June is Internet Safety Month

June is Internet Safety Month, which is the perfect time to take a look at your family’s mobile and internet safety plan to make positive changes that will keep everyone in the family safe from cyberbullying, predators and even identity theft. We’ve compiled some tips any family can use this month and every month to keep their kids safe online and on their mobile devices.

  1. Have frequent conversations about safety. Keeping an open line of dialog with your children, no matter what age they are, is the most important thing any parent can do to keep their children safe in real life and on any device.
  2. Encourage them to stand up for what’s right. Being a leader and taking a stand against negative peer behavior is a hard, ongoing learning and life experience. If their friends want to prank or cyberbully a peer, give your kids the words to refuse to engage and help discourage their peers from cyberbullying.
  3. Teach your kids how to report inappropriate behavior. If they witness cyberbullying or comments that are hurtful, reassure telling an adult who can intervene. If they hear of a peer who is experiencing inappropriately sexual behavior from an adult, that behavior can be reported via the website http://www.missingkids.com/cybertipline. According to The CyberTipline® they have “received more than 2.3 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation between 1998 and March 2014.”
  4. Connect with local schools and their resources. Every year schools devote more resources to internet safety. Learn your school’s internet safety policies, make sure your children are aware of and follow those policies. Talk to teachers and school administrators when you have any concerns about students’ behaviors inside and outside of school.
  5. Install a family safety app like MamaBear. Stay in the know about their social media activity by installing a family safety app like MamaBear. MamaBear allows you to monitor activity on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In addition you can stay connected with information about location and driving speed. This provides peace of mind to parents and gives kids an opportunity to stretch boundaries.
  6. Encourage your kids to adopt practices that help them avoid identity theft. Tell them to always log out of a computer in public places, always be aware of where their mobile devices are (and not give them to friends). Caution against giving out any personal information online (name, date of birth, phone, address, etc.) This website offers advice for how to keep one’s personal information safe online.

Knowledge is power. Stay informed. Read articles outlining current trends in internet safety. Follow blogs like this one, which are constantly reviewing internet safety trends and sharing them with our fans. Then, share that information with your children. They may not seem like they are listening, but that information will sink in and will help them learn how to keep themselves safe online.

The Dangers of Messaging Apps

dangers messaging app

In a recent MamaBear Blog post, we identified some of the top messaging apps. Most parents are aware of the prominence of social messaging apps and the way they have captivated tweens. While messaging apps can be harmless in most cases, it is important for parents to not only stay in the know about which apps are being used but also to monitor them as closely as possible to ensure their children’s safety.

The Dangers of Messaging Apps

While kids may simply be using messaging apps like Kik and SnapChat to share trivial messages and a range of goofy emoticons with their school friends, there are some hidden dangers associated with messaging app use that would strike fear into the heart of any parent.

According to this Fox 4 article, in one week the app Kik was linked to three serious crimes involving teen victims in Southwest Florida. The apps are being used by predators to prey on young victims as well as by kids engaging in sexting and cyberbullying.

See Also: Taking Responsibility for Kids and Sexting

Designed for Young Adults, Usurped by Tweens

Parents should take note. Most kids who have smartphones use these apps on a daily basis and throughout the day and night. Originally designed for much older youths, messaging and social media apps have been usurped by young kids who lack the maturity to understand how much damage they can do.

See this article for an interesting perspective on what happens when apps designed for more mature college students fall into the hands of tweens:

See Also: Yik Yak App Makers Do the Right Thing

More alarming is the way different social apps are being used together by young kids in dangerous ways. For example, one blogger describes how the photo sharing social network Instagram and the messaging app Kik were used together to allow a pedophile to target a young teenager.

Safety Measures

What can parents do?

First, talk to your kids. Without taking too prying of a tone, ask them questions about the apps they use most. Try to make the questions positive, rather than negative, in order to get a foot in the door with kids reluctant to share. What are their favorite messaging apps? Who do they like to talk to? Have they made any new friends? Asking questions but keeping the dialog light and conversational can build trust and help kids to be more open to sharing with their parents.

Second, install a family safety app like MamaBear on all family members’ phones so that you can monitor your kids’ behavior on social media like Instagram and Twitter. This way you will know who they are making friends with and be able to keep tabs on any troublesome behaviors.

