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Internet Safety

Teens Use Burner Phones To Hide Online Behavior From Parents

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 12, 2019  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

Are you a parent that believes taking your teen’s device is a punishment?

Think again! This is one of the reasons burner phones are on the rise among young people.

As a tech-savvy parent, you’ve established rules with your teens about responsible cell phone usage and drawn up a detailed family contract. And by all accounts it seems to be working.

But teenagers can be ingenious about getting around the rules, and many of today’s teens turn to burner phones as a workaround to parental limitations. Here’s how to discover if your child has found this alternative, plus some tips on curbing the habit.

What Is a Burner Phone?

Burner phones are cheap, prepaid mobile phones you can discard once you’re done using them. They offer access to Wi-Fi and a phone number that can’t be traced to the individual using the device.

There are a few good reasons to use a burner phone. If you’re buying or selling something on Craigslist, for instance, having an untraceable number offers a degree of safety when communicating with strangers.

However, their anonymity and low cost make burner phones ideal for teenagers looking for a way to sneak around behind their parents’ backs. And that anonymity can get kids into problematic situations where they don’t have a parental lifeline to keep them safe.

Why Do Teens Turn to These Disposable Devices?

Teens consider cell phones a virtual lifeline, and many experience fear of missing out (FOMO) without them. A 2018 Pew Research Center survey found some eye-opening stats about teens and social media:

  • 81% say social media makes them feel more connected.
  • Approximately 2/3 of teens say online friends give them support in difficult times.

 Losing cell phone access as a punishment—and effectively losing access to their online networks—is one reason why teens may acquire a burner phone. But they might also buy second phones to maintain secret social media accounts. A finsta (fake Instagram), for example, is a private account where kids post content that only certain people have access to.

Teens may also turn to burners if they’re engaging in activities they think parents won’t approve of—getting involved in drugs or alcohol, or pursuing romantic relationships.

Some of these habits can be dangerous, putting kids in a place where they can be taken advantage of. Burner phones can also create a space for cyberbullying to go unnoticed, and thus unchecked. 

How Can You Know Your Child Is Using a Burner Phone?

If you’ve ever taken away your teen’s phone, you’re familiar with them pleading to get it back. If they suddenly stop doing so, that’s a hint they may be using a burner phone. Here are a few other ways to discover they’ve gotten a second phone:

  • Look for a dip in data use. Check your wireless carrier for overall data usage and details about specific applications. A decrease in visits to your teen’s favorite social media site may point to use of a burner phone.
  • Check your child’s other apps. Burner phones aren’t the only way to communicate anonymously; there are multiple apps that let you set up a temporary number. If your child has an app like Burner or Hushed, it’s possible they’re doing something that requires anonymity—which could be a red flag. 

What Can You Do to Manage the Behavior?

  1. Maintain consistent rules of use. If you’ve gone to the trouble of setting ground rules, then stick with them and make sure the consequences for breaking them are fair and applicable to everyone in the family. Consistency equals credibility. 
  1. Help your teen set boundaries. Encourage your child to understand and embrace core values that will drive healthy online interactions. If your child can feel okay about posting online because they always consider how it will reflect upon them first, they’ll have less interest in setting up secret accounts.
  1. Reward honesty. Let your kids know they can come to you when they’ve made a mistake online, such as going to an inappropriate website. Being able to do so without risking punishment will maintain the level of communication that pays dividends in all kinds of parent-child interactions—not just those related to cell phones.

At the end of the day, this burner phone trend is more about behaviors than devices. If you can set clear expectations and have open conversations about smart phone conduct, you’ll see a lot more progress than if you focus solely on managing your kids’ access to a phone.

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Contributor: Hilary Bird is a digital journalist who writes about the things that fascinate her the most: relationships, technology, and how they impact each other. As more and more people become more and more reliant on their tech devices, Hilary wants to help them stay safe and understand how these devices will reshape the way we communicate.

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Hidden Apps Used By Teens

Posted by Sue Scheff on February 20, 2019  /   Posted in Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Internet Addiction, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

Hidden Apps Used By Teens

“Our teens may always be an app ahead of us, they may always be more cyber-savvy than us — but they will always need our offline wisdom when facing difficult online choices and challenges.” – Sue Scheff, founder of P.U.R.E.

By Hannah Ball, Tri-County Times, MI

Hidden apps, also known as “ghost” apps, are resources kids use to hide conversations and photos from parents and adults.

