Tag Archives: #cybersafety

Insta-Etiquette: Don’t want my daughter a #WCW on Instagram

Let’s teach our boys and girls some Insta-Etiquette. 

I fought Instagram with my daughter.  She was one of the last in her class (so I’m told).  I always say it takes a village. So I chatted with parents, with my daughter and did some research. When I felt comfortable, we signed her up.

The legal age to get an Instagram account is 13-years-old, despite many of her friends younger siblings snapping and sharing.

She’s in Grade 7 and 13-years-old and along with all her other classmates, she’s cautiously delving into a world of selfie-narcisism, the search for self-validation and image rating, armed with our family house rules for online interaction.

Don't care to a #WCW on Instagram. Don't care to be objectified.
Don’t care to a #WCW on Instagram. Don’t care to be objectified.

Instagram Defined in the Tween & Teen World: A social media app letting users

  • snap, edit, and share photos or 15-second videos
  • both publicly or with their private followers
  • You post the photo and your followers comment, share and converse about it – usually reassuring how lovely you look.

I’ve limited time, but I’m learning the #HashTags, dangers and scanning accounts. Ensuring her stuff is private and secure.  But, last night a new #HashTag appeared with my daughter’s photo — not on her wall:

A boy in her grade had posted an image of her on his Instagram Wall stating she is his #WCW.

photoinsta#WCW refers to ‘Woman Crush Wednesday’ (note the ‘Woman‘) and has been around for a few years.  This is where men share images of celebrities or woman they’re crushing on, they ‘like’, they adore, etc.  There’s also images of coffees, pets and children, but for the most part, it’s men crushing on women.

For the record, there are #MCM ‘Man Crush Mondays’ too and this advice goes both ways.

Take a peak on your own Instagram or child’s account and search #WCW and see what images appear.  Welcome 50 Shades of Selfies.

Needless to say, my daughter’s  mildly embarrassed. She doesn’t like the guy and didn’t ask to be part of a public forum about the merits of crushing on her.  However, she’s on Instagram,  they ‘follow’ each other (along with the rest of the school), so I tell her she’s fair game. But, she has choices as to how she deals with it:

How a #WCW works in a Junior High:

  1. Boy posts image and labels it as his #WCW.
  2. Other boys then comment: “onto the next girl?”, “way to go”, “lucky you,” … or it could be worse like, “why you like her?”
  3. What unfolds is an easy forum for hurt feelings, embarrassment, discomfort.

I’m all for crushes – but is there a healthier forum?

Let’s teach our KIDS some Insta-Ettiquette:

  1. Parents: Are your 13-year-old kids on Instagram?  Take a look now and then and make sure they’re not socializing themselves into murky online territory.  Navigating crushes, likes and social interactions is tricky enough to get right in person. Let’s help our kids along online and save them the embarrassment or worse…
    • I happened to come across a post of my daughter and a few girls from her swim team, in their team change room, in a group photo… in their bathing suits. I immediately flagged this for removal from the online world and my daughter asked her teammate to remove it from her Instagram wall.  She did – no harm, no foul. Her friend hadn’t realized taking images in a change-room is a huge ‘No No’ – and my daughter, caught up in the moment, obviously forgot.  Remind your kids of the Rules: rules are easily forgotten in innocence at this age and it’s our job to help keep them on track.
  2. Boys: Ask before we post: DON’T use a girls image, photo, name online unless there is mutual consent. Maybe she doesn’t want to be labelled as your crush for others to comment about?  Let’s stop objectifying girls online. Same applies for girls.
  3. Boys & Girls: #PTD: Please Take Down: If you don’t like an image out there, it’s your right to ask it be removed.  But, you have to accept this may not happen  — so be careful what image you project, what you snap and allow to be snapped.
  4. Boys: So you have a crush. Great on you!  Now man-up and talk to her in person, have a REAL conversation.  If the feelings are mutual – terrific. If they’re not, you’ve given it a brave shot, shown her your mature enough to connect in person and it’s time to move on – offline.
  5. Girls: BE careful what image you project.  You’re posting to your future and it will be out there and most certainly shared.  Don’t project an image online that isn’t reflective of you. You’re more than the sum of your body parts!

