Friday, 23 December 2011

The Safety Of Christmas Presents

Hello there! Only 3 days to go until the big day so hopefully you're not like me and are more or less organised. We STILL haven't got the decorations up in our house yet, to be honest, I don't really see the point now!

I'm sure many of you will have children that has requested laptops, games consoles (Xbox, Playstation, 3DS, Wii etc), phones or iPod's, from Santa this year, and i'm sure if they're lucky enough then they'll get exactly what they want.

I just wanted to make a “quick” blog before Christmas to make you aware of the potential dangers your child may be in with these things & how you can make them safer. Below i've listed a few examples:

Mobiles
Mobiles can be a great way for kids to keep in touch their friends and have a feeling of independence. They're also very useful so they can let you know where they are when they're out with friends and give you piece of mind.

Problems:- Newer & more advanced mobile phones have access to the internet and mobile TV. Here children can gain access to all sorts of content without any parental supervision. Most mobiles also have the ability to take and receive picture & video messages through MMS or Bluetooth facilities. Unfortunately, this can be misused and a picture sent to a “friend” can easily be forwarded on to others or even uploaded to the internet in a matter of minutes. Many also use location software so if your child were to update their status on Facebook for example, their location could easily be identified.

Solutions:- Speak to your child about how you have trusted them enough to be allowed a mobile phone and that they should use it responsibly. Explain to them that they should never give out their mobile phone number to anyone they don't know very well and that they should never send anything that they wouldn't be happy for you to see. You can also contact the phones network provider as they may be able to help you set up parental controls on the phone.

Gaming
Many children will more than likely get some sort of new games console this Christmas ranging from Xboxes, Playstations, Nintendo DS', Wii's etc which can be brilliant fun to play on their own or with their friends – they can even make new friends online through playing online multiplayer games.

Problems:- Many children can become addicted to these online games and lose contact with offline friends, as they can spend hours at a time playing on them, sometimes late into the night when you think they are sleeping! They can also be contacted by fellow players of the same games who may request favours in return for cheats for the games so the child can advance levels or be a victim of abuse from strangers. Many consoles also now feature web access so internet sites and tv can also be viewed on those too.

Solutions:- It can be useful to to keep all games consoles in a central family room or removing them before bed so the usage can be monitored & you can also see what the content of the games are like. The consoles normally feature parental features so you can choose what the child can/cannot see and gain access to. It's also worth having a talk with them about speaking to strangers over the internet and to discourage any sort of cheating on these games anyway.

Social Networking
Social networking can come in many forms of online communication, generally the new user will be given their own personal space online where they can write about their selves and upload photos to share with their friends. Social networking can also include Instant Messaging services (IM) like Windows Live Messenger or similar on their phones such as BlackBerry Messenger, Kik messenger etc. Applications are also popular to enhance social networking experiences. These are “add-ons” which brings more content to someones online profile.

Problems:- There are several safety issues surrounding IM services, friends occasionally share email addresses with others to find new friends or send chain emails with all original email addresses included. This results in strangers attempting to add and contact your child.

The following is a case study taken from the CEOP's thinkuknow website:

“Olivia visited a chat room where she was talking to friends about her favourite band. A guy she hadn't met before read her profile and said hi. They started chatting, and Olivia got on really well with him - he seemed to agree with everything she thought and said which was cool. After some time, he asked her for her Instant Message address so they could chat more privately.
Olivia accepted him onto her contact list and after a few weeks of chatting through IM every day she felt she knew him pretty well. He sent a photo of himself to her and she thought he looked really nice, so when he asked her to send him a sexy photo of herself - she felt apprehensive, but sent one anyway. He told her that she looked great and suggested meeting up.
Olivia felt quite uncomfortable with this, since she felt that he was still a stranger - however well they were getting on, so she refused but her new 'friend' got a upset with her and then aggressive and ended up saying that unless she agreed to meet up, he would send her sexy photo to all the people in the chat area.
Olivia was mortified, and really wasn't sure what to do; especially since she had started to worry about his intentions; not only was he blackmailing her but he was also making really suggestive comments which she felt very uneasy about.
One of Olivia's friends advised Olivia that she shouldn't have to put up with 'freaky guys' like this one, and told her to save her conversations with him, and report them to CEOP by pasting them onto the reporting form. This was then seen by a police officer who began to make enquiries and investigate further. Olivia was relieved that she didn't have to deal with the man on her own, and also found some great advice and support on the website.”
Solution:- Ask your child to be responsible when using ANY form of social networking site. Reminds them to never post photos of themselves in school uniform so their location can be identified or anything they wouldn't be happy for you to see. Tell them to never include their phone number or email address on their profile where it is easily accessible by strangers. Remember that once information has been sent to the internet, it can be very difficult or sometimes impossible to get back and can be forwarded easily.

You could also ask them to show you how they use the social networking sites they use so you can get a better understanding of them and it'll also help you to see what sort of people they have as friends and the security features they have set up. 
 
Sorry for the LOOOONG post, but I hope you found it useful!

Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year!
@Lizmundo


Thursday, 15 December 2011

It's Chriiiiistmaaaaaaaas!

It's almost Christmas time and once again, like every other year I'm totally unprepared! Christmas presents haven't been bought and the decorations aren't even up yet!

