10 Tips on Discussing a Screwed Up World with Kids

Do you have children? How do you talk to them when something like a mass shooting happens? What about a robbery in your neighborhood? Do you talk about nuclear weapons? If you are like most parents, you don’t know where to start. Here’s 10 tips that you can use to talk to your kids about our screwed up world:

Young Kids – Ages 2 to 6

Parents Are in Charge – We control the “information flow” which means we can restrict what information they have access to. No mobile phones, no tablets, no TV news or conversations in the house or others homes on topics to intense for young kids. We ask questions before we send them to others homes and tell them our requirements.

Don’t Expose Them – Don’t watch adult-themed shows until they are in bed.

Don’t Bring it Up – It’s also recommended that you don’t even bring it up…unless, for some reason, they bring it up to you. If you do have to talk to them about it, keep it simple.

Tell Them You are Safe – If you do have to address a situation like this, make sure that you tell your kids that they are safe. Give them a hug and assure them.

Older Children – Age 7 to 12

Parents Are in Charge – We control the “information flow”. Don’t give me a BS excuse “I already gave my 11 year old a mobile phone and he has a TV in his bedroom. Stop the madness and start parenting.

Talk to Them if They Talk to You – For older kids, you should talk to them about these incidents, but only if they know about the event. Tell them that you would love to talk about it with them.

Listen – Talking it out is only one part of this. You also have to be a good listener. Ask them questions, too, such as what they heard, how they know about the incident, and how they feel about it.

Be Honest – When dealing with tweens, you should make sure that the truth comes from you, not from their friends nor the television or internet. You don’t have to go into great detail, and you should explain it in a way they will understand, i.e. explaining that the mass shooter/terrorist/predator etc likely is mentally ill.

Discuss the Media – It’s likely that kids this age will get information from the media, but make sure they know that the media likes to sensationalize things to get people’s attention.

Teenagers

Assume They Know – Teens likely know that an event has happened, but don’t assume that they have the whole story. They often get their news from friends or social media, and that information is often incomplete.

Engage Them in Conversation – Talking it out can help teens come to terms with these incidents.  

Give Them Hope – Finally, give your teenager hope that things will be alright. A lot of teens are focused on the dark side of things, so make sure to bring in a bright light.

No matter their age, engage their schools administration. Most schools have systems in place to deal with and discuss tragic events based on the age and grades of the students. Often, parents will feel better that their schools have a good handle on these discussions. But it’s also up to the parents to put it out there, to let the schools know what the parents expect.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

Parents: do You know your Teen’s Social Media Platforms?

With all the apps out there that individualize communication preferences among teens, such as limiting “sharing,” parents should still hold their breath. Face it, parents: times have changed. It’s your duty to discuss these applications with your kids. And parents should also familiarize themselves with the so-called temporary apps.14D

  • Temporary messages do not vanish forever.
  • Are anonymous applications really anonymous?
  • How temporary is “temporary”?

Kik Messenger

  • Users can stay anonymous and conduct all sorts of communication.
  • Has perks, like seeing if someone read your message.
  • Has drawbacks, such as accidentally sending content to more people than the user intended.
  • Easy to end up communicating with anonymous strangers.
  • Involves ads disguised as communication.

Ask.fm

  • Kids anonymously ask questions, e.g., “How do I conceal my eating disorder from my parents?” This question is benign compared to others on the site, though many users are innocent teens just hanging out.
  • This kind of site, though, promotes cyberbullying.

Whisper

  • Intended for adults, this app is where you post what’s eating you.
  • Some posts are uplifting and inspirational, while others are examples of human depravity.
  • Replete with references to drugs, liquor and lewd behavior—mixed in with the innocent, often humorous content.

Yik Yak

  • For users wanting to exchange texts and images to nearby users—hence having a unique appeal to teens.
  • And it’s anonymous. Users have made anonymous threats of violence via Yik Yak.
  • Due to the bond of communicating with local users and the anonymity, this medium is steeped in nasty communication.
  • Threats of violence will grab the attention of law enforcement who can turn “anonymous” into “identified.”