As technology improves, the methods of cyberbullying and child pornography have become more high-tech. Online predators will often monitor minors’ social media, such as Twitter and Instagram, start a conversation with them, and become friends with them.

These predators will “catfish” these kids, meaning they’ll use photos of a young boy, to trick the kids into thinking they’re talking to someone they’re not. They will invite these children to join online chat rooms or talk via ghost apps, where they oftentimes ask the child to send them a nude or sexy photo.

Child pornography is illegal to have on a device, even if the owner of the device is the one in the photo.

Ghost apps

Det. Sgt. Lizabeth Rich with the Michigan State Police is on the Cyber Computer Crimes Unit/Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

“The most popular app we see is the calculator app,” she said. “We see it mostly with teenage kids, high-school age children.”

Rich recommends looking through your child’s phone settings to the storage page. If there’s an app, which is seemingly innocuous like a calculator, that uses a couple gigabytes of data, “that is generally the very first red flag that it is an app being used to disguise whatever activity.”

It’s also smart to open every app on the phone.

“If you open one and you have to use a pass code, that’s your first indicator that something is hidden there,” she said.

Spy Calc looks like a calculator and works as one, but if you put in a certain code, you can unlock hidden photos and videos. Another app, Hide It Pro, can hide other troubling apps your child doesn’t want you to see. These are called camouflage apps.

Look for apps like Keepsafe, Line, Whisper, Kik Messenger, and Smart Hide Calculator. They are hidden apps, or apps used to secretly send messages, photos and videos.

Be wary of Snapchat because those photos, videos and messages disappear after the receiver looks at them. Snapchat and Instagram are the most popular apps among children right now, Rich said.

“We see it (Instagram) being abused all the time. You can do secret chats on Instagram as well,” she said.

How to see if your child’s phone has hidden apps

Check their phones for duplicate apps, such as two calculators.

Go to the Google Play or Apple Store on their phone and search for apps using keywords “hidden apps,” “vault apps” or “private photos.” If the word “get” or “install” appears next to it, the app is not on their phone. If the word “open” or “uninstall” appears next to the app, the app is on their phone and they could be using it.

Recent sex trafficking operation found

Recently, seven men were charged with running a child pornography ring that took place in Michigan from 2015 to 2018, according to the FBI. This group would pretend to be teenagers on social media, such as Instagram, and invite female minors to visit chat rooms on a specific website.

The group would dare the girls to do various sexual acts on camera. Some people recorded the videos and distributed it to others.

Source: learningliftoff.comcirca.com

Being an educated digital parent is imperative in today’s world of technology. Raising Humans In A Digital World is one tool (book) that can help you stay a step ahead of your tween and teenager.

Diana Graber, co-founder of Cyberwise and Digital Literacy Middle School teacher,  uses a friendly approach to parenting that helps us offline as well as online better understand how young people are living their cyber-lives.

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Teens Are Live Streaming More Than Ever: The Security Risks

Posted by Sue Scheff on October 14, 2016  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens

teenlivestream

Livestreaming allows the world to be everyone’s stage. Events can be watched in real-time as the action unfolds. From a baby’s first crawl to a violent police arrest, the world watches and waits for more.

The danger, however, is that once an event is streamed live for the public, there is no going back. Adults understand the boundaries, but teens—with their brains still developing—struggle to always understand the harmful repercussions of the live stream.

Teens and tweens live online. Their world is posted on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter…all the social media forums. Today’s generation of e-centric kids don’t know the meaning of true privacy. They share. Too much and too often.

The harm of livestreaming is numerous. Not only are kids and teens putting their image out for the world to see, but they also document moments that should remain private. Secrets that friends disclose might find a way online. Fights at school, also are popular via livestream.

The cell phone is Pandora’s Box. Capable of shooting pictures, capturing video and posting everything online. The boundaries blur. Teens don’t know when not to hit send.

teenlivestream2In June 2015, two teens from Utah were arrested for burglary and theft. They decided to break into an ice-cream truck and steal the ice-cream. Of course, they taped their shenanigans and livestreamed the whole crime.

A few months ago, three teens allegedly live streamed intimate acts on Facebook. In another twisted case, a girl was accused of livestreaming her friend’s rape. Both cases resulted in police investigations.

For parents, the trouble with technology and live streaming lies in the naivete of kids. Teens, tweens and younger kids do not have the capacity to always make great decisions. Their minds are in the midst of developing…they are in a mental war about right and wrong. Impulse, unfortunately, usually wins out in the fight.

