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Safer Internet Day 2020: The dos and don’ts of online safety for kids

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The internet’s seemingly boundless creativity may be what keeps so many of us engaged, but for parents that same Wild West spirit can present a challenge when it comes to making sure kids grow up to be adept online citizens. While it’s a conversation that should be an ongoing one, with today being Safer Internet Day 2020 it’s a good opportunity for confused parents and carers to broach the topic of staying safe online.

Safer Internet Day started back in 2004, as part of the European Union’s SafeBorders project. It focuses on areas like cyberbullying and the impact of social networks on young people, but has expanded over time to include gaming, online reputation, and digital civility.

Each year there’s a different theme, and for 2020 that’s “Together, for a Better Internet.” For young people, that includes things like respectfulness and kindness when online, as well as being mindful of how behaviors on the internet can affect a person’s reputation. For parents and carers, meanwhile, it’s about educating kids to use technology in a safe and positive way, and – perhaps most important – having an open dialog about what’s going on online.

Parents and kids aren’t always on the same page

A survey of parents of children age 7-17 by youth MMO gaming company Roblox late last year suggests there’s a gulf between how adults and young people perceive it. 93-percent of parents said they talked to their kids at least occasionally about what is appropriate online behavior. Only 39-percent of kids said those discussions were happening, however, with the majority saying that it’s at best a rare occurrence, if it ever happens at all.

It’s not the only time when parents’ beliefs don’t quite line up with how their kids are thinking. When it comes to online bullying, 9 out of 10 parents say their kids would ask them for help if they were being targeted. In reality, only a quarter of kids say they’d speak to a parent about it, and indeed more than half suggested they’d actually report it to the platform involved first.

To discuss it, first you need to understand it

Talking with kids about safe and respectful online activity doesn’t need to be hard, but it does need to be intentional. “Firstly it’s never too late to start having these conversations, but you might need a different approach depending on how old your kids are,” Laura Higgins, Roblox’s director of digital civility, told SlashGear.

“Take some time to find out what your kids like doing online. Are they gamers, or more passive, watching YouTube or TikTok? Maybe they are creating their own content and streaming it? If you show a genuine interest they will most likely enjoy showing you.”

As awareness of online responsibility grows, many platforms that are popular with kids now include guidance for parents on what their children might be encountering. Higgins also highlights that schools are often including online safety as a topic, which could act as a conversation starter at home. UNICEF has a straightforward guide to what cyberbullying is, and ways that parents and young people can recognize it and then stop it from happening.

Blocking or snooping on kids’ online activity can backfire

The knee-jerk reaction to the “dangers” of the internet has traditionally been to block it altogether, or install monitoring software that promises to track all of a young person’s activity. While that can be an increasingly difficult technical challenge, due to the wide variety of sites, apps, and services now in common use, Roblox’s Higgins warns that it can also do more harm than good.

“Some families opt for monitoring apps or software which can block certain sites, content or even monitor messages,” she explains. “While this may be a good option for younger users, it can lead to resentment with teens. At worse, they may bypass filters, or use second secret devices to get around this, potentially leaving themselves at additional risk so I advise caution.”

Instead, the best strategy is a familiar one if you’ve ever gone hunting for the right mix of keywords to find an answer you know is out there: keep trying, but don’t force it. If young people are reluctant to talk about their online safety, pushing the issue can only end up making them disengage even more. Researching age-appropriate books, or finding young influencers who are talking about online safety could be a less-fraught workaround that takes some of the stress out of the parent-child dynamic.

“If it feels awkward at first, stick with it, small “no pressure” conversations should gradually get more comfortable,” Higgins explains. “Reassure your kids that you’re not spying on them, but just making sure they are safe.”

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With iPhone 13 in hand, I miss Touch ID more than ever

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I’ve been traveling this past week, and the iPhone 13 Pro Max has been my trusty sidekick. Whether it’s boarding passes, camera duties, messaging, or keeping me occupied with ebooks and music, I’ve found myself staring at the excellent 120Hz ProMotion display a whole lot. Problem is, when the sensors above that screen stare back, they’re not seeing what they want to.

Face unlock – Face ID in Apple-world – has been a side victim of the coronavirus pandemic. Consistently wearing masks (along with regularly washing your hands, and being vaccinated) is one of the CDC’s big recommendations for avoiding COVID-19, and it’s a legal requirement when you’re in airports and on trains.