Omegle

  • This anonymous chat forum is full of really bad language, sexual content, violence, etc.
  • The app’s objective is to pair teens up with strangers (creepy!).
  • Yes, assume that many users are adult men—and you know why.
  • Primarily for sexual chat and not for teens, but teens use it.

Line

  • Texting, sending videos, games, group chats and lots of other teeny features like thousands of emoticons.
  • The Hidden Chat feature allows users to set a self-destruct time of two seconds to a week for their messages.
  • For the most part it’s an innocent teen hub, but can snare teens into paying for some of the features.

Burn Note

  • Text messages are deleted after a set time period.
  • Texts appear one word at a time.
  • Burn Note can promote cyberbullying—for obvious reasons.

Snapchat

  • Users put a time limit on imagery content before it’s erased. So you can imagine what some of the imagery might be.
  • And images aren’t truly deleted, e.g., Snapsaved (unrelated to Snapchat) can dig up any Snapchatted image, or, the recipient can screenshot that nude image of your teen daughter—immortalizing it.

REPEAT: Face it, parents: times have changed. It’s your duty to discuss these applications with your kids. And parents should also familiarize themselves with the so-called temporary apps.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Prevent Child Identity Theft

Here’s one for the know-it-alls: Kids are 35 percent more likely to become victims of identity theft than are adults. Betcha didn’t know that! This startling news comes from a 2015 Javelin Strategy & Release study.

2DNeedless to say, the bulk of parents aren’t on top of this problem, unaware that thieves go after children’s SSNs like two-year-olds grabbing at candy. Thieves know that kids (and their parents) don’t monitor their credit reports. Thieves know that they can get away with their crime all throughout the victim’s childhood until they start applying for college, credit cards, etc., at age 18 or so. That’s a long time to get away with a crime.

Let’s talk about how to prevent child identity theft.

ID Theft Protection

  • Sign on with an ID theft protection company; many such companies protect the entire family including kids.
  • Get an ID theft protection service. This is not the same as antivirus software. For example, ID theft protection services will monitor your credit report. It will also alert you when an account is opened in your name.

Credit Freeze

  • Put a freeze on your kids’ credit reports; 19 states allow this for the three main credit reporting agencies. Equifax allows a freeze no matter what state you live in.
  • A frozen credit will prevent a crook from opening lines of credit in your child’s name.

Who needs your child’s Social Security number?

  • Put your children’s sensitive documents (birth certificate, SSN card, etc.) in a lockable safe and/or keep it hidden.
  • THINK, before you hand out your child’s SSN. Just because it’s requested doesn’t mean you must blindly give it up. Ask yourself: Why on earth do they need my child’s Social Security number? The gruff coach of your child’s new soccer team may be requesting the number. The child beauty pageant director may be asking for it. Don’t be intimidated.
  • Come on, really. WHY would a sports team, karate tournament entry form or any other child-centered activity need this information?
  • Minimize putting your child’s name and address “out there.” Even if you decide to get a magazine subscription for your tween, put your name on the subscription.
  • Meet with your child’s principal to keep your child’s information from getting out. Schools often share personal information of students with third parties.
  • It’s not cute that your five-year-old can rattle off her Social Security number. Kids don’t need to know this number. They need to know your phone number, how to dial 9-1-1 and their home address. But not their SSN. Geez, if they know their SSN, you just never know when they might leak it out to the wrong ears. When kids are in high school, they may need it, but still, be very cautious about when you decide it’s time to give them this information.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention

Sorry, stop posing Kids’ Photos online

Frankly, naked babies shouldn’t be a big deal. If you don’t have naked baby pictures of your kids in the kitchen sink then you aren’t human. BUT….the world has changed. If you compare posting your children’s photos online with whipping out a wallet photo of your toddler daughter in the bathtub to your dinner party guests, I will have a bird.

