What Are My Kids Doing Online?
About the Guest
On today's broadcast, Vicki Courtney, a mother of three and author of the book "Logged On and Tuned Out," joins Aaron Kenny, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of SafeBrowse, and Dennis Rainey to talk about which sites are most popular with today's youth. Join us to hear Vicki's rules for using the internet safely.
Vicki CourtneyVicki Courtney is a speaker and the bestselling author of many books and Bible studies. She is a past ECPA Christian Book Award winner and a trusted resource among parents. Vicki and her husband have three grown children, a son-in-love, two daughters-in-love, four grandsons and a granddaughter. They live in Austin, Texas where they are blessed to have their children and grandchildren living nearby. More information can be found at VickiCourtney.com.
Vicki Courtney joins Aaron Kenny and Dennis Rainey to talk about rules for using the internet safely.
What Are My Kids Doing Online?
Aaron: The statistics are showing that 75 percent of children under the age of 18 are posting information that can personally identify them online, and they do it mostly unknowingly, like posting their last name or the school they go to. But these little pieces of information that are scattered around the Internet on different sites, a predator can use them to identify who that person is.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, October 10th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Chances are your children are spending a lot of time online and posting a lot of information online. So just how safe is your family? We'll talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. We have kind of a running joke around our house. Somebody will ask a question, and I'll say, "I don't know, but I'll go find out." And I'll run over to the computer, and I'll go to Google, and I'll type in whatever it is we're looking for and instantly, of course, we've got the answer to any question anybody ever asks.
Dennis: Any question?
Bob: Almost – virtually, any question. And I just look at the family and I go, "I love the Internet. I love the Internet because you can get your questions answered immediately. Do you want to know what happened to Clyde McPhatter from Clyde McPhatter and the – what was it, the Platters or the Drifters? I don't remember. But do you want to know about Clyde McPhatter?
Dennis: I don't. I don't care about Clyde.
Bob: But you can find out on the Internet if you wanted to know. If you wanted to know what happened in Leningrad in 1742, it's there on the Internet.
Dennis: Did anything happen then?
Bob: I don't know, but you can find …
Dennis: You're bluffing, I can tell.
Bob: You can find out on Google like that. And so I just say from time to time, "I love the Internet," and we laugh about it. But the truth is, while I do appreciate what the Internet provides for us, it's also a risky place to be.
Dennis: It is. It is, it's a dangerous place to be, and we have a couple of guests with us – Vicky Courtney and Aaron Kenny who join us and who are going to help us take on the challenges of the Internet. Aaron, Vicky, welcome to our broadcast.
Vicky: Thank you.
Aaron: Thank you.
Dennis: Aaron is the chief technology officer for InternetSafety.com. He is married to his wife, Stephanie, and he is the creator – and I have a copy of it right here – of Safe Eyes parental control software, and this is meant to partner with businesses and families to protect what comes through the Internet and impacts – well, everybody in our entire family.
Bob: And can I say just a word about Safe Eyes, while you're talking about it?
Dennis: Yeah, you have a copy of it.
Bob: Well, I have it. In fact, I got an e-mail last night – well, actually, it was this morning and 2 in the morning from my computer because someone was on my computer. I think I know who it was – at 2 in the morning – and they were surfing, and they were apparently trying to surf to a site that is a questionable site – not anything that's, you know …
Dennis: … really, really, really bad, just in the gray zone.
Bob: In the gray zone but enough in the gray zone that I got an e-mail saying, "Alert, alert, somebody is trying to go where they shouldn't go." So I can have a little conversation about that later on today. Thank you very much for that, Aaron.
Dennis: Yeah, thanks for your work, Aaron.
Vicky Courtney is the founder of Virtuous Reality Ministries. She and her husband, Keith, have three teenagers, and that's why she wrote the book. She is all over the Internet, and she has written a book for parents called "Logged On and Tuned Out," and you got logged on by watching your son play checkers, is that right, Vicky?
Vicky: Some years ago. He's in college now, but when he was about 7th, 8th grade, he was playing a game of checkers on the computer, and he yelled out, "Oh, I won, I won." I said, "Oh, that's great. Did you beat the computer?" He said, "No, I beat some guy in Canada."
