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Create Anything you can imagine!
Minecraft is a creative sandbox game that sparks imagination and fosters creativity and problem solving skills. The game has seen many iterations over the years and can be accessed via Windows 10 PCs, Android devices, iOS phones and tablets, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and virtual reality platforms.
Minecraft was originally developed and launched by Mojang Studios in 2009 and fast become one of the worlds most popular online games. In recent years, Mojang has collaborated with Microsoft to establish Minecraft Education Edition allowing educators and students to leverage exciting modifications for the classroom to promote collaboration, creativity and critical thinking skills. The most popular version of Minecraft for the general consumer today is Minecraft Bedrock Edition. In this blog we will outline the features and provide guidance for how you can support the young gamers in your world play Minecraft Bedrock Edition safely.
Getting started with minecraft Bedrock edition
First, You’ll need a Microsoft Live Xbox Account for each child in your family. This is an @hotmail @outlook or @live email address. Once you have download Minecraft Bedrock from your device App store you will be prompted to login with your Xbox Live account. Here is further support to help you create a child Xbox account and add family members.
Creating a new world in Minecraft can be fun. You can set the game mode to play solo or multiplayer such as siblings/friends that are connected via a LAN (local area network - aka your home Wi-fi network).
Option 1: Create New World (Solo)
When creating a New World, scroll to Edit Settings and click Multiplayer. Ensure Multiplayer Game is switch to Off.
Option 2: Create a New World (Local Area Networks)
To play with a friend or sibling whilst via LAN (home Wi-fi network), Create a New World, scroll to Edit Settings, select Multiplayer On and choose LAN Players On. Ensure that Multiplayer mode is set to ‘Invite Only’. One player must start game play and invite a friend to join. Note: The friend will need to added to the friends list. You can search for friends using their Gamertag (Minecraft ID) see ‘Friend Mode’ below for further instructions.
Friends (Private - with others)
When playing via the Friends tab, this will allow you to connect with your friends. You can Add Friends by searching for their Gamertag. A Gamertag is your username in Minecraft - you can find this on the home screen. Be sure you have connected with only people who you know in the offline world such as family members or friends you have verified through a child’s parent.
What are 'Realms'? are personal multiplayer servers, run by Minecraft, just for you and your friends. Your Minecraft world is online and always accessible, even when you log off. Only people you invite can join your world, and what you do there is up to you: create, survive or compete! It's important to note that there are monthly subscriptions costs to Realms which are quoted in $USD.
Learne more about Reals here
SERVERS (public - with others)
You can join live online games by hosts (creators of worlds) who have chosen to make these servers public. You can join suggested servers or search for servers that you might learn about. As these a public online spaces, we highly do not recommend this mode of play for any young children.
Is your child ready to play Minecraft Bedrock?
1. Plan – work with your child to discuss the safe modes to play and what clicking ‘Friends’ or ‘Servers’ means (in terms of connecting with others). Explaining ‘why’ playing with unknown friends or serves could mean they encounter strange or tricky people.
2. Prevent – you have set up worlds with them and their friends list only included people you have approved (siblings or friends you have verified). A great way to ensure your child can play multiplayer mode safely with known friends is to collaborate with other parents to ensure they have connected with the correct users.
3. Protect – with multiple game modes available in Minecraft Bedrock edition, it's critical that you regularly monitor and supervise game play, as well as the the settings across Worlds that you and your children have created. Ask questions (often) about how they are playing and who with. Be sure to check in regularly and have them play where you can see and hear them. It’s also highly recommended you play with your child from time to time. This shows them you are interested in learning about their game play and can help you have important safety chats in a comfortable way.
HOW CAN MY CHILD ACCESS MINECRAFT EDUCATION EDITION?
You may wish to talk with the school to find out if your child's school is accessing Minecraft Education Edition. Many Australian schools across Government, Catholic and Independent sectors have purchased and activated bulk accounts for students and teachers. If your child's school has access to Minecraft Education Edition they can enjoy playing solo or collaboratively with siblings or friends on your home Wi-Fi network. You can learn more about Minecraft Education Edition and find the right download for your device here: Homepage | Minecraft: Education Edition.
Please note: at the time of writing this blog post all links and images were current and active. Some services, settings or layouts showcased may have changed.
About Among Us
Since it’s launch in 2018, Among Us (a game by Innersloth) has seen over 90 million downloads globally and played by users of all ages. It’s popularity boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 after many popular YouTubers began live streaming their game play.
Among Us is a multiplayer game of teamwork and betrayal. Players are tasked as Crewmates or the Imposter. A game will include mostly Crewmates who are tasked with activities to complete as they roam around Sky Headquarters. Imposters look like Crewmates but they are tasked with sabotaging Crewmate efforts by killing them off before the game ends.
Once one Crewmate is killed players can vote on who they a ‘suss’ on as the Imposter. The objective is to establish who the imposter is. The chat function with Among us provides a space for Crewmates to chat about who they think the Imposter might be.
Among Us is free to download on Apple iOS and Android devices. You can also view how Among Us collect your usage data here: Among Us (innersloth.com).
What Are The Risks?
