Tag Archive for: cyberbullying

Very often, I get questions from fans which I attempt to answer as quickly as they arrive.

Internet Safety Tips for Children & Teens: Review on ooVoo

Photo Credit: ooVoo.com

One of the page followers asked for more information on ooVoo…what follows is my response to Marie (thanks Marie for the great question). In the meantime, there’s a new arrival in the cootie community and it’s called Flinch (that review follows below after ooVoo).

Internet Safety Tips for Children & Teens: Big Mama Reviews: ooVoo

ooVoo is essentially a benign videoconferencing app/website. Think: Skype or Facetime. On its own merits there is nothing egregious here. HOWEVER: online gamers have made this their favorite way to see and communicate with each other live while they game. It’s popular among Minecrafters, etc.

Recently, ooVoo has added some other features in addition to the videoconferencing (see below).

What you need to  know about ooVoo

  • Sexual predators love ooVoo (for obvious reasons).
  • Sexual predators can reach out to your child without knowing them in real life via the ooVoo directory. You only need 3 characters of a person’s ooVoo ID to see a list of similar usernames. Sexual predators will troll these and see if they can discern if the user is a child (most are). 
  • The app/website allows users to group text, group-watch YouTube videos (watch out for the massive amount of porn on YT), and they can also video record a video call (so can the OTHER person communicating with your child)
  • Children under 13 are not allowed to setup an account – so they lie about their age – routinely.
  • The site captures DOB, gender and other personal info.
  • Users can mass-invite all of their Facebook & Twitter friends/followers, all of their Gmail email contacts, and Yahoo email contacts. This means that if they have friended, followed, or emailed people that they don’t know in real life – those same people will be invited to video connect with your child.

First an ooVoo story – are you sitting down?

OGeek fans who have seen my live presentation have heard this story. …

I was presenting to a large audience in NE Ohio, and this mom (to her credit) raised her hand and offered the following story….mom told us how every single day her son would rush off the school bus and snap on the tablet in order to play Minecraft. On this particular day mom got to the tablet before the son did, in order to look up a recipe for dinner. When she turned on the tablet she saw a live and naked man on the screen via ooVoo. This sexual predator was waiting for her son to get home, and she accidentally intercepted the communication.

Bottom line on ooVoo

  1. Children under 13 have no business using ANY of these apps, social media, or websites per COPPA Federal regulations, but more importantly because *Big Mama said so* ….that’s me  🙂
  2. The risks here are high – it requires parents needing to constantly be checking in on the child at the moment that he/she happens to be using the app. What makes it more difficult is the fact that if the child has an ooVoo account they can access it on almost ANY device. So you may not even know that he’s using it in the basement on the tablet rather than where you’re expecting him to use it like on the PC. 
  3. Letting your child use this app adds a significant amount of work to YOUR life
  4. If your child is 13 or 14 I say NO. Well I would say ‘hell no’ – but that’s your call. 
  5. If your child is 15 and up you need to make it clear that sexual predators are on the hunt for kids their age and will do whatever they can to get their hands on them. This is not an over exaggeration. If you don’t want to have that conversation or if they don’t believe you – then ‘no’ is a much easier solution.

The Barf Thickens.
Internet Safety Tips for Children & Teens: Big Mama Reviews: Flinch Game App

Internet Safety Tips for Children & Teens: Review on Flinch Game

Photo Credit: Flinch Game: http://makemeflinch.com

If you’ve read the review above on ooVoo you can probably see why the app/website is a terrible idea for children. But do you know what would be even WORSE? If there were a game based on the ooVoo platform where users can open up a live stream with each other and play a live “game”, competing for example to see who cracks a smile first. Sounds cute. It’s not….and it’s called Flinch

Basically this is the equivalent of a staring contest with friends or strangers. Originally the app was created to be used for adults in a business setting due to its facial recognition. Six million individual games are played every single day and it’s growing by 98k users every single week. The software automatically determines the winner. (yeah so, creepy).

The big issue is that you are LIVE streaming with people you might know, and people you might NOT know. Sound familiar?  The option to play with a friend, or randomized play is open to the user. You can’t black list or white list.

The app description in iTunes specifically states that you have to be at least 17 years old to download the app, which of course is being completely ignored by the legion of 11-15 year old’s using the app.

In the end though, Flinch is meant to be a game where you earn tokens in order to purchase in-game distractions so that you can win even more tokens.  So we can reward these children (who are not meant to be playing the game in the first place) with points, and tokens, and higher rank. Zing-Pow-BARF

The rest is obvious:

  • There is NO WAY that your child is NOT going to accidentally meet up with a sexual predator (see review below from a user)Your child can be victimized by cyberbullies they KNOW and those that they haven’t met yet
  • Your child is literally opening up a live visual link into his/her bedroom and into your home
  • One user can easily take a screenshot of the other user during the live stream
  • The app was CREATED by the app developer for users over 17 years old. Did they really think that young adults and adults were going to spend time playing visual chicken by *smiling*?

Again, just to be clear – it’s not the app developers fault that there are sexual predators in the world who are going to jump all over this, and already have. 

Here’s a review that was posted by a Flinch user on the iTunes page for the Flinch App

“This app was so great people wise and now basically the only people I see on here are grown men from Saudi Arabia. This is super difficult with the languages and given the fact that I’m a teenager and want to be talking to other teens rather than horny guys who speak different languages. “

Bottom line review on Flinch Game: Parents: your children under 17 years old should NOT be using Flinch, per the app developers guidelines. This is a big NO.

