Top Apps & What you Need to Know

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

At Savvy Cyber Kids, we encourage parents and grandparents to get involved in their children’s and grandchildren’s digital lives. This means knowing what they are doing on their devices, on the platforms they engage on and who they are ‘playing’ with – their friends, followers and so on.

In reality, it’s hard to be involved without getting involved yourself. If you don’t know what a certain social media platform is or if you are not familiar with the games and apps that your children are playing, it’s hard for you to converse about them with your child or grandchild. And, it’s equally hard to know what might be of concern to you.

To that end, it’s interesting to look at what are the most popular apps.

 

Top Paid Apps on iOS

  1. Human Anatomy Atlas 2019: Complete 3D Human Anatomy
  2. Facetune: The Original Selfie Editor
  3. HotSchedules: Employee Scheduling App
  4. Sky Guide: View Stars Day or Night
  5. Dark Sky Weather: Up To An Hour In Advance Weather Reports
  6. Forest – Stay Focused: Screentime Moderation
  7. Afterlight 2: All-In-One Phot Editor
  8. The Wonder Weeks: Baby Development Calendar
  9. SkyView: Explore The Universe
  10. Cute CUT Pro: Full Featured Video Editor

 

Top Free Apps on iOS

  1. YouTube
  2. Messenger
  3. Instagram
  4. Snapchat
  5. Facebook
  6. Netflix
  7. Google Maps
  8. Gmail
  9. Remind: School Communication
  10. WhatsApp Messenger

 

Top Free Apps on Android

  1. Hello Stars - Game
  2. Hole.io-Game
  3. Word Link- Game
  4. Tomb of the Mask - Game
  5. Tik Tok- including musical.ly - Game
  6. Helix Jump - Game
  7. PLANK! - Game
  8. Wish - Shopping
  9. Rise Up - Game
  10. Messenger

 

Top Paid Apps on Android

  1. Minecraft – Game
  2. Bloons TD 6 - Game
  3. Roller Coaster - Game
  4. Pocket City - Game
  5. HotSchedules
  6. Hitman Sniper - game
  7. Fake GPS Joystick & Routes Go – Proximity Re-Writer
  8. Basic Education – Educational Game
  9. Geometry Dash – Game
  10. Nova Launcher - Customizable, Performance-Driven Home Screen

It’s really great to see popular apps that are devoted to intellectual curiosity, be it human anatomy or astronomy - even the weather.

But even with the presence of apps like human Anatomy Atlas, Sky Guide and Sky View, the preponderance of apps that are popular are overwhelmingly devoted to social media – be it the apps themselves (like YouTube, Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook) or the photo editing tools that create a social media friendly version of reality, like Facetune and Cute CUT.

Do you know how your child or grandchild engages on social media? It’s always worthwhile to talk to your child or grandchild about the pressures to maintain a social media presence. This can have a negative impact on the investment they put into IRL (real-life) relationships and they’re real life responsibilities like school, extra-curricular activities, family relationships and SLEEP! Apps like Facetune and other photo editing services can send a message to your child or grandchild that they are not good enough the way they are. It’s probably worth observing how much time your child or grandchild invests in a selfie. How many photos did they take? How much time did they spend editing it? What did they edit?

These lists are also heavily weighted by a fondness for gaming. There’s a lot of talk these days about gaming addiction and, no doubt, kids can spend way too much time trying to level up within a game. It’s important for you to know which games your child is playing so that you can look at the privacy settings. You need to know who your child is playing with. Is it strangers or only people they know in real life?  You need to know how players communicate with one another within a game. Are strangers communicating with your child or grandchild as they play a game?

By looking at this list together, you can start all sorts of conversations with your child or grandchild. First, learning which one of these apps they use and then exploring how to use it.

Remember, getting involved in the digital lives of your children and grandchildren isn’t just so you can look out for potential pitfalls. It’s also about finding a new way to connect with your child or grandchild – in their virtual worlds where they are already immersed. It’s about seeing if you can find fun and joy with your child or a grandchild in their digital world.

