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When we think about privacy today, we can probably best sum it up as complicated and constantly changing. The way we interpret privacy. The way younger generations interpret privacy. And the increasing diligence needed to maintain our privacy, all add to the challenges of a digital world today.

Back in 1967, David Westin, in his book Privacy and Freedom, described privacy as
“The claim of individuals, groups or institutions, to determine for themselves, when, how and to what extent, information about them is communicated to others”

Still relevant today, his work led to the transformation of many laws concerning privacy. In more recent years however, he conceded that laws alone can no longer determine our privacy, but rather we need a combination of legal, technological and social fixes as well as constant education as to our rights, and our self determination of these rights.
As our hyperconnected, overly sharing digital world continues, this is certainly becoming more evident.

Danah Boyd refers to privacy as something that has certainly taken on massive changes in a connected world. In the past, you had to work hard to be public. Now, you must work hard to be private. So yes, the tables have definitely turned.

So what does that mean for parents of young people, and indeed young people themselves, when it comes to managing privacy? What are some of the challenges we all face regardless of our interpretation and how can we best maintain some semblance of control in a world that makes it extremely difficult to do so?

What are the privacy challenges we all face?

A culture of sharing

Many people today will give up their privacy for the fame, for the money, or even for a ring on the finger. We give up privacy for the ‘likes’ on a photo, for the ease of shopping online or for googling our next holiday destination.
Unless you are going to be one of the very few people who never google search anything, never connect with anyone online or in fact, never use a digital device of any sort….. then privacy issues will increasingly become a part of your life. And the research has also found that the average person is far more concerned about their privacy today, than they were even 5 years ago.
With social media, with 24/7 connectedness, with Reality TV, we have seen a rise in sharing, and in sharing publicly.  We are now very accustomed to hearing people’s inner most thoughts, bearing witness to their emotions, watching them as they sleep and their late night mutterings ‘big brother’ style. We watch how people deal with other people, create or deal with conflict and the inner workings of the mind, as it explores the best way to win a rose from a bachelor, cook the tastiest dish or find the immunity idol. Whilst not all of us want to put ourselves out there on reality TV, the fact remains that we are getting far more used to this type of sharing than we ever would have been before.

Different generations, different views on privacy

For parents, we usually define privacy as having control over the information about ourselves that we choose not to share.
For young people today, that control is deemed as far less likely to be something they can control and thus their notion is quite different to ours. And my idea of privacy may even be different to that of my parents and certainly grandparents. Previous generations tend to keep things much more private. Other people didn’t need to know your business and much more stayed behind closed doors or was held close to one’s chest. So the changing social environments of the times, certainly ensure our notions of what privacy is and what should be kept private are changing as well.
Our kids are therefore growing up thinking this type of public revelation is normal and thus tend to have different standards of acceptance.
According to a study by Sydney university, they are actually more likely to feel in control of their privacy online than those over 40, and have more likely adjusted privacy settings on the apps they are hanging out on. This may be they are more tech savvy and know the options are there, or they have grown up knowing these concepts of privacy play a greater role in their lives. They are also becoming increasingly aware of the role corporations  and government agencies play in collecting data as well as the data trail they leave behind. For many however, it is still just a byproduct of the only world they have known.

So we need to be careful that we are shifting with the cultural shifts that have occurred in order to have the most meaningful and relevant conversations about privacy for our young people.

Yes we want to talk about not sharing photos of others without permission, and not sending nudes that you don’t want to appear on the feeds of peers and strangers alike. Yes we need to be mindful of the digital footprint that is being left behind every time we post something online. But we also need to recognise that their notions of that privacy may well be coming from a different paradigm than ours.

Data Collection

Knowing that everything we do online is tracked and traced and often times bought and sold, has also become a major issue.
There are generally 3 ways our data is collected online.
Data Given: This is data we knowingly hand over. The photos we share. The comments we make. The goods that we buy.  All the data we contribute every time we participate online.
Data Traces: data left behind from what we have given becomes data traces of our online participation. Usually less knowingly handed over and captured by tracking technologies such as cookies, location data, webtracking etc
Inferred Data: this is the data that comes from analysing the first 2. Our data given and the traces left behind, allow for analysis to create and profile our online behaviours. This may then play out in the pages and pictures we are shown, corporations and companies we are advertised to and the people and places that may be suggested to us as a good fit.

Growing up knowing that the dress they put in their cart but didn’t buy will continue to come up in their advertising feeds and knowing that when they search for Bali holidays they will continue to be bombarded with holiday deals, is something many young people recognise as part of the trade off. For others, this poses a far greater risk, ranging from mildly creepy to major embezzlement.

Data Breaches

We are increasingly reminded of just how easy data breaches can occur. In just this past year, Australia alone has seen breaches occur in hospitals, car companies, retail outlets, banks, insurance agencies, parliamentary services, real estate agencies, hotel groups, sporting teams and of course to Facebook themselves. Handing over our medical histories and our sensitive information is now met with increasing trepidation as we fear such information becoming common knowledge. When our personal data is subsequently leaked and ‘found’ in the hands of those we didn’t intend, then we have every right to be nervous about what we are knowingly and unknowingly giving out.

Curated Feeds

Because of the data that is collected about us, the content we search for and therefore the content that is suggested to us, we may well be cocooning ourselves into a filter bubble of sameness. The people we follow are usually similar with similar points of view. The media outlets are similar with similar opinions. We also know that a study in the UK in 2018 found that 44% of young people got their news from social media, mainly snapchat, yet only 25% of them trust their online news service. We want to be sure we are all getting our news and information from a variety of sources, knowing how easy it is to manipulate a point of view.

Scheming Scammers & Fraudsters

Certainly one of the more sinister elements of a connected world is the access of scammers and fraudsters to our data, our images, our money and even our identity. Innocently giving over an email address, our credit card details or even following a fake facebook account, may all end in data and privacy violations. Purchasing a skin care cream that claims to take years off your life, may well reduce your bank account far more than it does your wrinkles. And innocently posting that photo of your little cherub playing in the back yard may well end up gracing the pages of an horrific paedophile website. Young people are pretty savvy now at knowing to click on the cross when a pop up appears on the screen telling you you are the lucky recipient of a free ipad. And many of us are becoming wary of the $60000000000 that will land in our bank account or the long lost connection to a wealthy prince. But unfortunately many are not so savvy and the perpetrators of this fraud are continuing to fleece millions from unsuspecting victims.

Paedophiles, predators and grooming

Befriending strangers online can of course open us up to the very worst that humankind has to offer. That’s not to say we can’t meet people online and form valid and valued relationships, but we certainly have to be wary of those who don’t have our interests at heart. Whether chatting with people on online games, social network banter or finding friends on dating sites, we are always opening ourselves up to people who may not be who they seem.  Not to mention the heinous number of paedophilic images uploaded, as well as those targeted and blackmailed with image based abuse.  UK police just revealed they have over 13.4 million images on their child abuse database (up from 10,000 in 1990). Facebook also revealed it removed over 8.7 million “pieces of content” that violated its policy around child nudity or sexual exploitation between July and September last year.

So knowing that these challenges exist, and knowing that it is highly unlikely we are going to use the online world any less, what are some things we can do to help maintain some semblance of control over our online identities?

