Create and send VMs yes not DMs

It seems #Vine is joining the personal message party and allowing users to create what they call VMs - the new feature which has rolled out basically gives users the facility to create Personal Video Messages (VM) and send it to a friend or multiple friends if you want.

Though a point to remember is that each conversation is one to one so effectively if you want to send a video to 6 Friends you will need to start 6 separate conversations.

Now here’s another interesting part your inbox has basically 2 sections to it Friends (folks you know) and people outside if your network (ones you don’t know)

Now you may want to consider from a safety point of view if your going to be using this feature perhaps turing off your ‘other’ inbox making it so you can only receive messages from people you know - better to be in control of the messages which you receive.

Remember also think about your Online Reputation before you create any content online even if your sending it private it may not remain that way. Don’t forget to STOP|THINK|POST

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Talking Angela App - What Parents need to know

‘Talking Angela’, one of the last year’s most popular talking apps for ‘children and adults’ has caused some widespread concern amongst parents when a Facebook hoax connected the app with paedophile rings.  The app developers Outfit 7 have stated the Facebook-fuelled claims ‘ridiculous’


Now as a parent in this ever-changing digital Smartphone app world we now live in you may want to investigate this a bit further.

If you are not familiar with ‘Talking Angela’ she is part of the Talking Tom and Friends series.  With over 65 million downloads, basically it’s a smartphone app where children can play with an animated ‘talking’ virtual cat.  Users can customise her appearance, get her to repeat words and take part in Angela’s quiz.  So it’s easy to see why kids love this. Maybe it’s just me but the aesthetics and context of the slightly flirty feline who scarcely resembles your common kitten, appealing to children and adults is a little bit uncomfortable.

The app when not operating in ‘child mode’ asks users their name and age. The  reason for these questions is to provide the best possible experience and optimize the app’s content,  say it’s creators.

When in child mode all topics are said to be family friendly with Talking Angela able to determine the most suitable topics of conversation according to a user’s age.

However the real problem is the lack of barrier between children and adult mode modes and the fact that the kids can easily access, from child mode, the Music button which brings them directly to ‘YouTube’ and from there as there is no parental gate, they can scroll down and view comments from adults and older children which may be, and invariably are, inappropriate - not to mention being able to access other content while on YouTube.  This is due largely to the creators want for an app ‘that can satisfy kids and adults’ so they can ‘stay on top of the chart’.

As well as aggregated data collection, Outfit7 admit they collect conversations,  stating, ‘but we are only interested in how certain topics are accessed, and which are the most popular’. Well that’s fine then.?

Outfit7 have said that by Easter 2014 the app will have improved ‘Child Mode’ with password so children can’t toggle out of child mode.  Might have been an idea to address this concern prior to launch though.

Another area of concern and it’s not clear yet if this will be addressed is ‘in app purchasing’ though while this is controversial in games and apps that children use, it is quite common on other apps.

It seems from testing the app that young children really aren’t meant to be using Talking Angela’s text chat, yet the creators have not taken any real measures to prevent younger users from simply toggling the ‘child mode’ off it.    The hoax which started on social media around the dangers of the App is another reminder to  parents that trying these platforms out first before letting our kids use them might be the way forward.  It’s essential that we keep ourselves up to date with this changing landscape – the next new app will be just around the corner.

So here’s my lowdown on main concerns:

  • Child mode/toggle is too easily turned off.
  • It connects too easily to You Tube where children can easily access and view inappropriate videos and adult comments.
  • As with many other apps there’s the risk of in-app purchasing – with real money.


What Outfit 7 should do for parents

The developers need to seriously look at introducing a pin or password to make it more difficult for children to turn off child mode. As soon as possible.  Will check this out again at Easter.

So if your child loves the talking angela app and you’re happy to supervise use, go ahead. Use your own judgement and keep an eye on the conversations. But when they’re talking to Angela, I wouldn’t recommend catnapping.

Do we really think about or pay attention to our Online Reputation

Sadly NO! At least we have not begun to take the role of Protecting our Online Reputation seriously. But here’s the thing - once it goes online.. it stays online.

It’s not that it’s difficult to remove. It’s near impossible.

