With "Heartbleed" making headlines, passwords have been a hot conversation topic lately. At Village, though this is an ongoing conversation with students, we teach Common Sense Media's "Powerful Passwords" lesson at the end 4th grade before allowing students to create their own password for 5th grade. (Prior to 5th grade, passwords are assigned to students.) 

This week, I've been doing more reading than usual about passwords and have a few resources to pass along to parents.

Build Strong Passwords
There are a number of blog posts with tips for creating secure passwords. Many people think, "How can I have a different password for each site? That's too overwhelming!" One idea is to pick a standard password then add to it using a formula. For example, let's say your favorite fruit is an apple. Your default password could be aPPl3. Your formula could be taking the first two letters of the website, capitalize them, and adding them to your default password in reverse order. 

Let's use Amazon as an example. If we took the first two letters of the website, am, and used the formula of capitalizing the letters and adding the second letter the the beginning and the first letter to the end of your default password, your password for Amazon would be MaPPl3A. Using this same formula for VillageNet, your password would be IaPPl3V.

Practice Passwords at Home
My friend Jen Roberts shared a tip on her blog that I thought was genius: 
One of the best things we did when our kids were little was give them a password to access our home computer. They didn't need that password as a security precaution, we used it as a teaching tool. We made our phone number the password. The kids learned the number very quickly and I know that they always know how to call me.
What Does Heartbleed Mean for You?

Here is a good infographic shared by VentureBeat with security information about which popular websites may have been affected.
And finally, one more blog post to share: Using Heartbleed as a Teachable Moment.
In the same vein as Ask.fm, Snapchat, and Kik, the new instant messaging app Whisper (found at Whisper.sh) allows users to share confessions, secrets, and/or pictures with others. 

Shannon Younger, from Chicago Now - Tween Us, shares additional information about Whisper: 

Whisper is rated 17+ by the App store 

Predators have been known to use Whisper to Read specifics about a Seattle case here. 

Whisper reveals a user's location, if location services are enabled. 

The app requires a pin to look through the history. This is an example of why parents need their child's user name and password or pin for absolutely everything, and if parents are going to permit tweens and teens to use Whisper or similar apps, it is absolutely essential that they monitor their child's use.

Teens and tweens use Whisper to cyberbully other kids. 

Whisper's Terms of Use states that users "acknowledge and agree that transmissions over the internet can never be completely secure and you understand that any message and/or information that you transmit to us might be intercepted and read by others, even if we take measures to prevent such interception." Many tweens and teens simply do not understand that whatever they put on the internet.  The Terms of Use also say "WhisperText cannot guarantee uses will not encounter objectionable content on the Service."

Whisper is popular and expanding. Whisper doesn't appear to be going anywhere and in fact is hoping to grow, making it more likely to attract tween users.

Parents can help keep their kids safe by asking them one simple question about each of their online connections: "Do you know this person in real life?" Find out why and get more tips from Dr. Kortney Peagram, bullying and violence prevention expert, here.
Parents are encouraged to read the complete TweenUs article: What Parents Need to Know about the Whisper App
Fascinating infographic just released by Common Sense Media summarizing their most recent study. The most interesting thing, to me personally, is the rapid and measurable change in their use from 2011 to 2013. Visit the Common Sense Media website for additional details or to read the full report.

A must-watch video on technology use, from the perspective of a 14-year-old. Contains fabulous insights and helpful tips for teachers and parents. A great way to introduce  Digital Citizenship Week to parents and faculty.
"Common Sense Media has created a new blog where parents can share ideas, ask questions, and get answers. Visit Making Sense: Parenting, media, and everything in between to get a daily dose of fresh perspective from Common Sense Media editors and guest experts, get the scoop on the latest events and trends that your kids already know about, and so much more."

Reposted from Common Sense Media
Vine is the best way to see and share life in motion. Create short, beautiful, looping videos in a simple and fun way for your friends and family to see. (Description from the iTunes Store)

Sounds harmless enough, right? Wrong! 

While the 6-second looping videos are easy to make and fun to watch, there are few privacy controls on the app. Hashtags such as #teddybearpicnic, #magic, or #pets seem innocent enough, but are often posted by people who are intentionally exposing undesirable images to users who are searching for non-pornographic content.