Playing with strangers: The most popular mode of play is ONLINE with players joining public/open games where you will be connected with, play and chat with strangers.
Harmful language: The objective of an imposter is to kill, so conversations will lead to this theme. When in game play mode a user can click on the setting cog wheel to turn on the chat censor. This will block commonly known swear words from appearing in the chat. They will be covered with *****.
In app purchases: players may be tempted to purchase skins and accessories for their playing avatar/character.
Advertisements: players will be presented with ads before joining a game, these are unfiltered.
Can I Turn Off Public Game Play?
No, it’s not possible to turn this feature off. This means if you are not supervising your child whilst playing, they may select ONLINE and be able to instantly join public spaces. In public games players communicate with strangers.
Can my child play Among Us without connecting to strangers?
There are three ways that a player could enjoy playing Among Us without playing with strangers. It’s all about how you select to play. Players have a few choices for how they commence play, therefore it’s important your child knows how to set this up safely or you will need to do this for them.
Option 1: Host a PRIVATE game. It is possible to play Among us in ONLINE mode without connecting to strangers. Players can set up safe games by hosting (starting) their own games and launching it as Private. They can then share the game code with their friends. A new code is generated each time a game starts so they will need to be communicating via another platform to share codes. This means you will need to have iMessage or Facebook Kids Messenger to send codes to each other.
Option 2: Play LOCAL mode. Local allows players to connect to game servers that exist on the same WiFi network. For example anyone connected to your home WiFi (such as siblings or friends) can play together from separate devices. One player starts a local game and if the other players are connected to the same home WiFi network the game will appear in the list of available local games.
Option 3: Play solo in FREEPLAY mode. You can also enjoy playing Among us solo by playing Freeplay mode. Players are tasked with 4 challenges as they roam roll through Sky Headquarters.
How to access Among Us:
The game can be downloaded via the Apple App Store, Google Play for Android devices or on PCs via the Among us website. You can also start playing Among Us instantly on a browser on a PC by going to Among Us Play Online.
Learn the lingo
Crewmate - A player in Among Us tasked with collaborating with team mates to succeed at a mission and guess the imposter.
Imposter - the play of a game whose object is to sabotage Crewmate success and may kill Crewmates.
Tasks - A set of activities players complete throughout any given game
Host - A player the sets up a game of Among Us for other players to join.
Maps - three types of maps or worlds you can play in The Skeld, MiraHQ & Polis.
Sus - a term used in chat to highlight who you are suspicious of.
Sky -headquarters - Where you play Among Us.
Freeplay - a function in Among Us that allows you to okay solo with the challenge of completing task an board Sky Headquarters.
Tech gadgets are undoubtedly among the most popular gifts for kids landing under Christmas trees around the world this year. With smart home technology and the internet of things (IoT) creeping into our lives many of the top tech gifts for kids this Christmas require connectivity to apps, platforms and cloud services. If drones, smartwatches and fitness trackers, VR headsets, gaming consoles and smart phones/devices are on your youngster's wish list, it's important to get on the front foot when it comes to tech gift cyber safety. No matter the tech gift this year, be sure to follow our 3 steps to Plan, Prevent and Protect so that you child can enjoy using their new technology safely.
STEP 1: Plan
STEP 2: Prevent
Most 'smart' tech based gifts require alignment and connection with a mobile phone or tablet App/Application. All of which will require users to create a User Profile and agree to the company's terms of service. Every App has its own set of service policies. We understand terms and conditions can be wordy and long and it is natural to want to move on quickly to the fun stuff. When scanning terms and conditions we recommend looking out for the following key elements:
STEP 3: Protect
Tip: Setting up safe online profiles
Many tech gadgets will connect to apps on smart phones/tables. When creating online profiles we recommend you:
Top TeCH GIFT 1: MOBILE PHONES
Over the past decade, a culture has developed here in Australia, that when a child graduates from primary school and heads off to secondary school a mobile phone is an essential personal item. In more recent times we have seen this trend filter down to children of even younger age groups.
Mobile devices including Smart Phones and tablets are the portal to Social Networking and web browsing whereby young children have access to the world in their pocket. If a mobile phone or connected tablet is on this years present list here are some important steps you'll need to take to get it right from the start.
Disable Device Location Settings:
Discuss Posting Protocols:
Access Parental Controls:
Here at the Cyber Safety Project we are all for educating young people with safe practices and understanding the importance of safety precautions. There are however some great technologies available to parents to provide peace of mind when it comes to device use and monitoring what they children are exposed to. You may wish to explore software tools such as Family Zone or the new inbuild Family Monitoring features on the latest iOS update (for iPhone
TOP TECH GIFT 2: SMART WATCHES & FITNESS TRACKERS
A smart watch is a mobile device with a touchscreen display, designed to be worn on the wrist, often connected to an additional device such as smart phone or table. This enables data and information to be fed back to an App that provides analytics on your performance as well as acts as a secondary device for SMS messaging and even answering phone calls.
If your child's new smart watch or fitness tracker is paired with a Mobile App we recommend following our Plan, Prevent and Protect steps and review our Setting Up Safe Profiles above.
