Cyber Smarts

Before you log on, update your status, tweet, or post a selfie, make sure you are practicing Internet safety.

+ Keep Yourself Safe Online

Be respectful of others.
• Consider whether your actions contribute to creating a positive online community. Don't write mean things to others, belittle people, or spread rumors/gossip and never say things that might make others feel unsafe or uncomfortable, even if you mean it as a "joke." Never share private information, messages, photos, or videos about others because this is a breach of trust.

Maintain privacy.
• Don't share personal or private information online - like your full name, school name, home address, phone number, or personal photos - with strangers or people you don't trust.

Safeguard security information.
• Keep passwords and PINs to yourself - don't even tell your best friend - but never hide this information from your parents/guardians. They'll trust you more if you're open with them, and if a serious problem occurs, they may need this information to help you.

Keep electronics in view at all times.
• Don't leave cell phones or other electronics out of sight. There are numerous applications and techniques someone can use to hack into or steal your devices.

Don't confide in strangers.
• Communication online is easier for people to lie about their identity. Someone you meet online may not be the best person to talk to if you are having problems.

Know your friends, contacts, and followers.
• These are the people who can see, share, and comment on what you post so you want to be sure that you can trust them. Only approve people you personally know. Block and report anyone who makes harassing, threatening, or inappropriate comments.

Don't friend people you don't know.
• Use privacy settings and don't accept just anyone as a friend. Do some investigating when you receive a friend request or someone wants to follow you. Who are they? Why would you hang out with them?

Never meet a stranger without parental approval.
• Don't arrange to meet people you met online without a parent's/guardian's permission.

Be cautious of messages from strangers.
• Don't open messages or attachments from people you don't know. In many instances it may be best to just delete them.

Be an ally.
• Support people who are targets of mean behavior and bullying by reaching out to the target and telling the agressor to stop. Report what is happening. Many online companies have anonymous reporting procedures, or you can tell a trusted adult.

Be a role model.
• Model positive online behavior by writing kind posts and messages and applauding positive content that affirms people and communicates respect.

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets, as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.

Examples of cyberbullying can include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.

Cyberbullying, cyberstalking, and cyberharassment are illegal in Rhode Island. The penalty for a first offense of charge of cyberbullying is up to one year in jail and up to a $500 fine. If you are convicted of cyberbullying a second time, the maximum penalty is up to two years in jail and up to a $6,000 fine.

A person who is under 18 years of age who is charged with cyberbullying may have to go before a Family Court judge who will determine the penalty based on the circumstances. Juveniles could face imprisonment at the Rhode Island Training School, home confinement, monitoring by a GPS system, community service, or fines.

+ Tips to Prevent Cyberbullying
  • Don't give out private information (passwords, pins, names, addresses, phone numbers, school name, or family and friends' names.
  • Don't share personal or private information online - like your full name, school name, home address, phone number, or personal photos - with strangers or people you don't trust.
  • Don't share your password, even with your friends.
  • Don't send a message when you are angry.
  • Don't swear or use insulting or rude language.
  • Don't give anyone access to your phone, tablet, or computer unless you are watching what they are doing on your device.
  • Log out of the site or leave the conversation if something doesn't seem right or someone is beginning to post mean messages.
  • Do not say anything online that you would not say face to face to the person on the other end of the phone.
+ Stop, Block, and Tell

What happens when someone else is consistently and repeatedly sending you mean messages online? Or if you receive a message that you know is wrong, not just because the message was hurtful, but because it was asking for information that made you feel uncomfortable, like your personal information or pictures. Or it was threatening to harm you or someone you care for?

  • Do not respond to the message.
    • Instead, take a screenshot of the message so that you can later show a trusted adult or a police officer in case the bullying escalates.
  • Block the person.
    • Whether this means blocking their number on your phone, unfriending them on Facebook, or blocking them on any other social media account, you need to make sure they can no longer contact you.
    • Don't keep checking their profile, and ignore anything that you see from them online.
  • Tell a trusted adult.
    • It could be a parent, teacher, principal, older sibling, or coach. Whoever you talk with, they will be able to help you get out of the situation and make sure that you do not receive those kinds of messages again.
    • Remember, telling an adult what happened in these instances is not snitching or tattling.
    • You would tell a trusted adult if someone was making fun of you in the cafeteria or threatening to physically hurt you, right? So, you need to tell an adult if someone is bullying you online too.
+ Stop Others from Being Bullied

If you know someone is being a bully - either in person or online, you can put a stop to it too.

