Cyberbullying or Cyberbullied? (Both are bad…)

 By Morgan Rihn

Odds are your child will become part of a cyberbullying scheme at some point in their young life. It’s unfortunately just one of the consequences of the new “digital age”.   The only question that is relevant is: will they be on the giving end or the receiving end?
(I’ll admit for the moment there may be a few in the middle just “watching”.)

So what is cyberbullying?

By definition it is bullying that takes place over the internet, cellphones, or social media. Yes, these things overlap. Social media is on their phone, etc… Cyberbullying is posting or sending inappropriate, negative, or private information about someone to threaten, harass, or embarrass them.

My personal story about cyberbullying

I was in middle school and a new girl moved to my school. That girl and I were similar in ways and I became envious of her. I accused her of stealing my friends. Of course, I now realize my friends liked her because she was just like me. I can now confess we both did our share of cyberbullying each other. Usually on social media or via text message. A lot of hurtful things were said, and because of it, we both lost some friends.  We did not get along for quite a while and we did get in trouble with our parents for the way we were acting.

Looking back on the situation, it was ridiculous.  None of those things needed to be said/written, and all of those things are still out there – in/on the internet somewhere.

Of course, we eventually got over it and became good friends. Nobody changes as much as a teenager.

So isn’t it ironic that the ever-permanent internet is where today’s teens spend so much of their time?  Teens need to change. The internet is permanent. Not really a good match.

What should you be concerned about? Everything…

Anything your kid posts on the internet can become public and it might affect online reputation. Don’t believe them when they say “it will disappear in a few seconds on Snapchat”.  (Read our blog post about Snapchat  to learn more.)

Stopbullying.gov says cyberbullying is persistent, permanent and hard to notice. Dr. Lauber told us a story about when he left school, he was safe from bullying as a young kid. But his kids experienced even in his house because they were online. There’s no longer any safe place!

Did you know…

  • the 2015 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) indicates that, nationwide, about 21% of students ages 12-18 experience bullying?
  • the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) indicates an estimated 14.9% of high school students were electronically bullied in the 12 months prior to the survey?

Cyberbullying is not always easy to catch. Unless your child shows or tells you, or you’re very knowledgeable on their social life (texting, social media, etc…), you may be unaware of what is going on. Parents and children use technology differently. This makes it difficult to know when cyberbullying may be happening. Below is a graph from cyberbullying.org on cyberbullying victimization, along with some signs of cyberbullying and some helpful tips.

Is your child bullying or being bullied?

Cyberbullying happens to children of all ages at least once in their lives and at any time of any day.  KidsHealth.org  mentions some signs of cyberbullying:

  • being emotionally upset during or after using the internet or the phone
  • being very secretive or protective of one’s digital life
  • avoiding school or group gatherings
  • changes in mood, behavior, sleep or appetite
  • wanting to stop using the computer or cellphone
  • being nervous or jumpy when getting an instant message, text, or email
  • avoiding discussions about computer or cellphone activities

So what can you do?  I confess, I’m not a parent yet. And maybe my generation will be more prepared for it, since we’re the first generation to live through it. But here’s what I found (and Dr. Lauber endorses these tips!)

  1. Be open and honest with your child. Be someone they can come to for help.
  2. Offer your comfort and support.
  3. Praise them if they seek your help.
  4. Talk to someone like a principle or guidance counselor at their school.
  5. Encourage your child to “be the better person” and not retaliate.
  6. Keep evidence.
  7. Provide punishment for those who are bullying.
  8. Limit technology time and monitor it.
  9. Learn more about online safety.
  10. Set a good example yourself.

No one wants their child to be bullied or to bully others, but it happens. I believe it always has and always will. But I hope I’m wrong.

All you can do is try your best and help your child make good choices. The good news is I lived through it. Your child will to.

But start the conversation!

Some useful resources:

https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it/index.html

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/cyberbullying.html

See our blog post on family dinners.

Sports Gambling: Quickest Way to Teenage Bankruptcy

  By Seth Woolcock and Erick Lauber

If you’re like most parents, you’re probably encouraging your kids to get into sports. I was encouraged like that. So was Dr. Lauber. You probably think you’re helping them avoid dangers, like drug addiction, obesity, teen pregnancy…

My friends and I were always playing backyard football, competing with sports video games, diving into fantasy leagues or consuming all the sports on television we could.

Never did it dawn on our parents that they might be creating a problem: an obsession with sports.

By the time we got to college we were playing fantasy sports competitively, but this included betting on the games.  We extended our competitiveness into late night poker games. It started out as fun, but gradually winning became more about the money than the pride. We eventually started betting more: our fantasy league buy-ins became $50 rather than $20. Our poker buy-ins went from $10 to $30 and then $70.

