Parent Alert: Is Roblox Safe for Kids? Watch Out for These 4 Dangers

Parent Alert: Is Roblox Safe for Kids? Watch Out for These 4 Dangers

Our regular Parent Alert! news updates help parents stay ahead of the trends affecting kids in our hypersexualized culture.

4 Dangers of Roblox

Do your kids enjoy Roblox? It can be creative fun, but you also need to understand and guard against some significant risks to your kids!

What is Roblox?

Roblox is a multiplayer online game creation platform. Users create their own games and play games created by others.  Players can also buy, sell and create virtual items. It’s free to download on iOS and Android devices, computers, and XBox.

There are 90 million monthly active users on Roblox, appealing to users as young as six years old! Roblox has been number one in online entertainment for kids under 13, and second for teens ages 13 – 17.

Four dangers to prepare kids to avoid:

1. Beware of predators using third-party chat apps

Even with parental controls turned on and chat messaging turned off, predators have found a way to communicate with children while they play Roblox.  

Third-party chat apps are designed to look like they are part of the game, when in fact they are a back door to your child.

One mom noticed that her son began to change in his behavior and no longer wanted to take part in family activities.  

When she checked her son’s game, she realized that he had been messaging with others through a third-party chat app rather than through the game itself.  To her horror, she discovered that her son had been groomed into sending explicit photos of himself to strangers!

Tip:  Continue to check up on your children’s games, even when you have set up parental controls.  Teach your child to leave a game right away and report to you if he is contacted by a stranger, asked to send photos, or share personal information. 

 2.  Watch out for sexualized avatars

Another mom noticed that her six-year-old daughter had been invited into a “sex room” by a “friend” while playing Roblox.  All the Roblox characters were involved in various sex acts!  

Players may also be exposed to avatars that have been programmed to perform sexual or demeaning acts during a game.

 Tip: Be sure to put parental controls on the highest settings for your younger children. Roblox has a short guide for parents with tips including how to quickly block and report an inappropriate player.  Parents can also restrict the types of games that their children can play on Roblox, especially those featuring sensitive or scary content. 

3.  Be cautious with Roblox YouTube videos

Many players record their Roblox games and upload them to YouTube. Unfortunately YouTube is full of Roblox videos featuring sexual content or violent themes such as school shootings.  Code words like “shex” instead of sex are used in the keywords to get around the filters.

Tip:  YouTube is notorious for its sexploitation problems, so it’s not surprising to find out that kids can find inappropriate Roblox videos.  There’s too much risk here for young children, so it’s best to not let them go looking for videos.  Stick to the actual game with parental controls set high, and follow up with continual monitoring.

4. Look out for bypassed audios

Some players share inappropriate content by using “bypassed audio”. Bypasses are things like swear words, racial slurs, or offensive songs that players get past (bypass) the Roblox moderators.  

TipKeep kids close when they are playing online games. This way you can see if anything inappropriate is showing up visually or audibly. Remember that when kids use headphones to play games, you can’t check up on what they are hearing.

Prepare your young kids to be safe with Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds CLICK HERE to learn how to protect kids ages 3-6 from the dangers of pornography.

HBO’s New Series Euphoria Exhibits Sexual Exploitation of Teens

“There are going to be parents who are going to be totally (bleep) freaked out.”

Sam Levinson, writer for HBO’s disturbing new show for teens, Euphoria

Season 1 of HBO’s Euphoria premiered on June 16 with a confirmed second season in the works.  The show delivers on the shock value, with “unflinching displays of nudity, drugs, sex and other things that can keep parents up at night.”

The opening scene shows an emotionally disturbed teen abusing alcohol and drugs to numb her pain.  Abusive themes dominate the show, mostly shown in graphic details: rape of a 17-year old by a much older man, pornography, sexual violence (choking during sex), “slut-shaming” and other forms of sexual abuse.

Here are some of the ways it can be viewed:

  • The show can be streamed on demand through HBO GO and HBO NOW apps on any device.
  • The first episode is streaming for free on HBO. 
  • Viewers without HBO can also add HBO access to their Amazon Prime account (with free trial). 

