Social media, teens and parents… Friends?

In Security, Teenagers, Uncategorized on December 28, 2011 by tecnologyantivirus Tagged: , , , , , ,

Published by Ana Etxebarria

Social media has become an extension of the high school playground for the vast majority of teenagers, with its share of flirting, drama, cruelty and flashes of maturity.

In addition, electronic behavior has become a new frontier of parenting and, as a result, our own behavior may be changing as fast as our kids. We’re watching them more closely, talking to them more about online activities and understanding that social media has become part of growing up.



Another surprising fact is that 80 percent of parents who use social media (and who also have a child who uses social media) have friended their child on these sites.

This ‘friendship’ poses a dilemma for parents, who have to choose between being controlling parents who check which websites their children have visited, use parental control software, etc, or permissive parents who don’t embrace the trend to monitor and encourage their children’s autonomy.

According to recent studies, only a small percentage of parents (about 15 percent) consciously avoid monitoring their children’s online activities because they trust them. In my opinion that is an incredibly low figure.

I am a mother of three and I belong to a generation where social interaction between children took place in the playground. Well, let my tell you something: back then parents also fell into one of the aforementioned two categories. There were those who didn’t trust their children despite in some cases not having a reason for not doing so, and those who trusted them. Luckily, my parents belonged to the latter group although I had close friends whose parents showed an incredibly high level of distrust towards them.

So, if you think you know your children well enough, there is good communication between you and them, you are a good role model for them, and there is no reason to the contrary…Why not trust your kids? Why are we so worried and why some of us get so intrusive?

Not so long ago a friend of mine told me that they had installed some sort of ‘spyware’ (I can’t find a better word for it) on their 11-year-old son’s computer and they monitor every step he takes online: the games he plays, the sites he visits, the time he spends on each page, the photos he downloads, who he chats with, the content of his conversations, etc. Isn’t it terrible? That’s like reading someone’s journal, tapping their phone lines or hiding cameras in every room in their apartment.

Do you monitor your child’s social media activities? Do you use parental controls? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your opinions or personal experiences.



YouTube, the new Big Brother?

In Uncategorized, YouTube Videos on December 20, 2011 by tecnologyantivirus Tagged: , , , , ,

Published by Ana Etxebarria

A couple of weekends ago, my family endured a six-hour car trip, and even though our car is not equipped with a DVD player it was made more bearable when I passed our iPads to our children. Despite being 5 and 6 years old respectively, they have already figured out how to play with them and look up videos on YouTube, so that kept them busy for a good while.

Later on, however, I found out that they hadn’t been playing or watching videos but rather taking videos! Much of it consisted of the back of my head and the conversation I was having with her father, nothing more, really. We had said nothing inappropriate, though my husband and I thought the kids were concentrated on their video games.

Those recordings made me think of two recent YouTube parenting episodes. The first was a much-publicized video showing a man, a judge by trade, beating his daughter. The victimized kid posted it to expose the abuse and prevent her sister from going through the same nightmare. It led to public condemnation of the father, who was placed under a temporary restraining order banning him from visiting his younger daughter.

The second was a cute video showing a dog responding to a toddler’s temper tantrum. Viewers can hear the mother laughing as she records the interaction. Here’s the clip:


Whereas the angry response to the first video was justified, some of the responses to the second were too harsh in my opinion.

The mother wrote a blog response that told of her shock at both the popularity of the video and, later, at the tone and content of many of the anonymous comments, including one that condemned her for doing ”nothing” as her baby cried.

Here is an excerpt from her letter:

“First I was angry – clearly this person didn’t have kids or they would know that coddling your child isn’t the answer to stopping every tantrum a 2-year-old has. I’ll let this roll off my shoulders… wait…  people think I’m a bad mom after watching this? Hold the Internet presses. We’re shutting down. No more video. No shows, no news reports. What if social services calls and says I’m raising my child incorrectly? Can I possibly defend myself?”

And the question is precisely that: Can she? Should she have to?

In the first example above, the video depicted abuse. It’s a good thing abusive parents have something to worry about but, should the rest of us be on guard, too?

More and more YouTube is part of our lives as parents. We are uploading many of the videos and soon, our children will be publicizing our daily lives, complete with our debatable parenting methods and mistakes.

What if my daughter secretly taped my bad mood this morning and emailed it around? Or, what about what I consider happy moments, such as my two children racing each other down the block? I might record that and send it to their grandparents, but if the video was passed on to YouTube, other people could anonymously criticize me for letting them run and shout. Would I have been so relaxed if I thought there was an audience?

Does the electronic age mean we should always consider ourselves parenting in public as if we were in some kind of “Truman Show” or Big Brother? If so, will that make us better parents?


Kids and new technologies, a good or dangerous combination?

In Uncategorized, YouTube Videos on December 14, 2011 by tecnologyantivirus Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Posted by Ana Etxebarria

According to a recent survey conducted in the US, children spend twice as much time watching TV as reading books… This adds a little bit more controversy to the already complex issue of kids and new technologies. Common Sense Media has published a study revealing that kids are using electronic media to an amazing extent.

