5 Tips to Preventing Digital Addiction in Teens

Teenagers are very technologically advanced. They have smartphones, laptops, iPads, smartTV’s and a slew of other devices that connects them to the internet world. Addiction to technology is a possibility in many households.

The definition of addiction according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary is “a compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance.” The question then becomes whether technology is a habit-forming substance.

Steve Woda of uKnowKids.com reports, “Kids can get a natural high when logging onto Instagram, playing the latest video game, or instant-messaging with their friends. There can be almost a compulsive need to get the digital boost. This need is not going unnoticed by professionals. Just last year, the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5) took note of the impact and listed digital addiction as a ‘condition for further study.’”

What should be done to protect kids from digital addiction? Here are some tips:

Set Limits: Kids need boundaries especially teenagers. Limit the use of technology to a specific hourly limit during the week and on weekends.  The limits may be different for each household. Kids and teens can benefit from the knowledge of knowing when it is appropriate to be plugged in and how to unplug.

Teach Proper Technology Etiquette: Limiting computer, tablet and phone time is important, but teaching proper technology etiquette goes hand in hand. Teach teenagers that when company comes to visit, it’s time to unplug. There is no substitute for real human interaction. When eating at a restaurant teach kids that it is important to shut off the phone and pay attention to your dinner companions.

Try a Board Game Night: Set up a night in the household for a family board game.  Make sure there are no cellphones, iPads, tablets, or other electronics brought to the game. Everything should be put away and turned off.

Adapt Online Activities to Offline Activities: Are your teenagers into role playing games like World of Warcraft, Guild Wars or Pathfinder? If so, get them to unplug by taking them to a live action role playing event in your area. LARP genres include fantasy, medieval, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi and more. Not only will this help teens unplug but it will give them a chance to meet new and interesting people.

Keep Teen Technology Monitored: Teens are susceptible to all kinds of influences especially on the internet where adult oriented websites thrive. Don’t be afraid to monitor any of their devices to learn who they talk to on the web, where they hang out most, and to keep informed of what they are doing.

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Your Teen is Talking to Strangers and Giving Out Too Much Info

McAfee released a study in June that exposed a shocking revelation for the parents of tweens and teens. The 2014 Teens and the Screen study: Exploring Online Privacy, Social Networking and Cyberbullying exposed that teens often over share personal information and are willing engage strangers online.

The survey highlighted some important findings. Private lives are not so private. Teens often seek social networks considered to be the “no parent zone.” Cyberbullying is still prevalent on the world wide web and teens are often the victim. Cyberbullying conflicts are also carried into offline altercations.

Some of the statistics are startling. Read the rest of Your Teen is Talking to Strangers and Giving Out Too Much Info

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Stand Against Spying- A Coalition Seeking to Stop Government Mass Spy Programs

A coalition of organizations from across the political spectrum has joined forces to fight mass surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA). The group has launched a website called “Stand Against Spying” and has become a watchdog of Congress. Although the organizations are vastly different in terms of missions, goals, and communities they all agree that mass surveillance is a violation of the United States Constitution. Electronic Frontier Foundation, Tenth Amendment Center, Greenpeace, Freedom of the Press Foundation, and UpWorthy are all part of the coalition fighting back against the government spy programs created by the NSA.

Stand Against Spying allows users to put in their address and zipcode to see how their representative is voting on issues regarding mass surveillance. Each member of Congress is rated on his or her actions to end or promote mass surveillance.

The method used to rate members of Congress was different for the House and for the Senate. For the House, votes for the two strongest bills against mass spying were considered; the Surveillance State Repeal Act and the original version of the USA FREEDOM Act. Senate members were rated on whether they co-sponsored the original USA FREEDOM Act and if they have come out publicly claiming a commitment to cosponsoring the Act when Congress is back in session (July 7).

The website requests that users sign an open letter to President Obama. The letter sets out the goals, beliefs and mission of Stand Against Spying.

It reads:

“Dear Mr. President,

As citizens of the Internet, we believe that mass surveillance by the NSA and its global partners infringes on our civil liberties, runs contrary to democratic principles, and chills free expression.

We’re calling on you to take immediate steps to end the mass spying. Specifically, we urge you to stop the mass collection and retention of telephone records and Internet communications of hundreds of millions of people who are not suspected of a crime.

