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9 Apps And Websites Parents Should Know to Protect Their Kids’ Online Security

9 Apps And Websites Parents Should Know to Protect Their Kids’ Online Security

As a parent, you are concerned about the safety and well-being of your children. In this day and age, the accessibility to dangerous social media platforms makes it difficult to protect your kids’ online security. No-one wants to put their child in the way of danger, however, especially to those less tech-savvy parents, it is difficult to keep up with the amount of dangerous apps and websites that are popping up recently.

To those parents educated in the usage of social media, this is simply a reminder, however to those parents who are not well acquainted with social media, take this as a warning.

Here is a list of apps and websites every parent should know to ensure their child remains safe online:

1.) Instagram

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    A 2014 survey conducted across 41 States in America concluded that the photo-sharing network, Instagram is now the most popular social media network among 7,200 US teenagers.

    It is important to note that the minimum age of sign up is 13; therefore it is already clear that any child under this age is not suitable for an Instagram account. Upon signing up the default profile visibility is set to public. This means that any picture uploaded to the app can be seen by anyone. This can open up young children to the risk of paedophilia, cyber bullying and stalking.

    For parents who allow their children on Instagram, here are a few handy hints to make sure your child stays safe:

    • Turn their profile visibility to private. This way, only their approved followers can view their photos.
    • Make sure your children are aware of blocking users and reporting images. If your child comes across inappropriate material, they can easily block whoever was uploading the material. Be sure they report the particular photo/s as well.

    2.) Snapchat

    Snapchat_Logo.jpg
      Photo: nypost.com

      Similar to Instagram, Snapchat is a photo/video-sharing based social media platform. It involves taking a ‘snap’ and sending it to various people on your friends list. The receiver of the image/video can view it for a set amount of time (e.g. 10 seconds) before it disappears, thus the main appeal of Snapchat.

      This app also holds a 12+ age rating. The main danger of this app is that sometimes the ‘snap’ does not always completely disappear. Inappropriate use of the app can lead to harassment and bullying.

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      Snapchat published a parents’ guide which provides information on safe use of the app, but here are some the basic things a parent should know:

      • Configure Snapchat to only accept messages from users on your “My Friends” list. The last thing you want is your child receiving inappropriate and/or explicit images from a stranger.
      • Don’t expect your snaps to fully disappear. The ‘snapshot’ feature allows the receiver to save the photo to their phone. A warning message is sent to the sender; however that snap is now saved onto someone’s phone. Don’t take snaps you will regret sending later.

      3.) Tinder

      o-TINDER-APP-facebook

        Tinder is first and foremost, a dating app or a hook-up site. Therefore it is questionable as to why children 13 years old (and sometimes under, if the account holds a false age), and most importantly a minor, should be allowed to have it.

        This app locates ‘singles’ near your location. An image of a ‘single’ is shown and if you find them attractive, you ‘swipe right’. If they ‘swipe right’ to you as well, then you can message them.

        There are a number of problems this app can cause from use by children:

        First of all, it puts emphasis on the belief that they need to be physically attractive to be desired, which promotes unhealthy obsessions with appearance. It also opens them up to the dangers of meeting potentially dangerous strangers online and eventually in person.

        As a parent, you can protect your child by:

        • Emphasising the importance of ‘stranger danger’: Make sure they are wary and aware that people are not the same online as they are in person.
        • Wait until they are older: If possible, do not allow them to use the app until they are at least 16.

        4.) Kik Messenger

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          This free app is rated for people aged 17 and over, however it has been reported that its main users are actually aged 11-15.

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          Due to the fact that Kik is not too well-known among adults, it appeals to kinds and younger teens. Cyber safety consultant Martine Oglethorpe told the Sydney Morning Herald:

          ”Kids are moving away from open Facebook updates because they know their parents are watching them, and they’re moving on to Kik.”

          The use of fake names (usernames) also makes it harder to monitor their activity. However this app also draws in paedophiles and drug dealers who can communicate with and influence these children.

          If your child is insistent on using the app, then you can try these alternatives:

          • Don’t be the oblivious parent. Educate yourselves about the social media your children and other children use.
          • Set boundaries. Make sure you come to an agreement about how the app is used, e.g. no inappropriate or explicit messaging especially when it comes to strangers.
          • Educate them about strangers. Don’t let them meet up with strangers. That should be the most important aspect of all.

          5.) Yik Yak

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            This app is free to use, requires no registration and allows total anonymity. Yik Yak connects up to 500 nearby user to an anonymous chat room. The lack of registration allows users of any age to use the app, making it popular among younger teens regardless of the 17+ age recommendation. According to Yik Yak co-founder Brooks Buffington,

            “The app was made for college-age users or above, for college campuses and to act as a virtual bulletin board, so it acts as local Twitter for their campus.”

