Journalistic Blog Series

Below is a stand alone series of blogs I wrote for a journalism class. I followed the timely issue of children's internet safety in real time, reporting on news that was released throughout the week.

 

Hope for the Future of Children’s
Internet Safety

November 12, 2018

Recap: Possible Dangers and Concerns About Children’s Internet Activity


In my previous posts, I discussed issues related to children’s online safety. I first touched on how children may be easily exposed to violent or pornographic content on popular social apps. I also mentioned how parents are concerned about their children being susceptible to pedophilia on apps like Tik Tok. Then, I discussed the potentially harmful and manipulative advertising methods that have been discovered in 95% of popular children’s apps.

As mentioned at the end of my last post, it does appear that some

organization are making efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of the internet for kids. One organization created a catchy song to inform parents about the dangers of a particular game.

I closed my last post asking, “Will putting restrictions on a kid’s screen time will keep them safe?” I received comments saying that game time restrictions, parent involvement, and parent awareness all seem like good first steps to keeping kids safe online. And it appears that many companies agree!

A Worthy App Gives Parents Peace of Mind


This week, Business Insider wrote an article endorsing a somewhat new service put out by Amazon. 

The service is in an app called Amazon FreeTime. Amazon says that while FreeTime does gives kids access to “thousands of kid-friendly books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games,” it also gives parents control. On this app, parents have complete control over when kids can access social media; and kids can’t make in-app purchases without parental approval. After last week’s post, I’m thrilled to hear about Amazon FreeTime!

Parents can also do the following:

• Limit their child’s screen time
• Filter age-appropriate content
• Manage web browsing and content usage, based on their preferences.
• Control when FreeTime shuts down for the day
• Set “educational goals” for a child, blocking access to games and cartoons until after the goals are met!


Other Services Promote a Healthy Online Experience for Kids


Similar services have also been gaining some attention, as I’ve come to learn. One such service is called Circle. It allows parents to set age-appropriate filters and time limits for apps and web sites, across all their devices.

Even greater news was released today! The top-ranked parental control technology – Family Time – will soon be available to use on even more devices! Previously only compatible with Android devices, FamilyTime will soon be available for iPhone users!

FamilyTime promises that parents can “completely block porn websites and make it so that they won’t even be able to see search results with pornographic material.”Along with this, parents can block “all unpleasant content” from being found through any search engines, and “select and block access to specific content categories.”

This is music to my ears. These technologies give me a bit of hope for our kids’ online safety. Hopefully parents will learn of, download, and implement the safety measures of these technologies.

 

Manipulative Advertising in Kids’ Apps and Games

November 7, 2018

 

Another Threat Within Kids’ Apps?


In my last post, I brought up how many parents are unsettled over the content their children may be exposed to on a social app called Tik Tok. With various forms of pornography being accessible there, some parents are concerned that their children may exposed to graphic content or susceptible to pedophilia.

This week, experts have been discussing another concern related to children’s app use. The results of a brand new study were recently published, prompting a discussion about advertisements within popular children’s apps.

New Research on Advertising to Kids


The study analyzed the prevalence and exact content of advertisements in children’s apps. It found that 95% of popular children’s apps contained at least 1 type of advertising. The article actually describes the means of advertising as, “manipulative and disruptive.” For instance, videos or “distracting banners” may pop up in the middle of game play. Some apps invite kids to make in-app purchases. Some even contain “hidden ads with misleading symbols such as ‘$’ or camouflaged as gameplay items.”

I understand that not all advertising is damaging for kids. When kids watch tv, there are typically a few commercials in between shows. However, in-app ads are sometimes unpredictable and invite kids to buy things with just a few finger taps. And as the experts say, some of these ads are simply manipulative. These advertising methods seem more suitable for responsible adults than adolescents.

Efforts to Aid the Issue


While the results of this study are discouraging, it seems that some people have taken notice of the dangers lying within popular online games and advertising to children.

Two weeks ago, National Online Safety made an effort to raise awareness about some of the possible dangers of one popular online game, called Fortnite. National Online Safety released a catchy song, encouraging parents to restrict and monitor their kids’ time on Fortnite. The song specifically warns parents of online payments within the game, as well as “stranger danger.” It even mentions how there is no proof of players’ ages.

I’m glad to know that there are organizations making efforts to keep kids safe online! But are catchy songs and parents’ awareness enough? Do you think putting restrictions on a kid’s screen time will keep them safe?

 

Social App Gains Users and Worries Parents

November 5, 2018

  Tik Tok Climbs the Charts 


Two days ago it was projected that a lip-synching app, Tik Tok, would become the most popular app in the U.S. Sensor Tower found that last month, in the U.S., Tik Tok was downloaded onto more devices than the four leading social media apps – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube.

Tik Tok is an app for creating and sharing musical lip synching videos. Users can discover and interact with others’ videos. The app is popular on a global scale, but it specifically rose to the top of the charts in the U.S. app store.

The Public’s Reaction


Many news sources are buzzing over the news of Tik Tok’s new ranking. It’s impressive that an app used for making and sharing lip-synching videos could surpass the number of downloads of other, more familiar social apps.

Not only are news sources talking about Tik Tok, but so are concerned parents.

Earlier this year, statistics showed that the app was most popular among teenagers and people in their 20’s. The second most common age group was people in their 40’s. The stats also showed that more users were male than female. Currently, parents have been speaking out about this app, with pedophilia, porn, and privacy being their main areas of concern.

One concerned mother, Anastasia Basil, wrote an essay about her discoveries on the app. Her essay went viral. While investigating her 10 year-old daughter’s app, she first stumbled upon a pornographic video of a man. Soon after, she saw “little kids (as young as eight) sexually objectify themselves.” Basil also found bullying, self-harm videos, eating disorder promotions and a lack of parental controls.

Basil said that the seemingly “innocent” app is, “user uploaded content by millions of people who can also live stream,” and that “setting your child’s account to private may make him invisible, but he’s still there, fully present, taking it all in.” Basil discovered other types of graphic content that I don’t even want to type out.

Children’s Safety Online


It frightens me to think that turning a kid’s account to private can’t ensure the protection of their minds and purity. The content that’s discoverable to them is stuff that some R-rated movies wouldn’t even include. And unlike an R-rated movie, Tik Tok’s content may not come with a warning. Someone like Basil’s 10 year old-daughter can stumble across videos that are likely more graphic than anything I have seen. 

The fact that Tik Tok is steadily accumulating more users makes me worried for the future of children who use social apps. I wonder what it will take for the app to be changed into a safer environment for users. How long will we sit by and let young children be corrupted? 

Where do you think we’re headed with social apps and child safety? Does the increasing number of Tik Tok downloads point to something more significant? Does it indicate a trend? Let me know what you think!