Explicit Content in 7 Top Music Apps – A Parent’s Guide

Explicit Content in 7 Top Music Apps – A Parent’s Guide

Chances are, your kids love to listen to music and share it with friends. 

With so many music apps out there, which one is right for your family? Especially since so much music has explicit lyrics that you don’t want your kids boppin’ to!

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns, 

“Music plays an important role in the socialization of children and adolescents. Parents often are unaware of the lyrics their children are listening to because of the increasing use of downloaded music and headphones. Lyrics have become more explicit in their references to drugs, sex, and violence over the years. It is essential for pediatricians and parents to take a stand regarding music lyrics.

Some music streaming services definitely make it easier than others to to block objectionable content. To help you out, we have a reference guide to help you compare seven main music apps.  (Note: We prioritized parental controls over other considerations.)

What parents need to know about music streaming, explicit content, and kids

Some of these apps allow you to block playback of explicit music. However, none of them block “thematically mature” music that doesn’t have explicit lyrics. We interpret “thematically mature” as references to sex, violence, drugs, alcohol, and otherwise inappropriate content for young people. Talking with kids about your values and why some music can be harmful is always a parent’s responsibility!

In addition to music, also be aware if the app shows music videos, podcasts, album art, and ads that don’t meet your standards.

Tips:

  • All of the apps are available on both IOS and Android.
  • Most of the apps are for ages 13+, usually with parent permission for the teens. The exceptions are noted below.
  • To keep kids from upgrading their music accounts to versions with more features, restrict in-app purchases on their devices on iOS and Android.
  • Paid family plans cost pretty much the same, around $14.99 per month for 6 members.

Here’s the rundown on music apps from safest to scariest!

What is Apple Music?

  • Apple Music is a paid service that lets you stream 50 million songs plus your iTunes library. Family accounts give access to 6 people.

Risks and Parental Controls on Apple Music

  • Apple has good parental controls that prevent explicit content in music, music videos, podcasts and news. If there is an edited “clean” version of a song, it will play that in instead of the explicit version.
  • Parents can set a code so that kids can’t change the settings.
  • Learn to turn off explicit content in Apple Music on Android or how to set up parental controls on iPhone, iPad, and iPod.

Bottom line

  • Apple Music has the best parental controls for families.

What is Amazon Music?

  • Amazon Prime Music is available free with an Amazon Prime membership, or you can upgrade to paid Music Unlimited plans with more music and features. It’s easily accessible through Alexa and Echo voice-enabled devices.
  • An Unlimited Family Plan (paid) allows 6 members access. Everyone on the plan will be able to make purchases with the credit card on the account.
  • Perk: always ad-free!

Risks and Parental Controls on Amazon Music

Bottom Line

  • Amazon Music isn’t perfect, but with some set-up and monitoring it’s better than apps that don’t have explicit filters.

 

What is Pandora?

  • Pandora is a music streaming app that allows users to create custom channels tailored to their preferences.
  • Free version with ads; can upgrade to ad-free paid plans with more features. Family plan available for six members. Learn more about subscriptions here.

Risks and Parental Controls on Pandora

  • You can restrict Pandora from playing songs or displaying ads with explicit language on Pandora radio stations – but not from “on-demand” content including podcasts and playlists. (On-demand content is only available in the Premium subscription.)
  • It’s easy for kids to go turn off the explicit filter setting.
  • Explicit tracks are identified with the “E” label. The explicit filter only removes explicit language. It will still play songs with “mature themes” and show suggestive album artwork. 
  • Learn to set explicit content filters on Pandora here.

Bottom Line

  • Not for younger children. Parental guidance is strongly suggested for older kids. 

What is iHeart Radio?

Risks and Parental Controls on iHeart Radio

  • The main iHeartRadio app does not offer parental controls to remove explicit content. The Live Radio stations do have to meet standards for broadcasting set by the FCC, so there are some restrictions in place there. 

Bottom Line

  • For those with younger kids, iHeart Radio Family is a good option. We don’t recommend the main iHeartRadio service since it has no explicit content filters.

What is Spotify?

Risks and Parental Controls on Spotify

Bottom Line

  • We don’t recommend Spotify as a good choice for kids and families.

What is Google Play Music?

Risks and Parental Controls on Google Play Music

  • Google’s music service allows you to block explicit songs in radio channels, but this only works on the website, not the mobile app. Also, the filter doesn’t apply to the library of streaming music, which is arguably the whole point of subscribing. 
  • Contrary to what it sounds like, even using Family Link  does not block inappropriate content.

Bottom Line

  • This app doesn’t have the parental controls you want in place to protect your kids.

What is TIDAL?

  • TIDAL is a subscription-based music streaming app owned by singer Jay-Z.  It features exclusive agreement contracts with various music artists (e.g., Beyoncé) and is known for high-quality sound.

Risks and Parental Controls on TIDAL

  • There are no parental controls or labeling for explicit content. It provides both songs and videos, so explicit content can be heard and seen. 
  • Read this mom’s story about her frustration discovering profanity and suggestive lyrics in TIDAL’s Kids Corner playlist.  The company’s refusal to correct this situation is even more disturbing!

Bottom Line

  • Strong Caution! We wouldn’t recommend this app for anyone who wants to avoid explicit content.    

The most-used music apps

Now that you know more about the parental controls in these music apps, you might be interested to know which ones are used by the most people!

Teaching Kids to Choose the Best Music

We listen to an average of 4.5 hours of music each day! Music absolutely does influence us. A study from University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston reported that

Youth in 7th grade who listen to rap music for three or more hours each day are more likely to believe that their peers are having sex, and are 2.6 times more likely to have had sex by ninth grade.

At some point kids will have control and decide what music they want to listen to. Here are some questions to start conversations that can help them evaluate what messages they want to accept in their music.

