For Adults

My Kid Can Do What On Her Phone??

by Sarah Sargent

Would you ever drop your teenage daughter off in a foreign city you know nothing about, and expect her to navigate her way home—safely—alone?

Of course not!

However, we often do that every day. Even if you’re not familiar with much more on the Internet beyond Facebook and Yahoo, your kids are familiar with a lot more. You may know little to nothing about what your daughter browses on the Internet or what she does on the apps she downloads on her smartphone. Yet you expect she will make all the right choices, possibly without any guidance. You know how corrupt our world can be, and the online world is no different. Don’t leave your daughter unexposed. Take a look at these parental control software and apps to protect your children while they are online.

uKnowKids

uKnowKids is a service that helps parents monitor their kids’ digital activities, including social media, texting, call & FaceTime monitoring, photos, and app usage.

Comparitech, a site that researches and compares tech products, recommended uKnowKids, saying its “ability to reach into every single aspect of a social media account is unheard of among any of its competitors, and so from that standpoint we’d have to give it a 10/10 with extra flourish on top.”

Pros

  • Exceptionally designed web dashboard
  • Simple setup procedure
  • Extensive social network monitoring features
  • The only iOS app with complete monitoring
  • 7-day free trial

Cons

  • No web filtering options
  • No internet blocking
  • Support options are limited

Qustodio

Qustodio is a parental control app that allows you to set limits, block certain sites, and monitor activity on your child’s phone. PCMag notes that parental control tools need to be able to work on mobile devices, which Qustodio does.

Pros

  • Location tracking
  • Schedule internet, device, and app usage
    Supports secure browsing

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Social monitoring only tracks Facebook
  • Some iOS limitations

My personal recommendation is to use these two software options simultaneously. uKnowKids is better for monitoring social media, but that’s not the only danger available to your children, and Qustodio is a great option for filtering websites. Neither of these options are cheap–but if you are financially able to utilize these resources, they will be well worth it.

Internet and technology are part of our everyday lives. But please understand that as useful as technology is, it can still be dangerous. If you have decided to allow your child access to the Internet or to have a smartphone, please know that this decision can have both lifelong and eternal repercussions.

Talk frequently with your kids about how they are using technology and their phones. What apps are their favorite? What sites are their friends on? What’s the newest game kids are playing on their phones? Actually listen to what they say during these discussions.

Then, do your research. If you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask Google it! Like “the sex talk,” this shouldn’t be a one time conversation. Make tech talks with your kids a regular topics of your conversations at home.

Our companion blog post, written specifically for your daughter, contains information about the ways your smartphone can track and store data about her photos, browsing habits, and more. Read and share the blog post here.

My last tip for you is to seek a Christian perspective on all things related to your tween or teen child’s culture. Stay in the loop on trends, apps, and the latest topics your teen might come home with. I highly recommend the Axis weekly e-newsletter, which offers a current list of trends and changes in teen culture each week. From the music video your daughter’s friend just showed her last night, to the app all the kids at school are downloading, stay on top of trends so you can be prepared to deal with potential issues.

Conversation Starters

With all of these apps and software options, don’t forget that it’s also incredibly important to talk to your daughter. Don’t hide her away in her room under lock and key just because the world is a dangerous place. Start conversations with your kids to help them learn how to navigate the digital world they live in.

  • Would Jesus follow you on Instagram?
  • Have you ever experienced Cyberbullying? (And if you haven’t, has any of your friends?)
  • Have you read the Shine! girl’s tech blog? Have you made sure to off those settings on your devices?

For additional software options to monitor screens and block and filter websites, check out this list of PC Magazine’s Best Parental Control Software of 2018.

For Girls

My Phone Is Doing What??

by Sarah Sargent

Girls, I admit it. I might be 15+ years older than most of you reading this, but I know we have at least one thing in common. We both LOVE our smartphones. Just a couple of years ago, I tried to convince my dad, who is also my pastor, to let me drive my whole Sunday School class in the church van back to my house because I forgot my phone. Did I mention I was the Sunday School teacher?? (I still can’t believe he said no.)

Our phones are great, but they can also be very dangerous. They can be dangerous to you because of what you are able to access, but they are also dangerous because of what you can share. The biggest dangers with smartphones lie in the information you are inadvertently sharing. In an ideal world, each of you reading this blog wouldn’t need any of the tips I’m about to share, because that means you are already safe. Unfortunately, many of the settings on smartphones are already set before you even turn on your screen, so you might not even be aware of all the different types of information you are sharing! Let’s explore some changes you can make to ensure your safety in the smartphone world.

The two worst privacy offenders on your phone are geotagging and analytics. What?? If you’ve never even heard of those two things, you’re not the only one. These two options, both in the settings on your phone, enable others to gain information about you, including where you live, go to school, and your habits.

Luckily, there are some simple changes you can make to keep you safe from sexual predators, stalkers, and anyone seeking to gain private information about you.

Geotagging

Geotagging is a typically automatic setting that tracks the location and time of every photo you take on your phone. When enabled, your phone will attach this information, and more, to every picture you take.

Before we get too far, let me say that disabling this feature does not prevent you from tagging your location on social media. You can still tag locations on Instagram and Facebook! Disabling geotagging will just stop your phone or tablet camera from tracking location information automatically. You might be thinking, why is this relevant and why should I disable this feature on my phone?