            It is easy to realize therefore that the app can be easily misused by younger people.

            The biggest problem regarding this app is the case of cyberbullying. The anonymity of users makes it impossible to trace the writer of offensive content and it can be distributed over a wide array of viewers. Used irresponsibly, this can cause major problems with rumors and inappropriate online behavior.

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            Important factors that parents should take into consideration include:

            • Letting them know that bullying anyone is not okay: no one likes a bully, and it will come back to them in one way or another
            • If they’re being bullied, make sure they let someone know: if you’re the victim, it might be best to stay away from the app and seek help.

            6.) Ask.FM

            Ask.fm_Logo

              Ask.fm is a popular question-and-answer website and app popular among young teenagers due to the basis of anonymity. The website’s terms of service places the age restriction to 13 years of age. The website’s most prominent audience ranges from the ages of 13-25, with 50% of registered users under the age of 18. This particular site has featured prominently in the media for being linked to a handful of suicides involving young teenagers. While the questions are posted anonymously, the actual user asked the questions cannot increase privacy settings. Again, this opens up a platform for extreme bullying and harassment by people who are impossible to track.

              For parents with children who use this site, you might want to:

              • Communicate with your child/teen: ensure they are safe on the site and are not experiencing harassment.
              • Don’t let them continue if it gets too bad: if the bullying increases, simply remove them from the site. It would solve a lot of issues.

              7.) Chatroulette

              chatroulettemoose

                The first thing parents need to know about Chatroulette is that it has been dubbed a “predator’s paradise”. User must be at least 16 years old and have to agree not to broadcast explicit material; however any of these barriers can be by-passed by fake accounts and can expose young children to child molesters.

                The site works by allowing the user to randomly chat with individuals as they appear on the screen. The communication can be through text, audio, and/or video. This site is renowned for widespread inappropriate sexual behavior and can be mentally and emotionally scarring for children.

                As a parent:

                • Be aware of your child’s internet activity: if you are aware that your child is using the site, especially under-aged, you might want to have a serious conversation about it.
                • Warn them of the dangers of webcam: you really don’t want to scar your child for life, so make they know the dangerous consequences of chatting to strangers on a webcam.

                8.) 4chan

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                  4chan is an anonymous image message board notorious for its controversial content. It is known to contain posts that can be described as vulgar, stupid and occasionally dangerous. Trends and ideas are quickly spread through users of the site that then incorporate this knowledge into day-to-day life.

                  A more recent example includes the ‘bikini bridge’ trend, which puts a large amount of pressure on health-consciousness and body-image issues.  At the most impressionable adolescent age, it is impractical to think that your child will know well enough to be wary of internet traps.

                  It also opens up a platform for negative thoughts and actions. This has implications for the development of depression and even suicide.

                  It is important for parents to remember that:

                  • These sites are not suitable for children: remember the types of content this page displays. You do not want to be exposing your child to explicit material.
                  • Observe your child: if they begin displaying worrisome behavior picked up from online trends, make sure you talk to them about being reasonable.

                  9.) Omegle

                  omegle2

                    This chatting site identifies you as simple “You” and the stranger you are talking to as simply “Stranger”. This anonymous chat can take place as either a text or video conversation. If that doesn’t ring enough warning bells, being anonymous does not stop users from sharing name, age and location through the actual message.

                    Users of Omegle must be over 13 with parental consent until the age of 18; however it is not likely that teenagers will actually ask their parents for permission.

                    Once again, this opens up the potential for stranger danger.

                    Parents of children who use Omegle please be aware:

                    • Internet predators are tricky: you do not want your child drawn in by internet predators, so don’t allow your children to meet up with stranger unaccompanied, no matter what the circumstances are.
                    • It is dangerous to share private information: you don’t want creeps showing breaking into your house in the middle of the night because your child has given their address. Private information is very valuable, and they should know when and when not to share it.

                    Featured photo credit: forbes.com via blogs-images.forbes.com

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                    Elizabeth Andal

                    Elizabeth is a passionate writer who shares about lifestyle tips and lessons learned in life on Lifehack.

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                    Published on September 25, 2020

                    10 Best VPNs to Browse the Internet More Securely

                    10 Best VPNs to Browse the Internet More Securely

                    When it comes to digital security, public Wi-Fi networks aren’t safe enough, making it much easier for hackers to access your personal data. Whether you are studying in a library or scrolling through Facebook in a coffeehouse, it is vital to have a VPN installed on your device.

