Safer Internet Day 2014

Sorry Facebook, it’s not you- it’s them.

As Facebook loses its lustre with younger users, losing 3 million teens since 2011 it has been replaced with newer and oh-so-cooler alternatives that have not yet been ‘ruined’ by snooping parents.

As Safer Internet Day rolls around for another year on February 11 (appropriately themed “Let’s create a better internet together”) what better time than to familiarise yourself with the apps on your child’s phone that you might not recognise, and the uncharted networks where they share information.


Snapchat is the current darling of the high school set, enabling users to shoot photos or video, embellish with pictures and text, and send to contacts. Within 10 seconds, the image expires forever (the grinning ghost mascot used by the app is no accident).

Originally popular with the “sexting” crowd, users quickly discovered that there was nothing stopping the recipient of a risqué snap from taking a screenshot of the picture, immortalising it forever. Additionally, third party apps were created to save those snaps that were intended to be disposable.

To avoid any headaches:

  • Talk to your kids about Snapchatting inappropriate content. If either recipient is under 18 there are legal consequences of sending or receiving lewd pictures.
  • All Snapchat accounts have public profiles that list the people they talk to most. Ask if you can scan the list for any names that you might not recognise.
  • Capturing photos is “sooo uncool”. Encourage your kids to keep an eye out for the notification that a snap has been permanently captured via screen shot.


Described by NSW Police as the ”the number one social media problem involving teenagers”, Kik is a quick instant messaging service to send messages and photos with relative anonymity.

With 50 million registered users, teens have cottoned on that the app can send messages outside of traditional SMS services that parents may be checking. Adding fuel to the fire, if a ‘phoneless’ child has an iPod touch or an iPad, they can still install the app and use Kik as an unmonitored communications method.

As Kik uses a username rather than phone number, recent trends point to a cross over between social networks; kids uploading an Instagram pic may comment with “Kik me @username”, enabling strangers to send them private messages via Kik.

Sound a little creepy?

  • Talk to your kids about only communicating with people they know, and not meeting up with people who they don’t know in real life.
  • Kik is rated 17+ in the app store so 13-17 year olds need parental permission.  You can adjust App Rating restrictions on your child’s device to block the download of apps intended for adult use.
  • Parents can email a request to Kik to painlessly deactivate their child’s account, if required.


Once reserved for glossy ‘food porn’ shots of what you were eating for lunch, or having a chuckle at Warnie’s selfies, Instagram now boasts over 150 million users. Almost exclusively used on mobile phones, users can apply digital filters to their shots and share them with followers.

Instagrammers follow others in their newsfeed, like and comment on photos, tag friends (@mslbingle), and hashtag topics (#cottbeach). If someone searches for that particular user or hashtag, the photos that have shared are publically displayed (alongside any other pictures tagged with the same subject.)

Don’t want just anyone gawking at your kid’s Instagram pics?

  • Hit the profile button in the bottom-right corner, then tap “Edit your profile.” Scroll down to the “Posts are Private” setting and flip the switch.
  • Make sure the “Add to your Photo Map” setting is switch “Off.” Displaying your location might be cool at the Eiffel Tower, but sharing the location of your family home is another story.
  • Double-check what social networks are selected to share Instagram shots (great privacy settings on Instagram don’t amount to much if Instapics are being auto-shared across Facebook and Twitter.)

So that’s a wrap! The latest apps to suss out as Safer Internet Day provides a welcome reminder to ramp up your digital security. Now if you’ll excuse me, Warnie is advertising on Twitter for a PA and I might just know someone who can help him with his selfies…


  1. Giselle Rogers says:

    Very good!

  2. Rachel Barnes says:

    Hi there,

    this information is really useful for us parents…I’m so uninterested in the cyber world and Ive been dragged kicking and screaming onto facebook purely so that I can find out about the kids sport etc. I have managed to avoid most other programs. Recently I attended a cybersafety forum and was blown away by these programs. I need to be more in touch and kept up to date. Thanks for this reminder.

  3. Bernard Winters says:

    Great post Rebecca, very helpful. This sort of info is exactly what us 40 something parents need. There seems to be very little out there to help us understand all this new stuff and work out what’s good and potentially bad for our kids. There are a few “safe” browsers. Also a friend was telling me about a really good parent app for Apple devices. I think it was called curbi.

  4. Andrew says:

    It would be great if iinet could provide information on internet use through their connection. Not just connection time but sites visited, queries entered, information entered.
    For me its not restriction, restriction but the opportunity to know what kids are looking so these topics can be discussed. Traditionally its true my parents didn’t know what I got up to all the time but the same access to such information was not easily available back in the day.

    • Cath says:

      @Andrew, that information is available already if you look at the search history in your browser. I feel for iinet to provide that information as a given would be close to a breach of privacy?

    • Michael says:

      @Andrew, Spot on. My house has 7 wireless devices combined with unlimited apps its hard to get an overall idea of how the net is being used.
      As a busy parent I’d love a way of preventing problems before they get out of hand.

      BTW thanks for the above tips

  5. MM says:

    I agree: iinet could provide safety through their connection. It’s the only way for kids to be safe from porn or violent images. If you talk to your kids about not looking at porn, they will simply go and look out of curiosity.

  6. Ivan says:

    I second that, Kik is an important vehicle for my children to communicate with me but it would be good if I can monitor who else they talk to when not with me due to access issues & a mum who doesn’t monitor anything my young children do – its not a matter of trust, but young children mesmerised by so called friends

  7. Jean-Pierre Schroeder says:

    I would prefer a system similar to what they do in the UK. Your internet provider can block certain websites, e.g. gaming, porn, social, etc, on your request. It meant my children could use the internet without us having to worry too much. People still had choices and could choose complete access but I know many parents of children still at home appreciated blocking all porn sites. I would love iinet to give us more options like that. Let me stress that people would still have a choice but more options for those who would like blocks.

  8. votedave says:

    While it’s laudable that iinet & Westnet are doing their best to preserve the safety of our children on-line I hope that you are also as avidly trying to preserve the safety of adults through maintaining their privacy.
    The rise of pervasive state based surveillance leaves us all more vulnerable, we have a right to maintaining the privacy of our data and trust that our ISP shares that belief in those inalienable rights.
    So “Let’s build a better internet together” by keeping the surveillance tethered to a court system that allows investigation of secrecy rather than the present invasive harvesting of private information.

  9. James says:

    I called iiNet/Westnet (great companies 🙂 to ask them to turn on URL blocking at the ISP level. To my surprise the tech said they don’t have such a feature, and I got them to check higher up and other departments.
    What is strange about that answer is that I believed the federal government and iiNet already agreed on this:

    “In November 2012, the former Labor Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, withdrew his party’s mandatory Internet filter.[11] On the same day, the then Communications Minister stated that as a result of notices to the Australian largest ISPs, over 90% of Australians using Internet Services are going to have a web filter. Australian Federal Police will then pursue smaller ISPs and work with them to meeting their ‘obligation under Australian law’.[12] iiNet and Internode quietly confirmed that the request to block content from Australian Federal Police went from voluntary to mandatory under s313 in an existing law. iiNet had sought legal advice and accepted the s313 mandatory notice but would not reveal the legal advice publicly.[12]”

    In addition to the Australian Government’s (two) black list(s), I believe customers should be able to add categories to their list of blocked sites: gambling, porn, violence, social media, etc. of coarse with the understanding that all filtering techniques are dependent upon their list, which lags behind reality.

    Whether or not the black list(s) were implemented without direct cost to customers, these optional extra categories would make a great feature which could be charged for.

    If OpenDNS can do something similar, surely iiNet can do it better! 🙂