Category Archives: Social Media

Protecting Our Children Online

Guest Post written by Sarah Upton.

children friend girls playing internet with smartphone

Summer is fast approaching, and children are quickly being released from schools all across the nation for their summer vacation. While this might be the best time of the year for them, it can be some of the most worrying months for parents. Our children having infinite free time each day to get into trouble while we are unable to supervise from work is a problem many parents face, and it can be difficult to keep track of what our kids get into while we aren’t home.

 

When we were growing up, all our parents had to worry about was us coming home with cuts and scratches or bruises, but the with the growing impact of technology in the modern world, many children have access to personal smartphones and computers. Reports from a study by Common Sense Media back in 2013 suggest that three in four children have used a smartphone or tablet by the age of 8, and nearly twenty percent use them on a daily basis. While the access to smartphones and tablets grows by the day, children are getting more and more linked to the internet at all hours of the day.

 

It can be difficult to monitor what your children are doing all the time even while you’re home, but when you’re at work it is nearly impossible. Many parents stress out all day over what their children are doing online while they aren’t looking, and this is likely to be a problem that affects all of us at some point in our children’s lives. While some parents might want to try limiting their family’s access to technology in an effort to keep them safe, it is becoming far too easy for children to get access through the rest of the community. Here are some tips for how to help your children remain safe while they are wired this summer.

 

The first step any parent should take with their children is to simply educate them about safe use. Microsoft published an article explaining what to teach your kids, and it is definitely worth taking the time to do if you haven’t already. Many tips seem obvious to adults but are not so for children, such as never sharing your passwords, logging out of websites when using public computers, and not giving out full personal information. Remember that you should set guidelines for what your child can do online—anything posted to the internet can potentially be seen by everyone, even if posted privately, so if you are not comfortable with everyone seeing what your child does, it is time to set stricter rules.

 

In addition to ordinary parental supervision, there are apps that can assist with the daunting task of tracking your child’s online habits. Verizon Wireless wrote an article about protecting your children online, and they list many helpful apps. They carry helpful tools for parents such as FamilyBase, a service which allows parents to monitor their children’s phone activity and set limits for when and where they can access the web. Not only can this enable you to track their phone use, but you can see which apps they have installed and which apps they use the most. As smartphones are quickly becoming the main source of online connection for children, being able to directly monitor their usage through your mobile provider is the most powerful tool you have.

 

The article also mentions other apps which are independently published for you to download. One of these apps is MamaBear, which parents can install on their phones for help monitoring their children. This app gives feedback to parents about everything their child does, including where they are and how they are interacting with friends on social media networks like Facebook and Instagram. It can even track how fast your teenagers are driving and alert you if they are going above a preset limit! My Mobile Watchdog is similar in practice but also gives parents the ability to monitor their kid’s text and picture messages. It gives parents an email summary of their child’s activity and alerts them if any boundaries are broken, however, it is Android only.

 

There are many other apps which can give you some control over how your child uses their mobile devices or computer. Even if you do not wish to place hard restrictions upon your family, these apps can still give you the peace of mind you deserve this summer. Rather than limiting your child’s access entirely, simply monitoring them can help you ensure they are using modern technology safely while you aren’t there to supervise. While modern technology has given children greater access than ever to unhealthy sites, it has also empowered parents to know more about their children’s activities and habits.

~ Sara Upton is an avid reader and dog enthusiast. When she isn’t reading or writing, she likes to take long hikes and experiment in the kitchen with new recipes.

 

 

 

 

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Twitter Redefines ‘Blocking’ For Public Accounts

twitterHow many of you have blocked that pesky spammer or joker who just doesn’t stop bugging you, or even that family member who you’d rather not see the real you? I know I’ve blocked people so they don’t know I exist.

Well, things just got different for you.

Traditionally, to “block someone” on social media is to cut all ties and pretend basically the other person doesn’t exist, where you don’t see their activity and what they tweet and they don’t see your  activity. If they searched for you it’d say you were blocked and your account would be locked up. However, there’s always been this glitch where if you log out of your account, you can just view them anyway, so it’s sort of like slamming a fake door on their faces that doesn’t actually lock.

Twitter has now decided to stop the false sense of being blocked for public accounts.

From now on, a blocked user can still follow, retweet, and favorite a public user who blocked them, and won’t be informed, as they have in the past, that they’ve been blocked. The blocker though will not see the RTing, faving, or any mentions by that person show up in their notification stream, and won’t see them in their follower list. Now blocking them just means you are “muting” them, which is still pretty handy for those pesky flies that don’t want to go away. Twitter basically wants to cut down on the hard feelings and discomfort that comes from being blocked.

