Is Reddit Safe for Kids?

Reddit is an awesome site with great communities and subreddits. However, is it a site that you should allow your kids to visit? In this post we explore that question, and also talk to how a content filter like CleanBrowsing can help you create a safe browsing experience.

Porn, Language and Violence

Reddit is an awesome website, with some great communities for almost every topic. From technology, to math, gaming and religion. However, they also have some very explicit and adult communities that are definitely not safe, or appropriate, for young kids.

Some of their NSFW (not safe for work) pages contain pornographic images loaded directly from reddit cache, that even if you block porn sites, your kids would be able to see from reddit.

If porn alone was not an issue, they have some very abusive communities about rape, murder and similar topics that are shocking even for adults. Because of Reddit’s free speech policy, they are allowed to continue and not blocked.

Because of that, we consider Reddit NOT safe for kids and school environments and the site is blocked if you are using CleanBrowsing Family content filter.

For Adults using our Adults content filter, we implement a few rules that make Reddit accessible but strip out the image repositories.

No Enforcable Filtering

Schools trying to comply with CIPA have to block Reddit on the school network as it contains content that falls into the (a)obscene; (b)pornography; and (c) harmful to minors category. We also recommend parents from restricting the site to kids under 13, unless supervised by an adult at all times.

CleanBrowsing will block access to Reddit automatically.

Try it out and see for yourself. Step by step instructions on how to activate it are available on our Getting Started page.

Youtube is Facilitating the Sexual Exploitation of Children, and it’s Being Monetized

If you have young kids (well, and if you haven’t), I recommend watching this video by Matt Watson where he describes a ring of pedophiles misusing Youtube to share videos of kids in compromising positions (and in some cases even child pornography):

It is long, but worth a watch. It was already picked up by the media and many companies stopped their Ad Spending on Youtube until it is fixed. However, even if when fix this hole, others will come. So as parents, we have to be careful on what our kids are watching and uploading online. Starting with Youtube.

Safe YouTube For Parents

Many of these videos were actually uploaded by parents without malice. Whenever you are uploading videos online, this is what we recommend:

  1. Youtube is an open social platform. Only upload videos that are supposed to be public.
  2. If you plan to share a video with a small audience, mark them as unlisted
  3. Disable comments.
  4. Maybe don’t upload it at all. Find other ways to share them privately (Dropbox, email).
Safe YouTube For Kids

The other aspect is dealing with kids recording and uploading their own videos.

  1. Talk to them. Explain the risks of uploading and sharing their personal lives online. Once it is out there, it can’t go back.
  2. Supervise. Watch what they are watching and uploading. Make sure that their videos have the right settings (unlisted & no comments).
  3. Do not allow your kids to fall for the pedophiles games (the Lolipop and Yoga streches that Matt mentions on the video).
  4. Enforce the Strict or Moderate mode on Youtube, so when your kids are watching videos online, they are only seeing safer videos. We do that automatically on our Free Family filter.

Stay safe!

9 Clear Warning Signs That Your Kids Are Exposed To Internet Porn

Your innocent YouTube-watching child might actually be watching pornography on your smartphone. It’s a disturbing thought for most parents but research shows that it’s not a rarity. In fact, several studies including a research by American Psychological Association found that on average most children have their first exposure to porn before they’re even 13 years old.

Almost 50% of them view porn for the first time by accident on someone else’s device (mostly parents). It’s happening right under your nose and you’re absolutely clueless about it.

But do you know what’s even more disturbing?

Despite such dangers, most children get their first smartphones by their 10th birthday. It’s no surprise that many of them start watching porn from a very early age and some even become lifelong addicts.

Source: HopeForTheSold

So what exactly can you do to protect your children from exposure to internet pornography?

With so many smart devices around us, it’s not an easy task. But the first step is to actually find out if your child is already consuming internet porn.

Based on research, here are a few behavioral patterns that should ring alarm bells for you. While there may be other causes for these patterns, if you find more than a couple of them in your child you should immediately take notice.

1- Your Child Spends Too Much Time Using Smart Devices

Did you know that only 13% of children use smartphones with parental restrictions? The rest are exposed to all kinds of content on the internet.

There’s a reason why tech innovators like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates banned cell phone access to their children until they were in their mid-teens.

Smart devices can be addictive if not used with care. Studies show that a staggering 82% of children and teenagers view pornography on smartphones and tablets.

