Content Filtering

Striking The Right Balance With Parental Controls

A quick update! Version 2.0.1 of Mobicip for Windows is available now. This version addresses issues with iTunes and HTTPS sites. iOS and Android users, check out how you can apply the same filteringto Windows PCs or laptops.

A Balancing Act

As a parent who is aware of the dangers of the internet, it is always a tightrope walk to enforce internet restrictions. Kids grow up with gadgets as toys and feel a certain entitlement to use it freely. The question is, how do you apply the brakes and ease up slowly?

Phase 1: Explore

When your kids first begin using the internet, setup Mobicip at the Elementary or Middle School filtering level. You can override the defaults and allow specific websites or categories, and enforce internet time limits.

Mobicip Filtering Levels

Phase 2: Challenge

As they grow older, set the filtering level to High School. You will probably have several conversations around appropriate internet usage, and will need to customize your filtering. Do not shy away from this. Use the opportunity to review the browsing history together and discuss the risks. Hopefully you arrive at an equilibrium over time, and your kids learn the value of internet safety and threats.

Phase 3: Mature

At this stage, you will feel comfortable with the idea of independent browsing with minimal supervision. Set the user profile under your account to 'No Filtering. Reports Only'. This will allow unfettered internet access while generating browsing history reports for your review.

Parental controls that grow older with your kids? Yes, it is possible with Mobicip Premium.

If you have any issues or concerns, please contact support. If you are happy with Mobicip, please write a quick review on the App Store (or Google Play store)! Your feedback and help is much appreciated!

The Mobicip crew
Have a Question? Check the Helpdesk

Lowering The Bar: Kids Going Online At Younger Ages

It is a given that kids today spend a lot of time online. Did you know the average kid spends 53 hours a week online, probably much more than what you or I spend working. The entitlement to connectivity has reached a point where taking the iPad away from your child earns you the 'meanest mom in the world' title!  

anjanettew / Kids Photos / CC BY-SA

Why do you think children are so hooked to the internet? It’s baffling. There is a threefold increase in internet usage among the 5-15 year olds since 2011. Dr. Kim Mason says many factors like anonymity, acceptance, an identity, status, access to the world, getting a voice and being away from adult supervision are factors responsible. 

Of late there are new entrants to the online world, and these are kids in the 3 to 4 year age group. Ofcom, for the first time researched the media habits of this faction. Many of the 3 to 4 year olds use a variety of media devices. 37% of them access the internet using a desktop, laptop or notebook, while 9% use a tablet at home. However, these very young online users access a website, watch TV programs or play online games. Staying connected is not their forte.

Another method tried out by officials assigned to the job of keeping children safe online in South Carolina is talking to grandparents. The 2010 US Census states that 7 million grandparents have grandchildren below the age of 18 living with them. Another research from the University of Chicago reveals that 60% of grandparents provide some sort of care to their grandchildren in a 10 year period. Moreover, these grandpas and grandmas are well equipped too; the digital age has made them tech savvy.  

A majority of the child internet users connect to the web from their homes. Parents and educators are trying different approaches to keep children safe online. We should know, as we have hundreds of thousands of parents using Mobicip’s parental control service to create a safe environment for young users.

Kids And Non Verbal Internet Behaviour

When speaking about non verbal communication, a figure that’s often thrown at us is that 93% of communication is non verbal. How accurate this figure is, we do not know as it’s difficult to study dynamic human behaviour. But what we can state with absolute certainty is that most of our communication occurs at the non verbal level. Deciphering it is sort of ingrained in our subconscious mind.

Norma Desmond / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

If you see a sudden increase or decrease in your child’s internet activity then consider it as a warning bell   As watchful parents, interpreting our children’s behaviour is second nature to us. Though children now-a-days are hooked to the internet and rarely communicate with us, we know what’s going on in their world. Here are a few tips from a concerned parent which will help you identify a problem (if any) much quicker, and nip it in the bud.

  • Something is just not right if your child withdraws socially or gets upset after logging off the internet
  • Has trouble sleeping, loss of appetite and is either gloomy or tense

These signs are a call to action.  In all probability, your child is being cyber bullied. DoSomething.org states that 81% of young people believe that it’s easier to escape with cyber bullying than by bullying someone in person.   