TOP TECH GIFT 3: VIRTUAL REALITY (VR) HEADSETS
VR Headsets fall into two categories, Mobile or Tethered. Tethered VR headsets connect to a device such as a PC or gaming console. Whilst, mobile headsets generally require the use of a smart phone with app connectivity to enjoy the immersive nature of Virtual Reality. As soon as you are required to download an App for immersive VR gaming or simulations you will be required to 'sign up' to the platform. In this case you must be aware of the games and apps your children are downloading, accessing and what information they may be inputting into this platform to gain access to the game or App. As each game or App has it's own set of terms, features and capabilities the Plan, Protect and Prevent strategy must be put in place.
PROTECT: Monitor the use of these immersive games and check for adult themes and levels of violence.
PREVENT: Set up a safe profile and review the settings to explore what you can control.
TOP TECH GIFT 3: GAMING CONSOLES
Create Safe Console Accounts:
Stay in control by accessing the game consoles built in parent controls. These enable parents to decide what content their children can access and which functions that they are able to use.
Disable in Game Purchases:
We have all heard of the credit card horror stories of young children accidently (or in some cases, knowingly) wracking up a hefty credit card bill through in-app/game purchases. After all, who doesn't want some more 'hay' in that farming app at the click of a button, or to upgrade your avatar skin to obtain additional status in your game?
Two key recommendations are:
Understand Online Collaboration Features:
Connecting with strangers online doesn't just happen on Social Media platforms, the gaming world is hyperconnected and highly collaborative. If your children play gaming consoles there is no doubt that they will have access to games that allow them to play, chat and even stream live video with other connected players from all over the world.
Set game play limits and life balance:
Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation officially recognised gaming addiction as a mental health condition. Similar to gambling mechanisms, popular games such as Fortnite make use of bright colours, sounds and reward systems design to keep players within the game. This method is called operant conditioning, where high level rewards occur randomly encouraging players to 'just play one more round' with the chance of a big reward. Not all children will become addicted to gaming, however according to our 2018 Digital Habits Survey, 83% of parents do worry about time spend on gaming and find it challenging to manage screen time and game play. A few things to consider when managing game play and strategies to assist your children with building skills to self-regulate for a healthier balance of daily activity:
TOP TECH GIFT 4: DRONES
Amongst other things, drones can take in some awesome views and share these directly to your smartphone as an image or video. With their long range GPS, WiFi connection and built in cameras, professional (and amateur) photographers are now hitting the skies to take some incredibly creative photos.
Drones are becoming social!
Like most technologies and interest groups, social networking has now become a big player in the drone game. When you connect your Drone to its associated mobile/tablet app, it may also connect you to the SkyPixel. A social networking platform for drone photography enthusiasts. You can upload your flight videos and photos for other SkyPixel members to like and comment. They can become your fan, follow you and send direct messages.
Be wary of location settings!
Like many Drones and associated Apps, The GPS features is a critical element of this technology. With location services turned on, your drone will be able to 'return to home base'. This is a great feature if you're a rookie drone pilot and lose track of your drone mid-flight, however this raises alarm bells for the Cyber Safety Project team when it comes to younger users of this technology - especially when connecting their profile to SkyPixel where users of all ages from around the world can connect with them.
TOP TECH GIFTS 5: SMART HOME HUBS
The internet can now be integrated into just about anything! Kitchen appliances, smart TVs, smartphones, in our cars... it was only a matter of time before the internet became integrated into our every day living. These nifty Smart Hubs can be lots of fun. Ask any home hub to play your favourite music, read out a recipe or find the answer to your burning question. You can even link these hubs to your smart home technology to activate or control appliances. Just remember that any smart, internet connected device is constantly listening out for you to interact and records every transaction. Much of this data is collected by the home hub or associated apps connected to your profile. Our biggest safety tip for these home based devices is to switch these devices off when not in use.
If you are a parent of a young connected citizen, you may have heard of Discord and are wondering what it is all about. Discord is an application/website in the long line of Social Networking platforms that has created a vast connected community of online users that blends video, voice and text chat features. Discord's main function is to provide a platform for gamers to communicate. It has now evolved into a general use platform for all sorts of communities, not just gamers, to connect and collaborate. Recent reports suggest the platformed has reached 250 million active users globally.
We recently spent some time using Discord. Here is what we discovered and felt most important for you to know about:
What is Discord? A Quick OvervieW
Discord is a free-to-use voice and text communication platform that can be integrated with many other online platforms such as YouTube, Spotify and Twitch. With a large percentage of it's users identifying as ‘gamers’, Discord Users create what is known as a Discord Server that can only be accessed through a specific invitation link. Within these Servers, people are free to communicate through text or voice Channels catergorised by topics. A helpful analogy to better understand online server/channel formats is to think of a Discord Server as a house and the Channels within that Server as the rooms in the house.
Let us paint the picture… as a Discord user, I can create a server (house) based on my favourite video game (or any topic). Within this server, I then can create different channels (rooms) where other users can connect and communicate in. These might be a general text channel, a place to talk specifically about the game, general conversations or sharing of content including links and images. Within these spaces, I can also add voice enabled channels to make it easier to communicate and share ideas.
