You work hard to keep your children safe from so many different dangers, but every day they are exposed to countless threats online. Predators, disturbing content, identity theft attempts, and other things you wouldn’t let them experience in real life are all waiting for them.
Shockingly, 1 in 5 U.S. teenagers say they have been approached in a sexual way by strangers online; only 25% told their parents.
As a parent, that’s terrifying.
Young people have access to a nearly infinite pool of content thanks to websites like YouTube and Reddit. Worse, the Internet, the rise of smartphones, and the culture of social media allow us to access these things from anywhere. No matter what you think of it or how much you know about it, platforms like YouTube are changing how children are growing up.
While that’s not always a bad thing, kids have more access to new sources of information, some good and some bad. Finding useful information on YouTube is easy, but so is stumbling across harmful or even malicious content.
How can you restrict what your children watch on YouTube?
The answer to this question isn’t simple. Fortunately, there are options available to parents when it comes to controlling YouTube and Internet access.
The number one priority for parents should be to teach their children to protect themselves online and use social media safely. As a parent, you can’t monitor everything your child does all the time, and older teenagers might want (and genuinely need) some digital privacy. Instead, focus on being proactive about their safety while teaching your children how to protect themselves online.
What Children Do Online
In 2015, the Pew Research Center found that 92% of teenagers go online daily and that 75% own a smartphone. An Australian study later reported that 95% of 8- to 11-year-olds have accessed the Internet in the last month.
The most common websites they used were YouTube, Facebook, and online games like Roblox. In fact, email and even text messaging have taken a backseat to social media for many younger users. Platforms like Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and others provide a nearly infinite supply of content.
The Threat of Online Strangers
Sites like Instagram and Twitter not only let you connect with close friends and family members, they also open communication with complete strangers. Nearly half of Facebook users accept friend requests from people they’ve never met before, and most users are familiar with stories of social media or chat requests gone wrong. But did you know that YouTube allows comments on most videos and that those comments sections can contain links posted by predatory adults hiding behind fake profiles?
Many modern devices, apps, and web browsers offer parental controls that restrict access to certain content for their kids but did you know that many antivirus software titles already include parental controls? It’s two layers of protection with one installation. Some popular options include:
- Bitdefender – the premium version comes with a lot of features, but some of them are intrusive. These features include a webcam filter, activity reports, history and alerts, social media and mobile phone tracking, IP monitoring and blocking, SMS and call monitoring, website and app blocking, and location tracking.
- Norton – this household name features time, web, search, social media, and location supervision, protection of personal information, access request, and support for up to 10 devices.
- Avast – the website blocking feature is less intrusive than the other options mentioned. Parents can block specific websites and keywords.
A quick search will show you which antivirus software includes parental controls but in our experience, the best way to encourage safe Internet browsing is education and conversation.
Many platforms like Netflix have built-in parental controls that restrict content with a passcode. Netflix supports kid-focused user accounts to block adult-only shows. iPhones also have parental controls in their settings menus.
Some tech-savvy kids can bypass parental controls by installing certain software. Prevent them from doing so by giving them access to non-administrator user accounts on your operating system. Most will only let certain accounts install new software.
Finally, educating your kids on some smart browsing habits goes a long way toward ensuring their safety. You want to teach them to:
- Never share personal information online, like your phone number, email, address, or personal pictures.
- Think before you post. Your name is attached to everything you say online, so don’t post anything you wouldn’t want a teacher, a friend, a family member, or a potential employer to see.
- Understand that their actions online can have consequences in real life.
- Take some time to go through the privacy settings on Facebook and other online platforms.
- Don’t share passwords.
- Don’t meet someone you’ve befriended online without parental permission.
These are just general guidelines. It’s worth looking into the specific services and platforms your children enjoy using the most to see if they offer any customized parental controls.
Facebook is still one of the most popular social media platforms, but younger audiences are increasingly turning away from it. Chances are if your child does use Facebook, having a profile plays a huge role in your child’s ability to fit in with friends at school. Not only are the usual online dangers present, but what your child posts can impact his or her livelihood down the road. College admissions officers and job recruiters have reported that content on Facebook and other channels could harm an applicant’s chances.