Twitter says,

“We saw antagonistic behavior where people would see they were blocked and be mad,” says Prosser. He also says “block” doesn’t really make sense when the content is still visible. “Twitter is public, we want to reinforce that content published in a public profile is viewable by the world.”

Blocking will still work in the traditional way for private accounts. Whomever you block while being private won’t be able to follow you.

This whole change just reiterates that anything you put online is online for good, blocking people really gave a false sense that you could hide what you say from others, when in actuality you can’t.

Top 10 Selfies You Don’t Want To Miss

Oxford has deemed the word Selfie, 2013’s word of the year!
Here are the top 10 best selfies out there.. Including one as far back as 1900. Enjoy!

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Social Media, Where Bad Advice Is Par For The Course

The Internet has no shortage of advice, that’s for sure. There’s plenty of people every which way you click that are ready to tell you how to live your life and solve your problems, whether it’s solicited or not.

advice

What the Internet and Social Media is lacking is actual good advice.

We’re a bunch of enablers, mostly pushing the addict towards their vice. We’re happy to suggest going off your diet, sharing too much information, having one too many glasses of wine, shirking responsibilities, pushing others to make demands of people, to disregard real-life friends and family’s feelings, and pushing each other to do what feels right and follow their dreams forgetting that the person we push to do whatever frivolous advice we give them without an invested regard may follow through and actually screw up their lives.

The worst piece of advice I hear people saying is to “do what you love.” I’m sorry, but I’m skeptic that actually works; I’d venture to say that it’s more the exception than the rule. Contrary to what we are raised to believe, even through adulthood, opportunities are not limitless. In the real world things we love, like the arts, being creative, sports and playing on the job don’t pay well. You can’t both live the dream and also actually have the dream. Our society doesn’t usually reward the dreamers- unless you are one in a million, so why do we insist to pretend that following your dreams is a good idea?

No, it doesn't

No, it doesn’t

Telling someone through a computer screen to quit their jobs and follow their dreams is easy, but when they support a family of five their dreams probably won’t pay their bills and put food in their kid’s mouths. That may be the fun version of advice, but not necessarily very smart. We suggest that inspirational catch phrases somehow replace thinking things through and making smart choices. I see this in real life also, but really magnified online. We give others the advice we wish we could take in our own imaginary dream world- because sometimes the internet feels like it’s filled with imaginary 2-D people and relationships where we only pay attention to the greatest-hits reels of people’s Instagramed lives, not the 3-D consequences part.

I see this all the time. People- no, actually hordes and groups of people, just giving bad advice- and telling people that hehe– nothing matters. And it’s not just that- it’s asking a group of strangers what you should do about a medical condition and it’s everyone in that group all telling you some different old wives tale. Sorry, the masses on social media are not a replacement for a doctor, not anymore than Google is. Have you ever typed a question into a search engine or Facebook, for instance how to save your phone after it’s been through the washing machine and you get all these responses that people swear by like, “just put it in rice, take the battery out, put it in the freezer”- but really none of those is going to save your trashed phone. You can find every perfect solution on how to repel mosquitoes on Pinterest- sorry, none of them work. Ever post the latest relationship drama and everyone will tell you this or that? Mostly terrible ways to handle life. And don’t get me started on giving advice to people raising children. A lot of theories, not many helpers.

I would suggest to stop seeking or taking other people’s advice that have no vested interest in your actual life.. but I’m not even going to advocate that this piece of advice would be any better than theirs.

Imaginary Friends don't care if they give you bad advice

2-D Friends don’t care if they give you bad advice

Sponsored Ads Now On Instagram

They’re here!
You knew Instagram couldn’t remain ad-free forever, right?!
Instagram is now rolling out sporadic ads amongst our feeds, and here’s the first one from Michael Kors:

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They’re supposedly going to be posting sponsored ads made to look like fit into our feeds.. Hipsterized burgers and watches, I guess.
Although ads sitting in between our friend’s best lo-fi or x-pro II pics of food, cats and babies is sort of annoying, and I’m definitely not in the market for anything Michael Kors, but it’s only a minor annoyance so that I can use the cool app for free. I’m also one of those people who only play the free versions of Angry Birds and Candy Crush. A small price that I can surely look past. No big deal.

This Is The Most Important Post You’ll Read About Facebook: How TO Turn Off Game Notifications

The best part of most Social Media sites is that they’re highly customizable. The bad part of all that is most of us don’t actually know how to customize what we see.