In addition, we call on you to provide a full public accounting of the intelligence community’s mass surveillance practices.”

Read the full letter here. Internet citizens are encouraged to sign the open letter to take a stand against spying.

 

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Personal Data: Who Has Your Back?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published its fourth annual “Who Has Your Back?” report. You might be surprised about which companies have your back and which companies don’t. The report looks at the policies and practices of various technology companies and gives companies stars for certain items that address security concerns of consumers.  Stars are given out if companies “require a warrant for content,” “tell users about government data requests,” “fight for users’ privacy rights in courts,” etc. A maximum of six stars can be obtained by each company.

Some of the top technology companies received gold stars across the board for protecting your data. Google, Apple, and Twitter all have your back and will fight for your privacy rights both in the courts and in Congress.  EFF was pleased to find out that many companies, rocked by high-profile disclosures of the National Surveillance Agency (NSA) spying on online accounts, responded by increasing their commitment to transparency and pushed back against mass surveillance.

The companies with the lowest amount of stars included Snapchat, Amazon, and AT&T. Snapchat was ranked least likely to have your back protecting your personal data. It does not require a warrant for content, does not promise to tell users if their data is sought by the government, and does not publicly oppose mass surveillance.

Amazon.com received credit for requiring a warrant for content. According to the EFF report, Amazon receives credit because of testimony from its Vice President for Global Public Policy, Paul Misener, before the House Judiciary Committee in 2010: “With respect to the content of electronic communications, we believe that ECPA requires law enforcement authorities to obtain a search warrant to compel disclosure. We do not release information without valid process and have not disclosed content without a search warrant.”

Although, Amazon.com’s stance is to obtain a warrant it does not promise users that it will tell them if the government demands data. The company has also never published a transparency report showing government requests for data, does not publish its guidelines for law enforcement seeking access to data, and it has not publicly opposed mass surveillance through a written statement.

Some companies have shown improvement over the past four years including Verizon (earned 4 stars), Microsoft (earned 6 stars), and Tumblr (earned 5 stars). Protecting personal data is extremely important to consumers and it is apparent that it is increasingly important to companies.

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Skype Safety Tips for Kids and Parents

The internet is a dangerous place especially for kids who are not tech savvy enough to realize a potential threat lurking on the web. Skype is a free video chat and instant messaging service widely used for family and friends to keep in touch with each other. Parents and kids often use the service as it was intended, but sometimes kids and parents get a rude shock.

Skype users have been affected by such items as a video of a naked person, inappropriately touching themselves, tasteless messages sent to young unsuspecting individuals, and compromised personal information. Online safety is a priority to keep both children and parents out of harm’s way.

Skype Safety Tip #1

Always monitor your child while they are using Skype. Know who your child is chatting with and make sure nothing inappropriate is happening in the chat room. One of the best ways to do this is to make sure that the computer or tablet being used is in a common room of the home.

Skype Safety Tip #2

Make sure personal information is kept private by updating privacy settings. First, make sure to use a long, unique password that uses a combination of numbers, letters and characters to prevent the account from being hacked. Next, update privacy settings on Skype to limit communications and protect your private information. Teach kids not to put personal information in a Skype profile because some of it could be made public.

Skype Safety Tip #3

Teach kids about “stranger danger” and what to do if they are approached out in the real world and what do to if they are approached online by a stranger.  Teach children to tell a trusted adult immediately if they are approached by a stranger on Skype or any other internet chat service.

Skype Safety Tip #4

Protect your computer by making sure an antivirus or anti-malware program is installed. Skype users can be subject to viruses and malware that can cause computers to run slowly, corrupt data, and cause vulnerabilities.

Skype Safety Tip #5

Report any incidents to local authorities.  Take a screen shot of the chat and save everything of importance to give to police.  This includes the username of the other party, the time and date of the conversation, and any other pertinent details about the conversation.  The incident will be investigated.

 

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Eraser Challenge Draws Concerns from Parents and Schools

A dangerous game called “Eraser Challenge” has gone viral and is fast becoming popular with teenagers. The game challenges teens to use an eraser and rub it back and forth on their arm between the wrist and the elbow while reciting the alphabet. Teens come up with a word for each letter that they rub onto their skin with the eraser.  Opponents compare the wounds of the game after they reach the letter Z.