This is because people just love to post images of their partially or completely naked toddlers and preschoolers online: in bathtubs, those inner tube swimming pools, on beaches or wherever.

Awww, ain’t they purty little young’uns! Well, here’re the problems:

  • One particular image snatches the attention of a roaming pedophile, and he becomes hell-bent on getting his hands on that child—who’s yours.
  • Years after the image goes up, your child is suddenly being ridiculed in school over it.
  • Your child, when older, feels humiliated over the scads of revealing or even gross images (fingers shiny from a thick coat of saliva because they’re halfway in the toddler’s mouth; food smeared all over the mouth; slimy drool hanging from the mouth—yes some parents think this is adorable).

It’s not only not safe to become a post-a-holic of your child’s images, but it’s not smart. Isn’t the whipping out of the print photo at the dinner party or at the workplace break room enough? Must the images go online, where they’ll stay forever, for the entire planet to see?

Many parents don’t bother with Facebook’s privacy settings. And why? Hell if I know. These same parents would never run up to every single person at the grocery store and shove in their face the latest photo of little Mikey in the bathtub. So why share it with the whole world including Mikey’s future classmates?

Would you ever approach the seedy looking man on the street corner and show him a photo of half-naked little Maddelynn on the beach? I didn’t think so. Yet pedophiles really DO peruse Facebook for revealing images, and depending on what else you have up there including the image’s GPS data, the perv can get your home address.

  • Learn Facebook’s privacy settings and set them at their highest.
  • Find out whom your “sharing” images with. Do all of these people meet your approval? Do you know whom they’re sharing them with?
  • It’s not a crime to build old-fashioned photo albums—stored safely on a living room shelf that only visitors to your house can view.

When in doubt, don’t post it. Once it’s up, it’s there forever.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.

Is your Daughter chatting with a Pedophile?

That’s a horrible question to ask. There is a very alarming report on nbcsandiego.com, about a dad who regularly checked on his kids in the middle of the night, and one night at 2 a.m., upon checking his 12-year-old daughter’s room, saw that she was gone. The window was open.

10DHe fled down the street where he saw her just about to get into an SUV, which turned out to be driven by a 27-year-old man the girl had met online a month prior. The predator’s name is Scott Stilwell, and he insisted to dad Tim LeBlanc that he was 16.

A fight ensued and LeBlanc knocked him out and held him until authorities arrived.

What can parents do?

  • Well, it’s fair to wonder why the girl didn’t consider what her dad would do (such as go through the roof with anger) upon discovering her absence—unless she had no idea he checked on her every night. So the first thing is to make sure your kids know that you do check up on them.
  • Lay down the rules about what’s off-limits online.
  • Let your kids know that they will not be shamed or judged if they report any kind of weird interactions online, though predators will typically behave properly to lure a child into meeting them, as did Stilwell when he promised the girl gifts.
  • Parental control/monitoring software will help parents keep their kids safe. The smartphone apps for this are best.
  • Use spyware to keep tabs on your kids (yes, this is legal from parent to child). Spyware will track the user’s online activities and is quite thorough, though it may be overkill if your child is a normal, typical child.
  • Before buying your child a computer or smartphone, lay out the big rule: You get to periodically check the device; you will meet new online friends; you will even have your child’s passwords. If your child already has a computer or phone, well, you’ll have to put some metal in your spine and mandate these stiffer rules.
  • Research shows that girls are more likely to traipse off with a charming predator when the relationship with their father is weak. The predator, in a way, comes off as a father figure. Though you may be checking on your kids in the middle of the night, make sure that your waking relationship with them is a healthy one.

 

Do you know what your Kids are doing online?

Your child is active online. Did it ever occur to you that he or she uses a fake name so that they can’t be identified by you? Chances are, you, the parent, also uses a pseudonym. It’s very common.

