Youth Online Safety, Security, Privacy, and Digital Literacy

Personal Safety Consequences:

When the Internet and social media first became popular, one of the biggest concerns that parents had was, “How do I protect my child from physical harm online, more specifically sexual predation by a stranger”. I’m sure many parents will remember the 2004 Dateline NBC show called, “To Catch A Predator” starring Chris Hansen. After this series aired on NBC, many parents believed that online stranger predation was an epidemic, but is it? Although online sexual predation is a reality, Dr. Sheri Madigan and her fellow researchers found in a 2018 peer-reviewed study that was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, “of the 18,272 youth in their study, only 1 in 9 had experienced any form of online sexual solicitation”.  Of interest, these findings are often echoed by many of the 500,000+ teens that we have presented to.  Yes, onlife sexual predation is a reality that we as parents need to be alive to, but it is not at the epidemic levels that some believe it to be. However, when it comes to online sexual predation it’s not just the stranger that parents need to worry about, it’s more likely going to the person who you, and your child, either know love, or trust.  This is something we will discuss further in chapter 14.

Psychological and Emotional Safety Consequences:

Psychological and emotional challenges are often overlooked when it comes to onlife safety which includes:

  1. Freedom from the disturbing content that can be seen unfiltered
  2. Freedom from sleep deprivation can lead to learning challenges
  3. Freedom from problematic online behavior
  4. Freedom from onlife bullying and harassment

We will be speaking to all these psychological and emotional challenges later in this e-book.

Reputation and Legal Safety Consequences:

In today’s onlife world, a teen’s digital dossier could have social, academic, professional, and legal consequences that could affect them for a lifetime.

It’s about how some students will use their technology in class, without permission, not only disturbing the teacher and other students but also disturbing their own learning process.

It’s also about how some students will use their personal technology to cheat on exams or to create criminal mischiefs at the school

Case Study:

We were at one high school where the teacher caught one of her senior students using his iWatch to cheat on an exam.  This is why many colleges, universities, and even some high schools no longer allow a smartwatch or smartphone into exams in an attempt to prevent cheating.

Case Study:

We were at one high school where a grade 10 student hacked into the school computer to change letter grades on his report card.  At another school we visited, a group of grade 10 students hacked all the computer lab computers to data-mine cryptocurrency. At another school we presented at, a grade 10 student conducted what was know as a “DDOS” attack on the school district computer network and knocked the entire district off-line.  Did you notice that in all incidents it was a grade 10 student 

Academic and Employment Consequences: 

Pictures posted, although funny today, what about in a couple of years from now when a student is applying to a college, university, or a job.  As one college sports coach stated:

“Recruits, social media matters.  I have now dropped 15 recruits this year because of their Twitter posts, likes, or retweets. Explicit images, racist words, and demeaning posts are unacceptable.  Your thumbs are killing your opportunities”

In 2018 Kaplan, a US-based company that provides educational services to colleges, universities, corporations, and businesses stated, “social media is fair game in the admissions process”.  It’s a fact that some colleges, universities, and employers are now using social media as a part of the filtering, gating, and hiring process.

It’s also important to understand that just because a teen has been accepted into a university, or was awarded an academic or sports scholarship,  it does not mean that they are guaranteed entry. Post use of social media, once accepted to a university or awarded a scholarship, can still have bad outcomes.

In a 2016 Canadian Medical Educational journal, the researchers stated the following specific to Canadian universities;

“Many of the schools we looked at had examined, at some point, social media profiles to acquire information on applicants.”  and,

“None of the schools used it explicitly to screen all applicants; however, a sizeable proportion did admit to looking at social media to corroborate preliminary indications of worrisome behaviour”

Case Study:

In 2017, ten prospective students who had been accepted into Harvard lost their admission because of offensive and sexually explicit memes posted on a Facebook group called “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens”, that they posted after they had been accepted.

Case Study:

In 2017, a college football player at the University of Central Florida lost his place on his team, and his athletic scholarship, due to his YouTube channel. This student-athlete was utilizing YouTube to monetize his position on the team, which was a direct violation of NCAA rules. When asked to remove his channel, he refused.

Employment Consequences:

According to Careerbuilders.com, 70% of employers interviewed stated that they will look at an applicant’s digital dossiers during the hiring process.

Case Study:

A candidate being interviewed by a possible employer claimed he wanted to leave his current job because he was looking for a position that allowed for more of a work-life balance. The candidate emphasized how he hadn’t taken a vacation in more than three years. When the prospective employer got to reference checks and browsed through the candidate’s social media accounts, they discovered beautiful vacation photos that were posted regularly. However, it wasn’t the time off that gave the prospective employer an initial pause, it was the fact that the candidate’s two stories didn’t reconcile. After reference checking and making a few calls, the prospective employer found that the candidate had been terminated from previous jobs for repeated absenteeism and job abandonment.