Bethel Middle School got wind of the game when several students started showing up in the nurse’s office with marks on their arms from playing the game. Students confessed to the game and after some investigation the Principal of Bethel Middle School Derek Muharam said a random collection of a dozen students were found to be playing different games as part of the challenge.

“They’re saying the alphabet but they’re creating a word for it,” Principal Derek Muharem said. “So it’s a for apple, b for boy.”

Muharem also reported that students were sharing erasers which makes the game not only dangerous but also unsanitary.  A letter was sent home to parents regarding the challenge which can be read in full here.

There were approximately a dozen students in various grades participating in the game when it was originally reported in March.  Since that time many Youtube videos have begun popping up with the “Eraser Challenge” as a featured element. Some of the videos have anywhere from 5,000 up to 30,000 plus hits.

Some of the wounds experienced by students playing this game include pain, severe irritation, bleeding, scarring and possible infection.

“I don’t understand why kids are mutilation themselves or doing things to hurt themselves,” said parent John Luhrs whose daughter is in sixth grade at Bethel Middle School.

The school has notified parents and said that no student will be reprimanded for their actions. The goal of the school and the parents is to make sure that kids stop attempting to hurt themselves by succumbing to peer pressure that looks cool on the internet.

 

 

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Simple social media etiquette guide

Our lives are filled with social interactions online and offline. These social interactions are often guided by instincts and social conventions placed upon us by the cultural we live in. Many of us in the 21st century are painfully aware of how much of a role technology plays in our social lives. There are entire media sites devoted to helping us enhance our social reach. There are some basic social etiquette rules that are a good idea be followed both online and offline.

  1. Texting an “I’m running late” message, canceling a date via email, or declining an RSVP by not RSVP-ing. First, every effort should be made to arrive on time. Yes, things happen like car accidents, road work, or a late baby sitter. A text just doesn’t suffice. Call the person and tell them why you are running late. It is just in poor taste to cancel a date via email. It is something that should be done in person. If an event calls for an RSVP there has been a lot of planning put into the event. Not sending an RSVP that declines the invitation is much worse than not sending back the RSVP at all.
  2. Turn off your phone, laptop, tablet, or other mobile device when you are on a date whether that is at the roller skating rink or at a quiet dinner. You are attempting to be social with another human being for the evening and it is rude to ignore them in order to text your friends about the amazing time you are having. The person your with will definitely notice that they are not being paid attention to. If you can’t shut off your phone at least turn off the sound or put it on vibrate so that it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the evening.
  3. Keep your personal grudges, arguments and conversations offline! Everything is saved online in one form or another and once it is out there in the big bad world of the internet it will be out there forever.  Once you put your grievances online, everyone will want to give you their two cents and it won’t help solve the problem, it will just stir the pot. If you don’t want anyone to see your dirty laundry, don’t share it where can be seen.
  4. Don’t break up or announce someone’s death via text. Some things are just meant to be hashed out face-to-face especially a break-up.  A death in the family should be addressed over the phone or in person.
  5. Engage in good eye contact and really listen to what the person you are with has to say.  Good eye contact doesn’t mean staring a hole into someone’s head, it means looking them in the eye more than anywhere else including down at your phone or off into space.  Good eye contact and eager listening can lead to great conversation and could lead to a deeper social connection offline than you would ever get online.
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NXT-ID claims Wocket™ is useless to thieves

Once upon a time, Dr. Seuss wrote a book called There’s a Wocket in my Pocket where a little boy talked to strange creatures living in his house. Nobody really knew what a Wocket was though. NXT-ID, Inc., a biometric authentication company, wants everyone to carry around a Wocket™ in their pocket. The company NXT-ID claims Wocket™ is useless to thieves has plans to launch the Wocket™ in New York City on May 28.

Wocket™ is considered the newest smart wallet heading to the e-commerce market. At the launch consumers and media will get the first look and feel of the smart wallet that claims to zeroize each sale immediately making the Wocket™ useless to thieves.

The patent-pending Wocket™ uses biometric solutions to secure consumers’ mobile platforms. The smart wallet is designed to replace all the cards in your wallet without the need for a smart phone. It will be 3.7”W x 2.75”L x .39”H. The smart wallet only becomes accessible through a unique combination of voice, PIN or pattern. It was designed to keep Wocket™ transactions separate from regular transactions in order to keep Wocket™ transactions secure by zeroizing each card after use.

