A Platform For Good

December 22, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last post. Well, it’s probably because a lot has happened in those two years. My then infant daughter is now a full fledged toddler and I’ve also been working as the Director of Technology at an independent school to “pay the bills” while trying to assess the marketplace for online safety.

But I am going to try to pick things up again beginning with this great new resource for parents, teachers and teens called “a platform for good.” I love the idea of this site. The idea is that technology should be seen as a place for good and not for evil, and one way we make that happen is by teaching parents and teachers, as well as teens themselves, how to share online in safe and responsible ways.

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Cyberbullying and more…

October 26, 2010 at 11:40 pm | Posted in Online Safety | Leave a comment
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Fresh from graduation and with an idealized perspective on the criticality of technology integration in the classroom, I am faced with the harsh reality that issues like cyberbullying are still a prime concern. Moreover, it seems to be on the rise. In speaking with parents of teenage children I am appalled by stories of cyberbullying, sexting and other acts of disrespect among today’s teens.

In answer to this, I am going to explore (in future posts) not only ways to stop the spread of cyberbullying and how to protect children and teens from becoming victims but also what to do in the event that you are already a victim. There is a lot of readily available information on the former points, but relatively little on the latter. What is the emotional fall-out? How can teens recover? What lessons are learned from those that have recovered?

Stay tuned for more on this topic in the coming weeks and months…

Copyright Laws for Kids

November 9, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Here is a great interactive cartoon that introduces kids to the concepts of copyrights, public domain, fair use and related topics. This is part of being safe online – ensuring that children and students are good digital citizens observing appropriate digital etiquette.

Copyright Interactive

An interactive cartoon about copyright law

Establishing Digital Boundaries

October 19, 2009 at 1:01 pm | Posted in Online Safety | Leave a comment
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Here’s a quick little funny yet serious video from the Ad Council that discusses establishing digital boundaries with anyone you are in a relationship with. This includes both dating and friendships.

Remember the message. Establish digital boundaries and reach out to people you trust if you need help enforcing them.

Sext Ed

May 11, 2009 at 11:55 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sext EdParents & Teachers: Are teens learning all they need to know about sex and relationships at home or in school? If not, you should be aware that there are many services out there for teens to get the answers to questions they have. Many services exist where they can choose from a list of selected questions, but some new services are also appearing where students can text a question to a live service and get personalized one-on-one answers to their individualized questions. This may not be a bad thing if you find it hard to talk to them about this topic, but you should be aware that the service exists because you may or may not agree with the answers. You can learn more by reading “When the Cell Phone Teaches Sex Education“.

Internet and Cell Phone Safety

April 23, 2009 at 7:35 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Here is a new video designed as a wake up call for parents regarding internet and cell phone safety.

If you are concerned and want to know more about how to protect your children or your students, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

Introducing Cyberbullying

February 24, 2009 at 12:06 pm | Posted in Online Safety | Leave a comment
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Kinderguarded is announcing a new topic that will be maintained under the Special Topics pages. Cyberbyllying is a relatively unknown but potentially significant threat to online safety. It is the practice of harrassing, teasing, spoofing or otherwise bullying a peer online. It is more common than you think. It is even more common than the threat of adult predators.

Learn more at Special-Topics/Cyberbulling.

Quick Tips #1

February 12, 2009 at 10:24 am | Posted in Online Safety | Leave a comment
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Quick Tip for Parents:

Do you know who’s following your children on Twitter?  There are many direct marketers and other less-than-savory folks out on twitter. To protect your children from these unfriendly followers, try using TwerpScan. The caveat is that you need the twitter login name and password to run this. Twerpscan will provide a list of followers they recommend blocking.

Another handy Twitter tool for parents is TweetEffect. TweetEffect will let you know why people are choosing to follow your child based on their latest tweets. (A “tweet”, by the way, is the 140 character string they post on twitter.) No password required.

Lastly, if you want to check out the profile of a specific Twitter follower, try SocialWhois. For example, if you enter Robin611 (my Twitter id), you’ll see my self-defined Twitter description, what I’m interested in and where to find me online.  SocialWhois is limited by the fact that information either comes from SocialWhois itself, Twitter or FriendFeed.

Quick Tip for Teachers:

Be aware of cyberbullying. Bullying is no longer happening just on the playground. The incidences of cyberbullying is on the rise.  The best site I know of that can educate you on how to spot and prevent cyberbullying is StopCyberBullying.org. They even have a special section just for educators.

Quick Tip for Kids:

To Last Name or not to Last Name? Hey kids, I know it’s confusing. Sometimes your teachers tell you to write your last name and sometimes they tell you to only use your first name. Well, to make it easier follow this simple rule:

If I’m handing it in, Last Name shows it’s mine
Use First Name only, if I’m going online

And remember kids, Never Give Anyone Your Address, Phone Number or Email Address if you don’t know them in real life.