Child behaviour, or for that matter even grown-up behaviour, on the internet is predictive in more ways than one. A recent study by Sriram Chellapan revealed a close link between online surfing and depression. Mr. Chellapan and his colleagues conducted a study which revealed that depressed students surf the web differently.

  • They increasingly share files like music or movies
  • They check emails and face book messages frequently. Research by Janet Morahan-Martin and Phyllis Schumacher, both psychologists, shows that loneliness draws people online for the increased potential for companionship, and it indicates high anxiety levels.  
  • Further, they frequently switch between different activities like gaming, chatting or checking emails. This happens due to poor concentration which is again a sign of depression.

A recent report summarising the internet related experience of children from 33 countries participating in EU kids Online states that 61% of children access the internet from their rooms. This is a relatively new phenomenon due the prevalence of internet enabled music players, smartphones, tablets, and even gaming devices.

So what should parents do in this day and age? You could use an internet filtering and monitoring app, like the one from Mobicip, of course. But is that enough? It is even more important to engage them in conversation about their online activities, watch their behaviour when online or after, and generally being aware of what is going on. For instance, if you don’t know what POS or Code 9 means, as your child today.

Internet Safety: A Child’s Eye View

Child internet safety figures at the top of the Digital Agenda for Europe and this task will be carried out by the Commission through a Safer Internet Program until 2013.

The adult view of internet safety is all about protecting children from cyberbullying and exposure to inappropriate content. Few are aware that there are plenty of other online reasons that can affect kids. Violence, animal cruelties, even messages from divorced parents are some such issues that can evoke strong feelings, says a survey conducted by UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS).

RLJ Photography NYC / Foter.com / CC BY

The survey, pertaining to young British people and their internet usage, is proclaimed to be the biggest ever of its kind. It had 25 questions and about 24000 children answered it. The questions included one that asked what upset them the most when they went online. 18% of them said they felt fearful and upset while watching animal cruelty, for the footage was real, and 22% found age inappropriate explicit content disgusting.

Such a study was also carried out in 25 different European countries. 27% of children in Portugal felt strongly about violence and pornography; a figure much higher than  the European average of 20%.

Looking at these statistics, one fact that jumps out is that some children are more affected by online issues than others. Researchers from the EU Kids Online Project explain this difference as children who find it difficult to manage their emotions in the real world find it difficult to do so in the virtual world too. They arrived at this conclusion after questioning them about the 3 major online concerns like exposure to age inappropriate content, cyberbullying, and exchange of improper messages and videos. Confident children appeared to be much less bothered about these issues.

Based on these facts, we can safely conclude there is no one size fits all solution for protecting children online. A combination of methods like governmental curbs, use of internet safety tools, and creating a stable home environment are necessary. Security at the home front is especially important for it creates confident children who can handle any issue, whether offline or online.

Protect Your Child From Online Predators

 

Imagine a mother’s agony when her 14 year old does not return home from school. It’s terrifying!

Pink Sherbet Photography / People Photos / CC BY

Last September a Malaysian mom faced her worst nightmare when her daughter, since identified as SAS, did not return home that night and for many more nights after that. 

The desperate mom told the press that SAS was to visit a sick friend before heading for choir practice after school. Unfortunately, she was kidnapped and taken to Bogor from where her captors planned to ship her to Batam, an infamous child trafficking destination. But somehow, they abandoned her at a bus depot and fled.

No one knows what frightened the kidnappers; probably it was the intense media coverage the case received. Whatever the reason be, SAS was lucky. However, the four other teens, who SAS said were housed with her, might not have been as fortunate.

SAS, like any other teenager, remains constantly hooked to the internet. Sadly, child predators are well aware of this fact and this is where they hunt for prey. Statistics reveal that 77% of their victims are 14 years or older.