I'm not feeling extremely festive this year either, and it feels like Christmas has crept up on me again (despite being shocked that a card shop had Christmas decorations in their window in September), but I thought I'd have a go at creating a mini Christmassy blog for everyone to read which will hopefully start to bring my Christmas spirit out!

I think it's different if you have kids around to help with this sort of thing (or if you are a kid yourself?). I always remember Christmas being an amazing time of year, I'd circle things I wanted in the Argos catalogue or I just used to ask my mother if Santa would bring me “that” for Christmas at various intervals during the year and present her with a list on Christmas Eve (CHRISTMAS EVE!) to send to Santa. I was never disappointed with the presents I got anyway. My parents must have been psychic!

It's much easier for some parents these days though as they let their kids to make wishlists of things they'd like on websites like Amazon. I suppose this is a much easier way of being able to see what your child is after so you can pick bits up through the year but I don't think i'd want to be the one reading the total bill!

On the subject of websites, I've been trying to look for a few child friendly websites to give kids & their parents some things to do during the Christmas break if they're stuck for ideas. So, here goes:

http://www.noradsanta.org This is a website where children can track Santa's travels around the world starting on Christmas Eve, although I think you may need to download Google Earth to do this (which is free). It even includes a countdown timer so they can see when his travels will begin.

http://www.northpole.com/ Another Santa website which is more professional looking than the one above, and there are lots of activities for kids & parents!

http://www.primarygames.com This is is a website which can be used by children, parents and teachers to find fun activities such as educational games and quizzes etc for all times of the year. At the moment, they have a Christmas theme on the website.

http://www.santa.net I haven't explored much of the website yet, but I think I would have loved it when I was younger, you can play games etc and you can also email Santa and send him a Christmas list electronically!

There's also the CBBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/thingstodo which i'm sure you'll probably already be aware of anyway, but if you've never looked at it yourself then the link above is at least worth a look. It has plenty of recipes and arts and crafts ideas you can use.

I hope you find these useful and hopefully brought you a little Christmas spirit too!

Merry Christmas!
@Lizmundo






Monday, 5 December 2011

Lizmundo's Research Into Teen Website: VampireFreaks.com

Well, my job is still going pretty well, as is my peace lily, i've named her Phoebe and she's even started making new flowers! There's been quite a few new improvements made to the website over the last week or so too. There's a new video on the homepage so parents can have a preview of the website, and there's also a new “safety centre” page. The “about us” page has also been updated too, which can be found here: https://www.greatbritishkids.com/aboutus.php

With the new Twilight film recently released in cinemas and a generation of Vampire loving kids growing up, I thought I'd take a look at a popular social networking website called VampireFreaks.com.

This website, is primarily aimed at teens aged 13 and over, who are interested in Gothic & other subcultures. Like Facebook, the website has features such as the ability to join groups, add friends and chat to each other but there are also paid features of the website too. Paying members have the ability to join more “cults” (groups), upload more pictures – 500 instead of 50, and Powerbomb “unwanted” members. This involves clicking on a member that only has a free membership and “damaging” them with a point. If the free member receives 10 damage points within a month then they will be suspended for 15 days.

As a basic member, I have access to join cults or create one of my own and I can also view the message boards and enter chat rooms (after a few days of signing up to prevent trolling I guess). After looking at the message boards for a short while in the “Advice” section, it came to my conclusion that this was being used as a place for extremely depressed members to try and seek guidance from others, or possibly just to look for attention. One member talks about cutting herself all the time and another talks about someone stalking both herself and her twin, whom their parents allow the stalker to come into the house as he claims he just wanted to be friends. When I clicked to enter a chat room, I was presented with a few options as to which one I wanted to enter. I had the choice of entering a 13-17 (under 18) room, an 18+ room or a 21+ room to name a few. My concern is, how do VF prevent users from entering the wrong chat rooms?

What's worrying about this website, is like Facebook, younger members can lie about their age, and could potentially gain access to other areas of the message boards for areas that are 18+. It also mentions in the websites FAQs that due to the large amount of users, they are unable to moderate the website, however if they receive abuse reports they will respond to those. They (the website) don't seem to have any real issues with bullying on the site either, for example one of the questions in the FAQ section says:

Q. help, somebody is being mean to me, they hurt my feelings.”“A. stop whining you pussy. you can easily block people from commenting on your profile or emailing you. you simply click the "block this user" button on their profile. but if someone is an obvious asshole to multiple people, we will delete them, but if you keep bothering us with your personal drama we will delete you. Report assholes to the admin inbox.”

nice.

There have been several controversies surrounding this website too. Like other websites such as Facebook, Myspace etc, it has been used by paedophiles to contact younger members and arrange meeting up in real life. In other cases, some young members have been murdered by other deluded members on the website http://www2.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=765b7ad8-e00a-49a1-9d72-d3d35e5c2627.


So my advice to parents with kids who may come across this website by watching the films such as Twilight, I'd either block the website or check what they are viewing on there regularly.

I hope this post has provided some valuable info for you, thanks for reading!
@Lizmundo










Monday, 28 November 2011

A Little Bit About Me – Well, My Pets

Hi everyone, hope you are all well and have not caught the lurgy as I have. I've just spent the entire weekend in bed. The good news is that i'm feeling a lot better today (with the exception of an annoying blocked nose), and at least i've caught it well before Christmas, so just hope I don't catch anything else now! I thought I'd tell you a little bit more about my little ones I have at home.


