Internet & Phone Safety
Attractive new mobile apps and social networking sites are part of today’s technology, but some apps pose significant risks to children. Unsuspecting teens can be exposed to malicious, anonymous postings including cyber bullying, sextortion, or pornography.
Cheezo suggests parents take time to regularly review their child’s electronic devices and familiarize themselves with apps being used. Apps requiring a password are a red flag that may require further action.
Below are some of the latest Internet or phone trends and apps that Cheezo has encountered in Jefferson County:
This free app is a storage center for photos that users want to hide. KeepSafe requires a password. One of the most important things Cheezo tells kids is “If you have to hide it, don’t take it.” While children desire the freedom to make their own online decisions, parents recognize this can put them in danger.
Cheezo continues to see teenagers making bad decisions when using their iPods. Many parents are surprised to find their children turning their iPod into a texting instrument by downloading free applications like “Text Free,” “textPlus,” or “Text Now.”
If teens have lost their cell phone privileges, or simply are not allowed to have a cell phone, they may be downloading free texting applications on their iPod, turning it into a texting instrument unbeknownst to their parents. Teens often download these free texting applications to hide the content of the text messages they are sending.
Even parents who are vigilant in checking their teen’s cell phone messages sometimes are unaware their teen is text messaging from a free application. New applications come out every day and teenagers generally find them and use them before we even know they exist. It’s good practice to not only check the messages and mail on your teenager’s phone, but all applications.
Geotagging adds geographical identification to digital media such as photographs, videos, websites, and SMS messages. Smart phones and digital cameras have a global positioning satellite (GPS) feature that makes geotagging possible by providing latitude and longitude coordinates. After posting media, geotagging can share your exact home address, school address, work address, and places you frequent with strangers it the geotagging feature is functioning on the phone. Cheezo recommends disabling the geotagging feature by visiting a Geotag Security website.
Ask.fm is a question and answer format in which users interact by inviting others to ask or answer anonymous questions. Ask.fm is a foreign-based site that offers an anonymous channel for teens to communicate with friends or strangers without their parents’ knowledge. When a user registers, they are provided a URL that can be copied to a teen’s Facebook or Instagram page, providing direct anonymous access to the unsuspecting teen.
In addition, upon registering, extensive personal information is published on the site. Anyone signed up can see the information, including photos or video, making Ask.fm a likely tool for child predators. The site offers no method for reporting offensive comments or threats, there is no censorship or cyber accountability, and they offer only limited privacy settings or identity controls.
The location services settings on cellphones and tablets can broadcast the location of a user and can be changed intentionally or inadvertently. It is important to understand these privacy settings so you or your child do not unknowingly provide your exact location to a stranger.
The device has its own location services feature, as do most apps. You can turn off location services completely, or on an app-to-app basis. Each time a new app is added, you should check to ensure the location services setting is turned off for that app.
Many children and teenagers frequent popular game sites online such as Club Penguins and Runescape. Many of these sites allow users to communicate with others who are also playing online. We tell children and teenagers that if they choose to communicate with others, talk only about the game. If someone asks how old you are, your name, where you live, or any other personal information, children should reply that they are only wanting to play the game.
The JCSO CHEEZO Unit warns parents about an app called IRL (In Real Life).
Many students have inquired about getting unsolicited text messages from the IRL app specifically addressing them by name.
This app is concerning as when accepting the app it accesses identity, contacts, location, photos/media/files, camera and device ID and call information. On allowing access to these areas you are allowing strangers to have access to your personal information, your location and your contacts which provides strangers their information and ability to contact them.
According to IRL’s frequently asked questions page, someone can receive a text from IRL for a number of reasons, including if: “one of your friends (who has your phone number in their contacts list) added you as a friend on the app, invited you to something on the app, or nominated you through the app.” A person may automatically send a text to everyone they added as a friend on the service.