Shawn Henry, retired Executive Assistant Director, FBI, estimated in 2011 that at any given time there are 750,000 child predators online. Internet is a safe haven, where they carefully make their pick, establish contact, either through online or text messages and then trap the unsuspecting child. ECPAT, while conducting a two month survey, discovered 137 such cases in Jakarta, Bandung and Batam alone, where mobile and social media services were used for these purposes. 

The internet is playing a pervasive role in our children’s lives. They spend plenty of their online time either gaming or social networking. This opens them up to social dangers. Though our children are aware of these dangers and careful to an extent, the information on their profiles, the messages and photos they and their friends share, make them vulnerable. And it’s well known that even conscious net users end up giving more information on online social media sites than they normally would.

As a parent, your first responsibility is to educate yourself of these dangers and later educate your children accordingly. Mere discussions are hardly enough. One way of protecting your children is to install internet security software (like Mobicip, for instance) on their tablets or computers, says Irwanto, director of ECPAT Indonesia.

While this is certainly not foolproof, the mere act of using an internet security tool forces an open conversation between the parent and child about the utility of such a tool, why it is needed, and what dangers and threats are out there. It also encourages an ongoing conversation around what should be allowed and what is age appropriate. An equilibrium may not be reached, but at least an attempt will be made to get to one. Over time, the parent would feel comfortable enough to open the access to a point where supervision will not be required. The child, studies show, also feels empowered by the knowledge of potential threats and learns to use the internet responsibly. An acceptable outcome that justifies the means, in my opinion.

Education Turning Digital Worldwide

Apple’s Chief Executive, Tim Cook, claimed not so long ago that tablets will overtake personal computers in popularity. International Data Corporation reported that 52.5 million tablets were shipped last holiday season, compared to just 29.9 million units in 2011. Compare this to the worldwide shipment of personal computers at 89.8 million, 6.4% lesser than the previous year.

These figures also mean that 75.3% more tablets were shipped in the fourth quarter of 2012 and the decline in PC shipment is 2% more than the anticipated 4.4%.  

Rego - d4u.hu / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Global Education Has Accepted Tablets

Tablets carry learning beyond textbooks, right into the heart of the most remote areas where education couldn’t penetrate due to lack of learning resources. It’s no wonder then that government in one nation after another is talking about the one tablet per child policy.

When such a policy was launched in Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, the Prime Minister, said, “This scheme is not only about handing out tablet computers to children. We would like to increase knowledge beyond textbooks for our children. That is our goal." Last year Thailand handed out 900,000 tablets and this year their Education Minister, Phongthep Thepkanchana announced a further purchase of  1.7 million tablets for allotment.

In February 2012, Turkey proposed a similar project. The government plans to begin tablet distribution in 52 schools initially and later cover nearly 40,000 schools around the nation. The Ministry of Education in Turkey plans to provide tablets that have built-n restrictions so that children cannot download age inappropriate content. 

This precautionary move is good, but is it enough? Unapproved content is just a small fraction of the multitudes of online dangers children are exposed to. Cyberbullying, identity theft, exposure to hate material, glorification of activities like drinking or taking drugs, and probably the most dangerous of all –meeting strangers that they have befriended online. Although this occurrence is rare, it could be extremely dangerous when it happens.

A study report published in the journal Pediatrics revealed that 30% of teens ended up meeting offline, people whom they initially met as strangers online, and whose identity they did not fully confirm. One High school student said she met a person who was an unknown online contact. She thought he was cool but later discovered he was extremely weird. Her parents had never spoken to her about the dangers of meeting unidentified persons whom you meet online. 

If you are a parent, it’s almost mandatory today to discuss internet safety and dangers with your children. Establish rules about usage of mobile devices in the family. Know the passwords and passcodes of your children’s profiles and phones.  As your children grow older, you can wean them off your supervision gradually.

Children typically rebel against restrictions. James Lehman says all emotionally healthy children test the limits their parents impose, and it's a right thing too. He adds, children will love their parents even when they set limits and impose internet usage restrictions. We at Mobicip take pride in assisting parents in striking a delicate balance between creating a safe environment and impinging on the child’s privacy and freedom.  

