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Chief Technology Mommy: Working relentlessly to keep children & teens safe on the Internet. No high-level technical jargon and No Excuses!

Archive for the category “Real Life Stories – Uncovering what’s going on with our chidren, the Internet, and Social media”

Video Game Safety – Keeping children and teens safe on the Internet

In my video blog I share the unfortunate story of a young boy who was lured into a chat room by an online predator. Statistics show that 97% of children between the ages of 12 – 17 play some type of online video game and about a quarter of them play with strangers. Although not considered traditional “social media,” online video games gives your child an entry way into the world.

I provide practical tips, things to look out for, and a guide to the Game Rating System.


Online Video Games: Toys or Trouble? 7 Practical Tips to Keep your child safe on the Internet.

A 22-year old man allegedly met a 10-year old boy online while they were both playing the video game “Call of Duty – Modern Warfare 2.” The man invited the boy into a private chat room where they exchanged cell phone numbers. The man proceeded to call and send texts to the boy requesting pictures of his genitals. Unfortunately the boy sent the pictures in hopes of receiving cheat codes for the video game which would allow the child various advantages in the game. Luckily the child’s mom checked his phone and text records and alerted authorities. Just because your child is not involved in social networking, does not mean they are safe from online predators.

Seven practical tips to keep your child safe while playing online video games:
1. Before allowing your child to engage in any online activity discuss the basic rules of engagement. They are to never disclose their full name, address, phone number, school name or any other identifier.
2. Make sure your child knows to only chat with friends or relatives during the online gaming session. There have been instances where people have their online gaming identification stolen, so make sure your child knows to look out for any peculiar behavior or verify that they are chatting with a friend. I would advise my child to avoid private chat rooms even if asked to join by a friend or family member as they can just as easily speak on the phone.
3. If your child is being harassed, let them know they can come to you for help. Yes, you will probably be upset, but your child must feel safe enough to share this information.
4. Make sure your child knows to never send out any pictures or any other confidential information to anyone, not even family members, without your permission.
5. Often times your children play online video games while visiting friends. Find out what games they play and the family policies to make sure you and the other parents are on the same page.
6. Invade their privacy. In this instance mentioned above, the mom checking her son’s cell phone records probably saved his life. You probably know all of your child’s real life friends, and it should be no different with online friends.
7. No matter how much your child begs you for a certain game, check out the video game rating. In this instance the game was rated mature and was not suitable for the child.

ESRB Game Rating System:
EC – Early Childhood. The game is appropriate for anyone between the ages of three to six. It may include components that require reading or math skills.
E – Everyone. This is for everyone over at least seven years old. It may contain little or no violence or strong language, and resembles the MPAA’s G Rating.
E10+ – The game is suitable for people age ten and older. It may include some mild violence and some strong language. The Sims 2 for Playstation has this rating and it resembles the MPAA’s PG rating.
T – Teen. Anyone thirteen and older could play this game. Most of the western civilization games fall under this level. This resembles the PG-13 rating as there may be some nudity, violence or strong language.
M – Mature. This is the most common game rating because most gamers are over seventeen years old. Many of the war games and some sports games such as NASCAR fall under this category. These resemble the MPAA R rating and usually contain violence, some nudity, language, and possibly sex.
AO – This is the hardcore stuff with intense violence, nudity, sex, and strong language. You must be eighteen or older to buy this game and most people are done with gaming after they get at this level. This resembles the MPAA’s X or NC-17 Rating.
RP – Rating Pending. This rating is usually used for advertisements, but when the game hits the stores its rating has been determined. Some games, however, do have this kind of rating, just to do a similar kind of thing as calling a movie that should be R or higher unrated, such as “American Pie 2″.

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Teen Posts Girls’ Facebook Photos as Porn – Keeping Children and Teens Safe on the Internet

A 19-year old Pennsylvania man was arrested and charged with using the Facebook photos of four teenage girls to create pornography, which he re-posted online. According to police Neil Geckle admitted to creating a Facebook page under the name “Matt Hemcher.”

Three of the girls go to Radnor High School.  Geickle graduated from Radnor last year, but was not friends with  the alleged victims.

Bottom-line tip from Chief Technology Mommy:

I recently had a conversation with a mom who stated that her 13- year old daughter has 400+ friends on Facebook.  Her daughter “friends,” all those that attend her school, church etc. regardless of their interaction on a daily basis.

It’s important to openly communicate with our children and set expectations around their behavior on social media outlets.  Someone going to the same school, sharing the same birthday, attending the same church, etc., is not a reason to friend someone on Facebook and allow them full access to your life.