Poppy The Princess
Poppy is a 3 year old Bichon Frise, that can do no wrong. She is very sensitive and highly intelligent, but does, on occasions, think she's is a German Sheppard. She's scared of quite a lot of things and she's not fond of other dogs. I want the ground to swallow me up every time I take her to the vets for her booster. I got a puppy this year (which wasn't really planned) but I thought he would help Poppy get used to other dogs, which has sort of worked.

If you look closely, you can see her halo.
Buddy terrorizing Poppy



Buddy
Buddy aka Tarzan is my puppy. He's a mixed breed consisting of a King Charles Spaniel, a Bichon Frise and has a little bit of Yorkshire Terrier mixed in there somewhere. He's a ball of woolly fur and deceives everyone he meets as he looks like a teddy bear. He likes to terrorize Poppy and more often, my cat, Jack.

The technique
Vicious monster


Jack
Jack is my 4 year old cat. Named after Jack Sparrow and also Jack Black (geddit?), I first got Jack when he was just 5 weeks old (yes that is too young to be taken away from his mother but at the time I didn't know that). As a result, Jack doesn't seem to have developed like a normal cat would. He's quite lanky and has a strange meow (it sounds like a baby dinosaur). He's not a very snugly, but enjoys company when Buddy isn't around to bother him and he enjoys to have a wrestle with Poppy when he can. Jack has learnt how to open the fridge door help himself to the contents (as long as it's not in a tin or a jar). Luckily for us, Poppy has developed a built in alert button so if Jack opens the fridge she'll let us know.

Baby Jack at 5 weeks old. Fitted into the palms of my hands!
Jack "mowing" (not meowing) for food.








So that's all of them (for now!). I'll be back soon to update you on goings on at GreatbritishKids.com and also do have a look at a few more kids websites. In the meantime, if you have any questions for me, or if there are any websites you'd like me to take a look at then please leave me a comment below.

Thanks!
@Lizmundo





Thursday, 24 November 2011

PLOS, G2G! - Do You Know What Your Kids Are Saying Online?

Hi everyone! So, I was browsing on my Facebook newsfeed the other night, scrolling through endless status updates about “I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!” and came across a post from a younger relative of mine saying she thought somebody on the show was “peng” (no it wasn't Willie Carson! Haha). I think this picture of the conversation will explain what happened next...”S” is my younger relative, and “R” is my brother that lives in Germany – the reason why I say that will make sense when you read it. Oh and I'm still “Liz”!



I briefly touched upon this subject in one of my previous posts (link here), where I mentioned a new “language” kids use online today. From time to time, slang words will come back in fashion (even though they'll think they're new) and other times, like “peng” they'll make them up. This can be extremely infuriating when you're talking to a younger person and you haven't got a clue what they're wittering on about. The website Urban Dictionary (http://www.urbandictionary.com) keeps a current record of slang words and can often include acronyms too. Users rate descriptions of words up or down depending on how relevant they are at the time. As of October 2011, the website had over 6 million definitions and it's still rising, so it's worth a quick browse at the least!

Another way people (mainly kids and teens) communicate online is with the use of acronyms. To try and learn all the different ones would be pointless but here is a list of the top 15 terms for parents to watch out for if they have kids using the internet.

  1. AITR = Adult In The Room
  2. P911 = Parent Emergency
  3. PAW = Parents Are Watching
  4. PIR = Parent In Room
  5. POS = Parent Over Shoulder
  6. PLOS = Parents Looking Over shoulder
  7. PRW = Parents Are Watching
  8. MOS = Mom/Mam/Mum Over Shoulder
  9. MIRL = Meet In Real Life
  10. S2R = Send To Receive (pictures)
  11. LMIRL = (Lets) Meet In Real Life
  12. CD9 = Code 9 - (means parents are around)
  13. E or X = Ecstasy (the drug)
  14. ASL(R P) = Age Sex Location (Race / Picture)
  15. TDTM = Talk Dirty To Me
If you happen to notice your kids using any of the above terms online, if you are able to, it would be a good idea to check their chat history as sometimes, kids could tell you that the acronyms they're using will mean other things, for example, PAW (Parents Are Watching) could also mean “People Are Weird” or something else, so if you notice in their chat history that after the mention of the word “PAW” the conversation suddenly changes then it's likely they were talking or looking at something they shouldn't have.

I hope this quick post has provided some good info for you if you didn't already know these things. I'm going to try and get back to looking at more kids sites soon so if anyone has any suggestions then let me know!

Thank You

@Lizmundo


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Why Do People Bully?

 As the title suggests, in this post I will be looking into the reasons why people bully. At some point in everyone's life, they have probably bullied someone, whether they meant to or not. An example of this is my best friend, who is one of the sweetest people you could ever meet, told me that when we were younger, (i'd say about 6/7ish) she used to “bully” another girl in our class, by saying she wouldn't play with her unless she could have her bottle of Sunny Delight (her mother wouldn't buy any for her at home). At the time, she didn't realise this was bullying as she just wanted the bottle of Sunny Delight, and feels terrible about it now.