What does this have to do with streaming videos? Facebook introduced a streaming feature called Facebook Live. These are videos being broadcast to the user’s friends list, but the recording of it can be shared. That means raw, unedited footage of anything the user opted to broadcast can be shared to unconnected users. Unfortunately, Facebook has come under fire for some of these videos, especially ones of gang rape and of the murder of Philando Castile.
YouTube modernized access to digital media and this popular video sharing website is used by people of all ages. Many parents rely on YouTube to entertain or instruct their children and while this works for many, there is a lot of troubling content on YouTube that masquerades as kid-friendly.
YouTube has everything: children’s shows, toy reviews, video game footage interlaced with player commentary (known as “Let’s Plays”), and so much more. YouTube’s content creators are more than eager to provide content that appeals to young children. The official Peppa Pig YouTube account, for instance, streams episodes of the show live for free.
But you can’t expect everything to be kid-friendly. Plenty of malicious and racy content can be found on YouTube. While users have the ability to “flag” objectionable videos and YouTube offers a kids’ mode, these solutions aren’t perfect. The only way to ensure safe browsing for very young children is to be aware of what they are watching.
- Let them watch without headphones so you can listen in on.
- Check their video history from time to time.
- Understand the current trends when it comes to questionable content (more on this later).
- Encourage them to watch channels that you know are kid-friendly.
YouTube’s Darker Side
Among the kid-friendly channels, it’s important to know how to recognize any questionable content your child might be exposed to on YouTube. There are countless channels that appear harmless on the surface, however, a deeper look will reveal how disturbing the content actually is.
The Logan Paul Generation
Logan Paul is a popular YouTuber with millions of subscribers, including many younger fans. The online celebrity experienced controversy in late 2017 after posting a video of a dead body while exploring Japan’s infamous Suicide Forest.
He was heavily criticized for exploiting the man’s suicide for his online show. Logan eventually took down the video and issued an official apology but it was deemed “too little, too late” by many.
Another YouTube controversy is the Elsagate scandal. Recently, several videos featuring iconic child-friendly characters like Spiderman, Elsa from Frozen, and Peppa Pig emerged in videos that contained disturbing, non-child-friendly themes. These videos were produced illegally without permission from the official owners, yet many children watched them daily.
While some of these videos were clearly fake, others featured standard animation, making it difficult for kids to tell the difference. In these videos, the characters would often:
- Inject each other with needles.
- Attack, steal, and break things.
- Get another one of the characters pregnant. There were countless videos featuring pregnant Elsa and other Disney characters.
Bizarre Disney and Marvel Live Action Content
There are also popular videos in which actors dress as Disney characters and create live action skits. Once again, these videos are full of disturbing content that is far from kid-friendly.
The majority of these questionable videos often ranked well because their creators knew how to manipulate the YouTube algorithm. A simple search for Spiderman or Elsa would often put these videos near the top of the search because they were viral.
Another issue parents have to deal with is suggested content. Many children are still building their attention spans, and after a few minutes in one video, they might click a suggested video from the sidebar. Suddenly, they’re falling down the rabbit hole that is YouTube’s suggested content feature.
YouTube displays suggested content based on a set of specific ranking factors. If a video is extremely popular and somewhat related, it will be displayed. So, if your children click suggestions after watching a Frozen clip, it won’t take long for pregnant Elsa and Spiderman videos to pop up in their feed. As parents, this means your children are being served content that even adults would find creepy.
How can you stop it? There’s virtually nothing you can do to stop this other than strict parental controls and monitoring your kids’ internet use in real-time.
YouTube Parental Controls
Parental controls exist on YouTube. They are far from perfect and some bad content will still sneak through, but you can minimize the risk that your children will see something disturbing. Here’s what you can do through YouTube’s parental controls:
- Block specific content types and creators. If there’s a specific channel you are aware of or a genre of content, you can block it.
- Allow approved content only. Parents can also limit what their children watch by approving specific content. Children will only be able to watch this content and nothing else.
- Turn the search off. The search function on YouTube can be turned off. This is a great option for parents of children who are able to read and write.
- Limit use to YouTube Kids. This is a popular option for parents who want a kid-friendly version of YouTube. While it doesn’t block everything, it does remove a lot of the adult content.
