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Your Kids Digital Lives Are in Shambles

If you have a teenager, you probably have a battle in play: do you or do you not manage your teens mobile devices. Though some parents see this as an invasion of their child’s privacy,(which, frankly, is stupid) there are many reasons why you should start managing what they are doing online.

Robert Siciliano Quora BreachSome of these reasons make a lot of sense. Mainly, what your kid does at age 17 and under, is your responsibility, or in essence, your fault if they screw up. If they send a nude photo, that’s child porn, and that will come back to bite YOU and them.

And, the research data is out there, for instance, a teenager who has limits on how long they can sit on their phone will be better prepared to get into the real world because they can focus and unplug. Many people believe and research strongly suggests that too much screen time leads to addiction, which could definitely negatively affect the life of the child. There is also the fact that spending too much time on one activity, such as watching endless YouTube videos, causes other responsibilities to suffer. This leads to poor time management skills.

Time management is crucial for a child to develop in the younger years. Even the CEO of Microsoft believes that people are spending too much time focused on the screen. Microsoft actually did a study that showed the average attention span of a human is only about 8 seconds; shorter than a goldfish.

What does this tell you as a parent? It means that it might be time to teach your kids how to better manage their time and to avoid distractions from their cell phones. The best results start when they are younger, but it could still be worth it trying to enforce this as they get older. If not, you could see that your kids are being passed by others as they get older; others who know how to focus their attention.

Most parents don’t enforce these types of things because they don’t want to fight with their kids over it. They know that there is going to be a battle, and they are probably fighting their kids about other things, too, so they don’t want to add onto that.

If you are thinking about doing this, but having second thoughts, don’t think about it as a punishment for your child. Instead, think about it as time that they will have to focus on other things. You also might want to try it yourself and spend more time with them. Though you might not even realize it, many adults have issues with too much screen time, too, and this change could be positive for your entire family.

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.

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.

What age is it OK to leave Kids home alone?

Sooner or later, you’ll need to leave your child home—unsupervised, alone—for an extended period. And even though you may have smart devices to keep a constant check on your child, this doesn’t mean you can instantly teleport home in the event your smart security system relays a realtime video of a kitchen fire.

12DIt’s one of the toughest challenges facing parents: At what age can they leave a child home alone without breaking the law, without endangering that child? Even if your child is older than the minimum age to be legally left alone, this doesn’t mean they’re ready to face this new chapter.

  • A very emotionally mature, 10-year-old child may be very small for their age, and a crook passing by the house may peer in and think that a seven-year-old is all alone inside—making a break-in tempting.
  • An eight-year-old may be the size of an 11-year-old, which could fool a prowler peering in, but having the mind of an eight-year-old won’t help in a crisis situation.
  • Your feisty but responsible nine-year-old may be begging to be left home alone, have passed a first-aid test and be a junior blackbelt.
  • Or, your skittish 13-year-old may be very bright, but…to put it succinctly, be a scaredy cat.
  • Is the neighborhood popular with burglars?
  • Is the child sick?

Laws are ambiguous. Just what is “adequate supervision” anyways? And is it redefined with different ages? Obviously, you don’t want to leave a nine-year-old alone for even one hour with the new, 95-pound rescue dog, or leave a young child home during a storm. A 12-year-old may seem old enough to be left home alone for a few hours, but not in charge of his two-year-old sibling.

The various U.S. states do not have clear explanations; it’s up to the parent to interpret each circumstance. And only three states specify the minimum age: Maryland is eight; Oregon is 10; and Illinois is 14 … even though many girls begin babysitting late into the night at age 11.

Robert Siciliano 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.

Predators use Emojis to target Kids

Who’d ever think those silly little yellow circular faces and other such cyber symbols would become such a worldwide smash? I’m talking about emoticons, also known as emojis. Five years ago Apple put an emoji keyboard on its mobile devices. Six billion of these doggone things are sent every day.

12DBut a story at kdvr.com says this isn’t as innocent as it seems.

The story mentions Sheila Allison and her 12-year-old who regularly communicate via emojis. For instance, Allison’s job means she’s not home when her daughter is going to bed, so she sends emojis for zzzz’s, kisses and princess. (There’s an emoji for everything, and not all of them are faces; some are animals, fruits and other symbols.)

So expansive is the emoji language that a person may be considered fluent in it, knowing the hidden meanings of these icons.

Mike Harris hunts down pedophiles for a living, says the article. He’s fluent in emoji, knowing over 1,200 of the icons. He points out that one emoji may have three or four different meanings.