  1. What does that song teach us about bodies? Does it encourage respect for our amazing bodies?
  2. What does that music teach about relationships? Is it in line with our values for healthy, happy relationships?
  3. What does that song teach about sexuality? Do you think it is trying to influence what people think is normal and appropriate?
  4. Lots of music seems to be designed to make people think about sex. Why do you think that is? How can we hold on to the important values and beliefs we have?

When you teach your kids to be aware of messages in music, it gives them power to choose! It’s actually easier than ever to take control and create your own playlists filled with good music. It will be worth the effort!

Free guide for starting those tough conversations

Wondering what to say? You can get our most popular guide with some great ideas to help you with this! Just click below for your copy of Talk Today Safer Tomorrow: Top 10 Easy Conversation Starters.

7 Ways Predators and Porn will Target Kids in 2019 – Be Prepared Not Scared!

7 Ways Predators and Porn will Target Kids in 2019 – Be Prepared Not Scared!

Do you know where the latest digital dangers are lurking? Make no mistake about it: the porn industry and predators want your kids.

National security depends upon good intelligence – knowing who the enemies are and where they will strike. Your family security needs it too!

It’s time to be prepared, not scared. Armed with current intel on the current ways pornography and predators target children, you’ll be ready to protect your kids in 2019.

1. The Internet of Things creates safety and security issues for kids

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to all of the everyday objects now connected to the Internet such as appliances, home assistants, and even toys. They often have the label “Smart” in front of them. And while they tout convenience and fun, they also have dangerous drawbacks.

For example, Samsung has just introduced The Family Hub – a smart fridge that features a large screen in one door. (In fact, this type of smart interface was pioneered by my husband’s Microsoft Home team 20 years ago! But I digress . . . ) I won’t lie – this looks super cool!

But parents need to be aware of the browser feature on the Family Hub which means – you guessed it! – internet access.

As you consider smart products for your home, be aware that:

  • They can be hacked. One man’s Smart TV was hacked, which allowed burglars to disable his home security system. He came home from work to find his place ransacked – with no sign of forced break in. Imagine if this had happened when children were home alone! Yikes!
  • Your child’s personal data is collected. There’s actually lots of privacy and security concerns about big companies gathering info from children who use smart devices like Amazon Echo, etc.
  • Kids have more internet access. More internet access = more portals to risky content that need to be secured and monitored.

Internet of Things

Designed by Freepik

What parents can do to help keep kids safe:

Want to teach your kids how to stay safe from pornography in every situation? Get our free Quick Start Guide for Proactive Parents at the bottom of this post.

2. Apps that allow sextortion and harrassment of kids

You may have heard the old saying, “Where children play, predators prey.” More than ever, it’s true in 2019. Today young people spend time on digital playgrounds, so people with dangerous intentions gather there as well.

Many apps have a “Live Chat” feature which lets anyone else have access to your child. And apps that allow kids to post videos of themselves are especially risky. TikTok, Kwai and Clip are some of the popular social video apps where users post 15-second clips of themselves. The apps are full of “scantily-clad women or underage girls and boys dancing suggestively, posing in a bathroom or a pool, lip-syncing to vulgar songs or flirting with the audience.”

On these video apps, many kids like to engage in challenges such as such as creating a dance video using a particular song. Prize money and social approval are big motivators for kids seeking connection and validation.

These apps have become hunting grounds for predators, who groom kids by complimenting their video and asking to see more skin. There’s also a trend of sex offenders sending explicit videos to kids, then asking them to record themselves imitating the video.

In fact, there are known sextortion rings who target children online. Kids are befriended, asked for photos which become increasingly sexual, and then threatened if the child won’t produce more.

Sextortion Rings threaten children

What parents can do to help keep kids safe:

3. Video games expose kids to unprecedented levels of sexual violence

Sexual content in video games is nothing new, but be aware – there has been a definite rise in the quantity and explicit nature of sex in video games even in the past year.

A recent study by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation reported that Steam (the largest distributor of video games) hosted over 1,600 games with nudity in 2018, double the number when compared to 780 in 2017! 35 million children buy games from Steam, and these games are available to users of all ages.

The graphic sexual content in these games is often violent, promoting sexual harassment and assault. They normalize predatory tactics and desensitize players to increasingly degrading behaviors.

The largest pornography company in the industry is capitalizing on this shift and has launched their own video game distribution platform. In just a few months last year, its user traffic leaped from 50 million to 115 million visits. This is just the beginning, because the company has invested $30 million in game studios, intending to expand the market of explicit pornographic games. And some games are free to play, meaning young kids could access them without a credit card “paywall”.

Adding to the risk, popular gaming systems like PlayStation Network and Xbox Live have been infiltrated by porn bots. If safety features are not set up properly, young players can get messages from bots trying to engage the kids in a conversation and lure them into viewing pornography.

What parents can do to help keep kids safe:

  • It’s a good time to revisit the games your kids play, the parental controls you have set up, and the rules kids are expected to follow. Find info on parental controls and video game reviews here.
  • Most of all, teach kids why sexual content in games is harmful and what to do if they run into it.

The most powerful way to protect your kids from all of these dangers is to teach them what pornography is, why it is dangerous, and what they can do when they see it! Our read-aloud books make it safe and easy for parents and kids to talk about being prepared to reject pornography. Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids (2nd Edition) is for ages 6-11 and Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds is just right for ages 3-7.

“Have you wanted to talk to your kids about pornography, but didn’t know what to say?! I’ve felt that way for quite some time and finally found a solution – Good Pictures Bad Pictures. . . I highly recommend this book to all people with children. A must have for all parents!” – Amazon Review. CLICK HERE to learn more about Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.

4. Livestream gaming – an open door to graphic games and crude culture

While we’re on the subject of video games – one thing that baffles most parents is that kids love to watch other people play video games!