Warning: Parents are strongly cautioned to keep their kids and teens away from this show.  It unapologetically exploits teens.  It’s voyeuristic, pornographic, and offers no hope for teens caught up in cycles of drug and/or sexual abuse. One reviewer calls it “smut disguised as ‘art.’” 

Bleak. Deadening. Lurid. This is not a show you want your kids exposed to.

A teaching opportunity

Euphoria is just one of many dark shows that remind us how critical it is to teach kids about making good media choices. You can help them be resilient and learn to reject the toxic aspects of our culture.

Some conversation tips:

  1.   Talk to your teens about this show.  Ask them what they know about it. Is it being talked about in their peer group, or on their social media?  (Note: This show is trending with teens, like the toxic, fan-fiction movie After.)
  2.   Help your child to understand the fundamental lies that these types of shows promote, including the normalization of sexual and drug abuse. 
  3.   Talk with your teen or tween about how to develop healthy peer relationships by setting boundaries – both online and in person. 

National Center on Sexual Exploitation has an easy way for parents to contact HBO about the sexually exploitative content in Euphoria.

When you stay updated on the latest risks affecting your child, you have the power to teach them to be safe. We can help!

Get your free guide to Talk Today, Safer Tomorrow: Top 10 Easy Conversation Starters! Click the image below.

It isn’t as hard as you think to start teaching kids to be safe from pornography. This guide will help you get started!

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.

Parent Alert! Strangers Can Cyber Flash Lewd Photos to Kids on iPhones

Parent Alert! Strangers Can Cyber Flash Lewd Photos to Kids on iPhones

Our regular Parent Alert! news updates help parents stay ahead of the trends affecting kids in our hypersexualized culture.

This month we’re talking about two sources of danger for children – and what you can do to protect kids! Read on to learn how to prevent cyber flashing and the risks of kids using SnapChat.

Has Your Child Been Cyber Flashed on His iPhone? 

If your child has an iPhone, check the privacy settings on AirDrop right away!

AirDrop is an Apple feature that allows users to share data (such as photos, playlists, etc.) directly to another iPhone without texting or email.  It creates a peer-to-peer connection between two devices so that users can share information with the click of a button. 

Useful? Absolutely. Safe? Not without turning on those privacy settings! 

Here’s the problem with AirDrop. If privacy settings are not set, it allows anyone to send explicit images anonymously to other iPhones within 20 to 30 feet.  The images just pop up on a user’s iPhone without requiring anything to be clicked on. This act of sending someone an unsolicited, anonymous, and obscene image is called cyber flashing.   

How popular is “AirDropping?” Teens have been using AirDrop for mass image sharing for years, usually sending funny memes and photos. As this author puts it, “Anytime young people get together, the pics start flowing.”  

Protect your kids from cyber flashing

Here’s how to turn off and/or limit AirDrop settings: 

  1.   Go the “General” tab in your iPhone Settings.  Click on AirDrop at the top.
  1.   Change the AirDrop setting from “Everyone” to either “Contacts only” or  “Receiving off.”

Cyber flashing is yet another form of pornography that is invading our kids’ spaces.  Now is the time to have those important conversations that will equip your child to thrive in our hypersexualized culture!

“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.

 

Time to Snap Shut the Snapchat app?  Two Alarming Things You Should Know

Snapchat recently ran a series of filters (special accessories or effects added to photos) for its “Love Has No Labels” campaign to celebrate Pride Month. In one of those filters, Snapchat users were offered the line, “Love has no age.”  

Linger on that thought for a moment.  Is that actually true?

Of course, if we’re thinking about love in the context of family or friendships, then we understand the sentiment.  But this campaign is about romantic relationships! 

Our society protects young children’s vulnerability and innocence with age-of-consent laws.  These laws show that in fact, love does have an age limit!

Snapchat received a huge backlash for that filter in the Twitter world, especially from people who were sexually abused as children. 

And then, without any explanation or apology, the filter was quietly removed in early June … only to be put back again two weeks later!

Testing us for a reaction, perhaps?

We need to be aware and speak out against any attempts to normalize pedophilia as just another sexual orientation. 

Remember: When tech companies, fashion companies, and the entertainment industry don’t act in the best interest of our kids, we can take action to teach and protect our children.

Read on for more about Snapchat …

The shocking result when a mom tested Snapchat posing as a teen

This activist mom, Melissa McKay, discovered that Snapchat is a major pedophile magnet.