Here are a few strategies we can use to have a greater input in to how our data is received, shared and stored.

Taking some control
  • Use privacy settings and check them regularly for changes. Many settings are not private by default and we need to physically go in and make the changes to turn on or toggle off. For a more advanced look at settings my friend Trish from Eyes Open Social has some great advice on setting accounts up properly, particularly this video on how your stories are still public on Snapchat. Leonie Smith from the Cyber Safety Lady has written a manual that can be purchased that outlines how to set up most of the free built in controls on your device.
  • Install 3rd party software. Family Zone is the product I recommend when it comes to managing your families screen behaviours. This certainly limits the sites that can be accessed and thus the information that can be shared and with whom.
  • Always set up 2 factor identification to ensure your social networks are not easily hacked. This can be done for most of your online accounts and is the best way to add that extra layer of protection to prevent other people accessing your account and data. Go to the privacy section of your account information and take the steps to turn on the 2 factor identification which essentially then means you need a password and a code which will be sent to another device of your choosing.
  • Ask permission before posting photos of others, especially if you are unsure of their views online sharing. And if you don’t want photos of your kids shared by others, be sure to say so when you know photos are being taken.
  • Ask photos to be removed if concerned. If it is a particularly sensitive photo that has been shared without your consent and is causing you hurt or embarrassment, first ask the person to take it down. If they don’t, then ask the social network or platform the image is found on. If they do nothing after 48 hours, then go to the Office of the eSafety Commission, where they have the ability to override the networks and have the image removed. esafety.gov.au
  • Post personal photos to select groups or friends online. If you don’t want photos shared with all your friends and all of their friends, you can create smaller, more relevant groups to share your photos with. Also setting up in Facebook the ability to be alerted and grant permission when you are tagged in someone else’s photo.
  • Do the right checks before handing over private information or credit card details. If the product sounds too good to be true, that may well be the case. Read the reviews of others who have purchased.
  • Be wary of winning anything online. Once again if it sounds too good to be true it usually is. Teach your kids to automatically click the cross and close down the pop up. Scamwatch can be a good resource for getting verification and the heads up on latest scams.
  • Consume content with a healthy dose of scepticism. We don’t want to become complete cynics, but we must view this world with a critical eye that forces us to question the validity of what we are consuming. Ask ourselves the questions, how do I know this is true? What information do I need to back this up? What research have they used? Why was this written or produced? Who is the author or publisher?
  • Be sure you are following the real deal. Look for clues that the page or person you are following is the real one. Does the page for the large corporation or the superstar pop star have 34 followers? If so it’s not going to be the real one.  What do I need to know to prove they are who they say they are? What other information may I need before I proceed?
  • Shop from secure sites. Look for the padlocks. Read the reviews. Ensure the site is encrypted with Secure Sockets layer (SSL) which will mean the URL will begin with HTTPS rather than just HTTP.
  • Be wary of logging in to public wifi networks
  • Understand what the new toys can find out about you. Google home and even baby monitors may well be collecting a whole lot of stuff about you that you don’t even realise. That’s not to say there will be any negative impact. But its good to know what you are handing over.
  • Learn to know the difference between fact, opinion and advertising. Looking for clues as to whether something is true and factual, or possibly trying to encourage me to purchase something or hand over money is a crucial skill today.
  • Understand how the games and networks your kids play on work. More posts on specific games and networks can be found on the blog. Here are my guides to Live Streaming, Fortnite, Apex Legends, TikTok, Roblox
  • Trust your gut. Listen to that feeling in your stomach that suggests this may not be what its cracked up to me. Get your kids to listen to that feeling in their stomach that says, this person may not be who they say they are. This person probably doesn’t actually need this information about me. This person may well be lying about what they are going to do with this photo.

This list is by no means exhaustive and in no means will leave you 100% protected from data breaches and oversharing. But it’s a good place to start to ensure you are doing what you can and teaching your children to do what they can to remain in control of the information and data that is being shared about you online.

The post Facing the perils of privacy in a digital world appeared first on The Modern Parent.

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When it comes to allowing young people online and navigating the age restrictions of the social networks,  I have to say it is one of the greatest conundrums faced by parents, and indeed educators in the field today. A 2017 study found half of all 11 and 12 year olds had a social media profile. I know this is certainly reflected in my own workshops with students and I would say this is a conservative estimate for today. Some students even have a social media presence at ages 6 and 7 and this tends to increase exponentially throughout the primary school years. So despite the majority of popular networks having age limits of mostly 13+,  these are simply not being followed.

And there are generally a few different parenting camps on this:

  • Those that say no, not until 13 and their kids obey (the smallest group)
  • Those that say no, not until 13, but their kids get around their ban and they have no clue that they are managing to open social media accounts
  • Those that say, I would prefer to ignore the recommendations and slowly introduce a social network that I can closely monitor. I can then help teach them some skills, thinking and behaviors to do it well, whilst I still have some control.
  • Those that throw their hands in the air and say it’s all too hard, and give in to the pleas from their child because everyone else is allowed.
  • And then there are those that have no idea that the sites their children are accessing are even social networks.

So the system purely and simply isn’t working right now.

For many it is deemed clear cut and thus the system would be working if people did the right thing. The recommendations state that 13+ is the age requirement for most networks, so that is what we should be insisting on. But as we will see, there are many factors and complexities that continue to reinforce the status quo. Which is that many kids are using underage sites, many kids are lying about their age, many parents are lying for their kids, many parents are confused, many feel left in the dark, feel pressured and out of their depth. So a system that is supposed to protect our children and educate our parents, is not achieving that goal.

So let’s look at some of the issues surrounding age limits on social networks.

The age limits are not law, they are recommendations

Despite the often stated ‘breaking the law’ component of age limits, these age limits are not law.  The reason we have these age limits and the reason why the majority of social networks use the magic number of 13 years, is to comply with the USA’s COPPA laws (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act). This states that it is illegal for companies to obtain certain information and data from any child under the age of 13 without parental consent. So to escape any jurisdictional breaches, the creators of the apps simply make them 13 + to avoid those legal minefields. So one could argue that many a child has watched a PG movie without that ‘Parental Guidance’ or played a 15+ game at age 14, and have thus similarly lied about their age to engage in an activity. They are advisory categories and not legal categories.  This is different to an MA or R rated movie or game category however, which does have a legal component.

Teaching them that lying is OK

Of course there is the very valid argument that whilst it may not be the law, we are still teaching our children to lie if we allow them to go on to these sites underage. For some that is the only argument they need and an easy way to put off the inevitable. For others, it is a lie worth breaking if they feel they can have a greater role in teaching their child the skills and thinking they will need, whilst they still have some say in their child’s online behaviours. For some, telling that lie is simply easier than hearing the nagging of their child. For others, it is easier than the guilty feeling of seeing their child left out, as the ‘only one’ not allowed to play where their friends are playing.