Even after a teen, or adult, finds employment, their ongoing digital dossier, both on and off the job, can lead to significant consequences including termination.

Case Study:

In 2018, a British Columbia employee was fired for mocking the death of a Sikh senior who was killed in an accident at a Canada Day parade in Abbotsford BC.  The employee argued that his posting took place outside of working hours, and on his own time, so the employer had no right to fire him. Arbitration ensued, and the termination was upheld.

Case Study:

In 2020, an employee of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia was fired because of the racist comments they had made on their Twitter account on their own time.

Both the courts and labor tribunals have upheld the fact if what you post on social media, even off the job, spills over and affects a business in a negative way, then they may have the right to terminate your employment.

Renting and Living Consequences:

Once a teen decides to head off to a college or university, or to start their first job they will need a place to live, which often means renting an apartment, condo, or home.  Once the rental application is in hand, many landlords will check an applicant’s digital dossier to determine suitability.

Case Study:

A husband and wife, who own several rental condos near a major Canadian university, were doing a background check on a potential renter.  After checking this applicant’s digital dossier, they decided not to rent to this person given the fact that they posted pictures, and stated publicly, that they loved to drink, use drugs, and host parties.  Given what they uncovered online, the renter decided not to rent their condo to this applicant given their real concerns surrounding possible future damage to their property.

Social Assurity, a digital literacy company in the United States stated:

” Your kid’s social media has become the cover letter that they didn’t know they were sending and the online virtual interview that they didn’t know was taking place with college admissions officers, recruiters, and possible employers of the future”

This is something that we also echo in all of our teen presentations. A teen’s  digital reputation matters and they need to think about what they are posting now, and how it can affect them in the future:

  • what would a college or university recruiter think
  • what would a future business recruiter think
  • what would a parent, relative, teacher, or the police think

Teens need to be thinking about using their social media to share positive stories about themselves online to make them stand out from others. It should promote a positive online brand that sends a clear message to a landlord, university, or employer that says, “pick me”!

As we share with teens:

” You are not obliged to post anything, but anything you do post may be given in evidence and used in a court of law, a scholarship, a university application, a rental application and yes, even a job interview”

Accuracy of Information Consequences:

When we were in high school and doing research for an essay or a project, we would often turn to the encyclopedias our parents had in the house or head off to the public library. Today, teens don’t use encyclopedias or libraries, they use Google or Wikipedia.

With the ease of digital search engines, such as Google or Safari, also needs to be the ability for teens to separate fact from fiction, and think critically about what they are reading, hearing, or seeing online.  Today’s search engines use something called a “filter bubble”, also known as an algorithm, to direct information that predicts what you want to see based upon your online search history and habits that they are constantly tracking 24/7.

When Google first started in 1998, if you searched basketball and your friend searched basketball, their top ten results would have been identical to yours.  Today, if you were to do the same thing, your top ten results would be totally different from your friend’s.  Don’t believe us, try it with a friend outside your family, and see what happens.

Now, why is this important?  Let’s say a teen is having a medical issue, but they don’t want to go to a parent or a doctor to figure out what is going on.  Instead, they will turn to what I like to call Dr. Google, they will google what is happening in the hope of finding answers and how to self-treat the issue themselves.  Teens who do this need to ask themselves,  “Is what I am reading online true” and looking for multiple sources to support what they found on Google. In a 2017 University of Waterloo study titled, “The positive and negative influence of search results on people’s decision about the efficacy of medical treatment” they reported out,

“We found that search engine results can significantly influence people both positively and negatively. Importantly, study participants made more incorrect decisions when they interacted with search results biased towards incorrect information than when they had no interaction with search results at all.”

In other words, this research found that searching the internet for medical remedies could make you feel worse, and leave you less informed. Why is this important? – 72% of US internet users have searched for health information online in the past year, and 35% have tried to self-diagnose a medical issue https://pewrsr.ch/3tN9fsY  As well, when using these search engines, you are potentially revealing private health information to companies like Google, that they collect, monetize, and sell to others for profit.

Case Study:

A doctor in the UK reported that one of her patients had experienced stomach pain and weight loss. The patient had attributed these contraindications to a diet she’d recently stated that she read about online.  When the patient began to feel pain and itching while urinating, they once again used the internet to self-diagnose their condition, and self-diagnosed that they had a urinary tract infection. When the patient finally went to see the doctor six months later, they found the patient had advanced cervical cancer.