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Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.


Are You Cyber Healthy? A Refresher Course On How To Stay Safe Online

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

When you consider a list of your most valuable assets—the items that you value the most and have taken steps to insure and protect—you’re probably thinking of a piece of art or a family antique, cherished jewelry and, of course, your loved ones. But think again, and ask yourself: What are you doing to protect your less visible assets that are both valuable to you and to others—those with self-serving and malicious intent?

I’m talking about data. Hackers who steal private information only succeed because the owners of this information didn’t value it enough to protect it. The lesson here is that you need to be thinking about what others value, not just about what you value, and protect accordingly.

Today’s IT systems, if managed by trained and well-resourced individuals, provide a good defense against data thieves. So good, in fact, that hackers frustrated by these defenses use phishing strategies to convince individuals to simply give them access to the data. A common hacking technique, phishing, involves an adversary crafting an email, text message or social media message that is written to compel the recipient to click a hyperlink or open an attachment. The next step typically involves you entering your authentication details to access a bank account, email account, social media account or other online service. The part of human nature that compels us to click and open anything sent our way has made phishing the most widely used technique to get people to give up their access credentials.

There are a few actions you can take to help ensure that you, your business and your family members are not easy targets.

  • Stop reusing passwords. I know: This a challenging request. We’re expected to log in to multiple websites every day, with each one requiring you to authenticate yourself with a username and password. To save you from having to remember hundreds of username and password combinations, use a reputable password manager.
  • Enable multi-factor authentication (also called strong authentication or two-factor authentication) on all accounts that accept it. Essentially, this is a step beyond the username/password combination. The multi-factor aspect can be a text message sent to your phone, an email sent to the address you have on file with a service provider, a challenge request from an authenticator app (such as DUO or Google Authenticator), a voice call to a phone number on record or some other way to verify that you are actually the one trying to gain access to your account. Another strong option is to use your fingerprint as your means of access, which you can do with an increasing number of apps.
  • Verify that the person or organization that sends you an email, text or social media message with a link or attachment to click is the real sender. You can call them or go directly to their website—don’t click the link and assume that the website it takes you to is authentic. For example, if you receive an email from your bank or email provider asking you to reset or verify your password, open a new browser page and type the main service provider site address yourself and then login to see if indeed they need you to take any action. One general caveat: Most reputable businesses and organizations don’t send you emails requesting you to reset your password unless you’ve already told them that you’ve forgotten it. So if you receive such an email, chances are good that it’s a fake
  • Update everything. It is important for you to update all devices and software on a regular basis and when notified by the manufacturer or creator. Anytime an update (often called a patch) is available, a fix was made to a known problem with that device or software. Perhaps there is a way for someone to remove all the information off of a computer or device. Or maybe there is a way for someone to remotely turn on the video camera on your device and take inappropriate videos.
  • Protect yourself from viruses. Install (and keep updated) an anti-virus product. Antivirus products can protect you from certain attacks. And yes, even Mac computers should have anti-virus software too.
  • Backup your data. Data is the most important aspect of your computer. Computer hardware can fail, data can be corrupted by a virus, computers can be lost, stolen, or destroyed. You can – and should – make wise choices to prevent any of this from happening. But it’s equally wise to regularly use data backup software that can help protect and restore your data when something goes wrong.
  • Beware of public Wi-Fi. Free public wireless networks lack strong security protections, making it easy for hackers to capture passwords and gain access to your credit card and bank account information as you shop or conduct other financial transactions online. Experts advise that its ok to use free WiFi to watch a video or read the news, check the weather or traffic conditions or check on an airline flight to see if it’s on time. But don’t use it for anything requiring a log-in.

Be aware, stay vigilant and fight your basic instinct to click and open anything sent to you. Make these changes, and you will enhance the security posture of your family, your business and your data.