There’s even a Speak Emoji app that translates “emojiese.” The symbols can be used to bully and threaten. They can be used to communicate any number of messages, such as, “Got any crack?”

There are emojis with very concrete meanings, such as bomb, gun and knife symbols. Others are a bit more cryptic, though sending the emoji of a frog to someone you recently called “ugly” should have an obvious interpretation.

More Meanings

  • Dog (even cute) emoji = b–ch.
  • Pile of poop = sh*t.
  • Harris explains that the sequence of a running-man emoji and a bowling ball emoji means “I’m going to hit you.”
  • Guess what a scared face, knife and shower means.
  • Harris adds that a peach can mean erotic. So can raindrops.
  • Context is important; two people discussing the weather and sending raindrop emojis are meaning rain, nothing more.
  • Anyone whose head is in the gutter will use the banana emoji.
  • Meanings can be invented spur of the moment: sending the pig emoji to an overweight person or when discussing cops. An emoji of a shark (I’m sure there’s one) can refer to a lawyer.
  • But a very non-contextual emoji is footprints; this can mean beer.

Sorry, don’t shoot the messenger! Just giving all those over 30 a heads up!

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.

Predators hunting Kids on Gaming Sites

As a parent, you may not be crazy about your child spending a lot of time “gaming.” Chances are good that your feelings are fueled by the fact that kids should play outside, be more social, and are getting addicted to tech or maybe the correlation between childhood obesity and excess computer time. It’s not pretty.

12DHowever, there’s another elephant in the room, perhaps squeezing out the obesity threat: the pedophile threat.

Recently on a Long Island college campus, a male student was found to be traipsing through gaming sites that are popular with young boys such as Grand Theft Auto and Minecraft. The 21year old predator, convinced three underage boys to take sexually explicit pictures and send them to him.

It’s tempting to question what these boys were thinking, that they would so freely take and send sexually explicit images of themselves to a complete stranger. But the predator played a numbers game in his trolling quest, finding three vulnerable victims and convincing them that he was “Allison Denario” and ask for the photos.

He’d then pose as Allison’s furious boyfriend. Of course, in real life, an angry boyfriend would normally demand that the photos stop. But “Allison”’s boyfriend told the boys his father was a cop or FBI agent. This angry cyber stranger demanded the boys perform sex acts on camera or he’d snitch on them for sending Allison the images. So. Flipping. Dark.

Well, Mt Predators little game was short-lived and he was charged with child pornography.

For Parents

  • Get an activated security suite for the computer before any game playing begins.
  • Create long strong passwords. Please, no 123Gamer or Jayson14. So a long strong password might be a phrase ImaHugeStarWarsfan or a nonsensical jumble like gowkg850(4)2.
  • Before any game playing, check its Entertainment Rating Software Board’s rating.
  • Protecting your kids is more than just great passwords and online security features. Make your children feel that they won’t be judged or blown off by you if they report something peculiar or suspicious.
  • Teach your kids how to make these reports, about “catching the bad guy in real life.” Feel free to refer to the bad guy as a predator, not just “bully.” Many kids think of “bullies” as other kids who call each other names online. But if a child is old enough to play on gaming sites, they’re old enough to be taught about adult male cybersexual predators and how they pose as young girls.

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

Parents legally can spy on their Kids

Just because something is legal, does that mean you should do it? In the case of spying on your kids’ phone activities, some say yes. Though the very same mode of operation is illegal in most states when the eavesdropper is your boss or anyone else and you’re the “eavesdropee,” this same mechanism is legal and encouraged for parents to their kids.

12DYou’re probably envisioning a parent listening in on their boy-crazy teen daughter’s phone conversation. But it’s more than that.

According to a nydailynews.com article, the Court of Appeals in New York ruled that secretly listening in on and even recording a cellphone conversation is legal—after a man recorded a cellphone conversation involving his five-year-old son. The child’s mother’s boyfriend, over the phone, threatened to beat him.

Dad acted in good faith when he wired the phone, and the slime who made the threat, was convicted on three counts. But his attorney claimed that the eavesdropping was illegal and thus, the conversation was not admissible.

The judge in this case pointed out that not all cases come in template form inside a black box. But can a parent eavesdrop on an older child who’s cognizant enough to rationally protest? Again, we can’t apply a cookie cutter to this concept. But in New York, it’s legal to conduct this practice, with the assumption that the parent is acting in the best interest of the minor.

