Sunday, December 8, 2013

Practicing online safety for children

Kaspersky's Lab Research

We keep on hearing how online safety is crucial and how parents should keep their children safe when using the internet, social networking websites and online gaming.
But what is exactly online safety? And why now?
Well, sooner or later you will find that your kids consume more and more media. Whether it’s browsing on the internet, watching YouTube videos, playing with apps or socializing online.
There is plenty of advice out there that will help you better communicate with your kids. And some more advice about how to be prepared towards what you are facing. But from where do you begin?
Like everything—you start from the very basics.
We have gathered for you the best practices on the web from some leading organizations:

1.      Common Sense Media:
·        Visit only age-appropriate sites. Check out the site before your kids visit it. Know what features and what content exist and make sure they’re good for your kids.
·        Search safely. Use safe search settings for young kids or think about applying filtering software to limit inappropriate exposure.
·        Avoid strangers. Tell your kids that people aren’t always who they say they are in cyberspace. Explain that if someone they don’t know talks to them, they shouldn’t respond but should let you know.
·        Be a good cyber citizen! Remind kids that an Internet playground is still a playground and they need to play nicely. A good rule of thumb: If they wouldn’t do something in real life, they shouldn’t do it online. Find out how your children can report mean behavior or unkind content on their favorite sites and teach them how to do it.
·        View your own habits carefully. You are their role models.

2. SMART rules
·        Safe: Keep safe by being careful not to give out personal information when you’re chatting or posting online. Personal information includes your email address, phone number and password.
·        Meeting: Meeting someone you have only been in touch with online can be dangerous. Only do so with your parents’ permission and even then only when they can be present.
·        Accepting: Accepting emails, Instant Messenger (IM) messages, or opening files, pictures or texts from people you don’t know or trust can lead to problems – they may contain viruses or nasty messages!
·        Reliable: Information you find on the internet may not be true, or someone online may be lying about who they are.
·        Tell: Tell your parent or a trusted adult if someone or something makes you feel uncomfortable or worried, or if you or someone you know is being bullied online.

3.      Netsmartz:
·        Keep the computer in a high-traffic area of your home.
·        Establish limits for which online sites children may visit and for how long.
·        Remember that Internet technology can be mobile, so make sure to monitor cell phones, gaming devices, and laptops.
·        Surf the Internet with your children and let them show you what they like to do online.
·        Know who is connecting with your children online and set rules for social networking, instant messaging, e-mailing, online gaming, and using webcams.
·        Continually dialogue with your children about online safety.

Do you have your own best practices for online safety? Share with us!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Do You Know Where Your Child Is (Online)?

**A guest post by Ginger Kadlec** 

"Here Aunt Ginger, let me show you."
...offered my 14-year old nephew who subsequently held my hand and walked me through the ins-and-outs of my new iPhone. Sending texts, organizing photos and downloading apps such as Instagram, Emoji and even Gas Buddy were something he knew all about. Let's face it... kids are "digital natives" and often seem more comfortable using technology than we adults do. While that's helpful as we test drive our new Twitter account, the downside is that children and teens don't always understand how exposed they can be online.
Online predation is real... 1 in 5 children between the ages of 10-17 will receive an unwanted sexual solicitation, predominantly through chat rooms or email. Another 1 in 25 children in that same age range will be asked to meet face-to-face with an online solicitor.
While online teen usage is trending towards Instagram, Twitter or even, for "tweens" (kids ages 10-12) Facebook remains the most popular social media used. While Facebook users are supposed to be at least 13 years old, 85% of tweens admit to having a Facebook account and a similar percentage say they use it daily.
Alarmingly, most tweens (82%) feel completely safe sharing personal information via social media accounts and more than half say they purposefully hide their online activity from their parents. Research also indicates that teens aged 15-17 are most likely to take risks of sharing personal information online or agreeing to make personal contact with someone they met online.