EarthLink and Norton have tools to help you stay safe online. Visit our Security and Tools section to learn more about Norton Security Online, Wi-Fi Privacy and EarthLink's Online Backup.

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Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.


Digital Parenting: The Critical Thinking Skills Kids Need in The Age of Fake News

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

These days information comes at us fast and furious. So quickly, that we easily come face-to-face with videos, articles, blog posts and websites that look real and feel authentic, but are fake or at least distorted. Too many of us  – no matter what our political leaning – have been victim to misinformation and have responded with falsely directed outrage. It’s not productive, and worse yet, can be dangerous.

Information that is rooted in truth, information that distinguishes fact from opinions, rumors, and lies, is vital for a healthy society. The all too real presence of fake news online, ads (that look like news) and news websites (that are not journalistic sources) are not the hallmarks of a society that rules for the people, by the people. Fake news creates the very real risk of allowing ourselves to be controlled by those who seek to color information to promote their own point of view or agenda.

As the song goes, ‘what the world needs now’…is critical thinking, the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue or information in order to form a judgment. A lot of what we read and see online is kind of accurate—but it’s not hard to end up believing something that is not exactly true. How many times have you seen statements as fact, when it is actually opinion or poorly-researched information? It happens all the time, right?

In the age of technology, we must take a greater personal responsibility in seeking out truthful information. As digital parents and digital grandparents, we must ensure that our children and grandchildren have the critical thinking skills to identify fake news. Here are some tips from Savvy Cyber Kids on teaching your children and grandchildren critical thinking skills.

READ TOGETHER: The goal here is not just to improve their literacy, but to develop their reading comprehension skills. Engage with them about what they are reading and ask questions. Give your children the opportunity to think actively, not passively, as they read. Talk about passages or plots that are challenging to them and help them figure out how they can gain knowledge to understand difficult concepts. Ask them to make connections in what they are reading, predicting how a story might end or making a comparison to something in real life. Invite them to summarize a section of a book or an entire story to identify the important themes. This can help you see what they do and don’t understand. You can also read newspaper articles and check facts together to show them how to use analytical and critical thinking skills.

ENCOURAGE THEM TO ASK QUESTIONS: ’20 Questions’ may not be your favorite game to play but it does allow children to conceptualize ideas and call out untrue or half-truthful statements. The child who asks ‘why’ (over and over again) is well on the path to excellent critical thinking skills! The goal here is to teach children to question what they read or hear. With older children, talk about sources of information. Is it a reliable news source or a tabloid , a personal blog or a lobbying website? Did they hear it from a classmate who has only heard it from someone else? The right questions can lead to discussions about the state of the world and all sorts of relevant topics.

MAKE THINKING A FAMILY AFFAIR: Use family time – during mealtimes, on long car rides, or while on trips – to encourage questions and problem-solving techniques. “What do you think of such-and-such?” Or, “What is your opinion on ____?” Invite open-ended discussion and don't let your own opinions drive these conversations.

GO DEEP: Find a topic that interests your child or grandchild, cultivate it and encourage them to read books, watch movies and research the topic.

TALK ABOUT RESPONSIBILITY AND CONSEQUENCE: Start a discussion about why sharing news on social media and elsewhere online may not be a good idea, can be polarizing and can have negative consequences. Remind them of the importance of not confusing their own opinions with fact and to pause before automatically sharing information online, before verifying its truthfulness.

Strong critical thinking skills can benefit young people immensely, improving reading comprehension and furthering their educational development. This will help them throughout their school years and beyond. Independent thinkers make better decisions. Encouraging this skill set in your children and grandchildren will develop a healthy critical mindset that allows them to think for themselves.

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Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.


Technology Tools for Grandparents

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

 

Have you heard? We are living in the ‘Digital Age’. Got grandkids? Then you are grandparenting Digital Natives, young people born into a world that is, if not defined by technology, then certainly surrounded by technology in ever-evolving ways. This means, like it or not, you are a Digital Grandparent.