Third, remind your children to take their own safety seriously. They should be aware of the kinds of things that really do happen with messaging apps and the types of predators who lurk behind deceiving screen names and profile images. It is important for the whole family – parents and children alike – to stay in the know about what these apps should be used for and what can make them go terribly, terribly wrong.


Six Best Parental Control Apps for Android

Parental Control Apps for AndroidWhen you give your child a smartphone, you give them the world –  access to a wide world of information, people and possibilities, anyway. That world can come with a lot of fun and education. But it also comes with a lot of risk. The possibilities are endless, but so are the dangers to your children when they immerse themselves.

At the same time, when you send your child out into the world today you no longer have to worry about not knowing where they are. Technology allows parents to monitor their children’s locations with smartphone apps and GPS technology.

Today, there are many free and premium apps on the market designed to help parents monitor their children’s online behavior and physical locations. How do you choose the right app for your child’s android phone? How do you prevent them from downloading the wrong apps or media? Which apps will let you know where your child is at any given moment of the day? Which apps help you know when your child is being cyberbullied on social media? In this blog post we’ll break down six of the more popular parental control apps for Android so you can choose the one that is right for your family.

Related: Cyber Safety Tips for Kids – Preventing Cyberbullying and Inappropriate “Friends”

Top Six Apps for Android Parental Control

MamaBear App: MamaBear is your all-in-one family safety app providing parents information to worry less and encourage larger boundaries for kids to explore more. This app is especially good for kids that are first time smartphone users and new to social media. The app allows kids to keep parents updated with simple check in buttons with added emoticons, “Come Get Me” or “Emergency” notifications. MamaBear allows parents to know their child’s current and recent locations, setup arrival and departure alerts for places like school, home and practice or know when they exceed a preset driving speed. Our favorite feature is a time saver from trolling our kid’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. Parents can set up alerts to monitor only the important stuff like new friends/follows, words on your programmed restricted words list, uploaded photos and tags.

The Kids Place: Kids Place is an app launcher with parental controls and child lock especially nice for shared devices. It protects your personal data and restricts kids to apps you have approved for them. Kids Place also prevents children from downloading new apps, making phone calls, texting or performing other actions that can cost you money. It includes convenient features for parents such as auto app restart and is useful for small kids who accidentally exit launched apps.

Kid Mode: Kid Mode puts all your child’s favorite Android apps in one place also good for shared devices. With the app’s child lock feature, kids stay safely in Kid Mode – the app prevents accidental in-app purchases, deleted texts, or confusing ad clicks. Kid Mode comes with fun games and videos customized for every child’s age, an art studio where kids can paint, color and draw, illustrated storybooks that family members can read and record, a video mail feature that lets kids exchange short messages with family, weekly activity emails on what your kids have been playing and learning and more.

Norton Family: Norton Family with parental controls helps you protect your child from online threats while you’re on the go. Protect your kids from inappropriate web content, unsafe texting and unsuitable mobile apps. The app allows users to track the websites kids visit or attempt to visit, block access to inappropriate websites, setup custom email alerts to notify you when your kids attempt to do something they shouldn’t. A premium version of the app with additional features is available for a fee.

MMGuardian Parental Control: MMGuardian Parental Control enables parents to lock your child’s phone via a simple text message, set time restrictions to limit use, eg: during school hours, prevent your child texting and driving, block incoming calls and texts, monitor alarming text messages, control which applications can be used and when, then receive a daily report on your child’s phone usage.

Screen Time: Screen Time is a parental control app that allows you to monitor and manage the time spent on your family’s tablets and phones. Screen Time is not as invasive as many of the parental control apps available, so it is well suited to families with older children and teenagers, as well as younger children. The app’s features include daily time limits on selected apps, bedtime curfew on selected apps, lights out curfew on all apps, school time curfew on selected apps and more.

There are many great tools on the Google Play app market that can help parents make the most of smartphones and keep their families safe at the same time. Arm yourself with knowledge so you can make the most educated app choices for your Android devices.