One of my other childhood friends was guilty of bullying too. He would exclude people from his group of “friends” based upon who he liked that week. If you weren’t his chosen flavour, or if you asked you would NEVER be allowed to have a crisp or a sweet from him. He had to offer you one. I have no idea why we all kept falling for this every week, but looking back it's quite laughable to think what you'll put up with as a youngster.

Bullying can stem from many different reasons, in the examples above it can create a feeling of superiority or just the fact that you can gain “gifts”. It can also be to fit in with peers, jealousy, to prevent embarrassment if they're not particularly good at something or it can be a result of a poor family background.

There is a young boy that lives in my neighbourhood, I'll call him Joe, but I don't know his real name. He's quite “weedy”, has buck teeth and is usually described as “that little git”. I've seen him on quite a few occasions standing behind a bigger boy, using him as a human shield to hurl insults at other kids. I've also seen him stood in my next door neighbours garden, ripping up their elephant grass and leaving it strewn all over the pavement outside my house, just before jumping off a grit bin and diving into an old man's hedge that he had proudly finished pruning earlier that day. However i've also witnessed him wandering the streets alone in all weathers too, with a pot noodle or a cone of chips.

I'm not condoning his actions, but I do think that his home life has a huge part to play in how he acts, so can he ultimately be to blame if he doesn't have anyone there to teach him right from wrong? The sad thing is that behaviour like this is likely to carry on into his teens and possibly into his adulthood, where he'll learn that it will be acceptable to act like this to get what he wants and won't accept authority figures.

It is the responsibility of parents to spot signals of your child bullying someone. Some of these signs include:

  • Have a positive views towards violence and may love to watch fight scenes etc.
  • Often become aggressive towards adults – including teachers or parents
  • May tend to try and dominate situations and others in a group.
  • Boy bullies tend to be physically stronger than their peers
  • Can be hot tempered, impulsive, and can get easily frustrated
  • Often test limits or break rules
  • Good at talking their way out of difficult situations
  • Show little sympathy toward others who are bullied, may say things like “they deserved it”




How To Intervine If Your Child Is A Bully

I have taken the next piece of information from a website called mychildsafety.net. It explains how parents can intervene if their child is a bully:

If you suspect your child may be bullying you have an absolute responsibility to step in and put an end to the behaviour.

If you are approached by your child’s school or another child’s family about a situation in which your child is bullying another child, be careful to not be too defensive, but at the same time, do not jump to any conclusions until you have an opportunity to discuss the situation with your child – remember there are always two sides to every story.

If after an open and honest conversation with your child, in which you must make clear the severity of the situation, you do not feel your child is truly the aggressor in the situation, work with a school counsellor or social worker to come to an appropriate conclusion to the situation.

If however, it does appear that your child has engaged in bullying behaviour it may be very difficult to accept, but you must face the situation head on.
It is in the best interest of your child and the victim to put an end to the bullying right away. Here are some guiding principles to help you with the situation:
  • Do not make excuses for your child.
  • Make it clear to your child that you take the bullying seriously and you will not tolerate this type of behaviour.
  • Maintain and consistently enforce family rules. Utilize positive reinforcement when your child follows the rules and appropriate negative consequences for breaking the rules (such as the withholding of benefits or privileges).
  • Stay involved and supportive of your child’s school and extra-curricular activities. Stay informed of what they are doing and whom they are spending time with.
  • Encourage your child to channel their energy into more positive activities, such as sports, clubs, or music lessons.
  • If the above steps do not result in noticeable, positive changes in your child’s behaviour, consult with a mental health professional.”


I hope you found this information useful and you keep the warning signs in mind. If your child is being bullied though, I know it will be difficult to keep a level head, but try and keep the other child in mind too, as they may be going through something themselves and don't know how to handle the situation or realise they're causing upset. If you are not able to resolve the issue with the child's parents then ask the school to get involved to try and remedy a problem.

Below I have included some resources for parents of bullies or bullies themselves that may be useful:

http://www.kidscape.org.uk/assets/downloads/kschildrenwhobully.pdf – PDF file which includes information on how you can stop bullying behaviour and can also help you understand it a little bit more.

http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/behavior/no_bullying.html – Link to a website with more information on how you can help stop your child from bullying.


http://www.childline.org.uk / 0800 1111 - Children can also contact childline themselves for free if they would like to speak to someone else about their problems and they won't be judged.

http://www.supportline.org.uk – This is a support website for children and adults to use which has contact numbers for different organisations dealing with problems such as anger management through to other problems such as offenders & family support.

Thank You,
@Lizmundo

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Anti Bullying Week 14th-18th November 2011

Hi again, I thought i'd type another blog about bullying as it's Anti Bullying Week this week, so it's a little late but we've still got a few days left!

This year the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) is focusing on verbal bullying, using the slogan “stop and think – words can hurt”. ABA defines bullying as “the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person by another, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. Bullying can be physical, verbal or psychological. It can happen face-to-face or through cyberspace.”

Bullying occurs everyday and it is becoming increasingly common for people, including younger children in primary school to say things like “that's gay”, call each-other “retards”, or use racial slurs in a flippant manner, without realising the meaning of the words and the hurt it can cause someone else. Remarks may not be directly aimed at someone, but it can affect them indirectly, for example, if someone used a racial slur, they might be offending someone's relative of that racial origin etc.