All of the channels added and created within a server can be locked to certain members of the server. Whilst there are moderators that have the power approve or decline user requests and monitor content that is posted, be aware that these moderators are not always on top of what is being shared. We'll touch on this a little later.
Discord is very easy to use, freely available and accessible everywhere (across web browsers on PCs or the Discord App on tables/mobile phones). It offers it's users the opportunity to connect with others on a global scale and is rapidly expanding it's user base beyond the gaming realm.
WHAT WILL YOU SEE OR FIND ON DISCORD?
Discord has become an extension (additional platform) for many gamers to connected through 'feed/thread' style communication. When playing online games such as Fortnite, FIFA, Rocket League, Call of Duty, Fall Guys (just to name a few) users can only interact within the games functionality, which can be limited to just live text or voice chat.
Whilst Discord is social, unlike the traditional social networking platforms (such as Instagram, Facebook or TikTok), Users do not post content to a profile or scroll through a feed of random posts of you they follow. The drawcard for Discord users is that most of the interaction and conversations are hosted in private servers or channels and discussions revolve around gaming themes. If there is an online game out there, there is likely to be a Discord server that you can request to join.
Discord is a user generated platform, meaning that the User (not Discord) are responsible for creating servers that are made for the general public to join. Some are open and some a private. This means users can create a private server for their friends to chat and communicate with games, however, unfortunately, this also means users can just as easily create a NSFW style server whereby anyone within this group can share content and start discussion topics. It is common to find pornography, inappropriate content including sex, drugs, alcohol, racism and explicit language throughout Discord.
While gaming is the biggest draw card for many people to on Discord, we are beginning to see a variety of other topics/content appearing on Discord. It's also important to note that many servers are tagged as NSFW (Not Suitable For Work). These servers are noted as 18+ however provide little to no warning that a particular server is “NSFW” before joining.
MODERATION WITHIN SERVERS
The true attraction of Discord is that anyone can create a Discord server and invite others to join and participate. Once accepted into a Disco server, users can then post whatever content they wish to share. The creator or owner(s) of the server can moderate the content (delete items they feel are inappropriate) however not all of them do. Even in moderated servers, inappropriate content could be visible so for some time before a moderator gets around to reviewing or deleting it.
What are the Age rECOMMENDATIONS
Discord’s Terms of Service states that users must be at least 13 years old to access the platform. For Users to have the ability to view adult content they must verify their age. Frustratingly there is no technical way to verify a user's age online, so like with so many online platforms, a simple checkbox bypasses filters or barriers that may be in place. This really may cover the developer for any legal implications arising if younger people access the platform.
What SETTINGS CAN USERS LEVERAGE TO TAKE CONTROL?
In general terms, our investigation into Discord determined this platform is NOT safe for children and young teens. However, like many online platforms today, there are opportunities to “take control” of privacy, security and wellbeing with Discord.
Currently there are NO parental controls within Discord that prevent a young person from making changes to their Discord profile settings. This makes it easy for them to change settings themselves. If a young person in your care is using Discord we highly recommend monitoring and reviewing their use of the platform regularly. When creating Discord severs users can create and activate ‘safer’ servers to chat and game with friend which makes use of user verification technologies and automatically turns on Explicit Content Filtering.
In the image below, you can see the option to select “Keep Me Safe” mode. You can find this located within Privacy and Safety settings. This setting attests to scan (using inbuilt Artificial Intelligence to scan ) for Explicit and NSFW (Not Suitable For Work) content such as pornography, explicit language and other inappropriate material, blocking it from appearing throughout the platform. Whilst AI does work in some instances, this is never a guarantee.
Can I Make Discord Safer for My Children?
The short answer is no.
The settings do provide users the ability to report and block harmful content or users within the platform, but by this stage the damage is already done. To report on Discord you can find a step by step process available on their website here.
At the Cyber Safety Project, we believe that knowledge is power and therefore it is always important for those supervising young people who access connected technology it is crucial understand how the apps and different online platforms work. We also support the recommended age guidelines on applications and firmly believe they should be adhered to. For Discord this is 13+ years of age, and while it can be a fun space for teens to hang out with their friends, if you're worried about what your children might be seeing, take a closer look and judge whether this is a space online you are comfortable for your child to be apart of.
If you’ve decided to let your teen use Discord, it’s important to regularly have open conversations and talk to them about their experiences. Discuss how they are protecting themselves, what steps they are taking to protect themselves and who they are connect with. Be sure to actively engage with what they are doing and explore together any servers they want to access (or are already accessing) to see first hand what they may see while using Discord.
At the end of the day, this is another platform where people from all over the world can access. Whilst we can control what we do online, we cannot control what others say and do in public online spaces.
HOW CAN I GET HELP IF SOMETHING IS GOING WRONG
If you or your family are are experiencing challenges with Discord, immediately report the content (or user) to Discord through the App Settings (Discord Help Guides). You can also contact the eSafety Commission or Think You Know to report illegal or harmful content circulating on social networking sites.
