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).
"There's nothin' on telly!" Remember that time? Kids... you won't! But back in the good ol' days your parents had to find something else to do, like ride their bike, read a book or play with their siblings, whilst they waited for their favourite TV show to be aired. We're not talking just minutes here either! It could have been hours, sometimes even days! So just spare a thought when you have to wait 30 seconds for your show to load or buffer.
With Netflix and other streaming services now making it simple for young children to watch their favourite (and potentially unfavourable) episodes on demand we are now faced with yet another challenge of managing what, how, when and where children can get their hands on adult themed content. At first glance these animated series may look innocent enough, however, be warned they are not designed for children. Here we list three Netflix original animated series gaining popularity with Australian audiences... AND likely to be topics of playground chatter at a school near you!
1. BIG MOUTH
Big Mouth is an animation centred around a humorous view upon the modern adolescent. This series characterises a group of teens who are obsessed with sex and exploration of their genitalia and sexualities. Whilst much of this content is relatable and humorous to a mature audience you would be mortified to find your younger children exposed to the mature themes, animated nudity and sexual behaviours, drug and alcohol references and highly explicit language.
What makes this so inappropriate? Animated nudity, sexual references, explicit language and jokes referencing drugs and alcohol
2. BOJACK HORSEMAN
Bojack Horseman is an animated series set in an alternate world, where humans and anthropomorphic animals live side by side. Bojack Horseman plans his big return to celebrity relevance through writing a tell-all autobiography about his life post his starring in a 1990's sitcom Horsin' Around. Alongside having a satirical take on current events, politics, and show business, BoJack Horseman underlying themes focus on dealing with depression, trauma, addiction and self-destructive behaviour.
What makes this so inappropriate? Substance abuse, violence, explicate language and adult themes.
Castlevania is an adaptation of a classic video game about vampire hunters with the main objective of killing and destroying enemies. There nature of this show is violent with regular, excessive and dramatised fight scenes that result in bloody deaths.
What makes this so inappropriate? Excessive and brutal violence, blood and gore.
Managing your children's access to Netflix
Take advantage of parent controls in Netflix and ensure the following Netflix original Cartoon series too crass for kids are added to your Restricted Titles within the Netflix Parental Control settings.
We now live in an instant access society where streaming services such as Netflix are making the consumption of popular TV shows, series, movies and documentaries easier and faster than ever before. For parents, managing screen time, binge watching and filtering age appropriate content, Netflix is yet another online service to battle. The good news is there are Parental Controls within Netflix settings that can dramatically reduce the risk of your children accessing Netflix content that could be too crass for kids.
Like most online platforms or apps, spending a few moments within the app settings can protect your children from exposure to inappropriate content and allow you to take control. Within Netflix Parental Controls you will find two settings that the Cyber Safety Project recommend setting up for your family. Both the 'Restrict by Maturity Level' and 'Restrict Specific Titles' allows you to take control over what you children can search and consume and seconds to set up.
OPTION 1: Create a 'Kids Profile' for your children to access
For younger children, setting up a 'Kids' profile on Netflix will provide the piece of mind that only content based on the regulated age restricted content will be made available and targeted at their maturity level. You can select this level of access and update it as your children come of age.
How to set up a 'Kids Profile':
1. Click 'Add profile'
2. Name your profile and select 'Kid?' to add the filter of only TV shows & movies for kids 12 and under that will be made available for viewing within this profile.
3. Choose the level of restrictions you would like to apply for this profile
OPTION 2: Add Parental Controls & Filters on standard Netflix profiles.
Add a Parental Control Pin:
You can set restrictions for the titles that young people in your household can access by setting a Parental Control Pin. This can be used to restrict the playback of certain content based on Maturity Level or by Specific Titles. The pin you set will appear when content over the certain maturity level.
Place restrictions of specific titles:
If you do not want specific titles appearing within the service, you can have these hidden from the library by entering the name of the show or movie you do not wish your children to view.
1. Select the profile you wish to add parental controls to and navigate to SETTINGS:
2. Create a PIN. (do not share with your children).
3. Search for titles you wish to restrict
There are a number of titles within the Netflix streaming service that are not designed for little eyes and ears. A popular original Netflix series such as 13 Reasons Why, know for being graphic and mature in nature with it's extreme view on teen life and sensationalised depiction of suicide, has been deemed by 'The National Association of School Psychologists' as highly inappropriate for vulnerable youth. There are also a number original Netflix Cartoons too crass for kids that should be on your Restrict List.
The new iOS 12 software update on Apple devices includes some easy to uses features that are already being praised by parents and families who use iOS devices. Each of the new additions to this update including Screen Time, Downtime and App Limit provide users with greater control around how much time you spend on your phone or device and more importantly provides users with the tools to help minimise and control the desire to be always connected. This blog will help you set up and understand each of these new and exciting features.
Once you have updated to iOS 12, within the Settings section of your device there will be a new section called Screen Time. On opening Screen Time for the first time you will be prompted to Turn on Screen Time. Once the feature is turned on you'll find a breakdown that shows just how much time you're spending on all iOS devices linked to the same iCloud account.
Screen Time breaks down usage for the current day, as well as the past 7 days. An alert will be received by the user that provides with a weekly report from the previous week that breaks down how much screen time has been spent on each device and within which applications.
Screen Time even provides users with an accurate account of how often a device or phone is being pick up, which apps you used the most after picking up your phone, and how many notifications you receive from apps. All great stimulus to have authentic and data driven conversations about digital uses within your family around how you and your children are using devices.