The developing brain 

It must be said that many of the content and critical thinking required on these social networks are just not suitable for developing brains. These networks were created for adults (largely because COPPA got them out of the messy situation of having to create places that are more kid friendly). And so they are playgrounds that get away with having adult content and adult concepts. Impulse control and ethical thinking are not yet developed in young people to the level that many of these networks require. I know this because everytime I ask young people how they would determine if someone was exactly who they say they are online, many have no idea. Some do, but most need to be taught. The complex thinking needed to make the most accurate assumptions about the connections they make and the content they devour, needs to be part of their education from the moment they start hanging out online. Otherwise, cognitively, socially and emotionally, they are just not ready.

Age alone isn’t everything

Anyone who has spent anytime online knows that age alone however, does not make for a rational, ethical, kind, responsible and resilient user of technology. Adults are often pretty crappy at this, and yet we somehow think that at 13 years of age our kids are going to suddenly have acquired all these skills. And yes some kids are certainly very proficient, empathetic and resilient in their online behaviours. But this doesn’t happen the day a child has their 13th birthday.  Because I also think about my 9 year old who, whilst not on any social networks yet, is still in that phase of wanting to do the right thing. He is kind, responsible, looks out for his mates and comes to me when things are not right or if he is unsure about something. In other words there are many ways in which he would be a great user of social media. But will he still be that way at 13 when hormones begin raging and he has secondary school, new friends, new emotions and new responsibilities to deal with? Because this is the time we want to hand over a device and say “Here it is. Here is the whole world at your fingertips. Here is every bit of content, every crazy person, every nuanced conversation and confusing imagery for you to see and process.  And I will then be far less able to have the input into your interactions, and to all that you are doing online, than maybe I would have right now. Right now you are still young and teachable and I have far greater control over what you are doing with your time. The idea that just as I taught you how to ride with training wheels before you went off to the skatepark on your own can also be a valid argument for drip feeding a social network to a younger child. Offering them real guidance, support and teaching whilst you are still there able to sit by and watch. The problem here too however, is that whilst many say that is happening, the reality is often quite different.

There are young people doing great things online

There are plenty of young people, who with the help of parents to moderate their accounts, are achieving great things and even becoming real leaders in online spaces. Jennifer Casa Todd explores this in detail in her book Social Leadia. Here, we see inspiring young people, leading the way for social change and having a voice for those who may not otherwise have the means to get a message out. They may be sharing positive work and creations, raising awareness and be learning valuable skills about the real and the online worlds. And yes, many are doing far greater things than many adults online and will thus grow up to have a very valuable understanding of the social networks and the online behaviours they are immersed in.

And so with all this confusion we also need to be asking……

Who is responsible for policing the age restrictions?

Should it be the parents role to constantly wage this battle with their children? Should it be the government insisting on greater restrictions on the tech companies to make it harder for under age users to sign up? Should it be the tech companies doing more to scrutinise and filter out under age users?

Should it be people like myself standing in front of parents and berating them for allowing their child to scroll an Instagram feed at 11 or talk to their friends on Whatsapp?

For the record, I don’t see it as my role to tell parents how to parent. I aim to give them the information, the perspective and understanding about what it means to grow up today. I offer them strategies to help them navigate this world with their families, and then empower them to make the best decisions for their families and their individual children.

Ultimately I would also like more done at the design stages of these apps. I would like to see better safety protocols, more content filtering, and easier and more responsive blocking and reporting. We have the Office of the eSafety Commission working hard to get these changes happening at the design level and I truly believe this will begin to happen. But until then, we need to be doing better as a society, as educators and as parents.

For me, I want our focus to be on teaching kids and educating parents. Because I recognise that if the parent is having no role to play, if the child is not getting that teaching….then as the networks stand right now…we are putting them in some pretty unpredictable and unsupervised adult playgrounds.

So what is a parent to do? Like many parenting decisions there are often no clear cut right or wrong answers. We must look to our individual families, our values and our circumstances and decide what is right for us. We must be sure we are making that decision from an informed place, with the needs of our individual children in mind.

So if your child is going to hang out on a social network, at any age, here are just some of the skills, thinking, behaviours and conversations they may well need.

  • You should be having a discussion about pornography and help them process the images they will more than likely see. And this includes the expectations of both boys and girls when it comes to relationships. If using social media early, these conversations will need to happen earlier. Because every social network has the ability to see porn if one knows how to look, or by inadvertently being sent it by people they know or people they don’t know.
  • They should be learning the skills to deal with cyberbullying, with digital drama, with possible exclusion and comparison. They will need to be building some resilience to the odd nasty comment and know how to deal with someone’s anger and prejudice. They will need the skills to deal with a group chat gone wrong.
  • They should know how to block and report and deal with unwanted attention.
  • They should have some control over the time spent online and be sure to have time for the other important pursuits they need to fit in to their day.  
  • They should be aware of what they are sharing. Who they are sharing things with. What happens to the data and images they share.
  • They will need good mentoring and role modelling about what it means to be in control of their social network feeds. To be shown how to be intentional about who they are interacting with and why, to be mindful of what they are consuming and to be aware of the effects their social media feeds have on their own social and emotional wellbeing.

So no, the sheer number of underage kids online and unsupervised, reminds us that as it stands, that system isn’t working.  So let’s continue to lobby for better design and safety protocols from the networks. Let’s continue to educate our kids on the very best practises. We need to know they will be safe and even thrive, whenever and wherever they find themselves online. And let’s continue to empower parents to become educated, to communicate and to play the crucial role in helping their kids be the very best they can be.

The post Social Media Age Restrictions: Why the system isn’t working appeared first on The Modern Parent.

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What should you as a parent do if your child sees online pornography?

Ok, its probably not even an ‘if’ anymore…more of a “when”. And yes that’s crappy. But unfortunately it’s one of the crappier byproducts of this hyper connected, access to all content and media world our kids are growing up in.

Many kids may first see pornography in the playground, on the school bus or at home when they search words the other kids at school told them to check out. And for many kids this may well be their first look at sex and sexual relationships. 

So, no, we don’t want online pornography being their education about all things sex and adult relationships.

It’s clearly a misrepresentation of the real world and the experience of sexual relationships we want for our children in the years to come.

And pornography is made by adults. For adults. A visual interpretation of fantasy.  And for the most part adults have the ability to differentiate between the fantasy and the reality. Our kids don’t. So as parents, we need to help them make that distinction. Which can be tricky, especially when, for the most part, we want to shield our kids from this as long as possible. But certainly there are some conversations that need to happen knowing we want to be in charge of the dialogue our child receives. Certainly there are many putting their head in the sand hoping and possibly believing that their child won’t be exposed.

But we know that looking away is not always the first instinct. We know that it is not bad kids that look or even search. We know that the average age a child first sees hard core pornography is somewhere between 9 and 11 years depending on what research you choose. And we know that porn websites make up over 15 % of all websites on the internet. So I reiterate….it’s not ‘if’ but ‘when’.

We can certainly do what we can to block the content from our kids devices and keep the home wifi secure. There are many on the market but the one I recommend is Family Zone. We also want to be checking our settings on Youtube and search engines to help block the worst offenders. But we also need to be aware these strategies offer no guarantee.  We also need to be aware that not every family protects and filters their devices and internet access. So we can never be sure they won’t be shown content on other people’s screens.

So aside from doing our best to prevent and monitor the content they consume, what else can parents do to help our kids before they see this content, or if we suspect they may have been exposed?

