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 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.

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!

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

Monday, 5 December 2011

Lizmundo's Research Into Teen Website:

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:

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

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.”


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

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!