The other day my friend Joseba Gutierrez, PandaLive Technical Support engineer, sent me an email with the latest Robbie Williams video.
This time the British singer promotes the single Losers from his latest album Take the crown, in a peculiar way. Basically, he is sitting on a couch with his laptop as he sings out loud to users who are randomly connecting to Chatroulette and see it by webcam. For those of you who are not familiar with Chatroulette, this is a website based on the videoconference, but is unique in the randomness of the participants. Visitors begin to talk to a stranger, being able to leave the conversation at any time to start another conversation. The video is funny because some participants think Robbie is not really Robbie, but someone pretending to be him. Therefore, they disconnect themselves and go on to the next random user. But those who believe it is really him singing to them, are amazingly shocked. The video is clever, funny and has a surprising end of dubious taste.
But then I thought about the possible risks that a chat application of these characteristics may entail. I told you a few weeks ago that I loved to play Angry words. I usually play with my Facebook friends, but sometimes I also play with opponents who are elected by the application completely at random. It is not risky because the shared information is minimal and is always related to the games; how many times you won, how many you lost, how many you have resigned, what is the longest word you’ve written, in what languages you have played and little else.
In Chatroulette, the goal is to establish total and open video-communication with people you do not know at all. And although Chatroulette has gradually been applying more and more measures to protect privacy and content control, in my opinion it is still very easy to elude them. Let’s take for example, the point of access, the registration process, where anyone can enter false data. And that includes minors, who, as we know, are so keen on chats.
Chatroulette lays your identity bare naked. Speaking of naked, according to a study by RJMetrics published by TechCrunch, “The overall rate of perverts on Chatroulette is 13%. This means that about 1 in 8 chat sessions will have something decidedly rated R or NC-17. NC-17, according to the Motion Picture Association of America and American Association of Movies, describes NC-17 content as:
“Most parents would clearly consider it too adult for children under 17. The rating simply indicates that the content is appropriate only for an adult audience. An NC-17 rating can be based on violence, sex, aberrant behavior, drug abuse or any other element that most parents would consider too strong and therefore off-limits for viewing by their children “.
Clear as day. It is a real danger. An adult should be psychologically prepared to take pornographic content. However, a minor is much more vulnerable. Joseba, my friend, is a member of Chatroulette himself, so who better than him to see what he thinks:
Joseba, of all the times you’ve connected, how many times have you seen inappropriate content?
Since they changed the system which now requires registration and includes a more sophisticated ban system – not efficient enough because the filters are not performed correctly, though – I would say on average, 4 out of 10.
Have you ever videochatted with people who were clearly underage?
Quite a few times and almost always without adult supervision. The few times that there was an adult it was the 20 or so year old brother or sister who don’t care about what their little sister or brother is doing.
What would you recommend to a parent to allow his teen into these networks?
If the kid really wants to use the web to talk to new people as a fun pastime, and I understand it, as to me it is also a lot of fun, then, I would let him use it but always with supervision and control. If parents are not going to be on top of it or are a bit overwhelmed by computers, Internet and so on, I would choose a web filtering system or a system to block access to the site. That way they don’t have to worry about whether the child is using the web or not or what he is seeing or not.
I would add to what Joseba says that, once again, parents have to make an effort to know what sites and networks their children use. An informed parent can always prevent.
I post a video on Chatroulette that was shown in Southpark to laugh a little.
What is your opinion? Had you heard of Chatroulette or similar programs before? Do your teens use or have ever used Chatroulette?
Today is Safer Internet Day. This day promotes safer and more responsible use of new technologies, especially among children and young people across the world. This year’s theme is ‘Connect with respect’.
The Internet has become a necessity of life for many of us, and the possibilities to stay connected to the Web 24 hours a day are endless: through your PC, laptop, smartphone, tablet, etc. The World Wide Web allows you to book a hotel room, buy a book, publish a picture with your friends or check the weather in Madagascar, just with a couple of clicks and from anywhere. However, as the saying goes, ‘With great power comes great responsibility”.
Social networks have become a huge ‘shop window’ for people, who use it to show others where they’ve been on vacation, their new leather jacket or a picture of their baby. We use them to chat, post messages on our walls, read other people’s messages, that is… to communicate. However, all these activities must be performed with utmost respect and responsibility.