This phenomenon has exploded into the popularity of watching other gamers play on livestreaming services such as Twitch, Youtube, and Facebook.

Fortnite is the most popular livestream game on Twitch – it was watched for 114,723,116 hours in the last 30 days! Kids can watch players in all sorts of games such as League of Legends, Minecraft, and Grand Theft Auto.

There’s more to be concerned about just additional passive screen time here. Your kids might enjoy playing some good, safe games in your own home, but then be exposed to violent and sexualized game content by watching other gamers play some very disturbing games that you would never approve of.

Gaming livestreams show a real-time video of the player along with the live game play – and some gamers may not be the role model you would want your child to follow. And because it’s live, anything can happen. The excitement of playing can lead to streamers acting impulsively without thinking of the consequences.

There are also chat rooms where viewers can comment; and unfortunately there is a culture of crude language, lewd behavior, risque humor, harassment of women players, and violence among many gamers. Twitch also has a Whisper feature that allows users to talk privately, which could allow grooming or harassment to go on.

What parents can do to help keep kids safe:

  • Ask your kids if they have been watching livestream gaming. Younger kids would be better off not viewing – Twitch’s minimum age is 13.
  • Reinforce consistent standards for gaming. For teens, make sure they know that the same standards of content and behavior that your family has established for playing video games also applies to viewing livestream gaming.
  • Use the same family guidelines for all entertainment. Watching livestream gaming is entertainment, like watching a movie. Use the same guidelines your family follows for movies and TV. Talk about acceptable language, behavior, and content and what to do if the livestream goes off track.
  • Practice quality control. Watch with them, and check in frequently.

5. Kids abusing other kids: a bitter but growing trend

It’s called “child-on-child harmful sexual behavior.” We often worry about older predators online or coaches targeting our children on sports teams. Rarely do we worry about an older sibling, cousin or nextdoor neighbor child. Unfortunately, child-on-child harmful sexual behavior is on the rise because of exposure to pornography.

When Heidi Olson, a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), oversaw a research project at her hospital, they discovered that the biggest age range of perpetrators committing sexual assaults against children is 11 to 15Let that sink in for a moment.

A separate report from the UK showed that “up to 65% of sexual abuse experienced by children under 18 is perpetrated by someone under the age of 18.” (Barnardo’s, 2016, 15)

Here’s one heartbreaking story. Recently a desperate mom wrote to me because a 10-year-old boy, who she was watching during the summer, sexually molested her younger daughter. When the boy’s mother was confronted with the offense, she broke down and admitted that she had discovered “pornography of every kind” on her son’s tablet 3 weeks prior.

Before this incident, the boy had no inappropriate sexual behavior, and his mother didn’t think that her son had ever been sexually abused. However, it appears that after three weeks of viewing pornography, he felt compelled to act out sexually on another child.

Children are viewing pornography and then acting out on each other because they are wired to imitate what they see adults do. This is just another destructive and life-altering way that porn harms kids – both the child victims and the children who act out.

What parents can do to help keep kids safe:

  • Teach your children early what pornography is, why it’s harmful and how they can reject it.
  • Include the importance of never showing it to another child. In fact, showing pornography to a minor is illegal!
  • Be aware of the possibility of child-on-child harmful sexual behavior.
  • Teach kids about body safety boundaries, and be clear that the rules apply to anyone of any age, even their friends. For more, check out one of our all-time most popular posts: The 3 Big Red Flags of Child Abuse
  • Also teach kids to respect other kids’ body safety boundaries.

Pin this!

6. Rated-R Muppet movies and deceptive cartoon porn

Animated cartoon shows started with Disney and were made for children. But now, more and more animated features have “adult” themes and content. That can get misleading for busy parents!

For example, the makers of the Muppets decided to create an R-rated film, The Happytime Murders (we’re pretty sure Jim Henson is rolling in his grave). You can look the trailer up on YouTube, but we’re not linking to it here.

Here’s an excerpt from the Rotten Tomatoes review of The Happytime Murders:

“They may look like the puppets your kids see on Sesame Street, made of colorful felt with sweet faces and kind, googly eyes. But be warned: The characters in The Happytime Murders aren’t here to teach your kids their ABCs and 1-2-3s. They’re too busy having sex, doing drugs, drinking in hot tubs and starring in porn videos – and they’re brought to you by the letter F, over and over again. That’s the gimmick in this extremely hard-R comedy: Seemingly wholesome characters take part in unspeakably unwholesome activities.”

Here’s another example – what if your kids asked it they could watch a fun cartoon about jr. high kids called Big Mouth on Netflix? Some busy parents might say yes without a thought. Hopefully that’s not you!

Big Mouth is an adult-rated cartoon show filled with vulgar language, graphic nudity, and even more seriously disturbing sexual conduct involving kids who are just 11 – 13 years old. And since it’s a cartoon, it naturally attracts young viewers. If you’ve got Netflix, make sure you’ve set up the parental controls.

Then there’s anime. My grown-up daughter really enjoys anime shows, but she has often stopped watching a series because sexually explicit material appeared after a few episodes. One woman I interviewed said that she started watching anime porn when she was young (because it wasn’t “real” porn), and then got addicted to it.

“Children looking for animated content could accidentally open a porn video. Or they could start searching for innocent videos and unintentionally end up on Web sites containing violent content, both of which could have a long-term impact on their impressionable and vulnerable minds.” Anna Larkina, Web-content analysis expert at Kaspersky Lab 

What parents can do to help keep kids safe:

  • Never assume that a show is safe because it’s animated. Check it out first!
  • Use the parental controls available for your cable TV or video streaming services.
  • If your child wants to watch an anime show, watch at least three episodes, including shows from later episodes.
  • Teach kids the some people want to trick them online by making pornography that looks like a fun kid’s cartoon. Practice what to do if they see anything like that.
  • Most importantly, help your kids understand why they don’t want that kind of content polluting their minds.