Parent Tip:

Here’s a great resource from Media Smarts Canada that we recommend to help separate fact from misinformation or disinformation online: http://bit.ly/fact-search  This link automatically searched snopes.com, hoax-slayer.com, factscan.ca, factcheck.org as well as several others all in one link!  

Another great fact-checking resource can also be located here: https://bit.ly/3wYxBOE

A third fact-checking resource can also be located here: https://toolbox.google.com/factcheck/explorer

Privacy Challenges:

In 2017, one of the most popular apps being used by teens was an anonymous messaging app called “Sarahah”.  Not only was Sarahah free, but it could be used to communicate cross-platform, meaning Apple phones could message Android phones and vice versa.  What the tens of thousands of teens who downloaded this app did not know, Sarahah was quietly uploading the user’s entire address book from their phone. Although it was clear in Sarahah’s Term of Service (TOS) that this was an agreed-to condition that was contingent on downloading and using this free app, teens didn’t know this fact given that they, and adults, often never read an app’s TOS.  It’s a cool app, everyone is using it, so it must be safe, secure, and private.

An important message that we share in all of our presentations to teens, nothing is ever free!  What we are surrendering, with increased frequency, is the private and sometimes very intimate information that we have saved on our phones and computers.  Through these free apps, companies are harvesting our information, monetizing it, and then selling it to companies who want to sell us stuff.  This is a multi-billion-dollar industry.  Remember, nothing is ever free online, and what we are giving up more and more is our private information.

As Daniel Lyon from Newsweek stated,

“The Most important thing to understand about most Social Networks is that you are not their customer, you are their inventory. You are the product a Social Network is selling.  Most Social Networks’ real customers are advertisers.  You, as a Social Network member, are useful only because you can be packaged up and sold to advertisers.  The more Information Social Networks can get from you, the more you are worth.”

We need to drill home the fact that everything our kids do online, no matter what their privacy settings, is public, permanent, searchable, exploitable, copiable, shareable, and likely for sale. Nothing is ever free or private and never forget this prime directive.

Case Study #1:

In 2019, the US government fined the very popular teen App TikTok $5.7 million for covertly collecting children’s data and selling it. 

Case Study #2:

In 2019, the US government fined YouTube $170 million to settle allegations that it was collecting children’s personal data without their parent’s consent.

Case Study #3:

In 2021, TikTok paid $92 million dollars to settle a class-action lawsuit over the theft of personal information

Case Study #4

In 2021, Google is facing a class-action lawsuit for $5 billion dollars over tracking their users who were using “incognito mode”

One way to increase your family’s privacy, move away from one of the biggest data privacy collectors in the world – GOOGLE!

Although Google is the best-known online browser and has the largest search engine in the world, there are others that are becoming very good at what they do, and provide users with an effective “private” alternative.  Here are two internet browsers, and one search engine we recommend to families to help protect their online privacy:

BROWSERS:

SEARCH ENGINE:

So instead of using the Google browser and search engine, give the FireFox or the Brave browser a go, and combine it with DuckDuckGo pr StartPage as your search engine. You will not be disappointed!

EMAIL:

Many people are unaware that when you are using Google’s Gmail, Google is scanning and data mining all emails that are sent, and even those that are in a “draft” format. If you are looking for a more private, encrypted, and free email option, consider:

Protonmail – https://protonmail.com

GMX- https://www.gmx.com

STOP THIRD TRACKERS: 

To stop advertisers and other third-party trackers from secretly tracking where you go and what pages you look at on the web, use a browser privacy add-on. The one that we recommend is Privacy Badger https://privacybadger.org

*** NOTE ***: Privacy Badger is only supported as an add-on via Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Opera. Privacy Badger is not Safari supported. Having said this, the Safari browser already offers a great tracker blocker.

REMOVE THIRD-PARTY APPS THAT GOOGLE, FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, and TWITTER USE TO SIGN IN WITH:

Unknown to many, when you use Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to sign in to other apps and websites, you give these sites access to your data. To delete and prevent this from happening, here are some resources:

Google Third-Party App Access – https://myaccount.google.com/permissions?pli=1

Facebook Third-Party App Access –

https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=applications

Instagram Third-Party App Access

https://www.instagram.com/accounts/manage_access/

Twitter Third-Party App Access – https://twitter.com/settings/connected_apps

*** NOTE *** TO PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY, WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THAT YOU EVER USE YOUR GOOGLE, FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, OR TWITTER ACCOUNTS TO SIGN IN TO OTHER WEBSITES OR APPS!

Not only can social media vendors mine our digital dossier, but so can anyone who may have ill intent

Case Study

This story was shared with us by one of our followers who gave us permission to share it with others.