Snapchat is a messaging app for mobile devices where users can send images and videos to friends. The app is popular with teens and young adults, and surveys have shown that 32% of US teens have used Snapchat.
Unlike Facebook, you cannot monitor your child’s activity on Snapchat without having direct access to his or her account. Instead:
- Ask your child to open Snapchat messages along with you.
- Go into the app’s settings and make sure messages can only be received from friends rather than strangers.
In 2014, Snapchat was in the spotlight after a third-party “snap saving” app was hacked. Over 90,000 revealing photos were leaked on the Internet, many of which contained underage nudity.
Remember, “snaps” can be pictures or videos, so the same concerns you may have about Facebook Live or YouTube content applies to Snapchat.
Video games have increasingly moved toward an online multiplayer business model where players can interact and communicate with other players. Games like StarCraft, World of Warcraft, PUBG, and Fortnite are entirely multiplayer, while others like Minecraft and Call of Duty offer both single player and multiplayer modes.
It’s important to understand that the ESRB rating system for determining age and content ratings for video games typically doesn’t consider online interactions. So, while a video game like Fortnite may seem child-friendly on the surface with its colorful graphics and cartoony art style, adult players can say anything they want to in the game’s voice chat.
Gambling Online – The CS: GO Gambling Scandal
Video game controversies can be extremely complex. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) is an online multiplayer combat video game that offers in-game microtransactions, where virtual in-game items can be purchased using real money. In particular, CS:GO sells “skins,” or spray-painted designs to decorate a player’s weapons or character. Certain skins have been known to cost upwards of a thousand dollars.
It’s also possible to trade skins between accounts. This has led to the creation of websites built to allow players to wager the value of their skins against other user’s skins. Trading websites like these employ famous YouTube celebrities to advertise the service to millions of viewers as well.
Don’t fool yourself, these are gambling websites.
On these websites, players bet and win skins based on random chance and betting on live matches. While this setup is essentially gambling, trading skins manages to dodge the legal definition of gambling by not involving actual money, but rather virtual items that can be sold for money. Nonetheless, the game’s developers have been hit with class-action lawsuits over the possibility of underage players gambling on these sites.
There was even a major scandal in 2016 when popular Counter Strike YouTubers TmarTn and Syndicate, who were famous for creating videos of them gambling on these types of websites, were caught rigging bets on a website they owned. In these videos, the two players would gamble and show players how much they were winning. However, they never revealed to their audience that they were gambling on a website they owned. All of their winnings were staged, misleading their millions of supporters, many of whom were underage, and encouraging them to gamble.
Loot Box Addiction
A similar new trend is the rise of “loot boxes.” In certain games, players can purchase or earn a virtual crate which, when opened, give the player a randomized selection of further virtual items that can be used in-game. Thanks to the randomization factor, loot boxes have been claimed to be gambling in disguise.
In fact, the Belgian government ruled against loot boxes, calling them a form of gambling. Major corporations continue to push loot boxes because of how lucrative they are. In the video game industry, major companies have even coined the term “whales” for users who purchase an excessive number of loot boxes.
You might hear about loot boxes under different names. The video game Rainbow Six: Siege, for instance, refers to them as “Alpha Packs.” The screenshot above shows a seasonal “loot box” from Overwatch.
Mobile phone games usually include microtransactions. These transactions involve any form of transaction that takes place in a game. They typically charge whatever credit card is linked to your App Store or Google Play Store account. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Pokemon Go, and Roblox are a few examples of free-to-play games that include excessive microtransactions.
Parents need to be aware of microtransactions. They can be addictive for your children, and in extreme cases, your child may rack up a large bill on your credit card.
For the majority of kids and teenagers, the Internet has had a positive impact on their lives. Your responsibility as a parent, though, is to ensure a healthy balance between Internet use and your children’s online privacy and digital security. Talk to them extensively about social media and content consumption, and be prepared to step in whenever issues do come up.
Be an active listener, educate them about the dangers of specific content, and make sure they understand that their actions online can have consequences. Take some time to understand the websites and services your children use the most as well. Teaching them how to engage with others online is integral to succeeding in an increasingly Internet-centered society.