                    VPNs work wonders when it comes to securing your internet connection. By creating an encrypted tunnel between a remote server run by the VPN service, they protect your personal data from prying eyes. There is a variety of VPNs available on the web, and we have collated a list of the best VPNs that stand out from the rest.

                    How to Choose a VPN

                    • Free trial period – Free trials allow you to try the product risk-free. The same idea technically applies to those with 30-day full refunds as well.
                    • Speed – You want your VPN to be just as fast as the internet speed at home. Good quality VPNs are ones where you see little difference between those speeds.
                    • Device connection – Of course, the more devices that can connect to VPNs, the better. It increases the customers’ coverage and the product’s value. You also want to consider compatibility since fewer VPNs may work for Mac or Windows only.
                    • Number of servers – The number of servers determines how much capacity a VPN can handle while you are connected. The more servers there are, the more users it can handle without running into potential disconnections or slow speeds.
                    • Kill switch feature – Having this feature means that your IP address isn’t exposed if the VPN disconnects for some reason. A lack of this feature is a big deal since the whole reason why you’re paying for a VPN is to hide your IP address, among other things. (Find out how to avoid getting tracked online here: Big Brother Is Watching You Online: How To Avoid Being Tracked)

                    Why You Should Trust Us

                    Our hand-picked VPNs are incredibly efficient and offer such distinctive features that grant you safe browsing. They outperform many VPNs in terms of both speed and security. Their primary aim is to provide you the utmost security, thus enabling you to surf the web safely and prevent any potential threat from causing harm.

                    Among the best VPNs’ many unique features include split tunneling, strict logging policies, high encryption level, and availability of international servers. We have gathered them in this article to enlighten our readers and offer the best pieces of advice before you get one. Therefore, take our word for it, and if you go for a VPN mentioned below, you’d be fully appeased.

                    1. NordVPN

                    The most popular VPN on the market these days is NordVPN, and it’s easy to see why. It has widespread coverage, offering a selection of over 5,000 servers spanning across 59 countries.[1] Due to the high number of servers, its speed is similar to your Wi-Fi at home.

                    Lifehack’s CEO, Leon, has been using NordVPN for many years and wants to recommend it for its remarkable server count in different locations with no-logs policy. The VPN perfectly works with Netflix and Fire TV stick, too.

                    NordVPN is also compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux. You can download the app onto Chrome, Firefox, Android, and Mac OS. Thanks to its massive coverage, it’s easy to connect multiple devices onto these servers.

                    In terms of pricing, while NordVPN doesn’t have a free trial period, they argue that their plans are considerably cheaper than those of their competitors. For example, a one-year plan for ExpressVPN costs $8.32 per month, but NordVPN only charges $6.99 monthly.

                    NordVPN has a new protocol called NordLynx that is based on WireGuard with speed benefits, though it’s still under development.[2] If you’re looking for general quality and affordability, this is one of the best VPNs around.

                    Buy this VPN.

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                    2. ExpressVPN

                    ExpressVPN is the second-best option out there for keeping your privacy while browsing the internet. Like many other VPNs here, they will encrypt your IP address, offer vast coverage, and can have multiple devices connected to their servers.

                    Compared to NordVPN, while the pricing point is higher, ExpressVPN’s biggest selling point is the number of countries that their connection covers. Depending on where you are in the world, this may be the only option you have. They have fewer servers — 160, to be precise — but they make up for the low server count by covering 94 countries.[3]

                    Cost-wise, your best bet is to go with the yearly plan where they charge $8.32 a month. They also have one- and six-month plans.

                    Buy this VPN.

                    3. Surf Shark

                    With regards to Surf Shark, you can connect multiple devices to its servers, and it’s compatible with Windows, Linux, and Mac. It is also available on Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, and FireTV.

                    Furthermore, Surf Shark can whitelist apps and sites, letting them bypass the VPN. This, along with the lines of split-tunneling, is another feature that many VPNs offer. The difference is that Surf Shark allows you to whitelist specific apps or any website, while most VPNs will whitelist all sites or none at all.

                    The other consideration for this app is the price. While lower-tier plans are more expensive compared to others, Surf Shark’s 24-month plan is priced at $2.69 a month, so it’s cheaper than even NordVPN’s equivalent plan!

                    Buy this VPN.

                    4. CyberGhost

                    Another top-reviewed VPN is CyberGhost. They’ve been around for 15 years and have fine-tuned their offers and features to stay competitive. They provide the standard package of browsing the web and logging into accounts safely and give you access to regionally blocked content.

                    The network also maintains security from hackers, malware, and phishing. Aside from that, you can connect multiple devices, and it’s compatible with all kinds of platforms.