According to the report:

  • A whopping 40% of kids 2-4 years and over 50% of 5-8 year-olds have used a smartphone, tablet, or video iPod.
  • Over 50% of children ages 0 to 8 have access to a mobile device.
  • More than a quarter of children this age have ever used one of these newer mobile devices, including 10% of 0- to 1- year-olds, 39% of 2- to 4-year-olds, and 52% of 5- to 8-year-olds.
  • Children under 2 spend twice as much time watching TV or DVDs as they do reading books.

To be honest with you I don’t find this surprising at all. If my own family had been subject to the study, the results would have been pretty much the same.

In addition, this study comes amid huge controversy over a recent recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics reminding parents with small children that they should not be allowing their little ones to watch TV or other screens. They even go as far as suggesting that parents should not watch TV while their kids are around.

However, in view of the study, it seems pretty complicated to convince parents to stop their children from watching TV or playing with an iPad. Or maybe we are focusing on the wrong question, especially when we witness behavior like this from a popular YouTube video of a baby ‘reading’ a magazine the only way she knows how:

The AAP has admitted that 90% of parents of children under 2 years old already allow some screen time, and Common Sense’s report suggests that most parents are rather permissive with electronic media for all age groups. Maybe it’s time to admit that the question is no longer if media should be allowed, but how much and what kind.

APP researchers found behavioral differences between kids who watched fast-paced cartoons with those who watched a slow-paced one, and discovered that only those who watched the frenetic show seemed to be adversely affected. It seems clear that neither the cartoon in question -“SpongeBob SquarePants”- nor any other programs, games or applications are intrinsically bad, although they can be negative if used inadequately. It is a question of common sense more than anything else, but it seems that many parents are unable to apply it and understand what is age-appropriate. And since the “experts” tend to look down on all screen time, it is difficult to know which shows and apps are best.

It’s now pretty clear that screen time is part of our kids’ lives at every age. For you not to understand that would be swimming against the tide. However, it is also true that many of us parents may need more guidance on how much media and what kind is best for the intellectual and cognitive development of our children.

How much screen time is allowed in your house? What sorts of programs and games are allowed?


Tips for a safe online Christmas shopping

In Malware, Security, Uncategorized on December 7, 2011 by tecnologyantivirus Tagged: , , ,

Posted by Leyre Velasco

Christmas are getting near and still so many presents to get! However, many of us are still a bit reluctant to shop online as we believe we may fall victim to some scam. Here go a few tips which will help you avoid fraud and which will help you do your online Christmas shopping safely.

What to bear in mind when shopping online

  1. Only visit trusted sites. Look for pages with a professional appearance, pages from a well-known brand, sites displaying a customer service telephone number… It is very important to know who you are buying from.
  2. Be wary of prize-drawings and ridiculously good offers. Read the conditions of each promotion carefully to avoid nasty surprises.
  3. Pay for your purchases securely.  There are different means of payment, for example, cash on delivery, Paypal , credit card, etc.  If you don´t choose cash on delivery payment, remember that you will have to provide more information, and therefore you must be sure that the transaction will be completely safe.
  4. Make sure you are on a HTTPS page: Web addresses normally start with ‘HTTP’, for example:
    However, the pages you make online payments on must be more secure and they should start with ‘HTTPS’ As you can see in the image, the Panda Security store URL begins with HTTPS and what’s more, it has a Verisign security certificate.
  5. It is advisable to have a bank account with a credit card associated with it for making online purchases. This account will contain just the money you need for this purpose, making monitoring easier.
  6. Keep product warranties in a safe place. Besides handling the electronic aspect of online purchases, e-businesses must offer straightforward warranties on products bought. The Web page must contain the following information:
    • Means of payment
    • Delivery terms
    • Product warranties
    • Returns
  7. If you find out that the product you receive is faulty, is different from the one you purchased or the delivery terms are not fulfilled, file a complaint through the company’s Customer Service Dept.
  8. If you don’t receive any answers and you suspect there could be some kind of fraud, report it as soon as possible.
  9. Finally, keep a good antivirus installed. This is your barrier against phishing, spam and other Internet threats. If you are not sure about something during the installation or update processes, don’t leave it for later. Look for the appropriate solution in the Support pages and Support forums available to you for any queries you might have, even during the holidays.

Follow these simple tips and you won’t have any surprises when it comes to doing your Christmas shopping on the Internet. The end result will be the smile of those receiving your presents.

Nothing else from my side, I’d like to wish you all very happy holidays in the company of your loved ones.


Protect the online privacy of teenagers

In Security, Teenagers, Uncategorized on November 30, 2011 by tecnologyantivirus Tagged: , , , ,

Posted by Ana Etxebarria

When my oldest daughter turned 13, she got a brand new smartphone, signed up for Facebook and Pandora and went on an apps downloading spree. At the same time, my brand new teen lost many protections over her privacy online.
The online games she plays know her location at any given moment through her phone’s GPS technology.