And, you know, here is your 12, 13-year-old telling you this, and I literally couldn't breathe, as I walked over there and said how can this little tower enable you to connect to someone in Canada? He said, "Oh, my friend showed me how to do it." And that's where I knew I had a choice. It's time to get up to speed, you know, and catch up to what's going on so that I could have some necessary conversations with my kids.
Bob: Now, why did that worry you? He's playing checkers with a stranger in Canada? Why are you concerned about that, Mom?
Vicky: Does that merit an answer, really, now?
Dennis: Well, it does merit an answer because a few weeks later he came to you, and he wanted to do IM.
Dennis: And you didn't know what IM was at that point?
Vicky: Well, no, and that's when it was really on the cusp of all that, and the kids were starting to figure out they could communicate instantly, IM standing for instant messaging. So he said, "Mom, could I get a screen name like all my friends?" And I said, "A screen what?" And so I think, really, that speaks well of where parents are today – whether they're asking for an IM account or a cell phone in third grade now, or can I get a MySpace or Facebook page? It's that same feeling that I had that day. "Oh, wow, I am grossly unprepared for what is coming down the pipe here, what's already here, and what do I do?"
So that was really my passion in writing that book was to catch parents up to speed – not make them experts but catch them up to speed in their wired worlds.
Dennis: Vicky, I think you really did that in your book …
Vicky: Thank you.
Dennis: … and I have to say that as I was reading my way through it, I thought you really walked a fine line in here between scaring parents half to death but, at the same time, letting them know what's going on. And I have to give a couple of quotes that you have in the book, and this first one in terms of a statistic is amazing. Fourteen percent have actually met face-to-face with a person they had only known through the Internet.
And then here is the two additional stats that go with that – 9 percent of them were 13- to 15-year-olds, and 22 percent were 16- and 17-year-olds. Vicky, we're talking about dangerous meetings at this point. I mean, there are some evil people who are going online to really do harmful things to our children.
Vicky: Oh, absolutely, and, you know, interestingly enough, I surveyed over 500 teenage girls answer some questions about their Internet activity, and I asked them, "Have you ever been made to feel uncomfortable online – strangers come on and said something to you. If so, what were the circumstances and did you tell your parents?"
There's very little that surprises me any longer in doing what I do – I was absolutely shocked at what these girls were sharing, because they could be anonymous in sharing it with me. Only a handful of these girls actually told their parents and, you know, the reason for that is because they're afraid that they're going to get their Internet privileges withdrawn even if it wasn't their fault.
So I addressed that, Dennis, in the book. I talk to Mom and Dad about how to find that balance of letting your kids know, having that conversation that you need to be able to come to me and tell me anything. I am not going to pull all the Internet away from you, but I need to know what's going on and, again, that's what I love about what Aaron's group is doing with Safe Eyes, because it adds an extra level of protection for Mom and Dad. So it blocks up to 35 categories of sites, and so it's just like you were saying, you got the notice, you know, "Warning, warning" is really what that was. "Your child is trying to access something."
I've been on the road and gotten e-mails like that and called home – the old-fashioned way, you know, you pick up the phone and call your child. I can't text, it takes too long. "Where are you trying to go online right now?" And so we need all the help we can get. I'm sensing a real just desperateness among parents to know what's going on, but where do they begin, that's the question.
Bob: Aaron, your company, InternetSafety.com creates a program call Safe Eyes that Vicky is talking about. It's the one that sent me that e-mail, and this is a filter that helps moms and dads get a handle on where kids are going, what they're doing, blocks particular sites, screens content. You even have social network filtering now for that whole area.
I'm thinking, this is a little bit like saying to your child, "I know you have to go downtown, but downtown is a dangerous place, and I'm not going to keep you from going downtown, but we just want to make sure that …
Dennis: You stay out of the wrong alley.
Bob: Yeah, that you're not getting into danger when you go online. The reality is the Internet is here, and it's a part of life, and we're not going to be able to take it away, but we do have to have some safeguards, don't we?