All the information that you share on the Internet leaves your control and it is therefore highly advisable, especially for young people, to be extremely careful what you share through social media, and who you give access to your account. It can be very easy for people to use that information for the wrong purposes, and there are contents you might not want everybody to see.
For these reasons, we’d like to provide you with a series of simple tips for parents and teenagers that will help make your digital life a safer place:
For children and young people:
Don’t share personal information: With chat and IM programs you can never be 100% sure who you’re talking to. That’s why you should never keep people you don’t know as contacts and -unless you’re sure you can trust the person- never share data such as your telephone number, address, personal photos or other private information.
Always be friendly: Treat your friends and other people in the same way you would like them to treat you. If you come across activity or comments that you don’t like, tell your parents, teacher or other adults you trust. And don’t just stand by and watch, even if you are not the victim.
If you have any doubts, ask your parents teachers or other adults: When you receive information that you don’t understand or you think looks dubious, before you do anything, speak to someone you can trust (your parents or teachers, etc.). You should never click the links in these types of messages.
Browse the Web with caution: When you communicate via messaging or email, you often receive links inviting you to view information. It is advisable never to click directly on these links, but to type in the address in your browser instead. You should also be careful when you view movie trailers, TV ads or when you download games: These are often used as bait to infect your computer. Before opening any of these, scan it with an online antivirus or the security product you have installed. If you’re not sure, always speak to your parents.
Use strong passwords: Use strong passwords, and have different passwords for the different online services you use. It is also a good idea to change them regularly. If you detect anything suspicious, report it straight away! There are specific channels for reporting these activities.
Learn how to recognize Internet scams: No matter how real it may seem, the truth is you haven’t won the lottery and nobody is offering you the job of a lifetime. Similarly, your bank will never ask for your details via email. Good software can detect these threats, and a bit of basic security training combined with common sense will help you learn to identify these scams.
Security training + Parental control = the best formula for protection: It is important for you to recognize the main threats to your children on the Web so that you can educate them and teach them what to do when they find themselves in difficult situations. Installing a good parental control system will help you in the difficult task of ensuring that your children have an enjoyable and healthy online experience.
Protect your computer with good security software: Keep your computer -and your family- protected at all times with latest generation security software against the sophisticated infection techniques used by hackers. If you don’t have an antivirus installed, we suggest that you download our free antivirus solution Panda Cloud Antivirus.
Last week, in Hooked on the Internet? we described the symptoms someone going through a so-called addiction to the Internet could experience. Today we continue discussing this issue, as, incidentally, a couple of days ago, several newspapers published the findings of a study on Internet addiction. The study was carried out in seven European countries selected by the European Commission and 2000 teens took part in each country.
Here goes an extract of the key findings regarding the use – or abuse – of the Internet by European teenagers:
12,7% of European teenagers are at risk of developing an addiction to the Internet.
Spain tops the ranking with 21,3% of teenagers at risk of becoming addicted to the Internet.
1.5% of Spanish teens are already experiencing the symptoms of an Internet addiction.
27,8% of Spanish teens reported using the Internet to the point of neglecting other activities.
Spanish teens are particularly fond of social networks and chatrooms. In actual fact, 91,6% of Spanish teens from 14 to 17 years old use social networks on a daily basis.
39,2% admits spending more than two hours a day on these type of sites.
Almost 3 out of 10 use the Internet and neglect other activities and they spend 2 hours a day online!! Why? Well, I think the Internet is just the perfect environment for teens to express themselves. But, why so long a day? Because teens who already show signs of addiction have no limits. Whose responsibility is that? In my opinion, it is the parents’.
This is my take on the issue. By the time working parents get home after a hard day at work, they also have to look after the household tasks, tidy up the house, cook meals, make sure their children do their homework. After all those activities, the little energy left is dedicated to winding down in front of the computer, TV or, if they can keep their eyes open, read a book. Or a combination of them all.
When the weekend arrives, little time is left for sitting down and chatting to the children to interact with them, exchange thoughts and give them the advice and guidelines they so much need.