Explaining the fantasy versus reality

Some conversations to get across the fantasy nature of pornography may be to relate it to the popular media they are familiar with. For example, a Spiderman movie may be enjoyable and we may relish in the escapades of Peter Parker, but we also know that no one can actually leap from one skyscraper to the next and fly through the air completely unscathed. And similarly,  Fast and Furious movies portray a vastly exaggerated display of car driving. No one can drive a car from one bridge and leap to another and land on four wheels and keep weaving in and out of traffic relatively unscathed. So these are exaggerations of real life. They are an expression of fantasy that bears little resemblance to the every day.  Similarly pornography is a fantastical representation of the average persons sexual relationships and not a true representation (not to mention the often violent and misogynistic nature of the porn movies they may well be exposed to).

Give them some age appropriate explanations of sex

To have conversations about the misrepresentation of pornography, they also need to have some understanding of what sex is in the first place to help them make that distinction. Whilst it is not always an enjoyable, comfortable conversation it is important they have some understanding of what sex is. And yes this may well be happening before we initially thought our kids needed to have this information. But we certainly want to make sure the information they are getting is accurate and something that can be processed at their age. The explanations for a 6 year old are therefore, going to be vastly different to those given to a 12 year old. 

Don’t make tech the bad guy

When we try to lock down and hide and ban all technology for fear of what they will see, we risk setting up an “us versus them” scenario. Kids naturally “like” the tech (and very often steer towards things deemed as bad for them). But it’s important they know we recognise the important role the tech will play in their life, we just need some boundaries to keep that use healthy and manageable. We also want them to know that should they need to come to us and talk about something they have seen online, they wont have to fear that all their tech and devices may well be taken away. 

Don’t think “not my kid”

I know your kids a good kid. Mine are too. But that alone won’t stop them seeing porn. It doesn’t stop kids being curious when someone asks them to type the letters PORN into the browser. It doesn’t mean they will turn away when someones asks to show them something. Its really important we don’t stick our heads in the sand and assume it wont happen to our kids or that only ‘bad’ kids are exposed to online porn. 

You don’t need to have the full blown talk

It doesn’t need to be a sitting down for “the talk” to your 7 year old that goes through every graphic depiction of conception to birth. Just small snippets of conversation will be fine. Sometimes when we set up scenarios and sit our kids down to have the talk it can feel overwhelming or uncomfortable and they may quickly tune out in the hope that the conversation will quickly end. A few simple questions in general conversation may be a much better way to go. For example, “have you seen anything that make you feel uncomfortable online?” “Do you know how a baby gets inside a tummy?” And then a simple age appropriate explanation may help steer the conversation into them either asking more, or leaving it at that for the time being. 

Listen more than you lecture

Lectures generally result in an eye roll and a shutting down of conversation. So try and listen to what your kids are saying (or sometimes not saying) in order to have those 2 way conversations. 

Look at your individual child

Like all things parenting and like all things that happen in the online world, it is important that we take note of the effects of the experiences on the individual child. There isn’t always a ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to the way our children process what they see or how it effects their wellbeing. What one child can see and forget about relatively easily, other children may take it on board quite differently and have a lot more trouble making sense of it. 

Once again it’s  not always a comfortable topic,  and it’s something that can cause enormous angst for both parent and child. So if we can get in first and be the supporter and educator, rather than leaving it to the online porn industry, then we can help steer them towards healthy relationships that will always be based on a mutual respect for themselves and for others.

For some more information and great books and resources  check out

Safe 4 Kids 

SEA: Sexual Education Australia

Youth Wellbeing Project 

And to have a listen to a segment I did on this topic on KiisFm, listen here. 

The post When your child sees online pornography appeared first on The Modern Parent.

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In my work helping parents navigate the digital world, I am often known to tread this space with an air of relative positivity. To embrace and empower rather than rely on fear mongering and scare tactics. I believe that by educating and giving perspective and understanding, we can help develop that empowerment. No one needs to feel overwhelmed and overburdened with all we have to do as parents today.

Because I don’t want parents to be afraid of bringing up their kids. I want them to enjoy and embrace and connect on a level where their kids are at. Because if a parent is fearful, overwhelmed, anxious and feeling powerless, you can guarantee some of those elements will rub off onto the shoulders of the kids who are living those messages every day. We don’t need our kids to be fearful, overwhelmed, anxious and feeling powerless.
So by looking at things through our child’s eyes we are able to come to a place that helps us all to feel more confident about the choices we make regarding screen time and the online world.

Because the parents I am often preaching to are usually going to be getting it pretty right. They are after all reading my blog, following my facebook page, or turning up to the digital parenting session put on by their child’s school or some other organisation. So they are already pretty invested in their kids lives. Sure sometimes they are super worried and just want to be put at ease. Sometimes they feel completely clueless and are thirsty for any information to help gain back some authority. Some parents even like to have the living daylights scared out of them to feel like they can justify their strategies. Often times they already have a pretty good grip on the technology available to their kids and a pretty good understanding of how their kids spend their time. They just want some more knowledge to have better conversations, some tips to keep it all under control and some strategies to ensure the journey ahead remains relatively pain free.

So if you are taking the time to find out what your kids like to do online. If you are playing the game with them to see what all the fuss is about or at least taking the time to read a review. If you are keeping an eye on how your individual child is coping with the effects of technology or the social and emotional fallout they might be experiencing.
If you have some boundaries you have decided on together that for the most part are adhered to. If you are reading this blog post right now. You know what? Your kids are probably going to do just fine. They will make mistakes, but you will also know those little mistakes are OK, they will learn from those, but hopefully they won’t be catastrophic. Yes, there will still be things that scare us….but then again, this is just part and parcel of being a parent.

But then I am reminded of those parents who, yes, may well have cause to be afraid. Not because I want them to live in a world of fear, but because of the stuff we know about the online world.

Because when I speak to the little boy in grade 2 who is playing Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, by himself, for many hours ….then yes those parents may have cause to be afraid.
When all those hands go up as little 9 year olds who are on Snapchat , Instagram and the like, without having anyone teach them how to do that safely ….then yes those parents may have cause to be afraid.
When the kids can’t tell me why they shouldn’t just assume Justin Bieber is who he says he is just because of a profile pic likeness…..then yes, those parents have cause to be afraid.
When school Principals, on an almost daily basis, tell me that there has been cyberbullying going on via a group chat, and the screenshots say its happening at 11pm at night for these primary school aged kids….then yes, those parents may have cause to be afraid.
When parents think that the school filter still works at home and don’t realise the amount of porn being surfed on their child’s iPads at all hours of day and night …..then yes those parents have cause to be afraid.
When young children search self harming and suicidal ideation sites and then continue to be fed more and more of that similar content because their data deems that’s what they want to see….then yes, those parents have cause to be afraid.
So Yes. These are just some of the circumstances we should be afraid of….or at least be willing to inject some teaching and guidance. And despite me witnessing these behaviours with kids during the day and urging them to get their parents to come to the parent session at night…..these parents are rarely the ones to turn up.

So I will continue to teach from a place that offers a balanced view of the role technology will play in your kids lives. I will also alert you to the things we should be aware of and hope that the information filters through to some of those families who may not be so aware of all the possible pitfalls and possibilities, their kids may well be encountering, in this relatively new world.