Aaron: Yes, and that's exactly why we built Safe Eyes. We originally envisioned it as a tool for parents to help protect their children online. Whether that's through their Web browsing, instant messaging, or social networking, there are unique needs in each family for the way that they need to monitor or control access to the Internet. So we built Safe Eyes to be extremely flexible so that each family can employ the tools that they need to protect their family.
Dennis: I was having a conversation with – well, let's call him a professional, okay? He serves in the service area of business, and this is a highly educated layman, and I was talking with him about what his son or daughter may be doing on the Internet, and this particular professional is not savvy to what's going on.
And I'm amazed, frankly, that that can still be the case in this generation raising a family. It seems like every parent, regardless of the age of your children, needs to know what's happening, where the dangers are, and what they can do.
Vicky, you actually have your own filter for your family. It's called "The Rules," for your family.
Vicky: The Rules and Regulations.
Dennis: And I want to post these on our website, if it's okay with you.
Dennis: But they're on page 157 and 158 in your book, and there's 19 rules, and we don't have time, Vicky, to go through all 19, but what I'd like you to do is to pick two or three of your favorites, and if you don't pick mine, I'm going to give you some that I checked because, truthfully, these rules ought to be posted on the refrigerator or made available …
Bob: Next to the computer, forget the refrigerator.
Dennis: Well, maybe both places at that point.
Vicky: We'll have, on InternetSafety.com as well as loggedonandtunedout.com, the landing page for the book, we'll have these where you can download them. I want your listeners to go to your page and get them as well.
But if I have to pick two, Dennis, I would say – I'm going to cheat here a little bit, I'm going to clump some of them together.
Vicky: But the danger of sharing too much information – so that, obviously, is a little bit broader. That would include our kids sharing their last name, a lot of them don't think they share their cell phone number on the social networking sites or their away message for when they're instant messaging, and it says – it automatically tells their friends, "I'm away from the computer, call me on my cell phone."
We need to let our kids know you are sharing way too much information out there. You are leaving a bread crumb trail, if you will, for people who may have malicious intent, and they are out there. The second one I'd say that's critically important for where we're going in the future here, and you see a news account just about every day, and we need to take advantage of those, by the way, and use them as teachable moments with our kids – it would be picture and video clip uploading. That is what we're going to see next that is absolutely – we're seeing it already, whether it's an American Idol contestant that, all of a sudden, has topless photos coming out. She didn't take them, her friends took them on the beach some years back, yet once she was able to reach a level of fame, you know, there they are. The friend betrays her and goes on and it's not like some of these girls to do that and upload some to the Internet, and they're everywhere.
Miss Nevada scandal, that was another one, and I share some of these in the book so Mom and Dad can actually say, "Here's what's going on. This is why you should be afraid." The kids aren't thinking while they're doing this that this may come back to haunt me years on down the road.
Bob: Did she pick your favorites?
Dennis: Well, she didn't, but she probably picked probably the most important ones.
Vicky: Share your favorites, and then I'm sure we've shared them all by then.
Dennis: Well, I like number 8, and this is a minor one, but in terms of relationships, I'm finding that we are raising a generation who are "relating" to their friends in little sound-bite pieces with letters that aren't even words, okay? They all stand for something, and it makes sense to them, but they're not truly relating.
And number 8 says, "misunderstandings, fights with friends that need to be worked out, et cetera, should always be saved for face-to-face or, at a minimum, over the phone. And I think this is really important. You can't get into resolving a conflict with someone, whether it's at business or at home or with a friend over a cell phone with text messaging. It's simply not going to work out.
Vicky: Exactly. Or IMing, for that matter, a lot of them try to do it that way. That would be my third favorite, so I'm glad you mentioned it. And can we add real quick for these mothers of sons – do not let your sons – and daughters, for that matter – either break up online. I've grounded my son for doing this recently. You don't text a girl to break up with her or send her an instant message – highly inappropriate.
Bob: What you're really saying is that we've got this new way of relating to one another, and it's an insufficient way of having a real relationship.
Vicky: Exactly, and look at what's being modeled for them. I mean, Britney Spears sent her ex a text message saying, "I'm divorcing you." So this is what they're seeing. They think it's the norm.
Bob: Let me go back to the safety issue and, Aaron …
Dennis: Wait a second, Bob, I didn't finish with my second one.