I confess once I saw my friends attempting to gamble on just about everything, I stepped back. They were so consumed for a while they were making weekly casino trips – while poor college students!  They were also making sports bets on teams for games years down the road – for hundreds of dollars.

Luckily, most of my friends eventually realized this was not a good hobby for them. But only after losing thousands of dollars.

Unfortunately, our state, Pennsylvania just officially declared sports gambling legal. I’m afraid for my friends.  Here is what you need to know to make sure your kid doesn’t fall victim to a sports gambling addiction.

What did Pennsylvania (and maybe your state) do? 

The new Pennsylvania law permits wagering “by any system or method,” including in person, on the internet and mobile. This means that while a person can go to registered casinos to place a bet on sports, they can also use their phone, tablet, computer or other device to make bets (as long as they are within the state borders.)

What can people legally bet on?

With the law change, people can legally bet on just about every sport. Wagering can be placed on popular sports in the U.S. such as football, baseball or basketball, but people can also bet on more obscure sports such as cricket, Formula 1 racing and golf.

While people can still make traditional wagers, such as betting against the spread or taking the over or under, they can also bet on just about anything with the new trend of “prop bets.” For example, they can now bet on the length of the national anthem, whether the coin toss is heads or tails, and whether there will be a rain delay or not? Yes, people can now bet on pretty much anything.

What are the legal requirements to make a wager?

Anyone over the age of 21 can legally bet on sports in Pennsylvania. The key word here is, “legally.” While it is still “illegal” to bet on sports while you are underage, it is still not difficult to do so.  Take it from a college student – it is similar to drinking underage. If you want to do it, someone will help you out.  By the way, did you know that 11% of the US’s entire alcohol output every year is drunk by 12-19 year olds? I’m guessing the same will be true for sports gambling pretty soon.

What is the deal with daily fantasy sports apps, such as Fan Dual and Draft Kings?

Fantasy sports is usually a season long game held between a league of people who pick rosters of players. The most popular sport is currently the NFL.  Friends make points off of certain players, such as their yards per game, receptions and touchdowns.

The winner generally is the person with the best players throughout the entire season. While many fantasy football league winners receive nothing but bragging rights, some win a few thousand dollars. It’s big league betting in some circles.

Daily fantasy sports, or “DFS” is similar. But instead of taking place throughout an entire season, it is condensed down into a single day or week. So, while bettor doesn’t have to commit serious time to play a DFS app, it is still very easy to commit large amounts of money.

Many of these games/apps “sell” themselves by guaranteeing prize pools, “cash games”, Head-to-Head matchups and 50/50 games.  Some now offer to match a newbie’s initial investment!  The appeal these games/apps is growing from year to year.

So, how is this harmful?

Presently, 2.6% of the U.S. population has a gambling addiction. Over 50 percent of these 10 million Americans are between the ages of 16 to 24.  They are by far the most affected age group.

Of the 10 million people who have this issue, over 50 percent of them fall between the age range of 16-24. They are by far the most affected age group, according to the North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction Help.

Sports betting isn’t always a problem, but gambling addiction occurs once gambling behavior begins to either cause distress, become a habit, leads to financial stress or disturbs everyday life and functioning.

DFS companies are spending millions to advertise to your kid. The risk is only growing larger.  Educate yourself and your kids. I’m betting teenage “bankruptcy” is only going to grow. Pun intended.

Here are some helpful links for more information:

North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction Help

How the Brain Gets Addicted to Gambling

https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/gambling.html

450,000 children aged between 11 and 15 are gambling on a weekly basis…

 

Watch Out for Parent-Unfriendly Snapchat

  By Katie Mest and Erick Lauber

The whole point of social media is to interact with friends and share experiences. However, like many good things, some sites and apps can become dangerous if they are not used properly.

Snapchat is a popular photo/video sharing app that many, many teens have on their phones. It’s original appeal was that the photo would disappear within 1-10 seconds after viewing. This made kids think they could share photos without anyone (read: their parents) even knowing. Of course, other kids soon learned they could take a “screen grab” of the photo and store it that way. Or use someone else’s phone to take a picture of the picture. What kids don’t always understand is: there is no eraser function on the Internet. Once it’s out there, it’s out there.

Does your kid have this app?  According to recent research, 92 percent of 12-17 yr old American teens have this app. Seventy-nine percent of Snapchat users do so daily.  Yes, your kid has this app, or will soon. And they will use it.

So, if your child decides to make a Snapchat account, here are some things you can do:

Look at their friends list.

If you notice their friends are the same people they talk to on a daily basis, you are most likely OK. But that doesn’t mean they won’t send a nude or inappropriate photo at some point.

Most of the time, they won’t. Kids use Snapchat to hold normal conversations. Sending a picture instead of a text adds another dimension of emotion, like using facial expressions and filters that make them look funny.

