Sunday, December 26, 2010

CEO's Note - December

It Could Happen to Your Kids Too

Many parents understand that there are Safety issues out there but they feel
that they their children are somehow invincible and that the stories they
hear are only applicable to other children. Unfortunately, reality shows
different facts. Regardless of background or education kids are getting
involved with activities like cyberbullying or being attracted by online
predators - and often they don't even know what they have gotten in to.

According to iSAFE 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things
to them online and 53% admit having said mean or hurtful things to other
kids. The Internet is the new playground for bullying and and there are no
off hours.

So, I challenge parents to start NOW and take the next step to understand
that their children are vulnerable and educate themselves and their
children. Check out the full article here to learn the
basics about cyberbullying and how to protect your child.

Hanan Lavy, CEO
United Parents 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Facebook 101

What is Facebook?

Facebook is the largest social networking site on the Internet where people share personal info and photos, play games, plan events and engage in live chat.  Facebook represents a virtual world online where people can do just about everything they can do in the physical world, removing the actual physical presence.

Although there are many benefits to this online world such as positive social interaction, the ability to keep up with vast amounts of people, self expression and civic engagements, there are dangers as well.  As parents we need to educate our children about these dangers to help protect them.

Let's review some of them here:

1) Harassment - Example - "I hate you, you're a pig" is posted on your son's Facebook page for everyone to see.

2) Viral spread of personal info - Example - Son posts a party picture and his online friend shares with the school counselor. 

3) Detachment from the physical world - Example - Son spends too much time on the Internet and loses touch with real world: schoolwork, sports, family etc.

4) Geo Location Applications - Example - Facebook Places is enabled and your son checks in when he goes places, showing people where he is.

5) Inappropriate Contact - Example - Your son receives a friend request from someone he does not know and accepts because he wants a lot of friends.

Here are some ways to protect your child from the risks listed above:

1) Talk to them about Cyberbullying.  Let them know it is not okay and that you are there to help.  No matter what.

2) Explain that they are trusting every friend they choose with their personal info and to choose friends and content to be posted wisely.  

3) Limit your child's time online.

4) Review privacy settings to ensure that no geo location features are enabled and they are not sharing their information with friends of friends. 

5) Tell them to only accept friends the know in the real world and make sure people are who they say they are.

Finally, education is only the first step.  Children need to be guided and monitored as they grow to keep them in check, and watch out for them.  Consider installing software that monitors your child's behavior online.

For a more in-depth review of Facebook and how to protect your child please see "A Parent's Guide to Facebook" written by Anne Collier and Larry Magid, Co-Directors of 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sexting and Your Child

What is Sexting?  Is your child engaging in this activity online?  Most parents have at least heard of the term "sexting" which is used to describe a combination of the words "sex" and "text messaging" and describes the act of sending sexually provocative messages or visual images to and from cell phones and computers. While teens and pre-teens think the act of sending a flirtatious photo of themselves to their current love interest is fairly innocent they do not often think of the consequences associated with such behavior. The ability for the recipient to forward to a friend or even share with their entire online Social Network can be emotionally traumatizing for your child and even result in Legal allegations under the current jurisdiction.  

What can you do to help? Here are some basic guidelines:

Communicate - Be proactive and stay on top of your child's relationships and monitor their communications, particularly with online devices.  Have a conversation about appropriate communication and sexting to let them know that you are not naive to the world they live in.

Consequences - Make sure your child understands the cost of engaging in risky online communications. Show them examples of other kids that have experienced public embarrassment and legal consequences. 

Digital Citizenship - You child may have impeccable behavior in the "physical" world but it is important to impart to the rules online.  Anything that is posted or sent is indelible and can be shared virally and very quickly.  It's not like an incriminating note that is passed in class and can be ripped up to hide the evidence. 

Read more about the dangers of sexting and how to protect your child here 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Is Your Child Being Cyberbullied? Here's How you Can Help..

According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, 40% of kids in the US say they’ve been bullied on the Internet. Cyberbullies are often kids that know your children so there is a connection to the physical world that makes cyberbullying a very real part of their existence. Cyberbullying can be detrimental to your child’s self-esteem and even lead to suicide

What can parents do to help their children?

Dr. Michelle Borba, parenting expert and author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries put together eight ways to help your child through the experience of being cyberbullied so that they do not end up as a statistic.

  1. Keep an open dialogue with your child so they feel comfortable talking to you if something bad happens online.  Listen carefully regarding their online experiences.
  2. Let your child know you believe them and will not stop helping them until they feel safe.
  3. Do not promise your kid that you “won’t tell”.  You may need to step in.
  4. Save evidence.  Print out the messages and do not delete them.
  5. Set up a meeting with your child’s school guidance counselor and teacher.  Your child will need emotional support through this process.
  6. Create a “safety plan” for your child.  Who can your child go to if they don’t feel safe?  Find at least one adult staff member and one caring student that they can go to.
  7. Monitor your child’s emotional state closely.  If they show any signs of depression or suicide, get the help of a counselor or a trained mental health provider immediately.
  8. If your child’s safety is at stake or the cyber attackers are vicious, contact authorities.

For more information please read more of Dr Borba’s articles on Cyberbullying at her blog Reality Check

Monday, September 27, 2010

Online Safety

The term Safety today goes far beyond the sheer physical sense.  We used to teach our young children not to talk to strangers and to wear their seatbelt.  The Internet, however, has become   an integral part of our lives and we need to teach our children how to play safely online. The online world is vast and full of people, both real and chameleon like and it is our responsibility to make sure our children know the difference, so they are shielded from unwanted contacts and content.  Here are a few tips for how to achieve this:

Get to know their "world”: Ask your kids to show you around, and play in their virtual worlds. Do it with them occasionally, not to spy on them, but to get to know the territory and find out what they're enjoying and why. See what their avatars look like and what screen names they've chosen to represent themselves. You can talk with them about what kind of message their profiles and avatars transmit about them. This is a great early lesson in new media literacy. See who their virtual friends are and what types of activities they like. Are these friends from school? If not, take the opportunity to talk about how people online aren't always who they seem to be. The No. 1 safety tip in all cases is "Talk with your kids".

Respect for self & others: Teach your child that those avatars in the Internet play-place are real human beings with feelings– they need to respect others' virtual property, privacy, and identity as much as in the real world. This is the beginning of digital citizenship, which is protective and empowering for them as they learn to navigate real and virtual social spaces. The same holds true for the child. Teach the children that they are not on their own. If anybody hurts them, they should approach you.

Read more tips by Anne Collier from ConnectSafely