Parents Working From Home: 10 Productivity Hacks
Do you want to become a more productive work-from-home parent? A recent Yahoo Finance/Harris Poll showed that about 40% of Americans were working full-time from their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The option for parents to work via virtual offices using PCs, email, and IM platforms might seem like a practical way to be strictly business at boosting work productivity. Is it the real deal?
The problem is many telecommuting parents might experience new challenges. These include ones related to getting kids ready for school, meals, or bed; flexible work schedules; and Netflix binging. Ironically home-based parents can experience a drop in work efficiency. That’s right!
When doing a balancing act of job and family life here are some helpful tips & tricks:
Tip #1 Make a Home-based Workspace
If you’re going to work from home then it’s important to create a workspace that’s dedicated to your job. There are lots of home-office ideas you can try out.
Keep It Simple
When designing your workspace keep in mind it doesn’t have to include a $200,000 Spiral Desk with several exotic woods. Your home office setup could be as basic as a small desk and laptop computer in the corner. Another good option is a garden summerhouse if you happen to own one.
One of the main benefits of having an official working space is it’s easier to shift into work or home mode.
Tip #2 Get up Earlier for Quality Me-Time
If you’re a stay-at-home mom or dad then consider getting up a little earlier. You should still be getting a full 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night after you pick a mattress that suits your sleeping needs. This means you should be catching Zs a little earlier.
One of the main benefits of waking up early for virtual workers is you’ll have more time for yourself.
You can spend this time taking a warm bath or shower, drinking your morning coffee or tea, or doing some light exercise. A home is quieter early-morning even if you have kids. This makes it an ideal time for more “me time.” It’s also a good mood-booster before you start pulling double duty as a working parent.
Tip #3 Set Realistic Goals You Can Usually Achieve
If other telecommuting friends make social media posts showing they’re achieving all their work, home, and family goals every day—then it might be too good to be true. A clean house, home-cooked meals, and successful business are all possible but it’s more complicated than Instagram photo-sharing.
Set Goals and Get Help
Make sure to set realistic goals as a working parent. They can be challenging but ones you’re likely to achieve with some effort and planning. You should also complete one item at a time on your to-do list and get help when needed.
Tip #4 Get Virtual Help from Distant Relatives
If you have isolated or lonely relatives they might be willing to help through social media like Facebook or virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant. This could be for an hour or two daily. For example, a faraway grandparent could help your little one with schoolwork and answer questions.
This frees up time for at-home parents to meet work deadlines and hold Skype or Zoom meetings, for example. If you have a few free relatives who help your kids for 2 hours, for example, that frees up several hours you can dedicate to weekly reports or client calls.
Tip #5: Say ‘No’ to New Work When Necessary
This is a classic lifehack that’s usually related to general time-management advice. An irony is that parents often have to tell their kids “no” when they make a request. However, they often don’t give the same reply about their own workload when they’re already swamped.
Studies show that parent burnout affects up to 12% of Mommies and Daddies, according to Frontiers in Psychology.
Every day you should compare your to-do list with your available time. If you get a professional or personal request that doesn’t fit within your daily schedule then you should say “no.”
Tip #6 Plan out Your Working Hours
Many home-based workers mistakenly don’t schedule their workday. A better approach is to make a schedule and aim to stop working at the traditional 5:00 PM. If you finish earlier then it frees up more family time.
Weekly Work Times
Try to avoid the mentality that you have all day to finish your work. Yes, you have flexibility to work during times that you’ll be the most productive. That could be early morning, late evening, or a few hours here and there between preparing meals for your kiddos and picking them up from school.
Try to create a weekly schedule that includes your working times. This will help to prepare you for a busy day like an excellent mattress selection.
Tip #7: Do Regular Exercise during the Morning
How could taking a morning jog or lifting weights boost work productivity? Home-based working parents tend to spend a lot of time sitting and standing.
Exercise can provide many health benefits that involve your:
- Blood Flow
Doing morning exercise can help to prepare you physically, mentally, and emotionally for a busy day handling your work and familial responsibilities. This can make you a more effective (and healthy) stay-at-home parent.
Tip #8: Avoid Working in Front of Your Kids
This isn’t something you’ll be able to achieve 100% of the time and especially if your kids are toddlers. However, it’s a general rule to make sure you’re 100% “present” during family time.