Here’s her daring experiment:  She set up accounts on both Snapchat and Instagram, posing as a 15-year-old girl.  Using a cartoon avatar and some innocent hashtags, she posted a simple message: “Hey everyone!  I just joined Snapchat and Instagram and I want someone to talk to.” 

Boom!

After only a few seconds, Melissa received pornographic videos and graphic descriptions of what men wanted to do to her. 

The texts she received are too graphic to include here.

Melissa had to shut down the accounts in half an hour. She already had horrifying evidence of what kids can experience on social media.

We share this to help parents be aware–predators and exhibitionists and are all over Snapchat. 

Parent Tip: Test it yourself before giving kids free access

Let’s make a regular practice of being familiar with the digital spaces our kids are going to!

  • If your child is on social media or you are considering allowing them access, please open an account, test it as if you were their age, and get familiar with the issues and dangers
  • Understand how to set privacy controls so strangers cannot contact kids–and know that there are no parental controls that limit sexual content in SnapChat.

Related: Snapchat Made Easy for Parents

Your Kids Can Be Prepared to Reject Pornography!

Start with our free guide, 3 Simple Definitions of Pornography Kids Can Understand.

Click the image below to get your copy!

Parent Alert! Is TikTok Safe for Kids?

Parent Alert! Is TikTok Safe for Kids?

What Parents Need to Know About TikTok and Social Media Challenge Videos

Eleven-year-old Sarah opened up her TikTok app and saw a video of her favorite vlogger (video blogger) acting out a challenge that had gone viral: grab some common ingredients, including bleach (!), mix it up in a plastic Ziploc bag, and hold it against one eye for at least a minute.

The supposed result of the experiment? The eye would change color!

What Sarah didn’t realize is that the creator of this challenge – a 19-year-old college kid – made the video “to show off his editing ability.” In other words, it was a fake and very dangerous joke!

The eye bleach challenge is the latest viral stunt on Tik Tok, one that received 300,000 likes in the first week alone!

Talk to your kids about social media challenge videos – ASAP!

This is a great teaching moment for families. Have you ever talked to your kids about social media challenges? Here’s some discussion starters:

Sometimes parents are the ones recording their kids taking these challenges. Think about the message you want kids to internalize. Are they learning to seek attention on social media for approval and self-esteem?

Are they buying into “dare culture?” Today’s challenge might be harmless, but tomorrow it might be downright dangerous.

You could say, “Let’s do a funny challenge together, but we’ll only film it if you want to, and we’ll only share it with family.” CNN

Is the TikTok app safe for kids?

TikTok is a Chinese-owned video-sharing app.

Never heard of it? Well, surprise! TikTok was the 4th most-downloaded app of 2018 worldwide.

Is your tween or teen using the app? Here are some quick tips on what you need to know!

TikTok is used most by young people to post homemade lip-synching and dancing videos using popular music.

This (clean!) video will give you a flavor of what attracts kids to TikTok.

If you search YouTube for some of the TikTok video compilations, you’ll see in a few minutes what kind of content is on the platform (search with caution!) Some of it is goofy or silly. But there are also many videos of teens who are posting hyper-sexualized content.

Kids can create their own videos using thousands of popular songs in the app, which can have explicit lyrics.

Predators are watching and can share your child’s content with others. Where children play, predators prey. Unless the right privacy settings are in place, strangers can message your child.

The app is rated 12+ on the Apple store, but there is no way to verify a user’s age, so anyone can download it. In fact, social media app ratings are not the best way to determine if the content is kid-friendly or not! The FixAppRatings movement recommends that TikTok be used only by those over the age of 17.

If your child is using TikTok, there are some parental controls that you should take advantage of right away to reduce the risk of sexual predators finding your child.

Remember that this is one of many apps that features sexually suggestive, crude, and downright pornographic material on its user accounts. The following news story highlights the dangers and threats that come with this particular app:

A Social Media “Spring Clean” Can Protect Your Kids’ Privacy

Spring is a great time to “clean house!” This not only reduces clutter but helps us to move forward with confidence to enjoy the new season.

How about doing some digital clean up of our own social media accounts?