  • If you see someone being bullied, stand up to the bully - tell them to stop it.
    • Most often, if you stand up to a bully, they will back down. So stand up to the bully and show them that there is nothing cool about bullying. It does not matter if it happens in the classroom, on the playground, in your neighborhood, or online: bullying can hurt and it's important to take a stand.
  • Be a friend to the person being bullied - you can help them simply by being nice to them.
    • Talking to them, sitting with them at lunch, or inviting them to play sports or hang out can help a lot. Being a friend can go a long way toward letting them know that they are not alone.
  • Help the person being bullied to get away from the situation.
    • Create a distraction and offer a way for the person being bullied to leave by saying something like: "Come on, we need to get ready for class," or "Your teacher needs to see you right away," or "Hey, check out what I just found."
  • Set a good example by not bullying others and standing up to bullies.
  • Don't give bullies the attention they want.
    • Don't encourage their behavior by laughing, egging them on, or watching the bullying take place. If bullies don't get the attention they are looking for, they will more than likely stop.
  • Tell a trusted adult, like a parent, teacher, or coach.
    • Reporting bullying is not snitching or tattling. It is being smart and doing the right thing!

Sexting

Sexting involves people taking selfies or videos of themselves either in their underwear or in the nude, or photos/videos of their breats or genitals. These photos are then typically sent to a boyfriend/girlfriend via text, prival social media message, Kik messenger, Snapchat or other apps.

+ What are the dangers and risks?
  • If you send an explicit image of yourself to someone else:
    • The recipient can forward the image to other people, who in turn can also forward it on
    • Short Term Consequences:
      • Humiliation at school
      • Bad reputation
      • Suspension from school
      • Loss of friends
      • Being bullied/taunted at school
      • Depression and self harm
    • Long Term Consequences:
      • Permanent damage to your online reputation
      • Leads to damaged college admissions prospects
      • Damaged job prospects
    • Legal Consequences:
      • Sending explicit images of children under 18 is illegal
      • Teens who send explicit imges of underage children can be convicted of child pornography
      • If convicted of child pornography, you would be placed on a registered sex offender list

Tips for Parents

Is your child ready for a cell phone? Click here for a checklist that will help you decide.

+ How much do you know?

How much do you know about social media sites? It seems like there is a new app, website, or social media site every day that your kids are talking about. How much do you know about these sites? Here's a quick overview of the most popular sites today*:

  • 4chan
    An imageboard website where users generally post anonymously, 4chan is split into various topic-specific boards, and many popular memes have been oiginated on the site. Given its anonymous nature, there are very little rules for posting.
  • After School
    An anonymous, private message board for specific schools. As with other anonymous sites, there are concerns about youth posting mean and hurtful material, as well as sexually explicit content. App rated for 13+.
  • ask.fm
    A social networking site set-up where users ask questions and answer those posted by others. Users are allowed to be anonymous, which has led to some youth using it to engage in hurtful and bullying behavior. App rated for 13+.
  • Facebook
    A social networking site with one billion users. Users share status updates, pictures, articles, etc. with friends or the public, depending on their privacy settings, which change frequently. Facebook friends can "like" and comment on posts. Facebook users can also send messages to one another. Facebook also has numerous game applications that many adults and youth play, for example, Farmville and Words with Friends. App rated 13+.
  • Instagram
    A smartphone app where users can share pictures and videos and follow certain hashtags (topics) related to their interests. Sharing can be set to either "friends" or public. Users can like and comment on posts or explore public pictures using hashtags. App rated 13+.
  • Kik messenger
    An instant messenging app for smartphones. Allows users to message people without needing a mobile phone number or being charged text messaging fees because it uses wifi. Users can message pictures, share web content, etc. App rated for 13+ but does not require age authentication.
  • Meerkat
    An app that allows users to live stream videos to their Twitter followers. App rated for 12+.
  • Omegle
    Online site and app for anonymous chatting. The site randomly picks users to talk one-on-one. Users do not have to register and Omegle keeps users anomymous yntil they choose to identify themselves (which Omegle makes a point of saying they don't advise). Includes a video chat feature. App rated 18+ or 13+ with parental consent; however, it doesn't verify age.
  • ooVoo
    A video call, text, and voice app designed to operate as a phone with the use of wifi. Cellphone carriers cannot track communication. App rated for 16+.
  • Periscope
    An app that allows users to watch and share live video broadcasts. Broadcasts can also be made available for replay. Users share through their Twitter and can choose to make their broadcasts private to their followers. App rated 4+ (since it is a social media app, we recommend 12+).
  • Pheed
    A social networking site that is aimed at a younger audience. It combines text, video, images, and audio, and includes a live broadcast option. App rated 12+.
  • Reddit
    An entertainment, social networking, and news website where registered community members can submit content, such as text posts or direct links. Registered users vote submissions "up" or "down" which determines their position on the page. Reddit is divided into communities, or "subreddits," which cover a fill range of interests and topics, including those that are considered offensive and derogatory.
  • Secret
    A free "confessional" app that allows people to share messages anonymously within their circle of friends, friends of friends, and publicly. This app is designed less for public confessions and more for sharing primarily with friends; the idea is your friend confesses a secret or shares a thought, but you don't know which one. As with other apps based on anonymity, the possibility for abuse, such as posting hurtful comments about others, is increased. App rated 15+.
  • Skout
    A location-based dating app where users are notified of others in the same geographic area. While searching for people, users can view the profile and recent activities of others that they find interesting. The application also allows users to instant message one another. App is rated 17+.
  • Snapchat
    Smrtphone app where users send photos and videos that disappear from view within 10 seconds from receipt. Users should understand that the pictures disappear from view but they don't totally disappear and can be retrieved, as well as saved through the recipient's print screen functions. App rated 12+.
  • Tinder
    A dating "hook-up" app where users can view pictures of other users in the same geographic area. When users "like" each other an instant messaging feature is enabled, allowing users to communicate directly. The app is rated ages 17+ but Tinder's privacy policy allows teens as young as 13 to register. (The app connects with Facebook - which is also technically for ages 13+ - to pull in photos for users/Tinder profiles.)
  • Tumblr
    A blog site where users upload pictures, links, texts, or gifs in a steady stream of information. It is a streamlined blog site that favors creative expressions. Users can post text, but gifs and pictures are the most reblogged types of content. Users can use hashtags to search site content or have their content associated with popular hashtags. Users must be 13+.
  • Twitter
    A micro-blogging site where users communicate in 140 characters or fewer. Users can share website links, pictures, and videos. Hashtags were made popular on Twitter and are a tremendous search tool for general research on any topic. However, hashtags can also be used to insult. Twitter's latest terms of service omit an age requirement, but they discourage users under 13. Twitter does support other products that screen for age.
  • WhatsApp
    An instant messaging app for smartphones that is popular worldwide. Allows users to message friends without being charged text messaging fees because it uses wifi. Uses the same interface as Facebook messenger. Users can share pictures, videos, audio messages, etc. App rated for 16+.
  • whisper
    An app which allows people to share "secrets" or "confessions" anonymously with an accompanying picture (like a picture meme). Users can share or comment on the posts. App allows you to see any content posted, or specifically look at posts from users within a mile from you. Users can engage in private communications in which they can exchange images and personal information. This app is not for children. App rated 17+.
  • Yine
    Twitter-affiliated app where users can send six-sexond looping videos to recipients. Nudity and sexual content are allowed per the terms of service and are even highlighted in the description for the app. Vine videos are shareable on Twitter and other social media platforms. App rated 17+.
  • Voxer
    A walkie-talkie app that includes both a live PTT (push to talk) and a voice messaging system. Messages on Voxer are delivered live as they are being recorded and then also delivered as a voice message. The app is marketed towards businesses but individuals are getting the app for personal use as well. App rated 4+.
  • Yik Yak
    A social bulletin board. All users are anonymous and it's designed for "Yakkers" to post info about events, etc. which other users then vote up or down. Like most sites that allow anonymity, the platform can lend itself to posting negative information or comments about others. App is rated for 17+.
  • Yo
    A basic app for sending text messages. It is designed to turn on when the user says "Yo," and it allows the user to send very short messages. App is rated for 12+.
+ Take Charge

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and Cox have teamed up to encourage you Take Charge! of your family's communications by assessing your Digital Life and then taking some simple steps to ensure that your property and your loved ones are safe.