Safe Browser 3.2 Update Available On App Store

Good news! Mobicip's Safe Browser 3.2 update is now on the iOS App Store. Unlock the App Store on your kids' iOS device and download the update.

Mobicip Safe Browser Screenshot

  • This version restores support for devices using iOS 4.x software. When we added support for the iPhone 5, the use of Apple's iOS 5 SDK automatically excluded older devices. Our dev team has worked hard to find a way to continue supporting older devices while also supporting the new retina display and iPhone 5 screen.
  • Another feature that has been a thorn in the flesh in the past is the 'Open in' feature for ePUB files. We managed to crack that issue as well. 'Open in' should now work seamlessly and without problems.
  • The app includes other minor bug fixes and usability improvements as well.

The update is free if you have downloaded it before. Download it now and let us know what you think. 

How To Make An iPod touch Safe For Kids

Mobicip was featured in this article by CoolMomTech last week. Thanks much. We don't consider ourselves high end, but we sure appreciate the mention!

Mobicip Safe Internet Browser
The Mobicip app is on the higher end at $4.99, and offers the ability to set levels based on your kid's age (I chose elementary) and looks fantastic-- just like Safari in fact.

Read more: How to make an iPod touch safe for kids on CoolMomTech

Mobicip E-Newsletter: Keyword Blocking and Accountability Mode

It has been a hugely productive 2012 at Mobicip. We have had our head in the sand building a slew of new features for you.

Keyword or Phrase Blocking

As you know, Mobicip's filtering engine scans every piece of content that is being accessed on the web. Now, you can add your own spin to it by adding custom keywords or phrases to your blacklist. Any content that has the banned phrase or keyword will be blocked. The feature is available for Premium users immediately. Login at mobicip.com, select Settings > Phrases and add to the list.

Mobicip Phrase Filtering

 

 

 

 

 

Accountability

Driven by popular demand from adults and older kids using Mobicip, we now support what is called 'Accountability Mode'. You can now set the level for a user profile to 'No Filtering. Reports Only.' This will allow the user to access the internet unfettered, but with reporting enabled. The parent or accountability partner can login at mobicip.com and monitor the browsing history remotely.
Accountability Mode Screenshot
As your kids grow older and learn to use the internet responsibly, allow open access with monitoring enabled. Make sure to review the reports and have 'the conversation' when required. Your kids will enjoy the freedom, and you can stay in touch with their online lives. 

On a side note, we are thrilled and proud to note that Mobicip was selected by Tech & Learning magazine for their 2012 Award of Excellence. Yay! The pat in the back is most welcome. Please send your pats by writing a quick review on the App Store (or Google Play store)! 

Your feedback and help is much appreciated!

The Mobicip crew
Have a Question? Check the Helpdesk

A Watchful Eye On The Mobile Internet

Looks like we are launching new features every day! We are happy to announce the launch of Mobicip's support for accountability, a mode of operation with no filtering and only monitoring. See press release on the wire (reproduced below) and tutorial on our Knowledge Base.

Mobicip Accountability Mode Screenshot

The feature, available right away for Premium users, has been requested by teens, parents and adult users. Please check it out and let us know what you think.

 

Online Safety, One Keyword At A Time

Yay! We launched a new feature today. Check out the announcement on the wire, reproduced below.

Mobicip Adds Support for Filtering by Custom Keywords and Phrases

Mobicip (www.mobicip.com), the #1 parental control and internet safety service for mobiles, today announced the availability of custom keyword filtering to subscribers of its Premium Web Monitor service.

Mobicip offers a parental control solution in the form a Safe Browser app for iOS devices like the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and iPad mini, and Android-based devices like Google Nexus 7, Kindle Fire, and Nook, among others. Parents can optionally upgrade to the Premium Web Monitor service, a web-based application that allows them to customize the internet filter and monitor browsing history without touching the device. The new custom keyword feature allows a parent or school administrator to define a set of phrases or keywords that need to be filtered.

