Category Archives: Online Safety


By Angela Tooley

I hate to admit it, but I have FOMO. Do you have FOMO?  Maybe you’re not familiar with this but it is





(and yes it is a word)!

FOMO begins innocently enough, usually with our smart phone but it can be any digital device. The device lets us instantly:

  • check sports scores
  • check Facebook status and likes
  • look at all other social media
  • listen for incoming texts and emails

Our smart phones and mobile devices have become the indispensable organizers of our lives – through communication and calendars; and through every kind of conceivable news, entertainment, calorie counting, exercise, and fantasy football app that is out there. We get addicted – never wanting to be without our mobile device.

Ultimately interacting with our device takes precedence over a conversation with the person right beside us in the car or right in front of us at the dinner table.

What we are really missing out on is each other!

FOMO is now so widespread that it necessitates a public service campaign to get us all to put away our phones at the dinner table.  While I think it is a sad reality, I am encouraged by the opportunities for family growth that can happen by coming to the dinner table – device free.

At any age conversation matters. Sharing the day whether it was how the presentation went, or what was the most fun at preschool.  Laughing at silly pasta shapes and hearing the laments of pop quizzes is meaningful. One day there will be a hard conversation and you’ll be there to listen.

This isn’t just for family dinner, this is for friends, coworkers and everyone we face. Please don’t miss any of the experience, put the phone away.

I am making a conscious effort to be aware of how and when I am using my smart devices. I’m working on a new word for the dictionary, FOMM





(not quite as catchy as FOMO but I’ll keep working on it).

I hope you will all do the same and set a great example for your kids too.

Dating Apps with Teens are Dangerous for Adults

Deceptive Teens Phone(This is the second of a three-part series on the dangers of dating apps and teenagers. See the first in the series here.)

It is obvious to tell teens on dating apps their vulnerability to sexual predators. What is not so obvious is the danger to adults when teens use these apps.

In June, a Houston man used the dating app Plenty O’ Fish to meet an 18 year-old woman. After talking online for three days, the woman invited him to her apartment. When he arrived, the woman claimed to need to take a phone call. When she left, two male teens approached with a gun. When the man had no money and refused to take them to his car, the teens shot him. The man survived by playing dead and calling 911 when his attackers fled. The girl was only 14 and had done the same scheme with another victim.

In Indiana last month, a nineteen year old man used the app, Hot or Not, to meet a 17 year-old girl (“of age” in Indiana). The two meet and have sex. It turns out the girl was only 14. The girl testified at his trial and admitted lying about her age. She said, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you my age. It kills me every day, knowing you are going through hell and I’m not. I want to be in trouble and not you.”

However, even if the sex was consensual and even if the girl did lie about her age, it is not a defense under most statutory rape laws. After a short jail sentence he is listed as a sex offender for 25 years. As such, he cannot live with his parents because his brother is 15. He is forbidden from using computers or smart phones to communicate with minors the rest of his life.

These stories aren’t just important for adults to reconsider their use of dating apps. Teens need to know them as well. The Indiana story shows what a young teen can do to someone they care about when they lie about their age in these apps.

For a list of these apps see my previous article on dating apps.

ABC 13 Eyewitness News. (2015, July 6). Police: Man played dead after being shot in southwest Houston. Retrieved from News:–houston/831467/
Kasparian, A. (2015, August 5). How a dating app hookup landed a teen on the sex offender registry. Retrieved from Raw Story:
Phillips, K., & Fitzpatrick, D. (2015, August 4). How a dating app hookup landed a teen on the sex offender registry. Retrieved from CNN:
Shay, M. (2015, July 10). Charges dropped against teen accused of luring shooting victims. Retrieved from ABC 13 Eyewitness News:

12 Dangerous Dating Apps for Teens

Woman phone-Masked man(This is the first of a three-part series on the dangers of dating apps.)

A fourteen year-old girl feeling (like most young teens) lonely and unsure of herself, turns to her smart phone.

She installs the app MyLOL claiming to be the “#1 teen dating site in the US, Australia, UK and Canada.” She meets a young teen boy who finally gives her the attention she can’t get at school.

Two months later they arrange to meet for the first time at her home when her parents are away. The young teen boy proves to be a 28 year-old taxi driver. After sexually abusing her, he returns three days later to her school. The girl tells her teacher who calls police who arrest the man.

The police find that he had been in contact with other young girls through MyLOL. He pleaded guilty to six counts of sexual activity with a child and is now in prison.

MyLOL markets itself to 13 to 20 year olds and claims to monitor posts for illegal activity and nudity. However, the age of users is not verified.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) calls MyLOL a “playground for pedophiles.” The NSPCC is

“calling on all teen dating apps and websites to take immediate steps to protect their young users. … For many young people socializing … through mobile phone apps is part of everyday life. So it’s vital that when they sign up to an app they aren’t exposed to adult sexual content or have encounters with adults that puts them at risk of being sexually abused.”