Parents must talk to their kids about personal boundaries, private information and what can and should be shared online. A teen might think that a fight is cool, and because it seems cool then it should be shared. Parents need to be prepared for their kids to be in these situations…with their cell phones.

Fights, abuse and crazy things have always happened. Today, the issue is that these things are easily documented, and teens are often the ones documenting them. Fifteen years ago, teens were not all armed with individual recording devices. Now they are, and parents must prepare them for the responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with technology.

Role playing is a great way to teach kids responsibility and help them understand how to respond in a tough situation. Parents should make up cards with scenarios on them depicting scenes that a teen might see at school or in the world. Have the teen choose a card and then act it out.

When role playing, discuss how technology plays a unique role and how the consequences of an action can magnify online. Discuss with teens what is the right and wrong action according to laws in the state. Always educate teens on the laws; they must abide by them, and they can absolutely be prosecuted under them.

Use the controversy and the popularity of live streaming to also discuss personal and private information. Set boundaries as a family about what information can and cannot be shared online. Talk about oversharing. Discuss respect and what it means in friendships and families.

Teens and tweens are very much guided by their peers. However, they look to their parents for support and security. Many teens have found legal troubles from live streaming. Be open with kids about the dangers and harm of sharing too much and using the world as a stage.

Once a video live streams online, it can never be taken back. The internet is forever, and the results can be life changing in the worst ways.

*****

amywilliamsContributor:  Amy Williams, a journalist and former social worker passionate about parenting and education.

Follow her on Twitter.

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Teens Ordering Drugs Online: Don’t Be A Parent In Denial

Posted by Sue Scheff on January 24, 2016  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Internet Safety, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

onlinepharmacyThe Internet is today’s new playground for today’s youth. From Club Penguin to Instagram to Snapchat to our teen’s looking for more ways to have excitement offline.

Prescription drug use isn’t just in your medicine cabinet or street drugs…. teens are ordering drugs online.

Researchers from Columbia University spent five years searching the Internet for websites that advertise and sell prescription drugs. They found 365. Eighty-five percent of them did not require a doctor’s prescription or proof of age, even though people were buying powerful narcotics. (CRC Health)

Psychology Today reported that kids as young as sixth graders were ordering drugs online.

What can parents do to help prevent this behavior?

  • Talk to your kids. Explain what’s wrong with buying medications illegally, in terms they can understand. Tell them in no uncertain terms that you strictly forbid them to buy drugs on the Internet. Be specific about the consequences (your choice here), and make it clear that disciplinary actions will be enforced on the very first violation.
  •  If you suspect or find out that option 1 isn’t working, move the computer out of the kids’ bedrooms and into common spaces (living room, kitchen, etc.). Tell them that the computer will remain in a common area for a set period of time, so that you can monitor their Web use.
  • If options 1 and 2 aren’t working, check the computer’s browser history. Yes, this is spying. But if you believe your child is really involved in an illegal activity, you have an obligation to investigate.  (Keep in mind, safety trumps privacy. This is about your child’s welfare). This shouldn’t be used because you are simply snooping for no reason – you are rising losing your child’s trust.

(Source – Psychology Today)

If you find that you have exhausted your local resources, including therapy, or your teen is simply out-of-control, you may want to consider residential therapy. Contact us for a free consultation to determine if this is an option for your family.

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5 Ways to Protect Your Teenager Online

Posted by Sue Scheff on November 14, 2015  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

TeenOnlineSafetyAn astonishing 75 percent of teenagers have access to smartphones and 24 percent of teens go online “almost constantly.” As a parent of a teenager in this constantly evolving cyber world, it’s overwhelming and frightening thinking of all the potential threats compromising your teens digital and physical security. A Pew Research study found that 90 percent of children have witnessed or experienced cyber bullying within the last year and a study by Drexel University found that 54 percent of minors have reported sexting.

Here are five ways to protect your teenager online:

Take Advantage of Smartphone Applications

There are a variety of free and paid applications that provide parents with a wide range of access to their teenager’s mobile phone activity.

If you’re concerned about your teen stumbling upon adult content, K9 Browser is a free application that blocks adult content and is available for smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. For more thorough access to your teen’s activity, the Norton Family Parental Control application’s paid version allows parents to see the sites their teen is visiting from the computer or mobile device but also allows you to block sites and see text messages.

