Posts Tagged ‘MySpace’

Protect Your Kids on Social Networks

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

As many of you know, I've been working as Consumer Reports' social media reporter since February. I love this work, and it fits so well with my commitment to sharing important consumer news with parents right here on Parent Talk Today.

I usually do my work for the organization as @CReporter on Twitter. But my editors also asked me to write a Consumer Reports blog post, "Eight Ways to Protect Your Kids on Social Networks," which talks about how to keep kids safe on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc.

Nancy Willard, director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, advises parents, educators, librarians and policy makers on how kids can use the Web safely. Her advice in this post can help keep your kids safe.

For more on information on surfing the Web safely, visit the Consumer Reports Guide to Online Security.

Here’s a Safe Social-Media Option for Girls Ages 8 to 12

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Not ready for your 10-year-old daughter to be hanging out on Facebook or MySpace or Twitter just yet? I don't blame you.

Fortunately, companies are picking up on parents' concerns about the Web and are creating products for tweens that provide safeguards from the stranger dangers inherent in the online world.

My Secret Circle is a secure social-networking world designed for girls ages eight to 12. Girls can hang out online, chat, share pictures and play games — safely.

My Secret Circle is invisible to the regular online world and is not a Web site. By purchasing online access keys featuring unique ID codes, only friends can connect on My Secret Circle by exchanging private codes. Once a code is used to connect two friends, it is inactive and can never be used again. Since the codes are embedded in the product itself, girls never need to upload personal information online, further enhancing the security of the network.  

Other features of My Secret Circle include profile pages, an avatar tool, an online journal that can be kept private or "public" (for friends to read), instant messaging, games and an extensive photo feature in which girls can upload photos, add text and create slide shows. 

The access keys can be purchased individually or in a pack that includes two keys. Also available (separately) is a headset with microphone that allows girls to voice-chat online in a secure environment.

My Secret Circle is currently available for purchase at Justice stores across the U.S. for $19.99. The two-key pack retails for $29.99 and the chat headset with microphone is $14.99.

M.I.A. Tune, “Paper Planes,” Doesn’t Cut it With This Mom

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

I'm proud to introduce Lynn Armitage, a professional journalist/editor and a terrific blogger.

Lynn created her blog, A Mad Mom, because "Yep, I’m mad all right. Mad and disgusted by all the destructive influences on our children in this society: rap music, violent video games, sexually provocative t-shirts, slutty kids’ fashions, MySpace, mean-spirited schoolmates, bitchy, spoiled young girls with major BRATtitudes, reality shows like “America’s Top Model” that send the message to girls that they’re fat if they’re larger than a size 2, etc.."

Here's a terrific guest post from Lynn. For more, visit A Mad Mom.


OK, moms… I know you’ve heard this song, and I wonder if it
bothers you as much as it bothers me. It’s a very popular, overplayed
tune called “Paper Planes” by M.I.A.

When you first listen to it, it has a cool sound, a catchy tune and the
singer belts it out in a very distinctive voice, I'll give her that.
You can’t help but listen. Then comes the chorus: “All I want to do is… (pop, pop, pop – the sound of guns going off) and take your
mo-nay…” Then you hear a cash- register drawer opening up.

I first heard this song, my teen acted out the gun-shooting part with
the thumbs and index fingers on both her hands, as though she was
actually shooting at someone, and then when the sound of the cash
register comes, she pulled down on an imaginary slot-machine lever. I
couldn’t figure out what she was doing and what “mo-nay” was, and she
quickly educated me.

“Mom, it’s ‘money.’ They’re shooting
someone and taking their money.” At the end of the song, the gangsta
gal brings it to a dramatic close by singing, "Some I murder, some I
let go… "

What the HELL??? Is this what record producers
think our children need to sing along to, or for that matter, is this
what these musical geniuses think is going to sell records? Who do they
think is going to give our teens the money to BUY these records,
anyway?? Not me, and I implore YOU not to buy this CD or let your
children download this song to their iPod, either! Since WHEN did it
become popular for our children to emulate and glorify gangsters?

PLEASE do your children — and the world — a favor and switch the
station every time this song comes on. Either find the Disney Channel,
some soft-rock station or shut the radio off altogether and use this
time to connect with your children in a loving way, rather than the
way Hollywood is trying to reach them — through mainstreamed violence.

So Your Kid Won’t “Friend” You on Facebook?

Friday, October 17th, 2008

Facebook, Inc.

Thanks to writer Liz Seegert (who is also the mom of a teenage son) for telling me about a terrific article by Lisa Belkin in The New York Times Magazine: "When Your Kid Won't 'Friend' You."

Belkin talks about joining a Facebook group called “Moms of Kids Who are Embarrassed They Have a Facebook.” Apparently its ranks are growing quickly.

How old should a kid be before joining Facebook or another social-media site? Is it strictly his business what he does there — or are you, as a parent, obligated to see what's on his page and to make sure he's making good decisions, not giving out too much personal information, not posting something that might hurt his chances of getting a job after college, etc? (Man, life used to be so much simpler, didn't it?)

I had no idea how wide-ranging the opinions are on this topic until I started reading the comment after Belkin's piece. Let's just say there's no clear agreement here. But reading others' thoughts on the subject might help you look at all the issues and decide what's right for your kid.

And, really, with all the craziness surrounding kids and Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Who-Knows-What-Will-Be-Invented-Tomorrow, that's all we can do, right? Look at all sides of the issue, try to put pressure (from our kids, their peers, other parents, the media) aside and decide what's best for our family.

Hey, nobody ever said this parenting thing would be easy.