Source: HopeForTheSold

Children nearing teenage have developing brains that find smartphones and adult content much more addictive as compared to a grown up. Once addicted, they can easily lose track of time and spend hours consuming illicit content.

Which is why if your children are spending more time than usual on the phone you should have a good look at their online activities and try to limit unnecessary access.

2- Prefers Isolation and Spends Hours Behind Locked Doors

Excessive smartphone usage is usually followed by an increased preference for isolation. If that’s happening to your child, don’t ignore it because it’s a major warning sign that something’s not right.

Children exposed to porn often have mixed feelings of excitement and shame. They feel a strong urge to view pornography when they’re alone and look for ways to get away from their parents or guardians to a place where no one’s watching.

With time, this behavior intensifies and becomes a permanent personality trait even after children reach adulthood.

Source: Northpoint

Such children also routinely spend more time than usual in the shower and their bedrooms, and there’s an increased secrecy to everything about their lives.

3- Is Overprotective of His Smart Devices

To keep them safe, young children should never be given access to smartphones without parental controls and clear usage guidelines. Parents should be able to access their children’s devices any time without any restrictions.

However, that’s often not the case with children who view pornography on their smartphones or tablets. In fact, such kids are usually overprotective of their phones and hesitate to allow access to anyone else.

If your child has suddenly added a security lock or password to his phone and keeps it close to himself all the time (even when going to the toilet) you should intervene.

4- Stays Quite, Depressed and Uninterested in the Outside World

The relationship between depression, anxiety, and pornography is pretty well documented. This mainly has to do with how viewing porn frequently, alters the human brain.

These effect are exaggerated in children because their brains are still developing and more vulnerable to the extreme emotions that a person experiences while viewing porn.

As a result, the affected child experiences depression and a general lack of motivation about everything in life.

5- Has Irregular Sleep Cycles and Struggles To Get Up in the Morning

If your child has access to his smartphone and the internet even in the bedroom then you need to keep a close eye on his sleep patterns and his energy levels in the morning.

According to research, most people log in to porn sites after midnight on weekends and after 10PM on weekdays. Bedtime porn consumption can go on for hours because there’s nothing else left to do in the day and no one is watching.

When that happens, a child may experience lack of sleep, headache, and may struggle to get out of bed in the morning. If you see this happening regularly, or notice your child sleeping at odd times of the day, you must look into the matter with more concern.

6- Panics and Changes Online Activities If You Suddenly Show Up

How does your child react if you suddenly enter his bedroom, walk up to him or ask to use his smartphone?

Does he panic, stops whatever he’s doing and appears nervous? If yes, it might be a good idea to actually see what’s running on his device.

It’s a natural reaction since most children who watch porn realize that their parents won’t be happy to know about it.

7- Has Started Struggling at Studies and Extracurricular Activities

Falling grades, deteriorating academic performance, and a general preference for smartphones or tablets over extracurricular activities are some of the major signs of porn consumption in children.

Researchers at NCBI found that the working memory of children and teenagers who regularly viewed porn deteriorated over time. Such children also suffered from lack of motivation and found it hard to compete with their peers.

As a result, they were much more likely to stay away from outdoor games and competitive activities that are crucial for personality development.

8- Can’t Concentrate for Long and Has Sudden Mood Swings

The loss of working memory, which I just mentioned, also has a direct impact on a child’s ability to concentrate on a task or assignment. This is why children who are exposed to porn early in their lives often find it hard to perform mind intensive tasks.

Source: HelpYourTeenNow

This can also lead to sudden mood swings, unnecessary aggression and other forms of erratic behavior in children. Look out for these changes in your child and see if they’re connected in any way with his smartphone usage habits.

9- Has Increased Interest In Sexual Topics, Discussions, and Content

Sex is a fascinating topic for teenagers (and even young children) and it’s common for them to talk about it with friends. But if your child suddenly starts taking a lot more interest in sex related TV programs or frequently mentions sexual terminologies in conversations, it’s a clear red flag that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Protect Your Children From Unwanted Sexual Content

Internet porn is a reality that you cannot change or runaway from. You also can’t disconnect your children from the world and completely deprive them of the knowledge and the learning resources available on the internet.

But you can keep a close eye on their activities, guide them about internet usage, and protect them from any content that can have detrimental effects on their minds and personalities by using adult filters and strict parental controls.