The post Should we be afraid of parenting in a digital world? appeared first on The Modern Parent.

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Whilst we might think a lot about the content of an app before we download it onto a device, we don’t always think about the advertising that exists within those apps, and how effective they may be at grabbing our kids attention.

We know that the preschool/toddler category is the most popular category in the App Store, making up 72% of the top paid apps. Many of those apps are great, many more are likely not so great, and some are pretty rubbish. We can safely say however, that handing over devices to younger kids, is fast becoming one of the ‘go to’ ways to avoid a tantrum, provide distraction, counter boredom or just allow mum enough time to stir the cheese sauce. And sure, for short periods of time, that can certainly be a life saver.

But we also know that not all screentime is equal and the effects of technology on our kids, good or bad, is hugely related to the type of content they are viewing. And as we are now seeing, there is more than just the content of the app or game, that is hankering for our kids attention.  

Because whether paid or free, and whether high quality or not, you will find that these apps are rampant with advertising, and some pretty manipulative pulls for the continuous swiping and clicking of those little fingers and the curiosity of that developing brain.

A 2018 study from the university of Michigan, found that 95% of reviewed apps for children under 5 had at least one form of advertising. For free apps, that figure was 100%.

So what does it mean for those young minds when they are subject to a world of advertising and other features that entice them to buy and upgrade?

Unintended content

This study found that playing a simple game, or learning their alphabet or counting their numbers was frequently interrupted with an advertisement, sometimes featuring for longer than the actual game. They also sometimes prevent the game from continuing until the ad or video is complete. Whilst it may be said that these companies need to make their money, the targeting of these ads at young people, often with overt and inappropriate banner ads that are not made for their age group, becomes a question of ethics. Roulette wheels and gambling themes are also not uncommon. 

In app purchases

In app purchases were also present in one third of all apps and in 41% of paid apps. Obviously we would want to ensure that we have set up our devices to prevent in app purchases being made and avoiding any shocks on the credit card. This is something that needs to be monitored as they get into older games too. Many a parent has been struck with exorbitant costs of Fortnite outfits, VBucks and the buying of extra loot on games such as Apex Legends. Then of course there are the scammers who direct them to their dodgy sites for further financial pain.

Sharing of information

Some apps were found to ask players to share their results with social networks, to review or give ratings and some even asked for their location.

Emotional manipulation

There are even apps now that ask a child to purchase new tokens or pay to get to a next level, or open another band of play and then respond with a sad face emoji when they refuse to take them up on the offer. They also frequently give them glimpses of other levels or more exciting elements of the game they would have access to, should they go ahead and make the purchase.

We know that children have always been subject to advertising on television.  And that too was criticised for leaving them pining for the latest toy or unhealthy snack. But when it comes to advertising on television, each advertisement is given a rating and must comply to strict policy on where they can be placed and in which programmes they can appear according to that rating. There are much fewer regulations around app advertising.

Until we can guarantee better ethical scrutiny around online advertising, until the research on the effects of digital advertising catches up to the rapid saturation,  then we need to be more mindful of what apps our kids are using and how they process the constant bombardment of advertisements. 

Because the concern with all this advertising and sad faced emoji’s when we don’t comply with the upsell, is that our children do not yet have the cognitive ability to differentiate the play and the content of the app, from the advertisement. Preschoolers and primary age kids simply don’t have the ability to understand or recognise that the collecting of tokens and coins, and the requests to make in app purchases, are all part of a higher, ulterior motive. We certainly want to be teaching our kids the critical thinking about the language used in advertisements, what not to click on, what makes something advertising etc. This however, is a level of thinking that even many adults are not particularly skilled at and frequently get sucked in to making unwanted purchases.  Now of course, some advertisements do alert us to goods or services that we may like to purchase or that help us solve a problem. But I am not so sure this is the case when our littlest of kids are being targeted. 

What can we do?
  • Monitor the apps our youngest kids are playing, play it first yourself  so you know what is being offered up to your child.
  • Read independent reviews, not just the ones in the App Store. Commonsense.org  as well as filtering systems like Family Zone will alert you to in app purchasing or other hidden features.
  • If there are advertisements on your child’s favourite games, make sure you have the conversation with them about purchasing things, selling, marketing, gambling etc at an age appropriate level.
  • Stick to paid apps. Free apps still need to make some money so they will likely do it in more deceptive ways.
  • Check your settings to make sure you are not going to have any surprises when it comes to in app purchases.
  • Hope that the industry will be forced to implement changes at the design stage and be more stringent in their advertising ethics in the future.  

As I am often want to say, this world is not going anywhere and changes for the better do happen….they just take some time.

Until then, lets be monitoring, let’s mentor and let’s be mindful about the apps our kids are using and the influences we allow them to have or not to have.

The post Apps, Advertising & Grabbing our Kids Attention appeared first on The Modern Parent.

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Live streaming is fast becoming one of the most popular ways people connect, view content and share to their social media platforms. At the press of a button we can broadcast live to the online world at any place and anytime.

How does Live Streaming work?

Live streaming refers to the real time broadcasting from a phone, tablet, mobile device or gaming console.

Some of the platforms that allow for live streaming are Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Live.ly, Twitch, TikTok, Steam, Live.me and a gazillion others.

Within the platforms that live stream, there is the ability to chat, comment, like and share the broadcast, offering immediate recognition and feedback.

Pros and Cons of Live Streaming

Live streaming can offer many benefits and certainly add some real time excitement to our online experiences. We can see a concert broadcast live, we can interact with bloggers, authors, business owners and watch celebrities and sporting stars as they show us a sneak peak into their private lives. We can also watch our favourite gamers battle it out with other players and hear their live commentary of the experience. It’s spontaneous and feels like the most authentic way of connecting with other people. It also provides that immediate feedback and the thrill of being in the moment.

It can be a problem however when young people don’t have the cognitive ability to think about possible consequences, when they take much greater risks than they usually would and in some instances break the law for those extra views.

But it also allows for heinous crimes and atrocities to be broadcast live into the bedrooms and schoolyards of our young kids. It allows for paedophiles to live stream their sexual abuse of minors and many have had to witness the live streaming of suicide and self harming.

Live Streaming can be unpredictable and hard to moderate

Because of the immediate nature of live streaming it obviously becomes unpredictable and hard to moderate and manage videos that go viral for all the wrong reasons.

There has been talk this week of banning live streaming. There has been calls for social networks to respond quicker when extremist or violent videos surface. We have some technology to remove these videos, but it is extremely difficult to erase them full stop. The technology can detect videos that are the same but the minute that video is altered slightly the search has to be reset again. So adding some text, changing graphics slightly or even the colour of the video can mean a whole new search. And let’s not forget that videos can be saved to a camera roll and reappear at another place or time.

So is Live Streaming safe for young people?

Well of course it can be, but it certainly has the ability to be unsafe, inappropriate and scary. Like many things online it comes down to how you use it. That means what you choose to record, who you choose to share it with, and of course, what and who you choose to follow and watch. And when young people crave attention and views and even fame, that can be a risky combination when teamed with the often underdeveloped brain of a younger child.