Cyberbullying: What Parents Need to Know

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

The whole idea of cyberbullying makes me crazy. Bullies aren't just relying on the threat of a bloody nose after school these days. (As if that wasn't bad enough.) Now they've emerged in cyberspace, able to steal a kid’s pride and confidence instead of his lunch money.

What exactly is cyberbullying? "It consists of a person who uses the anonymity of the Internet to ridicule, make fun of or put down another person on an Internet conversation site, such as a chat room, a bulletin board, MySpace or Facebook," says Tony Jurich, a professor of family studies and human services at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.

At the heart of any bully is actually a coward who uses his or her advantage to humiliate, demean or embarrass, says Jurich. Instead of working on their own issues, bullies pick on others to feel better about themselves. The difference is the cyberbully gets more coverage and a wider exposure. One catty remark can hit thousands of people in a very short amount of time, he explains.

It takes courage to stand up to this kind of bullying. But cyberbullying must be addressed at home, in school and throughout society as a whole. And here's the take-home point on this whole thing, according to Jurich: Students should be smart about what they reveal. The less information that a child or teen puts out on the Internet, the safer they will most likely be. But even that is no guarantee. Even if kids turn off their computers, they can still be victimized by cyberbullies who use the Internet to ridicule them for something that happened at school.

It’s important that children know the steps to take if they are a victim of cyberbullying. Encourage them to talk with you if they feel they have been bullied online. Communicate the importance of printing a hard copy of an insulting remark. And be sure to alert other parents, teachers or even the police if necessary.

Protect Your Child From Identity Theft

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

When my son was in elementary school, we used the Internet to look up facts on dinosaurs, earthquakes and Benjamin Franklin for school reports. But now, as a sixth grader, Matt is starting to dip his toe into the social aspects of the Internet, such as e-mail and instant messaging. I’m sure he’ll be wanting to check out Facebook or MySpace before long. (Although I’m certainly not pushing it!)

Of course, we’ve had conversations about the importance not posting personal information on the Web, for safety’s sake. But now the Federal Trade Commission is urging kids to avoid posting personal information for another important reason: identify theft. The problem isn’t just for adults anymore, they say.


According to the FTC, identity theft from victims age 18 and younger increased from 6,512 in 2003 to 10,835 in 2006. (These figures are based on formal complaints only, so actual incidences of identity theft are higher.) In 2003, about 3 percent of identity-theft victims were younger than 18. By 2006, the figure had risen to 5 percent.

The “friends-of-friends” aspect of social-networking sites allows pre-teens and teens to provide information about themselves that can now travel far beyond the kids they know. And these sites can increase our kids’ exposure to people who have criminal intentions. The FTC and other online-safety experts (see below) suggest these tips for socializing safely on the Web:

°     Know the potential audience.
Think about how different sites work before deciding to join a social-networking site. Some sites will allow only a particular community of users to access posted content. Others allow everybody and his brother to view postings.

°     Encourage your child to think about keeping control over the information she posts. She might consider restricting access to a select group of people, such as her buddies from school, a club, a team or a community group.

°    Keep critical information private. Tell your child to never post his full name, Social Security number, address, phone number or bank and credit-card account numbers — and don’t post other people’s information, either.

°    Keep screen names vague. Make sure your child’s screen name doesn’t say too much about her. Kids shouldn’t use their name, age or hometown on social-networking sites.

°    Remind kids that posted material never disappears.  Once your child posts information online, he can’t take it back. Even if he deletes the information from a site, older versions exist on other people’s computers.


To learn more about avoiding identity theft online, check out the following organizations:

°    i-SAFE — Endorsed by the U.S. Congress, i-SAFE is a non-profit foundation dedicated to protecting young people on the Web. The site incorporates classroom curriculum with community outreach to empower students, teachers, parents and law enforcement to make the Internet a safer place.

°    National Cyber Security Alliance — This non-profit organization provides tools and resources to help keep kids (and adults) safe online. NCSA members include the Department of Homeland Security, the FTC and many private-sector corporations and organizations.

°    Staysafe — This educational site helps consumers manage online safety and security issues.

°    Wired Safety — This group is made up of volunteers around the world. Wired Safety provides education and assistance on all aspects of cybercrime and abuse, privacy, security and responsible technology use.

°    Federal Trade Commission — To file a complaint or to get information on consumer issues, visit the website or call toll-free 877-382-4357. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity-theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law-enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

°    GetNetWise — This is a public service sponsored by Internet-industry corporations and public-interest organizations to help ensure that Internet users are protected.

°    Internet Keep Safe Coalition
—  This site, the home of Faux Paw the Techno Cat, was created by a coalition of 49 governors, law-enforcement agencies, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other associations dedicated to providing tools and guidelines to teach children to use technology safely.


Experts at Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, note that child identity theft can go undetected for years because it often isn’t discovered until the victim applies for credit, tries to rent an apartment or tries to open a bank account. There are things you can do to protect your child against identity theft offline, too:

°    Don't let kids carry their Social Security cards in their wallets. These cards should always be stored in a safe place.

°    Keep your child’s magazine subscriptions under your name, not his. This helps prevent your child's name from appearing on mailing lists.

°    Pay attention if your child starts receiving junk mail.
If your 12-year-old suddenly begins receiving credit-card invitations in her name, it may mean that her personal information has been compromised.

°    If someone insists he needs your child's Social Security number, verify that he really needs it. I have started questioning this practice at doctors’ offices, and have refused to give out my family’s Social Security numbers to be used as patient identification numbers. When I explain my reason for refusing, most staff members have been understanding. Some have even said “Gosh, I guess I shouldn’t give mine out at my doctor’s offices!”