Text Lingo

Text Lingo

More and more people use abbreviations in Facebook posts, in text messages, tweets or Instagram posts. Here is a quick list from www.wearesocial.com.au that will help you figure out the ones you don’t know:

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Are there some missing from this list that we should know? Add them in the comments. Thanks!

“Pause Before You Post”

“Pause Before You Post”

“As a supporter of education and traditions, Jostens is pleased to offer an awareness program called Pause Before You Post™ that encourages students to make smart decisions when self-publishing through online social media that aids in preventing bullying online. The program also includes valuable information about cyberbullying and potential consequences of poor decision-making.” –Jostens

Kudos to Jostens for using their connection with schools to send a strong message to our kids about using social media in a smart way. Their slogan “Pause Before You Post” is backed up with valuable information to students, parents and educators that includes research by Dr. Justin Patchin and Dr. Sameer Hinduja, leading experts on cyber-bullying and social media.

Take a minute to visit their website and read about what they are doing to help prevent cyber bullying by encouraging our kids to think about what they say online before they post it.

Snapchat Photos Hacked

Snapchat Photos Hacked

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They’re baaaaack!

Snapchat users are getting a reality check with the news that photos taken using the app have, indeed, been saved over the years–and hackers have made them available. For the past three+ years, Snapchat has skyrocketed in popularity by reassuring its users the “Snaps” are gone forever, never to be seen again. Today, we are learning what many have predicted the entire time. Those photos are somewhere…and now we know where.

James Cook from Business Insider reports, “A giant database of intercepted Snapchat photos and videos has been released by hackers who have been collecting the files for years. Shocked users of the notorious chat forum 4chan are referring to the hack as “The Snappening,” noting that this is far bigger than the iCloud hacks that recently targeted celebrities.

Underground photo-trading chat rooms have been filled in recent weeks with hints that something big was coming. Thursday night it finally arrived: A third-party Snapchat client app has been collecting every single photo and video file sent through it for years, giving hackers access to a 13GB library of Snapchats that users thought had been deleted.”

Users of 4chan have downloaded the files and are creating a searchable database that will allow people to search the stolen images by Snapchat username.”

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/snapchat-hacked-the-snappening-2014-10#ixzz3FlN8597a

According to the article, Snapchat itself wasn’t hacked. It was a database of Snapchat files hosted by viralpop.com, “a fake competition website that installed malicious software on the computers of users trying to take part. That site has now been suspended and taken offline, although thousands of people have already downloaded the collection of Snapchats”.

Snapchat’s website makes it clear that their company does not save the photos:

“Storage: As mentioned in our previous blog post, Snaps are deleted from our servers after they are opened by their recipients. So what happens to them before they are opened? Most of Snapchat’s infrastructure is hosted on Google’s cloud computing service, App Engine. Most of our data, including unopened Snaps, are kept in App Engine’s datastore until they are deleted.”

As for retrieval (of unopened Snaps), Snapchat’s blog states the following:

“Retrieval: Is Snapchat capable of retrieving unopened Snaps from the datastore? Yes—if we couldn’t retrieve Snaps from the datastore, we wouldn’t be able to deliver them to their recipients desired by the sender. Do we manually retrieve and look at Snaps under ordinary circumstances? No. The ordinary process of sending Snaps to their recipient(s) is automated.

So what is a circumstance when we might manually retrieve a Snap, assuming it is still unopened? For example, there are times when we, like other electronic communication service providers, are permitted and sometimes compelled by law to access and disclose information. For example, if we receive a search warrant from law enforcement for the contents of Snaps and those Snaps are still on our servers, a federal law called the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) obliges us to produce the Snaps to the requesting law enforcement agency. For more information, see the section of our Privacy Policy that discusses circumstances when we may disclose information.

Since May 2013, about a dozen of the search warrants we’ve received have resulted in us producing unopened Snaps to law enforcement. That’s out of 350 million Snaps sent every day. 