The Downtime feature provides parents with far greater control over when your child can access their favourite applications and can also help parents address negative habits you might be witnessing in your child’s digital behaviour, like scrolling through Instagram late at night. Downtime is a time-based setting and is easy to set up and operate.
To start, open the Settings app and select Screen Time. Within this menu page there is a clearly labelled option called Downtime. Downtime can set a scheduled time at which the device essentially locks itself down, restricting access to all but a handful of apps such as Phone, Messages, and FaceTime. If you want to use Downtime, but need access to more than just Phone, Messages and FaceTime, you can pick which apps you'll be able to use in Screen Time -----> Always allowed.
The ability to activate Downtime at bedtime is an opportune and simple way to force yourself and family members to stop checking Snapchat, Facebook, WhatsApp and countless more apps.
The information that the Screen Time features provides through the insights and weekly usage report reveals a great deal of information to users and can be useful to parents to gage how family members are engaging with their device. App Limits allows users and controllers of the family account to set limits for themselves and their family members for app categories or specific apps on a 24-hour basis. To set this up and start setting limits you will need to select the individual breakdown screen, select Add Limit at the bottom of the page, then set the selected time. This can be customised based on day of the week and is a great setting if you want to make quick and immediate adjustments to particular limits. As the set time limit approaches an alert is received by the users to remind them that their time limit is nearly up. Once the time is up, the app will lock you out (and give you the option to approve more time, should you absolutely need to use the app).
All these tools with the iOS 12 updates when used effectively provide information to promote and encourage responsible digital use and screen time. The Cyber Safety Project believe that the detailed information and insight data provided through these Screen Time features will create a great conversation and learning opportunity for the entire family. It is this information that will drive discussions between parents and children about what the appropriate amount of screen time is, why limits around particular categories might need to be put in place, what behaviours the weekly report is showing in how family members are using their device and of course why there is a need for downtime away from device.
If you have any questions about using or utilising these features within the iOS 12 update please feel free to get in contact with the Cyber Safety Project.
The gaming world is a juggernaut and a massive way that children and teens spend their time. It is almost impossible to predict what the newest game/app/craze will be that takes the world by storm. Candy Crush, Angry Birds, Words with Friends! Who knows? All of these examples were MASSIVE and unfortunately for their creators many of these games have fallen out of favor amongst children and teens as the next generation of interactive gaming grows.
Now, when looking at the top ten most downloaded applications, 7 of the 10 fall under the 'Social Networking' category. What does that tell us? It tells us that children and teens love engaging with one another online and as a consequence there has been a rise in social networking within games. It's the norm now, and an obvious red flag for parents.
Below are three of the most popular current (this could change next week) games children are engaged in and spending a fair bit of time on. So let's us help you make sense each of these platforms with some key things to consider when deciding if your child is ready to play and engage in these online worlds.
What you need to know about Fortnite?
Fortnite is a survival action game and after watching the promo there is no wonder the kids love it. You are required to create complex forts to defend and protect yourself and team while fighting off a never ending wave of monsters. The game allows voice and on screen chat from other players, which lends itself to inappropriate language from "keyboard warriors". Because of the social networking aspect to this game, the opportunity to interact with strangers is high, which is always a concern. This is particularly prominent in the free to play multiplayer mode, called Battle Royale. This feature allows up to 100 players to fight against each other or in teams to be the last player standing. This does prompt a significant amounts of negative comments and trash talking within this feature is again much higher.
What parents need to know about Roblox?
Roblox is a creativity space that allows its users to design and build their own interactive games. You are also able to play other games in a multiplayer setting. Features within the site include a "safe-chat" mode for those under 13, as well as a parent login that lets you oversee your child's use of the site (we LOVE this feature). However, don’t let the "safe chat" title fool you, parents still need to be communicating with their children about connecting with people who they they've just met and don't know. As a blanket rule, children shouldn't be connecting and communicating with people online that they haven't met in real life before.
A conversation you must have with your kids when broaching these topics is to ask them directly what are the potential dangers that could occur through meeting a stranger online.
What parents need to know about Minecraft?
Minecraft… what a game. Its popularity can't be questioned. It is so popular that education providers have now invested in the software to be used as an educational tool within classrooms because of its wide spread engagement amongst school aged children. But I digress, what do parents need to know about Minecraft?
Minecraft is a 'virtual sandbox' that gives users everything that they need to explore a vast world, acquire resources, and create nearly everything they can possible imagine. Literally anything! Unfortunately this means that from time to time children playing may stumble across inappropriate content when exploring other random worlds. Another popular and unfortunate practice within the Minecraft world 'griefing'. This is where random users intentionally troll players through the destruction of engineered structures that they have made. It is the digital equivalent of knocking down somebodies sandcastle. Heartless I know, however it highlights the many negative outcomes associated with networking within digital worlds. As you can see the opportunity to interact and communicate with others does exists within Minecraft. Therefore children should be carefully and continually monitored while playing or even better disable and hide the chat feature.
Finally, with endless possibilities for creation within Minecraft, the time spent constructing "worlds' can take time. It's important to monitor the screen time and set limits on the usage to ensure children are getting adequate sleep as well as physical activity.
If a game that your child plays isn't on this list, then it is still highly likely that it will still include social networking features within the game play itself. Monitor and check how the game operates to ensure your child is enjoying it in a safe manner.
These games may be obsolete in 6 months time, so remember to continue checking in on what games your children are playing. Check the in-game content, themes and social networking features regularly.
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.