Did you learn something?  **Read. Learn. Share.**
— “Big Mama” 


YikYak logoI’ve realized that the barrel has no bottom. There will be no scraping the bottom, because there will always be another app or social platform to discuss which tops (or bottoms) the potential ugliness of the previous one.

In honor of Safer Internet Day, we have a new cootie to dissect. This one is called Yik Yak – perhaps because that is what it will make you want to do….

Yik Yak is worse than Ask.fm. Yes, I said it – WORSE. And if you aren’t sure what Ask.fm is read two of my previous posts:

Why Yik Yak is Worse than Ask.fm

As we’ve seen before, Ask.fm’s marketed anonymity makes it easy for anyone to ask YOU on YOUR profile questions. They can be nasty and mean but they’re asking YOU.

On Ask.fm:

  1. A user creates a profile (most kids use their real names and location – which is dumb, obviously)
    For this example we’ll call her Sally Smith from Topeka Kansas
  2. Another user can ask the first user any question at all anonymously
    Another user we’ll call Jenny Jones from Topeka Kansas
  3. Jenny goes onto Sally’s Ask.Fm page and posts a question – questions like the following are extremely common on Ask.fm
    * Why are you such a whore?
    * Why don’t you kill yourself?
    * Do your parents hate you as much as everyone else?
  4. Sally does not know who is posting the question

Now let’s apply the same scenario above to Yik Yak

  1. A user downloads the app
    Which by the way is meant for 17+ college students, and the app maker warns about inappropriate content
  2. The app grabs the user’s location via GPS
  3. The user posts a comment openly to whomever is listening about whatever
    **Do any of you know Sally Smith? She is such a whore
    **I’m pretty sure my English teacher – Mr. Taylor- is gay
  4. The post arrives in the feed of anyone physically near the user posting. So you will see the posts from everyone within x radius of you. Think: community wide
  5. A map accompanies every single post showing exactly where you physically were when you posted

Here is an actual example from my current Yik Yak screen

Note the second post which reads “Gotta feeling this is going to get out of control”.

yik yak posts

Actual Yik Yak Feed

When we click on that particular post we get a map – apparently whomever posted that comment was inside Vestavia Hills High School at the time

By zooming in slightly we will know exactly the spot where the user was standing inside of the building when that post was uploaded to Yik Yak

Biggest Concerns with Yik Yak

Anonymity: This is the same issue with Ask.fm. Anonymity makes bullies feel brave. We can expect to hear a lot more about this app in conjunction with cyberbullying issues.

Posting: It is feasible and reasonable to assume that it won’t be long before the feed becomes my generation’s equivalent of the bathroom wall. “For a good time call….”

Location: This app not only serves up the feed of the posts closest to you (location issue #1), but it then reveals the location of the user posting (location issue #2).


What happens now?

This app is not meant for children. The app makers make that plain in their Android and IOS marketplace descriptions.

According to their marketing language:

– The ultimate way to share your thoughts and recommendations, anonymously.
– Share your own Yaks and see what other people are saying.
– No login, no password, no traces; simply anonymous.
– Upvote and downvote Yaks, see what makes it to the ‘Hot’ page!
– Perfect for college/university students to stay social!

Obviously your child should have not have this app on his/her phone.

 The only thing we can continue to do is to parent our children. Watch this video for a review on the basics. 


Cyberbullying - Internet Safety for Families - online courseHave you heard the term: “Don’t feed the trolls”? Trolls are online bullies who generally show themselves in the comments section of a website or blog. But they can just as easily be found within your own social media profiles.  In fact, younger users of social media may have a large percentage of trolls within their own “friends” and “followers”.

In a Cleveland, Ohio suburb a mother is mourning the loss of her teenage son. He was stabbed to death right outside his home after a feud over a girl which the mother says escalated via Facebook. The suspected murderer made specific threats on Facebook that he was “coming to get” the young man.

If what this mother says turns out to be true, then this is a case which involves cyberbullying. The interesting aspect is the chosen platform – Facebook. Facebook’s connection structure is synchronous. This means that in order for you and I to be “friends” on Facebook we have to agree. You send me a “friend request” and I agree. If we do not agree, there is no connection.

Very often I’m asked what parents should do when cyberbullying arrives in their lives. Using this heartbreaking situation as an example:

  1. Your children should only ‘friend’ those people who mom/dad know IRL (in real life) 
    If YOU do not know the “friend”, remove the connection
  2. Explain to your children the risks of TMI (too much information) 
    You give potential trolls ammunition to use against you (examples: problems at home, issues with school, illnesses, family deaths, personally identifying data, etc)
  3. If the cyberbullying is obvious and targeted – DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS
    Tell your children to NOT answer back when threats are made – they should tell an adult and step away
  4. BLOCK the cyberbully from your profile if possible
    Some social media platforms do not make “blocking possible” -but Facebook does
  5. Your child should take a break from social media for a significant amount of time – a week or two
  6. Report threats to local police and the school where appropriate

I have no idea if these tips would have helped this child, and I don’t know this family personally. All I know is that a child is dead and another one will likely spend a very, very long time in jail (which is appropriate). This tragedy might very well have occurred anyhow outside of the realm of social. In this particular case Facebook seems to have been a vehicle for communication of a threat and a continued festering of anger and cyberbullying.

Parents: have these conversations with your children so that they will recognize a threat when they see it or hear it.