The internet has become the world's first stop for accessing knowledge, exchanging ideas and sharing information with people from all over the world. Over time our digital footprint (the things we say and do online) paints a very detailed picture of our real life identity. As we communicate across multiple platforms to learn, work and play we leave a trail of identifying and personal information. There is a risk that the information and content you share, may fall into the hands of strangers.
What is Doxing?
To dox refers to the process of gathering and publicly broadcasting personal or identifying information on the internet, typically with malicious intent. This information may be collected explicitly by someone searching through a profile, where a user has voluntarily shared these details on a public or private site, or implicitly through posts, comments and imagery that our followers may find.
The term “doxing” is effectively “document dropping” which means to retrieve documents/documentation about a particular person or company in order to learn more about them or build a profile of details that could be one day used against them for benefit.
How does doxing occur?
The internet is the worlds largest information repository. In its early stages, only tech savvy individuals could publish online. With social networking and publishing tools so easy to access today, many individuals turn to the internet to connect with others and curate information to those who follow them. This has opened up a space for people to share small (or large) pieces of information about themselves. We can learn a lot about an individual by collating the details which paint a full picture about someone to the point of even predicting future behaviours. Here are just a few ways your personal identifiable information may be indirectly be given away online:
Why do people dox?
Most people perform a form doxing out of general curiosity. We have all being guilty of Googling the name a person, harmlessly "Facebook stalking" or scrolling through a new friend's Instagram to see if we can learn more about them. We can start to gain insights into this person through exploring their listed interests, interpreting their posts or observing their behaviours through photo and videos. Unfortunately there are some individuals that use the information they collect on others online for the purpose of blackmailing or taking revenge by threatening to expose the information that they have gathered about the person.
What are the consequences of Doxing?
It can be embarrassing when your private data, imagery or information falls in the hands of people who are not intended to have access to such information. Things can worsen if the doxed information such as a person’s social activities, medical history, sexual preference and other private information is made public. This can have a serious threat to health, livelihood or relationships of the victim. In many cases it is difficult for authorities to prosecute offenders of doxing because the victim has themselves shared the information or details themselves publicly or privately.
How do people access my information?
Generally people don’t consider the implications of oversharing until it’s too late. Most information that has been accessed about you online is because you published it.
The following are some of the most commonly targeted pieces of information that can be easily obtained through doxing across social networking and gaming platforms, personal websites and blogs:
Proactive strategies to protect your personal information:
It’s important for digital citizens to take control of their own privacy and security by having a personal set of protocols. Here are our top tips:
What can I do if I am being threatened?
Do not succumb to threats. According to Australian law, if this behaviour is used to menace, harass, or offend (using a carriage device) it may be considered unlawful, therefore you should report it to the police. If you are being Cyberbullied or someone is threatening to expose an intimate image of you (image-based abuse) you can report this behaviour to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner via https://www.esafety.gov.au/report
Cyberbullying, harassment and threatening behaviour (including doxing) is against the Terms of Service of most online platforms. You can report the user directly to the platform, they'll usually suspend the person’s account, or force them to take the post down or delete the post in question.
The Final Word
Remember, over time, the information you curate online about yourself can provide a pattern of behaviour could be used against you in a threatening manner. The things that people could publish about you are the things that you you’ve already given away about yourself, so take control and think before you post.
Messenger Kids (powered by Facebook) has just launched here in Australia. With the extra time on our hands during home isolation and limited social connections, this App is quickly gaining momentum as a 'safe' way to keep kids connected. Messenger Kids is a free video calling and messaging app for smartphones and tablets linked to a Parent's Facebook account. This means parents have full control and visibility over which friends and family they can connect and chat with. The App is extremely 'child friendly' with gamification embedded and fun-filled features like filters and stickers, commonly available across many social networking applications today. So, what do we think about Facebook's latest move to include a platform for children aged between 6 - 12?
We worry about some of the unnecessary data collected...
Your child will be encouraged to return daily...
Home isolation has well and truly started and if you have kept your eye on the social media download charts you'll know this app has exploded in popularity for both in adults and young people. Houseparty is currently sitting at #1 in the Social Networking category in the app store and there is no wonder. In a time were we face uncertainty (in isolation) where physically connecting with friends and family is no longer an option, we search for ways to connect with our friends and family.
What is Houseparty?
Houseparty is a private video chat app available on iOS, Android, and Mac OS. Houseparty allows users to group video chat, send text messages and leave Facemail (video messages). Houseparty allows users to simultaneously video chat with up to 8 others and within these video conferencing chat rooms you can launch and play fun virtual games. Like most social networking platforms today, the age restrictions on this application is 13 years old.
Keeping your kids safe on Houseparty
As we know, the digital landscape is constantly changing and with the current climate we are bound to see new apps and technologies landing on kids devices. So what can you do to ensure that your children are staying safe on Houseparty? Like always, it's highly important you plan, protect and prevent.
Plan - Do your research. Learn what this app can do and engage with your children through this discovery so that you can discuss both the fun features as well as start the discussions about how this app could be unsafe.
Prevent - We know the age limited for most social platforms is 13 and Houseparty is no different. If you feel that your child is ready to use this tool, it's important to set up their profile with them. At each step, discuss all entry fields such as personal information it asks for and how you wish to set up your visibility (Private is obviously recommended).
