Cyber Safety Project Blog.
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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.
Tech gadgets are undoubtedly among the most popular gifts landing under Christmas trees around the world this year. With all of these tech gadgets requiring connectivity to apps, platforms and cloud services we must plan to protect young digital users by putting proactive measures in place to keep them safe. If drones, 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.
PLAN, PROTECT & 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:
TIP: Establishing an open and trusting relationship with your children about their digital habits enables you to have greater insight into their online behaviours and opportunities to prevent issues from occurring. A child or teen is less likely to go to a parent if they believe they will banned from future use of a device, game or platform... So be strategic in how you respond when a child does come to you with a challenge or problem. Planning, prevention and protection are a critical combination for ensuring this trust between guardians and children is developed and maintained.
When creating online profiles we recommend you:
Popular Tech Gadget Gifts this year:
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.
2. 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.
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:
4. Smart Phones
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).
5. Smart TOYS
Artificial intelligence is absolutely everywhere! Kitchen appliances, smart TVs, smartphones, in our cars... it was only a matter of time before AI was integrated into children’s toys. The growth in the market of toys with integrated artificial intelligent has resulted in these tools becoming more affordable and hitting Christmas stockings all over the country.
A smart toy is a toy that has a degree of artificial intelligence within it. These toys have the ability to learn and adjust the way it interacts with it's user. Using pre-programmed patterns (algorithms) these toys react to the user's actions and The levels of intelligences within these smart toys does vary greatly however AI features include voice recognition, smartphone apps and touch sensors that allow the user and the toys to interact.
One of the toys that is gaining popularity along with security, ethical and privacy concerns is Hello Barbie. Talking toys are not new, however Barbie now listens and responds to what the user says. The use of the inbuilt a microphone, sophisticated electronics and Wi-Fi connection will compute this information and make decisions about how it will respond to it's user, simulating a more realistic conversation. Hello Barbie uses similar technology to Siri, Cortana, Alexa other personal digital assistants. This ability to respond to a child’s conversation through artificial intelligence has raised privacy and ethical concerns.
With the ability for “Hello Barbie” to uniquely interact with users and even have and hold conversations, play games, share stories, and tell jokes “Hello Barbie” is being sold as a "real" friend to children. This raised the question about how this may influence a young person's social behaviour. Beyond the social implications of the doll, the capabilities of the recording technology also raises privacy issues. Smart toys also often have location-tracking features, a feature that can be compromised when connected to public WiFi networks could give then give you child’s whereabouts to people who should not have that information.
Many of the other smart toys on the market today, such as the popular Hot Wheels Brand also have accompanying software applications. These applications provide additional features to make the toy more fun or interactive. Some toys may not work without these apps and WiFi enabled which opens up opportunities for data to be collected about a user's game play. Be sure to thoroughly review an Apps Terms & Conditions as well as consider how your child's information is being collected if required to create a users account or profile alongside the use of this technology.
So, you're considering putting a AI gift under the tree this year?
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!
Fake News! A term that quickly became a part of the vernacular of most citizens, in large part thanks to the current President of the United States. So, what is Fake News? Fake news is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an article that may look just like any other news article… except it isn’t true. With most of us choosing to get our news from a variety of digital newsfeeds such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter many people can’t tell the difference between what is real news or fake. Therefore it's crucial that all of us (especially young people) -- learn to decode what we read online to accurately assess its validity.
So, here is the 5 ways to help you, your children and students decode what is real and what is fake and help to truly separate fact from fiction.
1. Be critical!
Don't just take what you read for it's face value. It is important to ask yourself questions when you come across a “piece of news” to determine whether it is real, exaggerated or fake.
· Who has made this?
· Who is the target audience?
· Who paid for this? Or, who is getting paid if you click on this?
· Who might benefit or be harmed by this message?
· What is left out of this message that might be important?
· Is this credible (and what makes you think that)?
By looking at a piece of “news” and asking these questions it will quickly become clear if the story is real or fake. Check whether the story has been picked up by credible news publishers. Stories from organisations like ABC and The Australian will have checked and verified their sources beforehand. If the you are reading is not from a well-known source, this is cause to be cautious.
2. Don't believe everything you read!
More so than ever our own understanding of media and the role it plays in informing us has unfortunately been muddied through the privatisation of “breaking news”. We must draw upon our ability to comprehend and think critically [also know as literacy skills] as we navigate mainstream media. This requires digital citizens to develop critical skills such as conceptional understanding and knowledge of media literacy.
All in all, common sense will prevail but it takes practise to develop these digital smarts. If a story sounds unbelievable, it probably is.
3. Are they fishing for click-bait?
We have all done it. We are checking our digital news-feeds and we come across a post (often a sponsored posted) that sparks some curiosity around something you are interested in, celebrity gossip, humour or even current events by using an enticing title. The basic concept of ‘click-bait’ is to use a melodramatic and enticing title for an online article to manipulate and hook people into clicking the link and reading the content. “Man Hugs a Tiger… You won’t believe what happens next” and “90% of people can’t solve this riddle? Can you?” or perhaps give just the right amount of information to leave you wanting more.... such as “15 Tweets that prove NBA star Lebron James is a cheat”.
To avoid begin hooked by click-bait -be vigilante, ask yourself "is the headline too funny, too positive, too scary, to unbelievable?". Work with young people to understand often, the motivation for “fake news” sites create pathways to advertising material.
4. Have your emotions been triggered?
Check your emotions. Click-bait and fake news strive to pull you in by trying to get an extreme reaction. If the news you're reading makes you angry, outraged or even laugh, it could be a sign that you're being played and therefore it is fake news. Check multiple sources before trusting that the story is real. Creditable news outlets and their stories are ones that may trigger an emotional response, but, these outlets are motivated by truth and facts more than praying on your emotions to obtain readership.