Having half your face obscured isn’t especially helpful to a system which relies on scanning it in order to unlock your iPhone. And, with how much I’ve been using the iPhone 13 Pro Max this week – and enjoying it, too, particularly the excellent cameras – its a hurdle I’ve been running into hundreds of times a day, if not more.

Apple’s workaround, of course, is a singularly Apple-y way of dealing with half-masked faces: you need to have an iPhone and and Apple Watch. The feature, launched earlier this year as an iOS 14 update, allows you to bypass security on the iPhone just as long as your Apple Watch is on your wrist and unlocked.

Now, leaving aside the fact that clearly not everyone who has an iPhone also has Apple’s smartwatch, this workaround actually held up pretty well. I’ve been using it on an iPhone 12 Pro Max since it was released, and while there were times it simply didn’t actually unlock, or would unlock without my intending it, it did make using iOS while masked more streamlined. Unfortunately, it’s not working any more.

Since switching to iOS 15 and the iPhone 13 Pro Max, I’ve lost the ability to unlock with Apple Watch. Trying to turn the feature on in the iOS settings simply gets me a “can’t create a secure connection with the Apple Watch” message. A quick search online confirms I’m not alone.

It looks to be an iOS 15 issue, not an iPhone 13 one, but since Apple’s latest version comes preloaded and you can’t downgrade it, anybody in the same situation as I am will probably find that distinction little comfort. I’ve tried all the “fixes” and suggestions listed online – rebooting the phone and the watch; updating to the latest software version of each; even unpairing the Apple Watch and then repairing it from scratch – and nothing works.

I’ve been traveling this week, so wearing a mask a whole lot, and it’s been a reminder of just how many times you need to unlock your phone. Even just checking the latest notifications, if you have iOS’ privacy feature which only reveals their content on the lock screen when iOS is unlocked, requires a PIN now. The iPhone 13’s screen notch may be smaller this generation, but that doesn’t really matter when Face ID can’t see enough of you to do its thing.

Meanwhile, I’m looking enviously over at devices like the new iPad mini, and its Touch ID sensor built into the power button. I can understand why Apple shifted away from a fingerprint scanner in the iPhone, and – when unmasked – I’m a big fan of Face ID. I particularly enjoy how it makes logging into apps, and unlocking payments, simple. Honestly, it took a global pandemic to get frustrated by it.

Rumors of a return of Touch ID to the iPhone have given plenty of people – myself included – a glimmer of hope about striking that balance of security and convenience again. Unlock with Apple Watch was generally functional, but still could be clunky in the same way that anything wirelessly-dependent (I’m looking at you, AirDrop) can periodically leave you longing for a physical alternative. Just as even that took its time arriving in iOS, however, it always seemed a fact of reality that if Apple really was intending to return a fingerprint sensor to its phones, that wouldn’t be in time for 2021.

SEE TOO: The iPhone 13 Pro Max’s 120Hz ProMotion Display is the real deal

As it stands, for a variety of reasons – not least vaccine holdouts – it looks like we’ll be masked-up well into 2022 and probably beyond. An iPhone 14 with a built-in Touch ID sensor probably will be just as relevant as an iPhone 13 would’ve been with that today. Talk about disheartening.

Security is, of course, one thing you should never compromise on. Tempting as it is to change the settings on my iPhone so that it waits a little longer to unlock, or shows the content of my notifications for anyone who glances at them on the lock screen, I know that’s a foolhardy thing to do. Instead, I’ll wait (semi) patiently for the inevitable iOS update which hopefully fixes iPhone unlock with Apple Watch, and punch in my regular PIN until that arrives.

All the same, I can’t help but wonder whether, as we rush to embrace new technology, being equally quick to leave behind what came before it might be a missed opportunity. I’m not someone who particularly mourns the loss of the headphone jack, but these past few days have certainly left me more sympathetic to those who discovered the tech world changed and, in the process, decided something that was important to them could actually be left behind.