If the Dalhousie Dentistry School FaceBook posting teaches us anything, it’s that teaching boys limits and respect, both online and offline, must begin at an early age.

CommonSenseMedia offers a fab app for parents with ‘need to know info’ on apps, movies, books, games and music. Here’s their ‘Need To Know’ for Instagram, like:

“Public photos are the default … unless privacy settings are adjusted. Hashtags and location information can make photos even more visible to communities beyond a teen’s followers if his or her account is public.”

Some info on recently added Instagram features affecting your teens safety check out uknowkids.com.

Stay safe. Stay informed.

Community Herald: It’s ‘Lord of the Flies’: Internet security experts advise safety in an ‘online virtual environment largely devoid of responsible adult influence’

Ron McLeod, past president of HTCIA Atlantic, wants parents to attend the upcoming cyber safety event and offers advice like keeping a post-it note over a computer’s webcam incase it’s remotely accessed, the webcam will be visibly blocked.
Ron McLeod, past president of HTCIA Atlantic, wants parents to attend the upcoming cyber safety event and offers advice like keeping a post-it note over a computer’s webcam incase it’s remotely accessed, the webcam will be visibly blocked.

Leading internet security experts are meeting in Halifax and offering parents a free education session on cyber safety and cyber bullying.

“It’s especially important for parents of junior high level children to educate themselves because they’re being exposed to a lot more vulnerable applications and peer pressure to fit in,” says Blair MacLellan, president of HTCIA Atlantic Canada and a member of the RCMP tech crime unit Nova Scotia.

High Technology Crime Investigation Association (HTCIA) is an international organization hosting it’s regional conference in Halifax on Sept. 18 and 19 at the Marriott Harbourfront Hotel. The Atlantic Canada Chapter was recognized as International Chapter of the Year earlier this month, partly due to their public outreach and education, says Ron McLeod, past president of HTCIA Atlantic Canada and local internet security specialist.

“The threats that exist online to ourselves and our families are evolving everyday. Our children are living their lives inside an online virtual environment largely devoid of responsible adult influence.  And it’s “Lord of the Flies” in there all the time,” says McLeod.

Clickjacking, SnapChat and details of free info night: Click for the complete story and internet safety tips.

“We’re tracking through our platform 500-to-600 posts per day where kids are either saying or showing things of extreme concern or showing very, very poor judgment,” says Darren McLeod, VP and Director of Sales at Social LifeRaft.

The free parent and child (12+ years) evening is Sept. 18 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Marriott Harbourfront Hotel, 1919 Upper Water St., Halifax.

Anyone can register for the two day conference, featuring presentations by Symantec, a leading online security company and conference sponsor, along with presentations from other world experts in cyber safety. Information available at www.atlantichtcia.org.

Want more cyber safety tips? Check out:


Safe Surfing tips for tech-savvy kids and a free internet safety night for families from leading tech crime specialists

HTCIA2It’s one for the calendar, if you’ve tech-savvy children or children on the cusp of the online world, check out the 2014 HTCIA Atlantic Canada IT Security Conference on Sept. 18 and 19.

As part of the conference, High Technology Crime Investigation Association Atlantic (HTCIA) are offering parents and children age 12 and older, a free information evening on Sept. 18 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Marriott Harbourfront Hotel in Halifax.

Their mandate: to educate families and children about internet security and inform about online vulnerabilities affecting local students, tween and teens.  

Conference info and registration available on HTCIA website. No registration necessary for the free parent & child session.