Create a Contract

Before your teenager receives their first mobile device or personal computer, create a contract spelling out each of your expectations. According to the Family Online Safety Institute, almost 50 percent of teenagers are not concerned that their online reputation today will hurt future goals and 58 percent feel it is safe to post photos or intimate details online. A written and signed contract makes it very clear to your teenager what your expectations are in regard to online activity.

Stay Informed & Up-to-date

Setting up guidelines, boundaries and privacy software is not enough. The Internet and cyber criminals are changing so fast that as soon as you have a grasp on the newest social media or application and its potential threats or privacy terms, it has already evolved. To stay up-to-date on the latest cyber security news and tips, bookmark LifeLock Unlocked.

Mark All Profiles as Private

The most important takeaway for your teenager, is that nothing is temporary online. Even if they delete a post, a photo or an account, it can be easily retrieved and anyone can copy or save it. Besides filtering what he or she posts, ensure your teenager’s online profiles are private. Do not rely on the site’s default settings and adjust settings accordingly. Stress to your teen that this does not mean what he or she posts is now “safe” but it does make it more difficult for individuals to access.

Safeguards Passwords & Change Them Frequently

Identity theft is just as much of a threat for your teenager as it is for adults. Teach your teen how to choose safe and secure passwords that are changed every three to six months to ensure maximum security. Advise your teen not to share passwords with anyone besides parents or guardians.

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Teens and Online Gaming

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 27, 2015  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help

OnlineGaming2It’s not Game Boy and it’s certainly not simplicity of the game of Operation.  Yes, I said the simplicity of it, since compared to today’s digital gaming, Operation was a walk in the park.

Online gaming is not only fun and thrilling for the player it can be addictive as well as risky if they are not careful.

Why?  They are interacting with virtual strangers and they have the common sense and maturity to know when to click-out if you feel uncomfortable.

When you look in your living room, are your teens and tweens immersed in a video game on a console, computer, or cellphone?

Chances are, the games they’re playing have online connectivity. Gartner reports that a large portion of the $111 billion video game market consists of online games. 38 percent of minors enjoy video gaming as a hobby, according to the Entertainment Software Association, and there’s plenty of benefits to encouraging them to play online enabled games.

They provide your kids with entertainment, socialization, computer skill development, and brain stimulating activities. Unfortunately, these socialization elements also open your tweens and teens up to certain risks and dangers, such as becoming a victim of hacking or social engineering.

Knowing how to protect your tweens and teens and developing their own risk- aware skills is an essential part of safe online gaming.

VideoGamesChecking Appropriate Content

Online games span many genres, from a hidden object game by iWin to MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft. Pay close attention to the rating and types of content and concepts presented in the game your teens and pre-teens are playing. Consider playing along with your children to see exactly what information your kids are picking up, as well as steering them to age appropriate games if the content is not suitable for them. The Entertainment Software Rating Board handles video game ratings, starting at EC for early childhood and going up to AO for adults only.

Checking for Chat Rooms

Many online games have chat rooms or messaging functions to provide social interaction with other gamers. Online games with parental controls allow you to filter out bad language, block private messages, and control whether your child gets chat room capability or not. This is another way of ensuring your kids aren’t exposed to inappropriate content. Some games also allow you to mute specific players if a particular individual is harassing your child.

Time Monitoring

The allure of online gaming makes it easy for your children to spend many hours playing all of the games at their disposal. Track the amount of time that they play through parental monitoring software. Some games, such as World of Warcraft, allow you to prevent an account from being played past a daily or weekly amount, or restricting the time of day that the child can log in. This helps you keep your kids happy with their favorite activities while not allowing it to take up all of their free time.

Avoiding Hackers

Online gaming portals provide hundreds of games through a single website. Some of these games play directly in the browser, while others are downloaded and installed on your computer. Keep the computer anti-virus running to avoid downloads and browser plugins with viruses and trojans attached. Read through gaming portal reviews to find legitimate sites, or check gaming magazines and blogs for this information. Check for https encryption when your child logs into the site, and handle downloadable game installations yourself to stop companion software, such as toolbars, from getting installed.

Check Game Emails

Some online game services send out emails informing players of new developments, specials, and updates. Phishers take advantage of this by posing as official game representatives and tricking users into providing account information. Monitor the email address your child used to sign up with a service, and screen any emails for phishing attempts.

OnlineGamingWant to know if a game is age appropriate for your child?  Visit Common Sense Media for a ratings review.

