Junes is National Internet Safety Month

ATTSMart

It’s hard to believe June is already here, and many students are already out of school for the summer!

The free time during summer gives kids ample opportunities to test boundaries as they explore the Internet, on both the home computer and their mobile device, talk and text with friends on their smartphones, and scan countless viewing choices on TV.

With kids integrating technology into their daily lives, parents need to keep abreast of their kids’ activities.

There are easy-to-use, effective tools available today that allow parents to stay in the driver’s seat of their children’s TV, Internet and wireless activities.  Here’s a quick primer:

Get tech savvy. Ironically, the first step in this process is decidedly low-tech: Talk to your kids. You have to be proactive in discussing what technologies they’re using and how they’re using them. You should even experiment with the technologies, for instance, by sending an instant message to a relative. This will give you a better feel in evaluating risks and potential abuses.

Armed with this knowledge, you can easily find out what parental controls are available. AT&T Smart Controls is one example that brings together information on the privacy and protection features available to subscribers of the company’s high speed Internet, TV and wireless services. The site is a show-and-tell of how parents can safeguard their children against misuse of technology.

Surf smart. From social networking sites and chat rooms to online gaming and other sites, today’s kids know their way around the Net. But most Internet service providers (ISP) offer parents tools to block access to specific Web pages as well as to services such as e-mail, instant messaging, chat groups and message boards.

Since it’s virtually impossible to stay informed about all the sites kids want to visit, also check to see if your ISP offers permission slips, which allow children to request access to unauthorized Web sites. You get to be the judge. Tamper controls are another helpful feature, alerting parents if children attempt to change the settings.

Be wireless smart. As technology expands, so do the possibilities for misusing cell phones. This may take the form of your child making inappropriate calls or downloading expensive or inappropriate material.

Many carriers offer features allowing parents to block select incoming or outgoing calls to the phone and to install “sleep” functions so that calls after a certain time of night do not ring but messages go directly through to voice mail.

With most people accessing the Internet from their smartphones today, carriers such as AT&T offer parental controls to restrict mobile phone access to web sites containing content inappropriate for children, as well as to restrict purchase of premium subscriptions and downloads such as games, ringtones and graphics. For example, AT&T Smart Limits for Wireless lets you limit your child’s data usage, texting, purchases, and times of day the device is used. The parental patrols provide your child with the freedom and security of a mobile phone while allowing you to set sensible boundaries for your child.
There also are location-based services, like AT&T FamilyMap, that let users locate a family member’s cell phone on a map via Web browser on a PC or a mobile device. These types of tools give parents peace of mind while they’re away from their children.

Watch smart. The bad news is that, with hundreds of channels on the air, there are more inappropriate viewing options for kids than ever before. The good news is parents have more control than ever over what their kids are watching.

Virtually all TV service providers offer tools to filter movies based on MPAA ratings. Many even offer additional programming protection based on expanded ratings such as violence, language, nudity and sexual content.

Looking to go one step further? Some providers also enable you to prevent your children from viewing selected channels unless they enter the correct password.

In the end, a parent’s responsibilities in overseeing their child’s technology use are not much different than in other areas of daily life. Set clear boundaries on appropriate and inappropriate uses of technology. Then monitor their activity and be consistent with enforcing rules.

Above all, don’t be intimidated. Even if you’re less savvy about the technology than your children, you have the tools to make your job simpler in an ever more complicated world.

Parents can find more information on technology safety and parental controls at www.att.com/smartcontrols.com or http://www.pta.org/parent_resources.html.

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Safer Online Challenge for Teens: Time is Ticking

MSChallengeEvery parent worries about their children both online and off.

Who are they talking to online?  Are they chatting with strangers?  What information are they sharing?  Does your teen or child know the boundaries?

Let’s face it, you can never be safe enough or secure enough–there is always something new to learn!

Encourage your teens to participate in The Safer Online Teen Challenge by Microsoft!

The Challenge is an interactive contest where teens can teach others how to manage their digital lifestyle by creating a song, video, skit or other original work. It’s a perfect way for teens to put their own spin on how they navigate digital safety.

Here’s how it works:

• Teens ages 13 to 18 (where applicable), select an online safety topic from either the Microsoft Safety & Security Center or the “Resources” tab of the Safer Online by Microsoft Facebook page.
• They create their work of art (using one of Microsoft’s five categories: skit/presentation, video, story/cartoon, song, survey) and submit their entry by April 12 on the Challenge website.
• Then, Microsoft’s Safer Online Facebook fans will vote to select the winners of each category. Microsoft will post the winning entries on their website and the winners will receive prizes like tablets, gaming systems and more.

Check out the prizes!

Great prizes!

Great prizes!

Cell Phone Tips for Your Teens: Set Up Rules

Cell-ear fusion: every parent’s worst nightmare!