My definition of acceptable social media friends (for my daughter):  The Facebook friend has to have been to our home or I must know their parents, otherwise she brings it to my attention and we decide together if they should be accepted as a Facebook friend.

Working to keep our children and teens safe on the Internet!

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30 year-old man poses as teen on Facebook and “sexts’ young boys – Keeping children and teens safe online

A 31-year old  man from Georgia,  was arrested and charged with multiple sex crimes for posing as a teenage girl on Facebook and “sexting” middle school-aged boys.  Brendan Spaar created a fake Facebook page and portrayed himself as Kinsey Spencer, a 16-year old girl from South Forsyth High School.  Spaar became friends with the boys through the fake profile and convinced them to send him their cell phone numbers.  Investigators said that Spaar then sent the boys sexually explicit photos of a female and asked them to send photos and videos of themselves.

Deputies charged Spaar with four counts of child molestation, four counts of sexual exploitation of children and three counts of computer pornography.

Bottom-line tip from Chief Technology Mommy:

If your child has a Facebook page, they should never friend anyone on a social media outlet that they don’t know in “real life.”.  If the person is not currently interacting with your child and you don’t know their parents, it’s safe to say that your child has no business interacting with them on the Internet.  When you monitor your child’s social media activities, don’t forget to take a look at their friends list.  If you are not familiar with a friend, view their profile, and ask your child how they know the person.

Working to keep our children and teens safe on the Internet!

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Threats made on Facebook ends with the death of three teens. Keeping our children and teens safe online – Chief Technology Mommy

When I was in 6th grade, I had my first physical altercation with a classmate.  We were both sent to the principal’s office, our parent’s were called, I was put on punishment,  we both apologized and went on our way.  When the fight was over, it was over.  Unfortunately those days are over.

An argument that began at school, made it’s way to Facebook with threats, and ultimately lead to the death of three teens.  As the teens sat in their car, a man approached them and fired 10 to 12 shots into the car at point-blank range.  Joshua Soto, 14 and Javier Orlandi, 16 were pronounced dead within a half-hour.  Dante Lugo, 14 died the next night.  The alleged shooter is the 30-year old stepfather of the other teens involved in the argument.

I have no idea who started the argument or what it was about, but I am almost 100% sure someone saw the threatening posts on Facebook.  As the rational adults (evidently the 30-year old stepfather was not,)  it’s up to us to monitor our children’s social media activities and report inappropriate conversations.  In this day and age we cannot take threats lightly or shrug them off as “kids being kids.”

Here are a few things we can do to keep our children safe on the Internet:

1.  Don’t just browse, but thoroughly read through your child’s posts.  Make a note of who they are speaking with and pay special attention to the tone of the conversation.

2.  If you see a threatening or inappropriate posts that involves any child, ask your child about it and report it if necessary.

3.  Encourage your child to tell you if they feel threatened at school or on the Internet, and bring it to the attention of the school, the other parents, or the authorities.

4.   Work to make sure young men feel comfortable telling someone about threats made against them.  I’ve heard grown men tell little boys to “man up,” but when it comes to threats they should understand that their stance has nothing to do with their manhood, but everything to do with saving their lives.

Let’s work together to keep our children safe on the Internet.

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Teenage girls fight on facebook ends with the shooting of a 2-year old. Keeping children and teens safe on the Internet. Chief Technology Mommy

What started as a fight between teenage girls in Philadelphia wound up a shooting that left two children, their grandmother and another man shot.  Two-year old Aisha Owens was shot in the hip and stomach.  Allegedly the fight stemmed from an unruly Facebook posting over the summer that spilled over to the school year.

There are so many things that went wrong here and we all could make judgments (I know I did.)  The judgments and finger pointing won’t change the series of events, but we definitely can learn a few things from the shooting incident.

Bottom-line:   Adults must monitor their children’s social media interactions.  There are parents who will not monitor for a number of reasons, but this is not about them.  I can’t make any adult stay connected to their child’s online activities, however I am accountable for what I do.

Things to consider:

  • Do you know who your child’s friends are on facebook?  Have you met them face-to-face?  Do you know their parents? If your child does not interact with them offline, they probably should not interact with them online.
  • Speak with your child about the rules of “friending,” and peer pressure.  For example:  Just because someone attends the same school, does not automatically qualify them as an online friend.
  • Most importantly have a conversation with your child about your expectations and guidelines as it relates to social media.

Let’s all work together to keep our children safe on the Internet!

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