Therefore, Online Reputation, which yours truly has been banging on about on Twitter and Facebook, is serious, and it needs your attention RIGHT NOW

But Wayne stop being over dramatic. Chill. How could a simple tweet or a Facebook post get me in trouble? Well it can, it does and it may cost you some hard earned $$$. $105,000 to be exact in the case of former student of NSW School Andrew Farley who was ordered to pay this amount for “compensatory and aggravated damages” for making false allegations about music teacher Christine Mickle on Twitter & Facebook.

The Judge said the comments had a ‘devastating effect’ on the popular teacher who immediately took sick leave and only returned to work on a limited basis last year.

CAUTION - Be careful what you post and say online. The thing is platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have amazing reach, which is always public and sometimes global. Defamatory comments made on Social media can spread very fast by simply retweeting something on twitter. If found to be untrue, or defamatory this can land you in seriously hot water. ‘But seriously Wayne, it was just a bitta craic I did’nt mean to offend anyone” Pity you retweeted it and republished the comment as now you’re liable.

How can I protect myself?

The thing is, if you don’t want your message appearing on a global billboard don’t post it online. Many people still don’t think they have a problem with their Online Reputation when in fact they do – many of us have no idea of the content which is out in the Interwebs about us or content which others have created about us which we have no idea about. This is the worrying part.

So here’s what you can do

• Set up a Google Alert or Talk Walker Alerts to monitor the Interwebs for any new content about your name.

• Be careful what you say on Twitter, Facebook and Social Networks. Remember my STOP|THINK|POST approach

• Get down with YOUR Privacy settings – Tweak and check these on a regular basis. Remember they differ from platform to platform. Make sure you update these on Smartphones and Tablet devices.

• Be careful with Apps which claim to offer texts and images which vanish. Once you click Send you lose control of this information and where your information can end up.

• Create positive content to counteract any negative results which may be floating about.

Now think about this. What we do today and everyday is recorded and stored without any expiration date or delete button. Something posted as a Teen online or via social networks may still be still kicking around and accessible and may come back to haunt you when applying for your first job or perhaps getting into University. This is the first generation of young people to have to think about this. And the first generation of parents to worry about it too.

Now is the time to start thinking about your Online Reputation and managing your digital footprint. Don’t let it limit your opportunities or land you on the wrong side of the law as a result of some foolish thing you’ve said online.

Online Reputation Matters…. Look after yours.

New Apps offer more anonymity - Good or NotSoGood

Hot on the heels of my last blog on the BeeTalk app, it seems that not a week goes by, where great new apps are appearing. Great that is, if they are used in a responsible way. By both children and adults. Unfortunately most of these apps also have the potential to used in a negative way so today I’ve brought you 3 of the newest with the potential to become your kids latest craze. They say good things come in threes or have I just made that up? In fact just found another one while researching so I’ll include it in post. Four for the price of one. What price says Wayne. If only..

Hmm. Anyhow, let’s take a look at these new smartphone Apps and just what parents need to be aware of. As usual I’m not charging for this sort of valuable information so please feel free to share this blog, or ask your School to get in touch about my Parents/Educators or Pupils/Students sessions on being safer online or protecting your Online Reputation.

If you’ve been following my blogs or recent tweets, you’ll know there’s been an increase in the development of apps which allow and aid information to be shared more anonymously, with many users gravitating towards such apps which offer aspects of anonymity. But it’s worth remembering, we have seen in the past, with Apps like Snaphack, and amazing emerging mobile forensics, content which we think we are sharing anonymously can still surface online.

So lowdown on lastest..

Once downloaded this app allows users to create and send messages, which when viewed, disappear. It has a UI (user interface), which offers ‘Screenshot’ protection, which alerts users if a recipient has attempted take a screen shot and offers users
"End-to-end encryption, which is an uninterrupted protection of the confidentiality and integrity of, transmitted data by encoding it at its starting point and decoding it at its destination". Enough of the tech jargon thanks Wikipedia

With the Confide app, text is blocked out and can be seen only when you slide your finger over the screen.

