From private to public

Sign posts with Public and PrivateFacebook has been criticised a lot this week for what many perceived as a privacy breach. Users thought they began noticing ‘private messages’ from 2008 and 2009 appearing on their timelines. Facebook denies these claims and states that the messages are simply wall posts that have a different appearance because they were created with an older version of Facebook without the ability to ‘like’ or ‘comment’ (in Mann, McNeill & Atkin, 2012, para.7).

Despite Facebook’s denial, many users still believe they have found evidence of a breach.

Many people panicked when they realised something they possibly shouldn’t have said can now be seen by anyone who can access their Facebook timelines. This incident begs the question – what happens when private turns public?

How much information does your child put on their social media accounts? It is one thing to teach them not to divulge too much information on a private account, but have you thought about what else would be available if all the privacy settings were to suddenly disappear and leave everything in the public’s eye?

It is a good idea to teach children to think about the information they put onto social media as being completely public. This will ensure they think carefully before they type or upload a photo.

A permanent record

All friends have little arguments between themselves, but what if they moaned about it with someone and it was recorded and played back to the friend in question? How would they feel if that friend was able to hear it? How would they feel if a future employer was able to access their gossipy conversations? How would they feel if their future children knew everything they got up to as teenagers? … “What on earth were you doing in that photo, Dad?”

Social media is like a permanent recording. Everything on the Internet is persistent and while you may think your child’s account may have the strongest privacy settings available, technology is not 100% reliable. Things do go wrong.

Think before you type

A group of seventh grade students was asked to write a list of how they think they should behave online. I think you’ll find the list pretty impressive and I recommend showing it to your kids.

So let’s make sure our kids really know how to talk to each other on social media respectfully and imagine that one day everyone is going to read about it, because you never know, one day maybe they will.

References:

Mann, A, McNeill, S, & Atkin, M,. (2012). Users vow to desert Facebook amid latest scandal. ABC News. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-10-04/users-vow-to-desert-facebook-amid-latest-privacy-scandal/4295964

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Who’s afraid of the big bad Web?

Family using laptop togetherHands up if you have ever worried about your child’s activity on the Internet. Did your hand go up as fast as mine? Whether you are the parent of a pre-schooler or the parent of a teenager, the issue of safety and technology is something that we will all have to deal with at some…in fact, MANY, points in time.

Technology is a wonderful thing, and I am the first to confess my love for the Web in particular. As this ‘new fangled thing’ called the World Wide Web is obviously here to stay, we, as parents, need to be aware of its benefits as well as downfalls.

Let’s take a look at the downfalls first as they are the ones we tend to hear about the most:

The Web gives children potential access to a lot of content that parents need to be aware of. From computer viruses and scams to predators and pornographic images, your child can stumble upon all kinds of material that you would not want them to be exposed to.

But let’s not forget that children can also be the ones to cause damage to others. They need to be educated on appropriate behaviours regarding cyber bullying, sexting, and material they upload to social networks and YouTube.

Now let’s think about how the Web can benefit our children:

Technology and the Web can help children grow as people as they facilitate learning about the world around them, communicating effectively, and fostering their creative skills. 

This may come as a surprise but gaming has particularly become a popular method of teaching children as it helps them stay interested and active in their own learning.

So what am I getting at?

Well, what I am trying to say is that children can get the most out of technology if we, as parents, learn as much as we can about it and learn how to guide them to use it safely. There is no point in sticking our heads in the sand and pretending it doesn’t exist. If we don’t teach our children how to walk across the road safely, how will they ever learn to go out on their own? It’s the same with the Web; one day they will be on their own – with or without the knowledge we give them.

Now it’s your turn

The most important thing you can do for your child is to keep the digital conversation flowing. Give them some guidelines but also let them teach you a thing or two about technology. They will appreciate the boundaries as well as your respect.

Don’t be afraid to learn how to be involved in your kid’s digital life. 