This sort of bullying can take place inside and outside of school. It can even occur on the internet where many people who would never bully anyone face-to-face can get involved with bullying online, whether intentional or not. Everyone needs to understand that whatever they post online is just as important as whatever they say offline and can, in some instances become a criminal offence.

Some key signs to look for if you think your child is being bullied are:

  • signs of emotional distress during or after using the internet.
  • withdrawal from friends and activities.
  • avoidance of school or social group gatherings.
  • poor grades at school and "acting out" in anger at home.
  • changes in mood, behaviour, sleep, or appetite.
  • your child may spend long periods of time at the computer, even after their bedtime, as they may not feel they are able to take themselves away from the situation.
  • if your child closes their browser or mail windows suddenly when you come near the computer. This may not be cyber bullying (it should encourage you to check your computer's internet safety settings though!), but it is worth looking out for.
  • if your child complains about aches & pains frequently. Emotional stress can in some cases result in physical disturbances, so it's worth bearing this in mind and encouraging your child to speak about any problems they're having.
  • paranoia, particularly when friends are brought up, as any kind of friendships can be become difficult to sustain if your child is being bullied.
  • your child may become emotionally distant. They may lose their drive to make friends and socialise and also have an extreme fear of humiliation or rejection. You will need to encourage your child and be supportive of them.

Children should always be able to speak to their parent or a teacher if they feel they are being bullied, unfortunately they don't always feel this is possible. A recent survey by Stonewall, a charity for gay, lesbian and bisexual people, has discovered that over half of the 150,000 gay pupils they surveyed said that they had experienced homophobic remarks, not from other pupils, but from teachers. One pupil said: “The teacher was laughing at the fact that there are homosexual people and all the other pupils were taking the mick and my twitch started up and I had to leave.”
So, it is worth noting that there are places where children can speak to someone if they are being bullied, online or offline, I will include links to some of the many organisations that are available to help young people or parents with issues of bullying at the bottom of this post

I think it's also worth pointing out what is available on GreatBritishKids.com to combat bullying and also what help and support we offer. Not only do our Cyber Security Officers (one of whom is me!) monitor the site , but we also have an alert button on every page where we can be contacted by the members, they also have links to ChildLine, Samaritans and CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection).

Part of my job is to monitor the site for bullying including subtle or passive bullying, e.g. one of our members created a poll entitled "who do you dislike the most" and listed all the people in her class at school. I took the poll off the site as it could only cause offence to the people who were voted for. I sent the member a message telling her that we had taken it down, and the reasons why. She was very apologetic and (in my opinion) genuinely did not think that it would upset anybody as it was meant to just be a bit of fun.


What can you do if your child or another young person is being bullied?
ABA's website has some useful information on what you can do if a young person comes to you saying they have been bullied:

  • Your key role is listening, calming and reassuring that the situation can get better when action is taken.
  • Provide a quiet, calm, safe place where they can talk about what is happening.
  • Make sure they know that your first concern is for their health and well-being.
  • Ask what it is that the young person wants to happen.
  • Help identify the skills the young person has at their disposal to solve the problems.
  • Discuss it with your child’s school.
  • They may worry what you think of them or think you may be angry with them, so listen carefully and show that you are hearing by ‘playing back’ to them what you hear.
  • Assure them that the bullying is not their fault and that you are there to support them.
  • Remind them of the support they can have from family and friends.
  • Help them to identify choices available to them and the next steps to take.
  • Make clear how much you value and love them.
  • Remember that you may feel pressure to take action, sometimes any action, but this may be
    unhelpful if you do not have a clear and full view of the facts – or what your child wants.
  • Above all they need to know you are there if they need you.



Useful Links & Contact Info


ChildLine
Counselling service for young people and children.
TEL: (UK) 0800 1111. Calls are free and confidential.

Samaritians
Counselling service for anyone in distress or at risk of committing suicide.
TEL: (UK) 08457 90 90 90

Kidscape
This is an organisation for help and advice for parents of bullied children.
TEL: (UK) 08451 205 204

BullyingUK
Charity organisation which provides help and support for anyone being bullied. You can have access to online support, call them on Skype and also contact them on their helpline.
TEL: 0808 800 2222. Calls are free and confidential

BeatBullying
Charity dedicated to help stop bullying. They also have another site to speak to Cyber Mentors (just like GreatBritishKids.com) where kids can speak to kids about their problems.

BullyingOnline.Org
Website which provides more helpful information and resources on bullying and links to other websites.

Stop Bullying
Online website to provide information regarding bullying.

GreatBritishKids.com
social networking website for under 18s only. Members can ask to be trained to become Cyber Mentors to provide support for other members on the site.

Anti-Bullying Alliance
Anti Bullying Alliance's website. Contains useful information for parents and resources for schools/clubs.

I hope you've found this information useful and you are able to put everything into practice.

Thank you,
@Lizmundo

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Accepted at Mumsnet & Cyber Bullying

Hi again, excellent news, Mumsnet has accepted me as a featured blogger! I'm so pleased! The only other time I've ever had anything “published” was when I was in school in year 9. We had to write a poem on any subject and it would possibly have been featured in a young poets book. I'm not very good at poems, so I scribbled something down at the last minute and it was rejected – probably because my facts about space were all wrong and made up. I can't remember what I wrote, but I think I may have made some planet names up and said something about another planet having a million moons? I re-entered the poem the year after, as I'd been studying the solar system in physics, so I was able to use actual facts and it was accepted. Although, I cringe looking at it now as it's awful, it's not really a poem, it's just a mash-up of facts (although at least they're true and I got a B in physics so I suppose it was good revision!).