Symantec is a key conference sponsor. Here’s an excerpt of some of their top surfing tips to help keep kids safe online:

  1. Don’t share personal information such as home address, telephone numbers or parent’s work address online as cybercriminals can use this information to create a fake profile with your details.
  2. Don’t post holiday plans as criminals have been known to track people’s movements.
  3. Keep security and privacy settings limited to friends and family only
  4. Keep all passwords safe and private, however sharing with parents is a sensible idea and don’t use an easy password like a pet’s name.  
  5. Don’t talk to strangers online or offline – Blair MacLellan, President of High Technology Crime Investigation Assoc. (HTCIA) says the online world shouldn’t be any different than the real world and wants children to be aware that online strangers aren’t always who they say they are.  Let parents know if a stranger has tried to connect online.
  6. Make sure mobile phone is pin-protected and download a security app which allows you to remotely wipe any personal data, should your mobile be lost or stolen.  MacLellan recommends ‘Find my Iphone’ for Apple devices and ‘Android Lost’ for Androids.
  7. Keep security software up-to-date on all devices including mobile phones, tablets and PCs.

Click for a complete list of Symantec Safe Surfing Tips.


Owning your kids online: a child’s domain

Should you consider buying your kid’s domain name?

Think of it as an investment in their future, their name, their brand. After an online incident that happened this week, I’m glad I did.

Not everyone will agree.  66% of people polled in this article from 2010, felt it was absurd to reserve their childs Facebook or twitter name.  On Twitter it’s unlikely they’ll ever actually use their real name, so I agree some platforms aren’t as protective as others.

But consider this random online wake-up call:

The other day I received a comment on my website from my brother-in-law in Ireland.  It came from an email with his name built into it, for pig iron, let’s say the email was: info@johndoe.ie. I moderated the comment approved, linking it to my website. No harm done.

The next day, my husband who is a Realtor, received a bizarre request through his website, from a potential home buyer.  He flagged the name was an alias he remembered  a former troubled classmate had used, a classmate prone to distasteful pranks and cranks, more than 20 years ago.  The email attached behind the prank inquiry was the same email: info@johndoe.ie.  His brother?

Knowing his brother isn’t one to email a prank message, we deduced the prankster had bought his brother’s domain name: www.johndoe.ie and now had access to the email: info@johndoe.ie.  This empowers the prankster to email any of John Doe’s friends, business contacts, family members, etc., and engage in a false conversation.  It’s scary.

If the prankster wants he can also build a free website in John Doe’s name.

For as little as $9.99/year, I hasten to imagine my child’s domain name in the hands of a bully, former boyfriend or disgruntled school mate.  But posting on people’s walls and hacking emails is as regular in high school today, as writing on the bathroom wall 20 years ago.

Why target now?

This prankster first targeted my husband’s brother many moons ago. He repeatedly prank called John Doe and John Doe reacted, fuelling the bully for continued targeting.  This went on for a time before fizzing out — 20 years ago his tools were a series of phone calls and crude drawings.

We now live in Canada, have nothing to do with this person, and yet he felt compelled to comment on my website using my brother-in-laws name and sent my husband a false inquiry. Some people have nothing better to do and cyberspace makes it simple for a bully to target you or your children.

How and when to protect a name?

Little Jane Doe is born and there isn’t anything you wouldn’t do to protect her.

One way to do this in the online world, where tweens and teens are easily targeted, is reserving www.janedoe.com or www.janedoe.ca.

But I didn’t do this when they were born.  I did it when they were approaching middle school age and the age where they could be potentially maligned by someone in their peer group. Someone, not old enough to recognize the consequences of online nastiness and skullduggery.

By doing this, you reserve and effectively protect the child from someone; a stranger, a classmate, a potential bully, from getting entire control of their name.

It took less than five minutes to buy the domain names on a site like GoDaddy.  I won’t use them for anything.  If searched, they will remain a blank canvas for the girls to use, when they’re older.

While my girls haven’t begun to think about the future thumb-print they will leave in cyberspace, I feel secure knowing when the time comes, they’ll have some control of how their name appears in a search engine.

For more advice regarding online safety for kids, send me an email.

5 Steps to protecting your name online

Reserving your child’s domain name couldn’t be easier.

It can protect them in years ahead, as they navigate the murky cyberspace of their tween and teen years.