She’s given my VISA card number to buy apps, iTunes has our family’s email address and everyone’s full names and Facebook knows her birth date and the school she goes to…

At an age at when I still don’t let her go to the shopping center by herself or open the door to strangers, she has a growing dossier about her habits, likes and dislikes, etc.  accumulating on the Web. And even though laws have been passed that protect the youngest of Internet users from giving away much information about themselves, once children become teens, the same privacy rules no longer apply.

Leaving aside the laws that regulate these aspects, experts on adolescent development say youths between 13 and 18 deserve special attention, and teenagers are among the most voracious and precocious users of new Internet services, constantly making grown-up decisions with grown-up consequences. However, as experts say ‘Their ability to make decisions is still forming and clearly different from that of adults.”

With few restraints, teens are creating digital records that also build their reputation offline. All the status updates, tweets and check-ins to specific locations can be reviewed by prospective employers, insurance companies and universities.

Despite Internet companies say personal data can be collected only with permission and parents can set security controls on phones and computers, the Web offers so many opportunities to share information online that teens just don’t stop to think about the consequences.

Anyway, don’t think this is something of the future. It’s the present and it’s here to stay. Becoming a controlling, paranoid mother won’t help either, as they will still have endless possibilities to access the Internet. Therefore, once again I think that the only way to get rid of these fears is to educate teenagers about the dangers posed by the online world as we have been doing forever in the offline world.

How to do this? By helping them make thoughtful decisions, giving them the confidence to turn to you if they make a mistake, and having first-hand knowledge of those sites, games and apps they love so much.

What do you think?


Twitter Etiquette

In Twitter, Uncategorized on November 23, 2011 by tecnologyantivirus Tagged: , , ,

Posted by Leyre Velasco

As we have previously said in many posts, social networks enable communication among millions of users from around the globe. And, just like any form of communication, the Internet is a community that has its own form of etiquette. In my own case, I just have to look at how my Facebook friends or the people I follow on Twitter behave to know how to act, as it is users themselves that have made these rules.

Today, we’ll help you avoid the biggest etiquette pitfalls with these tips:

  1. Thank people for their retweets. On Twitter, a ‘retweet’ (or RT) is a previously tweeted message that you share with your followers. It is important to thank for RTs on social media. There are several ways to thank someone for a retweet, and some of them are really funny, as you can see in the following article: 30 Ways to Say Thank You for a Re-Tweet.
  2. Use #FF: On Twitter, keywords are preceded by # symbols (or hashtags). If you tag a user name and then the hashtag #FF or Follow Friday, you are signaling to your followers that you endorse those people and they are worth being followed. Now, if someone has included you in a #FF list, you should give them a #FF recommendation as well, thank them for doing so, or both.
  3. Attempting to follow someone and then unfollow them before they can follow you is considered rude.
  4. Don’t ask your friends for a RT of your tweets. Retweeting a message should be a personal option. If someone likes your tweets, they will retweet them, don’t worry.
  5. Don’t use Twitter to promote yourself. Some people only tweet their own blog posts or use Twitter for their own professional gain only.
  6. Avoid bombarding your followers with tweets that will flood their timeline. Even if you think your tweets are irresistible…

Well, these have been a few tips on Twitter etiquette. I must admit I don’t always follow them and it is not out of rudeness, as I am truly convinced of the value of good manners, but sometimes I don’t have as much time as I’d like to fulfill the protocol to return mentions, retweets or follow fridays. And on the social networks just like outside the net, I don’t think an untimely response is considered good manners 😉

How do you act on the Web?


Parents help underage children lie to get on Facebook

In Uncategorized on November 16, 2011 by tecnologyantivirus Tagged: , ,

Published by Ana Etxebarria, November 2011

I have recently read an article claiming that millions of preteens have signed up for Facebook, as indicated by a recent survey carried out in the US which showed that parents actually helped them lie to do it. I have 4 kids under age 12 and all of them have Facebook accounts, so I feel very much related to this issue.

Facebook sets the minimum age for using its service at 13 to comply with US federal laws that protect children’s online privacy.

However, a new survey from Microsoft and such top universities as Berkeley and Harvard has found that half of all parents with 12-year-olds and 1 in 5 parents of 10-year-olds knew their kids were using Facebook.

Asked how the children signed up for the service, thus violating the site’s terms of service, nearly 7 in 10 parents admitted they helped their kids set up the accounts.
The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, drew from a random sampling of 1,007 parents with children ages 10 to 14.

The survey comes amid a debate over children’s online privacy protection in a new era of mobile apps and other technologies. Consumer reports recently reported that 7 million underage users were on Facebook.

Do age limits for Internet services really stop children from using age-restricted sites? Should companies be allowed flexibility to experiment with new services and technologies without new regulations?

Most parents, me included, want our kids online as early as possible. We don’t want to be told how to be a parent. We want our children to be part of the digital world and be able to communicate with relatives and friends using current technology tools.

But, what do privacy advocates say? Well, they say that parents are not fully aware of what data is being collected about their children. If parents knew that sites such as Facebook collect information to deliver customized ads, they would be more cautious. This is total nonsense in my opinion. Or is that TV stations don’t bombard our kids with advertising in children’s networks?

Now, the question is: Is it really good for Facebook to have those underage users illegally? Well it must be, otherwise they would do something about it.

What do you think?