According to ‘Confide’ their app enables you to ‘Say what you want, honest and unfiltered’. The website encourages you to ‘Go off the record with self destructing messaging’. Messages disappear after they’re read, ensuring all of your communication remains private, confidential and always ‘off the record’.

Currently Confide is only available on IOS - but will be coming to Android soon.

In order to function WUT needs access to your Facebook account. How it works - Download it to your Smartphone and once set up and synced with your Facebook friends list WUT allows you to pretty much send out anonymous messages to any of your Facebook friends without them knowing who the message has come from.
Your friends also need to have WUT downloaded in order to receive the messages but if it becomes popular that will happen. No prizes for guessing who this could be mis-used. WUT messages are silent so your childrens phone would not even vibrate/message tone when they receive messages on this app.

Popcorn Chat
Popcorn messaging allows you to chat privately with other users in a 1 mile radius of your Smartphone. The idea behind the app, according to the description on iTunes, is to ‘immediately discover what people around you are doing – converse with others and live events, meet new people, and share meaningful thoughts amongst the local community’. Popcorn goes on to rave about its suitability for ‘school campuses and dorms, concerts and conventions, visiting new cities, or just getting through a boring day at the office’.
Bet your Boss (and parents/teachers and anyone who works with kids) will be happy to hear this. Just so we’re clear, it also encourages children in its iTunes App description to use it to ‘Chat at school when you are bored in class’.
Geosocial app development at its most responsible. Maybe not. Big marketing brands take heed.

Another interesting App concept. Telegram is similar to SMS but more flexible users can send photos, videos and documents to your phone contacts, who also use the Telegram app. It also offers the facility to create groups for up to 200 people.

So basically Wayne you’re telling me it’s like ‘What’s App’?. Well not exactly. According to the Telegram website this cloud based service is heavily encrypted and offers users the flexibility from several devices including desktops. Telegram goes on to say on their website FAQs that ‘Telegram is more secure than mass market messengers like WhatsApp and Link’.

Ok so your probably saying ‘What’s the difference’. Well unlike other messaging apps, the Telegram App allows users to set up ‘Secret Chat’.

Secret Chat includes a ‘Self-Destruct Timer’ which ‘removes any message sent using this feature from both devices’ within a timescale of 2 seconds to one week.

This is the way technology and the way that our young people communicate is evolving. I keep saying it and will continue to. As parents, educators and practitioners working with children and young people, you need to be aware. You don’t need to know every app, every platform or how everything works. But you do need to have an understanding. It’s time to get involved.

BeeTalk - The new Kid on the Block?

Hello and Merry New Year people!. I come to you as the bearer of news on the latest new App to hit IOS and Android. Some might say it’s the new kid on the block.. Then again every new Smartphone App coming out has that potential. Or at least has an opportunity for Facebook to offer to buy it for a mere 3 Billion dollars. Small change I hear you say ☺. Aaaah, wishing I could of come up with an idea like that… 

Sooo - I hear you say, stop ya foolin around Sucka. What the heck is ‘BeeTalk’ Wayne? Well Parents, Educators, Teenagers and anyone else who cares to listen or read my blog, it’s a new App which is pretty much Snapchat, Viber and What’s App all rolled into One. It’s got an interesting little function called ‘Shake’ - where, as the name suggests, you shake your phone and it suggests new friends! As the App is currently targeted at the Asian market the closest person in my shake (that kinda sounds weird) was 9974Km away. 

That being said - this App can’t be dismissed. It has in abundance many of the features we socially connected individual’s love to use. 

Another interesting aspect it provides is that each user has their own QR Code, which can be shared on Facebook. Once scanned, that user can then be added as a friend. 

The BeeTalk features have similarities to the above including SnapChat. Explain Wayne. Well I’ll try to, as straightforwardly as possible. 

You add the person you wish to chat with
Once they accept you as a friend, you can then send them a message
Starting a chat by clicking on the users profile
This opens up a chat
Nothing different about that I hear you say with a sigh of relief.. well here’s the thing.. 

From here is a clever little option BeeTalk call ‘Whisper Mode’. 