My point is that we should reflect on the concept of quality time. Now, this is my personal opinion, don’t feel patronised. To me, it is not so much a question of how much time you spend with them but rather on the quality of the amount of time you dedicate talking to them. I am also a busy working mom and my energy levels in the evening are at its lowest ebb. But I try to make a conscious effort with my child.
I suggest even if only for 20 minutes a day, save this slot for you and your children. Switch off the computer; turn off the TV and the mobile phone. That will be your time, no interference from Whatsapp or whatnot. Chat in a natural way, do not resort to (tempting) one-way interrogations. Don’t take advantage of the new information they provide just to grill them.
Keep calm and actively listen. Find out what they worry about, what they enjoy, what they think of their friends, what they expect from you. Tell them about your worries as a parent but relate to them, you were a teenager yourself once – a long, long time ago -. Explain that enjoying playing games online or having a good time on social networks is OK, tell them that you also think that technology is fantastic, but in moderation. Make sure they understand the dangers of the networks. Do not alarm them, but make sure they know what could happen if they are not reasonably cautious.
In my humble opinion, if parents and children dialogue from an early age, children will naturally understand and accept the need for limits without kicking up a fuss or rebelling. I think this could be a positive and worthy experience! Well, I hope so, anyway. What do you think?
As you know, at La Piazza we usually give advice to improve the safety of adolescents. Yes, those adorable half-child, half-adult creatures so vulnerable to the dangers of the net. Today we’ll talk about how parents can tell if their teenagers may be having an addiction type of issue or could be misusing the Internet. Actually, this article applies to anyone, regardless of age, so read carefully!
Although I don’t think it is clinically proven that an Internet addiction pathology as such exists, it is an ongoing debate and it is worth taking a moment and considering whether we could be making an excessive or inappropriate use of the net.
Let’s see. In my spare time, I browse the Internet an average of 40 minutes a day on weekdays and about twice that time at the weekend. I use the Internet as a means to entertain and inform myself. I love reading various national and foreign newspapers so the Internet for me is one of the best inventions ever. It allows me to catch up on the latest events either through digital newspapers or through social networks such as Twitter.
Also, a while ago, a good friend of mine recommended me the game Angry Words (online multi-player word game) and I confess to be hooked to it. My only consolation is that it’s an instructive game the whole family enjoys, even though we are starting to get nastily competitive to see who gets the “angriest word”.
The rest of the time I spend on the Internet I normally use it to look up recipes, watch YouTube videos, listen to music and little else.
My husband also makes a similar use of the network and my daughter, in full pre-teen stage, really likes playing different apps and listening to music. She also uses the computer daily for homework or school work, but more out of obligation than pleasure, so that does not count. We try to make reasonable use not prevent us from making another different type of activity.
I personally think that, a person who feels fascinated by a hobby and invests in it huge amounts of time has the ability to learn, encourage creativity and communication. But I think the key for it not to become something harmful is based on making a conscious use of the Internet, knowing that many games, videos, activities, etc. may have an addictive component. Once you are aware of this, it is imperative to manage the time spent on the Internet to prevent it from turning into something harmful.
At home we know that Angry Words is addictive, and if we did not say Enough!, we would probably spend hours and hours on the computer that would stop us from doing other kind of activities together. The difficulty lies in establishing the limits between an intensive use of technology and the emergence of the direct consequences of the activity.
Take this extreme example: two teenagers from Rocklin (California) drugged the parents of one of them to avoid the ban on the Internet after 22:00 (see full story here).
So, how many of the following statements do you identify with?
You spend more and more time online to be in good spirits.
You are not able to reduce or control your access to the network, however hard you try.
You invest considerable amount of time in Internet-related activities, (purchase of books, testing new browsers, organization of downloaded material, etc.).
Social activities, whether professional or recreational, diminish or disappear because of your Internet use.
You stay connected despite knowing that this is a persistent and recurring physical, social, occupational, or psychological problem (sleep deprivation, marital conflicts, job neglect, feelings of leaving loved ones …).
Dare you share with us how much of your free time you spend online? Have you stopped doing things because you are compulsively glued to your computer?
A new post on the parenting and teenagers struggle.