  • Talk with your kids about Internet safety.
    • Talk to your kids regularly about what they should (and should not) do online. It's free, and it makes a big difference. Research shows that kids whose parents talk to them about Internet safety are less likely to engage in risky behavior while online, and are more likely to exhibit responsible online behavior on their own. Nearly half of teens admit hiding online behavior from parents, and your kids also needs to know they won't get in trouble if they tell you or another trusted adult if anything bad, mean, or scary happens.
  • Know which devices in your home have Internet access.
    • Internet use is doubling every two years, and today the average hoursehold has more than six devices connected to the Internet. This includes tablets, smartphones, gaming systems, laptops, and desktop computers. If you aren't aware that a device has Internet access, you can't restrict or monitor it. Take inventory of the electronic devices in your home, then Take Charge! of all the Internet access points available to your children.
  • Use parental controls on all mobile devices.
    • Take advantage of the parental control features included in the security software available through your Internet Service Provider, such as the free Cox Security Suite Powered by McAfee. Basic parental control features can also be found in the Settings section of most mobile devices. Remind your kids that the same rules apply to all Internet-enabled devices, whenever and wherever they use them.
  • Tell your kids not to respond to online messages from people they've never met.
    • "Don't talk to strangers" is an important rule that also applies online. According to a survey from Cox and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 42 percent of tweens (10- to 13-year-olds) have received messages from people they've never met. Ninety two percent of teens are social network users, and parents can help minimize exposure to strangers by setting the appropriate privacy settings for their social media accounts.
  • Make sure your kids visit age-appropriate sites.
    • When you hear your kids talk about a new website or social network, check it out. If you approve the site, then site with them as they visit the site to see what they do or learn. The Internet can be a rich resource to promote learning and creativity, and can help deepen your kids' interests.
  • Use passwords that only you know on all mobile devices.
    • Enable strong passwords on all Internet-enabled devices. If your child has to come to you to enter the password, you'll always be aware of when they are using the device.
  • Have some rules about the time and place for using mobile devices.
    • Set limits on the amount of time your kids spend online using mobile devices and where they can use them. Don't let your kids "instant message" if you don't have monitoring software on the mobile device. Restrict time and sites for online gaming.
  • Agree on downloads.
    • Have the final say. Don't share passwords that will give kids the ability to download music, apps, games, etc., to any device without your approval first. If they need to download something, you should always be involved.
  • Teach kids what it means to "overshare" personal information.
    • Talk to your children about the type of information that is not appropriate to share online, such as their age and location. This includes making sure location-based settings are turned off, so children don't unintentionally disclose their location to others. Personal oversharing can also include selfies and videos that kids may take and share. Remind them that anything they send to one friend may be shared with others.
  • Stay involved.
    • Parents are the role models for safe and smart use. Enjoy the good stuff together by joining social networks that your kids are involved in, playing games together, and sharing favorite apps and helpful web sites.
+ Family Contract

This family contract establishes media and Internet use ground rules for children and parents. Communicating and clearly defining expectations of children when using technology helps the whole family to make smarter choices.

+ What is Sexting?

Sexting involves people taking selfie photos/videos of themselves either in their underwear or in the nude or photos/videos of their breasts or genitals. These photos are then typically sent to the teen's boyfriend/girlfriend via text, private social media message, Kik messenger, or Snapchat.

  • Why do kids sext?
    • Kids sext for several reasons, including peer pressure, relationship pressure, thinking it's a form of flirting, thinking it will make them more popular, or as a joke. What kids don't understand about sexting is the very serious consequences, from emotional to legal troubles.
  • What are the dangers and risks?
    • If your child sends an explicit image of themselves:
      • The recipient can forward the image to other people, who in turn can forward it on.
      • Short Term Consequences:
        • Humiliation at school
        • Unwanted reputation at school
        • Suspension from school
        • Loss of friends
        • Being bullied/taunted at school
        • Depression and self harm
      • Long Term Consequences:
        • Permanent damage to your child's online reputation
        • Leads to damaged college admissions prospects
        • Damaged job prospects
      • Legal Consequences:
        • Sending explicit images of children under 18 is illegal
        • Teens who send explicit images of underage children can be convicted of child pornography
        • If convicted of child pornogrpahy, he or she would be placed on a registered sex offender list

Tips for Parents:

  • If your children have sent any nude pictures of themselves, make sure they stop immediately.
  • Have them delete the photos - your family doesn't want to run the risk of having what could be considered "child pornography" on any of its devices.
  • Have a talk where you stay calm, be supportive, and learn as much as you can about the situation. For example, see if it was impulsive behavior, a teen "romance" thing, or a form of harassment or aggression.
  • Consider talking with other teens and parents involved, and possibly your child's school, based on what you've learned, but keep your child informed and involved.
  • Consider contacting law enforcement.
    • In Rhode Island:
      • a juvenile who sends the sext may be charged with a status offense and brought before the Family Court;
      • a juvenile who forwards or shares a sext (either by text, social media, or an app) may be charged with distribution of child pornography and, in addition to any criminal penalties, may be required to register as a sex offender;
      • there is no penalty for a juvenile who receives a sext, so long as they do not forward or share it with others.