Hands down I see the most amount of complaints about Facebook coming from people getting bombarded by Game requests. How many times have you seen status messages that are a complete meltdown of someone saying: “NEXT GAME REQUEST I SEE, I’M UNFRIENDING YOU, I CANT TAKE IT ANYMORE!”?

At least once a month.

I totally sympathize with you; it sucks to get requests over and over again from the same people when you don’t play a game. Although to be fair, many of the games are designed to auto-send those requests, so the player might not realize how many times they are sending those things out.

Anyway, if you’re sick of tired of it, here’s how to not see those pesky notifications anymore.

Click on the top button that looks like a planet to view notifications, then scroll to the game invite and click 'turn off'

Click on the top button that looks like a planet to view notifications, then scroll to the game invite and click ‘turn off’

Confirm the turn off and it's done. You will no longer receive notifications for that game. You must do this for each individual game.

Confirm the turn off and it’s done. You will no longer receive notifications for that game. You must do this for each individual game.

How To Remove A Connection On LinkedIn

If you’ve ever been annoyed by random LinkedIn connections that spam your email in box with impersonal pitches that don’t pertain to you, you may want to read this post.. If you’re like me, you immediately want to shed them like a bad habit.. the only problem is, LinkedIn for some reason makes that feature less than easy to find. It may take some searching and poking around before you find our how, or you can just follow these few easy steps.

(feel free to click on the pictures to make them bigger)

step one linkedin

Hover over ‘Network,’ then click on ‘Contacts

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On the right hand side, click, ‘Remove Connections’

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Select all the people you wish to remove on the left.

step 4

Confirm your choice

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Hallelujah! That was easy!

Why Cheerios Made That Comerical

If you haven’t seen or at least read the headlines about that Cheerios commercial that’scheerios-commercial caused such an uproar lately, then you must not have Facebook or the Internet.  If you didn’t bother clicking on the story, then basically what happened was Cheerios made a commercial that featured a biracial couple and their super cute daughter.  The first scene is the über cute kid asking mom something about Cheerios being good for your heart. The mom responds that it is and then the next scene shows her black father waking up from his nap on the couch with a pile of Cheerios all over his chest.

After the ad came out, half of the Internet did what they do and the comment section became a barrage of negative racist comments and abominable responses towards interracial couples.

And then the other half of the Internet does what it does best and blogged about how terrible society is.

I obviously agree with the second half of the Internet and think the world needs to start accepting all sorts of families for whatever they are…

I also think that before you start getting your pom-poms out of the closet, Cheerios carefully calculated this commercial with a handful of stereotypes and reasons of their own, none of which are breaking down barriers and trying to make the world a more accepting place.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: NOTHING, absolutely nothing in advertising is accidental.  They have about 30 seconds to paint a picture and get their message across, so the use of stereotypes are absolutely necessary to get their message across and get it across quickly and concisely.

First of all, a controversial commercial is VIRAL INTERNET GOLD.  It’s why godaddy dot com makes all those commercials we hate because every time a blogger or better yet a news outlet says your name, good or bad that’s name recognition and when you’re trying to find a domain name on the cheap- you go there.

Controversy gets clicks. I know, as a mom blogger, if I say some crazy thing like “I hate baby formula” or “C-sections are fun” my post will get a ton of clicks and shares, and who cares if people hate me, they still clicked and commented and shared my posts and cha-ching, I just made .00001 cents off my haters- controversy does that quite nicely.  (That’s why you keep seeing Mom Bloggers keep recycling these same crap stories about the same crap controversies). I didn’t even have to go to blogger school to figure that out.  Cheerios has a bevy of people, I’m sure, that did go to advertising school to tell them what they know will happen if they unleash this commercial out on the gobs of Internet trolls that are ridiculously predictable.  Like I said: VIRAL INTERNET GOLD.  This reminds me of when J.C. Penney’s decided to use Ellen as their spokesperson. Gobs of people were outraged, but also gobs of people now LOVE J.C. Penney’s because they’re so inclusive.  Their products have not changed a bit, but we feel that their company has changed because they risked that controversy and then we all said their names a billion times and replayed their commercials for free on our Facebook accounts.

Side note: how many times did I just say Cheerios in the above paragraphs? And Cheerios got that for free. Now that’s a bargain.. see what I mean?  And whether you share the commercial because you’re a bigot or you share it because you’re a save-the-day-blogger, it doesn’t matter, the message that Cheerios is “heart-healthy” already just got lodged in the back of your brain.