A new radio volunteer joined us last week too for some work experience with our GBK Radio team to help with the production side of things. I'm not entirely sure of everything the radio team do at the moment, as they lock themselves away in their little radio production booth, but I know that they are currently working on recording new jingles for the upcoming radio shows. I'm sure whatever it is is WAY too complicated for me.

I've also been able to create a Google+ Business page for GreatBritishKids so more people can be updated on future news & press releases. Link to the page can be found here: https://plus.google.com/109528989796422524847/posts or alternatively by clicking on the Google+ badge on the menu on the right hand side of this page.

Google+ announced in August that they were rolling out a new verification badge program, making it so celebrities, public figures and those who have amassed vast quantities of people in their circles can verify their identities with a check mark and a small banner that rolls out next to their names. This sounds like an excellent idea (sounds slightly familiar too!), but as they're only offering this to extremely popular people, it's only protecting people from following fake celebrities, it doesn't necessarily protect the individuals themselves (the followers), or everyday people like you and me from speaking to normal people that claim to be someone else. However, this could be a valuable stepping stone in making the internet a safer place, as it stops the anonymity of some people which can help prevent cyber bullying.

A definition of Cyber Bullying is “the use of the Internet and related technologies to harm other people, in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner”. Unlike regular bullying, cyber bullying has the advantage (for the bully) of the ability to remain anonymous through the use of fake email account names, nicknames in chatrooms etc.

For someone at the receiving end of this torment, it can feel as though they have no other options left but to end their lives as they don't have anywhere safe to hide any more. I came across this article yesterday: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/8885876/Cyberbullying-victims-speak-out-they-were-anonymous-so-they-thought-they-could-get-away-with-it.html which talks about a girl whom was bullied over the internet to the point where she was self harming after users of the site Formspring told her that she should kill herself.

For those of you who don't know what Formspring is, it is a website where users can sign up and post under an account name or remain anonymous and post questions to other users on any topic. There is an option where users can block anonymous questions from being asked of them, however as most young people see this site as a bit of fun initially, or a test of character, they usually prefer to accept all comments. There has been a lot of controversy around this site due to the amount of suicides in which cyber bulling on websites such as Formspring is believed to be the root cause.

There is also an option to link a Formspring account up to a Facebook or Twitter account where you can invite your friends or followers to ask you anything. I have seen in the past that this gives people who you may even be friends with on Facebook, the opportunity to post nasty, anonymous questions to you. Again, like Facebook, Formspring requires new members to be 13 years or older to sign up to their services, however I also believe that like Facebook, there are many that will lie about their age to gain access.

Although Formspring itself participated in a White House Conference on Bullying Prevention. I think they need to look more at stopping bulling on their website, for both younger and older members, by moderating all comments posted on the site before allowing them to be posted to members, removing personal attacks and being more responsible for their members' safety and well-being.


Thanks for coming back again to read my posts. See you all soon!

@Lizmundo







Monday, 14 November 2011

The Ramblings Of Lizmundo - Office Plants, Jingles And More Kids Sites!

Hello again, take a seat and I shall tell you what has been happening in the world of Lizmundo. Well, last week was pretty eventful, Thursday I had the wonderful experience of one of my bosses singing a jingle to me. We've been trying to think of jingles to use on GBK radio which is a lot harder than you might think. So here is what I had to listen to: (you need to read the next bit with the jungle book tune in mind) "I'm the king of the sign ups, Yeah! the Cyber VIP, I spend my days monitoring the site and that makes me happy, keeping kids safe on GBK is what I'm here to do, I check their face by webcam, so I know who is who.........doo..be...doo I want to verify you whoo whoo, I want to check and see, who you be, it's freee eee............" I best not make comment on my boss's efforts, incase he reads this, but I'm going to try and get my creative juices going and think of a better one, but it's hard, especially when you keep thinking about other company's jingles in the process! Like this one for a skip company "Just call A Lewis Skip Hire, skip skip skip hooray, just skip the rest and try the best, and call us up today!". It has definitely been fun though, even if my boss a little cringe worthy :-)

Said boss has also given me a peace lily. I haven't named it yet.
The pretty addition to my desk

As you can see, it's very pretty but I am concerned that I'll accidently kill it. I'm hopeless with plants. I always buy them with the best intentions but they never last, just ask my venus fly trap! Hopefully it'll be different on this occasion and I might be like this with it:
Simon Pegg in Hot Fuzz with his Peace Lily

I've been feeling quite old, and learning that kids don't just use acronyms like “LOL” (laugh out loud) anymore like I used to when I was younger. I've been keeping an eye on the blogs published on our website, which is one of the features that seems to be quite popular amongst the members. They blog about typical kid things you'd expect – boys, girls, football and Justin Bieber (One Direction are also really popular), but they also use a language I'm not familiar with - mostly acronyms. One member has talked about her “BBFAL” on her blog. Now I know that “BFF” stands for Best Friends Forever, but BFFAL??? Luckily, on this occasion she's included what her acronym stood for (it stands for Best Friends Forever And Life just incase you were wondering). Normally I have to search our list we keep for these sorts of things but i have to add to it by searching online as they seem to make new ones up all the time! I have to check they're not outsmarting us! I could list a huge amount of acronyms for you to refer to but they'd only make new ones up again!