“I don’t use much for social media. I am on Facebook, but keep almost everything private. My friend’s list is not public. I did, however, leave some pictures of my cat public as they were linked to a public page. I also had some “in search of” posts that were public. I don’t accept friend requests just because they were sent or because we have some mutual friends. I really need to know the person. I also do accept requests from duplicate accounts unless I have personally spoken with the person. In general, I am just a fairly private person but have never felt that I need to hide from anyone.

Last week I received a usual FB friend request from a name I don’t know and a profile without information. As per my normal, I didn’t respond. A couple of hours later that same person started commenting on a few of my public pictures, pictures that were over 1 year old. The comments were creepy. I blocked the profile.

After about 1 hour I started receiving phone calls from an out-of-province phone number. I don’t answer calls I don’t know. When I checked my voicemail, I had a message that was addressed to my younger sister but asking that it be passed along to me. The caller, well the caller identified himself as the man who raped me 25 years ago when I was 11 years old. I have not had any type of contact with this person in close to 24 years since he was sentenced for his crime. I don’t know how long he spent in jail. I didn’t know or care where his life took him after. Now, one thing that came screaming to mind was that 3 months ago I received a random FB message from someone asking me if I knew “…” I chose not to engage. It kinda felt like a not my circus, not my monkey’s thing.

When I logged back into my FB I then found a message from the person who had tried to contact me just hours before. The message had been sent before I blocked him. He identified himself as the person that raped me. Neither phone or FB messages were threatening; however, it takes the cake on creepy and weird.

I contacted the RCMP and started a file. I was told to block and ignore. I went further and found his 17 aliases through Criminal Services Online then blocked every FB profile with those names which appeared fake.

Over the next couple of days, my sister started getting random friend requests from this person and every time she blocked a profile he set up a similar one and tried again. He was doing the same thing to me.

On the 4th day, I started receiving more phone calls. The phone numbers were getting closer to BC. I went back to the RCMP. I have a second file open, but not a lot is being done because nothing is threatening. I ended up changing my phone number.

I went public, to my friends, with my story. I really stressed the importance of internet safety. I invited everyone to search for me publicly and let me know if they could find my information, specifically my phone number. No one could find anything significant.

Well, today we found where he found my phone number and why he thought it was my sister’s number. Over 2 years ago my sister publicly posted on her FB a screen capture of a conversation we had. She did not block out my phone number. My sister makes the majority of her posts public. He searched hundreds of FB posts on her profile to find that one post from over 2 years ago just to get the information he needed to be able to harass me. All it took was that one public funny screen capture.

To me, this speaks volumes about over-sharing our information and risking information and safety. Who would have ever thought that 25 years later a rapist would seek out his victim? Who would have ever thought that a 2year old screen capture of a funny conversation would open the doors for such an ordeal?

Few of us think about what’s to come in 25 years. Our children definitely don’t think of where their actions will take them in 2 years.

This is my story. I really hope that others learn from it and that our children, and adults, are safer about their, and their friends, information.”

10 STEPS TO SECURE YOUR DIGITAL DEVICES:

Here are our recommended 10 steps to secure your family’s digital devices

1) Lock Devices:

If you leave your device unattended, or even lose your device, you want to prevent a person from accessing the device. The best way to do this – ensure that you lock your device with a strong passcode, or use a biometric locking feature such as a fingerprint or facial recognition.

2) Keep your device’s operating system (Os) updated when patches become available for download:

Os updates often fix software weaknesses that criminals will capitalize on to access your data. When updates become available, ensure you download them.

3) Use anti-malware

Stay away from the free stuff, invest in a good premium anti-malware to protect all your devices. We here at the White Hatter use Bitdefender: https://www.bitdefender.com

4) Enable remote find and remote wipe options

If you misplace/lose your device, or if it is stolen, having the ability to locate your lost device is important. If you can’t locate your device, then having the ability to remotely wipe information on that device also becomes important.

Apple devices: https://support.apple.com/…/guide/icloud/mmfc0ef36f/icloud

Android devices: https://www.google.com/android/find

5) Back-up (cloud or external drive) information on your device:

If you have to remote wipe a device, you want to ensure that you have backed-up all the information that is about to be wiped so that you can still access the information, and for the purpose of downloading it onto a new device.

6) Encrypt or vault-app sensitive information:

If there is any sensitive or private information on your device that you do not want someone to have access to, like a friend who you have given your device to use, make sure that information is encrypted or stored on a password-protected vault app.

7) Log out of accounts when done:

If you do not log out of an account, where there was a user name and password used, then that account is still open and anyone who has access to your device will also have access to that account.