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Peak Design Mobile modular magnetic accessory line launches in time for iPhone 13

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Peak Design released their full mobile ecosystem of magnetic and protective accessories today, coordinated with the launch of Apple’s iPhone 13. This collection was part of a Kickstarter back in December of 2020 and rolled out for general availability for the first time today. The mobile line starts with the “Everyday Case”, available for iPhone 11, 12, 13, and Samsung Galaxy S21.

Peak Design has a brand for name for the magnetic system they use with their smartphone case and accessories: SlimLink. SlimLink is a ceramic zirconia insert surrounded by custom tuned magnets that are inserted into each Peak Design Everyday Case.

This SlimLink system does not prohibit Qi standard wireless charging – so users will not need to remove their case in order to use a wireless charging pad. The Everyday Case is thin enough that wireless charging will work, and thick enough that it’ll protect a smartphone from harm.

Included in the launch collection of accessories are the Everyday Case, the Everyday Loop Case, and a wide variety of connecting peripherals. There is also a Universal Adapter that can be attached to third-party phone cases.

In the Peak Design Mobile collection at launch, there is a Car Mount, Motorocycle Bar Mount, Motorcycle Stem Mount, Out Front Bike Mount, Universal Bar Mount, and a Wall Mount. You’ll also find a Creator Kit, Mobile Tripod, Mobile Wallet, and a Wireless Charging Stand, right out the gate.

Take a peek at our previous features with Peak Design and let us know if you’re planning on attaching this series of accessories to your brand new device. We’ll be back with reviews of the lot once we get up close and personal with the cases and the accessories of all sorts!

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Five features to un-do in iOS 15 for your iPhone

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Today we’re taking a peek at iOS 15 and a few ways in which it’s changed some very basic features in your iPhone. If you’ve been using your iPhone for quite a few years and have gotten used to the way you’ve done business, chances are the update to iOS 15 threw you for a bit of a loop. The good news is, nothing is set in stone, and basically everything that’s changed can be effectively un-changed.

Widget Suggestions

Much like Shared with You (which we’ll get to later), the Widget Suggestions system in iOS 15 might not be particularly beloved by all users. If you’re seeing Widget Suggestions in iOS 15 and you’d rather not, you’ll need to tap and hold a widget, and tap “Edit Stack”.

If you have Smart Rotate enabled and Widget Suggestions enabled, you’ll likely see options for Smart Rotate (On/Off), and Widget Suggestions (On/Off). You know what to do!

Accidental Opening

After updating to iOS 15, you may find that you accidentally trigger the Spotlight Search feature from your lockscreen. If you do not want to continue seeing this Search system every time you swipe down on your locked iPhone, no worries!

Open Settings – Face ID & Passcode – Today View and Search. Disable Today View and Search and bang! No more accidental search system when you run your finger across the locked phone screen.

Safari Window Tinting

If you’re looking to remove the Website Tinting element in iOS 15 inside your Safari web browser, the pathway to a fix is simple. You’ll need to back out of your Safari app, back to your main iOS Settings. Tap Safari and flip the switch for “Allow Website Tinting.”

Bonus! This is also the place you need to go to find Safari’s Tab Bar / Single Tab, and the Landscape Tab Bar. You can also choose where you open links and when tabs will close.

Separation Anxiety

If you have more than one iOS device – like an iPhone and an iPad – iOS 15 might start to send you Separation alerts. This system can be great – especially if you’re the sort of person who forgets their iPad under a stack of newspapers, or if you tend to leave at least one device behind whenever you visit your relatives’ house for the holidays.

If, however, you find yourself in a situation where you’re being alerted when you’ve left a device in one location on purpose, you have options. Probably the best option for you – to start – is to add “New Location” to your list with the “Find My” app.

Open Find My, tap your device under “Devices”, tap “Notify When Left Behind”, tap “New Location.” You could also just turn the “Notify When Left Behind” option off entirely if you do so wish.

End Shared With You

If you find the new Shared With You sections less than appealing in apps like Photos, Podcasts, Music, News, and Safari, you can flip them off completely. Each individual app will have a switch to turn off Shared With You. If you’d like to turn off ALL the Shared with You at once, head to Settings – Messages – Shared with You, and disable Automatic Sharing.

OR if you’ve not yet upgraded to iOS 15, take a peek at the timeline of links below to see the path you’ll likely take. This software update is available now for quite a few iPhone devices from the past few years. The same is true of iPad devices and iPadOS 15 this week too!

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