But there are certainly many older kids and teens that are live streaming, many even making a decent living out of it. 

What must we be aware of when watching Live Streaming videos?
  • We must remember it is hard to ‘unsee’ things, so we want to be thinking about what content we may be viewing on a live stream before we click onto it.
  • We need to be critical about what and who we watch and share and remember that sharing videos can become a reflection of your values and what you believe.
What rules should I have if my child wants to create Live Stream videos?
  • Obviously younger children don’t need to be going live to the public unless it is under the strict guidance and scrutiny of a parent who should always be present when any recording is done.
  • Be mindful of who else is in the video and whether you need to get their permission
  • Take note of your surroundings. Do you want people to know where you are? Are you giving away too much personal information?
  • Are you dressed appropriately? Remember these videos can hang around a while so we want to prevent any embarrassing situations.
  • Review privacy settings to see who could possibly be viewing the broadcasts. Think of all those possible viewers every time you go live. 
  • Be sure they know how to block people, report and manage unwanted attention.
  • Encourage doing it for the right reasons. Following a passion, being creative with videos and sharing good positive messages can be something we can nurture in young people.

Like all things in a digital world, Live Streaming is unlikely to go anywhere fast. So lets make sure we are continuing to teach our kids how to do it safely and positively and how to remain in control of all that they view online.

The post The Modern Parents Guide to Live Streaming appeared first on The Modern Parent.

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It always strikes me as odd, and I guess somewhat disturbing and hypocritical, when I see our morning shows spruiking the “no bullying’ message. They get experts in to talk about the things we can do to help kids avoid bullying situations and the steps we can take if we are subjected to school, workplace or online bullying. We hear the pleas to “Just be kind” and “Show respect to all”. Then less than 12 hours later, those same television stations are spruiking the reality television shows that thrive on creating conflict, manipulating backstabbing, cheap shots and downright mean and nasty behaviour. The public then relishes in the now, ritualistic, tearing each other apart, all in the name of a good laugh.

And the premises are usually always the same. Gather some celeb hungry people into a small space, have winners and losers that need to be pitted against each other. Offer some money or a spouse as a prize, add some stressful encounters, cameras, editing, the odd tantrum for good measure, and we have a pretty volatile but commercially viable ratings success.

Now I don’t want to be a complete killjoy here because I know many people love the mindless viewing these programs allow. After a hard day of work or wrangling toddlers, sitting back to watch a group of these would be celebrities bitch fight for the cameras is a somewhat relaxing way to spend an evening. It may certainly take one’s mind off one’s own problems or stresses from the day. Afterall, these people put themselves on these shows, so they are pretty much fair game and there for our amusement.

And there are plenty of young people enjoying these shows as well. And sure, many can take it for what they are, have a few laughs and move on. And I do stress that mean and nasty behaviour does not equate to a definition of bullying. But are these behaviours then seen as an acceptable way to treat other people which may in turn be creating a culture of bullying?

Because it does seem somewhat hypocritical that these networks who are supposedly trying hard to eradicate bullying and downright bad behaviour on one hand, are then able to go about promoting, revelling and even conjuring it up with these types of shows. They love to create a villain, edit comments and context out of their true meaning and then promote the “showdowns” and bitchy exploits that result in name calling, put downs, and downright degradation. Then the poor contestants themselves, who just wanted a leg up for their fledgling acting career, or desperately wanted to meet Mr or Mrs Right, or finally get their cook book published, must put up with all manner of trolling and personal insult. These threats from a social media public become the norm from people who believe they have every right to make comment on those they now deem as public property. And subsequently our reality TV stars are often forced into hiding or social media shutdown as they struggle with the backlash. Not all of course. Some do go on to get great acting roles, create their product or even start a family with the runner up.

But I do cringe when I hear the way some of these men and women speak to each other. I cringe when I think our young boys and girls are watching this stuff and thinking this behaviour is acceptable. I hope those parents who are watching it with their kids are talking about those behaviours as they watch.
We are trying so hard to not let people get away with it in our schools or indeed in our workplaces….yet here we are putting it up in lights, promoting it, supporting it and continuing to watch with alarming prevalence.

Sure bullying has been around a long time and is not a product of reality television. But let’s hope in this National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence,  we can do something a little more positive when it comes to making our schools and workplaces kinder, fairer and more respectful places to be.

The post Reality TV shows: a bit of fun or thriving on a culture of bullying? appeared first on The Modern Parent.

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So how soon do we need to start thinking about the online lives of our precious offspring? How do we ensure they are getting everything they need to thrive in a screen filled world?

Well, from the moment little Johnny is viewed on the ultrasound he may well be only moments away from his first foray into digital life. As we share the sonographic outline of a new baby, followed a few months later by newborn images to broadcast their arrival earthside, we are beginning to build on those foundations for a life lived online, in and amongst the screens and devices. 

Now even if you are not a super high tech family. Even if your little Johnny will not have an Instagram account by the age of 2. Even if you will be shielding him from apps and games and social networking, you will, one way or the other, be starting them off on their life journey that will very much include screentime, devices and advancing technology.

Because take a quick look around and our devices, screens, games, consoles, computers and tablets play a very prolific role in the lives of the vast majority of the population. So, if it’s going to play a pretty major role, whether its time watching ABC Kids, playing a game on mum’s phone or even if it’s just the way they view the digital habits of those around them….then we want to make sure those experiences are still allowing them to grow and thrive in the greatest way possible.

And we don’t really know a lot of the effects of technology on our kids and on their development. Simply put, the technology hasn’t been around long enough for us to have the appropriate data to come to any real conclusions, and there are some certain questions of ethics when it comes to gathering data about young people’s use of screens. Afterall, we can’t lock up a group of 5 year olds in front of a screen for a few years in order to monitor the effects on their brains and bodies.

But whilst we don’t know a huge amount about the effects of screentime, we do know a lot about what children need to thrive as a healthy human, help that brain reach its potential and reach all those important developmental milestones.

So how do we ensure we are building solid foundations that allow our children to grow and thrive both with and without the screens, both in the real world and in online spaces?

Well seeing as we have a good idea of what kids do need, let’s keep ensuring those things are happening and be mindful of how we are incorporating the tech stuff, and err on the side of caution, balance and common sense. 

So here are some of the things that will certainly help us out, even from the moment we first bring our little bundle of joy home. 

Trust the values

In most cases the values you have as a family and the lessons you teach your children in the real world will be transferred to your child and ultimately to their experiences of the online world. The way you live, connect, treat others, handle situations and conflict, support other people. All of this will come to be reflected in the way they interact and treat others both in the real world and when they begin to interact and communicate with others online.

Make some boundaries and set limits early

They will need help regulating their behaviour particularly when it come to what they have access to and the amount of time they have that access. It doesn’t come naturally and it’s not always easy to counter the forces of a fun filled, interactive screen that seems to answer so many of their perceived needs. So put in place the rules you want and the habits you want to nurture early. Moulding the behaviours and habits of a toddler or preschooler, or even primary school child, is a lot, lot easier than trying to change the habits that have become entrenched behaviours of a teenager

Recognise that not all tech is created equal

There are a gazilllion apps aimed at toddlers and preschoolers in the app store. In fact it is the most popular paid category of apps. Some of them are great. Some of them are rubbish. View a game first, check reviews and even play it before handing over to your child. It may just be an annoying accent you don’t want to hear on repetition, or it may be something that is pretty mind numbing and not in any way interactive or valuable in terms of a learning tool.  If in doubt you can use commonsensemedia.org who will review every app, game, book, movie and media.