8) Be warry of open WiFI – use a VPN:

Open WiFi in places like libraries, stores, hotels, airports, and restaurants are prone to what is called “man in the middle attacks”. What this means – a third party could have access to what you are doing and posting online. This is why we strongly recommend the use of a Virtual Privacy Network (VPN) whenever using WiFi. The VPN that we use here at the White Hatter

Private Internet Access – https://www.privateinternetaccess.com

9) Only download apps from official app sites

Be very careful about downloading any app that does not come from an “official” app store such as iTunes or Google Play. Often apps that do not come from these stores will contain malware that could put your device at risk.

10) Do not allow your device’s browser to save passwords – use a password locker:

If someone does access your device if you have saved the password in your browser, and the account/social media platform is clicked, the password will automatically fill and therefore give the person access to your account. Also, do not store your passwords on your note app on your device – note apps are too vulnerable to being hacked. We suggest the use of a password locker and the one we use here at the White Hatter is LastPass https://www.lastpass.com

Copyright Consequences

In 2014, a Canadian company called “Canipre” was hired by the entertainment industry to help enforce the Copyright Act here in Canada. The goal of this company, to identify those Canadians who are illegally downloading movies, music, videos, games, and software online for free in breach of copyright law. Canipre reported that they had gathered information on over five million Canadians who had been illegally downloading copyrighted material. In Canada, both teens and adults could face statutory dames for up to $5000 per breach of copyright. It should be noted that Canipre is still actively enforcing Canada’s Copyright Act to this day.

McInnes/Cooper, a Canadian-based law firm that specializes in defending those who have received a “Statement of Claim” for a copyright violation advised on their social media platforms that if you receive one of these statements, be advised you are being sued. The law firm further advises,

if you receive a Statement of Claim, you are being sued and you are a defendant in an actual lawsuit. You cannot ignore thisYou have only 30 days to both file a Statement of Defence and serve it on the studioIf you don’t, the studio can ask the Federal Court to grant it default judgment, including an award of monetary damages, against you that it can enforce against you and your assets – without giving you any chance to represent yourself in Court.”

Case Study:

We met a first-year University of Victoria student who was issued one of these Statements of Claims, given that he had downloaded a pirated movie from a Bit Torrent site for free, in clear breach of Canadian copyright law, which he should have paid for.  As a result, he was facing a statutory damage claim of $3500.00 for his illegal download.

An interview we conducted with Canadian Internet, Technology, and Privacy Lawyer David Fraser 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=QZG9wErrfNk%3Ffeature%3Doembed%26rel%3D0

Identity, Property and Community Safety Consequences

Criminals have adjusted very well to the onlife world when it comes to their illegal enterprises.

Case Study #1:

A BC family announced on their Facebook page that they were heading out of town to attend a hockey game in Vancouver. Given their announcement on social media, the thieves were able to identify where this family lived using some very basic online investigative techniques.  Once they figured out the address, the thieves were able to place it into Google Street Maps and plotted how to get to the family’s home. Once they identified the street, they then went to Google Street View to have a closer look at the home, then used Google Satellite view to have a 360 degree look around the family’s home to plan a point of entry undetected. Not only did they clean the family out of all their valuables, but they were also able to locate a key to an extra vehicle that was on the property, loaded it up, and then drove it away

Every school we present at, it is amazing to see how many students, and even educators, have open social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram.  Often contained in these open and unlocked social networks is personal information that can be used to steal a person’s identity.

Case study #2:

An identity thief “creeps” an open social network where they gather enough information to apply for a credit card under your name. The identity thief then has this credit card sent to a post office box that they have registered under your name, to elude police. Once the identity thief has the credit card in their possession, they will pretend to be you and spend to its maximum limit and never pay for the outstanding statement.  Now you are applying for a student loan, or a car loan, which automatically triggers a credit check.  Having no idea that you have been the victim of earlier identity theft, your loan is denied because you have an outstanding credit card bill of $5000 that has not been paid for in months, which has now also negatively affect your credit rating. A real case that we assisted on.

In 2018, a research study conducted by “Javelin Strategy” on child identity theft and fraud  found:

“more than one million children were victims of identity fraud in a single year, resulting in total losses of $2.6 billion and more than $540 million in out-of-pocket expenses to families. Statistically, minors are at far greater risk of identity breaches than adults: it has been estimated that one in four minors will have their identities stolen before they reach the age of maturity.”

Why are youth primary targets for identity theft? It’s because they have what the identity thief calls “virgin credit” that can be easily stolen and socially engineered.  When you combine this with the fact that too many of our teens, and adults, are placing too much information about themselves online, it makes for lots of viable targets for an identity thief to prey upon.