Anyway, so let’s cut to why Cheerios picked that couple.  Let me ask you who demographically speaking, is the most at-risk person for heart disease: Black Men.  Okay and do you know who the one most influential person in marketing and purchasing is: White Women. (seriously they’ve done studies).  They didn’t switch the roles because those stereotypes don’t make sense to us.  They didn’t make it an African-American couple because black women aren’t as influential in marketing.  Again, they went to advertising school to learn this.  Annnnd Bingo: they just accomplished their goals: combining controversy while still adhering to traditional marketing stereotypes.

Meredith Tutterow, associate marketing director for Cheerios at General Mills in Golden Valley, Minn., said Friday:

“There are many kinds of families and Cheerios just wants to celebrate them all.”

Oh wow, how harmonious of them!

At the end of the day, I’m NOT knocking Cheerios.. I like the ad and families are all sorts of different and we should be celebrating them all.. all I’m saying is before you go out and buy a box of Cheerios because they’re so much more morally superior that the next brand, I don’t believe that Cheerios just nonchalantly pick this couple like it’s no big deal, and they certainly aren’t placing these people on this commercial because they want to start a anti-racism movement and break down color barriers.  They did it with careful calculation, and it all comes down to marketing and sales.  And baby, I bet this commercial just sold a whole lot of Cheerios. Someone’s getting a raise.

Going Beyond The Surface, and Maybe I know Nothing

I just got done publishing this blog on how we should comply with the notion of freedom of speech and let rape jokes slide on Facebook.  Then I went on twitter and did a search for #FBRape.

That’s the hashtag connected with speaking out against the rape joke memes on Facebook.  Do I even have to say I found the most terrible images out there- stuff that I hadn’t even dreamed existed?  All rape jokes and abuse jokes and the brave folks speaking out against them.  I guess I don’t ever search for this garbage- so I didn’t really know what was out there…  and if any of my friends ever posted anything a fraction as bad, I’d unfriend / block / report them sooner than you can say- WTF..

I’m feeling now like I know nothing.

Maybe what I saw makes everything I said in the last post is null and void.  I’m not sure.

Things are out of hand and sick and sad and I can’t stop thinking that I live on the same planet as people who think this stuff is funny.

Don’t believe me- search for yourself.  Some of the sickest stuff is just floating around being LOLed about at rapid paces.  And lurking around just waiting for little boys to laugh at them before they’ve formed the part of their brains that make those jokes not okay.

Maybe Facebook should take some responsibility for what they let be posted on their sites.  Maybe since they are a privately owned organization they should take a stand and say I don’t have to grant you the freedom to post pictures of black and blue and bloody dead girls with captions over their pictures that they deserved to end up like that?  Maybe they don’t have to give the freedom of speech for every tom dick and douche-bag out there.  Maybe we ought to give kudos to advertisers that stand up against Facebook even though it’d just be much smarter if they didn’t, dollars and sense-wise.

I’m not going to take my previous post down, because maybe it’s a valid argument.. or maybe we should throw being valid away because it’s just not right.

 

 

Free Speech or Hate Speech: You Be The Judge

If you look for it, you’ll find a whole lot of garbage on Facebook.  Not a day goes by when Iamerican-express-audible-facebook-rape don’t come across something that’s a bit (or more than a bit) distasteful and makes me cringe.  Yes, that includes some pretty hateful things and often racist or sexist memes, and violent pictures.  Recently there’s been a new controversy where an image (see right) was floating around Facebook and reported by many and asked to be taken down.  In response, Facebook declined to pull the image because it didn’t necessarily violate their rules.  Facebook claims it’s freedom of speech; many groups or companies have railed together and call it hate speech.  13 different brands have pulled their advertising over the issue, including car company Nissan, and insurance company Nationwide.  More than 40 Feminist groups and sympathizers are now calling for an “unfriending” movement on Facebook until images like the above are taken down.

A tricky problem with the way Facebook advertising works is advertisers pay to have their ads show up on the side bar of your feed.  Then when you scroll down and take a screen shot of something on the site, advertisers on the side are seen directly next to the pictures and then they appear to be associated with those offensive pictures.  They don’t have control over what pictures or statuses they are seen next to.  So their choices are: to advertise blindly (to quite a large audience) or take a stand and dictate what Facebook can post at all.

Facebook does regulate what sort of content is allowed on their site, and they have people working to take down images that violate those rules.  Sometimes images like breastfeeding or recently a breast cancer survivor’s pictures was taken down, because it violated their policy of no nudity.  Is it fair that inspiring posts like breast cancer images are taken down and rape memes get to stay? Not really, but those are the rules..