But what does it mean to digitally grandparent? From the Savvy Cyber Kids point-of-view we—parents, grandparents, educators and any adult who cares for a young person—have a responsibility to raise cyber aware kids. Their safety, if not their lives, depends on it. Their reputation and their ability to not make inappropriate decisions that will negatively impact the rest of their lives depends on it too.

There is no one-stop shop set of rules for digitally grandparenting. Every family can and should make their own judgments, even from child to child, or grandchild to grandchild, about what constitutes cyber safety and cyber ethics in the family home. The one rule we impart to EVERY digital grandparent is to get involved and stay involved in your grandchildren’s digital lives.

In order to get involved, you need to be on technology yourself. The Savvy Cyber Kids Grandparent Guides to Technology help you navigate your own online safety while you meet your grandchildren where they are at. And, your grandchildren, where are they? Geography aside, they are on Instagram, among other social media platforms. That's the beauty of technology, your grandkids could be living down the street from you or a continent away, technology doesn’t care. And truth be told, your grandkids might very well be more attentive to what you have to say when you post it or when you use technology to communicate with them.

Ready to get tech savvy? Here are some guides to get you started….

Click the links below for Volume 1, 2 and 3:

Grandparents guide, Volume 1

Grandparents guide, Volume 2

Grandparents guide, Volume 3

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Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.


What We Can Learn From Celebrities on Social Media

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

Thanks to social media, fans and critics alike have access to celebrities’ lives -- or at least, the version of their lives that celebrities choose to curate online. It’s an insider’s viewpoint that before the advent of social media was simply not possible. Today’s celebrities post on Instagram, share on Facebook and tweet all kinds of insight and intrigue. As a parent or grandparent, you may not want your child or grandchild to follow the likes of a Kardashian, the escapades of Justin Beiber, the philosophical rantings of Kanye West, the applause and struggles of Demi Lovato or Selena Gomez, the perfection of Taylor Swift or the biting humor of Chrissy Teigen and Pink. Yet, despite your objections, they are.  And even if you banned them from following celebrities from their devices, they would still see it in a browser search, on a blog or on friend’s device.

And before you dig your heels in, take a step back and imagine if you could have had this kind of intimate and detailed access to your teenager celebrity crushes and obsessions. Be honest, wouldn’t you have clicked, followed, liked and commented? Alright then, let’s talk about what we can we learn from celebrities on social media: how they curate, how they respond to haters and most importantly, how and why they decide to take breaks from social media. This might be a classic ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ point of view. But if your kids are following celebrities and important life lessons can be gleaned from these accounts, then use it to your advantage. Getting involved in your kid’s digital lives can start by discussing the celebrities they adore on social media.

First and foremost, let’s start here: Most celebrities do not manage their own social media accounts.

Agencies and consultants may define the overarching strategy, professional photographers may be on-call to capture the ‘it’ shot and low-level employees may manage the day to day content, even responding to messages. It takes a team, sometimes a very large team, to craft a professional social media presence. The ordinary person attempting to replicate what celebrities do online would be sacrificing a huge investment of time, at the expense of, um, actually living life. The perfection that many celebrities craft, it’s not real. You cannot replicate in real life what is essentially a fiction. Understanding this should help young people on social media temper their attempts to replicate what their favorite celebrities do online. Understanding this should also offer some words of caution. You may think you are getting a response from a celebrity (and some do respond to fans) but you could also be responding to a staffer with suspect motives. Remind your kids, you may follow celebrities but if you don't know them in real life, they should not be following you!

Some celebrities get ‘the special sauce,’ they know how to be authentic without over-sharing.

