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The Smart Parent Guide to Digital Literacy

If you are the parent of a child or teen who uses the internet, here are some stats you need to know:

Stats About Teens and the Internet

  • Teens think that the internet is mostly private
  • They also think that they can make the best decisions for their life online
  • They believe they are safe online and that people are who they say they are
  • They don’t feel at risk if “friending” perfect strangers
  • They feel like since they are probably better at understanding technology, they can make better decisions than their parents about what’s best practice for online behavior

These are obviously naïve views of the digital world and if parents don’t fully explain why these views aren’t just wrong, but dangerous, then the parent is setting up their child for failure.

Make sure that you are keeping the lines of communication open with your kids about their internet use. Explain the risks involved and share stories of other teens who have found trouble online.

Internet Rules that Parents Should Consider

It is recommended by experts that parents set up rules for their kids in regards to internet use. Here are some:

  • Know every password that your kid has and use those passwords to check on their accounts.
  • Don’t let kids use social media, text friends, or chat online until they are in 9th or 10th grade, and never let kids use apps or sites that allow for anonymous communication.
  • There is NO reason why your 13 year old needs to be head deep in Snapchat or TikTok. NONE. Nothing good will come from it.
  • Give your kids a time limit for internet use
  • Don’t allow your kids to respond to messages from strangers, and never “friend” strangers.
  • Never give out any personal information, such as address or phone number, online.
  • Always be respectful and kind to others online; bullying should NEVER be allowed.
  • Do not allow your children to know your passwords.
  • Do not allow kids to use have access to their devices at all times. Have family time with no screens. i.e. game night, a walk to the local park, etc.
  • No phones in the bedroom. Buy laptops, not desktops. Laptops shouldn’t be allowed in the bedroom after homework is done.
  • No photos should be posted to an internet site without permission of parents.
  • Always check text messages, chat logs, or any other communication online, and make sure that kids understand that there will be consequences if they delete the messages.
  • Don’t allow kids to download any apps or software without your permission.

Don’t Make These Mistakes

  • Don’t give your child a traditional smart phone before 9th You can give them a feature-phone, that you have full access to, however.
  • Don’t give your child internet access that is unmonitored.
  • Don’t allow your kids to use the internet in closed rooms or in areas where you can’t see what they are doing.
  • Don’t allow them to play online games where chat is enabled, as these are common targets for sexual predators.

Just because other families are breaking most of these rules, doesn’t mean your family needs to. Don’t be cattle or sheep. Lead by example.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity Protection security awareness training program.

YouTube’s Spoon Feeding Pedophiles Kids Home Videos

YouTube uses a recommendation algorithm to help people view things they’d like to see. Recently, the algorithm seemingly encouraged pedophiles (YouTube would have no way of knowing this) to watch videos of children playing at home, videos that the family members uploaded.

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Do your kids make digital purchases with you money?

A report from the New York Times detailed how YouTube had been exploiting minor children through the automated recommendation system. According to the report, researchers at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard were studying the influence of YouTube in Brazil. This was when they noticed the alarming issue. The experiment used a server, which followed YouTube recommendations a thousand or more times, which build a map of sorts in the process. The map is designed to show how YouTube users are guided as to what they may want to watch.

During the experiment, recommendations stemmed from sexually-themed videos, which is when researchers noticed that the system showed videos that were extreme or bizarre, placing more emphasis on youth. In some cases, a video of females discussing sex led to videos of women breastfeeding or wearing just underwear. Many times, the women mentioned their ages, which ranged from 19 to 16 years old.

Deeper into the experiment, YouTube started recommending videos where adults wore children’s clothing or solicited payment from ‘sugar daddies.’

With such softcore fetish recommendations already being showed, YouTube showed videos of children who weren’t fully clothed, many of them in Latin America or Eastern Europe.

These videos were usually home videos that had been uploaded by their parents. Many times, parents want to easily share videos and pictures of their children with family and friends. However, YouTube’s algorithm can learn that people who view sexually-exploited children want to see these family videos and may recommend them without knowledge.

One mother, Christine C., was interviewed by the Times about her 10-year-old child. The child uploaded a harmless video of her and a friend playing in the pool. The video was viewed over 400,000 times in just a few days. The mother said that her daughter was excited about the view count, which alerted Christine that something was amiss.

This is just one of many incidents that unfolded after YouTube publicly confronted its issues with pedophilia earlier in 2019. Back in February, YouTube had to disable comments on minor children’s videos because pedophiles were reportedly commenting on the videos in ways to signal other predators.

Studies have shown that the recommendation system on YouTube can create a rabbit-hole effect where the algorithm recommends more extreme content as time goes on. The company denied that reality or skirted the topic. However, in May, Neal Mohan, the chief product officer at YouTube, said that extreme content doesn’t drive more engagement or watch time than other content options.

YouTube hasn’t made many comments about the recommendation system or that it creates the rabbit hole effect. Instead, journalists and reporters are referred to a particular blog that explains how the company focuses on protecting minors and that its videos don’t violate any policies and are posted innocently.

The announcement also focuses on the recent steps taken by YouTube to disable comments for videos that feature or are uploaded by minors. Minors are also going to be restricted so that they cannot live-stream unless a parent is on the video. Along with such, the company plans to stop recommending videos that depict minors in risky situations.

Researchers believe that it would be best to block children’s videos or videos depicting children and not allow those videos in the recommendation system at all. However, YouTube reported to the Times that it doesn’t plan to do that because the automated system is one of the largest traffic drivers and could harm creators.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity Protection security awareness training program.