Use settings but don’t rely on them

Setting up our apps and games and devices is an imperative way to help protect our kids from inappropriate content. However, we can’t be lulled in to a false sense of security particularly with platforms such as Youtube and Youtube kids. The content on Youtube is not pre moderated, so there is no guarantee that unhelpful, inappropriate or downright disgusting stuff may not seep through. These sites rely on people reporting bad content, and then they go through a process or reviewing and moderating and then possibly taking it down. All the while it has done the rounds, been shared and viewed by many, many innocent eyes. Look to ABCKids, Netflix Kids, Foxtel Kids or anywhere where you can curate the viewing and hand pick the content they watch.

Monitor and model

Obviously when kids are young we want to be monitoring all they are doing online but we also want to be modelling good behaviours too. We can tell kids until we’re blue in the face the things we want them to do and the ways we’d like them to act. But in the end, they will very much be modelling their behaviours on what they see from us. So think about how you are using your devices in front of other people, the role it plays in your life and the things you do with the technology. Of course that’s not to say we can’t use it and enjoy it in front of them….but just be mindful of the behaviours we are showing them .

Remember we know what works

They need the security and consistency of all those things we know makes for healthy development. Routine and boundaries, good sleep and plenty of it, good food, active play to run and jump and explore and develop gross motor skills. Time to make, draw and create and develop those fine motor skills. They need a whole range of experiences and exposure to ensure those little brains are making the most useful connections to grow to their potential. 

Prioritise human relationships and connection

They need us and our cuddles and our laps. They need our interaction and our reading and our songs. Remember that you are still the parent and you must play the role of helping our kids manage their screentime as they grow.  They will face some pretty compelling reasons to stay playing with a device, so as parents we need to help them with that. We need to recognise that whilst we too may find it difficult to manage our screentime habits, we therefore certainly cannot afford to expect our kids to be able to adequately mange theirs without our input. So remember we are ultimately in charge of how those habits start forming and turn in to life long behaviours. 

And finally,  always remember that the most important connection of all is the one you have with your child. Do that, and your kids will go a long way to reaching potential, maintaining physical, cognitive,  social and emotional wellbeing, and they will continue to thrive in a screen filled world. 

The post Helping our kids thrive in a screen filled world appeared first on The Modern Parent.

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We know that video games often get a bad wrap from media, parents and society as a whole as they lament their intrusion into a nostalgic world of books, board games and outside play. But of course, this is not the ‘fault’ of video games and nor are video games here to destroy the idyllic childhoods we had in mind for our offspring. They are just another form of entertainment, storytelling, pastime, social platform and sometimes stress reliever that can be a perfectly healthy addition to our children’s lives. They can also while away many hours from a child’s day, promote violent play and misogynistic themes and prevent children from getting the exercise and sleep they well need. So like all modern day developments, we should get active and empowered about the role these relatively new toys will play. Rather than cower in a world of anxiety and fear, constantly clicking on the alarmist headlines, let’s instead take the reigns and work with our kids, and with the technology, to ensure it can be a positive addition to their lives.

Like all things parenting, we know that kids thrive when they have some boundaries based on a fair understanding of the need for those boundaries and based on a set of principles that aligns with family values.

So here are some of those boundaries you might like to put in place to help your child enjoy then benefits of video games. These will not apply to all kids. These will change as your child changes. But it’s a pretty good set of guidelines to get you started.

Rules for happy, healthy gamers:
  • Find out about a game your child wants to play, research it yourself rather than just ‘OK it’ because EVERY other child is allowed to play it.
  • Watch others play if you are not sure of the reviews. Make up your own mind by watching the play, the themes, the language and then determine if it is suitable for your child
  • Look at your individual child and see how they are coping with their gaming. If they start missing meals, throwing tantrums, miss sports practise, neglect pets, chores, homework or other people…then you might want to make some changes.
  • Discuss with them why you might need to make some changes or have those time limits or boundaries
  • Have discussions about video game playing away from the games. You are unlikely to get a decent response whilst they are in the midst of battle or just about to be the last man standing in Fortnite
  • Play it with them. You might like it. It could be a good way to bond. You might not like it. Thats ok too, but showing an interest and finding out about the appeal makes it easier for us to relate and easier to parent them.
  • Make use of settings buttons. There is so many ways games can be made safer and can promote a far more positive experience if you go and check out the settings. It may be you can block who can talk to your child, who can request them as a friend, what language they hear, what content they view, who can chat, comment etc
  • Makes sure your kid knows how to block and report people.
  • Avoid put gaming consoles in the bedroom. We know the games are hard enough to resist for our young people with underdeveloped brains and capacity to always regulate their timing and behaviour…so why make it so much harder for them by putting a gaming console right under their nose. The last thing they need is to reach for a controller in the middle of the night to play ‘just one game’.
  • Avoid headphones for younger users so you can hear conversations and be alert to any sharing of private information or bullying behaviours.
  • Make it clear to other parents if you have a problem with your child playing a certain game when they go on play dates.
  • Always insist on leaving the game to eat a meal. Preferably with the family at the dinner table but never whilst they are playing.
  • Make sure you build a culture of ‘balanced play’ into your homes. The games are just one of many ways they need to be entertained or hang out with mates.  Provide many other opportunities to get out, be active and connect in real life.
  • Having another activity for them to go on with once a game is finished, especially something active or even rough and tumble if a more active/violent game has been played can really help. This helps to reduce the levels of adrenalin and expel the cortisol that has accumulated playing these types of games. Also skin to skin contact or even a cuddle can help release the oxytocin. Gaming can result in an overloaded sensory system, so giving them an active transition activity can actually help them to calm themselves down.
  • Rejoice in some of the positive elements of game playing. Praise their teamwork, perseverance, trial and error or thinking outside the box that has taken place in order for them to get to a new level,  build a new fortress or even win the battle.
  • Read reviews on themodernparent.net or commonsensemedia.org 

When it comes to parenting and video games, I  meet plenty of parents who don’t want to know about it, fear their child will become addicted to gaming but feel too overwhelmed to do much about it. Then there are those that have no idea what their kids are doing with the games and thus equally lack the ability to do much about them. So hopefully we can continue to talk in ways that recognise the role they will continue to play. To understand that like anything it can be about balance and perspective. Like anything, knowledge is power, and when we understand the risks and the benefits, we can make the best decisions for our families and ultimately help our kids make the best decisions for themselves.

More reading on video games:

The modern parents guide to Fortnite

The modern parents guide to Apex Legends

The Modern parents guide to Roblox

Worried about video game addiction?

The post Rules for healthy, happy video gamers appeared first on The Modern Parent.

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New kid on the gaming block is Apex legends. After amassing a huge following in it’s first weeks, it looks set to give the much loved Fortnite a considerable nudge. In fact in it’s first week, Apex Legends had 25 million downloads compared to Fortnite’s 10 million in it’s first 2 weeks.