These celebrities understand what fans want to see online and create an intimate space without revealing too much about themselves. Over-sharing is likely one of the greatest offenses on your social media feeds right now. While we may disagree about what is too private to share as an adult on social media, we certainly want to cultivate a sense of privacy in our kids’ social media profiles. But our kids want to be liked and they want to be followed. Talking to your child about admired celebrity accounts (Rihanna, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift have been applauded for their captivating but tightly controlled social media presences) and diving into what makes them interesting to your child, may help them understand how those observations can translate into what they present about themselves online. Help them to see that celebrities value their privacy. Rumor has it (OK, Ed Sheeran spilled the beans) that Beyoncé changes her email address weekly!

Celebrities stop and think before they post too.

A recent article in Cosmopolitan said “No celebrity is ever too big or famous for professional social media assistance. Scooter Braun, who manages your faves like the Biebs [and formerly Ariana Grande] and as of this year, Kanye West, says he often get calls from them checking to see if certain messages or photos are kosher.” This means that your child, even if they are not asking you for your opinion before they post, should at the very least pause and ask themselves, ‘what would Mom or Grannie think about this post?’ SIDE NOTE: Just a day before writing this blog, Kanye reportedly fired his entire management team, including Scooter Braun via a truly epic twitter rant (as of press time, it has not ended yet). Point being, celebrities may not always follow sound advice and they can fire and rehire their management teams at will. Parents and grandparents can’t be fired. And the internet has an excellent memory. Celebrities can weather social media missteps better than you or I can. And as you know, if you are a celebrity, even bad news is good publicity.

Celebrities are not role models.

Word has it that Kim Kardashian manages all of her social media accounts herself. And, if you have not noticed, many of her posts lack what you assume will ALWAYS be featured on your child’s posts…clothes. Kids need to understand that they are not celebrities and that their choices online can come back and bite them in the A$$. Emily Tatajkowski, a Victoria Secrets’ model, is also well-known for her minimal attire online. She and Kim may defend their pride in their bodies but the reality is that they are earning money from their online presences. It’s not a philosophical debate that they are engaging in by getting naked online. It's a brand and they are making money off their online choices. Tatajkowski recently told Vanity Fair, "I'm making money via social. That's a huge part of my income, and if that wasn't there, then I would be taking every movie that was offered to me. My career could be in a much different place." Their posts are often endorsements for brands or a method of staying relevant for future projects. So, unless you are celebrity making six figures and more for an oft-colored post, keep it clean.

Celebrities feel the love but they really feel the hate on social media.

 With enough followers to populate a large metropolitan city, celebrities feel the sting - more like a missile attack - of negative feedback from haters on a regular basis. And things can get personal, fast. From the truly offensive to the bigoted and abusive, celebrities on social media must endure an onslaught of unfiltered negativity. Sure, followers who behave this way can be blocked -- and that’s likely what we would encourage our kids to do if faced with this type of negativity (right?). But some celebrities seem to have a little more freedom than you or I have to respond to haters (with a bit of dark humor). Seeing how these celebrities fight back is downright inspirational. It’s worth mentioning that celebrities who have struggled with anxiety and other mental health issues -- from Justin Bieber to Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato -- have publicly made the connection between their health issues and their relationships with social media. Feeling overwhelmed? Feeling unhappy? Ask yourself how social media plays a role in your well-being.

 Celebrities take social media breaks.

Sometimes it’s a forever break. Often though, it's a temporary reprieve. When asked why, celebrities will share that they made a mistake online and need to keep a lower profile. Or social media feedback upset them and they didn’t like how they responded, or didn’t like how they wanted to respond or didn't like how the exchanges made them feel. Others just sometimes find keeping up with this alternate version of reality a little exhausting. Some celebrities temporarily take themselves off social media when they have other things going on in their lives that demand focused attention. The point is that its ok to take a break. Your life, your friendships and your work all go on.

Here’s the thing about social media. An obsession with it leads to basing your self-esteem on the number of likes you receive for a post or the number of followers you have. Our young people center their needs for an emotional connection in social media - where zero emotional connections are actually made. You can find yourself feeling lonely yet ‘surrounded’ by friends and followers. For celebrities, this cycle is only magnified. After all, their careers and financial stability seem linked to their social media profiles. So, when a celebrity announces their struggles with social media, it’s their humanity that’s showing - not their superhuman strength, talents or good looks that made them a celebrity. It’s in this most authentic moment, where we can truly say, celebrities are just like us. And it’s an excellent moment to learn from them.

