Privacy Settings for Smartphones

We all worry about privacy these days.  Are we sharing too much information?  Who can see our location?  What personal information is being shared without our knowledge?  These are a few questions we’ve all asked ourselves before.  So, what do we do about it?

Privacy settings on smart phones vary, but you can tighten up the access you share.  Here are a few settings tips to get you started.

  • Set a screen lock
  • Turn off location services
  • Don’t let your apps share data
  • Enable privacy settings on the apps you download
  • Opt out of ad tracking
  • Don’t save passwords in browsers

There are different settings you can customize on your phone for you needs.  The important thing is to know what settings you need and set them.

Read more on settings restrictions and privacy settings on your phone for Apple and Android devices.


Reinforcing Learning at Home

With the recent influx of digital tools in classrooms, it is fair to say that your child, age PK-12th has had some exposure to iPads. While all classrooms use a variety of apps, there are some common ones that are used.

The Department of Digital Learning promotes apps in which students can be creative.  Creation of a product that reflects learning is proof that students understand a topic much more deeply.  By allowing students the freedom to create, teachers can evaluate how rigorously they have taught the topic.


Here are a few apps that parents can download at home to keep creative juices flowing:


SAS Flash Cards:  This app is a flash card creator.  To create higher rigor, encourage your student use the audio feature to record reasons why the answer is correct, or common mistakes that a student might make.


iMovie: With simple taps and drops, students can add pictures that reflect knowledge of content.  For example:  have your elementary student take pictures of shapes or 3D objects and create a movie.

Note: This app is free for devices purchased after September 2013 or devices updated to iOS 8. Otherwise, it is $4.99


Chatterpix Kids: This app records voices and allows students to retell what they know, using photos.


For more free apps, please visit Free App Friday!, another blog published by the Department of Digital Learning.


Let the creativity begin!

Screen Time

How much time does your child actually spend looking at their phone, tablet, gaming device, computer or TV?  How much is too much?  According to Medline Plus, most American children spend about 3 hours watching television and their screen time can be as much as 5-7 hours a day when you add in the other gadgets.  The CDC conducted surveys that indicated 12 – 15 year olds spend more than 2 hours a day on a device. While this number is significantly less than Medline indicates, it is still a lot of screen time.

The children who were born between 1995 and 2009 are known as Generation Z.  Their generation has never know a world without technology.  While screen time is part of their world, too much is not good.  Some of the consequences of too much screen time are:

  • not enough social interaction
  • not enough exercise
  • not enough sleep
  • irritability
  • poor eating habits
  • weight gain
  • depression

Our children are growing up in a digital world.  Screen time probably can’t be turned off completely.  So how do we limit their screen time?  Some suggestions are:

  • provide alternative activities
  • take a walk as a family
  • play a board game
  • limit hours that electronic devices are available to them
  • shut off the wifi at night
  • set limits on the phone through your carrier
  • collect phones and gaming devices during family times such as meals
  • provide an incentive for them to give up screen time (what is their currency?)
  • model decreased screen time for them by putting your own devices down

Decreasing your child’s screen time probably won’t be easy.  But things that are worth it rarely are easy.

To learn more about what drives Generation Z, please visit



Browsing and Searching Safely

Many students and adults struggle with knowing the difference between a web browser and a search engine.  When looking at web safety both search engines and browsers can be handpicked by parents to make the internet a safer place for their kids.

The browser can be compared to a car; it is the vehicle that takes you to the address (URL) that you want to visit.  The top of the market right now is Chrome, with Internet Explorer coming in a close second.

To simplify, a search engine is like the yellow pages for the web.  It collects information from the web and then allows you to find the information by using keywords.  Common search engines for adults are Google, Bing and Yahoo.

As we all know there are good parts of the internet and bad.  Most kids would probably tell you that they search using Google, well the unfortunate part of that is that it does not limit or filter out the bad.  This is true especially at home where there is not a filtering system like at school.  There are search engines that do.

Kid Info

Kid Info has a list of search engines for kids.




This engine is designed by librarians and will give kid-friendly results.


Fact Monster



Has advertising, but produces kid-friendly results.