7. Cute kid hashtags make it easy for predators to find victims

Posting adorable, innocent photos of your kids on social media is just part of parenting today – but it can actually lead sexual predators right to your kids. One way predators search for compromising photos of children is through hashtags like #BathTime, #PottyTime and #PottyTraining. A few other hashtags that are favored by doting parents, but exploited by sex offenders are #NakedKids and #NakedBaby.

Predators not only target children with the intention of grooming them or tracking them down in person; they can also digitally change the photos into something terribly abusive.

Fake Photoshopped images have now evolved into altered Deepfake videos that are incredibly realistic. Deepfakes are videos that superimpose someone’s face onto someone else’s body – and you can hardly tell it’s a deception. Already there are way too many people using it to swap a non-consenting person’s face onto a porn performer. These face-swaps create obvious problems for exploitation, and could be used for blackmail and harassment. Even of kids.

“The potential harm in over-sharing private moments far outweighs the benefits, as social media is now a digital playground for dangerous pedophiles to steal and turn innocent photos of children into exploitative content with irreversible and lasting damage,” said Carly Yoost, Founder and CEO of Child Rescue Coalition.

What parents can do to help keep kids safe:

  • Keep private moments private, and don’t use hashtags that could put your kids in danger.
  • Just as we warn teens to think twice before sharing inappropriate pictures, we need to remember that when we post a photo of our child we lose control of where it goes or how it is used.
  • Child Rescue Coalition says before sharing your child’s image on social media, ask yourself:
    • Why am I sharing this?
    • Would I want someone else to share an image like this of me?
    • Would I want this image of my child viewed and downloaded by predators on the Dark Web?
    • Is this something I want to be part of my child’s digital life?

Conclusion

Parenting in the digital age requires reliable intel and constant vigilance. The good news is that proactive parents really can stay informed about the dangers, stay in tune with their kids, and put protective measures in place.

Remember this simple formula:

  1. Filter and monitor the areas under your control.
  2. Help your kid install an internal filter so they CAN protect themselves in the areas you can’t control.
  3. Continue to have open and ongoing conversations about pornography, predators, and other dangers found in media.

Parent Alert! Monthly Updates

Every month we publish a Parent Alert! post to help you stay current with digital dangers. Stay ahead of the trends and share it with other parents! Their kids are your children’s friends and classmates. We’re all safer together!

Get your free Quick Start Guide for Proactive Parents and you will also get our Parent Alert! each month.

The Quick Start Guide has answers to these important questions:

  • Why are so many good kids getting pulled into pornography?
  • How can parents get more comfortable talking to their kids?
  • What are the benefits to tackling this subject early?
  • What EXACTLY do your kids need to know to stay safe from pornography in every situation?

Get your free copy by clicking on the image below:

How to Protect Kid’s Holiday Tech Gifts in 2018 (and Fun Screen-Free Ideas!)

How to Protect Kid’s Holiday Tech Gifts in 2018 (and Fun Screen-Free Ideas!)

It’s holiday season, and you’re facing mind-boggling decisions about gifts for your kids. They’re dreaming of fancy tech gadgets; you’re uneasy about unforeseen consequences. 

 

Bewildered by the internet-connected gifts kids yearn for?

We’re going to help you through this! Read on to find:

  1. Guidelines for giving safe tech gifts – all summed up in a free checklist you can take shopping
  2. Parental control info so you can set up and safeguard tech gifts before you give them
  3. Ideas for some fun top-rated screen-free gifts for kids!

Commit to choosing no-regret gifts

So many toys and gifts for kids today have major sizzle and wow factors coming from internet-connected technology. The most popular connected tech gifts are smartphones, tablets, video games, gaming systems, and the latest to hit the mainstream: virtual reality. There are also many toys now that connect to the internet or are controlled by a smartphone app.

All that connection comes along with possible encounters with bad content or people with dangerous intentions. No amount of excitement on Christmas morning can make up for a child’s trauma or diversion into damaging behavior later.

You don’t have to be caught off guard, realizing only later the problems that slipped in with that brightly wrapped present.

Keep this guide close by while holiday shopping

Guidelines for giving safe tech gifts

  1. Get crystal-clear on possible risks before buying the gift.
  2. Be honest – is this gift right for your child’s age and stage?
  3. Be prepared with parental controls before you buy.
  4. The secret to success: Plan out the rules and consequences.
  5. Set up first, wrap later!
  6. Happy kids? This is the moment to get buy-in on the rules!
  7. Show up as the mentor your kids need – with tech and with life.

And don’t forget another important rule: enjoy a peaceful holiday knowing you are a great parent!

Read on to learn more about these guidelines – and don’t forget to download the list at the end of this post!

Get crystal-clear on possible risks before buying the gift.

So your kids are wishing for a shiny new device?

Remember –  tablets, phones, and laptops are not toys, they are powerful communication devices that link your child to the world. Gaming systems can connect kids with people they don’t know. And VR (virtual reality) is a whole new level of digital immersion!

Other new toys don’t connect to the internet themselves, but require a smartphone app to operate them.

For example, Bluebee Pals plush toys connect to smartphone apps so they can read stories, teach, and sing to young kids.  For grade schoolers, the littleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit lets kids learn coding, customize missions, invent new Droids and give them personality – all through a smartphone app.

Since the toys require a smartphone app to play, that means either:

  • You must always be involved and in charge of playtime,
  • You need to hand over your smartphone so the kids can play, or
  • Your child needs their own smartphone.

You may not want them to have access to a smartphone in order to have fun. And if they need your phone, do you really want your child begging to use your phone to play all the time?

While these toys can be very engaging, they are probably best for kids who you have already determined are ready for a smartphone.

8 Questions for clarity on tech issues

Consider these as you balance the fun you hope for your child with the potential downside.