12DCyberspace is full of obvious pseudonyms, but a phony name can also be a regular name that many people have. Your child will be lost in a sea of David Johnsons or Amanda Millers.

Intel Security did a study and found that 40 percent of kids use aliases or alternate accounts. Intel Security also found:

  • Many kids fessed up to cyberbullying, including making threats.
  • Far fewer parents in the survey, however, believed their kids were capable of cyberbullying.
  • Over 25 percent of the kids admitted they’d meet someone in person after first meeting them online.

Wayne State also conducted a study:

  • Over 50 percent of juvenile respondents admitted to tracking or stalking a romance partner or harassing/bullying them.

Parents really need to monitor their kids’ cyber lives. However, there are obstacles facing parents such as being intimidated by technology and feeling awkward requesting their kids’ passwords.

However, parental involvement, such as knowing the passwords, correlates to lower incidents of cyberbullying. So contrary to myth, parents are not overstepping boundaries by monitoring their kids’ online habits—within reason, of course.

But parents need to do more than just cyber-hover. Kids need to learn from the inside out how to cyber-behave in a smart, safe way. They need to learn how to think for themselves and understand how predators prey on kids. If they’re old enough to use social media, they’re old enough to be told all the dirt on what kinds of creeps are out there.

Parents must ask themselves, “Is my child’s life so empty that they can easily be lured by an online predator to meet him in a secluded place?” Or how about, “Why is my kid obsessed with adding friends? He already has over 3,000 and that’s not enough.”

Computers and social media, in and of themselves, do not turn kids wayward, into bullies or into victims. Predisposing family dynamics are already present, and they simply manifest themselves online. For example, a teenager who spends six hours a day creating fake Facebook accounts, stealing photos off of blogs, then adding these phony accounts as friends to her actual Facebook account, has pre-existing psychological issues.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Should You Post Pictures of Children Online?

Most people give no thought whatsoever to posting pictures of their children online. They are proud of their kids, they love them…so why not show the world how wonderful they are so others can enjoy each milestone too? Plus, Grandma and Auntie live so far away, and they want to keep up with new pictures and videos. And as long as you set up all the privacy settings so only your close relatives and friends can see them, then what’s the big deal?

1D

Well, it is a big deal. Nothing online is as it seems, and the biggest problem with people is that they are too nice and don’t think like a bad guy thinks. A recent article in TIME magazine, written by Randi Zuckerberg—yes, the Facebook founder’s sister—argues the shift that is occurring is inevitable and we should all just deal with it. Well, Randi, I just don’t agree. Here’s why:

Digital is repeatable: This means every picture and video can be liked, shared, copied, pasted, emailed and screenshot—which means you really have no control over who does what with that media you just posted.

Predators: There are very disturbed people out there looking for kids, because children are vulnerable and certain predators target kids. Would you want some weirdo in a park staring at your kid? No. Would you want some weirdo staring at your kid online? No.

Privacy: Your children have a right to privacy. Just because they are five and you think it’s fun to post their photos online—and maybe they think it’s fun too—what makes you think in 10 years they will want their entire childhood posted on the web? Digital media lasts forever, and maybe they might not want their identity all over the web in the first place. You really have no right.

Tagging: Anyone can take a picture and tag it. I forbid anyone to take pics of my kids and post them online and tag them. They have no business exposing my kids to the world, and I don’t approve.

Facial recognition: Many apps incorporate facial recognition into their technologies. This is still an unproven technology, and we really don’t know what the full impact will be.

Photos of babies have shown up on Craigslist with that baby for sale. Kids’ pics are being collected by weirdos and criminals because that’s what they do. Social media is only 10 years old. This is all too new. An entire generation is being exposed without their permission. Think about it.

Robert Siciliano, is a personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto and author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! . Disclosures For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailaddress -to 411247.

Google Assembles “Best Of” Family Safety Center

Teaching kids internet safety and security is an evolving and complex issue. The goal is to achieve a level of trust with your kids while providing a long enough leash to foster growth and responsibility. Google’s Family Safety Center is a new site compiling the best of resources for advice, guidance, direction and action items to provide parents with the necessary tools to help kids navigate the wild wild web.