There are also browsers for kids.  These are a good choice because they can limit the amount of time spent browsing the “playground,” as Zoodles calls their browsing zone.  It can give parents feedback by showing what the child has watched, drawn or read while in the browser and keeps the content safe.  The basics can be free, but there is a cost involved if you want all the bells and whistles.

ZoodlesEasy to use, but can have some cost involved.




Gives kids a safe online environment, has a free trial and then a cost.




Cyberbullying: The Basics

Bullying has been a part of the school experience for generations, and will continue to be so for generations to come. Whether initiating bullying, witnessing bullying, or being a victim of a bully, this is a negative aspect all students face they progress through their educational career.

As we continue to evolve into a more technology-driven society, bullying also is evolving. A major arm of bullying is now cyberbullying, when students bully each other through electronic technology.

Google the term “cyerbullying” and you will find example after example of this trend in school across the country. While technology shrinks our world by allowing access to multiple people across the globe, it also allows bullies to reach their victims easier and more anonymously.

Future posts will address specific aspects of cyberbullying, but this intitial entry will provide an entry point to begin educating yourselves and your children on the dangers of cyberbullying, as well as ways to handle and prevent this damaging trend. I recommend visiting, a comprehensive site for those just beginning to learn about this topic as well as those who are already aware of the trend and looking for options to cope with those who are bullied through technology. As with most instances, educating yourself is the first step in dealing with a situation. Cyberbullying is something all children will experience in one fashion or another, so knowing all you can will help you and your family cope when it strikes.

Digital Footprints – What do they say about you!

The more we as a society are online the more footprints we leave.  We tweet, we post, we blog, we comment, we like, we share, we snap, we tag, we hashtag – and through all this we leave a footprint.  We share the things we like.  We post about what’s happening, we like someone’s picture.  We retweet a cute story or fabulous idea. We are showing others who we are.  How do you want to be viewed?  What will people say about what you comment on, the things you post, the pictures you share?  Will you have a positive identity or will you be someone that people should stand clear of?


1st – Think about what others see – is that what you would want them to see.

2nd – Don’t be boring – be yourself. Be the real you.  Authenticity is key.

3rd.  We all have a reputation – build a positive reputation.


In today’s digital world, our footprints are all over the place, taking the time to truly impact what we want the world to see is incredibly important and powerful.

Protecting Your Passwords- Part 2

In Protecting Your Passwords- Part 1, I talked about how and why to create secure passwords that are difficult to figure out.

“My accounts have security questions, so even if they figure out my password, I’m fine.”

Au Contraire.

Think about the answers to your security questions.  Most of them are probably streets you used to live on, family members’ names, jobs you wanted, favorite colors, etc.

Now, if you do not participate in social networks, you might be fine.  But, if you do, how many of those answers can be found on your Facebook profile? Or your KIDS’ Facebook profile?

Allow me to break this down for you: A hacker has targeted you to steal your information.  He has loaded all of the possible dictionaries he can think of into his password cracking software.  He also was using the same wi-fi as you at Starbucks and has been watching what you browse, so he has loaded all of the text from your favorite sites into his software.  An avid cyclist that browses cycling sites frequently?  I hope you don’t use cycling words in your passwords. (This can also be done if a neighbor hacks your wi-fi password at home.)

The software quickly finds your Facebook password, since you use your kid’s name and the year your first kid was born. Only took a few tries to guess that year, because the decals on the back of your car in the parking lot give him an idea if your kids are toddlers, preschoolers, school age or teenagers, so he dumps those names and possible dates into his dictionary.

Hopefully, you don’t use this same password for your email, but let’s say you do.  He is now sifting through your email looking for statements from all of your banks and credit cards (because it pays to be paperless- we are saving trees!).  Now, he knows everywhere you bank.  Since he also has access to your email, so all he has to do is log into those sites with your email and click “Forgot Username.”  Most banks will send your username right to you.

Now he has your username to your financial information.  Luckily, you read my previous post and changed up all of those passwords.  He has two options: run his password cracker again, or just click “lost password.” Since he is in your email, and has changed your password so you can’t get in, he could easily just change your password when they send that link.