What can parents do to help protect their children in the digital world?
In simple terms, roll up your sleeves and start learning more about the technology your children are using. You can start with these 5 simple steps...
1) Keep computers in a "public" area. Be sure that children only have access to computers in common areas of your home, rather than in unsupervised areas such as their bedrooms. This helps you keep an eye on the activity on their screens.
2) No phone is their own. More than 1/3 of American teenagers have a smartphone. Define a family policy where you as parent can access your child's phone at any time... and then do it! Make it a point to occasionally check emails, texts, tweets and other activity as part of your efforts to be sure your kids are using technology in a safe way. Any and all application passwords must be shared with you (include that provision as part of your family policy).
3) Try it for yourself. I highly recommend having your own Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, Snapchat or other social media accounts that your child may be using. While you don't need to spend hours playing around with these various forms of social media, having some working knowledge of them can only help you protect your child.
4) Check out "Webwise". A great resource to learn more about social media is Webwise, a site tailored to parents and teachers which profiles all kinds of social media and apps teens and tweens are using. I will also highlight some social media facts in future blogs that I hope will be helpful to you.
5) Install monitoring software. There are all kinds of monitoring software you can install on your computer, tablets and smartphones that will alert you to the online activity of your child. Keep in mind... monitoring really needs to be done without your child's knowledge. If your child knows their online activity is being monitored, they may find a workaround (i.e., go to a friend's house to use the computer, etc.) and it will defeat your purpose. A police officer I know cited a story where a father installed monitoring software and saw that his child was calling him all kinds of names in emails to his friends. The officer reminded the father to keep quiet and not "blow the mission" by busting his kid. As hard as it may be, don't pick on little things your kids are doing online... only address issues of safety as they present themselves. A couple of monitoring software programs I've heard good things about are SpyAgent and Spector Pro. There are a variety of other programs that have received solid reviews, too.
So, hang in there and do your best to have a working knowledge of the social media your kids are using. Your entire family will benefit from it.

About Ginger
Working to improve the world one child at a time, Ginger has made it her life mission to raise awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger can be contacted via her website “Ginger Kadlec: 4UrKids™” at or find her on Facebook at

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Is Internet Safe for Kids?

We all know the immense dangers the internet holds, from cyber-bullying to snapchat. By its definition the internet democratizes information, so think of the consequences of putting that information in the unprepared mind of a 8-year-old.
However, we can all agree that the Internet can be a wonderful resource for kids. They can use it to research school reports, communicate with teachers and other kids, and play interactive games. Kids who are old enough to punch in a few letters on the keyboard can literally access the world.Just like any safety issue, it's wise to talk with your kids about your concerns, take advantage of resources to protect them, and keep a close eye on their activities.

So if the internet by its whole is not a safe place for kids,  how young is too young? These days, children are starting to get tech-savvy at a much younger age.  Technology plays an important role in all of our lives, and children, at some point, will need to learn how to use it. 
True, a cell phone is a useful tool for a child as young as seven. A computer is a necessity for school children of any age.  To cut the expense of textbooks, some teachers use on-line textbooks that are linked to the school’s website.  Many schools also have their own Facebook-like websites that let the kids communicate with each other.  

Children are curious.  It’s only natural.  Parents have been known to set up Facebook pages for their young children, but don’t think to set parental controls.  If a child hears about a game a classmate is playing, he may want to try it.  Many games have chat boxes and the child may decide to “talk” to other gamers.  Children may know not to talk to, or give their personal information to strangers.   However, a lot of them don’t realize that they shouldn't give out that information on line.  After all, they’re not talking to a stranger, they’re typing in a box.   Without knowing it, your child could put his and your privacy at risk.

Here are Mumsnet top tips for keeping under-fives safe on the internet:

  • Always keep the computer in a family/ communal room, and keep your children's use supervised. 
  • Use some suitable parental control to ensure your child doesn't accidentally stray into sites that are unsuitable.
  • Try to make computer usage something that you do together, rather than a substitute babysitter. 
At Totlol, we are trying to solve this safety issue by tackling a small, yet important, realm- online videos. We are creating a safe environment for kids to watch their favorite videos online. 

We understood that the best 'parental control' we can ever create will to harness the power of REAL parents. This is how we established our community of parents that is in charge of pre-screening and checking each video before it goes into the Totlol system, and we would LOVE it if you'll join us!

Monday, September 9, 2013

How has Google changed education?