In May 2021, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre distributed a national bulletin where they reported that identity theft has reached significant levels in Canada.

Identity theft is yet another reason why we must emphasize with teens that everything they post online is public, permanent, searchable, exploitable, copiable, sharable, and often for sale.

Our Interview with online crime prevention expert and investigator Julie Clegg.

Self-Injury Consequences:

Texting Injuries

In December 2019 a study was published by the American Medical Association that found:

“The number of head and neck injuries related to cell phone use was found to have increased steadily over a recent 20-year period. This study’s findings suggest that growing dependence on cell phones in modern life may require that steps be taken to educate and promote safe practices for using these devices.”

In fact, a 2013 US Study found walking, talking, texting injures were rising year-to-year, with 1506 recorded in the US emergency rooms in 2010, up from 256 in 2005 https://bit.ly/3nOjGc0 . In the same study, researchers found that talking on a phone while walking accounted for about 69% of injuries compared to texting, which accounted for only about 9%.

In our presentations, we speak to something that is called “wexting”, a social media term for walking and texting at the same time, and how wexting can lead to unforeseen consequences.

To further emphasize the dangers of wexting, the National Safety Council estimates that there are 44 teens who are hit by vehicles every day because they are walking and talking on their phones at the same time.  The US Governors Highway Safety Association estimated that there were more than 6000 pedestrian deaths associated with wexting in 2018.

Selfies in Dangerous Situations Consequences

For that perfect selfie that will garner lots of likes, teens are now purposely placing themselves in dangerous situations. We have personally seen selfies taken in front of oncoming trains, dangerous animals, or standing dangerously on top of high cliffs or buildings.

In 2018, the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care reported

“More than 250 people worldwide have died taking selfies in the last six years, according to a new study from researchers associated with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, a group of public medical colleges based in New Delhi. The findings, which analyzed news reports of the 259 selfie-related deaths from October 2011 to November 2017”

Case Study #1

In 2018, an 18yr old hiker died after slipping and falling off a cliff at Yosemite National Park while attempting to take a selfie at the edge of Nevada Falls

Case Study #2

In 2018, a Californian woman, while hiking the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan, slipped and fell to her death after stopping at the edge of a cliff for a selfie.

Online Challenge Consequences

Online challenges are viral social media stunts that can range from the harmless, such as the Ice Bucket Challenge that was designed to raise money for ALS, to the extremely dangerous, such as the fire challenge. The goal of a challenge creator is to make their specific challenge go viral. With the increasing popularity of the video-based app called TikTok, we have seen a significant increase in these challenges, the majority of which are harmless.  However, there are some challenges that can be extremely dangerous, and often recirculate or reboot every two to three years. Some of the more dangerous challenges include:

The Cinnamon Challenge – can cause respiratory emergencies

The Choking Challenge – can cause brain damage and even death

The Tide Pod Challenge – can cause chemical burns to the mouth, throat, airway

The Fire Challenge – can cause 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree burns

The Milk Crate Challenge – can lead to significant traumatic injuries

Case Study:

In October 2019, a 12-year-old boy in Michigan engaged in the fire challenge at a friend’s house that they wanted to post on YouTube. After spraying nail polish remover on his clothing and igniting the liquid, it quickly engulfed his upper body which resulted in second-degree burns to his chin, upper chest, and stomach before it was extinguished.

Parenting Tip:

Ask your child what online challenges are popular with their peer group right now, do your research, and then have a conversation specific to any potential harms identified. Remember how the teen brain works and that they often do not consider consequences to actions until it is too late.

Distracted Driving Consequences:

Teen distracted driving accidents, caused by cellphone use, continue to be a significant challenge.

According to the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) https://bit.ly/3DhID5F

  • mobile phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes in Canada annually
  • 95% of Canadian teen drivers acknowledge the dangers of texting and driving, but 35% of those admitted to still doing it
  • Distracted driving fatalities have surpassed those caused by impaired driving in some parts of Canada
  • Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 90km/h, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

According to the US National Safety Council https://www.nsc.org

  • cellphone use while driving lead to roughly 1.6 million car accidents in the USA every year
  • Distracted driving accidents because of cellphone use result in approx 400,000 injuries and 3,142 deaths
  • Teen drivers are four times more likely to get into an accident while using their cellphone and an average of 11 teens die every day in texting-related car accidents

Most readers are aware that driving while using a cellphone is illegal everywhere in Canada, and this is also true in most states in the US.  However, it is a fact that both teens and adults continue to ignore the law because of their belief that they can multi-task safely while driving, which just isn’t supported by good research. https://bit.ly/2Wr2JcQ 

Sometimes, providing teens with real examples of the consequences to texting and driving can be a powerful learning tool. Here’s a great YouTube Video that both you as a parent and your teen can watch together to help spark further discussions on this very real challenge

Parenting Tip:

Talk to your teen driver about the above-noted stats and facts. If your teen has a cellphone, program it so that you turn on the “Do Not Disturb While Driving” function which can help reduce the temptation of using their phone while driving: https://youtu.be/RDRjoCkG1-U

Digital Hygiene Safety

According to the “Canadian Consumer Technology Association”, 86% of Canadians own a smartphone, with the teen market growing every year.  Personally, we have seen students in grades 3 and 4 with iPhone 10s.  Something that we will speak to later in chapter 9.

