Technology Information & Resources
Tips securing digital devices:
- Discuss the dangers of the internet and what they could encounter.
- Provide rules and expectations for your child when giving them an electronic devices.
- Explore security restrictions on the mobile device, set limitations and activate parental controls.
- Obtain passwords for all electronic devices that your children might have.
- Set time limits for usage and bedtime restrictions, such as placing all devices in a common area.
- Install filtering software on your wireless router or mobile devices to monitor actions.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to keep up to date on all of the apps your child might be using on their phone. Keep in mind, just because you don’t see it on the phone doesn’t mean your child isn’t using a particular app. Many times children install and delete apps to avoid detection by parents. Some of the more popular ones among children are:
A Few Apps Kids May Be Using
GroupMe is an app that doesn’t charge fees or have limits for direct and group messages. Users also can send photos, videos, and calendar links.
- It’s for older teens. The embedded GIFs and emojis have some adult themes, such as drinking and sex.
- Teens are always connected. Without fees or limits, teens can share and text to their heart’s content, which may mean they rarely put the phone down.
Kik Messenger is an app that lets kids text for free. It’s fast and has no message limits, character limits, or fees if you only use the basic features. Because it’s an app, the texts won’t show up on your kid’s phone’s messaging service, and you’re not charged for them (beyond standard data rates).
- Stranger danger is an issue. Kik allows communication with strangers who share their Kik usernames to find people to chat with. The app allegedly has been used in high-profile crimes, including the murder of a 13-year-old girl and a child-pornography case. There’s also a Kik community blog where users can submit photos of themselves and screenshots of messages (sometimes displaying users’ full names) to contests.
- It’s loaded with ads and in-app-purchases. Kik specializes in “promoted chats” — basically, conversations between brands and users. It also offers specially designed apps (accessible only through the main app), many of which offer products for sale.
WhatsApp lets users send text messages, audio messages, videos, and photos to one or many people with no message limits or fees.
- It’s for users 16 and over. Lots of younger teens seem to be using the app, but this age minimum has been set by WhatsApp.
- It can be pushy. After you sign up, it automatically connects you to all the people in your address book who also are using WhatsApp. It also encourages you to add friends who haven’t signed up yet.
TextNow: Allows your child to text and call users when WiFi is available.
Omegle: A video chat application that “promotes chatting anonymously to strangers.” This platform is a common place for child predators.
PHOTO AND VIDEO-SHARING APPS AND SITES
Instagram lets users snap, edit, and share photos and 15-second videos, either publicly or within a private network of followers. It unites the most popular features of social media sites: sharing, seeing, and commenting on photos. It also lets you apply fun filters and effects to your photos, making them look high-quality and artistic.
- Teens are on the lookout for “likes.” Similar to the way they use Facebook, teens may measure the “success” of their photos — even their self-worth — by the number of likes or comments they receive. Posting a photo or video can be problematic if teens are posting to validate their popularity.
- Public photos are the default. Photos and videos shared on Instagram are public unless privacy settings are adjusted. Hashtags and location information can make photos even more visible to communities beyond a teen’s followers if his or her account is public.
- Kids can send private messages. Instagram Direct is like texting with photos or videos and you can do it with up to 15 mutual friends. These pictures don’t show up on their public feeds. Although there’s nothing wrong with group chats, kids may be more likely to share inappropriate stuff with their inner circles.
Musical.ly – Your Video Social Network is a performance- and video-sharing social network that mostly features teens lip-synching to famous songs but also includes some original songwriting and singing. Musers, as devoted users are called, can build up a following among friends or share posts publicly.
- Songs and videos contain lots of iffy content. Because the platform features popular music and a mix of teen and adult users, swearing and sexual content are commonplace.
- Gaining followers and fans feels important. Teens want a public profile to get exposure and approval, and many are highly motivated to get more followers and likes for their videos.
MICROBLOGGING APPS AND SITES
Tumblr is like a cross between a blog and Twitter: It’s a streaming scrapbook of text, photos, and/or video and audio clips. Users create and follow short blogs, or “tumblogs,” that can be seen by anyone online (if they’re made public). Many teens have tumblogs for personal use: sharing photos, videos, musings, and things they find funny with their friends.