  1. Does it connect to the internet?
  2. Does it allow my kids to interact with other people online?
  3. Can it play or link to violent or sexualized content?
  4. How will this gift impact my child’s overall screen time?
  5. What parental controls are available? How good are they?
  6. What will it cost me in time needed to set up controls, teach my kids to use it safely and monitor it regularly?
  7. Does my child understand what pornography is and what to do if they see it?
  8. Is my child likely to follow the rules and let me know if they run into bad content or have contact with sketchy people?

These questions are included in the free gift guide below!

Be honest – is this gift right for your child’s age and stage?

Some gifts that would be great for a prepared 14-year-old are not such a good idea for an impulsive 8-year-old.

Many parents wonder when a child is ready for a smartphone. We wrote When Should Kids Have Cell Phones? Savvy Parents Reveal Best Strategies to help with this big decision. We love the idea of a graduated plan that gives kids increased responsibility over time. Check out our Purposeful 4-Level Plan, age-appropriate advice from PC Magazine on The Best Phones for Kids, and this 4-phase process from Better Screen Time.

For more help, get our free guide: Is My Child Ready for a Smartphone?

In some cases, you could consider giving the gift of access instead of actually owning the tech. KJ Dell’Antonia, a parenting blogger for the New York Times, suggests a family iPad. And many families have parent-controlled family phones that kids can check out with permission.

That way, kids don’t create their own individual online world prematurely, before they’re ready to deal with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and texting, as well as the issues of Internet safety from predators. A family device leaves parents with the right to set up passwords, parental controls and time limits. From: Internet Safety: Three Tips for Parents Before Giving Kids an iPad, Tablet or Smartphone.

Be prepared with parental controls before you buy

Some devices and toys have built-in parental controls, and others have nothing. Do your detective work – when you know how easy (or confusing) controls will be to set up and manage, you’re ready to shop with confidence!

The two most important things about parental controls:

  1. Parental controls are an absolutely essential piece of protecting your children. They reduce the amount of risky content and contact kids will be exposed to, and often help you see what is going on.
  2. Parental controls are never foolproof, so the real power is in doubling up! Use parental controls and equip your kids with their own internet defense skills to prepare them to make smart decisions.

There are thousands of internet-connected devices, so to learn about the latest updates, just search for “[name of the device] parental controls”.

Also search for “[name of the device] reviews” to get the scoop on what trusted sources and other parents think about the product.

A quick and easy list for some popular parental control info:

Parental control tutorials for gaming systems, phones, laptops and more

Independent reviews on parental control software (filtering and monitoring)

Video game reviews

Virtual reality – a quick parent update on the latest gaming trend

We’ve written about VR before, and it’s becoming more mainstream. So if your kids are “hinting” that they would love VR, it’s time to do a little investigating.

Start with Common Sense Media’s What Parents Need to Know About Virtual Reality

VR has amazing potential, but our own recommendation is to steer clear of bringing VR into your home as a regular activity for kids. There’s no definitive evidence yet that VR does OR doesn’t harm children’s development. Researchers say there’s a lot they don’t know yet.

Jeremy Bailenson at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab says there may be serious implications for how VR impacts children’s memory and their perception of real life, but more research is needed before any conclusions are drawn.

The VR companies themselves say their systems should not be used by kids under 12 or 13 years old.

For example, VR headsets from Oculus allow kids to interact with anyone they add as friends. It has no real parental controls other than ratings on their games, which are all rated for age 13+.

Additionally, the user is viewing something that no one else can see – it is impossible to watch what kids are doing even in the same room. The porn industry is definitely keeping up with the VR world, so be cautious.

Related: Filtering 101: Protect Kids From Porn on New Devices

The secret to success: Plan out the rules and consequences

The best time to think through the rules is before kids have unwrapped the ribbons, shouted for joy and headed off to their bedroom to play!

A few good rules to consider:

  • Devices are not allowed to go to bed with kids at night – they get re-charged at the parents’ bedside.
  • Establish how much time each day can they use the device.
  • Kids should put down the device the first time parents ask for attention.
  • Be clear about no-device zones and times such as during dinner, homework, when talking with people in person, and no screens in bedrooms.
  • Parents have access to passwords and regular checkups on the device.
  • Consequences of breaking the rules: 24 hours of losing access to tech followed by earning more time through good behavior; make restitution through extra chores or service.

The best way to keep these rules alive is to praise kids when they follow them! Water what you want to grow – which is responsible and safe use of technology.

To be really clear on kids’ responsibilities, you could download these cool safety gift cards from Family Online Safety Institute and wrap them up with the gift!

Set up first, wrap later

Here’s where the big impact is:

Open the gift, get familiar with how it works, and set up parental controls before you wrap it up.

One hour spent now means your kids can enjoy their gift right away on Christmas.

It means you can relax on the holiday knowing you are doing your best to protect your kids.

Even better, it can save you hours (maybe even years) of anguish if your kids have harmful experiences with the new technology.

Because it will be much easier to do now than later. So just sit down with those directions, charge it up and get it going. You might even have fun trying it out yourself!

This is the moment to get buy-in

The long wait is over and your child is over the moon with their new surprise!

Guess what – you have their attention! They will do anything to be free to use their new gift, so now is the time to introduce the responsibilities that come with such a grown-up device.

Let them know you trust them – that’s why you decided to give them this gift. However, you just don’t trust some people online, and you want them to be safe.

Show up as the mentor your kids need – with tech and life

Ok, honestly that first talk about the rules happened when everyone was feeling a little tired, over-excited, and queasy from holiday treats.

Now you show your kids that you really do care and really are going to follow up on the rules and consequences.

Be interested in hearing how they are using their gift, what they enjoy and what is giving them trouble. Sit down and have them share it with you. Look for teaching opportunities about making good choices online.