  1. Find a domain registrar you trust.  We like GoDaddy.  But there’s NameCheap and Name.com or domainmonster, to name a few.
  2. Most registrars will ask if you’re interested in several add-ons. They’re not necessary if you’re simply reserving the name for future.
  3. Canadian? I’d recommend .com and .ca. They’re the most commonly searched, but the value is really in the .com’s.  Some registrars offer a discount for multi-name buys.
  4. Purchase before middle school: To protect our children against potential peer bullying, we opted to reserve their names when they were about 11-years-old.  This is generally the age they’re regularly using internet and it pre-dates middle school and high school, where tech-savvy kids have the means and know-how to effectively manipulate an online identity.
  5. Leave the domain blank.  Don’t use your child’s name to post pictures and personal information.  It’s potentially harmful and can open children to online predators. Keep it private = Keep it safe.

This advice comes from me, a tech-savvy mom interested in protecting her kids online and sharing advice with parents, to help us all stay one step ahead.  Take the advice or leave it.  But stay safe!

Who’s behind your kids Apps and shaping their charming faces?

Photo Wonder

My 11-year-old daughter asked me for some new apps today.

Thinking I’d be clever, I asked her to write down the names of the apps she has heard about from her friends and the names of the app developers.  I told her I’d google the developers to see what kind of companies they were, what they were developing and try and navigate the murky waters of app developers who are targeting young children and tweens.  I’m curious, what’s their motivation?

Have you ever wondered what motivates a company to create a slew of FREE apps directed to young girls, encouraging them to take their picture, change their faces, modify their voices and share their creations?

Do app developers then have access to their customers photos?

How much information can be gleaned from the activity of children on the apps?  Emails? Locations?

Here’s just one of the apps she’d heard about from a friend, as seen on the itunes.apple.com website:

Photo Wonder by  Developer: Beijing Baidu Netcome Science & Technology Co., Ltd.

The app description says it shapes charming faces and slim bodies.  Basically, it enables users to take their picture and then edit a slimmer body onto themselves.  Or as they say, “Shaping charming faces and slimming bodies in the easiest way.”

As seen on itunes.apple.com.
As seen on itunes.apple.com.

The reviews:

“Sexy      by Peoplez jojo

So yummy I love it

This is my favorite photo editing app  by Bunnne

I love this app so much! It is not only cute but very useful! I recommend it to anyone who loves taking selfies!

沒有跟大咖對比那個吖    by Zhuomin C


But don’t worry parents — it’s for ages 4+.

But just because a four year old can use this app, is it ‘safe’ to teach young children that re-shaping and slimming is better?  If the app then encourages users to share enhanced photographs of themselves, is that a safe online practice?

There is a specific code for advertising to children as defined by ages two to eleven-years-old.  Part of the reason for having such strict guidelines, as stated in the background of the code is that, “Children, especially the very young, live in a world that is part imaginary, part real and sometimes do not distinguish clearly between the two.”

I went to the Apple website to see how new app developers were regulated and what criteria did they need to meet to be able to give a 4+ guideline.  I’m still looking.

Parental App Review sites like Common Sense Media offer advice and age appropriate guidelines to parents, but it’s not comprehensive and Photo Wonder didn’t appear at the time this was published.  And it’s not always what the app does, but tather, who the app exposes our children too.

And perhaps I’m over-thinking this and all of these FREE Princess Apps, Make-up Salon Apps, Voice Changers, etc. are harmless.  The question is, who can tell us and who can we trust?

An internet security specialist said to me, “nothing is free online.  Always question motivation.”  He also said, quite wisely, he’d never let his kids buy an app that had anything to do with a camera.  He says “sharing photos is far too dangerous for children to do online.”

As a Mom, I would welcome some clearer and more comprehensive guidelines to help keep us parents on an even playing field.  In the meantime, I get to tell my daughter, “No” and she gets to reply, “You’re the most over-protective Mom.  It’s so unfair.”

Little does she know, it’s not only unfair, it’s a mine field.

What’s my motivation? I studied Journalism at University of King’s College in Halifax, NS and spent several years working in kids television at YTV, where I promoted, marketed and adhered to CRTC’s guidelines and regulations for ‘speaking’ to children through media.  The rules there are clear, as are parents expectations.  I’m simply trying to examine the disconnect that’s taking place in our children’s world online.