Law enforcement requests sometimes require us to preserve Snaps for a time, like when law enforcement is determining whether to issue a search warrant for Snaps.

Only two people in the company currently have access to the tool used for manually retrieving unopened Snaps, our co-founder and CTO, Bobby (who coded it), and me.”

For a full overview of the Snapchat app, go to my page Snapchat 101, which includes the latest Snapchat updates.

Shots 101

Shots 101

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It seems there is yet another “fun way to meet people” in the cyber world. Introducing Shots. Shots is an Instagram-like app that lets people share their selfies, but the app does not allow others to leave comments. Users can, however, directly message each other. Shots CEO and co-founder John Shahidi said on CNBC’s “Fast Money, “Part of the message also is to reduce the amount of bullying and most of the bullying is happening inside comments. And since it’s your face that’s out there, which is something we never want to have criticized, we eliminated comments.” Photos can only be taken with front-facing cameras on their phones, which means no photos can be uploaded. There are also no follower counts. 

I first heard of the Shots app while watching E! News. The co-hosts mentioned a picture that The Biebs posted on his Shots account (that’s Justin Bieber to the uncool crowd). Right then, I knew that this app could catch on quickly…so I downloaded it “just in” case. (get it? haha) After some research, I found out he has help fund the app (first called “Shots of Me”) as well as promotes it on his Twitter account. So chances are many of our kids have heard about Shots.

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I spent some time clicking around the Shots website and I’ll share some interesting tidbits of info I found:

  • Users have to be 13 to use the app. Their websites states it this way: “1. Eligibility. In order to use Shots Site, you must either be the age of majority in your jurisdiction, an emancipated minor, or possess legal parental or guardian consent, and fully able and competent to enter into the terms, conditions, obligations, affirmations, representations and warranties set forth in these Terms and to abide by and comply with these Terms. You represent that you meet the eligibility requirements in this Section. In any case, you affirm that you are over the age of 13, as Shots Site is not intended for children under 13. No part of Shots Site is directed to persons under the age of 13. IF YOU ARE UNDER 13 YEARS OF AGE, PLEASE DO NOT USE OR ACCESS THE Shots Site AT ANY TIME OR IN ANY MANNER.”
  • They have a privacy policy which is like most other apps of this type. You can read the full privacy policy here. 
  • Users can “earn”, “buy” or “purchase” Virtual Items using “direct payment or redemption of a third-party virtual currency like Facebook Credits”. (Section 12 explains this more…but yes, they can use real money).
  • Section 11 (d) states: “You agree not to defame, harass, abuse, threaten, stalk or defraud Users of Shots Site, or collect, or attempt to collect, personal information about Users or third parties without their consent.” As a parent, I would review all of these terms with your kids if you know they are using this app. Otherwise, they will never be aware of them since they typically accept the terms and conditions without reading them.

For the full list of terms & conditions, visit the Shots website.

In regards to cyber-bullying, this message is posted on their Support Center page:

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Here are some specs on the app from Wikipedia.

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Do your kids use the Shots app? What do you think of it?

Have You Had a Privacy Checkup?

Have You Had a Privacy Checkup?

As I scrolled through Facebook this morning, I found myself aimlessly clicking around on people’s pages…you know, the ones I don’t even know. We’ve all done it. Twenty minutes pass and you suddenly wake from your trance to find yourself looking at a friend of a friend of a friend’s wedding pictures from 10 years ago because today is their anniversary. I’m sure you get as frustrated with your time-wasting self as I get with my time-wasting self.

So I clicked on one friend of a friend of a friend’s page but she had her privacy settings set to where I couldn’t see anything: no posts, no pictures, etc. My first reaction was of disappointment because I wanted to see this complete stranger’s baby bump instead of doing the 3 piles of laundry laying in my bathroom floor. My second reaction was “good for her” because she had her privacy settings set correctly. This made me curious about my privacy settings, so I did a quick Privacy Checkup (because the alternative is doing laundry.)Screen shot 2014-10-06 at 11.25.45 AM

Doing a Privacy Checkup is easy. Click on the Lock icon in the upper righthand corner of your Facebook page and there will be a drop-down menu with Privacy Shortcuts. Click on the cute blue dinosaur for a Privacy Checkup. You will then see three steps to make sure you are sharing with the right people.