And definitely keep talking to them about pornography and what to do if they see it!

Hold kids accountable for the rules and follow through with consequences when needed. It’s good for them, really.

We made it easy for you to keep these guidelines close as you make your holiday gift plans! Just get your free guide here –

 Click here for your free guide!

Unplugged Christmas gifts

So now for the fun part! Here are some top-rated ideas for screen-free gifts! Building motor skills, expressing creativity and developing relationships are just side effects of the fun.

(Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning that at no extra cost to you, Protect Young Minds will earn a small referral fee if you click through and make a purchase. We appreciate your support of our cause!)

STEM toys that don’t need an internet-connected device

The Learning Journey Code and Learn! Space Ship or Ladybug – Age 5+
Introduces basic programming – children use the coding card deck and the colored grid to program the fun remote-control spaceship or ladybug to reach the correct destination.

Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set – age 4+
Build your maze, then use the coding cards to create a step-by-step path for the programmable robot mouse.

K’NEX Mighty Makers Up, Up & Away Building Set – age 7+
Build 3 different aviation models – includes Ava figure and her bird, Jay. This is just one of several cool models in the Mighty Makers series.

ThinkFun Circuit Maze Electric Current Logic Game – Age 8+
Logical reasoning and planning skills in a fun gameplay. Learn how circuits and electrical currents work! Multi-level challenges.

Books

Ok, we’re biased on this one – we think every child deserves to learn from their parents how to be safe online! Our read-together books are an easy, comfortable way to help kids be ready to reject pornography. They make great gifts for parents and professionals who work with kids.

Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids 2nd Edition Age 6-11
Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds – Age 3-7

Active toys

Kidoozie Foam Pogo Jumper – Age 3+ up to 250 lbs
Hopping fun indoors or out, strengthens coordination and core muscles.

Yoga Pretzels Cards – Age 4+
Easy-to-follow cards get kids moving, and are something kids can do together.

Folding Gymnastics Gym Tumbling Exercise Martial Arts Mat Pad – all ages
Give kids an official place to tumble and play!

ALEX Active Monkey Balance Board – Age 3+
Hours of fun and large motor skill development.

Scooter Board with Safety Handles – up to 175 lbs
If you have a hard indoor surface, this will keep kids scooting, gliding and rolling around! Builds core strength and coordination.

Fat Brain Toys Teeter Popper – Age 3+
Rock, roll, sit or stand – great active fun!

Matty’s Toy Stop Wooden Snow Shovels – Age 3+
Get kids outside enjoying the snow!

Creative gifts

Crayola Color Wonder Scented Stampers – Age 3+
The no-mess markers and inkpad smell like desserts, making coloring and designing a sensory experience!

Cardboard Tool Kit – Age 6+ (4+ with adult supervision)
Turn leftover cardboard into a creative adventure with this construction kit from Uncommon Goods.

Yarn Unicorn Craft Kit – Age 8+
Wrap your way to two adorable unicorns with this magical crafting kit from Uncommon Goods.

Design Your Own Slime Kit – Age 8+
Tactile and colorful, this kit lets you add glow, sparkle, and metallizer special effects to give your custom putties even more pizzazz. From Uncommon Goods.

Kid’s board games for fun and skill-building

First Orchard Game from HABA – Age 2-5
Working as a team, the children try to pick the fruits from the trees before the raven reaches the end of the path. Suitable for 1-4 players ages 2+

Race to the Treasure from Peaceable Kingdom – Age 5+
Build a path with your team and collect 3 keys on a race to beat ogre to the treasure! It’s a game where everyone plays together, no one is left out, and everybody has fun! 2-4 players

IceCool from Brain Games – Age 6+
Penguins are running through the school in the first flicking game ever to have pieces which curve and jump! 2-4 players.

Sushi Go Card Game from Gamewright – Age 8+
Pass the sushi! In this fast-playing card game, the goal is to grab the best combination of sushi dishes as they whiz by. 2-5 players.

Games the whole family will enjoy together

Dixit by Asmodee – Age 8+
A lighthearted game of storytelling and guesswork where your imagination unlocks the tale.
3 – 6 players

Karuba from HABA – Age 8+
Lay your tiles on a grid to form paths in a fast-paced strategy game, racing against other players to snag the loot first. Every game plays differently! 2-4 players

So that’s it! We wish you the merriest of holidays and a safe and happy year ahead!

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5 Must-Know Online Trends for Parents and Kids to Talk Over Now

5 Must-Know Online Trends for Parents and Kids to Talk Over Now

No need to feel overwhelmed by keeping up with the latest info on raising digital kids! We’ve got you covered. Check in regularly for current news you can use to prepare your kids to live safely in a sexualized world.

Here’s What’s Trending in October 2018

Tech: New iOs Screen Time – Make It a Fun Family Challenge

The good news

Apple iOS 12 has new Screen Time parental controls!

Now parents can set more limits on a child’s iPhone, iPad or iPod. Parents get weekly reports, and can manage how much time a child uses apps. Parents can also schedule Downtime from a distance, basically locking down iOS devices at meals or bedtime. Learn how here.

Screen Time also helps grown-ups manage their tech time! It will show how much you use your phone and has tools to set your own limits.

The reality-check news

Apple iOS 12 has been out for less than a month, and kids are already getting past Screen Time controls.

“Getting around restrictions is just a matter of time, and kids always have more time available to them than their parents. Always.

Which isn’t to say that parents can’t, or shouldn’t, try to oversee their children’s digital development. It’s just that setting up restrictions and forgetting about it probably isn’t the right approach—active parenting is going to be required, and no tech can change that.” Justin Pot

Don’t despair! This is an opportunity for your whole family to take the challenge to manage screen time better and build connection in the process.