More from the Stop Cyberbullying conference

June 8, 2008 at 11:08 am | Posted in Online Safety | Leave a comment
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Today, I’ll talk about some of the themes and recommendations that resulted from the conference.

Themes:

  • Schools need help to build a culture to empower kids to the right things, use the right tools, be good cybercitizens, etc…
  • Think like a kid. (e.g. 1- Kids don’t understand the legal mumbo jumbo of Terms of Service and Privacy Policies and don’t read them – they just click through… 2- What happens if I tell?)
  • Keeping the computer in a central location is an outdated concept. Not that it’s a bad thing, but stuff can still get through. Parents have to be more proactive. It’s about teamwork and collaboration. And, parents – recognize that you don’t know or understand the technology and ask for help!
  • Make it cool to do good things!

How can industry help educators to build that culture? What recommendations were made to ensure online safety?

  • Recommendations for Academia & Industry
    • Encourage contests to build skills – like Oracle’s ThinkQuest
    • Provide resources to help teachers teach – like ThinkFinity from Verizon
    • Create a coalition of companies to help educate on topics of online safety – like TeachToday in Europe
    • Best practices – Have School Liaison’s, Develop Standards, Fix the “Web of Deception”, Share technologies that you have created to make the web safer
    • Create a hub that will compile and share rule violator information (e.g. If someone is kicked off a one site for breaking the guidelines, they should be blocked from all sites including Facebook, MySpace, myYearbook, etc..). A hub protects sites sharing vulnerabilities with competitors.
    • Microsoft and WiredSafety are working to create a Stop Cyberbullying Toolkit on DVD. Also, WiredSafety has cartoon videos on the topic.
    • Bring back character lessons in school. Or, more accurately, don’t stop teaching “Be nice, share, etc…” in Kindergarten. Teach this online and offline – it must be systematic. Schools may have “acceptable use” policies but anti-cyberbullying is not included. The community must push administrations for this to become mandated. Also, search for keywords and block content that contains abusive content (i.e. fight video) and wait before publishing anything with these terms. Stop the “Famous” epidemic.
    • 4th and 8th grade assessments should include online safety education.
    • Utilize lesson plans from the Anti-Defamation Leagueon online safety and social justice.
    • Get educated on Cyber safety issues from sites like CyberSmart who tries to make teachers more comfortable with technology. [Ed. Note. – Of course, you can also call or email us too!]
    • Think like a Financial Services company. Manage your risk and make sure your site is safe. WiredTrust, kicking off this summer, consults with companies on how to be safe for kids.
    • QA Test your “Report Abuse” mechanisms.
    • For new & existing websites, have policies now. Examine issues, set rules, how do you administer them, what are the consequences for breaking rues, communicate it all the time. Get ahead of the curve.
    • Create kid advisory boards.
  • Recommendations for “Thinking like a kid”
    • Terms of Service and Privacy Policies need to be engaging and easy to understand. Maybe a game or cartoon or something. Obviously keep the full wording on the site for legal reasons, but make the important points easy for kids to “get” and make them want to read it.
    • “Report Abuse” is great but kids want to know what happens if they do. Make sure they understand who gets the information, what it is used for, will they get in trouble, etc… Also, a message to PARENTS: “Don’t freak out”, “Don’t overblock”. Just be responsible. Talk to your kids. Let them know it’s ok for them to talk to you. Make the Tell part of “Stop, Block & Tell” available.
    • Use Celebrities to publicize the issue about Online Safety and Cyberbullying.
    • Include them. Ask for their input. They are the Interactive Generation. They want to be engaged.
    • The future of eLearning is in the form of games. Why not create “Stop Cyberbullying” games for kids.
  • Recommendations for Government and Law Enforcement
    • Work with industy. Don’t just mandate. E.g. Mandated internet safety curriculum in schools is great but implementation is left ambiguous. Work with schools to set standards. There is a ton of free info out there. Help schools (with limited or no funding for this new requirement) to create a “youth industry safety council”. Get industry to donate.
    • Add a check box on all police reports for any crime that says “Interactive Technology Iniatied” to help track how much crime is coming from online issues.
    • Kids need to know there is someone they can call. Hotline maybe?
    • Set up a Parents Advisory Group for the Internet” like Singapore did.
    • Governments – Work with State Legislatures to get online safety as part of the required curriculum
  • Recommendations for the Media
    • Kids want a celebrity that speaks out for them. Need a baseline language between parents and kids to help both understand each other. You can help with this!
    • Know your audience. CMP InfoWeek/TechWeb knows that their audience are technology decisin makers at work, but also parents at home. You can reach them and educate them about online safety, cyberbullying and more through channels you already have.
    • PRcast.tv and Johnson&Johnson teamed up to educate Moms on how to keep kids safe.
    • Report on relevent events. [e.g. Girl Scouts of Amera had a CyberSafety initiative that empowers girls in technology with a peer to peer approach and utilizing courses and tools they need to become leaders in this industry and in tackling this problem. Also, one school created a Take 5 Poster program where students had to create a poster of what they would do if they take 5 minutes away from the computer.]
    • Keep an eye out for new companies and new games focused on this topic and report about it. [e.g Sydney Safe Seeker is a game that will be released soon that gives parents a diagnostic view of their child’s vulnerability and the kids have fun playing it. It also teaches kids about being safe online. Studies have shown that there is 90% retention when learning through simulation.