I am an advocate of communication between parents and children. I think it is essential for parents to be informed and to strive to make communication with children smooth and close.
Having made this statement, I regret to say that I have serious doubts about its utility.
At La Piazza we are continually giving advice on how to help our children protect themselves from the dangers of the Internet. Again and again we emphasize how we must talk to them, we try to make them see that the network can magnify any nonsense and multiply it by “n” turning something insignificant into a real tragedy. And unfortunately, there are dramatic cases to prove so.
Last week the local Police Computer Crime squad gave a talk at my children’s school. They explained in great detail and with real examples the dangers children face on the network. My children returned home surprised and shocked. As if they had never heard their father and I talk about these issues. Well, I guess a uniform can be more imposing yet not imposing enough, because a few days later, several of my middle child (12 years old) classmates were expelled from school for uploading pictures of their teachers to Facebook, obviously without their authorization. My big girl (15 years) changed her Twitter profile picture to one displaying half her body only covered by a small bikini top. Well, I guess it is a quick way to get followers. To top it all, both girls tweet nonstop about every detail of their daily lives, where they are, who with, where they will be going next, upload pictures of themselves, of their brothers …
Friends of mine have a 11 year-old child who blatantly lied to their parents when they caught him bragging on Facebook about the amount of alcohol he had drunk the day before. Despite trying to convince his parents that his Facebook account had been hacked, they began to watch it closely. Result: the child created a second profile where he could publish things “unfit” for parents …
Let’s do a memory exercise. All of us, parents of teens, were teenagers not so long ago. What crossed our then young and reckless heads? The same thing as it crosses their minds. The thing is that parents are not aware of anything. Teens know exactly what they need. No one understands them. They found the love of their lives and they will love him/her forever. And above all, what really matters are friends. Best friends. True. Those to whom they tell everything and the only ones who understand.
Therefore, what is the point of insisting that not everything on the Internet is true, that they have to be careful, that it is not good to give their location coordinates with great detail, that they should not upload photos from home – geolocation enabled of course, who ever remembers to disable it? -, and so on to complete a list of 10, 20, 30 points pointing out the infinite dangers of the network.
Parents have to resign and be aware that those who really influence their children are others. If Stephanie Meyer, famous for her Twilight books or any other writer popular among teenagers and young adults wrote a novel in which the central character was a teenager who was bullied in the network and driven to suicide, tragically like Amanda Todd’s trance, the impact and exemplary positive consequences would probably be vastly superior to any maternal / paternal advice to prevent them from sending “sexy” pictures to their current “boyfriends”. Or imagine any of the characters in Glee going through something like what Tim Ribberink – the poor old Dutch boy who committed suicide after years enduring jokes online about his sexuality – experienced. If the actor or actress managed the problem correctly, the beneficial effect for many teens scared of their sexuality would be awesome.
As parents, one thing must be clear, our children will not tell us anything until it’s too late and therefore, they will not follow any of our tips, as these are intended to restrict what they see as their own freedom.
What is left then? Using spying programs?
My position is always the same. This type of software should only be used as a last resort when there is reasonable suspicion that something serious may be happening. All there is left for us parents is to be very alert to any changes in behavior and never lower our guard. We must explain that these issues constitute a crime and must be denounced. And if in spite of all, they are already in trouble, we will give them all the understanding, help and support they need, both to get out of the mess and to teach them how to make it in this complicated cyber world we live in.
The internet is just part of life but sometimes it is not so obvious who you are talking to. We need to make sure our children are staying safe because there are some evil people out there, looking for vulnerable, innocent people…
And always remember that boys are just as vulnerable as girls.
Grooming, another word related to the internet and children we must learn. Unfortunately, nothing good comes out of it. Grooming is a tactical approach from an adult to a child, mostly with a sexual purpose. It is about insinuation, seduction and manipulation. It’s abuse. It’s a crime.
So far, in the offline world, this type of offenders used to spend months trying to gain the trust of his prey, even to the point of making contact with the family in order not to raise suspicions. But the Internet has accelerated everything.
Pedophiles move in those chat rooms which are most popular among children. They are aware of the latest trends in fashion, music and sport, to be able to present themselves as another child, or someone who is in tune with the interests of the child. The offender may be particularly adept at identifying younger children, more naive and vulnerable in a chat room, and go for it. They try to become his “special friend”.
