Wednesday, March 12, 2014

iPads and Online Safety

Over the past few weeks GWMS has noticed that many students are using their iPads after school to enter into conversations with friends or strangers using school based iPads or their own devices. Every student has been made aware of the dangers of talking to strangers, sending revealing pictures/videos and/or just having very inappropriate conversations and playing games with violence and/or drugs. Unfortunately, some of our students are still sending bad messages and being inappropriate online.

The following apps are appearing on many students iPads and are concerning in nature. Most of the apps/websites allow children to talk to strangers, send pictures, post comments anonymously. Below are a list of concerning apps. Most of the definitions of these apps have been taken from Wikipedia, a note below that starts with ** explains the expressed concern that GWMS has over these apps.

Most of these apps are approved for 13 year olds and over. 

Facebook is an online social networking service. Its name comes from a colloquialism for the directory given to students at some American universities. Facebook was founded on February 4, 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg with his college roommates and fellow Harvard University students Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes.[6] The founders had initially limited the website's membership to Harvard students, but later expanded it to colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and Stanford University. It gradually added support for students at various other universities before it opened to high-school students, and eventually to anyone aged 13 and over. Facebook now allows anyone who claims to be at least 13 years old to become a registered user of the website.

**Who are their friends? Is their profile secure? Who can see their stuff? How many friends do they have? How many friends do they have on Facebook? Facebook is a 13 and older app.


Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables users to send and read "tweets", which are text messages limited to 140 characters. Registered users can read and post tweets, but unregistered users can only read them. Users access Twitter through the website interface, SMS, or mobile device app.

**It's less about what students are posting but who they are  following? What are they seeing? There are more great things than bad things on Twitter. It's all based on who and what is followed.

Instagram is an online photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures and videos, apply digital filters to them, and share them on a variety of social networking services, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr. A distinctive feature is that it confines photos to a square shape, similar to Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid images, in contrast to the 16:9 aspect ratio now typically used by mobile device cameras. Users are also able to record and share short videos lasting for up to 15 seconds.

**Most of the images that are posted are appropriate. Again, it's about who is followed and comments that are made. Use this app as a way to be kind! GWMS has it's own Instagram feed (@gwmswpg) and it's a great way to profile the many great things that our kids do! 


Snapchat is a photo messaging application ("app") developed by Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy, then Stanford University students. Using the application, users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. These sent photographs and videos are known as "Snaps". Users set a time limit for how long recipients can view their Snaps (as of December 2013, the range is from 1 to 10 seconds), after which they will be hidden from the recipient's device and deleted from Snapchat's servers.

**If you are sending images to someone you know(or don't know) and they need to be deleted after a short period of time the message should likely not be sent.
**The app alleges the images are deleted after a short period of time, there is nothing stopping the receiver of the image to take a screen shot of the image or a photo of it using a different device.


Vine is a mobile app owned by Twitter that enables its users to create and post short looping video clips. Video clips created with Vine have a maximum clip length of six seconds and can be shared to Vine's social network, or to other services such as Twitter - which acquired the app in October 2012 - and Facebook

**These are short videos and are often harmless. The concern is who children follow and the videos that they are watching.


Kik Messenger is an instant messaging application for mobile devices. The app is available on most iOS, Android, Windows Phone,BlackBerry and Symbian operating systems free of charge. Kik Messenger is similar to BlackBerry's Messenger, and iPhone's iMessage. Kik uses a smartphone's data plan or Wi-Fi to transmit and receive messages, a feature that appeals to individuals looking to avoid text messaging rates set by phone service providers. Kik offers swift text messaging service and also allows users to share photos, sketches, voice messages, and other content. Kik Messenger requires users to register a username as form of identification.

**Often usernames in this app are false so users don't really know who they are chatting with.
**all iPads come with iMessaging. This is a safer way to chat if needed.


Tumblr, stylized in its logo as tumblr., is a microblogging platform and social networking website founded by David Karp and owned by Yahoo! Inc. The service allows users to post multimedia and other content to a short-form blog. Users can follow other users' blogs, as well as make their blogs private. Much of the website's features are accessed from the "dashboard" interface, where the option to post content and posts of followed blogs appear.

**Again, it isn't so much what our students are posting, it's who they follow. We have found students are following older people who are posting very inappropriate material for 10-13 year olds to be exposed to.