Some tips:

1.      Review the privacy settings for each of your social media accounts. Even if you know that you set them to private when you first signed up, make it a habit to do a quarterly check. Privacy policies can change without warning and without you knowing how your data are being tracked and used.

Tip: Set an appointment on your calendar this month and check your privacy settings on all media accounts, including Facebook and Instagram.

2.     Do you know all your followers and friends on social media? Look carefully through your lists and either unfriend or block those you don’t know or don’t feel comfortable having on your account.

As well, our interests change over time, so unfollowing accounts that don’t serve us anymore helps minimize distractions and media overload so that we can focus on the content we do want to see.

3.     Be especially careful of posting details that may expose your child’s identity: name, birthday, location, friends, doctor visits. If you post on your municipal or community Facebook page, be careful of unintentionally giving away information about your child, such as his school or sports practices.

4.    Be aware of using hashtags with your child’s photos. Hashtags allow your child’s photos to be searchable and makes it easier for predators to find them. Especially when they are tagged with terms like #pottytraining or #bathtime.

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

Teen voices: Oversharing and your digital footprint

While you are cleaning up your digital feed, share what you are doing with your kids!

Your child may be more tech-savvy in terms of what the latest apps are, but you can model good digital citizenship and help her cultivate some healthy online habits.

Sometimes sharing a video of teens helping other teens can be a good conversation starter. Check this out!

With older kids, it’s great for parents to work and learn together to build trust and help each other navigate the good and not-so-good aspects of technology.

Wondering about mobile phones and kids? Get your free guide: Is My Child Ready for a Smartphone? 10 Questions to Guide Parents! Just click on the image below.

Social Media App Ratings: Can Parents Trust Them?

Social Media App Ratings: Can Parents Trust Them?

If your 13 year old wants to download Snapchat or Instagram, how do you know if these apps are age-appropriate? In the App Store, both Snapchat and Instagram are rated “12+.” But who’s doing the rating? (Good question!) Do Snapchat and Instagram allow harmful content? (Umm …YES!) And can parents filter the content? (Nope!)

is social media safe for kids - can parents trust social media app ratings?

Where’s the accountability?

Turns out that the app developers are responsible for rating their own apps! Movies are rated by the MPAA and video games are rated by the independent Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), but no independent organization is rating the apps.

In fact, no one is holding big tech accountable for the impact their technology is having on young people. App ratings are inconsistent and misleading, parental controls are difficult and lacking, and social media companies are not exercising an acceptable level of “duty of care” for young people.

Other countries, like the UK, are calling for social media companies to take more accountability for how their platforms, and the content on them, are affecting teens. You may remember the sad case of 14 year-old Molly Russell who took her life in 2014. Her father later shared that Instagram “helped kill my daughter.”

is social media safe for kids #fixappratings infograph

It’s a mess!

What happens in many popular apps?

Suicide is glorified, animal cruelty and violence is promoted, and porn performers post lots of porn!

I sat down one afternoon with Melissa McKay, an amazing activist mom who helped initiate the #fixappratings campaign. She showed me account after account of porn performers on Snapchat where kids are invited, through lots of “teaser videos” with full nudity and sexual behavior, to “swipe up” to see the hardcore stuff. Soul-crushing. I knew intellectually that there was porn on these apps, but it shocked another whole side of my brain to see the evidence!

Here is a very mild sample of some of the images sent to the Discovery section of a 13-year-old’s Snapchat account.

social media discover image for esquire magazine

social media discover image for seventeen magazine "planning to have sex on prom night" social media discover image for Vice magazine six word advice for anyone about to lose their virginity

Let’s fix app ratings!

We at Protect Young Minds join with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, Protect Young Eyes and many other organizations to say loudly and clearly: It’s time to fix app ratings!

Here are just a few more reasons:

  • Children are being groomed by predators through Instagram.
  • Violence in sex (that’s porn!) is glamorized through Netflix.
  • Snapchat and Instagram offer monetized accounts for porn performers.
  • Traditional parental control solutions don’t work within these apps.

What specific changes are we hoping for?

  • The creation of an independent app ratings board. This board would have powers similar to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, which uses a rating system that is clearly understood, enforced, trustworthy, and exists to protect minors.
  • The release of intuitive parental controls on iOS, Android, and Chrome operating systems. These controls should at a minimum include default settings based on a child’s age, be easy to set up, and include one-touch screen time controls (e.g., school and bedtime selective app shut-off).