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Step 1 is Your Posts. Here you control who you want to see your posts. I usually leave mine set to Friends unless I have a reason for my friend’s friends to see a particular post (ex. tagging my friend in a picture). This setting can also be changed on each post. If you do, make sure you change it back on the following posts.

Step 2 controls your app settings. This is where I realized my settings were not set correctly! Since my younger two sons download apps on our iPad (with my permission and password, of course), some apps were allowing my Facebook friends to see future posts the apps makes on my behalf! Somehow, at some point, the apps were connected with my Facebook account and had access to my Friends. Perhaps my sons did this without realizing it.Screen shot 2014-10-06 at 9.18.32 AM (I have to look into this when they get home from school.) Granted, some apps, like Instagram are fine because I post from there to Facebook. But my boy’s games are NOT fine. I suddenly felt really bad for two reasons: 1) I don’t know how many of my Facebook friends have been invited “by me” to play games, or to see how well “I” did playing Smash Bandits, and 2) I apologize to those that I secretly scorn when I get invites to play games or see their high score on Candy Crush. Now I know that they probably have no clue the app is doing it for them.  It’s very important to check the privacy settings on each app you use to avoid any future posts the app will attempt to make for you.

Screen shot 2014-10-06 at 9.11.39 AMStep 3 involves your profile information. This helps others connect with you on Facebook (or not connect with you, as the case may be). Make certain you aren’t sharing too much personal information on your profile. Make sure the info you do share is only seen by Friends, unless you want it Public.

When you’re done with that, there’s a reminder at the bottom of Step 3 that says “you may have more info on your profile. Go to the About section of your profile to make sure it’s up-to-date and shared with who you want.” Click on the About Page to get one last overview of what information you have posted on Facebook, what you may want to add, delete, hide, make public, etc. 

I hope the Privacy Checkup helps you as much as it helped me. Even when you think you have all your “cyber-security” ducks in a row, it never hurts to go in and check on it because you might realize it’s not as up-to-date as you thought! I had no clue those sneaky apps had access to my Facebook friends because my boys are the ones that play them. If you or your kids download a lot of apps, then make sure you do a Check-up! If your kids have their own Facebook account, do a Privacy Checkup on their account as well. 

After you do the Privacy Checkup, go to the other options in the drop-down menu to make sure you have all the other settings set correctly.

If you have other tips for keeping our Facebook accounts secure, please share them in the comments.

4 Dangers of Texting & Driving

4 Dangers of Texting & Driving
With the start of a new school year, our teen drivers will either be driving themselves to school, or they will be riding with friends. This is the perfect time to talk with them about the dangers of texting and driving. You’ve already had the talk? Hey, it won’t hurt to do it again. 
Talk to your teen about these 4 dangers of texting while driving:
1. If driving, DO NOT look down at your phone if you get a text, not even for one second. Put the phone out of reach, face down to avoid temptation.
2. NEVER text a “quick” response. Even if it’s mom or dad texting, a friend in an emergency, etc.  Never text one letter or emoji back while driving. Ever. (again, put the phone out of reach, face down)
3. If riding in a friend’s car, don’t let the driver text while driving. Take their phone if you have to so they can’t text. 
4. Never show the driver a funny text, video or picture on your phone while they are driving. If you are driving, never look at a friend’s phone.
Rules for Parents:
*If you know you teen driver could be on the road at a particular time, DO NOT text them. Wait until they’ve had time to arrive at their destination so they don’t have the temptation of looking at your text.
*When I am driving with my teen in the car, I point out when others are texting and driving. I fuss about how they shouldn’t be doing it.
*My teen is famous for wanting to show me pictures or texts when I am driving. I tell her that I can’t take my eyes off the road.
*If I get a text while driving, I tell her to read the text and I tell her what to text back to the person.
Lead by example!
…Don’t forget to the tell them to also BUCKLE UP!

Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger

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I am seeing a lot of posts on Facebook concerning the Facebook Messenger app becoming mandatory in the near future. With this news comes the realization of what the app can access: our smart phone camera, record audio on our microphone, change the state of our network connectivity, send SMS messages, call phone numbers without our intervention…the list of things goes on and on. It’s important to note that Android users have no control over the amount of Facebook’s access vs iPhone users that do. According to the Wall Street Journal: 

“On iPhones, users agree to the permissions when they come up during the normal use of the app. For instance, if an iPhone user never makes a voice call with Facebook Messenger, the app might never ask for permission to use the phone’s microphone.

While Android app users must agree to all permissions before using the app, iPhone users can decline to give permission to the app for some features, like access to the address book and microphone, but still use the app to send messages. Due to this, the iPhone version of the app is superior for particularly privacy-conscious users.”

Nick Russo of The Bull 100.3 explains how horribly invasive it is for Facebook Messenger to access so much data from our phones. I agree 150%. But the fact is, we allow this same access on many other apps, we just don’t take the time read the terms & conditions. We just check the box so our new app will quickly download. 

Snopes can be hit or miss with their facts, but there is an interesting article posted today about the Facebook Messenger app in comparison with the other myriad of apps we so quickly approve on our phones. Snopes refers to an informative article in the Washington Post about the comparison to other apps that I think you’ll find interesting. 

Bottom line, our blind-trust and lack of knowledge (and lack of time to read every word of the terms & conditions) is allowing apps to swoop in and have more control over our phones than we would ever imagine. Will apps like Facebook Messenger really “spy” on us and watch us go about our daily business in an inappropriate manner? Probably not. But can they if they want to? Most definitely yes.

We can not begin to understand the amount of spying that goes on around us (unless your job is in Cyber Security or you work the CIA). We would be a paranoid mess if we actually knew. For now, we need to continue our efforts to learn as much as we can about what we put on our phones and heed warnings like the one associated with Facebook Messenger. Then decide if we want an app like that on our phone. 

What are your thoughts? Will you delete Facebook Messenger? 



Good morning CyberForward Moms (and dads). I am a firm believer in sharing a good thing when I find it. This past weekend, I found something that is not just a good thing, but an AMAZING thing…

I found this little gem nestled in a small, quiet town in DuQuoin, Illinois. It had everything: beauty, clarity, sparkle and most importantly perfection. No, I’m not talking about a precious stone. I’m talking about over 70 precious limb-different “gems” that came from all over the U.S. to participate in the NubAbility Sports Camp.

Our 8-year-old, a congenital amputee on his left arm, had the opportunity to participate in the 3-day camp. I have to admit, I went to the camp with more hesitations than excitement. I thought, “I’m heading out on a 13 hour drive with my husband and son to some small town we had never heard of to participate in a camp that our son probably didn’t need since he does most anything already”. But something deep down kept telling me to try it out. So I did.

It didn’t take long to figure out why we were supposed to be in DuQuoin. Our son was surrounded by kids and coaches just like him. Sure, some kids had more limb-differences than our son, and some had less. However, everyone was the same. Suddenly, no one was defined by their differences. They were celebrated for being remarkable. Our kids were able to enter a world that was made just for them, mentored by coaches that were made just like them. Guards were down, confidence was up and spirits were raised all while giving God the glory…thanks to the founders Sam Kuhnert and his mom Jana.

Our son came away with a better attitude and a sense of pride. He definitely grew during the weekend, and looks forward to next year already!

If you have ever considered supporting a non-profit organization, please consider NubAbility Athletics.  It’s a class-act camp that’s one big standing ovation for kids that deserve one every day of their life!