Talk to your kids or grandkids about social media balance. Maybe slow it down as a family. See how you lead your life without documenting everything on social media and then ask yourself if ‘social media light’ is more authentic and which version makes you happier. Don't let social media create a version of you based on others. Live for you, keep it real and live without comparison.

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Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.


To Pay Or Not To Pay: A Hacking Victim’s Dilemma

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

Hackers have all kinds of methods to make your digital life a mess. One of the more vicious tools in a hacker’s arsenal is ransomware, a malicious piece of software that takes over your computer and threatens you with harm. This harm is usually in the form of denying you access to your data.

Ransomware is commonly delivered via Phishing, which involves a hacker crafting an email, text message, or social media message that is written in such a way that you are compelled to click the link or open a document that is part of the message. The temptation to click and open anything has made Phishing the most widely used technique for hackers to deliver their malicious software.

Other forms of ransomware delivery exploit security holes in your computer’s (or mobile device’s) operating systems (OS). Certain vulnerabilities will allow a hacker to take control of your system without you having to do anything.. This is why we have told you to always keep your operating system software up-to-date!

What happens next? The hacker will demand a ransom from you, promising — (and can you trust the word of a criminal?)  — to restore access to the data once you pay the hacker the ransom. Most ransomware software encrypts your data so that it is unreadable or inaccessible. The only way to get your data back is to decrypt it with a mathematical key only known by the hacker, but only if you send an untraceable Bitcoin payment to the attacker (or so they say!).

So, if your system has been infected with ransomware and you've lost vital data that you can't restore from backup, should you pay the ransom? The answer may depend if you are a big organization or just an individual. But generally, the guidance is to NOT pay the ransom. Law enforcement agencies urge victims not to pay ransomware attackers. They would argue that paying ransom only encourages hackers to create more ransomware. In addition, just because you pay they ransom fee, doesn’t mean the criminal hacker will send you the decryption key (they are criminals, remember?).

So, should you listen to your cyber-criminal and pay? WHOA…Time to take a breath before you pay anyone, anything. You need to first verify that you are the victim of ransomware and not being manipulated with an empty threat. What looks like ransomware may not have actually encrypted your data at all. Make sure you aren't dealing with "scareware" and go to your browsing history and delete your history. If this is a superficial attack, you may regain control of your computer. In addition, some ransomware encryption can be defeated by applying various techniques to restore your data.  

Now, if you have accidentally and unfortunately stumbled across the real deal, a pirate in the world wide web, outside of taking the risk of paying the ransom, what can you do?

  • Reboot your computer to safe mode
  • Install ransomware removal software
  • Scan the system to find the ransomware program
  • Restore the computer to a previous state

These steps can remove the malware from your computer and restore it to your control but it won’t decrypt your files. If you have not recently backed up your files, they may be lost…but at least the computer is back in your control.

So, To Pay or Not To Pay is NOT the question. The question is, how can you protect yourself from ransomware so that this never happens to you?

HOW TO PREVENT RANSOMWARE:

  • Keep your operating system up-to-date. This ensures that you have fewer vulnerabilities to exploit.
  • Don't install software or give it administrative privileges unless you know exactly what it is and what it does.
  • Install antivirus software, which can detect malicious programs like ransomware as they arrive.
  • Back up your files, frequently and automatically! That won't stop a malware attack, but it can make the damage caused by one much less significant.
  • Stop clicking on everything!

We have said it before… regrettably, there is not a virtual justice system ensuring that those who use the internet for good are rewarded and that those who do otherwise face appropriate consequences. It’s up to you to keep yourself and your private information safe from cyber criminals!

Ready to stay safe online? Good!

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Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.