Google Family Safety Center works alongside many organizations in the US to promote action and awareness around Internet safety. They offer resources and advice on cyber bullying, child protection and online education both for parents and children.”

A few of the resources include:

ConnectSafely is the leading interactive resource on the Web for parents, teens, educators – everyone engaged and interested in youth safety on the fixed and mobile social Web. In addition to safety tips, advice, and youth-tech news, ConnectSafely provides a discussion forum for all stakeholders on safe, active engagement in participatory media and culture.

Common Sense Media is a favorite of mine and is an independent nonprofit organization committed to providing kids and families with the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.

The National Cyber Security Alliance’s mission is to educate and therefore empower a digital society to use the Internet safely and securely at home, work, and school, protecting the technology individuals use, the networks they connect to, and our shared digital assets.

OnGuardOnline.gov is a project of the federal government and the technology community to help you guard against Internet fraud, secure your computers, and protect your privacy. For more tips on talking to your kids about staying safe online, read Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online. This comprehensive guide for parents, also available in Spanish, covers topics ranging from social networking to file sharing.

By investing quality time with your kids learning the intricacies of online security, both child and parent will develop skills that will last a lifetime.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to Home Security Source discussing sharing too much information online on Fox News.

Protecting Children on the Internet

Today’s kids don’t even know what it’s like to not be connected to the Internet. But being technology savvy doesn’t mean they are safe and secure.

Since the Internet as we know it was born in the early 1990s, it has become an integral part of our and our kids’ lives. Online shopping, social media, mobile web, and computers in the classroom are as normal to them as riding a Huffy bicycle was to me. For these kids’ parents, the online world often feels too fast and too complicated. Nevertheless, it is essential that parents educate themselves on safe, secure online practices in order to set a positive example and provide guidance for their children as they navigate the web.

Fortunately, safe and appropriate online behavior isn’t much different than in the real world. The main distinction is that on the Internet, it is necessary to be particularly sensitive regarding how and with whom you communicate.

Parents who lack experience with the Internet, computers, or mobile phones must learn the basics before they can adequately monitor their children’s habits. A parent’s discomfort or unfamiliarity with technology is no excuse to let a child run wild on the Internet.

As with any task, one should start with the fundamentals. In recognition of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, let’s go over some of those fundamentals:

  • Spend as much time as possible with kids in their online world. Learn about the people with whom they interact, the places they visit, and the information they encounter. Be prepared to respond appropriately, regardless of what sort of content they find. Remember, this is family time.
  • One popular tactic has been to set up the computer in a high-traffic family area, and to limit the time children may spend using it. This is still good advice, but it becomes less feasible as more children have their own laptops and mobile phones, which can’t be so easily monitored.
  • Teach children to recognize inappropriate behavior. Kids will be kids, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to say mean things, send racy pictures, make rude requests, or suggest illegal behavior. If it isn’t okay in the physical world, it isn’t okay on the Internet.
  • Consider investing in computer security software with parental controls, which limit the sites kids can access.
  • Decide exactly what is and is not okay with regards to the kinds of websites kids should visit. This dialogue helps parents and children develop a process for determining appropriate online behavior.
  • Children should be restricted to monitored, age-appropriate chat rooms. Spend time with your children to get a feel for the language and discussion occurring on the websites they wish to visit.
  • Do not allow children to create usernames that reveal their true identities or are provocative.
  • Children should be reminded never to reveal passwords, addresses, phone numbers, or other personal information.
  • Kids should not be permitted to post inappropriate photos or photos that may reveal their identities. (For example, a photo in which a t-shirt bears the name of the child’s city or school.)
  • Never allow a child to meet an online stranger in person.
  • Children should be taught not to open online attachments from strangers.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto, discusses online predators on Fox News. Disclosures