- Porn is easy to find. This online hangout is hip and creative but sometimes raunchy. Pornographic images and videos and depictions of violence, self-harm, drug use, and offensive language are easily searchable.
- Privacy can be guarded but only through an awkward workaround. The first profile a member creates is public and viewable by anyone on the internet. Members who desire full privacy have to create a second profile, which they’re able to password-protect.
- Posts are often copied and shared. Reblogging on Tumblr is similar to re-tweeting: A post is reblogged from one tumblog to another. Many teens like — and, in fact, want — their posts to be reblogged.
Twitter is a microblogging tool that allows users to post brief, 140-character messages — called “tweets” — and follow other users’ activities. It’s not only for adults; teens like using it to share tidbits and keep up with news and celebrities.
- Public tweets are the norm for teens. Though you can choose to keep your tweets private, most teens report having public accounts. Talk to your kids about what they post and how a post can spread far and fast.
- Updates appear immediately. Even though you can remove tweets, your followers can still read what you wrote until it’s gone. This can get kids in trouble if they say something in the heat of the moment.
LIVE-STREAMING VIDEO APPS
Live.me – Live Video Streaming allows kids to watch others and broadcast themselves live, earn currency from fans, and interact live with users without any control over who views their streams.
- Kids can easily see inappropriate content. During our review, we saw broadcasters cursing and using racial slurs, scantily clad broadcasters, young teens answering sexually charged questions, and more.
- Predatory comments are a concern. Because anyone can communicate with broadcasters, there is the potential for viewers to request sexual pictures or performances or to contact them through other social means and send private images or messages.
Snapchat is a messaging app that lets users put a time limit on the pictures and videos they send before they disappear. Most teens use the app to share goofy or embarrassing photos without the risk of them going public. However, there are lots of opportunities to use it in other ways.
- It can make sexting seem OK. The seemingly risk-free messaging might encourage users to share pictures containing sexy images.
- There’s a lot of iffy, clicky content. Snapchat’s Discover feature offers a grab-bag of articles, videos, and quizzes from magazine publishers, TV networks, and online sources mostly about pop culture, celebrities, and relationships (a typical headline: “THIS is What Sex Does To Your Brain”).
Calculator% allows users to hide photographs and video from people who might use their phone. It looks innocuous, but it’s really a way to keep parents from finding content their children shouldn’t have.
- It looks like a calculator app – the icon looks like a calculator and will say “Calculator%.” When you open it you’ll see a calculator.
- Password Unlocks it. Users can enter a passcode into the calculator to get to hidden images and videos. Passcodes begin and end with a period.
- There are several apps that are similar. If you see a calculator app on your child’s phone, delve into it to be certain that it truly is a calculator app.
Whisper is a social “confessional” app that allows users to post whatever’s on their minds, paired with an image. With all the emotions running through teens, anonymous outlets give them the freedom to share their feelings without fear of judgment.
- Whispers are often sexual in nature. Some users use the app to try to hook up with people nearby, while others post “confessions” of desire. Lots of eye-catching, nearly nude pics accompany these shared secrets.
- Content can be dark. People normally don’t confess sunshine and rainbows; common Whisper topics include insecurity, depression, substance abuse, and various lies told to employers and teachers.
- Although it’s anonymous to start, it may not stay that way. The app encourages users to exchange personal information in the “Meet Up” section.
Local Resource: Officer Chad Mielke 920-746-5966
Cyber Safety Course for Parents
Cyberbullying Prevention and Resources
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Website:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Stop Bullying Initiative
National Crime Prevention Council – for Parents
National Crime Prevention Council – for Teens
Other Internet Safety Resources
Safety online: A guide for people with autism spectrum disorder
Appropriate Media by Age(websites, movies, apps, video/online games, etc.)
Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) Internet Crimes against Children (ICAC) Website:
Wisconsin Protect Kids Online Resource and Materials
Wisconsin Protect Kids Online Podcasts
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Website: