Doug Peterson

Nebraska Attorney General

Digital Citizenship

Our children are the greatest gift and the greatest responsibility we have been given. We shepherd them with wisdom and care through their years as they mature from childhood through their teen years. Now more than ever, this navigation requires attentiveness on the part of parents. Parents need to understand the digital age and the technology it offers for learning and expanding their student’s world. It is equally important for parents to understand this world can bring new challenges and potential hazards if improperly used. This page attempts to provide parents with an overview of the digital world and what they need to know in helping their child navigate the digital “highway” with safety and good judgement.

 

 

Cyberbullying

Apps

Sextortion

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication devices, such as computers and cell phones, to repeatedly send or post written or visual material, for the purpose of abusing, harassing, threatening or embarrassing another person.

Signs of Cyberbullying:

The following signs may indicate that a child is being bullied or bullying others:

  • Threatening someone online, telling them to hurt or kill themselves
  • Shutting down social media accounts or creating new ones, especially ones that appear to be someone else’s
  • Posting mean, hurtful or inappropriate comments, pictures or videos about someone
  • Increased or decreased activity on devices
  • Responds emotionally (upset, laughing) when accessing devices/social media accounts
  • Hiding their screen, avoids discussing what they do on their device
  • Seem depressed, avoiding social situations and activities

 

Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Online:

  • Teach your child good online behavior as well as consistently monitor their activities online. Contracts can help parents communicate clear expectations to children regarding appropriate technology use.
  • Notice mood or behavior changes: If your child seems to be upset when using technology or social media, ask your child about this. Check out activity on their online accounts, such as comments posted.
  • Document cyberbullying: If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, work with them to keep a record of any online activity (emails, web pages, social media posts, etc.), including relevant dates and times. Keep both an electronic copy and a printed copy.
  • Report it online: If someone is harassing your child, encourage them to remove that person from their friends’ list, block their username or email address, and report them to the site administrator. If your child finds a profile that was created or altered without his or her permission, contact the site to have it taken down.
  • Report it to the police: If a child has received physical threats, or if you believe a crime or illegal behavior is occurring, report it to the police.
  • Inform the school: If a classmate is cyberbullying your child on school property, let the school know.
  • If your child is cyberbullying, communicate to them that they are inflicting pain that does not stay in cyberspace, but causes real hurt. Also communicate and enforce clear consequences that are proportionate to the behavior.
  • If your child has cyberbullied in the past, monitor online behavior extra carefully: This will help communicate to your child that you are serious in your expectations that they are good digital citizens.
  • Encourage your child to be an upstander: Encourage them to speak up if someone is being bullied and to report the situation to a trusted adult. Also encourage them to never participate in bullying, including liking a mean comment posted online.

 

Resources:

Stopbullying.gov

Reporting Cyberbullying on Social Media Apps, etc.

 

Some information adapted from Stopbullying.gov

Apps

Considering Apps for Children

With a simple online search, you can find lists of apps that have potential dangers for kids. Due to the frequent changes in apps, however, it can be hard to stay current. Almost all apps can be misused by predators and others who do not have your child’s interest in mind.

These questions can help you navigate the safety of an app for your child.

  • Does the app have age restrictions?

Several apps and social media sites have a minimum age requirement for users and others have age recommendations. You can find age requirements and recommendations by looking in your phone or tablet’s app store. If your child is too young for an app, consider looking for one that is more age-appropriate.

  • Does the app have parental controls?

Some apps have parental controls while others do not. It is important to understand what you can and cannot control in an app.

  • Can you connect with strangers over the app?

Many apps allow you to interact with strangers and some even intentionally pair users with them. Find out what ways your child can interact with others on the app. Can they text/video call other users? Are there ways to limit with whom your child can interact?

  • What information does the app collect and reveal to other users?

Find out if the app would share your child’s personal information with others, such as their location, date of birth, etc. Look into what privacy settings you control and what information you cannot control.

  • Does this app allow your kids to spend money?

Some apps and games encourage users to make purchases. If the app does this, consider if you want to allow your child access to buy items. If not, make sure that the app is not tied to your credit/debit cards or bank account.

 

Resources:

FTC: Understanding Mobile Apps

Common Sense Media App Reviews

Sextortion

Sextortion

Oftentimes, a perpetrator will obtain sexually explicit material from a victim and use it to extort money or additional sexually explicit images. Sextortion can happen a number of ways:

  • Secretly recording video chats
  • Pretending to be someone else (such as an attractive peer)
  • Hacking or using malware to control a victim’s computer/webcam
  • Theft of personal electronic devices or online accounts

 

Tips for Keeping Children Safe Online:

  • Supervise your children’s computer/mobile devices: Discuss smartphone usage with children and consider placing computers in public areas, such as living rooms. Consider also having phones checked in at night.
  • Discuss online activities: Encourage and initiate open discussions with your kids regarding all aspects of their online activities, positive and negative.
  • Encourage openness: Invite your kids to share with you if anyone asks for sexually inappropriate images or anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Monitor apps: Since sextortion often occurs on phone/tablet apps, chat rooms, and social media accounts, talk with your kids early about not sharing pictures with strangers and only communicating with people online they know in person.
  • Cover webcams: Cover webcams and turn off computers when they are not in use.
  • Never send compromising photos:  Tell your children not to send compromising or suggestive photos to anyone, regardless of who they claim to be.

 

If you believe you are a victim of sextortion or know someone who is, call the Omaha FBI Office at (402) 493-8688 or contact the FBI online at https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.

Resources: 
FBI Video "What is Sextortion?"
FBI Stop Sextortion Brochure
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Sextortion Webpage
Is Your Explicit Image Out There? National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

 

Some information adapted from FBI Stop Sextortion Brochure

Sexting

Sexting

Sexting is the distribution or receipt of sexually explicit messages, as well as the exchange of photographic images, in which those depicted are engaged in sexually explicit conduct or are in a state of undress, via electronic communication devices such as computers and cellphones.    

Tips for Keeping Children Safe Online:

  • It may not be private: Once you send the message or image, you do not control how it is shared.
  • Consider personal reputation and safety:  Encourage children to get permission from the photographer or the person in an image before posting videos or pictures.
  • Use good judgment when using social media from a mobile phone: The filters you have installed on your home computer won’t limit what children can do on a mobile device. Talk to your children about using good sense when they’re social networking from their phones, too.

 

Resource:

Is Your Explicit Image Out There? National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Safety

Safety

Keeping your child safe online takes effort and wisdom. Below are some factors to consider how to help them navigate the internet.

Tips for Keeping Children Safe Online

  • Know and manage friends: Your children’s friends on social media should be people they know and trust in person.  
  • Be careful what you share:  The more information they post, the easier it may be for a hacker or someone else to use that information against them by stealing their identity, accessing their data, or committing crimes such as stalking.  
  • Safeguard privacy: Remind your children to ignore texts from people they don’t know, teach them how to block numbers from their cell phone, and encourage them to avoid posting their cell phone number online.  
  • Keep the computer in a central location in your home instead of in a bedroom or office, if possible. Consider similar rules for smartphone usage as well, such as checking in cellphones at night.
  • Set up parental-control tools that allow you to block certain sites and filter content.  However, keep in mind these programs are not a substitute for parental supervision and effective communication about the internet.
  • Communicate with your child about the danger of meeting someone in person who they met online.  If you feel that a meeting is appropriate, accompany your child and meet in a public place.  
  • Learn about what your child enjoys doing online.  Learn the slang so you can easily talk to them about their online activities.

Online Privacy

Help children value and protect their privacy online by discussing the various ways they can guard information about their lives.

Tips for Keeping Children Safe Online:

  • Investigate privacy settings:  Make sure your children are aware of available privacy and security settings on their social media profiles.  
  • Make passwords long, strong and unique: Encourage kids to combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a secure password. Communicate that passwords are private information and not to be shared with friends.  
  • Keep personal information personal: Talk to your children about the risks of putting too much personal information online. Social Security numbers, account numbers, and passwords are examples of information to keep private.  
  • Watch out for "free" stuff: Free games, ringtones, or other downloads can hide malware. Tell your kids not to download anything unless they trust the source and they have scanned it with security software.  

 

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act

As a parent, you have control over the personal information companies collect online from your kids under 13. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) gives you tools to do that. The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the COPPA Rule. If a site or service is covered by COPPA, it has to get your consent before collecting personal information from your child and it has to honor your choices about how that information is used. 

 

 

The COPPA Rule was put in place to protect kids’ personal information on websites and online services — including apps — that are directed to children under 13. The Rule also applies to a general audience site that knows it's collecting personal information from kids that age.

COPPA requires those sites and services to notify parents directly and get their approval before they collect, use, or disclose a child’s personal information. Personal information in the world of COPPA includes a kid’s name, address, phone number or email address; their physical whereabouts; photos, videos and audio recordings of the child, and persistent identifiers, like IP addresses, that can be used to track a child’s activities over time and across different websites and online services.

If the site or service doesn’t collect your child’s personal information, COPPA is not a factor. COPPA kicks in only when sites covered by the Rule collect certain personal information from your kids. Practically speaking, COPPA puts you in charge of your child’s personal information.

COPPA works like this: Let’s say your child wants to use features on a site or download an app that collects their personal information. Before they can, you should get a plain language notice about what information the site will collect, how it will use it, and how you can provide your consent. For example, you may get an email from a company letting you know your child has started the process for signing up for a site or service that requires your child to give personal information. Or you may get that notice on the screen where you can consent to the collection of your child’s personal information.

The notice should link to a privacy policy that’s also plain to read — and in language that’s easy to understand. The privacy policy must give details about the kind of information the site collects, and what it might do with the information — say, if it plans to use the information to target advertising to a child or give or sell the information to other companies. In addition, the policy should state that those other companies have agreed to keep the information safe and confidential, and how to contact someone who can answer your questions.

That notice also should have directions on how to give your consent. Sites and services have some flexibility in how to do that. For example, some may ask you to send back a permission slip. Others may have a toll-free number you can call.

If you agree to let the site or service collect personal information from your child, it has a legal obligation to keep it secure.

The first choice is whether you’re comfortable with the site’s information practices. Start by reading how the company plans to use your child’s information.

Then, it’s about how much consent you want to give. For example, you might give the company permission to collect your child’s personal information, but not allow it to share that information with others.

Once you give a site or service permission to collect personal information from your child, you’re still in control. As the parent, you have the right to review the information collected about your child. If you ask to see the information, keep in mind that website operators need to make sure you are the parent before providing you access. You also have the right to retract your consent any time, and to have any information collected about your child deleted.

If you think a site has collected information from your kids or marketed to them in a way that violates the law, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

Sexting

Safety

Privacy

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication devices, such as computers and cell phones, to repeatedly send or post written or visual material, for the purpose of abusing, harassing, threatening or embarrassing another person.

Signs of Cyberbullying:

The following signs may indicate that a child is being bullied or bullying others:

  • Threatening someone online, telling them to hurt or kill themselves
  • Shutting down social media accounts or creating new ones, especially ones that appear to be someone else’s
  • Posting mean, hurtful or inappropriate comments, pictures or videos about someone
  • Increased or decreased activity on devices
  • Responds emotionally (upset, laughing) when accessing devices/social media accounts
  • Hiding their screen, avoids discussing what they do on their device
  • Seem depressed, avoiding social situations and activities

 

Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Online:

  • Teach your child good online behavior as well as consistently monitor their activities online. Contracts can help parents communicate clear expectations to children regarding appropriate technology use.
  • Notice mood or behavior changes: If your child seems to be upset when using technology or social media, ask your child about this. Check out activity on their online accounts, such as comments posted.
  • Document cyberbullying: If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, work with them to keep a record of any online activity (emails, web pages, social media posts, etc.), including relevant dates and times. Keep both an electronic copy and a printed copy.
  • Report it online: If someone is harassing your child, encourage them to remove that person from their friends’ list, block their username or email address, and report them to the site administrator. If your child finds a profile that was created or altered without his or her permission, contact the site to have it taken down.
  • Report it to the police: If a child has received physical threats, or if you believe a crime or illegal behavior is occurring, report it to the police.
  • Inform the school: If a classmate is cyberbullying your child on school property, let the school know.
  • If your child is cyberbullying, communicate to them that they are inflicting pain that does not stay in cyberspace, but causes real hurt. Also communicate and enforce clear consequences that are proportionate to the behavior.
  • If your child has cyberbullied in the past, monitor online behavior extra carefully: This will help communicate to your child that you are serious in your expectations that they are good digital citizens.
  • Encourage your child to be an upstander: Encourage them to speak up if someone is being bullied and to report the situation to a trusted adult. Also encourage them to never participate in bullying, including liking a mean comment posted online.