Slowly he will obtain the child’s personal and contact information. Using tactics such as seduction, provocation, sending pornographic images, the criminal will finally persuade the child to undress, or to perform acts of a sexual nature in front of the webcam, or to send photos of the same type. Then starts cyberbullying, by blackmailing the victim to obtain increasingly pornographic material or to have a physical encounter with the child to sexually abuse him.
The step from the virtual world to the real world is gradual. Initial contact can quickly switch from an open chat room, public or semi-public, to a private chat room, then to email, SMS text messaging via mobile phones, instant messaging, and then to direct contact direct through a mobile or phone, or even by voice via the Internet.
There have been cases where the predator has sent the child a mobile phone to ensure that the child’s parents have no way of knowing, or of controlling the contact between the two.
Therefore, usually these are the steps:
He will persuade the child into speaking in a private chat room so that no one else can access the child. Often, he will ask the child for a non sexual picture of himself.
2. Establishing friendship bonds
He will show interest and concern over the child’s problems in order to create the illusion in him that he is his best friend.
3. Risk Assessment
He will ask the child about the location of his computer and about who else has access to it in order to assess the risk of being detected.
He will build a relationship based on mutual love and trust and he will suggest that with him, the child can talk about “anything”.
5. Sex talk
He will involve the child in explicit conversations and will ask him for sexually explicit images of him. At this stage, the pedophile will try to arrange a meeting with the child.
How to Prevent Grooming
1. Prevent the predator to have elements of blackmail. If there’s no element of force, no blackmail is possible.
2. It is very important to preserve the security and confidentiality of passwords of the computer. If someone steals our photos, we could be blackmailed as much as if we had sent the photos ourselves.
3. It is essential that the computer children use is well protected with a good antivirus with a firewall. Also, it is important to make sure the antivirus is always updated. Otherwise, criminals could obtain access credentials and steal blackmail material.
4. Last but not least, as parents, it is your job to convince your children that they should never download files from people they do not know well.
According to Wikipedia Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones.
All across the world boys and girls are using the built in cameras in their cell phones to take nude and semi-nude shots of themselves and sending them to boyfriends, friends, or classmates. Some only send the picture to a single person while others send it to dozens.
New research conducted by the University of Michigan has revealed that Sexting is now a common feature in young adult relationships today. It shows there is no psychological difference between sexters and non-sexters which contradict some reports in media stories that have claimed that sexters were anxious, depressed or had low-self-esteem. Sexting is now a normal dating ritual for teenagers and young adults.
Why can Sexting be dangerous?
Your mom probably warned you never to say anything you don’t want repeated. The same mentality holds true for Sexting. In the age of technology, things you want to keep private quickly can become available for public consumption. From text messages to photos to videos, nothing is safe. And once you put something out there, don’t even think about going back. Sexting seems like all fun and games until someone gets hurt… and that someone easily can be you, your partner or your family. It’s all too tempting to engage in sexual banter via text, instant message, email and other electronic communications. Maybe it’s with your partner, maybe it’s with someone else.
Why do youngsters Sext?
The motivation and act of sharing explicit personal photos is not new by any means. Sharing lewd photographs with other youth has been part of adolescent angst for many decades. But because of the widespread availability of mobile messaging and cell phone cameras, it has become very easy and very quick to forward explicit personal photos. Since 2008, sexting messages have become virally popular with tweens in North America and Europe.
The sexting problem lies in how easy it is to re-broadcast the photos, to the embarassment and shame of the originator. An innocuous experimental message sent to a cute boy or girl can quickly spin out of control, and the originator can become the laughing stock and shameful gossip dirt of the entire school. When a photo becomes viral online, it is virtually impossible to remove the damage and recall all the copies.
What can potentially happen next is:
Harassment or cyberstalking: threats to share the images
Outing: posting or sharing the images publicly
Impersonation: pretending to be the person who created the image and posting or sharing it publicly, often with the suggestion that the person is interested in sexual contact.
And always remember that nearly a quarter of sexters have regretted pressing “send” …