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Stanford & Common Sense Media on Safe Social Networking

I am thrilled to see organizations like Common Sense Media and  Dr BJ Fogg of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab provide valuable information on safe social networking for teens including IMPORTANT information on privacy controls. So here are the links, parents take a look and learn:

I hope to go to the Facebook class for Parents at Stanford and will print out the Common Sense Family Media agreements for my kids.  It is important for all parents to be proactive and help themselves and their families learn about/implement proper online safety.

 

Google Latitude- New Tool For Tracking Family/Friends? Or Privacy Issue?

Google announced today their new application called Google Latitude that allows tracking of locations via cellphone using GPS.  Techmeme today was abuzz about this. VentureBeat added that Google is getting ahead in the social networking game (and I agree). All Things Digital posted with a test run where the blogger (Katherine Boehret ) "stalked her sister, boyfriend and boss".

@momsatwork brought up a good discussion point on Twitter  "New Google tracking software is every teen's nightmare. http://tinyurl.com/dzgtwo".

I responded @techmama "Google Latitude not teen's nightmare. I say parents new tool ( At library? – no you're at mall).."

At that point, I decided it was time to post.

First of all it is important to understand how Google Latitude works (excerpt from Official Google Blog post):

"Latitude is a new feature for Google Maps on your mobile device. It's
also an iGoogle gadget on your computer. Once you've opted in to
Latitude, you can see the approximate location of your friends and
loved ones who have decided to share their location with you."

Continuing on in the post, it mentions the privacy issue:

"Fun aside, we recognize the sensitivity of location data, so we've
built fine-grained privacy controls right into the application.
Everything about Latitude is opt-in. You not only control exactly who
gets to see your location, but you also decide the location that they
see."

The good news is that the service is completely "opt-in" and can be disabled at any time. Here is the video about Google Latitude privacy (IMPORTANT FOR PARENTS especially to share with teens to ensure they UNDERSTAND the privacy settings):

So looking back on the Twitter conversation, yes – it may be teenager's who lie to their parents worse nightmare. For example, if a parent set up Latitude PRIVACY settings to only allow parents to track their teen's cellphone – then if their teenager said they are at the library studying when really they are at the mall shopping – they would be caught. 

On the cool side, isn't some of being a teenager sneaking off with friends? On the non-cool side – maybe it is easier to be honest with parents to show responsibility (which teens need to have a phone in the first place). On the other hand, it may not be appropriate for parents to be online all day tracking where their teens are. Also, teenagers could always work around or disable the settings.

Well then, what is the middle ground?

My suggestion for any parent whose teen has a cell phone is to SPEND THE TIME TO UNDERSTAND GOOGLE LATITUDE'S PRIVACY SETTINGS.

Continue reading

 

What Are The Right High Tech Systems For Parents to Keep Track of Their Kids?

My blogger buddy Michelle Lamar from White Trash Mom posted a disturbing story about a parent’s struggle to get the GPS coordinates of their missing daughter:  “Verizon Wireless, Kelsey Smith: Help Me Send a Message“.  Donna from SoCalMom commented on that post bringing up that their daughter was 18 (an adult) so privacy laws are an issue. Add to that the discussions around Homeland Security’s access to data and the Washington Post article about the government asking cell phone companies to offer tracking information for criminals and the issues get even more complicated.

 

In the end, my question is what about parents access to that information? Standard cellphone plans do not have “monitoring” for children included. Child monitoring services are “add-ons”including Verizon Chaperone and Sprint Family Locator.

 

Maybe the solution is for cell phone companies to incorporate family locators into all family plans so emergency procedures would not be needed?  It seems that in 2006 the discussion was going on that government demands to cell phone networks to provide location information was the inspiration for creation of family locator services in the first place.

 

Engadget published a post titled: “Family Locator now accessible from all web-enabled Sprint phones“. That is a great first step but not all families can afford web plans, so how can this be offered in a budget family way?

 

I have been looking into this myself because soon it will be time to purchase a cell phone for my older son. It is IMPORTANT for parents to realize that just purchasing a cell phone does not provide access to tracking systems. Obviously, there should be an immediate response from cell phone companies if a child is missing, but it may be worthwhile for parents to also look at having a tracking system for their own use. And one that only allows “parents” to track their children – and not open it up to strangers (security settings are an issue).

 

Here are some links to reviews of GPS tracking systems for Parents (other then the family locator plans):

 

I was interviewed for a video Tech reporter Kym McNicholas did for Forbes.com called “High Tech Babysitter“. This is relevant because beyond the moral issues of a child’s right to privacy, these days you can never be too safe. As part of the preparation for the conversation with Kym McNicholas (and what I learned from talking with her), a few products seemed the most interesting (but I have not tried yet):

 

  • IMSafer for letting parents know if their kids may be in a dangerous situation online.
  • iSee video from Napco security
  • All Track USA a tool that allows parents to monitor, supervise and provide guidance to their teenage drivers.
  • Logitech WiLife Video Security
  • Safe Eyes for Internet Security, Common Sense Media is a great resource for online safety

 

Overall, I feel locator services should be standard in all family plans – but is that possible for reasonable prices? In any case, cell phone networks should be able to provide timely location information to any family that has called in an emergency. If upgrades to our networks need to be made to enable this, then that should be a priority. Or if privacy is an issue, let’s resolve parent’s access to their kids ahead of time – no matter what age their kids are.

 

And as parents we need to find the right balance for how we keep track of our kids, utilizing some high tech gadgets if needed with the good old low tech communication. That – or just injecting our kids with a GPS Tracking chip (when that is invented).

 

Forbes.com: High-Tech Babysitter

I was thrilled to be interviewed by Forbes.com Tech reporter Kym McNicholas for a video update on high tech babysitting (using technology to monitor your kids).  The issue is a very complicated; with all the technology available to monitor your kids every move – where do you draw the "ethical versus safety" line.

Take a look at the video… I will be posting about this topic in the coming weeks.