Cyberbullying laws making headway

If you follow my blog at all, you know by now that I am passionate about eradicating cyberbullying and protecting our children against it in any way possible.  While I believe that protection and education are our best lines of defense, I also think that amending our laws to help combat and deter people from cyberbullying is another tool we should bolster to help us in the fight.

In Texas, Senate Bill 179, or ‘David’s Law‘, will soon be up for a vote on the state’s senate floor.  According to an article by KGNS news, “If passed, bullies could soon be seeing consequences and school district’s policies could change.”

If passed, the bill would cause the following changes:

  • School Districts would have to add cyberbullying and online harassment into their policies
  • School Districts would be required to anonymously report incidents
  • School officials would have 24 hrs to notify victim’s parents
  • The bully’s parents would also be notified of any incidents
  • School Districts would be empowered to investigate off-campus bullying if it impacts the school environment
  • Establishment of criminal offenses for the most severe cases
    • The offense would start as a Class B misdemeanor and develop to a class A misdemeanor in a case of multiple aggressors.

Frankly, I am glad to see our lawmakers taking this problem seriously.  I wish more states were being proactive in this fight against bullying and cyberbullying.  It is a problem that cannot remain ignored by our society and its government.  According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, many states have not made changes to their bullying laws in almost a decade.  They have a very informative and interactive chart that help to stay up on what each state is doing.

As I said before, I think that our legislatures do pay a crucial role in helping us combat this problem, but I think the biggest role is the one we play as parents.  Please, talk to you kids.  Take the time to know what is going on in their lives.  Also, use a service like ours at Cyber Watchtower to help you guard and protect the most precious and important people in your lives, your children.

Remember, stay connected.  Stay safe!

Austin Bynum
Chief Watchman
Cyber Watchtower

In addition to running Cyber Watchtower, Austin Bynum is also the proud father of teenage twin daughters.

Kids, Technology, and Security

Being the father of teenage twin daughters, I’m continually surprised and impressed at the amount of technology they use in school and in their lives compared to when I was a teenager.  Over the course of the last several weeks I have had the privilege of speaking to several classes at my daughters’ high school about cyber security and identity theft.  The classes that I have been speaking to belong to the school’s “LIFT” program.  This special set of classes prepares and competes in a really innovative event called Future Problem Solving or FPS.

While I love everything about this concept and event, especially with the subjects that they choose to tackle, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was asked to come speak on these subjects.  Usually these kids have done tons of research and are very informed on their topics.  To be fair, they had just started researching this one, but the most amazing part to me was the lack of basic security knowledge and understanding inside a group of very intelligent teenagers from a generation that has been completely saturated with technology their whole lives.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some things that they knew.  However, when I started on the discussion of passwords and best practices surrounding them for protections, they were as surprised as the adults I often speak to.  They had a general idea of what malware is, but no real understanding of how it works, spreads, or how dangerous it is.  When I discussed social engineering, they hadn’t really heard of even the most basic and oldest concepts.  I was very shocked.

To their credit, they did have some understanding of social media dangers, which makes sense and made me breathe a small sigh of relief.  The most amazing part was that as I started connecting some of the dots for them and teaching about some of the real dangers out there and how identity really gets stolen digitally as well as just basic cyber security practices everyone should be aware of, they latched on and soaked up most of what I had to say.

Don’t get me wrong here.  I am not knocking these kids.  They were all great and let’s be honest, the reason they didn’t know a lot of what I spoke about is because we, the generations ahead of them, have not taught them.  Again, to be fair, I do this for a living and so I do take my own knowledge for granted sometimes, but many of the things I discussed were things that in my mind everyone should know and be on the look out for.

Honestly, speaking in front of these classes opened my eyes even further to the need for general education and training for everyone so that they can simply protect themselves.  It was also a nice confirmation that the services we offer as a business are just as needed as I have suspected.

I do ask this of you, my readers.  If you have kids, teenagers especially, please start teaching them good cyber security practices, password hygiene, and responsible social media usage as soon as you can.  Also, please start using them yourself.  Protect yourself! Your online presence has so much more information about you out there than you realize and you need to take care of it.

Remember that if you need help, advice, or services to help protect you, that is what Cyber Watchtower is here for.  We are here for you and your family to make sure that you stay as safe online as you possibly can.

Austin Bynum
Chief Watchman
Cyber Watchtower

New Year’s Cyber Revolution Resolution

Well, here we are.  It’s January, 2017 and it’s another new year.  Now is the perfect time to start seriously thinking about your passwords and your overall online security.  Cyber Watchtower stands ready and willing to not only help you get this process started, but to do it for you!

“What?”, you ask.
“There’s a company that will do these things for me?”

The answer is “YES, absolutely!”  There is a company cares more about your security than anything else.  We will partner with you, help you assess your real needs, and be your advocate and security expert.  We are Cyber Watchtower and we want to stand guard for you, your family, and even your business.

In this new year of 2017, we want to help you by:

  1. Increase your password security
  2. Protecting your children from cyberbullying and inappropriate content
  3. Keeping you and your family’s online presence secure
  4. Securing your business while helping it stay efficient and productive.