Make sure your kids are ready to reject pornography wherever they find it! Read Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids with kids ages 6-11 and Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds with 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.

Here’s what YOU CAN DO!

Go to www.fixappratings.com and scroll down to:

  1. Sign the statement that you want to fix app ratings and make sure they reflect what’s really available on the app;
  2. Help pass a resolution in your state by downloading a draft resolution that you can send to your state legislators;
  3. Share on social media by posting some of the memes provided;
  4. Join the Facebook group for FixAppRatings and keep updated!

Now you can feel really good! You’re helping to make the world a better place for kids!

I support #Fixappratings badge

So can parents trust the current app ratings?

The answer is No! If your child wants to download a social media app onto their smartphone or tablet, or if they already have, please download the app yourself. Start poking around. Search for hashtags a curious young person might look for. See what they are seeing. Live with the app for 7 days. Then make up your mind.

You’ll be convinced that not only do we need to #fixappratings, but we need to convince kids to install their own internal filter!

Get your free guide to the Top 10 Easy Conversation Starters! Click the image below.

11 Safe Video Chat Rules You Probably Haven’t Taught Your Kids

11 Safe Video Chat Rules You Probably Haven’t Taught Your Kids

Imagine that your kids could use video chat to build close relationships with far-away loved ones – like their grandparents and their best friend who moved away. And at the same time they knew how to be safe from all the dangerous people and situations that can happen on video chat!

Keep reading for 11 rules to talk about with your kids. These guidelines are going to help them enjoy the benefits and avoid the risks of video chat!

Our wake-up call

Our family rule has always been, “No boys in your room.” Before my oldest daughter started dating, this wasn’t something we gave much deep thought about – until we realized that Facetime was, in some ways, like allowing a boy in her bedroom. Suddenly, it was time to talk about rules for safe video chat for kids.

It hit us—the visual interaction added to those private phone conversations opens up a whole host of potential pitfalls. We quickly realized the need for some frank conversations with our daughter.

Today, video chatting is commonplace. It’s available on many platforms and is a routine way to communicate. It’s time to educate our kids so they are ready for situations they may not anticipate themselves.

Since you can’t actually touch someone over video chat, it may seem safer than actually hanging out in person. In some ways, this is true. However, it’s important to think through the possibilities and help your child establish healthy boundaries for video calls.

Video chatting: where the online and real worlds collide

A good place to start is with the rules you already have in place. Video chatting is subject to whatever digital media guidelines you have in your family. And the same family standards for “real life” behavior also go for video calling. (If you need ideas for agreements, check out these from Fight the New Drug and Better Screen Time.)

Be clear about expectations that are specific to video chatting. Lay down rules such as what time of day video chatting is allowed, who they can chat with, when a parent needs to be present, etc. And be clear that the rules can be expanded over time as you learn more and have new experiences.

Here are some tips and tools for safe video chat for kids:

1. Define your dress code

The dress code when video chatting is the same as in person. Kids don’t always think through this one. They know their parents would never let them go out in a sports bra and running tights. But if they are used to hanging out at home that way, they may not recognize that what they’re wearing is inappropriate when they answer a Facetime call.

2. Beware too much privacy

If you wouldn’t leave two people alone behind a closed door, then the same goes for video calls. Kids may feel “safer” trying something over chat (i.e. revealing body parts or getting into suggestive conversations) than they would if they were actually face-to-face in person.

3. No chat in overly intimate spaces

There’s something sacred about a bedroom. It’s a personal haven and a reflection of who you are and what you like. To allow someone in your bedroom means you feel safe around them. But if you wouldn’t feel safe with this person in your child’s bedroom, it isn’t a good idea to allow video chat in there either. This may not be a line your child understands, since she or he has grown up with these types of devices around the house.

Prepare your young kids to be safe with Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds CLICK HERE to learn how to protect kids ages 3-6 from the dangers of pornography.

4. Remember that everything can be recorded and shared

Video chats can be recorded and screen-shot – often without the other person knowing. This means that even though it seems like a private conversation, it could end up viewed by far more than just one other person. Remind your children to be aware of this, and never say or do anything on video that they wouldn’t be comfortable with others seeing.