Wocket™ isn’t the first smart wallet on the market. It is an evolution of the smart wallet’s already on the market. Google offered a smart, virtual wallet to help consumers’ keep their information secure. Google Wallet comes in the form of an app or a card that stores credit card and loyalty card information all in one place.

Security is the biggest concern for smart wallets since they were designed with consumer security in mind. The Google Wallet offers 24/7 fraud monitoring and Google Wallet Purchase Protection. If your phone or card is lost or stolen it can be disabled through a Google Wallet account.  The Wocket™ doesn’t offer a protection program instead it offers a guarantee.

According to the FAQ, the creators say, “while we can’t ensure that your card never gets stolen, we can guarantee that it’s worthless to anyone that gets a hold of it. Each time after the dynamic card is used, it is zeroized. Thus, it is merely blank piece of plastic to any ambitious thief.”

There are very few other smart wallets on the market. The Wocket™’s biggest competitor appears to be Google Wallet, but there are a few other smart wallets attempting to emerge on the scene including the PING wallet and the SmartWallit.

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Medical Records are New Target for Cybercriminals

 medical records

Cybercriminals don’t have any scruples when it comes to gathering personal data. They have been known to steal credit card information as well as personal identification such as a social security number.  Now we can add medical identity theft to the list of things that cybercriminals are eager to steal from unsuspecting victims.

Redspin, a cybersecurity company, reports that approximately 30 million Americans have had their personal health information breached or disclosed since 2009. Redspin’s report also claims that 4 million records were breached in the single largest incident.

Health data is becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber thieves because of the migration of information to mobile devices. Medical professionals use laptops, tablets and other mobile devices to access personal medical data which puts the data at risk if it isn’t encrypted properly or secured properly.

“This should be a clarion call to the healthcare industry,” reports Respin. “The trajectory is predictable yet preventable. With PHI data on more portable devices used by more “under-educated” employees, it is a virtual certainty that there will be more breaches. Mitigating that risk must become a higher priority throughout the entire industry.”

Cybercriminals who hack medical information are looking to steal everything from prescription information to Social Security numbers and credit card information. Medical billing records contain almost all of this information in one place.

Medical data is sought after for numerous reasons by thieves. Last year, CNBC ran a report about medical identity theft targeting victims in order to receive medical services, devices or prescription drugs.  It could take years before the theft of information is noticed.

Robert Gregg, chief executive of ID Experts, a cyber security firm, compared the value of different types of identity thefts for CNBC. He said, “A financial identity can be worth $5 to $10 if you have all the info. A medical identity can be five to 10 times that amount just because how easy it is to monetize that information once the bad guys get it.”

Signs that your medical information may have been breached:

-Unexpected medical bills for services not performed.

-Notice of health plan benefits saying benefit limit has been reached.

-Medical records show a condition you don’t have.

Review your medical history, report anything out of the ordinary, and never share medical information or personal identification information.

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Steam Family Sharing Available to Users

Valve has announced that “Family Library Sharing” is now available to all Steam users. The Steam Family Library Sharing allows family and guests to play one another’s games. It is used by players who share computers and who want to share their available library of games with one another. Players can save their own achievements and progress in the game to the Steam Cloud.

How does it work?

Players enable Family Library Sharing on their shared computers. The familiar accounts that log in to them can be authorized for game sharing. A request is made to the friend or family member that you want to share a game with. One you are authorized, the games become available for “access, download and play,” according to Steam.

How much sharing is allowed?

Authorization for Family Library sharing can be given on up to 10 devices at a given time, and for up to five accounts. Simultaneous usage of an account is prohibited. Some Steam community members have begun to complain about this issue. They have suggested that it isn’t sharing when a friend borrows a game and is given a “few minutes” to purchase the game or quit because the owner of the game wants to play it at the same time.

What happens with game data?

Steam allows individual members to save game places, earn achievements and save application data in the Steam Cloud. According to GameSpot, “Lenders can’t access games that aren’t available in their region or games that require a third-party key, account or subscription.”

Is it safe?

Keeping your account and game libraries safe should be a priority. Sharing any kind of data through multiple devices can open the way for hacking to occur. Steam can revoke and close an account if your library is used to cheat.  Make sure the only people you share your game library with are ones that you trust.  Steam recommends that you only authorize familiar computers that are known to be secure and that you never give your password to anyone.

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