 

Resources:

Stopbullying.gov

Reporting Cyberbullying on Social Media Apps, etc.

 

Some information adapted from Stopbullying.gov

Apps

Apps

Considering Apps for Children

With a simple online search, you can find lists of apps that have potential dangers for kids. Due to the frequent changes in apps, however, it can be hard to stay current. Almost all apps can be misused by predators and others who do not have your child’s interest in mind.

These questions can help you navigate the safety of an app for your child.

  • Does the app have age restrictions?

Several apps and social media sites have a minimum age requirement for users and others have age recommendations. You can find age requirements and recommendations by looking in your phone or tablet’s app store. If your child is too young for an app, consider looking for one that is more age-appropriate.

  • Does the app have parental controls?

Some apps have parental controls while others do not. It is important to understand what you can and cannot control in an app.

  • Can you connect with strangers over the app?

Many apps allow you to interact with strangers and some even intentionally pair users with them. Find out what ways your child can interact with others on the app. Can they text/video call other users? Are there ways to limit with whom your child can interact?

  • What information does the app collect and reveal to other users?

Find out if the app would share your child’s personal information with others, such as their location, date of birth, etc. Look into what privacy settings you control and what information you cannot control.

  • Does this app allow your kids to spend money?

Some apps and games encourage users to make purchases. If the app does this, consider if you want to allow your child access to buy items. If not, make sure that the app is not tied to your credit/debit cards or bank account.

 

Resources:

FTC: Understanding Mobile Apps

Common Sense Media App Reviews

Sextortion

Sextortion

Sextortion

Oftentimes, a perpetrator will obtain sexually explicit material from a victim and use it to extort money or additional sexually explicit images. Sextortion can happen a number of ways:

  • Secretly recording video chats
  • Pretending to be someone else (such as an attractive peer)
  • Hacking or using malware to control a victim’s computer/webcam
  • Theft of personal electronic devices or online accounts

 

Tips for Keeping Children Safe Online:

  • Supervise your children’s computer/mobile devices: Discuss smartphone usage with children and consider placing computers in public areas, such as living rooms. Consider also having phones checked in at night.
  • Discuss online activities: Encourage and initiate open discussions with your kids regarding all aspects of their online activities, positive and negative.
  • Encourage openness: Invite your kids to share with you if anyone asks for sexually inappropriate images or anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Monitor apps: Since sextortion often occurs on phone/tablet apps, chat rooms, and social media accounts, talk with your kids early about not sharing pictures with strangers and only communicating with people online they know in person.
  • Cover webcams: Cover webcams and turn off computers when they are not in use.
  • Never send compromising photos:  Tell your children not to send compromising or suggestive photos to anyone, regardless of who they claim to be.

 

If you believe you are a victim of sextortion or know someone who is, call the Omaha FBI Office at (402) 493-8688 or contact the FBI online at https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.

Resources: 
FBI Video "What is Sextortion?"
FBI Stop Sextortion Brochure
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Sextortion Webpage
Is Your Explicit Image Out There? National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

 

Some information adapted from FBI Stop Sextortion Brochure

Sexting

Sexting

Sexting

Sexting is the distribution or receipt of sexually explicit messages, as well as the exchange of photographic images, in which those depicted are engaged in sexually explicit conduct or are in a state of undress, via electronic communication devices such as computers and cellphones.    

Tips for Keeping Children Safe Online:

  • It may not be private: Once you send the message or image, you do not control how it is shared.
  • Consider personal reputation and safety:  Encourage children to get permission from the photographer or the person in an image before posting videos or pictures.
  • Use good judgment when using social media from a mobile phone: The filters you have installed on your home computer won’t limit what children can do on a mobile device. Talk to your children about using good sense when they’re social networking from their phones, too.

 

Resource:

Is Your Explicit Image Out There? National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Safety

Safety

Safety

Keeping your child safe online takes effort and wisdom. Below are some factors to consider how to help them navigate the internet.