On the other hand, if you don’t recognize some of the names on the list, or if the usernames contain inappropriate terms, ask your kid about it.  Make sure they know the other person in real life. Kids sometimes receive random “add account” requests from people they don’t know. Make sure your kid knows the dangers of interacting and exchanging pictures with strangers.

If they accidentally add someone they don’t know, or if one of their friends starts sending inappropriate pictures, tell your child to “unadd” them and “block” them.  The best way to control Snapchat is to control who your kid connects with.

Pay attention to when and where they are Snapchatting.

It’s not always a red flag if your kid disappears to their room and gets on Snapchat. Kids – especially teenagers – just want a certain level of privacy. However, don’t let your young child have their phones at night. We’ll say more on that in another post.

The big problem is that your child may think their picture really does disappear and this might tempt them into taking an inappropriate picture. That’s what you really want to put a stop to.  Don’t let them take the phone into the bathroom, especially if you hear a picture-capturing *click*.

If you decide to make yourself a Snapchat account to keep an eye on them, know that they can block you from seeing their stories without you ever knowing it. Yes, Snapchat is sneaky like that.

You can go through the motions of making a Snapchat account, but your child can add you as a friend and still hide what they are posting from you.

They can do this in general or do it on a Snap-to-Snap basis. They can easily post their stories that you can see whenever its appropriate (like a puppy pic or a selfie), but block you from seeing other posts (like ones from that party you didn’t know they went to).

The best thing you can do in terms of Snapchat is have an open line of communication with your child. Discuss how they are using the app and let them know the dangers. This is not one of the more “parent-friendly” apps, but as long as your kid knows what to stay away from, they should be safe.

For basic information about Snapchat, look here

https://mycrazygoodlife.com/how-to-check-snapchat/

Heard of a similar app, VSCO?  Here’s our warning.

VSCO: Photography App Gone Wrong?

  By Morgan Rihn and Erick Lauber

OK parents. You’re a bit scared of social media, so you’ve been monitoring things. Maybe you’re using your account to “creep” on your kid’s Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest account. But have you tried VSCO?

You haven’t heard of VSCO?

Your children probably have. VSCO is another social media app but it used only for posting photos. Unlike Instagram, VSCO has limited social interaction. There is no commenting or instant messaging. Although you can republish (sharing), favorite (liking), take, import and edit photos, you cannot engage in conversation with your followers. VSCO has gained a tremendous amount in popularity and is used heavily by “artists” seeking to share their photography.

Is VSCO dangerous?

If there is a problem with VSCO, it is that anyone can see your profile and your photos. There are very limited security settings in VSCO. People can search you by your username and they can re-post your pictures very easily. A Google search can also bring up anyone’s VSCO profile (along with all their other social media). Basically, anyone can see anything you post.

One concern is that, unless your kid knows exactly what they are doing and has turned off several buttons, VSCO will share their location (if its generally available on their phone). This I am not happy about. I don’t want my teen or pre-teen letting others know where they are. Particularly if they are sharing photos of themselves.

And even though an initial account is kind of invisible – you’d need to know the account name to find it – kids today are linking their VSCO account to their other profiles. Therefore, their friends and others can go directly to the photos they upload.

VSCO has become very popular with teens.  But because it’s not as popular with parents and other adults, teens are sometimes (often times?)  using this platform to post pictures they don’t want their parents to see. Some of these contain nudity, drugs, and alcohol.

This is the real danger. Just like Snapchat and many other photo-sharing apps/websites, teens and pre-teens may be doing stupid things.

So, the bottom line is VSCO is another app you will have to monitor. Unfortunately, one of its newest security features is the ability to “block”. So… maybe you’ll get blocked.

Of course, the answer is not going to be “continue making fake accounts to monitor your kids’ activity”.  Your kid can just continue to make a new fake account for every account you find.

Instead, talk to your kids. Remind them that their digital footprint is forever.  They always have to be smart about what they are posting.  Explain the danger of posting inappropriate content. Maybe find some stories or examples that will drive the point home.

And, of course, make rules they have to follow. When they violate them, enforce your rules.

A positive perspective.

Of course, not everyone uses VSCO in a bad way. It is very artistic site. Many people use VSCO to practice their photography and editing skills, which is what the app was created for. If your kid seems able to handle themselves and really wants some exposure for their creative photographs, it is a pretty good site.

For more parenting reviews on VSCO, look at:

https://www.saferkid.com/app-reviews-for-parents/vsco-cam

https://www.fosi.org/good-digital-parenting/what-vsco/

For more information about VSCO, check out:

https://www.bewebsmart.com/app-review/what-is-vsco/

https://vsco.co/about/company

Heard of a very similar app, Snapchat? Here’s our post on it.