In a recent article "Is Vine Dangerous for Kids?" social media blogger and mom Brandi Jeter writes: "Everybody's talking about Twitter's new app Vine, but parents need to know that it may be risky for kids" She continues on with 5 things parents need to know about the Vine app. (Read her complete post for descriptions of each point below.)
  1. Vine is free, and it's easy to sign up.
  2. Vine doesn't verify age.
  3. You can't block who follows you on Vine.
  4. It's true. There's porn on Vine.
  5. The 6-second videos are cool to watch -- and make.
While the Vine Privacy Policy states that users must be over the age of 13, the Apple iTunes Store goes a step further - rating the app 17+ for: 
  • Frequent/Intense Sexual Content or Nudity
    Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References
    Infrequent/Mild Simulated Gambling
    Infrequent/Mild Cartoon or Fantasy Violence
    Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor
    Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes
    Infrequent/Mild Horror/Fear Themes
    Infrequent/Mild Realistic Violence
A description of apps rated 17+ in the iTunes Store :
Common Sense Media rates the Vine app NOT FOR KIDS due to the ease of accessing inappropriate content on the app. They say:
Parents need to know that Vine is a social media app that lets you post and watch looping six-second video clips. The Twitter-owned service has taken the online world by storm, but parents need to be aware that it is full of inappropriate content for children. With a little creative searching, kids can find nudity, sex, drug use, offensive language, and more. While there are plenty of cute, fun videos, even adults might be shocked at some of the things they find. In iTunes, the app is listed for 17+, and users must confirm that they are 17 or older before installing (this is as simple as tapping "OK" -- there is no verification). 
YouTube is a popular place to learn more about a topic, view how-to videos, share information, or just have a laugh. (It is quickly replacing Google as teens search engine of choice. Why read how to do something when you can watch a video to learn how?)

While the site is becoming a common destination for internet users, parents must remember that it remains a public forum whose target audience is diverse and whose content is not always appropriate for children. According to the YouTube Terms of Service, children are supposed to be 13 or older to use the site independently.

For those unfamiliar with the side, Common Sense Media provides a Parent Guide to YouTube as well as Advice for Parents: YouTube and Your Kids. The parent guide includes the following tips:

  • Is there any way to make YouTube more kid friendly?

    To make YouTube more kid friendly, you'll need a YouTube account and some time to sleuth out the good stuff -- but it's worth the effort.

    • Log in, and search around for videos your kids will like.
    • Click "Add to" (under each video) to include the videos in your "favorites" or "playlist."
    • If you really like a video, consider subscribing to the owner's channel.
    • When your kids log in (using the account YOU created), all they need to do is click your user name to find all of the videos you've saved for them.
    • Bookmark your saved pages to make it even easier for your kids to go directly to your choices.
Control Your YouTube Content

Register for an Account
The best way to control what content your kids watch is to register for your own account (channel). On your channel, you can add videos to a playlist, mark "favorites, and subscribe to channels you like.  When you are logged in, visit your Video Manager to see videos you have selected. TIP: Bookmark the Video Manager page on your computer to bypass the YouTube homepage altogether.

Check Viewing History
If logged in, YouTube captures your account's viewing history. This can show parents what videos children have been watching. Use this list as a conversation starter. It can provide fabulous insight into your child's interests.

Turn on Safety Mode
Familiarize yourself with the YouTube Safety Center. Among the tools available for parents is Safe View. To enable safe view, scroll to the bottom of any YouTube page, click on the "Safety" drop down, and enable Safety Mode. If you are logged in to your YouTube Account, you will have the additional option to permanently lock the browser into Safety Mode.
Other Tools to use with YouTube

SafeShare.tv makes it possible to view YouTube videos without displaying the "related videos" or video comments. To use SafeShare.tv simply copy the url of a YouTube video and paste it into SafeShare.tv. This is a wonderful tool if you would like younger children to watch a video you found on youtube without the associated risks of additional content.

Turn Off the Lights
Turn Off the Lights is a browser extension that blacks out all content surrounding the video. "It provides focus to a video you are watching and makes everything around the video go dark. It works for all video sites such as YouTube, Vimeo,... and also on the social networking sites."  This is another tool that parents might use to show children a video on YouTube without displaying additional content. Note that this is not a safety setting, merely a way to play videos. Parental supervision is advised.

YouTube Options
YouTube Options is another browser extension that blocks out all content surrounding the video. "It gives the user the option to hide everything except the video, block in-video ads and annotations, create download links to all available video resolutions, and much more."  This is yet another tool that parents might use to show children a video on YouTube without displaying additional content. Note that this is not a safety setting, merely a way to play videos. Parental supervision is advised.

Timer for YouTube
If your child views YouTube on an iPad, there is a Timer for YouTube app to limit the time they are allowed to spend watching videos on the site.
A few things to remember:
  1. Kids are supposed to be 13 to use YouTube independently
  2. Parent Resources from YouTube in partnership with Common Sense Media
  3. When YouTube safety mode is turned on and someone sends a video with content that is inappropriate for the safety mode, you cannot see that content.
  4. Browser add-ons are available to assist parents in hiding additional, possibly inappropriate, content such as suggested videos and comments.
Ask.fm has been around since June 2010, but has recently gained popularity among teens and tweens as a place to gossip, tease, and even harass others. This website allows people to create accounts then ask (often controversial) questions about themselves or another person. Users may then respond anonymously via written or video reply. All questions and replies are posted publicly, for anyone to see, on their profile page. Also, the site has no type of monitoring in place. There is not a moderator to filter out inappropriate content.

We know that some of our Village School students have active accounts on Ask.fm, many of whom connected through their Instagram account. The Ask.fm Terms of Service state that account holders must be at least 13 years of age. Even for teens who are over 13, we strongly discourage their use of Ask.fm. 

Doug Fodeman, co-director of ChildrenOnline.org, shares:
"Unlike its predecessor Formspring.me, Ask.fm is particularly nasty because its anonymous format and lack of ability to report abuse make it perfectly suited for cyber-bullying.  The owner of the site is in Latvia and the site is registered in Micronesia, thus no legal recourse is available.  And the owner acknowledges in a recent interview that Ask.fm is used primarily by teens and bullying occurs but seems to show no concern whatsoever for the kids using his site."
The Irish website WebWise provides the following information:
What are the Risks for Children Using Ask.fm?

We understand that question apps are mostly great fun and only cause harm when abused.

But judging from what we are hearing on the ground, abuse is widespread.

You only have to skim through the site to see that sexualised, abusive and bullying content can be, and is being posted unchecked.

The unique selling point of Ask.fm is its guarantee of anonymity, with the website recently telling its followers on Twitter it will never release the information of anyone who posts to the site.

The fact that you can ask someone whatever you like or post anything on their profile without revealing who you are, seems to heighten the levels of disinhibition often associated with young people communicating online.

In other words, we tend to say things to people online that we wouldn't say to their face - this is exaggerated when we communicate anonymously.

The result is that liberally scattered amongst the questions about celebrity and lifestyle are highly sexualised, abusive, and downright nasty questions and comments.

The site also raises many issues around privacy. It has very few privacy controls which mean that both questions and answers can be viewed by anyone, even non-users of the site.

This is the default setting and there doesn't appear to be an option to change this: once a post is published it is publicly accessible.

In short: Ask.fm lacks even the most basic technical protections for young users. There is no mechanism to report abusive content on the site. No source of advice for young users, and no privacy controls.

Advice for Parents About Ask.fm

Above all else, it is vital that you have good, open communication with your child about what they do online.

Remember you may not know all there is to know about tweets, blogs and apps but you do know about parenting and all the same principles apply.

You should sit down with your child and discuss their use of Ask.fm.

Setting rules and boundaries around your child's use of this site is important.

All children are different and parents need to decide what approach is best for their child.

Typical approaches vary: from agreeing what is suitable behaviour on the site, regularly monitoring their activity, or not allowing them to use it at all.

At the very least you should agree that they will always treat others with respect and let you know if anything happens that upsets them.

For rules and boundaries to be really effective they are best developed between you and your child.

Having this chat with your child can give you a lot of information about their online activity and concerns.

The conversation surrounding the agreement of rules can often be as useful as the contract itself.