Parents Need to Step Up…

Parents Need to Step Up…

Happy Summer to you all! As you can tell, I have taken a break from my website to enjoy some sun and fun with my family. I hope you are doing the same!

While I have taken a short break from my website, I have still been keeping up with the cyber world and it’s impact on our kids…more importantly MY kids! The younger two love watching Minecraft videos on YouTube, which requires my constant attention. The teen inevitably has a post or two that requires my attention. If it’s not the summer bikini pictures, it’s something else. Granted, it only encompasses about 10% of our summer, but it’s still social media issues to address. Has it been this way for you with the kids home for summer?  

Along with summertime activities, I was recently asked to join a local panel discussing social media and the effects it’s having on our children. I have to honestly confess to you that simply having a blog website (I hate the word blog) about social media isn’t my end goal. Using my website as a stepping stone to other educational outlets is my goal. To see it playing out is a blessing and privilege.

While I was compiling a list of resources for our next meeting, I came upon this article by Tony Anscombe from AVG Blogs. I have shared his work with your before, and today will do so again…because his articles are just that good! In this article posted on July 4, 2014, he speaks to the basic disconnect we face with today’s generation of youth vs. the generation that is parenting and teaching them. He writes:

“I remember when my son reached an age where I had to begin thinking about having those awkward father-son conversations. Older parents will recognize some of them, but parents with young kids will also know that some awkward topics are still just emerging. One of these is Internet safety and how we can keep children safe as they explore the web.

As I mused over how to raise the issue of Internet safety with my son, I discovered that many other parents were hoping that the school system would handle this for them, just like they did with sexual-education. After all it’s a team effort, right?”

Read the full article here. Be sure to subscribe to his articles while you’re there!

Leave me a comment below. I have had so many new user registrations this summer, and would like nothing more than to hear from you even if it’s just a simple “HI” to let me know you’re out there! I’ll go first…”HI!”. Now it’s your turn…


Slender Man

Slender Man

As I was getting ready for the day I overheard a conversation on the Today Show about a current online character called “Slender Man”. This horror character was the motivation for young two girls in Wisconsin to stab their friend 19 times. Luckily, the victim is still alive.

The original site for Slender Man is www.creepypasta.com, although he is now on many sites online. You can read the full statement from Creepypasta explaining their reaction to the stabbing, as well as an in-depth discussion about the site and it’s intent. They even addressed parents with young kids. Creepypasta understands many parents are not as technology-adept as their kids. They suggested 2 sites for parents to visit to help with keeping kids safe online or on smart phones: @digitaltrends and @PCWorld. They also quoted Russell Jack, the police chief from Waukasha: ““Parents should not be allowing their children to have unrestricted or unmonitored internet usage –whether it be on their computer on their smart phone on their PlayStation. All of those accesses to the outside world,”.

Unfortunately, parents are learning about certain online dangers because we see tragic situations play out like the one in Wisconsin. These type of online “fads” are going to be thrown at our kids all the time, and since we can’t keep up with it, we can at least teach our kids the difference between online and real world.

Take a few minutes to watch this morning’s segment from the Today Show. 


Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

***Update: When I was at lunch with my boys today (the 7 & 8 year olds), I asked if they had ever heard of “Slender Man”. The 7-year-old chimed in with “Oh yeah. That’s Slendy!” I think my heart dropped to my stomach. He informs me that Slender Man is on the app they have on my iPhone. I had him show me the app, and much to my relief, it’s an innocent app where you take care of the character by feeding it and such. The creators just happened to make the character in a Slender-Man-style.  After looking for Splendy on the web, I did see other apps for the real Slender Man. Luckily, my boys didn’t know about the real one, only the cartoon. 

I don’t know… I guess it’s all fine, but it is an example of how easy it is for our kids to have access to things that could potentially be a bad influence for them and we are clueless. Do your kids play the app Slendy? 

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