Cell-ear fusion: every parent’s worst nightmare!

The question is no longer whether you are going to give your teenager his own cell phone but at what age you allow him to have his own cell phone. This is largely going to depend upon you and the maturity level of your teenager (which is something that only you as a parent can gauge).

Whatever age you decide your teenager is ready, though, it’s good to have some rules in place.

In spite of what your teenager might tell you, unfettered cell phone use is not in his best interests right now.

Monitoring Software

It’s a good idea to install some mobile monitoring software on your teenager’s cell phone. This way, if you need to, you will be able to look up his call history, see what websites he has visited, and, most importantly, where his phone is located.

Do not, as tempting as it may be, sneak this software on to your teenager’s phone. Explain that you don’t want to have to use it but that it will be installed as a “just in case” precautionary measure.

Setting Limits

Set up limits on minutes and texts before you give your teenager his phone. Explain that every minute and every text costs money (even if you have an unlimited plan) and that the phone is not meant to replace the other methods of communication he already has at his disposal (house phone, email, Facebook, etc).

Decide upon a “phone curfew” (the time he has to turn off his cell phone each night). Make rules about whether or not you’ll allow the phone to be used in the car, at the dinner table, during family events, etc.

Sexting and Bullying

It’s okay to be freaked out by having to spell this out for your teenager, but you still need to do it. Sexting and sending provocative images between phones is a crime and one that he can be punished for, possibly for the rest of his life. Talk to him about this and explain why he needs to not give in to peer pressure when it comes to things like sexting, forwarding photos, etc.

Bullying via cell phone is certainly a first-world problem, but it is, nonetheless, a problem. Make sure your teenager knows how to handle any cell phone based bullying he might receive and that there will be severe consequences if he uses his phone to bully someone else.

With any luck, this will be the weirdest photo you’ll find in his phone!

With any luck, this will be the weirdest photo you’ll find in his phone!

Keep Private Information Private

Set up rules about the people to whom he is allowed to give his cell phone number (hint: only people he already knows in person. Period.). Talk about how easy it is for someone he doesn’t know to get a hold of his private information if he isn’t careful about protecting it on his phone.

You’ve had a similar talk already when you allowed him to start up his Facebook page. Talk about how the same sorts of rules apply to phones, too.

Overages

Have a plan in place for what will happen if your teenager goes over his minute and text quota. Will you have him pay you for it out of his allowance or money he earns at an after-school job? Will you have him work it off with chores around the house?

Quotas are more likely to be respected if there are consequences for surpassing them. Talk to your teenager about what is a fair punishment, but make sure this talk happens ahead of time so that he knows in advance that there will be consequences for breaking the rules.

The more open you are with the communication, the less you are going to have to worry that your teenager is going to do something life-alteringly stupid…because, obviously there will be at least a few dumb things done with that phone—that’s just how teenagers roll. If you keep the lines of communication open, though, you should be able to build a level of trust that allows you to sleep soundly at night…as soundly as the parent of a teenager can sleep, anyway.

Good luck!

Contributor:  Erin Steiner is a full-time freelance writer who covers a variety of topics for a wide range of websites including, but not limited to, Reputation.com.

Sue Scheff: Teens and the iPad

Apple’s Steve Jobs recently launched the iPad, displaying the many capabilities that this latest gadget can perform. Reminiscent of an iPhone, only larger, the iPad has practical applications for the gadget loving teens.  Even colleges students will fall in love with this latest tech system.

The iPad offers a wide variety of features that will delight and make life surfing and studying with more ease.

One benefit of the iPad it the ability for organized note taking, especially for those busy High School Juniors and Seniors that are crunching to get their college applications in and keeping their GPA up.  It offers one compact place for notes to be organized and offers the ability to, with ease, to share these notes with a classmate through a simple email. 

Another asset is the calendar feature.  Does your teens need to keep track of when homework is due, exams are scheduled, college application deadlines, study dates, social events or even  his/her job schedule?  iPad offers a simple way to organize your dates, deadlines and keep up with your busy life through your touch pad.

Most all teens love their iTunes, YouTube and pictures. Buying music from the iTunes store is easy and viewing movies or videos should be more comfortable on the larger 9.5 by 7.5 inch screen.

Another cool feature is the iPad can be used as a digital photo frame when not in use and has many ways to import and export photos, including docking it with a computer or downloading via email.

Is the iPad right for you teenager?  The prices range from $499.00 – $829.00 which may be a deciding factor.  Although reasonable priced for the product and its’ enhanced features, not all families are able to afford these extra luxuries for their teens.  College students are another target market that may benefit from this new gadget.  The book reader feature will help eliminate some of the bulky books they are carrying.

Don’t think about the iPad as just a computer. Its true potential lies in its potential as a communications device. – Washington Post

Watch the intro video and read more.