What’s already being done today?

  • MySpace/Newscorp is sharing their sex offender database with state attorney generals.
  • AOL/Bebo is working to ensure that social networking is safe through initiatives like safesocialnetworking.com (which seems to be down at the moment). There’s also OnGuard courtesy of the US government. Make sure all the kids you know take the Social Networking Quiz.
  • WiredSafety has created a Safe Site Seal of Approval with age appropriate ratings.
  • Verizon created a grant program for students who could get through all of their security measures and then show Verizon how they did it. Verizon Foundationis focused on education, literacy and online safety among other things.

Notes from the “Stop Cyberbullying” conference

June 6, 2008 at 5:43 pm | Posted in Online Safety | Leave a comment
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This week I attended WiredSafety’s International Stop Cyberbullying conference in New York City. Unfortunately I was unable to attend Day 1 (Community) but my understanding is that Day 1 involved participation from both students, educators and families in the community discussing what they expect of industry as far as online safety is concerned. Day 2 (Industry) was organized as a response with several different panels of individuals speaking.

The keynote, Attorney General Blumenthal from Connecticut, spoke about how anonymity on the Internet can be a tremendous source of danger and he referenced several sites as an example. While inappropriate content is still easily accessible and there are still some cases of predators taking advantage of children by posing as someone else, there is an even greater frequency of cyberbullying which is unknown to many parents. While industry, government and academia must take responsibility for protecting our children, so too must parents and other family. 80% of kids surveyed said they either had no rules at home regarding internet usage or they knew how to get around the rules and often did. We need to teach our children to be better “Netizens”. Several attorney generals in the Northeast are working on task forces on social networking and trying to create laws that require sites to authenticate profiles. Parry Aftab of WiredSafety.org is part of this task force. One of the products of this task force is stopcyberbullying.org, a website to educate children, parents, educators and law enforcement about this growing threat.

A skit by several teenangels and tweenangels demonstrated an example of cyberbullying. Some of the tweens taught us what to do when you are being cyberbullied: “Stop. Block. Tell.” Basically, stop what you are doing, block the person from your friend list and tell an adult you trust. Another survey discovered that sharing of passwords (especially among best friends) is prevalent. Many also, once they knew exactly how Cyberbullying is defined, admitted to having been Cyberbullied at least once and some told a friend about it. Few told adults for fear of having negative repurcusions like loss of internet access. Teenangels (13-17) and Tweenangels (9-12) are trained on aspects of online safety and also spread the word among their schools and friends.

The Panels:

The first panel consisted of two parents whose children were cyberbullied and a teen who had also been cyberbullied since she was 11. One parent spoke of her son, Josh, who was cyberbullied for 3 years before taking his own life. Another parent was the mother of Megan Meier who committed suicide after being harrassed and bullied online but a supposed boy interested in her who in actuality was the mother of a friend of hers. TeenAngels, myYearbook.com and others worked together to create the Megan Pledge to help fight against Cyberbullying and help protects others from the same fate.

The next panel is the industry panel which consisted of Facebook, Oracle, Newscorp(MySpace), KidZui, GirlAmbition, AOL, Verizon, Microsoft, myYearbook.com, and Jagex (Runescape).

  • FacebookMySpace/Newscorp spoke about the ways they ensure safety on their sites including privacy policies, report abuse buttons and more. Discussion around privacy policies ensued saying the most kids don’t read them and/or don’t understand them and something needs to be done about this to make them more engaging and clear.
  • Oracle spoke about their ThinkQuest contest and Think.com which Oracle uses to reach educators.
  • KidZui is the Internet for Kids! A safe environment with approved websites that lets kids explore but stay safe.
  • The founder of GirlAmbition spoke about empowering girls 7-12 with a Tweenized version of IM/Chat, Email, video sharing and games.
  • AOL described parental controls and explained that they have age brackets and default settings which parents change the restrictiveness of settings in each bracket. They also just acquired Bebo – a social networking site with a series of videos that encourages discussions in families.
  • Microsoft highlighted their free Family Safety Software. Yes, free (if you have Windows XP).
  • Both myYearbook.com and Jagex were commended and have received awards for their progressive safety policies. myYearbook highlighted the Megan Pledge on their site getting almost 250,000 e-signatures in the first week.  Jagex’s Runescape has strict policies with ramifications that encourage compliance and is one of the most popular MMPRP (massive multi-player role playing) games out there today. They also have offensive language filters, password and phone number blockers and parental controls.

Two other panels: one focused on law enforcement and one on media also took place. Discussion on recommendations and next steps will continue in the next blog post.

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