Protect - As you child engages with Houseparty be sure to have clear rules about where (in your home) they engage, who they connect with and be present when they use the tool. It's also important to discuss regularly with your children about their experiences included how they feel during and after playing on this app.
Naturally through our research we have deep dived into Houseparty so that we can break down all the things you need to know:
Things you must know:
Like many social networking applications this app does include security filters such as private profiles and setting connection permissions, however private is not set to as the default. If the users doesn't take the time to “lock” the room and choose Private Mode, others can pop into the video chat. Users can initiate a chat or, if friends are already talking, invite others to join their conversation. For a more private chat, one can “lock” the room so others can’t join. When a person who is not a friend enters the chat, an alert is shown, giving users the chance to leave the conversation, or meet someone new. Houseparty also allows users to also share photos and text messages via the app.
During our investigation we made a concerning discovery in other users ability to screenshot a video chat and immediately share this more broadly. IF someone were to take a screenshot the group members are not notified that someone has taken a picture of the room. The person who took the screenshot/image is automatically provided a pop up asking 'where they would like to share the picture'.
The content young people are exposed to in the app depends on the friends they are talking to, so users must pay attention to who is in their chat rooms, as no admins monitor them. Because video is live, there’s always a risk of cyberbullying and capturing conversations and the live video itself through screenshot and screen recorded and shared outside the app. Therefore it is important to have conversations with younger users and have them understand that while rooms might be locked they still don’t want to be sharing any personal information, images or demonstrate behaviours during the live video chats that could be captured/screenshot.
How to take control and minimise risks?
Through our work here at the Cyber Safety Project we see so many young people getting excited to use new apps that they rush the sign up and set up process to get started and connecting with their friends. Take your time when signing up, address the default settings and talk to your children about responsible and respect behaviours online.
All Apps will offer varying degrees of safety measures within the settings. It is the users responsibility to utilise these accordingly. It's important to review every setting option carefully and make a considered decision before turning any of these ON or OFF. This should be completed before you begin using the application.
For Houseparty, during sign up there are a number of steps that you need to work through before an account is created and it is here you are able to take the most control. Be sure to know that you do NOT need to include you phone number or location, although the app will absolutely try to collect this.
Step 1 – Provide Email, Username, Date of Birth, Full Name
Step 2 – Find Your Friend
Step 3 – Permissions
Step 4 – Change Default Settings
As the parent/career its critical that you understand the ins and outs of how Houseparty works before allowing your child to access the platform. Consider the risks and dangers associated to ensure you are equipped with the knowledge to then make an informed decision as to whether this application is appropriate for you child.
Join our upcoming webinar about 'Keeping Kids Safe On Social Media' where we will discuss ways to protect young people who love to connect and be social online.
As communities around the globe are dealing with Coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns and with school closures seemingly imminent here in Australia, we know that many educators and parents are exploring home learning options. We are in schools every day and seeing first hand how our schools are grappling with what home learning and virtual learning looks like now and into the future, so we thought we would share some fun and educational home learning resources that either educators or parents could add to their toolkits.
When determining if a resource is fun and educational, digital home learning we considered if this resource is firstly safe, promotes deeper thinking or skill building, encourages productivity or offers opportunities for active learning over consumption.
It's important to remember that when using any digital resource at home with young people, it will only be useful learning if you are active, present and engaged. So here is a simple structure (Teaching 101) to follow:
12 fun and Educational Home Learning Resources
1. General: Teach Starter (Primary School)
Home learning packs for all primary year levels designed for parents and teachers.
NB: You will need to sign up to a free account.
2. General: Laughing Kids Learn (Early Years)
Developmental play activities for 0 - 5 year olds
3. Literacy: Story time from space
Hear stories read to you by astronauts, from space!
4. Mathematics: Cool Math
A huge list of fun and interactive maths activities
5. Science: Experiments
A huge list of fun and active science experiments
6. Science/STEAM: Cool Australia - Sustainability Projects
A collection of free educational resources to promote sustainability
7. Media: Behind the News
Explore the latest news and current affairs pitched at Junior Primary children
8. Technology: Coding & Programming
Create your own programs, games and simulations for beginners to advanced coders
9. Technology: Cyber Safety
Lessons designed to promote safe internet use and cyber bullying
10. Maker Activities: Microsoft Hacking STEM
A range of open ended maker style STEM builds using materials you can find around the house.
11. Mindfullness/Wellbeing: Smiling Mind
Meditations, breathing exercises and brain activities
12. History: Global Museum Virtual TourLink:https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours
If you have any other suggested resources, we would love you to comment below!
TikTok is the worlds fastest growing entertainment apps recording over 1.5 billion downloads from the Apple & Google Play Stores in 2019. The App is jam packed full of features with more than meets the eye. This month we dive under the hood of TikTok to uncover what is really happening on this entertainment/social networking platform that has everyone hooked!
It has been a massive 12 months for TikTok as it becomes the global sensation and billions of users gravitating to the platform with many primary school aged children begging parents to join the revolution. So, what should you know about TikTok and how can you kids safe?
