I liked these tech tips for parents that I received by e-mail from SocialShield, a company that offers tools and social network monitoring for parents wanting to protect their children online, especially as they unwrap more Internet-enabled mobile devices this Christmas. While I am not familiar with this startup company, these tips are some good ones. As Social Shield says, “parents need to stay equally savvy, making sure their parenting goes digital.”
Here is SocialShield’s advice:
1. Encourage a positive online reputation: Oversharing, cyberbullying and other online hazards can seriously affect kids’ online reputations. The most direct precaution to take against these risks is to talk to your kids about how they use the Internet. Discuss their activity on social networking sites, and come up with strategies for using websites wisely.
2. Keep computer usage in shared family rooms: The best way to monitor your kids’ Internet use is to put the computer in living or family rooms. This also encourages them to share positive findings and activities online, such as festive videos that put everyone in the holiday spirit.
3. Discuss technology use: If your child has just received a new smartphone or iPad, now is the time to set ground rules or limitations on how often they use these devices. With more personal ways to access the Internet — and more time to spare during vacation – kids shouldn’t be spending all their time online. Also make sure that with their current free time they aren’t friending random people just out of boredom.
4. Make sure personal information isn’t shared online: Even if your child is excited about making plans with friends during their school break, remind them that the more information they put online, the more access other people (cyberstalkers, cyberbullies) have to them. They should avoid oversharing any information meant for only close friends or family.
5. Reinforce courtesy and politeness: Although you can’t control the behavior of everyone your kids interact with online, you can stress the importance of being polite to avoid bullying and minimize arguments. Remind your kids that it’s just as important to be considerate and compassionate on the Internet as it is in the real world.
6. Block or filter sites if necessary: Kids can be impulsive, and they might get restless after a few days away from school during their holiday break. With monitoring software and services, you can have a better idea of how they’re spending their time online.
7. Make strict rules about chat rooms and chat software: Unfortunately, chat rooms are havens for cyberbullies and online predators. And it’s not just your kids who are on a holiday vacation! Parents of young kids may want to disallow chat rooms altogether, or you can only allow your kids to chat with known and approved friends.
8. Monitor downloads: Free downloads that kids get really excited about – music, videos, games – can make your system vulnerable to viruses, spyware or attacks. Encourage your kids to ask permission before downloading anything onto the computer, or find holiday music or games that you can download and enjoy together.
9. Beware of intrusive apps on mobile devices: They may be free or low-cost alternative to buying expensive game consoles, but many applications and games on Apple and Android devices send out personal information…without you even knowing! Advise your kids to not enter any personal information on the device, no matter what kind of rewards a game promises to give.
How do you monitor your child’s Internet/mobile device behavior? I wrote about this last summer, but I still would like to hear from you either by e-mail or in the comments below. Enjoy your new gadgets this holiday!
~ Lillie-Beth Brinkman (email@example.com)
Watch out before you let your children play with apps on your iPhone. One mom learned that lesson the hard way when she let her 4-year-old son play “The Smurfs’ Village,” a Farmville-like mobile application in which Smurfs maintain farms and build villages.
According to an Associated Press story, “Kids go on expensive buying sprees in iPhone games,” Kelly Rummelhart of Gridley, Calif., was stunned when she found $66.88 in charges on her credit card from the game. She didn’t know you could buy game items with real money; her son is too young to know.
Andrew Butterworth, of Brooklin, Ontario, also learned this lesson after his son charged $140 in “Smurfberries,” according to the AP. A package of 1,000 pretend Smurfberries will set you back $59 in real money.
Late last year, Apple started allowing “in-app” purchases in for free apps. So, you can download and play “Smurfs’ Village” for free, and then make optional purchases to speed up your game play.
These extras don’t require a password to buy if you’ve recently entered your iTunes password for any reason, not just in the game.
The makers of “The Smurfs’ Village,” Capcom Entertainment Inc., now warn buyers of this fact before they add it to their device (see screenshot).