Bob: Oh, I'm sorry, what's your second one?
Dennis: Make sure your screen name would bring glory to God. Stay away from using words like "hottie," "pimp," "sexy," or others words that are suggestive, crude, or would leave others with a poor impression of you and your character.
Bob: I'm going to have to change my screen name now.
Dennis: What's your screen name, Bob?
Bob: Well, my screen name is "theotherking," you know, because of Elvis and so – no, I'm kidding.
Vicky: You know everyone is going to go look for you now.
Dennis: Yeah, exactly. But the reason I like that one is it really brings back memories to when one of my daughters was online, and I looked over her shoulder, and the young man on the other end, who I think was from Atlanta, was e-mailing her calling her "sexy thang," t-h-a-n-g. And I asked my daughter to get up out of the chair. I sat down at the computer. I said, "This is Mr. Rainey. Please refrain from referring to my daughter as a "sexy thing." She is a woman created in the image of God, and I'd appreciate it if you'd grant her the nobility that God granted her at her creation."
Dennis: And instantly it came back – "Yes, sir."
Vicky: You could have said, "This is Mr. Sexy Thang."
Bob: This is "Sexy Thang's" father.
Bob: Aaron, let me ask you about this whole safety-related issue, because, obviously, we hear about cases in the news, or NBC's got the TV show where they're showing sexual predators, but most teenagers are thinking, "That's so unusual, unlikely. Yeah, okay, so I put my last name on. Big deal." Is it a big deal?
Aaron: It is a big deal. Statistics are showing that 75 percent of children under the age of 18 are posting information that can personally identify them online.
Dennis: What percent again?
Aaron: Seventy-five percent, and they do it mostly unknowingly, like you were saying. They'll do it by posting their last name or the school they go to. But these little pieces of information that are scattered around the Internet on different sites, a predator can use them to put together to identify who that person is. That's the concept that led us to build our social networking protection into our latest version of Safe Eyes.
Bob: And what does that do?
Aaron: Well, this feature lets you put those pieces of information, such as a child's cell phone number, their name, their school name, into our software and then if those are posted online, the parent is alerted so that the parent can sit down with that child and talk about why it's dangerous for them to post that information online.
Dennis: So it still lets them post it, though?
Aaron: Yes, it does.
Bob: But, see, that's one of the things I like about the Safe Eyes approach, is it puts the responsibility back with the parent and with the family rather than the software making a decision about what is or isn't going to go online. The family makes the decision, and families are going to have to navigate that on their own, but the control is back in Mom and Dad's hands.
Dennis: Well, once that name goes out over the Internet, and I have some e-mail correspondence with a family on the West Coast whose daughter did the very thing you're talking about, and she began to be stalked by a man who was posing as a teenager but, in essence, was nearly 30 years old, and they had to change their phone number, they had to hire someone to look after her daughter for a period of time while she was going to school, because she had posted what her school was.
I mean, we're talking about the possibility of kidnapping, possibly even murder. Bob, we featured a story here on FamilyLife Today, Casey Woody, who was a 13-year-old girl who thought she was relating to a 17-year-old boy, and it turned out to be a 45-year-old sexual predator who ultimately deceived her and abducted her and took her life.
I mean, we're talking about real issues that are dangerous here.
Vicky: And, Dennis, I want to back that up by – you know, with the survey that I mentioned earlier that I did with the teen girls, and these are your church girls, by the way, you know, 500 really, by and large, are church girls, and I heard from girls who were – some of them who were frightened out of their wits, saying, "What do I do? I've got somebody stalking me," just as you're saying. I remember one girl sharing that she had shared her cell phone number, and then a friend came on and posted on her MySpace page, "Hey, I'll see you at work later today," and she mentioned her workplace. And a guy sat out in the parking lot and texted her while she was at work, and she was scared to death to tell her parents.
It was somebody she had been communicating with online, and she said she realized when she saw him out in the car that he was much older than what he had told her. So these stories really are happening and, again, the teens are afraid to tell Mom and Dad, and so I love what the Safe Eyes program does. It adds an extra level of protection, and I use that term because we are ultimately, Mom and Dad are ultimately, you know, that last barrier in the sense of you draw the boundaries and the rules, and you're engaged, and you're giving them teachable moments with your kids to show them, you know, hopefully, Safe Eyes can alert moms and dads.