Cyber Watchtower offers a suite of customizable services to not only help make your digital life more secure, but to keep it secure.

Our services include:

  • Comprehensive Password Management
  • Social Media Monitoring
  • Web Presence Monitoring (Business)
  • Web Filtering
  • Device Management

We have been consistently developing, testing, and refining our services for months and now stand ready to partner with you to greatly increase your online and cyber security posture.  Our average user comes on board with a security score of around 50-55%.  Within 1 to 2 months we are able to increase that security to 90%.  Our ultimate goal for all of our customers is to keep them above 90% while keep a close watch on their ongoing online presence.

We would love the opportunity to get to know you and help protect your life with our services.

Contact us NOW, to learn more.  Please don’t let another year go by without truly protecting yourself online.

Austin Bynum
Chief Watchman
Cyber Watchtower

Secure Your 2017

2016 was a rough year in so many ways.  We saw one of the fiercest elections in memory and we lost countless amazing artists.  In the world of cyber security, we saw an unprecidented number of security breaches to companies like Yahoo! and LinkedIn, with record-setting account information lost.  We also saw an ever-increasing number of cyber bullying incidents to both celebrities and average teens.  Overall, a very big year.

As we are such a digital society, we must look forward and try to do a better job all around.  Many people still take for granted the importance of good password security.  I will say however, I am starting to see some improvement in people’s understanding and habits when it come to managing their passwords and online credentials.  While I’m encouraged by what I see, I fear these breaches will just continue and the best defense users have is solid password hygiene.

Just like user credentials being so much a part of our daily lives, so is social media.  Most of us spending any time online belong to some sort of social media network.  Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or one of the many other networks, social media impacts not only our individual lives, but sometimes how society even gets their information and the speed at which it travels.  Now, while many of us will never experience cyberbullying in a detrimental capacity as some have, the fact remains the problem has become an epidemic and not just a nuisance.  There were countless celebrities in the news fighting this issue.  Prince William has even been so appalled by what he has seen in the realm of cyberbullying that he has made his own mission to fight it.  GuardChild reports that over 25% of teens have been threatened by some sort of electronic means.  Cyberbullying isn’t just limited to social media.  It sometimes may just be taking place via text message or private chats.  Regardless of the way the bullying takes place, it remains an ever-increasing issue.

There’s no doubt that as we continue to increase our online dependence, security of our information and protection of ourselves will become more and more important.  No matter how much of your life is online, I beg you, please make a resolution this year to protect yourself and your loved ones online.  We here at Cyber Watchtower wish you a very happy new year and we hope that you make 2017 a great year

Austin Bynum
Chief Watchman
Cyber Watchtower

Protection vs. Spying – Where do we draw the line?

I am often asked by our parent clients if they should let their kids know that they are using our services and that they are being monitored.  My response is always the same.  “Yes!”  I, of course, move on to explain that we believe that the best protection a child can have is an open and honest relationship with their parents and knowledge of the dangers that keep parents up at night with worry.  I also explain that Cyber Watchtower was not created to spy on anyone, but our job is to protect our clients.  In every client home I am in, I make sure that the client knows we are here to help them keep up with what is going on and to protect their children.

The truth is, we do live in a day and age where it is much easier for kids to live a life outside the realm of their parents knowledge and most of that is thanks to the ever-increasing advances in personal technology.  Most teens today have their own cell phone, tablet, or laptop.  Many have more than one personal device like these that allow them an element of privacy and communication with the outside world that was unheard of in any previous generation.  Therefore, it is not an outlandish thought that parents would like to have some visibility into these devices and what they hold so that they have an idea of what their child doing and being exposed to, as well as protecting them from it.

The debate however, still stands about how much spying on one’s children can damage the parent-child relationship.  Consider this: If a parent were to just use our monitoring and protection services without talking to their children, it very easily can be construed as “spying”.    This is where the communication comes in.  The best thing you can do for your children is talk to them.  Educate them.  We will even offer advice as to how to begin the conversations about our monitoring so that people can feel comfortable initiating the talks.  That’s how important we see this part of the process.

Research shows that once a child thinks he/she is being spied upon by their parents, trust is broken in that relationship and breaking trust is the exact opposite outcome most parents want to see.  From what I’ve seen though, most parents are so concerned about protecting their kids and knowing what is going on, that becomes their focus.

Kirsten Weir, a freelance writer from Minneapolis, wrote an article this year talking about this very issue.  The article, Parents Shouldn’t Spy on Their Kids, had in it some fascinating research centered around the invasion of privacy and personal space by parents and how that impacts the ultimate development of our children into adults.

There is no doubt in my mind that parents need some visibility into their children’s lives.  After all, it is our job to protect and educate them.  As they grow however, it is also our job to teach them about trust and that begins with we the parents having a certain element of trust in their kids.  Not just trust to go into the world and behave how we’ve taught them, but trust in their ability to understand the dangers they will face in the world.  Remember, whether they admit it or not, they trust us to protect them.

Austin Bynum
Chief Watchman
Cyber Watchtower

In addition to running Cyber Watchtower, Austin Bynum is also the proud father of teenage twin daughters.