Sadfishing, Deepfakes & TikTok: Headlines You May Have Missed

Technology trends move fast and the digital newsfeeds run non-stop. No worries, we’ve got your backs, parents. Here are three important headlines you may have missed about some of the ways kids are using their devices and how you can coach them around the risks.

What’s Sadfishing and is Your Child Doing it Online?

Sadfishing is the act of someone making exaggerated claims about their emotional problems to generate sympathy from other people online. The concept of sadfishing surfaced when some alleged that celebrity influencers Justin Bieber and Kendall Jenner were engaging fans a form of sadfishing, which then sparked others to follow suit. The practice is growing to the extent that a  recent Digital Awareness UK report, based on interviews with 50,000 schoolchildren, says sadfishing could be damaging teenagers’ self-esteem and leading to bullying.

The risks: Young people who post emotionally-heavy content could be bullied by peers who see a vulnerable post as an empty bid for attention. But here’s where things get murky. Is a person sadfishing for attention or could that person truly be in crisis? Unless you are a professional, there’s no definite way to know since online interactions tend to lack context. For that reason, professionals say that alarming posts should be taken seriously, and everyone should become familiar with how to help someone in an emotional crisis online.

Talking points: Browsing posts and comments on your child’s social feeds is one way to see if your child is sadfishing. Coach your kids on how to express themselves online and to carefully consider the deeper intent of a confessional post before sharing. Encourage your child to consider these questions themselves posting:

  • What am I hoping to achieve with this post?
  • Could I more effectively work out this issue more if I confided it to a friend or family member face-to-face?
  • Should I journal my feelings privately before sharing them online?

Deepfakes: What Your Family Needs to Know

A deepfake is a video created using artificial intelligence to show real people doing and saying things they never did. Deepfakes can be humorous (like the political deep fakes circulating) or harmful. Deepfakes are on the rise because free apps such as FakeApp and DeepFaceLab allow any amateur to manipulate videos.

The risks: It’s getting tougher to discern real from fake videos, which means that misinformation spreads quickly as does the fallout. Deepfakes can destroy a person’s reputation, spread fake pornography videos, alter election outcomes, or even impact the stock market. Stay tuned for updates, the topic of AI and deepfakes is getting more complex and risky every day.

Talking points: Digital literacy is now a pillar of modern parenting. Teaching kids how to evaluate online information is critical, especially with the rapid growth of AI. Discuss deepfake technology with your kids. Use this Deep Fake overview video to help them understand how the technology works. Explore the topic of personal responsibility online and the ethics of creating misleading content. To spot deepfakes look for things in a video such as lack of eye blinking, shadows or borders that seem wrong, mismatch skin tones, and lip movement that is slightly out of sync with the person’s words.

TikTok App Obsession (and Safety Concerns) on the Rise

TikTok, the looping short-form video app owned by Chinese company ByteDance, that’s also wildly popular with teens, is back in the news for several reasons. Recently U.S. Senators asked the Intelligence Committee to look into whether the Chinese-owned app poses a security risk to the United States. Also, a BBC investigation found that TikTok failed to remove cyber predators from the app who were sending sexually explicit messages to children. And, lastly, reports in the Wall Street Journal claim that Islamic State militants have been posting short propaganda videos to TikTok as part of a recruitment effort.

Risks: In addition to online predators, TikTok app users can share inappropriate content such as talk about sex, alcohol, drugs, and girls wearing suggestive clothing. Too, there’s the risk of posting regrettable content, data mining (an issue in the past for TikTok), and, as with any app, there’s the very real (and reported) issue of cyberbullying.

Talking points: Anyone over the age of 13 can open a TikTok account, but it’s widely known that elementary-aged kids have accounts. If your child wants a TikTok account, consider downloading the app and looking around. After you’ve explored, discuss why age controls are in place, and consider putting comprehensive parental controls on your family devices. Review the most current device and app safety practices. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has a great online safety acronym to guide family discussions called TEAM:

  • Talk about staying safe online
  • Explore the online world together
  • Agree on rules about what’s OK and what’s not
  • Manage your family’s settings and controls.

Keeping up with the online trends your kids gravitate to is one of the most important things you can do to keep your family conversations relevant and keep your kids safe online. To stay updated on all of the latest family and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and get even more family safety insights on Facebook.

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