If your child has had an input in developing the agreement in relation to their use of Ask.fm they are more likely to see the rules and sanctions as fair and are therefore more likely to abide by them or discuss them at a later date if they feel they should be changed.

It is also worthwhile to be up front about sanctions for not sticking to the agreement.

One of the reasons children say they don't tell parents about things they come across on the internet, is because they feel parents may take away their internet access.

You should consider using other sanctions, like extra chores or withdrawing other privileges.

It is important that you reassure your child from the outset that they can come to you about anything they may have seen on the internet. Make sure the channels of communication are always open.

Remember that banning or forbidding a site outright may simply mean that your child will hide their use from you which will mean they cannot talk to you if they encounter problems.

What Parents Can Do

Please use this as an opportunity to open a dialogue with your child. Even if they are not aware of the site, this would be an excellent time to reinforce the Digital Citizenship and Responsibility lessons we teach at school. It is also an opportunity to reinforce our Village Values: Respect, Responsibility, Trust, Fairness, Caring, and Courage.

Some basic guidelines for online safety:
  • Never post identifying personal information online. This includes your full name, address, phone number, school you attend, etc. It only takes three pieces of identifying information to find anyone online.
  • Never post information about others. The phrase we use around Village is, “It isn’t your story to tell.”
  • Anything you say online (via a website post or private email) should be something you would say to the person offline.
  • Anything you post online (photo, video, text) can be viewed by others. Even if your account is private, others may forward your posts to those outside your network or to a public forum. When you post, you relinquish control.

This would also be a good time to discuss your family values, house rules on computer use, and what types of safety measures you have in place. All computers with internet connection should be in a public place in your home. Parents should know the usernames and passwords for their child(ren)’s accounts. Rules for internet usage should be understood by all family members and, preferably, posted near the computer. Some suggested computer/internet contracts, as well as other helpful information, can be found on our Village School Digital Families website.

Related Articles from the Daily Mail (UK): 
Is Your Child Using the Sinister Website that Pits Friend Against Friend?
Pupils and Parents Warned Over Social Networking Website Linked to Teen Abuse

As a follow up to our previous post about Instagram and Snapchat, a recently posted article reveals that Snap Chat photos are not actually deleted after each post. Images are stored on the phone on which they were taken. While it is difficult to find these files, they are there.
[In December,] Snapchat's [co-founder and CEO Evan] Spiegel told BuzzFeed Snapchat users "embrace the spirit and intent of the service. There will always be ways to reverse engineer technology products — but that spoils the fun!”
This is yet another opportunity to talk with your children about the permanence of online postings. No matter how "private" your account - once you post something online, you make that information/image/video available for others to view, forward, or share.
Snapchat has emailed the following response to Business Insider

"There are many ways to save snaps that you receive - the easiest way is to take a screenshot or take a photo with another camera. Snaps are deleted from our servers after they have been viewed by the recipient."

Note that while it says photos are deleted from Snapchat's servers, it doesn't say photos are deleted from the devices.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/snapchat-doesnt-delete-your-private-pictures-2013-5#ixzz2T7Fz4Gos
Huff Post - Those Sexy Photos You Sent Don't Actually Delete, Says Researcher (VIDEO) http://t.co/bRfMCmlWfB 
Original article from KSL -  http://www.ksl.com/?sid=25106057&nid=148
Photo sharing apps, such as Instagram and SnapChat, are being used by pre-teens, teens, and tweens to share events from their daily lives. While these companies' terms of service state that users must be over the age of 13, we have been informed that some Village School students have accounts and are using personal devices and home computers to share photos with others. 

Instead of re-writing already good information, we encourage parents to read/view the following:

At an elementary school age, children and pre-teens are still developing their decision making skills. Things they find funny or appropriate to share with others may not reflect their true character or your family's values. Parents need to monitor, provide guidance, and have frequent conversations about expectations for their child(ren)'s use of technology. 

In addition, every online account or service is governed by that company's Terms of Service. All specify that children under the age of 13 are not permitted on their service. For children over the age of 13, great care and consideration should be given prior to allowing accounts to be created. The same caution should be used with any social media tools including Facebook, Kleek, Vine, and others.