Kids and internet safety update
April 17, 2012 11:52 AM   Subscribe

Asking for an update on a previous question I posed a few years ago, about internet safety and kids.

I'd like to get updates to this question, please. It's to update a speech I give to parents about things their kids might be doing online that would not yet be on their radar, things that could be unsafe for the kid. Not so much looking for shocking things, of which there are an infinite number, but things that are legitimately worrisome from a child safety standpoint.

A prime example of something that's arisen since I last asked is anonymous chat sites like Omegle. Kids use them, and most of the parents I've talked to have no awareness of it. (I'm aware that anon chat apps are a thing on smart phones, too.)

Another good example would be Girls Around Me, which does just what its name suggests by using Facebook check-in data. In this case, the danger and the teaching point is not in the app itself, but rather in understanding the security implications of checking in to a location, and how that data could be used.

So, looking for current examples of sites/trends/apps/scenes that (a) young people are aware of, (b) their parents are probably not aware of, and (c) could be dangerous to the kids if they aren't smart in the way they use them.

Thanks in advance!
posted by jbickers to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Something I've just become aware of, now that we have a DS- friend codes on Nintendo DS systems; Swap Note allows photo sending, audofile sending, drawing sending.

And unless I'm insane, they can chat just like a voice call, too (didn't pay a lot of attention because the spouse handles all that setteryuppering of DS stuff).
posted by tilde at 12:10 PM on April 17, 2012

Unfortunately, it can happen just about anywhere.

I just started playing "DrawSomething" on my iPad, really fun game, playing with strangers. One guy I was playing with had a picture of his adorable child as his profile. First two games went fine. Third sketch, his word to draw was "tent" - so he drew a tent with a giant penis in it. Next word, "spaghetti" - guess what, he drew a penis in the spaghetti.

When it was my turn to draw, instead of drawing whatever word I was given, I wrote on the screen something to the effect of: "Nice - you drawing a penis underneath your profile shot showing a child's photograph. What part of FELONY and PEDOPHILIA do you not understand?"

So even something as simple as an innocuous drawing game on the internet can be dangerous territory.
posted by HeyAllie at 12:12 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

This might not quite fit with your given examples, but Tumblr and Pinterest both have pretty large pro-anorexia communities. Both have recently banned the multitude of thinspiration/pro-self harm images, but they're still around. Something for parents to be aware of, at least.
posted by lilac girl at 12:13 PM on April 17, 2012

Tumblr is chock-full of pro-ana and thinspiration (thinspo) media.
posted by Poppa Bear at 12:23 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think parents frequently overlook the fact that multi-player online play on the xBox or any other gaming system often involves real time voice chat.
posted by COD at 12:53 PM on April 17, 2012

Girls Around Me didn't use "Facebook check-in data." It used Foursquare check-in data.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 1:26 PM on April 17, 2012

Something to consider in this is that you are essentially "enumerating badness". Trying to make a list of every site where a kid could give information they shouldn't to some sketchy entity out there is a sort of a red queen's race one can never hope to win. What's worse, is that even heavily filtered sites which seem like they ought to be safe fail tragically in their execution.

Here's a great story about the potential dangers of teaching your kid to not talk to strangers, but it's only great because despite spending four days in the desert deliberately avoiding search parties, the kid didn't die.

Bruce Schneier makes the argument that teaching children what sketchy behavior looks like in real life or on the internet, and when they encounter it, to extract themselves from the situation as expediently as possible. He also makes the point that when this happens in meat space, the best thing the child can do is go straight to the largest group of adults and announce that some individual is creeping them out. The odds of one adult the child chooses at random being the bad guy is pretty slim, but the odds of whole group of adults you run into all being bad guys would require transpower-ball bad luck.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:08 PM on April 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Kid Charlemagne, thank you for your comment, but I think either you're missing the point of the question or I am misunderstanding you. I am not teaching children - I am doing basic awareness for their parents. Parents that don't know what an internet is, or what a google is. I'm giving them a basic understanding of things, so they can do some of the basics when it comes to parenting and online (for instance, keep the family computer in the living room when young kids are using it). The pro-ana thing is another perfect example of something that parents could educate their kids about and protect them from, but not if they have no idea it exists.
posted by jbickers at 7:22 AM on April 18, 2012

My point is that parents don't think rationally about this sort of thing, and that goes doubly when they don't understand the inherent nature and risks of the medium. Alerting them to the general dangers out there (many of which take in adults, as well as kids) without going into specific URLs makes them think about the problem more in a dynamic way rather than a sort of Maginot line "I'll block these sites and everything will be just fine" school of digital parenting.

For example, I used to work with a lady who was keenly worried about who was visiting her daughters facebook page. She was particularly alarmed by several visits from someone in New York. "Why would someone in New York be looking at my daughter's facebook page!?!?!?!" The right answer was either that her daughter's name was not unique; or had to do with the fact that she had visited her daughters facebook page from her computer at work, and our corporate servers were located in New York and she was her daughter's mysterious stalker.

Or check this previous AskMe out. Mom doesn't want Jr. to be browsing porn which is fair enough, but mom's approach is dubious at best and little Bobby may have done absolutely nothing other than have his e-mail address scraped by the same vast machine that pretty much scrapes everyone else's e-mail address sooner or later.

In both cases they were technically naive, but had been told about this thing that would protect their children from all the horrible dangers out there. In both cases, they were getting all angsty about something that was probably a false positive.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:51 PM on April 18, 2012

To extend Kid Charlemange's point, teaching parents about general classes of software/apps their kids will be using (social media, say, using twitter and Facebook as examples of the type) will give them a mental framework to classify new sites/apps as they arise, and likewise, general strategies for ensuring kid's safety online, which start with having a trusting relationship rather than trying to decide what technological "fix" might work.

If you haven't already, you should check out dana boyd's papers for the Internet Safety Technical Task Force.

Palfrey, John, Dena Sacco, and danah boyd, co-directors. (2008). Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies. Report of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force.

Schrock, Andrew and danah boyd. (2008). "Online Threats to Youth: Solicitation, Harassment, and Problematic Content." Research Advisory Board Report for the Internet Safety Technical Task Force. [pdf]
posted by canine epigram at 1:12 PM on March 2, 2013

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