular among teens. Learn about which ones are currently trending! This article was originally published on Common Sense Media by their Senior Content Specialist Kelly Schryver.

You probably never thought you'd see the day when Facebook wasn't the center of teens' universe. But keeping up with Facebook friends through ad-filled newsfeeds and lengthy profiles, especially given the fact that everyone knows your name, is starting to feel tiresome to many teens.

Facebook is still a go-to place for many things, such as wishing someone a happy birthday or stalking a crush. However, newer social apps make it easier, faster and more fun to capture and share fleeting moments -- sometimes anonymously. These temporary and anonymous-messaging apps provide an environment that feels more appropriate to the random, silly, saucy, and experimental sides of the average teenager.

Perhaps most importantly to teens, these apps can feel consequence-free. But of course they're not. Data never really disappears, and anonymity carries big risks. If you don't recognize the apps your kid is currently obsessing over, here's what you need to know:

Temporary Apps

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Kindergarten Girl Becomes Victim of Cyberbullying After Walmart Trip

By Steven Woda on April 1, 2014 at 9:59 AM

Unfortunately, cyberbullies don't discriminate when it comes to the ages of their victims. Read below to learn about how a 6-year-old's trip to Walmart ended disastrously. This article was originally published on WMBF News and was written by Nikki Davidson.

SENECA, SC (FOX Carolina) -

An Upstate family is outraged and looking for answers after they say their kindergartner became the victim of cyberbullying.

The family says it all started at the Seneca Walmart, when the young girl's picture was snapped by another customer. They say the man then posted it online to social media as a joke.

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Digital Parenting: Is My Child Ready for Instagram?

By Tim Woda on February 10, 2014 at 4:44 PM

Instagram is a social networking site that allows children to share their pictures with friends and family.  As a parent you might be wondering if your child is ready for Instagram. There are positive and negative things about letting your child on such a site. One thing is that they can share fun photos with everyone on their friends list.  Maturity and age are always a factor in your choice to allow your child on Instagram or not. There is an age restriction where you have to be at least 13 years of age but there are plenty of children younger than this on the site.

Make sure your child keeps their page private. This makes it so that only people on their friends list can view their pictures.  You want this because there are people out there who are looking on a site like this to look at young children’s photos.  There can even be a problem with their own classmates being on their page. Some children are known to put crude comments about people’s pictures which can affect your child’s self-esteem. Instagram can unfortunately be a breeding ground for cyberbullying. 

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Teen Sexting Criminalized by States

By Tim Woda on August 31, 2013 at 11:17 AM

Here is some great information about current laws in US states in regard to sexting from the blog at Lawyers.com.

States continue to outlaw sexting by teens – to each other or to adults – even as it grows more popular among them.

 The Problem of Permanence

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The Scary Connection Between Smart Phone Images and Location

By Steven Woda on June 8, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Parents, do you love to snap pictures of your children on your smart phone and then upload them for family and friends to see? What if I told you that this practice could make it very easy for predators and bad guys to see where your children were located, even down to the exact spot of their bedroom? Might freak you out, right? 

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Instagram and Privacy: There is a Serious Issue Here

By Steven Woda on May 16, 2013 at 3:58 PM

In this article from The Washington Post, Cecilia Kang investigates underage children, Instagram, and if the image-sharing giant is doing enough to make sure kids are safe from adult strangers. We agree that the safety of children online should be the number one priority from all of these social networks, but unfortunately that is not always the case. Here is an excerpt of the piece below: 

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Why You Should Be Monitoring Your Child on Instagram Right Now

By Tim Woda on April 25, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Instagram is one of the newest forms of social media that is being utilized by millions all over the world. Using pictures to communicate thoughts, feelings and ideas, this appeals to the younger masses especially and many tweens and teens are flocking to this form of communication to express themselves. Uploading their pictures directly from the applications on their phones or tablets using frames and decorations makes it easy and fun to use to connect with friends and followers.

But Instagram isn't rated PG and there is no actual filter or censorship of what can be shared. There is a ton of content on there that many parents would deem pornographic or simply inappropriate, which is why Instagram monitoring is key. If you're concerned with what your kids are watching, what they're exposed to on the internet and the company that they keep, you should be just as concerned with what they are involved in on their social media applications, including Instagram.

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Instagram: It's More Than Just Pictures

By Tim Woda on March 28, 2013 at 4:09 PM

Instagram is an application that can be downloaded to several different smartphones and cellular devices. This application is a photo sharing one in which users can take pictures, add special effects, and then share them on several different social media sites with just the click of a button. The photo is then placed out there into the network of friends the users have, both those that have the application themselves and those who do not, resulting in a sharing of moments and memories quickly. The program, however, does not come without dangers. As with any social media sharing entity, the quick expression and release of information is both exciting and dangerous. It is for that reason that parents need to understand the risks and be instagram monitoring vigilantes, especially when it comes to their children that use the application.

Prying Eyes

One of the reasons that Instagram monitoring needs to be taken seriously is because, as with any social media site,

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Teen Communication: More Texting and Sexting Than Talking

By Steven Woda on February 9, 2012 at 11:03 AM

Which way does your teenager prefer to communicate? Sexting and texting, or face to face?

Most parents would guess “technology.” But even in a world where teenagers seem glued to glowing screensface-to-face still rules. Ericsson, the cell phone manufacturer, just did a study where they asked young people, “Which method of communication would you miss the most?” The answer should be encouraging to many of us who are worried about our teenagers’ growing dependence on technology. “Meeting in person” was the number one answer.

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Big Shot Response to the Cyberbullying Threat

By Tim Woda on September 11, 2010 at 3:18 PM

cyberbullyingAlexis Pilkington. Robyn Nixon. Phoebe Prince. These teenagers left their marks on the world by taking their own lives in the wake of relentless cyberbullying.

The response to cyberbullying has been slow and gradual, but many big entities are finally beginning to realize that cyberbullying is a serious problem that is not going to go away on its own.

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