5. Respect others’ wishes

Kids may get so comfortable video chatting that they turn the camera on others without considering how they feel about it. Make sure to ask permission to include others in a video chat (i.e. at a sleepover when other kids may be in their PJs). Some people, young or old, may not want to talk or be shown on video. Kids should respect others’ privacy without question and never push friends to do something they don’t want to on video.

6. Don’t fall into a false sense of safety with familiar people

We may relax when “It’s just Uncle Bob” or “It’s just her soccer coach.” But we need to set rules to protect our children when they may be very naive and trusting. Be mindful of any one-on-one chatting taking place between your child and an adult. The scary fact is 90% of victims know their abuser. Many predators know exactly how to make the child feel safe with him/her and they can easily fool us, too. Children should only video chat with other adults when we are there to listen in.

Know how teachers, coaches, and youth group leaders are communicating with your kids. There are fantastic tools that provide necessary boundaries between kids and adults. The Remind app keeps both the adult’s and child’s phone numbers private. GroupMe is a great way to keep communication in a group setting rather than one-on-one.

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7. Watch out for predators luring kids from gaming to one-on-one video chat

There are so many games where kids can connect and play with a virtual team. With only user names to identify them, it’s impossible to know who the real person behind the controller actually is.

While they are often other kids, beware – they can also be predators who know exactly what to say to lure your child. TeenSafe reports that

“Predators will most likely start off a conversation with an innocent question about the child’s name or age, and then move into more inappropriate questions as the relationship grows. After contact has been initiated, the predator may try to convince the child to take the conversation over to another app such as WhatsApp, Skype or Snapchat.”

Become knowledgeable about grooming and the warning signs that your child may have been lured into dangerous chats both inside and outside the game.

8. Sextortion is rising dramatically

Through video chats, predators entice kids into sending compromising pictures of themselves. Then the kids are threatened with exposure if they don’t send more. It’s not just happening with older teens. In fact, 1 in 4 known victims were 12 or under when they were threatened.

9. Don’t accept video chat requests from people you don’t know.

Not ever. Not even once. Enough said.

10. Put parental controls to work for you

Leave personal details out of video chat profiles, since some profiles are public. Know how to set privacy settings in any video chat apps. For example, if you use Skype, you can make your child undiscoverable. On an iPhone, you can turn off and restrict Facetime and allow it only when you’re present.

You can learn more about specific video chat apps from Protect Young Eyes and the Zift App Advisor.

Also, consider using video apps designed for kids such as Facebook Messenger Kids or JusTalk Kids Video Chat App that might be more kid-friendly. No app is fool-proof, so be sure to keep following all these guidelines no matter what app kids are using.

11. Prepare kids for the worst-case scenario.

Just as we train young drivers what to do if they begin hydroplaning, kids need to know what to do if someone sends them an inappropriate picture, asks for personal information or behaves in ways that make them uncomfortable. Practice how to refuse grooming behaviors. Plan together how they can tell you whenever they have had an unsettling experience.

Positive plusses despite potential pitfalls

After all this, you may be tempted to never allow any kind of video chatting ever with your kids. But the fact is, video calls can be a fun and rewarding way to deepen healthy relationships.

Video chats allow kids to see their grandparents and other relatives more frequently than they normally would. My girls have enjoyed doing makeup tutorials with their friends, asking for clothing advice, and engaging in some great heart-to-heart conversations. Sometimes just seeing a friendly face helps us to feel far less alone during trying times and this goes for kids, too.

Encourage good digital citizenship! Just as we teach our children to behave in public, we need to teach them appropriate online behavior, too. This means discussing both positive and negative actions.

Ask your kids these questions:

  • What are some positive things about video chatting?
  • When is it fun to use?
  • Who are some people in our lives that make life better when we video chat with them?
  • What are some ways we can show others respect while video chatting?

These are broad questions that will elicit many types of answers. Most importantly they will get your family talking about communicating via video chat in the best ways.

Conclusion – working toward safe video chat for kids

With any technology, there are upsides and downsides to video chatting. As always, your most powerful weapon is open communication with your kids. Be a safe place, establish clear boundaries, and stay engaged with your kids – you can use video chatting in positive ways in your home.

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