Do you remember a world way back then, when you had to find a piece of information you went to the library? Sat all night searching? And still didn’t find it?
And then came Google…

All of us can argue unanimously that Google has revolutionized access to information as we know it. Its impact on education is so vast that it is still being fully researched as we speak. It has changed the way people think of research and assimilate data, which means that a change of framework has took place. These days, a whole generation is approaching education in a different, exciting new way

In days before Google, a student faced an assignment with thoughts of visits to the library and the thought of that he may have to talk to adults or mentors for specific subject expertise. Today, more often than not, the first stop for a history paper or a science experiment is Google. The notion that a search string can lead to targeted sites has completely cut out the random search for information.
Google has made the process of education a lot more focused and has truly democratized the process. So, essentially a child in a developing community in rural Oklahoma has the same access to information as a child in an upwardly mobile community in Manhattan. Wherever there is Internet access Google offers well sorted and pertinent information that truly makes the quest for knowledge a piece of cake.
The flip side to this, as far as teachers and schools are concerned, is that students can get overly-confident about their research capabilities. They sometimes completely miss out on the idea of researching with books and talking to librarians about reference books. There is also the danger that students do not understand that not all published information is equally valuable. Students need to learn this kind of skill as part of their education if they are going to rely on the Internet and Google for all their information.

What do you think? Was education better or worse before the mighty search engine? 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The best or worst new parenting inventions

We're not sure whether we should cringe at this sign of our times or be thrilled that someone finally put this idea into production, but either way, technology has arrived into our everyday lives and we're pretty sure it's here to stay.

Truth be told, it is not only kids today that cannot imagine their life without technology- parents as well are affected by the constant change and the benefits it brought.

Like everything in life- there are pros and cons to the incredible dependent on technology. The question is how are going to harness the benefits in our favour while ditching the (VERY) bad aspects.

In this post, like always, we are going to focus on the cool and positive, while showing you some of the most awesome devices out there for kids.
Let's start!

   1. Interactive Pajamas- yes, you have read it correctly, an interactive PJ's does exist! Smart PJs, as they're called, have a special, scannable pattern printed on them from which an app can pull up bedtime stories onto any compatible mobile device. The dots on the pajamas represent a code and once you pull up the app, you can scan any pattern on the child's jammies and the coding embedded in the design will pull up a mobile-based storybook, lullaby or picture of animals, depending.
   2. The iPotty- unveiled at the CES, the iPotty is a child's potty with a built-in iPad stand. Its makers say it can be used "for entertainment", or to help children toilet train.
There are no specially-designed apps for the iPotty just yet, but New York-based manufacturer CTA Digital say they are looking at producing some in the future.
     3. Mind controlled helicopter- A year ago, this freaky/cool kickstarter campaign managed to fully fund his goal. This gadget by NeuroSky is called Puzzlebox, and it is bringing us a helicopter we can fly around with our brain waves and a headset.
   4.  Interactive game play- Lego and plastic play are a thing of the past according to Sifteo. This innovative company wants to reinvent Lego with its high tech cubes which can moved around and create structures. The cubes can connect wirelessly and "speak" which each other to create a wholesome game set that can be taken apart.

So what do you say- cringe or be thrilled? And what’s your favorite gadget? 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Welcome to Totlol, We are thrilled to have you here!

So what is Totlol? Totlol is a community that was built by parents for parents to ensure safe video content for our kids.
We have launched Totlol to cope with the increasingly tech-savvy kid generation, and discuss how we as parents can successfully navigate integrating technology into all of our lives in a safe and fun way. It’s a whole new generation of kids out there and a whole new generation of parenting is needed to keep up.
I think that it is safe to say that in any other fields of our lives we have learned how to keep things moderated and age appropriate - expect for the elusive technology. If we’ll take YouTube for example, we’ll see that although there are designated sections for kids, they can easily get meshed up with videos that are beyond any doubt inappropriate for them.
Because of the fact that technology is going to play a huge role in our kids’ futures, Totlol is here to make sense in this clutter by keeping you and your children safe and happy.
Please write to us if you have any questions, feedback or comments. We are here for you 24/7.
Now, let’s get plugged in!