Come on, admit it. We’ve all dreamed of being a TV or movie star. If American Idol allowed you to audition in the shower, you would have taken over the music industry. How often did that hairbrush serve as a makeshift microphone? You know you had that perfect voice to call the big game, “bottom of the ninth… two outs…bases loaded.” Fifteen minutes of fame wasn’t going to be enough time for you.
Our kids today feel the same as we did, except now they can actually become a “star.” But rather than being on the big screen, now it’s all about the tiny screens on phones and computers. They don’t even need an agent or to audition anymore. Just a few quick clicks on Facebook, Periscope, or any other video-enabled app allows them to stream live, in real time with no edits, no take-backs, and no parental coaching. The mindset is typically innocent. These apps allow self-expression. Kids can have some fun with friends and maybe even get discovered and become the next internet sensation! “You know, Mom, people become rich doing this!” It’s true, but it’s rare. But like most fun things, kids fail to look at the risks involved, leaving parents to bring their kids back to reality. What happens when kids say something wrong or offensive on a live feed? What’s the fallout when, while doing some funny stunt, someone gets hurt? “Wardrobe malfunction” ring a bell with anyone?
These apps can be fun and useful if you monitor and make sure settings are configured properly with safety in mind. This goes for you, too, mom and dad! You could broadcast your daughter’s first dance recital or your son’s Eagle Court of Honor so grandma can see it. But you need to think before you go live. Is it REALLY “news” worthy to others or just to you and a couple of people? Is this the best way to tell the story, or would a picture do the same? Are you compromising their privacy before they even know what privacy means to them? Sometimes, we simply broadcast way too much information about our kids. Trust me - it may matter to them someday. But if you’re sure that a live video is what you want, make sure you take the time to understand the privacy settings and implications of using these apps. Here are some tips for both kids and parents to keep in mind when protecting our kids’ and our own privacy while using live-video apps and programs:
- Friend or Follow your children on their social media sites like Facebook so you can see what they are posting. Don’t stalk but observe them. Just knowing you are there will influence their behavior. If they live-broadcast videos, you will be able to see them as a Friend or Follower.
- When going live, make sure the video is set to broadcast to Friends or Followers only. Otherwise, the general public can see the live-feed. There are even public live-feed maps.
- Turn off the location services on the camera, program, or app so people can’t see exactly where you or your child is located.
- Be aware of your surroundings, people in the background that might not want to be broadcasted, or of anyone doing something inappropriate.
- Keep in mind that you are sharing your video with potentially a lot of people, and it is being recorded. Be careful what you say and do so that you don’t offend or embarrass anyone (yourself, your kids, your family).
- Make sure what you or your child is broadcasting is legal and safe to do. You can’t go to a concert or movie and just start broadcasting. Broadcasting while driving or distracted can be deadly.
- Learn how to delete or save the video when you are done live streaming. But remember, nothing can ever truly be deleted from the Internet, and someone may have captured your video.
- Take a few minutes before you start broadcasting to read the app instructions on how to properly and safely use the program. Technology constantly changes, and updates and improvements are always being made, so refresh yourself before using these programs.
New technology can be useful and fun if used properly but can be dangerous or even deadly without taking precautions. Have these conversations, and set limits with your children. It is easy for any of us to get caught up in the next wave or hot thing, but we all need to slow down at times and take a good look at our actions. Do that first, and then you really will be ready for your close-up.
About the author: Patrick Craven is the director for the Center for Cyber Safety and Education (Center), a non-profit charitable trust committed to making the cyber world a safer place for everyone. The Center works to ensure that people across the globe have a positive and safe experience online through their educational programs, scholarships, and research. Visit www.iamcybersafe.org. If you have questions or topic ideas please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.