What is TikTok?
TikTok is promoted as THE destination for mobile videos. On TikTok, users from all of the world can generate and video short-form videos that are exciting, spontaneous, and genuine. All you have to do is watch, engage with what you like, skip what you don’t, and you’ll find an endless stream of short videos that feel personalized just for you. Users are free to discover millions of videos or they may choose to create their own original videos instantly within the platform that include creative special effects, filters, music, and more.
Whilst all users can view and create short, shareable, fun and informative content it comes with a warning that you may also see dangerous, sexual and downright inappropriate videos. You can follow, like, comment and instant message with anyone within the platform making this entertainment app a social network!
The world of TikTok is often promoted and seen to only include videos of fun dances and duets, pop music. The unfortunate reality and culture that is growing in this space is careless content is being shared which deviates from fun dances to far more sinister types of videos. A quick visit the open ‘discover’ section truly highlights the complete diverse content that exists for users to view.
'DISCOVER' on TikTok
With absolutely anyone, young and old using TikTok it's important to know that all users have the ability to view and search for content. Even before creating an account, when the app is downloaded you can immediately see all public content posted to TikTok. As was touched on earlier, TikTok is often promoted as a fun creative platform depicting users sharing fun dances and artistic editing. While that content does certainly exist, there is another side to TikTok that is concerning considering how easily accessible it is and the appeal that the platform has to young children.
Across so many of the shared videos the outfits, provocative poses, promiscuous dance moves, sexual connotations, drug references and crude language is the unfortunate the reality for much of the content within TikTok. This means young users are in-fact being exposed to interesting content. The concern here lies in how freely this type of content can be found. There has also been reported cases of users sharing more concerning content linked to self-harm, cutting, violence and pornography. Given free reign the ‘Discover’ section allows, users essentially have open search bar where users can search for anything their heart desires and be taken to the TikTok’s that fit within that category and or hashtag.
#CHALLENGES on TikTok
While they might not last long, on TikTok there is always a trending challenge promoted within the platformed designed to encourage others to try and tag themselves in. This promotes views and likes. These challenges sometimes promote dangerous and harmful behaviour that pose risks to those that engage in them. A recent challenge that demonstrated very dangerous outcomes was the #skullbreakerchallenge. A quick search of this hashtag on TikTok will highlight the obvious dangers of this challenge. The #skullbreakerchallenge involves two people jumping in the air and later a third, standing between them, does the same. Just as the third person jumps, the other two kick on the person's legs, making the jumper fall. The goal here is to make the person in the middle fall on his or her back, hence the name. There have been reports globally of serious injury, with many healthcare professionals around the world raising concerns over this irresponsible behaviour.
Another dangerous TikTok challenge that young people might fine is the #outletchallenge. For the outlet challenge participants used a phone charger, power outlet on the wall and a small coin. Users are encouraged to share videos of the challenge that requires them to partially plug their phone charger into the power outlet, leaving a small gap. They would then pass the small coin down the gap to cause a spark. The obvious dangers here are self-explanatory. These are all easily viewable through open unrestricted accounts.
Default Settings are the settings that are automatically assigned when you first create an account on any game or platform. These are created up the App of Game Developer who has set these to best benefit the platform. It's up to the user to then decide if they are happy with these settings or if they wish to change them.
TikTok's Default settings are set to public, meaning any other user can see content posted to a users profile and make contact/message that user. The first step in creating a safer space for young users to always set accounts private. To do this navigate to the profile page and select the ellipses (…) in the top right-hand corner to then select click on ‘Privacy and Safety’. Here you have several settings that can then be specifically managed to better protect the user’s safety and wellbeing when using TikTok.
TikTok Privacy & Security Settings:
TikTok's Digital Wellbeing Setting
Screen time: There is also a feature within the settings that looks at Digital Wellbeing and the management of Screen Time. Within these settings users can limit screen time within the app itself and can select time limits of 40, 60, 90 or 120 minutes and decide how much time they want to spend on the app per day. This feature is password protected and valid for 30 days.
Restricted Mode: An optional account setting that will limit the appearance of content that may not be appropriate for all audiences. This done through artificial intelligence scanning posts for inappropriate or hurtful content. Unfortunately this doesn’t always filter all inappropriate content. The feature is activated via password and is also valid for 30 days so be sure to regularly revisit this setting.
The age recommendation for TikTok is 13-year-old.
While the settings available to users and information provide specific actions that can be taken to protect young people, please note that doing so will only minimise the risk. What users say and share on TikTok varies and is outside of anyone's control. As parents be sure to actively explore the content in the Discover section of TikTok so you can see for your self your children will see. You will discover that whilst there is a lot of 'fun' shared on the platform you will also discover copious amount of suggestive, hurtful, sexual, harmful videos that you may not be happy for your children to see.
It is frustrating to think that bullying continues to be a problem amongst young people today. Being teased and bullied online can be particularly hurtful to a child, who may feel as if there is no escape from the relentless ridicule. While we all know bullying is exists, do you know how to tell if your child is a target of cyber bullying?