Young Kids Getting Sexually Exploited Online More Than Ever Before

An alarming new study is out, and if you are a parent, you should take note…children as young as 8-years old are being sexually exploited via social media. This is a definite downturn from past research, and it seems like one thing is to blame: live streaming.

Robert Siciliano Quora Breach

YouTube serves up videos of kids, in clothing, that pedophiles consume and share as if it is child porn. It’s gotten so bad that YouTube has had to disable the comments sections of videos with kids in them.

Apps like TikTok are very popular with younger kids, and they are also becoming more popular for the sexual predators who seek out those kids. These apps are difficult to moderate, and since it happens in real time, you have a situation that is almost perfectly set up for exploitation.

Last year, a survey found that approximately 57 percent of 12-year olds and 28% of 10-year olds are accessing live-streaming content. However, legally, the nature of much of this content should not be accessed by children under the age of 13. To make matters worse, about 25 percent of these children have seen something while watching a live stream that they and their parents regretted them seeing

Protecting Your Children

Any child can become a victim here, but as a parent, there are some things you can do to protect your kids. First, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you posting pictures or video of your children online? Do you allow your kids to do the same? A simple video of your child by the pool has become pedophile porn.
  • Do you have some type of protection in place for your kids when they go online?
  • Have you talked to your children about the dangers of sharing passwords or account information?
  • Do your kids understand what type of behavior is appropriate when online?
  • Do you personally know, or do your kids personally know, the people they interact with online?
  • Can your kids identify questions from others that might be red flags, such as “where do you live?” “What are your parents names?” “Where do you go to school?”
  • Do your kids feel safe coming to you to talk about things that make them feel uncomfortable?

It is also important that you, as a parent, look for red flags in your children’s behavior. Here are some of those signs:

  • Your kid gets angry if you don’t let them go online.
  • Your child become secretive about what they do online, such as hiding their phone when you walk into the room.
  • Your kid withdraws from friends or family to spend time online.

It might sound like the perfect solution is to “turn off the internet” at home, but remember, your kids can access the internet in other ways, including at school and at the homes of their friends. It would be great to build a wall around your kids to keep them safe, but that’s not practical, nor is it in their best interest. Instead, talk to your child about online safety and make sure the entire family understands the dangers that are out there.

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

How to Use your Mobile as a Child Locator

How many times have you read, or at least caught a headline, of the latest high profile missing child case? How many stories have we heard about the kid who got lost on a hike? His body was found several miles from where he’d been last seen, concluding a several-day search.

5WWhat if he had had an iPhone on his person at the time he wandered off in the middle of some vast woods? Sure he could call, but then what? Android and iPhones have a “find my phone” feature that a parent can track down a lost child with—provided that this feature is enabled.

  • At android.com/devicemanager log onto the Android Device Manager page. The parent must also know the password and name for the Google account that is associated with this tracking feature.
  • You’ll see Android hardware’s location, which is stored in the phone attached to the lost child, on a map.
  • Obviously, you must have your own mobile device on you to locate.
  • This feature works for older kids too, such as your young teen daughter on her first date. She’s 20 minutes past her curfew and she’s not answering her mobile. Time to locate her.
  • You can set up a restricted profile that blocks the teen’s access to the “settings” application, or, you can use a parental control app.
  • There are locator apps also compatible with the iOS phone too.

Do you have an elderly relative who’s not all there upstairs and prone to wandering off? Most phones are compatible with affordable ($6 to $15 a month) applications that can give you the location of your family member. Family locator apps are offered by T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless.

Locator apps also come with other features, not just the locator aspect. Some offer 911 and emergency features. This would be great for your elderly grandmother who forgets things or gets lost easily.

Robert Siciliano CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

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

How to freeze your Child’s Credit

Identity thieves are after children’s Social Security numbers. With this number, a thief can do so many things like open a credit card account and rent an apartment. Kids’ SSNs have great appeal to crooks because:

  • A child’s record is usually very clean.
  • This means fertile opportunities for new credit lines.
  • Kids usually don’t check their credit reports and thus the fraud can go undetected for years.

3DParents should consider putting a freeze on their kids’ credit. Simply getting the credit monitored will not prevent thieves from opening accounts using the child’s SSN. A freeze does literally that: blocks a fraudster from doing anything.

Experian

  • Will not create a file for a child unless required by state law, unless they are victimized.
  • However, will give a free copy of an existing file of a child to the parent and will freeze it upon request.
  • There may be a very small fee unless the parent provides proof that the minor’s identity was stolen.

Equifax

  • Their freeze is free and doesn’t answer to any state requirements.
  • The child need not already be a victim of ID theft to get the freeze.

Trans Union

  • Their site allows parents to check for a credit file of their kids.
  • Freezes are permitted only in states that allow this. Fees may apply.

 

Innovis (another credit reporting agency)

  • Parents can place a freeze no matter what their state says.

Not all the states provide protection for minors’ credit. Find out what your state’s requirements are, as some, for instance, provide only a flag on the Social Security number. Other states have protection going up only to age 16.

Signs that someone is using your child’s SSN:

  • You receive an IRS notice claiming your child didn’t pay income taxes.
  • You get an IRS notice informing you that another tax return used your child’s SSN.
  • You receive collection notices for things you didn’t purchase.

Rejection of government benefits because the benefits are going to another account with your child’s SSN.

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.

 

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