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Kids’ safety on the internet is something about which that all parents should be concerned.  A recent survey by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education shows disturbing results about the way kids are using the internet. Many kids don’t understand safe from unsafe digital behavior, which should alarm parents.

The Center’s surveyed of 4th to 8th graders discovered that 40 percent of them had used the internet to connect with strangers and that over 50 percent had given their phone number to strangers. Twenty-one percent of them admitted to speaking to a stranger on the phone while 30 percent of them had texted a stranger. Fifteen percent had met up with a stranger in person, 11 percent had visited a strangers’ house and 6 percent had given a stranger their address.

Another disturbing pattern is that kids use the internet at all hours. Forty-nine percent claim to be online at 11pm and 33 percent claim to be online past midnight. Late nights and talking to strangers are not good activities for pre-teens and teens.

Also, kids often know they are misbehaving: 29 percent admitted to using the internet in ways that their parents wouldn’t approve and a third of them admitted to lying about their age to access adult programs.

Meeting bad people at all hours of the night is not the only internet usage risk to children. Self-esteem issues from cyber bullying and gossip is another major problem. Then there is tech addiction that prevents many young children from healthy levels of interaction with nature and friends – not to mention that late hours hamper school work. Given how ill-informed most children are about healthy internet safety standards, it’s important for parents to educate their kids about what’s proper. Further, children need parental controls to prevent them from making mistakes even after they’ve been schooled about healthy internet behavior.

The Roku Channel is a two-year-old streaming service with 30.5 million users is offering a new Kids and Family portal, which is going live the week of August 19th. Rob Holmes, VP of programming and engagement for Roku said, “We recognize that it can be a challenge to find quality kids and family entertainment across multiple streaming channels, particularly free, ad-supported options.” With that in mind, Roku has bundled 7,000 free, ad-supported movies and TV episodes and they promise the ad intrusions will be 60% less than on standard TV.  Participating programmers include: Hasbro Company, DHX Media, Happy Kids TV, Lionsgate, Mattel, Moonbug and pocket.watch, among others. Brands include: Care Bears, The Cat in the Hat, Leapfrog, Little Baby Bum, My Little Pony, Rev & Roll, Super Mario Brothers and Thomas and Friends.  Premium channel viewers will see even more options. Roku’s new family friendly portal includes a PIN-based system for parents to monitor the content their children watch. The free-to-consumer, ad-supported content is the advantage Roku brings to the market against some fierce completion from the paid offerings of Netflix and Disney+.

Lots of movies for kids are about to be released. Here’s a short list of fun films to watch out for.

Angry Birds Movie 2 was just released on August 2nd. In the new version, our birds team in an uneasy alliance with pigs to fight a mysterious purple bird named Zeta. Together they struggle to avoid a new ice age from coming – apparently not having heard about global warming. 

Playmobil: The Movie, is the first ever movie version of the Playmobil toy series It’s scheduled for release on August 9th.

Abominable, is coming out on August 11th. The movie follows a hero who protects a Yeti from a Yeti capturer.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold follows later on August 16th. In this adventure an older, high school Dora, goes on a mission to rescue her parents and uncover the mysteries of the lost city of Gold.

UglyDolls, a doll oriented musical, is coming on the same date as Dora, August 16th.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, is being released August 18th. This film is a sequel to Maleficent, which was about the villain from sleeping beauty.

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, is scheduled for the same day, August 18th. The film explores the interactions between sheep and extraterrestrials.

Coming in the fall on October 25th is The Adams Family.  The movie is an animated take on the Adams Family TV series.

Frozen 2, will be released in time for Thanksgiving on November 22nd.  Get your tickets now.

The final movie of the series: Star Wars, The Rise of Skywalker, will be released on December 19th.

On December 27th Playing with Fire, a film about a superintendent who babysits three children he saved from a fire, will be released.

Finally, animated spy movie starring Will Smith called Spies in Disguise, will be released on December 27th.

Facebook created “Kids Messenger” back in 2017 pledging a “safe space” for kids to chat and connect with one another, with approval settings set by the parents. The main draw to the app was the fact that parents could protect their kids from talking to strangers and ensure that their children were chatting among approved friends. The app is for children under the age of 13.

Despite this being a good idea to the core, Facebook has misstepped again. Recently a bug was brought to light that enables unapproved members to join into group chats with children. Facebook is aware of the issue and has claimed it is only in a select number of cases. They have since fixed the bug so there should be no further issues.

What is concerning is the thought that this has gone on for quite some time. How long has Facebook known about it? Were there adults posing as children popping into these group chats? There are a clear lack of regulations in the children’s chat space.

Companies like Facebook that operate in this market must be more strictly regulated to ensure the safety they pledge, as well as incentivized to fix any problems such as that with the Kids Messenger with haste. This bug could have been going on for a significant amount of time, with Facebook taking their sweet time to fix it. That must change if children’s safety in online communication is truly the goal.