Facebook has released a statement over the controversy; here is some excerpts for their statement:

“we [..] work hard to make our platform a safe and respectful place for sharing and connection.  This requires us to make difficult decisions and balance concerns about free expression and community respect.  We prohibit content deemed to be directly harmful, but allow content that is offensive or controversial. We define harmful content as anything organizing real world violence, theft, or property destruction, or that directly inflicts emotional distress on a specific private individual (e.g. bullying)….Facebook prohibits ‘hate speech.’  While there is no universally accepted definition of hate speech, as a platform we define the term to mean direct and serious attacks on any protected category of people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or disease. We work hard to remove hate speech quickly, however there are instances of offensive content, including distasteful humor, that are not hate speech according to our definition.”

While the image above is certainly offensive, it’s a slippery slope when you call for censoring any, all, or some things that you find offensive.  Just because its offensive doesn’t mean someone doesn’t have the right to say it and share it.  Is someone a terrible person to joke about rape?  Yes, certainly.  Should it be banned from Facebook?  That I’m not so sure.  Once you start censoring this image because it’s just not funny, then it opens the door to censor religious or pro gay or anti-gay or racial jokes or whatever kind of jokes out there because you think aren’t funny and pretty darn offensive.  What I deem as distasteful, you may laugh and think it’s no big deal, or the other way around.

There’s also the slippery slope that you can get into where yes this image specifically says the word ‘rape,’ but what about images that don’t say the word, but give an innuendo?  There are certainly plenty of jokes out there that give innuendos of sexism or racism or whatever, but they aren’t clear-cut or even agreed upon if they mean what we think they mean in the first place.  I remember a while ago an advertisement was pulled from magazines because it used the word “savage” next to a black man.  Well, there was a whole controversy and much disagreement on whether that word was specifically racist towards black men.  Some people didn’t get the undertones.  That’s just one example.  Should we censor all posts on Facebook because they may or may not be offensive and they may or may not have an undertone of something bad?  It’d be a perfect world if all humans were educated in ‘Offensive 101’ or chose to be kind- but that world certainly doesn’t include Facebook as we know it today.

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Check out the subtle rape innuendo in this above vintage advertisement.. Should this also be banned because it suggests the thought of rape in the man’s creepy gaze at the unsuspecting woman?  Could there be a question on whether this is actually hinting at rape, or is it possible that it could be referring to consensual sexual activity?  What should Facebook do in this instance?  Remember they need to make decisions based on all the things that could arise in the future.

The other hard part about Facebook is you just can’t not look at something because you don’t like it.  This happens a lot when people get offended by breastfeeding or bikini clad pictures that run across your feeds.  Breastfeeding pictures are another subject of contention on Facebook, which are highly reported and removed all the time.  (Breastfeeding pictures violate Facebook rules when a child isn’t actively nursing or a picture shows areola).  So for instance when a kid is half off the breast Facebook just automatically takes them down as opposed to paying people to distinguish whether this is in violation or not.  And it’s not like you can just “unfriend” the post or filter what sorts of things you don’t want to see, because the way Facebook works (and works so well) is companies and groups make their pictures public, so every time a person comments or likes, even if the comment is one that shows a person’s distaste for the picture or status, it still shows up in their feeds and is shared with all their friends.  I often look at comments on a breastfeeding page I follow and they are filled with things like, “why don’t you just unfollow if you don’t like to see it.”  Well, the thing is, it’s not designed to work like that.  Facebook is designed so things go “viral” without us even really meaning them to.

I think unfortunately as much as I hate to say this and as much as would like to see sexist and rape “jokes” eliminated from societal view of being funny at all, then that also means we’d have to remove basically any sexist joke, any joke about murder any joke about drugs or jay-walking or anything that is illegal activity or that makes us a bit uncomfortable.  Me personally, I can’t stand to see pictures of bloody abused animals go across my screen, but just because they make me uncomfortable doesn’t mean they are violating any rules.  The best advice is to unfriend or hide people who are prone to posting things you don’t like.

What do you think? Are rape jokes a part of free speech or are they hate speech?  And should they be forced to be removed from Facebook all together?  As long as they don’t violate things that are against Facebook’s specific policies like nudity or specific harassment, for example saying, “so and so (insert specific name) needs to be raped,” then it isn’t in true violation as the rules are currently defined.  Part of the definition of hate speech is something that incites violence against a person or group; but whether the above image actually incites actions or not is something that is certainly central to this debate and finding the answer to the question above.