But then sit down with your kids, and one thing I did with my daughter, is I showed her, "Look, I can identify some of these people that you have as friends on your page, and I can tell you exactly – I can figure out – this girl is in her drill team uniform. She says she goes to this particular high school. I mean, I can go identify this person. Someone with malicious intent could do this."
I was actually at a fast-food restaurant several weeks ago, and I noticed two girls walked in. Do you know I've never met them face-to-face, but instantly their names came to me because I have seen so many pictures of them posted on Facebook. They run around and – they're not in my daughter's peer group, fortunately, but they're at her school, and I knew that these were two girls that drink at parties, they had posed in one picture with their blouses unbuttoned, showing off their new Victoria's Secret bras, and instantly their names came to me, and I thought wouldn't they freak out if I turned around and said, "Hello, so-and-so and so-and-so. You don't know me from Adam, but I know your first name and your last name, where you go to school, and these are the pictures that I've seen of you."
Bob: You know, we started the conversation here with me saying, "I love the Internet, because if you need any kind of random information, you can go get it." And the truth is, you can get all kinds of information, and if you do have malicious intent, that's when it becomes dangerous. And we've got to be aware of that, we've got to be alert to it, and we've got to have a strategy.
Dennis: And I want to go back to something you said earlier, Bob, that needs to be underscored here at the end. It's the parents' responsibility. We can't delegate all of it to software like Safe Eyes. As parents we have to become educated by reading books like Vicky's book and know where the dangers are so we can help guide our children, really, through some perilous days.
The teenage years, I think, are the most dangerous of our lives and if we, as parents, don't know what's going on, our children could make some life-threatening choices.
Bob: We want to try to help parents be alert, be aware. We've got resources in our FamilyLife Resource Center like Vicky's book that we want to make available to parents. We also have information about the Safe Eyes software. In fact, you can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, and if you click the red button that say "Go" on the home screen, it will take you to an area on our site where you'll find information about Vicky's book, which you can purchase from us here at FamilyLife, and there is also information about how you can download and install the Safe Eyes software on your computer and, in fact, if you do that through the FamilyLife Today website, FamilyLife.com, there's a link there, and there's information on how you can download the software automatically. There is even a discount available for FamilyLife Today listeners, and you can try the software out for 30 days. There is no risk involved in that.
Again, all the details are on our website at FamilyLife.com. Click the red button that you see in the middle of the screen that says "Go." Get more information about the book, "Logged On and Tuned Out," by Vicky Courtney and get information about how you can download the Safe Eyes software and have it on your computer.
You can also call us for more information at 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
One of the reasons we wanted to address this subject on FamilyLife Today is because we hear from folks who listen to our program who suggest ideas like this – parents who will write to us or husbands and wives who send an e-mail and say, "Have you ever talked about this?" or "I need some help in this area," and we try to provide practical biblical help each day here on FamilyLife Today, and we are able to do that because some of you who listen to our program do more than just listen, you also make a donation to help with the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and we wanted to say thank you for your financial participation, thank you for those donations, they are vital for the ongoing work of this ministry. In fact, they keep us on the air on this station and on other stations all across the country.
This month, if you are able to make a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we would love to send you a two-CD set that features Dennis and Barbara Rainey. On one CD Dennis talks to men about what we can do to step up and be the men that God wants us to be in our marriages and in our families, and on the other CD Barbara talks to wives about what a wife can do to help her husband step up.
When you make a donation of any amount this month, we want to send you those CDs as our way of saying thank you for your financial support. If you are donating online, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form, type in the word "steps," so that we know to send you these CDs, if you will. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, make your donation over the phone and just mention that you'd like the CDs featuring Dennis and Barbara Rainey. We're happy to send them out to you, and we appreciate your financial partnership with us.
Tomorrow we want to invite you back. We're going to continue to look at this subject of what's safe online and what's not. Vicky Courtney will be back with us along with Aaron Kenny. I hope you can be back with us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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