Once in ‘Whisper’ mode, you have an option to type your message, then attach a time during which the message can be viewed, just like Snapchat, with an associated time limit. But as well as sending photos and doodles you can also send your location Creepy some of you may think. Not at all sure we’re all sharing our location via these Apps nowadays. But better to know this App has this feature. 

(By the by, BeeTalk also allows users to send what it calls ‘Stickers’ between users and download new ones as they become available. Nice little touch). 

Now here is my predication on this App. After spending a little time testing it out, I can see the attraction, particularly within the Teenage User market.

As I mentioned, this App is being marketed mostly to the Asian market. However we all know it’s a small world on the Interwebs. It’s highly likely it will be adopted here. 

This App has so many features the teenage user would love. Especially the Whisper feature, where messages, photos, doddles, and even location are deleted after a set time. 

It only takes this App to be downloaded by one teenager in School for it to spread and, given the features which it currently offers users, I can see this happening very quickly. It’s one to watch and one which parents, teachers and those who work with young people should be aware of and checking if their young people are using it. In the hands of the wrong user this App could potentially cause harm to self or others and should be Handled with Care. Kinda like the car you’ve just insured your 17 year old to drive. 

Take care online and talk to you soon.


The Unsupervised Playground - Cybersafety

Over the past 2 months we’ve been on the road speaking to hundreds of Parents and Young People on Cybersafety, online reputation and parenting in a digital world.
First of all - a big thank you to all the Schools who hosted them and the Parents who attended the sessions. We salute you! Coming out after a hard days work, on cold dark nights. ¬¬ Judging by the comments left, you found it worthwhile, with many parents asking for further support.
I’ve now seen at first hand the validation of what we originally believed to be the case – Parents who attended, welcomed the opportunity to learn more about what is happening online, how to build resilience in their children and reduce vulnerability whilst online and are very open to support and assistance on keeping their kids safe and encouraging them to use technology wisely.
An even larger percentage of parents are hoping kids figure this out on their own.
This wont stop them buying their kids the technology for Christmas. Unfortunately it will stop them making good and informed decisions on their children’s digital life.
Now, I’m not having a go at parents. I’m a parent myself and know how hard it is sometimes to find time to do everything our kids need. It’s a difficult job and we’re the first generation of parents to deal with this. But the problem of largely unintentional mis-use and unsafe use of technology by our children and young people is increasing and they need the support of mature adults to guide them in today’s increasingly digital world.
Children today are freely joining Social Networking Sites, exchanging information, connecting and sharing and developing relationships - ‘38% of all 2 year olds have used a tablet device’ (Ofcom, Media habits of Parents and Children, 2013). Early education and intervention is crucial. Children are exploring the Internet from an early age - the chances of them coming across something which may upset them is high – research has shown us that Children don’t have the resilience to cope with things which they see and experience in an online environment.
So this Christmas, if you’re going to buy your kid the devices they want and love, at least get to know the basics - awareness of risks and benefits, safety and privacy settings and attempt to get involved and have conversations with your kids about the latest trends/apps they’re using. Under your guidance children will learn to use technology for creativity, education, fun and exploration and teach us parents on the way.

Selfie – Yet another New App Parents Need to Know About?

Apologies in advance Parents. It seems there isn’t a week goes by where you don’t have to try to keep up to speed with yet another social media app your kids may start using. Ain’t technology great ☺. Well, my good Parents out there, the latest kid on the block in terms of Apps is Selfie. I hear you say what the *** is Selfie?
Well for those of you who don’t know what the term ‘Selfie’ means, I’d better start there. Cue, our friends of Wikipedia

‘A selfie is a type of self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone’ (smartphone).

And in our children and young people’s world ‘selfie’ is an everyday term for imagery they take of themselves and send to their friends and post out into the public domain.
Did you also know that in August 2013 the term ‘selfie’ also made its debut in Oxford Dictionaries Online’s quarterly update, where it is defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website, reinforces the extent of it’s use to us adults doesn’t it?. Moving swiftly on..