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                    What separates CyberGhost from the others is their extensive coverage. They have multiple servers, and the pricing point is still very low. It covers over 88 countries and has roughly 6200 servers for you to choose from, all while charging $2.75 for their 18-month plan.

                    Buy this VPN.

                    5. IPVanish

                    IPVanish’s prime purpose is to give users online freedom by providing fast speeds and private connections. It’s clear that they can meet that promise as they provide many of the features that have been listed previously from their competitors.

                    IPVanish is a part of SugarSync now. What is that, you may ask? It’s a cloud-based service that syncs files across devices and computers for sharing, backup, and many more. What this means is that other devices can access various files and videos so long as they are connected to your specific VPN. Furthermore, it can serve as a backup plan if you get hacked or lose your device for some reason.

                    Buy this VPN.

                    6. Private Internet Access

                    Private Internet Access (PIA) is a remarkably generous company in many ways. Aside from the obvious features, they offer great incentives and discounts for people to try out their products. They claim to be the most trustworthy and reliable VPN around, and we believe that.

                    One notable thing is that PIA offers a free two-month trial. Compared to other VPNs to this point, none have provided free trials (though all come with a 30-day money-back guarantee). On top of that, small businesses can avail of their VPN at a discounted rate. There is also the fact that their pricing plans go as low as $2.69 a month for two years, and they let you pay with gift cards.

                    In terms of specs, PIA has over 2695 servers that cover 47 countries right now.

                    These particular aspects make PIA unique and one of the best VPNs to consider.

                    Buy this VPN.

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                    7. Hotspot Shield

                    Hotspot Shield is all about offering protection while you’re browsing the internet or using streaming services like Netflix. The encryption is military-grade, and its speed is ultra-fast. In truth, it is even marketed as one of the fastest VPNs.

                    Hotspot Shield offers a plan that only costs  $7.99 a month; however, it’s one of the few in this list to provide its services for free. Like other Freemium apps, the free version comes with limited features. That said, it gives you a much better feel for the VPN.

                    Also, take note that the encryption feature is still there, though the limitations in the free plan include connecting to one location in the US and having limited streaming options and speed.

                    Buy this VPN.

                    8. TunnelBear

                    As unusual as a name choice for an online security protection service can be, TunnelBear is nothing short of incredible. It makes our list of the best VPNs for various reasons.

                    The biggest one is that the company goes through a yearly security audit. This is notable because many VPNs don’t bother about independent audits to ensure their systems are secure and safe from any issues. This is critical as VPNs have gotten some bad reputation over the years, as TunnelBear has noted in their post about their security audit.[4] The fact that they are doing this annually ensures that nothing is being compromised.

                    Furthermore, TunnelBear offers limited services for free, but even their paid plans are pretty cheap. For individuals, you’re merely paying $3.33 per month. The only catch is that you can connect five devices regardless of which paid plan you pick.

                    Buy this VPN.

                    9. Norton

                    Norton has been on the security scene for some time, and it’s actually one of the founders of the internet security industry. It started with virus and malware protection in 1991 and has since branched off to other sectors as the industry has shifted.

                    As you might expect from a company that’s been around for a long time, Norton provides excellent services, and a few of their other services have gone into the VPN package. In reality, Norton is the only one thus far to offer a password manager with their VPN services. They provide 50GB of cloud storage as well.

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                    Norton has one of the cheapest VPNs, considering you can get their deluxe plan at $49.99 per year. That comes up to roughly $4.17 a month. It might be slightly higher than other equivalent plans, but you get a lot of extra value that makes it worth the price.

                    Buy this VPN.

                    10. StrongVPN

                    The final VPN we want to cover is StrongVPN. Like many others, it’s great at blocking unnecessary web traffic and providing a fast and simple solution to navigating the internet without any hindrance.

                    StrongVPN has over 900 servers. It is available in more than 30 countries and compatible with all devices. Beyond that, the only notable selling point it has compared to others is that it also offers Sugarsync services and 250GB of storage, irrespective of your chosen plan.

                    As for the pricing, their year-long plan costs $5.83 a month, while their month-long one is $10.

                    Buy this VPN.

                    Bottom Line

                    Getting online protection is important these days, and companies recognize this.

                    With more hacks and breaches occurring every single day, the best VPNs can provide an excellent haven for many people who value their security and privacy.

                    We hope that by putting together this list, you’ll be able to find the best VPN that you can trust and enjoy using. As you can see, there are several great options with no real wrong one out there. Pick the VPN that’s best for you.

                    Featured photo credit: Petter Lagson via unsplash.com

                    Reference

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