In another case, points out the article, a woman inserted a tape recorder in her autistic son’s backpack to pick up the suspected verbal abuse from the boy’s bus matron.

The line can be very fuzzy over just when it’s ethical for a parent to tap a child’s phone conversations and when it’s done for more self-serving reasons, such as in divorce cases. Again, it’s legal in New York, because it was determined that the potential benefits far outweigh the potential grievances.

At least 12 other states, though, are on board with this doctrine of vicarious consent, including New Jersey, Texas, Arizona, Maine and the Carolinas. Hopefully, not too many parents will abuse this legal right and end up eavesdropping for the fun of it or to show off their “power” as the adult in charge.

But that fact is, kids can get into lots of trouble with their physical and digital lives if their parents are unaware of what’s going on.

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

Posting Kids’ Photos online is illegal?

In France, anything is possible. Like getting tossed in jail for posting your children’s photos on Facebook.

12DYes indeed, it’s true. People in France might be put behind bars for putting their kids’ pictures on Facebook. Or, they may face heavy fines. This is because the French authorities deem posting kids’ photos online threatens their security.

Parents are being warned about the consequences of this violation. The authorities believe that posting images of one’s kids online can lead to some pretty nasty things:

  • Photo-napping, particularly by pedophiles
  • Stealing the images and posting them on adoption sites
  • Kids, when grown, suing their parents for emotional damage that they think resulted from photos of their younger selves being posted online
  • Parents may even sue each other if photos of their kids go up after a divorce.

France’s privacy laws are a force to be reckoned with. How does a year in prison and a fine of almost $50,000 sound for posting children’s photos? Wow, French parents really better watch out when posting that photo of the family reunion or company picnic with kids in the background.

If you’re poo-pooing France right now, save your poo-poos for Germany as well. German police are urging parents to stop posting their kids’ images—especially because a lot of people are putting up images of their kids naked in the context of water activities.

Maybe if fewer parents got off on posting pictures of their naked toddlers and even older children (one can only guess what these parents are hoping to accomplish), the police wouldn’t be so rigid.

Still think the police are over-reacting? And maybe they are, but consider this: According to The Parent Zone, the average person posts nearly 1,000 images of their child online by the time that child blows on five birthday candles. Now maybe The Parent Zone isn’t the gospel, but we all know people who seem to have 8,000 pictures up of their children on social media.

What’s even more staggering, says The Parent Zone, is that 17 percent of these parents have never bothered to set their Facebook privacy settings. And 46 percent checked the settings only one or two times. This all means that these parents absolutely are in denial that some weirdo isn’t drooling over their naked preschooler in the backyard baby pool.

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

Products to keep Kids safe online

Some people believe that monitoring your kids’ online activities crosses the line of privacy or trust. But monitoring and controlling online activities is, essentially, no different than controlling access to the cookie jar or TV or even locking a liquor cabinet.

Which brings me to a way that parents can always know exactly what their kids are doing in cyberspace. And control when, too. This is possible due to a type of software known as “parental control” that monitors the goings-on of any connected device in the home network, in concert with a mobile app.

Parental control software is very important to most parents, and they’re always looking for the latest technology. The Pew Research Center’s recent report says that 95% and 93% of U.S. parents have spoken to their teenager about sharing-safety and appropriate online behavior, respectively.

Gadgets like this include Circle and KoalaSafe (easy setup, $99 each). With these, you can even set certain activities to be off limits when you apply filters. When you see your teen daughter’s activity going to a “pro-ana” site, you can bar her from getting on.

Circle

  • Scans all traffic on your home’s network.
  • Traffic data is not stored on Circle’s servers.

KoalaSafe

  • Provides a Wi-Fi just for kids and tracks only that.
  • Uses cloud servers for monitoring.

From your mobile you can watch what your kids are up to in cyberspace, but these gadgets can’t monitor or control 100% their activities (such as Snapchat)—but will do enough for you to know that the cookie jar, figuratively speaking, is bolted shut with a good lock.

Even if your child is a goody two shoes, they may still accidentally get on a site you’d never want to show your grandmother. Circle and KoalaSafe will help control this scenario. This software can also track how much time kids spend with certain activities such as being on Facebook, and you can set time limits.

But remember, parental control software, no matter how good it is, should be seen as an adjunct to one-on-one communication with your kids, not the replacement of it. Parental software isn’t just for “bad” kids, but serves as an extra tool for parents that keeps up with today’s technology.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to TheBestCompanys.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.

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.