Tips for Keeping Children Safe Online

  • Know and manage friends: Your children’s friends on social media should be people they know and trust in person.  
  • Be careful what you share:  The more information they post, the easier it may be for a hacker or someone else to use that information against them by stealing their identity, accessing their data, or committing crimes such as stalking.  
  • Safeguard privacy: Remind your children to ignore texts from people they don’t know, teach them how to block numbers from their cell phone, and encourage them to avoid posting their cell phone number online.  
  • Keep the computer in a central location in your home instead of in a bedroom or office, if possible. Consider similar rules for smartphone usage as well, such as checking in cellphones at night.
  • Set up parental-control tools that allow you to block certain sites and filter content.  However, keep in mind these programs are not a substitute for parental supervision and effective communication about the internet.
  • Communicate with your child about the danger of meeting someone in person who they met online.  If you feel that a meeting is appropriate, accompany your child and meet in a public place.  
  • Learn about what your child enjoys doing online.  Learn the slang so you can easily talk to them about their online activities.

Privacy

Online Privacy

Help children value and protect their privacy online by discussing the various ways they can guard information about their lives.

Tips for Keeping Children Safe Online:

  • Investigate privacy settings:  Make sure your children are aware of available privacy and security settings on their social media profiles.  
  • Make passwords long, strong and unique: Encourage kids to combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a secure password. Communicate that passwords are private information and not to be shared with friends.  
  • Keep personal information personal: Talk to your children about the risks of putting too much personal information online. Social Security numbers, account numbers, and passwords are examples of information to keep private.  
  • Watch out for "free" stuff: Free games, ringtones, or other downloads can hide malware. Tell your kids not to download anything unless they trust the source and they have scanned it with security software.  

 

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act

As a parent, you have control over the personal information companies collect online from your kids under 13. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) gives you tools to do that. The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the COPPA Rule. If a site or service is covered by COPPA, it has to get your consent before collecting personal information from your child and it has to honor your choices about how that information is used. 

 

 

The COPPA Rule was put in place to protect kids’ personal information on websites and online services — including apps — that are directed to children under 13. The Rule also applies to a general audience site that knows it's collecting personal information from kids that age.

COPPA requires those sites and services to notify parents directly and get their approval before they collect, use, or disclose a child’s personal information. Personal information in the world of COPPA includes a kid’s name, address, phone number or email address; their physical whereabouts; photos, videos and audio recordings of the child, and persistent identifiers, like IP addresses, that can be used to track a child’s activities over time and across different websites and online services.

If the site or service doesn’t collect your child’s personal information, COPPA is not a factor. COPPA kicks in only when sites covered by the Rule collect certain personal information from your kids. Practically speaking, COPPA puts you in charge of your child’s personal information.

COPPA works like this: Let’s say your child wants to use features on a site or download an app that collects their personal information. Before they can, you should get a plain language notice about what information the site will collect, how it will use it, and how you can provide your consent. For example, you may get an email from a company letting you know your child has started the process for signing up for a site or service that requires your child to give personal information. Or you may get that notice on the screen where you can consent to the collection of your child’s personal information.

The notice should link to a privacy policy that’s also plain to read — and in language that’s easy to understand. The privacy policy must give details about the kind of information the site collects, and what it might do with the information — say, if it plans to use the information to target advertising to a child or give or sell the information to other companies. In addition, the policy should state that those other companies have agreed to keep the information safe and confidential, and how to contact someone who can answer your questions.

That notice also should have directions on how to give your consent. Sites and services have some flexibility in how to do that. For example, some may ask you to send back a permission slip. Others may have a toll-free number you can call.

If you agree to let the site or service collect personal information from your child, it has a legal obligation to keep it secure.

The first choice is whether you’re comfortable with the site’s information practices. Start by reading how the company plans to use your child’s information.

Then, it’s about how much consent you want to give. For example, you might give the company permission to collect your child’s personal information, but not allow it to share that information with others.

Once you give a site or service permission to collect personal information from your child, you’re still in control. As the parent, you have the right to review the information collected about your child. If you ask to see the information, keep in mind that website operators need to make sure you are the parent before providing you access. You also have the right to retract your consent any time, and to have any information collected about your child deleted.

If you think a site has collected information from your kids or marketed to them in a way that violates the law, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.