If you suspect your child is addicted to video games, don’t hesitate in getting help.  If they refuse to attend or it is doesn’t seem to be helping, please contact us to determine if residential therapy would help.  There are digital detox programs.

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Should You Read Your Teen’s Text Messages or Emails?

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 25, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help

TeenWritingGenerations earlier the question would be, should you read your teen’s diary or journal?

In today’s digital lifestyle, some may not even know what a diary looks like.  This is sad since a diary has many benefits for youth.  There was recently an article about why all children should keep a journal, and most importantly, it does take them offline and keep their information private.

Either way, the question is the same, when is it appropriate to invade your child’s private space?

It always comes back to when safety trumps privacy.

Our teens deserve to be trusted unless they give us reason to suspect something is wrong.

Here is a review of some warning signs.

  • Is your teen becoming very secretive? Sure, teens do like their privacy, however if you have a gut feeling something is deeper than a secret and you are not satisfied with the answers they are giving you, trust your gut.  A parent’s intuition is usually pretty good.
  • Is your teen becoming withdrawn? Teens will develop some attitudes of not wanting to be with adults, however if it becomes extreme, it might be time to dig deeper if they are not opening up to you.
  • Is your teen changing peer groups? Is your once goal oriented good kid now gravitating to a negative peer group? You will again attempt to talk to your teen and find out why and what happened to the other friends.
  • Is your teens eating habits changing?  Not eating with the family or barely eating?
  • Is your teen sleeping a lot? Or rarely sleeping?  Spending a lot of time – connected digitally?  Bloodshot eyes?
  • Do you suspect drug use?  Maybe drinking?  Is there an odor on their clothes or them?
  • Is your teen sneaking out? Becoming extremely defiant? Not respecting your boundaries?
  • Are they overly protective of their cell phones or computer?  Always covering their screens when you are around, or clicking out?
  • Do they hide their cell phones? Or completely attached to them?
  • Are they anxious when at their computer, seem fearful, attempt to hide their incoming emails?
  • Overall, is your teen slowly becoming a child you don’t recognize?

TeenTexting5Like with determining if you should invade their privacy with their journals or diary, unless your teen or tween gives you good reason to read their text messages and emails, as parents, you should respect their privacy.

When it comes to younger children, especially under 10 years old, parents should always be allowed to see what they are doing.  Most younger children are usually not as protective as teens or tweens.  As a responsible parent, you will know when there are red flags or warning signs and you need to step in.

Keeping an open dialog with your tweens and teens is critical.  Letting them know you are there for them as well as talking to them about the issues of sexting, cyberbullying, predators and other areas of concern.

Be sure you are updated with the secret language of texting!

Should you read your child’s emails or text messages?  Only you can answer that.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer children.

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Internet Safety Month: What’s Your Priority?

Posted by HelpYourTeens on June 01, 2015  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens

InternetSafetyWordle-300x288June is Internet Safety Month.

It’s great that we designate a month for Internet Safety Awareness, as we do for Bullying and Cyberbullying Awareness in October, but this doesn’t mean that we ignore it the other eleven months of the year.

I think it is great we will see many articles and resources through this month on apps, social media, parenting tips and advice as well as insights from experts that we can all learn from.

What is most important to you?  What’s your priority?

If you’re a parent, your child’s online safety is probably on the top of your list.

  • Do they know when to click out if they feel uncomfortable?
  • Will they tell you if they are being harassed online?
  • Do they know not to share personal information online?
  • Are they careful with the photo’s the publish?
  • Do they check their privacy settings frequently?
  • Do they exercise good digital citizenship?

InternetSafetySeniors-300x169If you have a parent (a senior person) that is online, safety is a major concern for them.

  • Be sure they don’t get involved in online scams.
  • Click on suspicious links that can steal their identity.
  • Get involved with online strangers pretending to be their friends for unsavory reasons.
  • Giving out too much information – again, potential fraud.

For yourself.

  • Privacy.  Almost everyone I talk to is concerned about their privacy which is almost becoming extinct.
  • Passwords.  Keep them private.
  • Oversharing.  It’s not only the kids.  Everyone needs to pause before sharing online.  Pause before you post or send that email.
  • Digital Citizenship. You’re never too old to remember who you are online reflects who you are offline.  Use your keystrokes with respect.
  • Online Reputation. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. In today’s digital society, chances are very good your first impression will be your virtual one.  Are you Google worthy?

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