Statistics show that 1 in 5 young people under the age of 18 reported experiencing online bullying. Most children that experience bullying online are afraid or hesitant to tell anybody about their experience as a result of the fear that has been created such as deflated sense of self-worth or embarrassment, lack of confidence or do not feel that those around them can relate to how they are feeling.
What should I be looking out for?
The signs of online bullying are often similar to that of offline bullying. Like offline bullying, cyber bullying is defined as ongoing and deliberate hurtful or aggressive behaviour that occurs during time spent online. There is no exactness as to how a child may react if they are being cyber bullied. However, for a child experiencing cyber bullying there are some signs you may start to observe, particularly when they are using their connected technology. You may see a child demonstrate any one of the following behaviours:
I think my child may be experiencing bullying online, what can I do?
If you are concerned that your child may be experiencing online bullying here are some suggested intervention strategies:
1. Start by talking.
While getting all the details may seem like a good idea, your child may not feel entirely comfortable disclosing everything to you. In fact, your questions may feel like an interrogation. Instead, start by talking about your own online experiences, weaving in the good and the bad. It may seem strange or 'out of the blue' to hear you talking about technology in this way, so the earlier these conversations begin in your household, the more normalised conversations about this topic will become. It's also a good idea to regularly remind your children that 'there is nothing you could ever do that I wouldn't forgive', 'We all make mistakes and I am here to help you make things right', 'No matter what happens, I am always here to help'.
2. Discuss help seeking strategies.
Whilst we would all hope that our children come to us as the first point of call, for many children the thought of telling a parent is 'out of the question' for fear of technology being banned or getting into trouble. Help your child identify three trusted people (other than you) in their life that they could turn to for help when things are going wrong or they aren't sure what to do. This may be a grandparent, sibling, cousin, Aunt or Uncle or a teacher at school. Also ensure your children know how to access the kids helpline.
3. Document and report misconduct.
Should you find material online that you believe is inappropriate conduct an involves your child, take a screenshot of the activity as evidence. There are laws about cyber bullying that you and your children should be aware of. When reporting serious cases of bullying, the police will require access to social media accounts as well as evidence. If you aren't sure if you should report cyber bullying, check out this resource from the eSafety Commissioner.
Social Networking applications are taking greater responsibility for cyber bullying and inappropriate content appearing on their platforms. Most Social Networking applications have a reporting system in place aimed at flagging inappropriate content and abusive behaviour. Talk about these features and ensure your children know that when using these features they remain anonymous.
4. Limit online access.
If you start to see a behavioural shifts around the time your child is using connected technology such as; anger, anxiety or signs of depression, you may want to limit their access. Set clear rules and expectations that promote appropriate screen time use, including help seeking strategies when problems or uncomfortable situations arise. Many applications have great parental controls that can be helpful in monitoring your child's digital use including the use of screen time analytics through Apple Family Sharing or Google Family Link.
5. Foster positive online protocols.
One of the best ways to prevent cyber bullying is to make sure that your children clearly understand what cyber bullying is and how to identify it. They must know that bullying is not tolerated in either offline or online spaces. Make sure they understand that they too must respect others online, reducing the likelihood of them becoming a target when they are conducting kind, friendly and respectful dialogue themselves. Another important step is to ensure your children make use of Privacy Settings within their apps or accounts. There are often settings that allow you to block specific users or turning on features such as 'hide offensive comments'.
6. Promote kindness and positive in these places
Online communities, whether that be within games or social networks are regulated by those who participate [your children]. They are the creators of their online communities and set the tone for the environments in which they engage. Through gaming and social media we are regularly hearing of toxic, inappropriate and harmful dialogue. It's important that young people are calling out, blocking and reporting behaviour that they don't feel aligns with their own values or the terms and conditions set out by the digital platform. Help your child to promote and encourage kind behaviour towards their friends and make healthy choices when it comes to who they choose to engage with in online spaces.
7. Get your child actively engaged offline.
Help your child discover and establish positive friendships through offline settings such as engaging with sport, hobbies or extra curricular activities. Through a child's formative years, these face to face relationship offer positive offline experiences for children and allow for the development of authentic and life long friendships to flourish. Having offline friends can create an important support network and providing your children with someone to turn to when things go wrong for them online.
Preventing cyber bullying may feel like an impossible feat, but by taking small actions, advocating and building awareness are our frontline defence against this social phenomenon. Understanding and talking about online bullying must become a normalised conversation in every household.
If bullying has occurred, parents must be careful not to react with anger or take action without consulting their child. Young people often hide bullying from parents because they fear a parent will make things worse.
At school or at home we can promote positive values and teach our children the actions they can take to become UPSTANDERS in both online and offline settings. An Online Upstander is someone who is willing to take action to support a person being targeted by cyber bullying through standing up for them, telling a teacher or other adult, reporting inappropriate conduct or simply reaching out to a victim to ask if they are okay. Let’s continue to create a movement of Online Upstanders and create the positive online communities that we want!
The Cyber Safety Project are committed to staying current in this constantly changing digital world. These blog and vlog posts provide insight to families about new trends, potential dangers online and effective strategies to maintain safe and respectful digital behaviours for parents, children, schools and the wider community.