With the convenience of cellphones, comes the security vulnerabilities associated with very intimate and personal information contained in these devices.  Every school we present at, we ask students how many of them own a cell phone, the vast majority of their hands will go up.  When we asked this same group how many have locked down their phones with a password, the number of hands that go up drops dramatically.

It is extremely important that once your teen has been given their first cellphone, they ensure that they secure it with a password that is at least six digits in length, if not longer, which is comprised of a combination of upper/lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Here’s a process that we recommend that will allow your teen to pick a very secure password that they will not forget

  • Pick a phrase that is easily remembered, it has to have at least six letters. we will use the phrase “my dog has flees”
  • Next, capitalize the first letter in each word of the phrase so it looks like this “My Dog Has Flees”
  • Next, squish the phrase together into one big word so it now looks like this “MyDogHasFlees”
  • Next, replace any letter “e” with the number “3” and any letter “a” with the “@” symbol so that it now looks like this “MyDogH@sFl33s”
  • Next, add an exclamation mark to the end of the phrase so it now looks like this “#MyDogH@sFl33s!”

According to https://howsecureismypassword.net a password strength tool, it would take a hacking computer about one trillion years to crack the above-noted password.

Parent Tip:

Make sure all cellphone contracts include something called “port protection” activated on your account to help prevent sim swapping crimes. https://bit.ly/3lVQdKs  For many Canadian cell providers, this is not an automatic protection feature, but rather an “opt-in” service that you need to request, and yes it is free to activate! 

The next way that teens put their phones at risk,  by sharing their passwords with their “BFF” (Best Friend Forever). However, a friend today may become a frenemy tomorrow.  Often for younger teens, the pressure to share passwords is a sign of friendship. For older teens, it’s about sharing passwords with relationship partners to prove trust. My message to all teens, treat your passwords like they are your toothbrush or your underwear – they are not something that you share with others and change them every so often.

Also, do not store your passwords in your note apps on your phone. As a white-hat hacker and an online investigator, when we can access a person’s cellphone, the first place we always go to is the notes app. Why, more often than not, the user will store their user names and passwords for a variety of their online accounts.  These passwords can then be easily harvested and used to access a user’s account or allow another person to change your passwords and hold your social media platforms and bank accounts hostage.  This is the reason why we recommend the use of a trusted and encrypted password locker, the one we use is “LastPass”, which is available in both the Apple and Google store.

One last comment on user names and passwords, parents you should have all of your child’s usernames and passwords stored in a secure location. Here’s something we recommend:

Parent Emergency Account List

  • Download our “Parent Emergency Account List”

https://files.thewhitehatter.ca/owncloud/index.php/s/kSeUT9GBTEwmBb4

  • Have your child fill it out, including the user name and password of their phone, fold it and have your child place it into a sealed envelope.
  • Place the envelope in a secure and hidden location.
  • Promise your child that you will never ever look into that envelope unless something has happened, and you now need emergency access to their phone and/or social networks.
  • Every six months pull out the envelope, give it to your child, and have them change their password. Something everyone should be doing every six months from a safety and security standpoint.

Case Study

We helped a family whose child died in a traumatic skiing accident. When the parents received their daughter’s belongings from the coroner, they found her iPhone, but they did not have the password to access the phone’s main screen.  They attempted to guess the password unsuccessfully, which resulted in the iPhone locking itself from further attempts.  The family connected with Apple in an attempt to get the phone unlocked, but Apple advised that they were unable to help.  All the parents wanted was access to the pictures of their daughter that she had stored on her phone. Things we never think about as parents, until it’s too late.

Update Mobile Software

Software updates plug the security vulnerabilities that hackers will exploit.  It is extremely important that teens continually download updates to their devices as they become available.

Case Study

We met a middle school student who had an iPhone and had not updated its operating system for over 2yrs. This student was experiencing several challenges with their phone.  After showing this student how to download a software update, the challenges they were experiencing disappeared.