However, our hacker likes a challenge, so he is going to run his software.  It takes a few months, but he finally finds your passwords.  But, uh-oh, now he has to answer a security question!

Now he is going to go back to your Facebook and find out your favorite color, your favorite uncle’s name, what year you were born (easy enough to scroll back a  year and find those “Happy Birthday” wishes and do the math. . . someone always sells out our age!) or almost any other possible answer to a security question.

Changing passwords regularly is important.  The above scenario may seem unlikely, but it happens far more often than anyone cares to admit.

The scenario also makes a case for being very careful about what personal information you or your kids put on your social network profiles.  We all know the dangers of stalkers on the Internet hunting us down, but that activity doesn’t happen nearly as often as identities being stolen.

Common Sense Media

Do you ever feel at a loss when your child asks you if they can go to a certain movie because you are uncertain if it is appropriate for them?  Do you rely on the previews you’ve seen, the movie rating or the opinion of others to make a decision?  Have you ever wished there were a place you could get more information?  Common Sense Media has a website and an app that can help you make those decisions, not only about movies, but about TV shows, apps, games and so much more.

According to their website they “rate, educate, and advocate for kids, families, and schools”.  You can browse by age or media.  Common Sense Media will give you a rating and details about positive messages, violence, sex, language, consumerism, drinking, drugs and smoking. They also have a “What parents need to know” section for each movie, app or anything else you look up.

In addition, in the app, you can set up a section for each of your kids and get recommendations based on their ages.  This data is completely private and stored only on your device.

To visit the Common Sense Media Website, click here.

To get the app for an iPhone or iPad, click here.

To get the app for android, click here.

They also have a blog for parents.  Click here to see the blog.


Help your children use cell phones safely

Cell phones are everywhere these days and more and more children are getting them and at younger ages. Whatever stage you may be in with giving your child a cell phone, setting rules and boundaries will allow for safer cell phone use.

  • Establish rules for when they are allowed to use their cell phone, what websites they can visit and what apps they can download.
  • Review cell phone records for any unknown numbers and late night phone calls and texts.
  • Remind your children that anything they send from their phones can be easily forwarded and shared.
  • Teach your child never to reveal cell phone numbers and passwords online.
  • Talk to your children about the possible consequences of sending obscene or provocative images or text messages.
  • When shopping for a cell phone for your child, research the security settings that are available for that phone.

Talking to your children about Internet safety is key.  The more you talk to them about online safety, the easier it will be. Keep the conversation going and don’t get discouraged if they don’t respond right away. The important thing is to talk.  Below are some conversation starters you can use with your students.

  • What features do you use on your cell phone? Can you show me how to use them?
  • Have you ever received a text from someone you don’t know? If so, what did you do about it?
  • Have you ever sent a text that was rude or mean?
  • How many numbers do you have stored in your phone? Do you know all of them in person?
  • Has anyone ever taken an embarrassing picture of you without your permission?
  • Have you ever taken an embarrassing picture of someone else? What did you do with it?
  • Have you ever talked to someone you first met online on your cell phone?
  • What would you do if someone sent you a text or picture that was inappropriate?

The rules and discussion starters above were taken from

For more information and digital tips visit

Monitoring Online Activity

I think it is safe to recognize the importance of monitoring the activity of our children when they are online.  Whether it is on the home computer or on their mobile device, this is possible without hovering over your child’s shoulder.

For All Ages:

Net Nanny is a software program installed on your home computer that will block sites set by the parent. It can also be set to block certain profane words and phrases, as well as certain social media content.  Net nanny also has an app that can be installed on smartphones.

My Mobile Watchdog is available to monitor all data, calls, text, and location of your child’s smartphone. Their website includes a blog with helpful hints and tips.

AppCertain is an app that notifies parents of what apps are downloaded on a device.  It also sets a curfew for use.

For the Littles:

Playrific is an app that curates content that reflects your child’s interests.  All content is COPPA compliant.

Kid-Safe Browser by Maxthon is a mobile browser that restricts content. It can be customized by the parent.

There is no substitute for good parental involvement.  These apps and varying software are probably not fool-proof. It is always a good idea to have a plan of action for what your child should do if they accidentally find inappropriate content.