So if your video game loving kid hasn’t cottoned on to this new game, it will likely only be a matter of time.

As with all things in the digital world, it does feel like it is becoming increasingly difficult for parents to keep up with each new app or game. And whilst there are some general rules we can follow no matter what game our kids are playing, it is also important that we find out what we can about the games our kids are asking (nagging) us to download, so we can make the most informed decision as to whether it is appropriate for our individual child.

So what should parents know about this new game?

How do you access Apex Legends?

At this stage it is only on PS4, Xbox 1 and PC. It currently doesn’t support cross platform play so your friends need to be on the same platform for you to play together. (ie both on PS4 or both on Xbox 1). This could likely change in the future.

What is Apex Legends?

It is a multi player ‘Battle Royale’ game from the creators of Call of Duty and Titanfall. It is a very fast paced shooter game where 20 squads of 3 player teams are dropped into a map of an island, where they begin a battle to be the ‘last man standing’.  Players search for supplies, ammo and explosives to shoot and kill as their playing area continues to shrink.

Is it violent?

The aim of the game is to be the last person standing by killing all the other opponents, so yes that is a violent concept. There is lots of talk about weapons and different guns and ammo, so yes guns by nature are violent.  The graphics are not at the level of violence of  say a Call of Duty, but they are neither as ‘tame’ or cartoony’ as Fortnite. There is some red blood spatters but usually quick and not a lot. Players can also ‘finish off’ weaker players by stabbing, beating or electrocuting them and this can be seen quite closeup or from the victims perspective. So yes, there is violence.

Is there sex, drugs or swearing?

No sexual references or swearing within the game, but of course that can depend on who you are talking to and the language and conversation that takes place with other players. Certainly when you watch others play on Youtube or Twitch etc there can be plenty of swearing. There are no drug references, except for the syringe that injects ‘health’ into your soldier. I’m not sure of the ingredients of that syringe but if it is deemed ‘healthy’ then one assumes its not illicit drugs.

Will my child become addicted?

Like any game, the rate of obsessive behaviours is very much dependant on the individual child and the boundaries you have in place. The short nature of the games and the premise of being the last man standing, certainly make it hard for kids to regulate their own playing and keeps them wanting ‘just one more’ shot at it. It is for that reason that they certainly need some help in the form of boundaries, game or time limits to keep that under control. But yes, the game creators know which ‘brain buttons’ to push to help keep players online.

Who do you play with?

You play in teams of 3 and these can be players you know or players you don’t know. Like any online game there is always the chance that the person we are playing is not who they say they are and of course we can make contact with ‘strangers’. If you want to play with your friends in a team of 3, you must all be on the same platform (i.e all on PS4), otherwise you will be automatically paired with random players.

How long does it take to play a game?

Usually up to around 20 minutes, but obviously this can depend on how long you survive.

Will they be loud?

Yes…if they are playing in a team with kids they know, they will be letting out the odd scream, shouting orders, warnings, encouragement, strategising and collaborating.  This of course can be loud.

Can they chat to other players?

Yes they can chat to team mates and other players, both those they know and those they don’t know. They can use voice and text chat as well as the’ voice to text’ and ‘text to voice’ feature. The chat features can be turned off in the settings. There is also a unique ‘ping’ system that alerts teammates to weapons, enemies, movement and ammo etc

What is Apex Legends classified?

It is rated MA 15+ , so not for the little ones. Commonsense Media recommends 14+ due to the online chat component (which can be turned off) and the violence.  The frantic pace may well leave younger inexperienced players struggling to keep up. Many parents who reviewed the game have said they are fine with their 10 years olds playing (and we know many more are playing at much younger ages) but you might want to do your own research before making any decisions and watch a few videos of other players playing first!

How much does Apex Legends cost?

It is free to download. However…..

Could I go broke if my kids get my credit card?

YES! Like many free games with in app purchases, the add ons are where they sting you. In app purchases allow you to buy outfits and other upgrades. One 24 year old player spent $US500 to go through 500 boxes in the hope of getting illusive items. Incidentally he claims he “doesn’t think it was worth it”.

What’s good about Apex Legends?

Well this will largely depend on who you ask,  and by the numbers of people playing there is plenty that people are enjoying. But there is definitely the positive aspects of teamwork and collaboration which see players having to work well with each other in order to survive. There is also the social element and the ‘in game’ banter which most people enjoy as well.

If I had to advise between Call of Duty, Fortnite or Apex Legends which would I choose?

Well I would definitely steer clear of Call of Duty if your child is younger. Fortnite is definitely the ‘tamer’ bet here over Apex Legends and this is reflected by the higher age rating.   Of course recommending any game very much depends on the individual child, their age and stage of development and the effects that gaming has on them.

Similarities between Fortnite and Apex Legends

Both dropping soldiers/players into a map to try and be the last one standing by killing off everyone else. The social element makes them both popular and this often extends well after the game is finished as many teachers report both games are hotly discussed, dissected and sometimes re-enacted in the playground. Both games are short sharp games that have a definite end.  On one hand this makes them easy to have a cut off in terms of how many games they can play, but it is also something many people find difficult, as it becomes increasingly hard to to stop playing, particularly when you get closer to being that last man standing.

Differences between Fortnite and Apex Legends

There is no dancing, and no flossing in Apex Legends. As such it may lend itself to a slightly more mature audience. There is no building element in Apex Legends as there is in Fortnite, so there is no creating of fortresses or constructing shelters. The focus is therefore on more of the traditional gun battles and less on the slightly more frivolous antics of Fortnite.

What are some general rules when it comes to kids and gaming?
  • Investigate the game yourself to decide whether it works for you, your values and with your child’s development.
  • Check the ratings and age recommendations but also watch others play to get a feel for what they will be exposed to
  • Keep gaming consoles out of the bedroom (why make it that much harder for them to resist ‘just one quick game’)
  • For younger gamers, avoid the use of headphones when they are starting out so you can keep tabs on who they are talking to and what is being said
  • Set some limits around the number of games or playing time as these game can be  difficult for kids to regulate on their own
  • Have the discussions about how long and what they can play at a time when they are not in the middle of a game.
  • If you think a game is ok for your child to play, have a game with them. You just might like it and it is easier to make boundaries around something when our kids know that we have some understanding of  how they work and why your child loves them.
  • Always go to the settings tab to find out the ways you can make the game as safe and positive an experience as possible.
  • Remind your child about not sharing any personal information with other players
  • Getting kids to do something ‘active’ after playing a game helps them release the stress chemicals that accumulate whilst playing the games.
  • Look for the warning signs that they are losing control of their playing. If they stop doing usual activities they once enjoyed, playing sports, seeing friends, etc then these may be red flags.  If they stop wanting to come to the table to eat or go to bed at night…..you need to make some changes and help them regain that balance
  • Remember you are the parent

Like all things parenting in a digital world, having knowledge about what is out there and what the technology is capable of,  allows you to make the best decisions around what is going to be an appropriate and positive experience for your child.

Related posts:

The Modern Parents Guide to Fortnite

The Modern Parents Guide to Roblox

Worried about Video Game Addiction? This might help

The post The Modern Parents Guide to Apex Legends appeared first on The Modern Parent.

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