It all starts with scheduling quality time with your kids during the day. This will help to make sure you’ve scheduled time to be present from the get-go.
When you’re around your kids, try to avoid doing tasks like answering emails or taking calls. Even sitting in front of your computer can blur the lines between work and family life. One of the best steps to take is to close the door of your home office when you’re working.
Tip #9 Be Flexible with the New Setup
While it’s good to make daily schedules and to-do lists, it’s also important to go with the flow. There are times you might have to take work calls during family time. Your work schedule might also change suddenly. The key is to stay flexible about the “new normal.”
Tip #10: Outsource Work When You Can
When you’re an at-home working parent, it might seem that your work never ends. Try to get help when you can from friends, family, or food delivery/cleaning services. You could even outsource some of your job’s work, like data input or design work.
Working from home can be a practical option for many parents. The key to more productivity is to create things like daily schedules, yet be flexible for on-the-fly changes during the day. This provides the perfect blend of planning and spontaneity. You’ll then be more likely to get everything done on your to-do list, including video meetings, soccer practice pick-up, and a good night’s sleep.
About the Author
Brett is a writer at ID-Mag. An enthusiast and expert when it comes to sleep products, Brett dedicates a lot of his time reading, researching, and reviewing about both traditional and emerging sleep brands that manufacture varied types of sleep products – from eco-mattresses, smart pillows to cooling sleep systems, Brett has probably reviewed them all. Brett also finds sleep especially important since he juggles a small business which he runs from home, makes sure he spends time with his daughter and he also writes during his spare time – you can definitely see that he needs a great forty winks all night, every night so he’ll make sure that you get great sleep, too!
Monster Hunter: The Movie content is coming to Monster Hunter: The Game
The upcoming Monster Hunter movie doesn’t exactly look like the most faithful adaptation of the games, centering as it does around a gun-toting US Army soldier played by Milla Jovovich, but that’s not stopping Capcom from engaging in some cross-promotion. Downloadable content based on the movie is coming to Monster Hunter World: Iceborne next month.
You’ll be able to embark on a two-part event quest featuring the Black Diablos and Greater Rathalos, two monsters featured in the movie, and special bonus items will be available. There’s also a player skin based on Jovovich’s character Captain Artemis, which you can see in action here:
It’s all very Street Fighter: The Movie, which was an actual video game Capcom released in 1995.
The themed content will come to Iceborne on December 4th ahead of the movie’s US premiere on December 25th. An all-new Monster Hunter game, Monster Hunter Rise, is being released exclusively on the Nintendo Switch on March 26th.
GOOGLE’S TASK MATE WILL ALLOW YOU TO EARN MONEY BY DOING “SIMPLE” THINGS!
Google is currently testing a new application dubbed Task Mate for its Android platform. While the name point towards some kind of automation tool, that’s actually not the case. According to a report by 9to5Mobile, Task Mate is an application that allows users “to earn money by doing simple tasks on your smartphone”. Sounds like Google Opinion Rewards but it’s actually not. Task Mate seems to be more of a toned up version of the former.
TASK MATE IS CURRENTLY ONLY AVAILABLE TO SELECTED TESTERS!
As mentioned earlier, Task Mate is currently in the early access testing phase where Google has kept the access “limited to select users”. The search engine giant is following a referral code system meaning more testers might be able to join using the referral code by an already tester. Although you can download the application from Google Play Store, you can not proceed further without a referral code.
Unlike Google Opinion Rewards, Task Mate allows users to “cash out the earning” by linking an e-wallet or an in-app payment partner. For those who’re unaware, the Opinion Rewards only gives Play Store credit in exchange for completed tasks. Furthermore, Google is not limiting the tasks to its own services. With Task Mate, it will showcase tasks that originate from “business around the world”. According to Google, the tasks that need to be completed are fairly “simple”.
Google has categorized the tasks into two namely “Sitting” or “Field Tasks”. As the name suggests, the former consists of tasks that you can complete without moving while the latter requires you to walk. Basically, “Field Tasks” will track how many minutes you have to walk. For instance, Google might ask you to go to a particular location nearby and take a photo of a business presence there. For Sitting, some of the tasks include “Record spoken sentences”, “Transcribe sentences” and “Check shop details”.
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