Free-Range Access Consequences:

The internet and social media are just like the real world; it has a lot of great places where you can go to learn, explore and interact with friends, family, and other people from around the world in a positive way. However, the internet and social media also have some places that although may appear to be safe, young adults are placing themselves at risk, sometimes knowingly, but often unknowingly.

As an example, for those teens who are allowed to free-range, meaning they have full unfiltered access to the internet, one in five will experience unwanted online exposure to sexually explicit material according to a 2018 study conducted by Dr. Sheri Madigan and her colleagues at the University of Calgary.

One of our mantras is, “it’s not the app, it’s how a teen will use the app that makes it dangerous” We must emphasize that the vast majority of teen interactions that take place in the onlife world are positive. However, there are some popular apps and websites that teens frequent that are more problematic when it comes to online risk.  Some of these apps and websites include:

  • Omegle
  • Emerald Chat
  • Monkey
  • Chattroulette
  • MYLOL
  • YOUNOW
  • Yubo
  • Cake
  • 7Strangers.com
  • OmeTV

We must emphasize that at the time of the writing of this e-book, these were some of the more problematic apps and social networks that we found were popular with teens. However, as with everything in the onlife world, this list can change quickly. Of interest, all these apps and social networks are communication-based, meaning they allow for the sending of “private” messages via text, pictures, or live video streaming.

Given that Darren was a police officer for 30 years, he witnessed his fair share of disturbing behavior in his career, but some of the behavior that we see taking place in the above-noted Apps and social networks, Oh My God (OMG). We witnessed teen boys, girls, and even elderly males fapping to one another in front of their webcam.  Fapping is the onlife term for “masturbating”.  Yes, the onlife world is creating its own language and vocabulary that we parents need to understand.

Parent Tip:

We have been saying for years that the internet is creating its own language, and if we as parents don’t understand this new language (also known as Aesopian language) then we parents, caregivers, and adults will have a challenge understanding what our kids are saying and doing online.

With the rise and popularity of TikTok, youth are resorting to increased use of Aesopian language in an attempt to escape TikTok’s artificial intelligence algorithm from deleting a posting, down-ranking a posting, or even banning them from the app itself.  Here are some examples:

“unalive” rather than “dead,” 

“SA” instead of “sexual assault,”

“spicy eggplant” instead of “vibrator.”

“cornucopia” instead of “homophobia”

“leg booty” rather than “LGBTQ”

“nips nops” rather than “nipples”

“le dollar bean” instead of “lesbian” 

“Bob Marley” instead of “marijuana”

“plug”  instead of “ drug dealer”

One of the best ways to learn about current Aesopian language being used by youth – engage with your kids in their onlife world.  Remember, parents who engage with their kids through parental communication, parental participation, and where reasonable and appropriate parental overwatch – those youth are less likely to find themselves in less than desirable situations online.  At the same time, you as a parent or caregiver will also learn their language.

Some other great external resources to help parents decipher internet and social media language, chat, emoji’s, emoticon’s and other trending Aesopian terminology include:

https://www.urbandictionary.com

www.netlingo.com 

http://emojipedia.org

https://www.hashtags.org/analytics/tba/

Some teens, understanding the risks associated with participating in some of these apps and social networks, will attempt to hide their identities in a variety of different ways on camera believing that doing so reduces risks.

When we share pictures of students that we found trying to hide their identities,  we get a lot of laughs until we share with them some of the technology that is available to allow a potential threat to still identify a teen’s location.  Let us game this process out, using a case that we were asked to help a family with.

  • Teen is on Omegle, wearing a mask to hide their identity, fapping live in front of their webcam.
  • The person who is receiving this live stream now uses a specific type of software to identify this teen’s IP address. Your IP address identifies where your computer is located in the world.  It may not tell us that you live at 123 Sesame Street, but it will reveal that you live in a specific region or area such as Victoria BC. This same software will also allow this person to covertly record what this teen is doing in front of their webcam.
  • The next day the teen receives a text message that says, “hi, my name is Steve666 and I am the person you were streaming with on Omegle yesterday. Oh, I also now know you live in Victoria BC Canada, and go to Oak Bay High School. Oh, I also know what your Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and TikTok pages are. Oh, I also recorded what you did, and here’s a recording of it. Oh, if you don’t place $800 into my Bitcoin account, or if you don’t do exactly what I want you to do for me on your webcam, I will take this video and post it on all your social media platform so that your family, friends, and teachers can see what you did and then lock you out of your accounts so that you can’t take it down.

This process is known in the onlife world as “sextortion”, and people who do this are known as “Cappers” or “Catfishers”, something we will be discussing in-depth in chapter 12.

Our Interview with Richard Guerry on the challenges faced by youth in the onlife world

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