Hot or Not

Hot or Not began as a rating site that allowed users to rate the attractiveness of photos submitted voluntarily by others. The site offers a matchmaking engine called 'Meet Me' and an extended profile feature called "Hotlists". It is owned by Or Not Limited and was previously owned by Avid Life Media. 'Hot or Not' was a significant influence on the people who went on to create the social media sites Facebook and YouTube.

**This one explains itself... Cyberbully heaven.

Ask Fm is a Latvia-based social networking website where users can ask other users questions, with the option of anonymity. The site was launched on June 16, 2010. Founded as a rival to (then known as Formspring), it has since overtaken it in terms of worldwide traffic generated.

**This allows followers to respond to questions about anybody completely anonymously. A perfect place for cyber bullying to begin. Student's post questions about themselves or others and the nastiness often begins... 


Chatroulette is a place where you can interact with new people over text-chat, webcam and mic. Strangers from all around the world chat together in chatroulette. You just need to sign-up to avail its services. Also like in other chatrooms you can leave whenever you want to.

**This is a place where anyone can chat with strangers online. A perfect place for cyberstalking, sexploitation, cyberbullying. A good rule is - if you don't know them and have not met them face to face, you should not be chatting with them online.


Omegle is one of the popular chatrooms available now. It is a service for meeting new friends. Well in Omegle you picks an unknown user at random and you have one – one chat with him/her. These chats are completely anonymous, although there is nothing to stop you from revealing personal details if you would like.

**Nothing good can come from talking to strangers online. Ever. The person you are talking to online possibly aren't who they say they are. Online predator playground. Nothing good here.


As the name Chatroll suggests it is a combination of the words “Chat” and “Blogroll” . You can create any number of groups in chatroll. You can upload your pics and videos in real time. In Chatroll you create your own groups. It’s an easy and unique way for you to connect with people and share your interests.You can create/share your own content a group of people, or just chat and have fun.

**The first word I see in the app name is TROLL. This is a place to share information about yourself with strangers. A perfect place for online predators. The definition says 'an easy and unique way for you to connect with people'. People = strangers.


TinyChat is a free service that allows you to create a free chat room that is accessible by anyone with a browser. You just need to create a chatroom from the homepage then send the link which it gives to you to anyone you wants to chat with. And after you leave the chat room, all the chat data is gone, so it’s perfect for secure chats.

**Again, if what you are saying online needs to be deleted after you leave the room, it likely shouldn't be said. Online predator playground.

Iddin is an excellent way to chat live and meet new people online. Just one click and you are connected to a random user to chat live. You can choose people from your own country or any other countries. Also you can share your photo with you chat partner. Unlike other sites, iddin uses flash for it’s very simple to use chatroom.

**Again, chatting with random people online never ends well. Online predator playground.

Stays Safe Online!
As most of the definitions of the above apps say - EXCELLENT WAYS OF MEETING STRANGERS. These apps work. There are people at the other end waiting to talk to kids. The best way to avoid the dangers of these apps is to to supervise what kids are doing online and/or let them use these apps at all. GWMS staff do frequently check student iPads. It is important we all review what is happening with our kids online.

This is not an exhaustive list. New apps appear everyday.

What can you do to stop your kids from getting into trouble on these troublesome apps/websites? You may need to activate parental controls on their devices to keep them from installing apps or visiting websites without your approval. If you are unsure how to do this the school will do this for you (and would actually prefer to do this as they are school issued iPads). Please contact the school office for help with this. We can take off student's ability to add apps and visit websites without permission.

If they do use these apps, make sure they don't do it unsupervised – no matter how much they kick and scream about it.

On November 15, 2013 'The 5th Estate' by CBC aired 'The Sextortion of Amanda Todd' (45 minutes). With never-before seen videos and online chats, the fifth estate tells the real story of what happened to Amanda Todd, the B.C. teen haunted by one revealing photo on the Internet. The blackmail and the sexual extortion that drove her to her death -- and the new breed of online predators who threaten the many other young people who take risks online.
The video can be seen here:
Watch it with your child (there are some scenes in it that will require parental guidance).

This is worth a watch. We have seen similar images posted online by our students. 

Help keep your kids safe online.

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