Phoebe (not her real name) has also named some other site she uses in her blog – Quizzaz. I had never heard of this before in my life so I had to Google this too!

Quizzaz as the name suggests, (well, after you see the website, it's head slappingly obvious what it is) is a website where members can create quizzes for anyone to answer. I came across one which was titled:

Don't take this quiz or you'll be scared”. So I clicked on it.
Question one:
why didn't you listen!!!!!!”
  • Because my mommy told me I could
  • I like fear
  • Because I LOVE your quizzes
  • Because I'm ugly – hmmmm....
Question three:
What's your fear?”
  • The Dark
  • Gay People – charming!
  • *is off*
  • NOTHING

After you click through the answers, the quiz will give you a result. Mine was “Gustav Shafer -
It's Ok But You Should Be Scared Anyway”.

I don't know what this means. I don't even know who Gustav Shafer is, anyway, there are lots of other quizzes on there, most of them contain swearing and other subjects which can in-bed themselves inside childrens' minds, things that they shouldn't need to worry about. For example, another quiz was titled - “what weight are you?”, the results would tell you if you were super skinny, skinny, perfect, quite fat or obese.

These quizzes are created by the members of the website so could potentially contain anything, and it doesn't seem as though these quizzes are checked to see if they're appropriate for their audiences before they are posted on the site. I joined the website to see what sort of filters they use but there were no restrictions on age to join and there weren’t any visible guidelines as to what you could/couldn't post.

What sort of message is this sending to the youth of today? That you should be scared of gay people? and you will be called fat based upon your answers to a quiz? Lovely :-(

So, that's my thoughts on Quizzaz anyway, and what I've been up to lately. I hope you also have a good week too. I will be looking into more websites this week and I will share with you what i find out.
As you can tell, I'm a bit disconnected with today's kids so I want to try and stay in the loop!

Mumsnet soon, they have a good filter in place to check bloggers before they get posted, so fingers crossed they'll like my posts!

Thanks for reading, be back soon!

@Lizmundo

Monday, 7 November 2011

Social Networking Sites - What Makes Them So Appealing?

Hi there! Monday again and the start of another new week. I caught the bus into work again this morning and due to the driver's erratic driving skills, we almost crashed. Twice. However I arrived at work in one piece.

I logged into my homepage this morning and I noticed that there had been quite a few signups over the weekend, quite a few have also been verified too. One was even verified through webcam on Skype! We are averaging at around 4 – 5000 page views a day now so the word of greatbritishkids.com must be catching on (I'm just glad it's not “the bird” anymore). Hooray!

I've been looking at some news articles over the last few days and found this one from the Daily Mail which is pretty alarming: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2056913/A-million-British-13s-use-Facebook-day.html?ito=feeds-newsxml .

For anyone that's reading this that thought “I'm not clicking that link, it's a long, boring news article!” It basically says that there are a million under 13s in Britain that uses facebook everyday. That's one in four pre-teens accessing it every single day. One user, lunepremiere from London has commented on the article and said “Notice they said a million use at least daily.. so yes, the real figure is probably higher!”. This statement is more than likely very true as most parents probably don't even realise that their child has signed up to the service.

So what makes sites such as facebook so appealing to these preteens?
Shy people like myself (although I'm not as bad now as I used to be), can bring out their extrovert personalities online e.g. by creating a blog or a page about their interests. They might speak to people from their school online that they would never have the courage to approach in real life for whatever reason. They don't have to be so afraid of being themselves as they can also go in search of other people on the internet for people with the same interests and problems as them.

The problem is, it's who they end up speaking to is the real issue. Just as it's easy for someone to reveal their true personality online, it's just as easy for someone else to hide theirs, and trick a vulnerable person into thinking that they are someone they can talk to.

There is no way of checking people's real identities on facebook, and just to prove a point, my dog even has an account! She has 42 friends and constantly gets new requests from strangers, even children sometimes. Although she has never accepted strangers onto her account, you can get my meaning of how easy it can be to get into contact with the wrong people. If you have a picture of a cute cuddly dog, people will want to speak to you and be your friend. Go figure! 






It is up to everyone to try and promote other alternative websites for pretreens and young teens to visit. Obviously I'd prefer it if they checked out greatbritishkids.com as I know from first hand experience how safe it is, but as long as they are kept safe is the main priority.


Thanks for coming back to read my posts!

@Lizmundo

Friday, 4 November 2011

Thoughts & Experiences Of Lizmundo On Internet Safety

When I was about 12/13 years old, I started using the internet at home, my parents obviously knew a lot less than I did too, as neither of them had even turned a computer on until a few years ago. We didn't have anything in the house before then and in school we could only use Microsoft Encarta – brilliant fun! When we finally got broadband at home, I used to use sites like Yahoo! Chat and spoke to quite a few dodgy characters at the time, even a few paedophiles actually, although I didn't find out who they were until a few years later.
Internet safety, and reporting suspicious people online wasn't as well heard of back then so I didn't realise I could have reported them. The Government set up CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) to deal with this and is a great source of safety material and help for all age groups. Knowing what I know now about what goes on, It's very scary to think that kids could be in the same situation today that I was 10 years ago.