So consider yourself warned that you might get more than annoying ads when you download “free” apps. Extra features, while they make the game more fun to play, can cost you.
This column was published Dec. 7, 2010, in The Oklahoman. Find it at NewsOK.com.
Everywhere I go, people are enjoying the hundreds, if not thousands, of mobile photo applications, whether they’re using them to take pictures or edit them, or both.
If you have an iPhone, Android-compatible phone, iPad or iPod Touch, there’s probably an app for you to join the craze just in time to create your own Christmas card.
Here are some I like, and I’ll share more in the coming weeks.
Crop for Free (free, Thinking Drone): This app does exactly what it says: It will crop your photo, and you can rotate it to get the image you want out of the one you took.
Photogene: ($1.99, Omer Shoor): I love this one. Sharpen, straighten, crop, blur, add borders, add conversation bubbles with text and more with this all-inclusive app.
Adobe Photoshop Express (free, Adobe Systems): Called PS Express for short, this app is a mobile photo-editing version from the people who have the gold standard photo-editing program, Photoshop. You can make basic edits, add a few additional techniques and share online.
Color Splash: (99 cents, Pocket Pixels): A friend has posted neat photos using this program. It turns your photo into black and white, and then you can choose to add splashes of color back to it. I think I might need the tutorials to figure it out, but they are available, and the effects that I have seen are worth the time.
And when you’re through editing your photos, try uploading them via apps such as Flickr (free, Yahoo), DailyBoothApp (free, DailyBooth) or Instagram (free, Burbn) and sharing them with friends or strangers.
Stay tuned for more to come in this column. While you’re waiting, check out Hipstamatic for taking pictures and SwankoLab for editing them (both $1.99 from Synthetic Infatuation) on your own. These popular apps are among those that let you create some unusual effects.
If you have a favorite photo app, please e-mail the name of it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll check it out. Find more online at blog.newsok.com/get-appy.
~ Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Assistant Features Editor
From the archives
EDITOR’S NOTE: This Get App-y column, the first one, was originally published in The Oklahoman on Feb. 8, 2010. However, I’m still enjoying this game. Read new Get App-y columns on most Tuesdays in print and online at NewsOK.com/life.
Game can be played on iPod with app
By Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Assistant Features Editor
So many apps, so little time. How can you sort through the thousands of apps in the iTunes store for the ones that will make your life easier, more fun, or both?
I’m here to help. Each week, I’ll feature an app or two that I’m enjoying on my iPod Touch.
App of the week: Words With Friends (Newtoy Inc., $2.99 for the ad-free version but free if you can stand the annoying ads. Works with iPhone and iPod touch with a wi-fi connection).
I should call this entry “addiction of the week.” Since I downloaded it last week (February 2010), I’ve been checking my iPod regularly to see which opponent has made a move on “Words With Friends” so I can take my turn at this Scrabble-like game. One day I was more excited than I should have been that I had the tiles to form the word “enzyme” for 123 points. Hopefully, moments such as that will not always be my day’s highlight.
Play this game back and forth like the famous crossword-style board game. Scrabble players, you know the drill: Take turns playing lettered tiles to form words. New words must be formed from existing words. Earn points for the quality of letters played, and double or triple your score for playing tiles on certain squares.
The beauty of this game is you play it on your own timetable with anyone who has an iPod touch or iPhone. You play your tiles and wait for friends (or strangers) to play theirs, a setup that makes it perfect for busy moms and dads who just have pockets of downtime here and there — in the carpool line, at the doctor’s office.
Play one game or many at the same time. Choose your opponent or find a random one. Chat inside each game if you want to get more personal.
For extra help, download a dictionary app such as dictionary.com (free) so you can know instantly what a strange word such as “qi” means when your friend plays it on a triple word square for 33 points.
If you have an app you’d like me to try out, or if you wish you had one that did a particular task, e-mail me at email@example.com.