An example of a headline designed to trigger fear, which may lead to people panicing and on-sharing:
5. Is it a joke?
Satirical sites are extremely popular online. These often share similar format and are deliberately designed to look the same as credible news and media outlets. Take the example below, it look likes like most newspapers you would purchase with the subtle difference of humorous stories with little to no facts.
If it’s known for parodies or creating funny stories, then it is probably classified as fake news. This doesn’t mean that it won’t be entertaining, just that it isn’t factual and real.
Fake news is everywhere and is the reality of our modern media. Learning to identify fake and exaggerated news is an important life skill. Have a go at this choose your own adventure game, which challenges players to make their own decisions on which sources, political claims, social media comments and pictures should be trusted as you contribute to the day's news output. It's perfect to play with your class of students or as a family.
The little yellow icon with a cute white ghost icon [aka Snapchat] was released in 2011 and has transformed how we interact across many of the big social media players today. The features that Snapchat have slowly introduced have been picked up by Instagram and Facebook such as Snap Stories, photo filters and augmented reality tools. Its rise to popularity was due to it's simple technology where users could send a single photo (Snap) that existed for 1 to 10 seconds. This theoretically disappears after being viewed. As we have learned everything can be permanent. Today Snapchat delivers on all aspects of a social networking and has now become social platform of choice for many young teens.
Snapchat's strategy to lour users to the platform (of which most have been carefully designed to acquire the attention) have been created to promote regular use and the need for users to return to the app on a regular basis. After all this is how Snapchat makes their money - through users viewing advertising material.
Here we take you through FIVE must know features that have established Snapchat as the market leader of social networking around the world.
Snap streaks or "streaks" has turned Snapchat into a game and is generated 'social currency' between two individual users mounting pressure as user pair streak scores continues to grow on a daily basis.
The premise of a Snapchat streak is simple, you and a friend each snap each other back once a day within a twenty-four hour period. After three days of back and forth snapping, you’ll receive a small flame icon, along with a new number 3 next to that friend. This represents three days of 'snapping' back and forth between users. Your Snapchat streak will continue to increase as you return to the app daily to manager your streaks and ensure you continue the streak with each of your friends.
Many adolescents and young users of Snapchat have become obsessed with maintaining their Snapchat streaks. With some users taking to the online world to boost of there highest streak (1400 is the highest we have heard). A lapse in a streak can be equivalent to breaking a friendship and the higher the snap streak gets the greater the pressure is to keep it going. The growing concern here is the culture developing which passively pressures users to remain active users - daily.
YOLO is an anonymous messaging/anonymous questioning app that can be connected a your Snapchat account.
The key issue with Yolo is anonymity. With Yolo App becoming appealing to teen, it provides a platform for them to ask questions they would normally be too embarrassed to ask. The anonymity aspect encourages people to ask questions they might not normally ask face to face and for the most part, this to have been used positively. Friends can answer the question anonymously and vice versa. This is where banta and humour is suppose to ensue, however the lack of accountability and total anonymity has also promoted misuse of this feature with many users on the receiving end of hurtful or inappropriate questions. Our core part of our work here at the Cyber Safety Project has been through request for support for school age students to understand, manage and bounce back from issues created by Yolo users.
When Snapchat released its in app, real time location tracker there were immediate concerns raised among the safety and privacy of it's users. Snap Maps, plots a user's exactly location onto a map every time they are using the platform. This means friends and other Snapchatters can see where they are and even who they are with. The good news is, Snapchatters can choose exactly who can see their, if at all, and can change this setting at any time.
Activate Ghost Mode: Allowing users to see where their friends are in real time is a very appealing feature for teens. Snap Maps is incredibly accurate showing the exact location on an interactive map. As parents of young users of Snapchat and therefore Snap Maps there are a few preventative measures we recommend reviewing and putting into action:
Quick Add on Snapchat is similar to the suggested friends feature on Facebook, whereby Snapchat suggests 'friends' you might like to add, based on friends of friends. This means you appear as a suggested friend to other people. This is a great strategy for increasing your Snapchat friendship pool very quickly - which is obviously a red flag for us here at the Cyber Safety Project. Unfortunately, Quick Add with Snapchat means that if users do not understand this feature, they may be exposing themselves to people they don't know or unwanted friendship requests. To update your Quick Add settings click on the cog wheel top right hand corner, scroll down to the "Who Can" section, and tap ‘See Me in Quick Add’. On the Quick Add screen, turn the Show me in ‘Quick Add option off’.
Discover allows you to explore channels from established publishers who curate their own content. Snapchat discover is all about keeping you up-to-date on current events, pop culture, and more. Long gone are the days of Snapchat being used just to connect you and your friends. Now you can get the lowdown on breaking news, events, and celeb gossip at your fingertips. On the Discover screen you can watch your friends’ Snapchat Stories, Publish your own Stories, Shows, and Our Stories. Given the popularity of Snapchat, appearing in the Discover section can mean world wide exposure and therefore the motivation to submit content to Our Story on Snapchat Discover. Given the Snapchat Discover is completely user generated, it is important to understand that if you are allowing your young people at home use Snapchat, they may be exposed to content, images and video material that is inappropriate or may not align with your values.
If you see something inappropriate on Snapchat Discover or Snapchat Our Story, report it!
To report a Story on Discover…
> Press and hold the Snapchat that’s inappropriate
> Tap the white flag icon to report to alert Snapchat to this content
Empowering the user to report is not just a feature on Snapchat. It's across all social media and online gaming networks. Creating safe communities online starts with the users who engage within it. We must encourage everyone in our online community to call out, moderate and report any behaviour that we don't want to see (including bullying). We have the power to collectively create the online world 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.