I worry about my nieces & nephew using the internet as people can be so deceiving. It's so easy for kids to chat to complete strangers over the internet these days. Does your child have a Wii, an Xbox or a Playstation? All of these have chat functions, where the kids can play games with anyone around the world. They can chat to each other in real time and now even speak over headsets. Teaming up to play games is not only fun but teaches kids how to work together as a group to win a task. So I get the attraction, but all parents need to take an interest when their kids are playing online and ensure they are only playing with their true friends that they know personally. They would not ask a stranger in the street to come into their house to play a game! so why would you let them on the internet?

That's why I love working for greatbritishkids.com so much, It's only week 3, but I’m really getting stuck in. My job role is Office Supervisor, so I get to do all the normal stuff, like dealing with the mail and making sure the office filing is all in order, but I also get to monitor the site. This is where I get to check that the content of the site is appropriate for our members. The other day a member uploaded a pop song for everybody to hear, but when I listened to it, it was uncensored, the dreaded F word was being used again in a pointless fashion, so I had to take the tune down and tell the member why. I know that this website is much safer than the others because I'm doing the "keeping safe".

Yesterday the website had a huge boom of activity from new users (a local school had gotten wind of us and had handed out leaflets to every kid.) I had a pop up message from a new member, Ben*, that had logged in for the first time. He said that he loved the website as it was just like facebook. He also wanted me to play games with him. Since new members can't contact anyone on the website until they're verified, he could only contact me, so I accepted the game and he beat me. I'm no good at pool in real life either.

I also had another new member contact me to ask if she could be instantly verified by webcam. Now this was my first time with a live member, as my training had been done just using other members of staff, so this was it, I cleared my throat, checked my hair was looking good (not much I could have done with it anyway, it's always fuzzy from the dreadlocks!) and I pressed the button to launch the webcam. My face popped up in a box, then the box expanded to show a black screen, nothing just black! So I sent Alice* a text chat message, asking if she had turned on her webcam, she replied "w8, am doin it now, i'm 10. Then as if by magic, her little face appeared on my screen! amazing! I said hi Alice, what's your date of birth? she told me and I wrote it down, then I asked her one more question and that was it! in under 20 seconds little 10 year old Alice had been checked to make sure she was under 18 and was a real kid. I had a flash back to when I was first using the internet and all the horrible experiences I had with paedos pretending to be other kids, I came over all warm and felt really good about myself, that by me checking Alice was Alice, I had made her safer and all of the other members on the site. I know that when Ben gets verified and wants to talk to Alice, that they will both know that they are kids and feel safer.
So that was it, My first webcam with a member! I changed her status from 'restricted ' to 'unrestricted' and hey presto Alice was able to use the whole site!

I'm just glad I'm playing my small part now by making sure kids have positive experiences with the internet where they can be themselves, be creative and make new friends.

Let me know if you like my blog, I'm getting back into this and want to continue writing about my experiences.

@Lizmundo

*I've made the names up to protect the identity of the innocents lol.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Lizmundo's Research Into Kids' Websites: Club Penguin

Me again! Today I've been looking into the Club Penguin site from Disney which is aimed at 6-14 year olds, although any age can join.

“Club Penguin is a snow-covered, virtual world where children play games and interact with friends in the guise of colourful penguin avatars. “ - Club Penguin Website.

The main features of the Club Penguin site are similar to that of other childrens' sites such as Moshi Monsters in the sense that users can create an avatar to walk around the virtual world and communicate with others. One of the differences I noticed with Club Penguin was that they offer a “standard safe chat” and an “ultimate safe chat”. Ultimate chat prevents users from engaging in ANY chat with other players apart from sending set phrases and emoticons to each other. As well as these two options, the site also filters messages to prevent telephone numbers & other personal info from being revealed to other players. However users can add each other to their friends lists and send private messages. I'm unsure If the private messages are filtered too but after some searching around online – apparently they are, although there has been an odd occasion when the filter system has been down and players have then gone on to swear at eachother just for the sake of it.

The only downside to these safety features are when they backfire. I found out from this page: http://leladavidson.hubpages.com/hub/All_About_Kids_Website_Club_Penguin and the comments left from young players of Club Penguin that they have worked their way around the filters, and have learnt how to create their own “games” (some with more adult themes) within Club Penguin, such as having babies with other penguins, entering “slip” (strip) clubs etc. Although these things are banned within the game, the majority of the players seem to know about these things and have also created codes to “swear” e.g. “beach” is supposed to mean b*tch and so on. Using codes like this makes it hard for the moderators to moderate the chat as players aren't technically breaking the rules.

Maybe the reason why players are creating games like this within the world is due to the filter being so strict within Club Penguin in the first place that kids feel they have to come up with other ways to feel grown up? The sad thing about this is, kids are growing up before their years and moving on from sites like Club Penguin onto older social networking sites where they don't have such strict rules (allbeit they may have to lie about their age to get on them!)

Thanks for still coming back to read my posts & please let me know if there are any websites for kids/tweens or teens you'd like me to review!

@Lizmundo
Club Penguin's playable characters