Any web content that contains any of the the blacklisted keywords will be disallowed. “The feature was developed in response to requests from parents to add this capability to our dynamic filtering engine,” says Suren Ramasubbu, co-founder and CEO of Mobicip. “Traditionally, the filtering industry has relied on a database of URLs that needs to be constantly updated. Not only have parents embraced Mobicip’s approach to scan internet content dynamically, but they are now savvy enough to customize our filtering engine to suit their needs.”

Visit www.mobicip.com to create a safe internet for your family. Current subscribers to the Premium service can simply login at mobicip.com and use the new feature at no additional cost.

About Mobicip

Mobicip is the most popular parental control and internet filtering solution on the Apple App Store. The best-selling Mobicip Safe Browser app has been consistently rated among top paid apps, downloaded and used by hundreds of thousands of parents and several schools and school districts in the US, and recently was awarded the Tech & Learning magazine’s Award of Excellence. In addition to iOS devices, Mobicip offers the same protection and single-point control on Android devices and Windows laptops. Learn more at www.mobicip.com.

On PRNewswire PRNewswire

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Internet Safety for Your Child, Post Holiday Season

Santa must have handed down plenty of tablets and other electronic gadgets to children. Parents have scoured the internet to such an extent prior to the last shopping season that, Laurie Schacht, chief executive and president of Adventure Publishing, which brings out the Toy Insider Hot 20 list commented, "It's going to be the war of the tablets."

cote / Christmas Photos / CC BY

Children are increasingly whipping out their tablets, not to mention their notebooks and smart phones, to access the internet. In a revelation by Nielsen, 58% of children in the age group of 13-17 own a smart phone, compared to just 36% a year ago.  Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Centre’s findings indicated 19% of third graders have a cell phone and 90% of them play online games. In such a scenario, computer experts urge parents to keep their children safe on the internet.

Give Your Children a Safe Internet Experience

Speaking about child internet safety, there’s one option that suits all. Discuss the online do’s and don’ts with your children. Let your children know that posting photographs on social media, sending emails, texting, anything that leaves their device, is up for public scrutiny.  

Impulsive teens email or upload pictures of themselves which they soon regret. Deleting it rarely helps, for 88% of such regrettable photographs end up in the wrong hands. Educate your children; ignorance is the mother of mistakes.  

Providing internet safety does not work on any standalone approach. Discussion, limiting internet time, trying out parental control options, everything works. And, of course, there is Mobicip, which works across multiple mobile devices protecting children of different age groups within the family.

Of Teens And Cyberbullying

Is your child spending more than 3 hours online every working day? If yes, then watch out, your youngster is susceptible to be bullied, for such children stand a 110% extra risk. I am quoting these facts from cyberbullying statistics released last year.

emdot / Foter.com / CC BY

Bullies are age old; they have just taken a new form in this mobile, connected, always-on era. The widespread prevalence of the internet has increased the dimension of this harassment. 88% of teens have witnessed others being hassled online. A few more statistics from the same source help drive home this point.

Cyber Bullying on Social Networking Sites

  • 39% of social networking teens were bullied.
  • 15% experienced meanness on social network sites.
  • 13% felt an experience on social networking site made them nervous to go to school the next day.

Needless to say, spending more time on social networking sites increases incidences of cyber bullying.

How Teens React to Cyberbullying?

  • 55% of teens see others ignoring it
  • 27% of teens see others defending the victim
  • 20% of teens see others asking offender to stop
  • 19% of teens see others join the harassment

Parents and Cyberbullying

Effects of cyberbullying are numerous and negatively impact the academic, psychological and emotional well-being of a victim. Unfortunately, very few teens are known to take their parents into confidence on this particular issue. 

As a parent, be alert to warning signals which predominantly include a mood change after an online activity, and to other indications like anti social behaviour, withdrawal, disturbed sleep or nightmares.

Better still, be a proactive parent and take steps to be involved in your teen’s online safety, for as the very old adage goes, ‘Prevention is better than cure.’   

Tablets Enhance Classroom Learning

This is the age of tablets, says Julie DeNeen's in her article, “25 Ways to Use Tablets to Enhance the Learning Experience.” Of late, many educators are redesigning the curriculum to fit on a tablet.  