 Image Credit: Techradar 

Cyber Safety Tips for Kids – Preventing Cyberbullying and Inappropriate “Friends”

cyber-safety-tips-for-kidsHow to prevent – and stop — Cyberbullying

In our last blog post, we discussed preparing for the new school year by taking certain safety precautions with your children’s internet use, whether on their smartphones, on home computers or even in the classroom. This week we’re going to continue that discussion by talking about cyberbullying. As children start a new year they naturally make many new friends. Most of the time, those friendships are healthy and normal. But sometimes friendships go sour. Our kids get bullied. And in the 21st century, that bullying can get very ugly – and very public — with the use of social media.

What exactly is cyberbullying? According to HelpGuide.org, “cyberbullying occurs when a person uses the Internet, emails, text messages, instant messaging, social media websites, online forums, chat rooms, or other digital technology to harass, threaten or humiliate another person.”

A cyberbully can be a boy or a girl. He or she is often anonymous, able to hide behind a screen name. And with the internet, their bullying tactics can be employed 24/7 with the use of a smartphone or computer. Unlike physical or personal forms of bullying, cyberbullying can be very public. “With a few clicks,” HelpGuide says, “the humiliation can be witnessed by hundreds or even thousands of people online.”

The impact of cyberbullying can be devastating to a child of any age. That’s why it is so important for parents to monitor their children’s social media behavior using various methods to ensure their children’s safe and effective use of the internet for school work and positive social interactions. We put together a list of tips to help you keep tabs on your children’s online behavior and prepare you to handle instances of cyberbullying should they ever arise.

The best way to handle cyberbullying is to stop it before it starts with preventative measures.

Cyber Safety Tips for Kids – Preventing Cyberbullying

  • Keep information private. Tell your child to never post or share his/her personal information online or on social networks. Remind him/her not to share friends’ information as well. Personal information may include their full name, school name – even on a shirt, email address, phone number, home address, DOB and no pictures of a new driving license!
  • Don’t share passwords. No child should share passwords with anyone, except parents.
  • Keep communication lines open. As with everything in your child’s life, ask questions; create dialog. Don’t pry or interrogate, but make conversation with your child about his/her online life. Create a sharing and open communication environment in your home.
  • Be smart about what is shared. Remind your child that he/she may regret some of the photos or words used online. He/She should always think twice about what is posted online or said in an email.
  • Monitor your children’s online and social media behavior. One way you can do this is by installing a family safety app like MamaBear on your child’s Apple or Android device to monitor your child’s behavior on social networks, including when he/she makes new friends and is tagged in posts, photos or at locations. Be aware when inappropriate language or indication of bullying is posted to his/her profile.

What your child can do if faced with a cyberbully

  • Do not respond to the cyberbully. According to ConnectSafely.org, if your child is being bullied, remind him/her that the bully wants a reaction. So tell your child not to give him what he wants.
  • Block the cyberbully. Use preferences or privacy settings to block the bully. This might not make the problem go away, but it helps reduce the options a bully has for targeting a victim.
  • Ask for help. Remind your child that if he/she is being bullied, it’s OK to ask a parent for help. He/She can also turn to a school counselor or teacher. He/She shouldn’t have to face cyberbullying alone. A comfortable solution can be worked on together.
  • Report abuse. Use a social network’s “abuse” tools to report bullying to the social network administrators. If there is a physical threat involved, contact the authorities.
  • Save any and all evidence. Thankfully, cyberbullying is usually recorded or saved somewhere and can be retrieved if necessary in the event that things get out of hand.
  • Don’t retaliate: Don’t perpetuate the cycle of abuse by retaliating or resorting to the same kind of behavior as the cyberbully. ConnectSafely.org says “getting back at the bully turns you into one and reinforces the bully’s behavior.”
  • Stand up for what’s right: Tell your kids not to participate in a cyberbullying culture. They can refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages and stand up against cyberbullying among their friends.

We’ve all heard the horror stories about cyberbullying. Thankfully, while cyberbullying is a very real threat, following these preventative measures and action steps can help any parent and child work together to stop a cyberbully in his tracks, leaving social media for its proper use: as a way to bond, share and strengthen positive relationships.

Help prevent cyberbullying with the MamaBear app, available on Android devices here and iPhone devices here.


photo credit: > ange < via photopin cc