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Young kids using Facebook

I enjoy Facebook as much as the next person, so why shouldn’t we let our kids use it? Aside from the obvious dangers of being cyberstalked by strangers, cyberbullying, and not understanding the true meaning of PRIVACY settings…they could also be targeted by advertising companies.
As if it is not annoying enough to be hassled by the kids when they see ads on TV, we now may have to contend with Facebook. 
OK, advertising in Facebook is not new, but Facebook allowing preteens to use Facebook is (or will be soon), and this is where the concern of advertising to very young kids comes in.
Facebook does claim that they are taking the issue seriously and listening to recommendations, but what if this changes in the future? How do we really know our kids won’t have ads targeted at them everytime they login? It is so easy for them to click on those ads and be taken anywhere on the Web.
It is every parent’s responsibility to teach kids about cybersafety, and marketing goes hand in hand with it. It may be simple enough to advise teenagers on the wrongs and rights of advertising, but how do you explain it to a ten year old, or nine, or eight, or seven….?
I believe that it is important to teach our kids about using social networks as they are very good resources if you know how to use them safely, but I, for one, will not be letting young kids use Facebook if there is advertising popping up next to status updates from their friends. The digital world is confusing enough at a young age….and mummy’s credit card just doesn’t stretch that far!
If Facebook starts allowing kids under 13 to use Facebook, will you let your kids sign up? What are your thoughts on Facebook advertising to kids?

Being cybersmart

The closer my daughter gets to starting school, the more I panic about her being exposed to the World Wide Web. Obviously I am not going to let her be on the computer alone yet but it doesn’t feel like it will be long before she is whining for mum to stop peering over her shoulder.

I have been visiting the Cybersmart site quite a bit to keep myself educated and see what sort of things I can teach her. One great tool is the Cybersafety Help Button  which you can download to your computer and your child can click on it any time they feel they need help, advice, or to report something that is concerning them on the Web. It can help them feel that they are not alone in cyberspace. I will definitely be downloading this for all of my Internet enabled devices!

Now if only there was a button I could click on when my kids decide to misbehave. Would be handy to have someone magically appear and give me help then!

Too much screen time

An interesting article in the New York Times mentions that kids are now spending much more time now than ever in front of a screen. This is not just television they are talking about – iPads and iPhones are becoming increasingly popular with little kids. Toddlers. Babies even. Yes, I am guilty of this – telling myself that it is ok for the kids to play with my iPad because they are all (mostly) educational games and stories that they play with.

This article has made me second guess myself. Am I really just encouraging my kids to sit and stare at a screen all day instead of going outside? It’s not like they are using the iPad in the middle of the day when it is sunny out – just at night when mummy and daddy are trying to get chores finished.

I guess it could look like it is being used as a babysitter but I tend to disagree. I don’t think exposing children to technology at such a young age is a bad thing at all as long as you ensure they are ‘well rounded’. No, I don’t mean feed them pizza until they burst. I mean all things in small doses are not going to hurt them. As long as they spend plenty of time playing outside and learning to use their own imaginations to entertain themselves then surely a bit of technology isn’t going to hurt.

What do you think? Do your children get “too much screen time”?

I’ve created a monster

I shouldn’t complain – I only have myself to blame…. we bought a new TV on the weekend. You know, one of those clever ones that connect to the Internet – BUT – I have now become a slave to YouTube.

It was one thing when I would play videos of books and cartoons for the girls on the iPad, but now I have to watch 55 inches of it! Thank goodness they are too young to read – they still need ‘mummy dearest’ to put YouTube on. As long as I don’t let ‘S1’ (age 5) see what I do when I connect to YouTube, she shouldn’t be able to work it out for herself for a while. I wonder how long though. Do other parents lock away their remote controls in the medicine cupboard or am I going to be the first?

On a serious note though – how do I stop my girls from accessing some of the not-so-nice videos on YouTube? Don’t tell me I have to learn how to use parental controls and more passwords just to watch tv!

iPad addict at age two?

Am I a bad mother if my two year old is already addicted to the iPad? OK, maybe ‘addicted’ is too strong a word, but the iPad is definitely her favourite ‘toy’. Should I feel guilty about letting her play Angry Birds at this age? I’m not even sure how she learned to play it in the first place. Kids are just somehow able to pick up any piece of technology and make it work. At the risk of sounding old…. in my day, technology was the tv game ‘Pong‘ which I had to ask my father to set up each time I used it! Now here I am, 30…. something years later watching my own daughter work the iPad like she has been using it all her life. Actually, come to think of it, I guess she almost has used it all her life. Is that how kids have become so good at this stuff? We don’t really think of technology as ‘technology’ anymore. It is just a way of life and we have to let kids play with these things early on so they never get the chance to become scared of technology like we may have been.

The more technology in my house the better, I say. And if I have to use the excuse, “it’s to help my kids learn”, to justify always buying the latest toys gadgets, then so be it.   😉