Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
As parents, it’s our job to make sure that our kids learn how to be safe at all times whether they’re crossing the street, playing with friends, or online. KidZui, the company that has one of the most popular kid-safe downloadable internet browsers announced the launch of a new mobile app that is designed to keep children safe when accessing content on the go. This new app will be available for iOS download on Apple’s App Store on Thursday, November 14 and will available for Android soon too.
“After months of preparation, planning and research, we are thrilled with the results of the updated version of KidZui and are overjoyed with launch of the first-ever KidZui mobile app,” said Ryan Bettencourt, Vice President of Online for Saban Brands and one of the Founders of Zui.com and KidZui. “It’s important that we continue to keep the Internet safe for children while also making it fun and easy to use. The mobile app extends KidZui’s parameters, providing parents with the same assurances both at home and on the go.”
With safety being at the forefront of parents’ minds when it comes to content and our kids, I talked to Bettancourt about mobile devices, ways to teach our kids about safe searching habits as they grow beyond KidZui, and the things that parents need to be mindful about with safe searching as their kids increase the use of mobile devices to access content.
Tech Savvy Parents (TSP): With mobile devices being much more prevalent in our kids’ lives, this is an exciting announcement. What are some key things that kids need to know about searching in any browser via desktop computers, laptops, and mobile devices?
Ryan Bettancourt (RB): We believe that the big things kids need in searching in a browser is an experience that is built specifically for kids. Kids generally don’t have the same intent that adults do in searching. Adults go into a web browser and search engine with specific goals in mind. Kids don’t do so to the same degree. Therefore, the browsing and search experience needs to address that. KidZui was built from the ground up for readers and non-readers alike and with a focus on how kids search and discover things online in a different way. Frankly, opening a Google prompt that returns a million text results in a nanosecond isn’t important to a kid. What is important to a kid is that they can discover things they didn’t even know they were interested in and do so in an intuitive and graphical way.
In searching in any browser, kids need to know:
- How to distinguish ads from non-paid content
- A general idea of what they are looking for
- How to conduct a search and use it to also find related content
TSP: KidZui becomes a trusted way to search in households for kids as they get started being online. At some point, families need to transition away from it. How can parents help their children learn to be better searchers since it’s an important skill in today’s digital age?
RB: We have often said that KidZui is web browsing on training wheels. Just like you use training wheels on a bike to learn balance and how to turn and navigate, you need the same online. Technology is only going to become more important in the world in the future and empowering kids with skills to use technology for learning, discovering passions and communicating is critical.
Parents can help their kids by sitting with them as they get used to searching and teaching them to understand how to create proper searches. They can also help kids understand websites and typical website navigational elements so that kids can easily navigate for the information they are seeking.
One important thing parents can do is sit with their kids as they use the internet (on KidZui or elsewhere) to do research on a specific topic. For example, if a kid has a report due on insects, a parent can work with a child to conduct that research, extrapolate the right information, store information for later, copy and paste, and so on.
Finally, parents can help kids to learn how to store/favorite/bookmark content so that they can get back to their favorite things easily.
TSP: As a technology company that always keeps kids’ safety in mind, what do you see as things that parents need to be mindful of beyond safe search?
RB: At KidZui, our passion has always been to allow kids to safely discover the best things online. We believe that enabling great “discovery” shouldn’t be sacrificed in an effort to be safe. They have to be in equal parts.
I think the real thing parents have to understand is that search and communication have radically changed. Google and Bing aren’t the only way kids are searching these days. They use YouTube, Facebook (older kids), Instagram (older kids) and others to search. Those are effectively search engines in themselves. And, those environments can also quickly lead a child to inappropriate and irrelevant content. It’s important that parents be active in helping their children learn how to navigate all platforms in an appropriate way.
And of course, within a smartphone or tablet app environment, parents also need to be mindful of how kids are using those apps.
TSP: What’s next for KidZui in this ever-changing world of technology?
RB: We have explored many different opportunities and are currently figuring out where we want to put our energy next. We certainly need to create an Android tablet version of our KidZui app and figure out what a mobile phone version is like.
Kids using mobile devices via Shutterstock
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Friday, August 16th, 2013
Last year my third grade daughter had an online component to her homework that included a chat feature. While the kids were excited about their first exposure to social networking, it was something that I watched with a wary eye knowing that innocent conversations of saying hi could quickly turn and result in hurt feelings. Luckily the kids and the teacher were good digital citizens and their interactions were innocent but cyberbullying is real and something for kids, parents, and teachers to be aware of, especially if class assignments include an online chat component.
Here’s a primer on cyberbullying- what it is, how do you know if your child is a victim, the kinds of things we need to teach our kids, and what we can do to maintain digital wellness in our families while we teach our kids to be responsible digital citizens.
What is cyberbullying?
- Bullying behaviors are the same on or offline. It is hurting others’ feelings online and ranges from people making jokes that are hurtful to others, teasing, or even when someone logs into someone else’s account and pretends to be them.
- Cyberbullying can happen at any time and be very public because lots of people can see and share public messages online.
- Kids can use more hurtful and extreme language on and offline because they can hide behind the veil of an avatar. They say things they might not say in person because they feel they’re more anonymous.
- The only main difference between cyberbullying and bullying is the kind of harm that can be caused. Bullying involves physical harm but both types cause kids emotional harm that leads to discomfort, embarrassment, feelings of helplessness, sadness, and anger.
How do you know if your child is a victim of cyberbullying? Parents know their child best and can often spot when something may be off but the National Crime Prevention Council encourages parents to look for the following behaviors:
- Emotionally a child becomes shy or withdrawn, depressed, moody, agitated, anxious, stressed or aggressive.