What you can do:

  1. Be enthusiastic! Your attitude will influence your kids.
  2. Use it as a tool for family discussions and accountability, rather than exerting power.
  3. Set up Screen Time together as a family, on the kids and the parents devices. Explain why parents have more control over the kids’ devices (it’s parents’ job to train kids and watch over them until they can be independent.)
  4. Show how it can help you all enjoy tech while keeping it in healthy limits.
  5. Gamify it! Use Screen Time to set challenge goals for how much time each person wants to spend on their phone, on certain apps or on categories such as social media.
  6. Hold regular tech challenge check-ins. Share the data about how your family is using their devices, celebrate success, and set new goals to keep improving. Listen to what the kids are learning!
  7. As a family, decide on reasonable consequences for those who cheat the system.

It’s great to see Apple providing tools to help families. Don’t let the fact that kids can get past it deter you. As you know well from our constant message, the real power is in teaching kids to make good choices with tech.

You can start with kids as young as 3 and 4-years old and practice how to stay safe. Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds makes it easy!

Now Available! Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds is HERE! CLICK HERE to learn how to protect kids ages 3-6 from the dangers of pornography.

Apps: New Instagram Video Chat Gives Predators Access to Kids

Instragram launched a new video chat feature this summer. Everyone who has updated to the latest version of the app now has the ability to video chat through DM (direct messaging). Videos, like messages, can be set to disappear Snapchat-style.

So the same concerns about Snapchat apply to Instagram.

We heard a disturbing story this week from a friend. A stranger sent a video to a middle school boy through his Instagram account. The contact was an older man, and he was not fully clothed.

“Most parents don’t know that ANYONE can request to DM their child, even with a private account. It shows up as a request. Once accepted, strangers can DM.” Mandy Majors, nextTalk

Instagram’s help info warns, “Keep in mind that anyone you’ve accepted a direct message from can video chat with you. To prevent someone from video chatting with you, you can block them or mute the conversation.”

What you can do:

  • Kids should be at least 13 before using Instagram.
  • As with all social media, regular talks and check-ins are key.
  • If your older kids are using Instagram, talk about the new video chat feature and how to stay safe. Most importantly, do not accept DM requests from anyone you don’t know. If a stranger sends a chat request, block them.

News: 24 Men Arrested for Luring Kids Through Games Like Fortnite, Minecraft & Roblox

“In news that will make most parents sick to their stomachs, 24 men were arrested in a sting operation in New Jersey for allegedly using these games and others to lure kids into being potential victims of sex crimes.” Ashley Austrew, CafeMom Blog

Some of the predators posed as teenagers to befriend minors. However, they were actually talking with the New Jersey State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The men were arrested when they arrived at a home where they expected to meet their victims.

We all know online predators are out there somewhere – but sometimes we need a reminder that the internet brings everyone out there within reach of our own kids.

The New Jersey Attorney General’s office identified the apps that were used by some of the 24 men arrested.

What you can do:

1. Set up parental controls in games. Learn more about Fortnite and how to turn off voice chat.

2. Regularly talk to kids about what to do in questionable interactions online.

  • Never give out personal info.
  • Be aware of sketchy questions like “When are your parents coming home?”
  • Remember other players may not be who they say they are.

3. Follow game chat safety rules:

  • Only play online games with people you know in real life.
  • Turn off communication features in games when possible.
  • If playing games with voice chat, play in a room where parents can hear what is going on (no headphones!)
  • If teens do play with people they don’t know in person, don’t interact outside of the game, such as instant messaging, texting or another platform.

Research: Study Reveals a Connection Between Adolescent Pornography Use and Mental Health

Pornography affects kids in so many ways – have you ever wondered how depression might fit into the problem?

A recent article reviewed 57 different studies on pornography use by adolescents. One sobering trend they found was that teens and tweens that have high levels of pornography use also show more depression and other emotional and behavioral problems. An interesting note is that young people who view pornography infrequently do not show these higher levels of emotional problems.

Our takeaway on kids, depression and pornography

Emotional problems like depression can be both a cause and a result of using pornography. Kids can get in a cycle of feeling low, turning to pornography (or other harmful behavior) for escape, and then feeling even worse after viewing it.

It’s important to pay attention and not expect emotional problems to just go away by themselves. Parents can support kids who are going through emotional pain. Kids who are intentionally viewing porn and showing signs of distress need care that addresses all concerns.

At the same time, we know many parents fear that if their child ever sees pornography, they are destined to have major life challenges. While we never want to minimize the harm of pornography, it’s encouraging to find that infrequent pornography use is not always linked with emotional problems.

It confirms our belief that while we can’t prevent kids from ever seeing pornography, with your help it is still possible for children to grow up free from the problems of pornography. Every time you talk to your kids, they are safer!

Reference: Adolescent Pornography Use: A Systematic Literature Review of Research Trends 2000-2017 published in 2018 by Kyriaki Alexandraki, Vasileios Stavropoulos, Emma Anderson, Mohammad Qasim Latifi, and Rapson Gomez.

#UseTech4Good

Ending on a positive note, this high school student created an anonymous Twitter account to send only compliments to other students. Hayden sent Tweets such as telling students he was inspired by how creative they were, how he wanted to be them because of how determined they were, or even just that he appreciated them. He reminds us that it costs exactly $0 to be kind!

Free Download

Get our free guide to start talking to your kids about how to stay safe from pornography! Click on the image to get your Quick Start Guide for Proactive Parents.

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Snapchat Made Easy for Parents

Snapchat Made Easy for Parents

The number of social media platforms is dizzying! Out of all of them, why should you pay attention to Snapchat? Because in the past couple of years, Snapchat has taken over as the clear favorite of teens. That’s right, 45% of teens say Snapchat is their go-to social network, eclipsing Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Our kids have been raised in a visual culture, and Snapchat fits right in with that interest. Snapchat is a tool for creative self-expression and social communication.

