Sunday, August 18, 2013

Protecting Yourself and Minors Online...

Image courtesy of technobuffalo
I recently wrote a post about online privacy. I had no idea how many folks would read that post and post comments.  I think I hit a nerve.  The fact of the matter is that technology has become such a staple in our lives.  I personally feel like I am missing 'a part of me' when I forget my phone or misplace it for a few minutes.  I think I need to work on that personally.

Within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they have a shepherding program called "Visiting Teaching".  This program assigns every "Sister" or adult female member of the congregation a pair of other "Sisters" who contact the Sister once a month to visit and share a spiritual message.

This past month, our Ward/Congregation was asked to share a very specific message on pornography to follow-up a class that had been taught on a Sunday.  The information was very detailed and even though I was aware of much of the significant prominence this ugly subject has on the Internet, many of the Sisters that I visit did not.  We all came to the conclusion that we all need to be more private and careful online not only for ourselves and also put protections on our devices for not only our children.....but our grandchildren as well.

During the course of the conversation, the term "Snapchat" came up.  This was a new one for me. I looked into it.  It essentially is similar to Instagram, but the image disappears from both the sender and receivers devices (and the server) in under 10 seconds.  Initially, I thought...'oh....that would save storage space..hmmm'.  However, the Sister sharing the information was talking about "Tweens" with smartphones who are using this.  

Let's think about this again....why would someone want the image to disappear? Nothing appropriate comes to mind personally.  Certainly parents cannot check the history/photo's to see what was sent or received.  Certainly young minds can be exposed to questionable and inappropriate images at a moments notice. If the warning bells and whistles are not going off in your head....they should be. 

Another one that I recently learned about is "Kik" which is for video.  This app reportedly scans your contacts in Instagram.  Here is a quote from "High Tech Dad"  (a great site I might add) about something he recently experienced.

Here is what happened…someone on Instagram contacted one of my daughter’s friends to connect on Kik. And once they were over on Kik messenger and chatting, this “stranger” asked to see this child’s privates. (Disclaimer: I don’t have all of the exact details, but what I have accounted for in this article is my understanding of the situation. I also performed my own rudimentary investigation.)Just pause and think about that for a minute. From innocently posting photos to being solicited by a pedophile.

When I learned about this, the first thing that I did was look through Kik. Most of the connections that my daughter had were her local friends. A couple were friends she had made via Instagram. I made her end her conversations with kids we didn’t know. Then we had her delete pictures of herself on Instagram and clean out who is following her. That night, I spent some more time exploring her Kik app. I saw a message from one of her friends saying something like “don’t search for the user ‘Instagram’ on Kik…it’s gross”. Of course, I had to check it out to understand. When I searched for “Instagram” on Kik, it showed a user called “So Horney” or “Very Horney” or something like that, and the user’s picture was that of a man’s genitals. Having seen that and having reviewed the lack of privacy and having read more about Kik, I talked to my daughter about deleting the app immediately. A few days later, when I checked my daughter’s phone, the Kik app was gone (my daughter later told me that she deleted it herself). You can see this is an odd and potentially dangerous relationship between Kik and Instagram and how someone make it instantly perverted.

That is shocking. I was scared. I was scared for my kids. And I was scared for other families who don’t take an active role in protecting their children from the dangers online.

Do I have your attention yet?

Also, if an image of a butterfly or unicorn is sent to your could be code for a Pedophile.

Now...THIS IS MY OWN OPINION....but I really do not see the need for children and teens to have a Smart Phone.  There is, and always will be, more questionable apps and intrusions to distract and capture the minds of our youth. Certainly there are 'good things', but does your child need all the technology when they are in school for 6+ hours a day, have sports practice, church activities, and should be sleeping for 8 hours a day?

A basic phone allows for calling and texting....just consider it.  

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