Information saved with geotagging will be accessible to anyone you send the photo to, or anyone who views it on social media. Here’s the brutal reality: without geotagging disabled, that cute selfie you took of you and your bestie on your bed? The one gaining likes by the hundreds from your Instagram followers? That same image has allowed the sexual predator who lives in your neighborhood to not only see the address where the photo was taken, but they can use the EXIF data from the geotag to find the exact location in the house where your bedroom is located. A stalker could spend time watching your daily patterns through your photos and learn your patterns, and use those habits to figure out the best time to approach you alone. I know I have painted a worst-case scenario for you, but this could easily become reality when you allow your phone to track your photos through geotagging.

To disable geotagging:

iPhones/iPads:

  • Go into the settings section
  • Choose Privacy, then choose Location Services.
  • Scroll down and select the camera app. You will then have two options, never and while using the app. Choose the option marked never.

Androids:

  • Open the Camera app on your phone.
  • Tap on Settings.
  • Scroll down to the “Geo tags or Location tag” option and disable it.

If neither of these options work for your phone: Google “how do I turn geotagging off on a [insert phone model]” and you should be able to find instructions for your specific phone.

Advertising Trackers and Analytics

In addition to geotagging, your phone also automatically tracks other personal information, which can even be sold to developers and technology companies. Although Apple has recently cracked down on privacy rules for ads and advertisers, you need to do your part to protect your information.

A celebrity I follow on Instagram recently shared her own story of her personal cell phone number being leaked online after an app developer/advertiser bought a list of cell phone users. Unfortunately, many seemingly harmless apps on your phone can gather data from your phone, like your photos and contacts, and then sell it to advertisers or other companies. We live in a digital world, and we need to be just as cautious online as we are in “real” life. You don’t want your images and information to fall into the wrong hands simply because you didn’t do your part to prevent it. Like geotagging, you can also turn off your phone’s ability to track and share information you don’t give it permission to. Turning off these settings will also stop your phone from selling your information to businesses.

To disable ad tracking and information sharing:

iPhones/iPads:

  • Go into the settings section
  • Choose Privacy, then scroll down and choose Analytics.
  • Turn off the option that says Share iPhone Analytics. (Green is on, off is not green.)
  • Go back to Privacy and choose the next option: Advertising
  • Turn off (not green) the option that says Limit Ad Tracking.

Androids:

  • Go to the settings section of your phone.
  • Choose the option that says “Google Settings.”
  • Every Android has it, but it is often labeled differently for different models. It could be called “Google,” “Google Settings,” or “Google Services.”
  • Once you’ve found the right one, choose the “Ads” menu.
  • Choose the option that says “Opt out of Ads personalization.”
  • Choose OK when the confirmation box appears.

If neither of these options work for your phone: Google “how do I turn off data sharing through apps and ads on a [insert phone model]” and you should be able to find instructions for your specific phone.

The Internet, smartphones, and technology can be incredible blessings. They can also be the starting point for nightmare scenarios. Your family is working hard to keep you safe. Do your part and disable these features in your devices.

Share this blog post with your friends to help them disable these features on their phones, too!

For Girls

Battling the Image Beast

By Beth Bryant

Today’s “artificial” culture, preoccupied with outer beauty, aesthetic, and trying to make things look better than they generally are, can be pretty tough to navigate.

And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with paying attention to the outside, scripture warns against focusing too much on outward appearances. We have to know what we’re dealing with. Two of the main areas of image obsession currently plaguing adolescent girls are physical appearance and social media.

Beauty and the Image Beast

It’s hard to battle the image beast when there are so many voices telling us to feed it.

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

Here, two truths are revealed: Humans tend to see the outside, and God sees our hearts. Often, when we look in the mirror, we have more negative thoughts than positive. We spend a lot of time comparing the reflective glass version of ourselves to other individuals, from models on magazines to the girls at school. These physical comparisons make it nearly impossible for us to have a healthy view of ourselves.
Outside pressures from advertisements, celebrities, shows, movies, social media, or even from trying to win affirmation from people at school or guys can all tempt us to make outer beauty our focus. Again, there’s nothing wrong with a new outfit, a manicure, or haircut. But it is of utmost importance to make our heart the focus—what God sees, and where true beauty lies!

…the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3-4

All the best that physical appearance has to offer can’t compete with the beauty of holiness. Real beauty is not dependent on image—real beauty comes from a gentle and quiet spirit that honors, obeys, and worships God.

Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! 1 Chronicles 16:29

Social Media and the Façade

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

While Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, and other social media platforms have done good things, like increase our connection to friends and family far away and give us new outlets for self expression, one of the downsides is revealed in our natural human tendency for competition. Selfish pride motivates girls and women of all ages to try to present something that appears better than reality.

Filters can be fun, but it’s important to remember that edited images do not represent reality. When we see women who appear to be perfect on social media, remember that images rarely—if ever—tell the whole truth. When we feel a compulsion to edit and layer every single photo we post with filters just to create an “acceptable” image, maybe it’s time to take a step back.

Social Media Use Is Best When….

  1. We honor God with it. Post wisely, follow others wisely, and apply the principles found in scripture to your social media activity.
  2. We avoid the pride and comparison pitfalls. Don’t post to brag or self-promote. Don’t allow envy or comparisons to creep in when you see posts.
  3. We realize that it’s not usually the most honest picture. Remember that images are photoshopped and the person posting the photo took tons of pictures to get just the right shot. People mostly only post the good and leave out the bad, so social media doesn’t show the whole picture.
  4. We use it with moderation. Like many good thing, excessive use of social media can lead to image obsession and causes us to lose our focus on what’s most important—who we are inside.

Remember, it’s okay to care about how you look on the outside. Scripture warns against focusing too much on outward appearances. Jesus doesn’t mince words. What’s inside is most important.

Bonus! Check out this handy list of tips for battling the image beast.