“When you see your children taking a zillion photographs of things you would never take a picture of, it’s because they’re using photographs to talk,” Evan Spiegel, Snapchat founder and CEO.

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is an app that allows users to send photos, videos or messages that disappear after a set time limit. The idea was to provide some level of privacy to allow users to express themselves more freely without the fear of photos being shared or living online forever.

Snapchat users can take a picture or video, make some edits, add some text and then send it to friends. Then friends have 1-10 seconds to view the photo before it disappears.

Basic Snapchat Lingo

Snaps: photos or videos taken on Snapchat
Snapchatters: Snapchat users
Snap story: A series of snaps that link together to tell a story and are available for 24 hours.
Snapstreak: Snapchat keeps track of the number consecutive days friends snap each other. Some kids find this feature somewhat stressful since they don’t want to let their friends down by ending the streak.
Score: A number showing how often someone uses Snapchat – the higher the score, the more they use it (yes, Snapchat is using gamification to hook their followers!)

Features of Snapchat

Related: Instagram and Your Kids: 5 Hidden Dangers

Concerns about Snapchat

Despite all the fun, there have been growing concerns regarding sexting, cyberbullying, sexualized content and other issues that have marred the meteoric rise of Snapchat.

A 2017 survey conducted by Common Sense Media showed that 29% of parents expressed concern about their teens’ use of Snapchat. In comparison, only 16% of the respondents were worried about Facebook and a mere 6% about Instagram.

Here are some of the major concerns that you will want to be aware of, along with talking points to discuss with your kids.

Young users

Despite a policy that requires users to be 13 years or older, in compliance with the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), there is no stopping young children from signing up on the platform with fake birth dates – with or without their parent’s help.

Talking point: Kids need to be ready to handle the pressures, risks, emotions, and unpredictable nature of using social media. Some experts even recommend that teens don’t use Snapchat until 16 years old because of the security risks and graphic content.

Another helpful tool for deciding when kids are ready for social media, apps, and smartphones is our free guide: Is My Child Ready for a Smartphone? 10 Questions to Guide Parents. Get it at the end of the post!  

A false sense of privacy

Snapchat is built around the idea of disappearing messages and pictures, but that isn’t entirely reliable. Screenshots can easily be saved by the recipient.

Snapchat tries to send a notification to the original sender when a screenshot is taken, but this is not foolproof. In addition to screenshots, photos can easily be taken of the screen itself; and third-party apps exist to allow users to save others’ Snaps!

Talking point: Never send a Snap you wouldn’t want everyone to see.

Undeleting photos and videos

Much like how PC recovery software can bring back files from the dead, there are ways to restore deleted Snaps. Although they require some effort, such methods can be leveraged for inappropriate uses by motivated individuals.

Talking point: There’s never a fool-proof way to wipe out digital footprints. Privacy is almost in direct opposition to the concept of a connected world.

snapchat phone photo

Cyberbullying

Too many kids and teens are tempted to send mean messages and pictures because they expect them to disappear. Believing that there is no way to document and follow up on bullying encourages such anti-social behavior.

Kids and teens could be a target of harassment – or an instigator.

Talking point: The same rules for kindness apply online and in the real world. Treat others the way you would like to be treated – and how they would like to be treated. Together we are all creating the kind of world we get to live in.

And if someone is bothering you on Snapchat, you can remove or block them.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Social Media is Not Smart for Middle School Kids

Sexting (aka sending nudes)

Snapchat is commonly used for sending nude or provocative photos and videos among teens because of the temporary nature of the content. But as noted, images can easily be saved. The pictures could even end up on the wider Internet.

Also, kids and teens can be sent sexually explicit pictures without their consent.

Talking points from Common Sense Media:

“Remember – when an image is sent, it can never be retrieved, and you will lose control of it. Ask how they would feel if their teachers, parents, or the entire school saw the picture, because that happens all the time.

Talk about peer pressure to send revealing photos. Tell them that no matter how big the social pressure is, the potential social humiliation can be hundreds of times worse.

Teach your children that the buck stops with them. If someone sends them a photo, they should delete it immediately. It’s better to be part of the solution than the problem.”

Sending or possessing nude photos can have serious legal consequences as well.

Talking about pornography with kids ages 6-11 is easy with our book, Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.

Good Pictures Bad Pictures“Have you wanted to talk to your kids about pornography, but didn’t know what to say?! I’ve felt that way for quite some time and finally found a solution – Good Pictures Bad Pictures. . . I highly recommend this book to all people with children. A must have for all parents!” – Amazon Review. CLICK HERE to learn more about Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.

Snap Map

This feature pinpoints users’ exact locations on a map when they share their stories unless they change their settings. Sharing their location online can be an open invitation for trouble from stalkers and predators.

Talking point: Nothing good can come from strangers knowing where you are. Go to settings and select ‘Only Me (Ghost Mode)’ or ‘Select Friend’ to choose specific friends to share your location with.

No parental controls to limit sexual content

Snapchat has no clear way to report sexual content and no parental controls, and as such, can be very risky. Users cannot opt-out of content shared through Discover, which can be blatantly sexualized. These problems have landed Snapchat on the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s Dirty Dozen List 2018. So it is important to have an in-depth conversation on the risks and concerns about its use with your family.

Talking point:  Parents can restrict their kids’ access to apps using built-in parental controls for Android from Google and Apple iPhone, iPad, and iPod. Even more importantly, review your family rules and values for using social media. Have regular check-ins about what is happening in their social media world.

Now you know the basics of Snapchat! You are ready to impress your kids in an informed discussion whether they are already using Snapchat – or begging to do so. Using social media wisely and intentionally is a learning process for both parents and kids. Together you can make the best decisions about what works best for your family.

Get our free guide below for deciding when your child is ready for a smartphone. Many of these questions help evaluate when kids are ready for apps and social media as well!