Trust your children but don’t leave them unguarded on the internet because (as I mentioned at the start) most children are exposed to sexual content for the first time by accident.

Make sure your child browses the internet without any surprises.

DNSCrypt with CleanBrowsing Custom Filters

In addition to supporting DNSCrypt on all of our free filters, we also support DNSCrypt on the custom filters that you can configure on your CleanBrowsing account.

If you don’t have a CleanBrowsing account, you can use it to gain visibility on your DNS activity and customize the type of filtering you need to have on your network:

To get started with DNSCrypt there, you first have to go to Settings->Network in your dashboard and look for the DNS Encryption subsection:

In there, you will find the SDNS stamp that you can use to connect to our DNSCrypt server via DNSCrypt-proxy, DNSCloak or any other software that supports it.

If you are using dnscrypt-proxy, you can get that SDNS stamp and paste into the static section of your configuration:

stamp = ‘sdns://AQMAAAAAAA..…XUjykRQ2xlYW5Ccm93c2luZy5vcmc’

And change the server_names to use it:

server_names = [‘cleanbrowsingcustom’]

Our custom filters support DNSCrypt, DNS over TLS and DNS over HTTPS, so try it out when you have a chance. We offer a more complete guide for Windows and Simple DNSCrypt.

Phishing Campaign against k12 schools and universities

For the last week or two, a new phishing campaign started to target k-12 schools and universities.

A couple of school IT administrators emailed us asking if we ever saw something like this before, so we think this is a good opportunity to remind everyone to be watchful for those phishing campaigns. Phishing campaigns happen very often and have many variations, but this last one seems to be more mass spread against a large number of schools at the same time.

Phishing Scam Emails — Are you Available?

This last phishing scam campaign is actually very simple and tries to convince teachers and staff members to buy gift certificates and send them back to the scammer.

The email subject just says: “Follow up” or “Are you Available” or similar variation and asks the person to reply back asap. If the person replies, the scammer replies back that he is busy on a meeting and that he needs a $200 or $300 gift card from Amazon or iTunes. Very similar to what was reported here months ago.

Mmmmm… Phish flavored spam… We’ve been getting a lot lately where the miscreants are setting up a account with the name setup as, you guessed it, our head of school and then emailing the entire campus. End goal: gift cards.

In this new campaign, we are seeing 2 email formats:

Along with the old one of just As silly as it may sound, people still fall through for it. Specially on mobile, where seeing the real email is not as easy. We heard reports of teachers buying and losing a few hundred dollars because of it.

Update: There are 2 recent redditthreads about this same subject. And in one of them an employee paid the scammer:

Not sure if anyone has seen this, but three schools I support has seen it today alone. The email address is headofschool[randomnumbers] but the name on the account has been an administrator. Subject has been “Follow Up” and message just says “Are you available?” One employee responded to this and they ended up getting them to send $100 in iTunes gift cards.

Protecting against this Phishing Campaign

For this specific campaign, we recommend that you go to your Email provider and:

  • Black list any sender containing *headofschool*
  • Black list any sender containing *schoolname*
  • Black list any sender containing *principal*

But for the long term, one of the best investments you can do is to engage into some type of school wide phishing training to get the teachers and rest of the staff aware of phishing and its dangers.

Duo Insights is a good and easy to use product (not affiliated with us) if you are looking for such solution. Knowbe4 also seems to be well recommended.

Stay safe!

Safe Image Search for Kids

Image search is an useful way to find content online. Unfortunately, image search can often generate some explicit surprises that young kids are not ready for.

Image Search Dangers

Searching for images is a fun way to quickly find visual results for what you are looking for. You can easily find maps, equations and graphs for almost any content. The problem, is that buried within the clean results, you may get explicity images.

The other concern is that depending on the search, explicit & adult content may be displayed right away. Not a good surprise to have.

Image Searching for Kids

Young kids – For young kids (under 10-11), we recommend Kiddle for their searches online. It blocks most suspicious keywords, including scary images and adult content. It is very restrictive, but works for most of what kids look for (homework, games, etc).

k-12 kids – For kids that are a bit older, Google’s search engine is actually one of the best and offers a strong way for parents to enforce Safe Search. If you are using CleanBrowsing, that’s auto-enforced, so your kids are good to go, and if you are not, you can configure it manually by following these steps.

Want to prevent your kids from going to unsafe image search sites? Give CleanBrowsing a try. It only takes 5 minutes to enable it by following these instructions.