So now we know the background to this Wayne, please tell us about this new App which our kids might perhaps start using. Ok. So in a nutshell, this new App Selfie, according to their website, allows users to ‘take selfies and have a little fun’. Users launch the App allowing their camera to start. They tap the screen and it captures the ‘selfie’. They then have 3 options to choose how long the selfie should last - 4 Hours, 3 Days or 2 Weeks.
Users also have the option from the App to view Selfies, which are expiring and also look at their friend’s selfies. Tip for Parents, keep having your conversations with your kids about who constitutes a ‘friend’. From playing with the App today it does not look like there is any sort of facility to share on the Selfie to other social network platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. This being the saving grace, that they can’t be sent. I predict this will change. ,If, but more likely, when the app becomes popular. Which will be soon. Will keep you posted.

What does SnapHack Mean for Snapchat

If you are one of many waves of people (8 Million Unique Users as of May 2013, sending 350 million snaps per day) who have already jumped all over Snapchat, well you’re going to want to prick your ears up. If you’ve have been living on some distant planet and have never heard of Snapchat, that great source of all information,  Wikipedia, will explain; ‘It’s an app which enables users to take photos, record videos, add text and drawings and send them to a controlled list of recipients’ (Remember People, controlled being the important word here). Users set a time limit for how long the image is available for, and viola, the image is removed from the Snapchat servers. Thank you, good people of Wikipedia, for that overview.

Now enter Snaphack.   I hear you say, ‘What the heck is Snaphack?’ Well for 99p here in the UK, you purchase the app and Snaphack allows you to save all photos and videos sent through Snapchat without informing the person/s who sent them.

Yes Sir. They Won’t Know.

Now here’s the thing.. For it to work and Save, you need to open images or videos via the Snaphack app. If you’ve ever needed a reason not to be sending embarrassing images or stuff you would not want others to see, you should consider how you are using Snapchat, now that Snaphack is kicking about.

Because you just don’t know who is using it.

If you send something which you later regret, once the recipient opens it, via Snaphack, they can view it permanently.

Word is, there is also talk that an updated version of Snaphack has already been submitted to Apple – this version allows Snapchat recipients to forward the saved images to friends!.

You Have Been Warned…

Note to all Snapchatters: Purchased the app this morning for review and since writing this blog tonight it’s gone up to £1.49. Methinks this may be to do with the sheer volume of people downloading it?. Probably.

Ofcom Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report 2013

I wanted to get a quick blog post out, in relation to the recent report, by Ofcom Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report (2013) and share some of the findings which stood out in this latest research .

For a start, some good news. I hear us parents say, can there be such a thing with all this fast moving technology and everything going on online? Updated research shows that ‘the number of children who own a mobile phone is going down, as youngsters reject basic handsets and increasingly turn to tablet computers to access the Internet’. Well, now that children are moving towards tablets, as opposed to mobiles, imagery and text on a tablet is much more visual than on a mobile so it’s a lot easier for parents to spot something untoward in what our children are viewing. Unlike smart phones, tablets can’t be hidden in pockets. They can however be hidden under beds and in coats. But they’re still more visible.

Another very interesting finding was that compared to last year 12-15s are much less likely to say they have a social media profile on any device (68%, down from 81%). Now I’m no statistics genius but as it’s highly unlikely that children are deleting their social networking profiles, this may be that many children now feel they are not able to freely admit that they have a social networking profile due to negative media attention on the use. This concerns me and says we need to find innovative and positive ways to safeguard children online, to replace the ‘safety talks’ currently employed.

The report also found that 18% of 12-15s say they know how to change online filters or controls. One in 4 parents (24%) of 5-15 year olds users are concerned about cyber bullying while one in 7 (14%) said they were concerned about their child cyber bullying somebody else.

Now anyone who has seen me speak on these topics or read any of my recent blogs will know my take on this. As a parent myself, I think we need to do and can do more to educate our young people on responsible and positive use of the internet, technology and social media - but it’s not all about the kids. As parents we need to become more aware of the changing landscape of technology and how we can help our children navigate through it more safely and use it to their advantage.

Many parents feel overwhelmed; they feel they can’t catch up with children’s technology skills. But there is a way forward. Our children can help us learn. Getting involved in their online life, using the tools -parental and safety software and setting boundaries is a good start. Let’s get started we can all make improvements in Cybersafety