Seeing this rapid change, I couldn’t help but recall Bill Gates’ words, “Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time." Although Gates was more wrong than right with his other predictions, his comment on innovation in personal computing has been spot on. Yet there are a few doubting Thomases who wonder if these gadgets can deliver. Julie, in her article, describes a few methods that explain how tablets can enhance and at times even transform learning.

Johan Larsson / Foter.com / CC BY

Teaching Science

Apps in science are aplenty, and as an educator you have to select the right app that fits the bill. Your students can learn better by viewing up to date images, videos, news and current research that’s taking place in the topic you are teaching. They can also get three dimensional views of structures or rotate and zoom into them.

Teaching History

History fascinates and it’s no wonder historical apps are increasing in iTunes. Apps breathe life into this subject through interactive eBooks, videos, audio and visual information, and inspiring speeches of great leaders of yore.

Teaching a Foreign Language

In the past, schools offered few foreign languages and students had little choice. Getting a proper instructor was also difficult. The emergence of tablets has changed it all. Students can now learn a language of their choice quite easily. Apps on tablets split the language into various levels of difficulty; a digital teacher teaches perfect pronunciation, visual aids help and finally there’s invariably a test to examine student understanding.

Research and Writing

Learning begins with research and gone are the days of trekking to the library and poring over endless books for this is the age of knowledge at the tips of your fingers available just when you need it. Research is quicker and writing interesting.

Ask your students to create blogs and the instant feedback they receive will prove motivating.

Economics and Financial Management

These subjects promote good financial health.  Result of relegating these to the sideline is evident in the current economic scenario, where the number of people with extensive debts is higher than ever.

Educational apps teach young children how to spend and save and older children to simulate what it means to own and run a business.  

Tablets have indeed transformed education by making it ubiquitous. As an educator your role is twofold.

  • You have to select the right app that augments learning
  • Above all, you have to provide a safe learning experience to your students 

While educational apps instruct, getting age appropriate information from the internet is important and only a safe browser app like Mobicip; (the first of its kind in Apple app store) can ensure this on a tablet by creating a safe and secure internet environment on the tablet. 

Are Teens Aware Of Online Dangers?

During our childhood, we were often fed on Edward Coke’s words of precaution being better than cure. This has churned out a generation of cautious people; instincts further sharpened once we turned parents.  However, many of us feel, protecting our children in the physical world is a relatively known territory; while it’s the virtual world that we consider unchartered waters.  Still our generation of parents has done remarkably well and according to a report by Hart Research Associates submitted to The Family Online Safety Institute, 9 out of 10 parents’ report they are well informed of their teen’s online activity.  

Parents and Teens are Aware of Online Dangers though Awareness Levels Vary

Perception of stranger danger situation

Stranger Danger Infographic

Identity Theft

Stranger Danger Infographic

The data reveals that parents and teens are both aware of online threats though in varying degrees. Teenagers have subsequently taken many steps to protect their online privacy, especially in the social networking sites.

Stranger Danger Infographic

Though this graph speaks of the high awareness levels among teens, an astonishing fact remains that a significant number of them have made an online posting which can reveal their personal information.

Recommending a TV show or commenting on a blog is the most common act. While risky acts like name sharing and still riskier acts like address and password sharing and planning to meet someone are also not unknown albeit rare.  

Online Interaction with Strangers

Less risky acts with strangers like befriending an unknown person or sharing TV recommendation are commonplace. Yet, what is the surprising is the propensity for riskier acts. 51% of teens have done at least one of the following

  • Mentioned the town or city they lived in, shared their personal details like their name, the school they attend and their phone number
  • Safety slips have also occurred and two out of five teens say they posted something which they regretted later. 83% of teens later deleted the information for it was either too rude or they have shared more information than necessary

This report reveals that teenagers are aware of online dangers, yet they make mistakes. As a parent your biggest challenge is to step back and allow them to make some mistakes for this is how children learn. This has been the norm since they were toddlers. However, mistakes and associated risks increase with age. Your role assumes significance here and you have to find the right balance between minimizing risk and being a helicopter parent. This parenting style helps raise successful children, the article in the Sunday Review of The New York Times details further.

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