- Academic changes include not wanting to go to school, skipping school, lack of interest in school and a drop in grades.
- Socially and behaviorally, a child isolates themselves from others. These behaviors can include not using the computer to log on to favorite social networks, changes in eating and sleeping habits, changes friends, and physically hurting themselves.
What can you teach your child to prevent them from being a perpetrator or victim? Help your children be emotionally well in order to be digitally well. Teach them respect and create open lines of communication so they know it’s ok to come to a parent or adult without the threat of always getting in trouble. Here are important concepts to teach kids of all ages:
- Empathy. Kids who are empathetic can identify with someone’s feelings are less likely to be perpetrators of cyberbullying.
- Help them understand where the line is between funny and mean. This line can be crossed in a nanosecond without being intentionally harmful but misunderstandings happen. Instead of letting the problem fester online, take the conversation offline and have your child call a friend or talk face to face to clear up the misunderstanding and preserve the friendship.
- Make sure they talk to someone, even if it’s not you. Talking to a responsible adult- parent of a friend, aunt or uncle, teacher, counselor, coach, etc.- is better than not talking to anyone. Discuss who the responsible adults are in your child’s life that they might be able to trust with any information.
- Encourage kids to stand up and get involved. Cyberbullying often involves the bully, victim, and a lot of bystanders. Kids need to be brave and get involved to make the bully stop by not engaging with them online while seeking help offline. Help them become an upstander- not a bystander. Encourage them to get involved.
What else can parents do?
- Set expectations. The minimum age for being on social networks is 13 and many kids clamor for accounts for their 13th birthdays. It’s ultimately up to the parents to decide whether their kids are ready but if they are, it’s important to set expectations about why you’re going to monitor their FB page. Parents can tell their children that they may have a Facebook account as long as I have the password. A tool like MinorMonitor can be helpful since it automatically tells parents what kids post and who their friends are so they can keep an eye on things.
- Know that these conversations aren’t just happening on the computer. With mobile devices, cyberbullying can easily happen on a smartphone, a connected iPod Touch, or tablet. Parents can tell their kids that a phone is a privilege and if they’re paying for service, they have the right to review texts manually or use apps like those from Safely.com, which gives parents easy-to-digest text and app reports and the power to block contacts and phone access, and support and resources, like a phone contract, which helps get conversations started.
Additional resources for parents include:
- CommonSenseMedia.org for parents to become educated about cyberbullying. Features helpful tips on starting conversations, what to look for, how to help your kids
- Netsmartz.org is a program by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that helps parents and kids navigate issues like cyberbullying but also sexting, social networking, online and mobile safety, and smartphones in age appropriate ways. The site is broken up for kids, tweens, and teens and does a fantastic job of presenting information to kids in a way they’ll understand.
More helpful articles from Parents.com:
Teen working on laptop in bed in the morning via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
June may be Internet Safety Month but in honor of the start of summer and kids clamoring to play on devices more than they do during the school year, it’s not a bad time to review online and mobile safety policies in your home. Having a conversation together rather than laying down the gauntlet about the dos and don’ts is always preferable. Kids need to feel empowered and like they have a say in the decisions in order to take more ownership of the rules.
If having a conversation seems scary and you’re not quite sure where to start, here are five helpful resources that can provide conversation starters and guidelines for your discussion.
Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) is an international nonprofit organization that works with government, educators, as well as businesses and other nonprofits to make the online and mobile worlds safer for kids and families. Free downloadable materials available through the Parent Resources include Internet Safety Tips for Kids, Top Internet Safety Tips for Parents, and a Family Online Safety Contract with a side for parents and kids that is reasonable and realistic for today’s families.
Common Sense Media can help provide guidance about that hot new game that your child insists that all their friends have and is a must-have for your home. Before jumping into any purchase, stop at Common Sense Media for helpful reviews on apps, games, and movies to make an informed decision about the media that is part of your child’s life. Common Sense also reviews TV shows, websites, books and music, making it the most comprehensive and unbiased source of information online for families.
Recent survey results published by Cox Take Charge! found that tweens openly admit to engaging in risky online behavior including breaking family rules, accessing inappropriate content, and covering their tracks as they go to hide their activities from their parents. More than anything, parents of tweens need to create conversations that involve their tween. Start by getting up to speed on the latest terms your tween may be using through the Take Charge! glossary of terms. Then swallow some pride and ask your tween to teach you what they know. They’ll love the role reversal and being the teacher and chances are, you’ll learn a lot from them that will be beneficial to your relationship in the long run.
If a conversation about a mobile phone is happening in your home or comes up during the summer months, the thoughtful individuals over at Safely have developed a family smartphone agreement to serve as the springboard for that must-have conversation you need to have with your child before you take the steps to purchase a device. This five step contract incorporates important talking points but includes humor with each rule. For example, the agreement outlines how a phone is a privilege but “ownership of a phone is not guaranteed” and encourages kids to make good decisions or else they “may have to resort to tin cans and string to get in touch with anyone.”
NetSmartz acknowledges it can be hard to have conversations with know-it-all teens but older kids need to be mindful about things like their digital reputation when posting on their social media networks. It’s often hard for this age to realize that the things they post to Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and other online sites are there to stay and what this could mean for their digital reputation. Through their Real Life Stories section, NetSmartz has content tailored to teens about topics that take on a serious tone and feature stories from teens who have been victimized in real life. Videos like Your Photo Fate that details what could happen with a photo once it leaves their control and Cyberbullying: You Can’t Take It Back encourage teens to learn from their peer’s mistakes, recognize risky behaviors, evaluate their choices, and encourage communication with trusted adults.
Safety first concept with green key on computer keyboard via Shutterstock
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