Parents this is just one app of many to keep away from your teen’s phone. Here is a list of teen dating apps that pose this danger:

  • Hot or Not
  • Meetme
  • MyLOL
  • Omegle

Dating apps for adults are also dangerous for teens and are not difficult for teens to bypass their age requirements:

  • Badoo
  • Bumble
  • Coffee Meets Bagel
  • Happn
  • Hinge
  • OkCupid
  • Plenty O’ Fish
  • Skout
  • Tinder

Conway, P. (2015, February 9). 6 Adult Dating Apps Teens Are Using Too. Retrieved from Common Sense Media: (2014, January 24). Teenagers joining ‘playground for pedophiles’ MyLOL website to avoid being checked up by Mum on Facebook. Retrieved from Daily Mail News:

MyLOL. (2015). Retrieved from

Philby, C. (2014, August 11). Teenage dating apps are hunting ground for adult abusers. Retrieved from The Independent:

Woda, T. (2015, May 1). Teen Dating Apps That Are Bad News. Retrieved from uknowkids:

Ten Easy Ways To Protect Your Child Online

Children computerCan you think of a time during your childhood or teen years when you were picked on, put-down, or even shamed by other children or teens? It felt like you were “the only one” or that “everyone” was against you.

Most of us can remember these experiences vividly because of the emotional turmoil involved. Our young people today have these experiences also with one important difference: the Internet.

Those against them or at least aware of their shame could actually be everyone.

We have to do more to protect our children. Here are ten things I have gathered from several sources.

  1. Teach that all rules for interacting with people in person also apply online and in texting.
  2. Limit online privileges age appropriately. Don’t give too much access too soon.
  3. Be present in their online world. Text, Facebook friend, go to their pages, etc.
  4. Model appropriate online behavior.
  5. Teach how context can dramatically change meaning and online context is often unclear. Consider the difference in “Fire!” yelled by a firefighter or a soldier in battle or a toddler by a fireplace.
  6. Use filtering and accountability software. It’s like the fence that surrounds the playground.
  7. Establish a contract or covenant. List expectations and consequences. Sign it and post it.
  8. Teach the three R’s of responding to cyber bullying: reject (tell them to stop), record (keep all evidence), report (keeping telling adults until one helps you).
  9. Teach the Golden Rule still applies even when online.
  10. Pray. After each online session ask your child to choose someone online to pray for with you.

(Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. (2009, July 30). Preventing Cyberbullying: Top Ten Tips for Parents. Retrieved from Cyberbullying Research Center:

(Mueller, W. (2012). A Parents’ Guide To Cyberbullying. Retrieved from CPYU’s Digital Kids Initiative:

(Tooley, E. (2013, March 8). In the world but not of the world: Social media and the struggle to keep our children safe and pure. National Christian School Association Annual Conference. Oklahoma City, OK: Speaker’s PowerPoint.)

Television is Life

Young Girl Watching TelevisionIt seems like every parent program I have ever done I have taught that it is not good to allow a television or a computer in your child’s bedroom.

 Once at a public middle school, I was making this point and a parent interrupted me and yelled out that was so unrealistic. She said,

“Parents can’t take everything away. We love our kids. We want them to have a life!”  

When I didn’t back off from my point, she walked out and left the program.

 Is television “everything,” “love,” and even “life?” Sometimes I wonder if that accurately describes our culture’s value of television and media.

 Let me add one more warning about our children’s use of media.

 A recent study looked at children’s television, video-game, and computer usage to determine if it had an impact on their sleep. The content of the media was evaluated for violence, scariness, and pacing (fast or slow plot). Among the study’s findings were the following:

  • Children with a bedroom television consumed more media and were more likely to have a sleep problem.
  • No sleep problems were observed with nonviolent daytime media use.
  • Sleep problems increased 40% with violent media content.
  • Sleep problems increased almost twice as much as violent content, 74%, with each additional hour of evening media use.

Parents, please,

  1. Remove the television from your child/teen’s bedroom.
  2. Remove the computer from your child/teen’s bedroom.
  3. Cell phones should be given to parents every night an hour before bedtime.
  4. Avoid all video game, cell phone, television, and computer usage in the hour before bedtime.
(“Media Use and Child Sleep: The Impact of Content, Timing, and Environment.” Garrison, et al. Pediatrics 2011; peds.2010-3304)

5 Dangerous Apps For Teens

Mardi Gras MaskIn my program on social media, “Not of the World,” I put on a Mardi Gras mask.

I proceed to talk to my audience as if they don’t know who I am. If I were to use bad language or hit someone or steal something from someone in the audience, I would get away with it because no one would know who did it. If no one knows it is me, I don’t have to worry about any consequences to my behavior.

This is absurd because even though I wear a mask, everyone knows it is me.

Teenagers are especially attracted to privacy, independence, and not being supervised. That makes them especially vulnerable to the risks of phony privacy. The “responsibility” and “consequences” part of the brain isn’t fully developed until the mid-twenties. I am sure you have heard a teenager say, “It won’t happen to me.”

Adding phony privacy to a teenage brain is like throwing gas on firewood; all you need is a match for a huge fire.

The match is some of the most popular apps to teenagers.

It started with Snapchat that promises to erase any picture a short time after you send it to someone.

Burn Note makes that promise with texting.

Whisper and Secret-Speak Freely are places where you can post whatever you want anonymously: vent, confess, share intimate fantasies or anything else as long as there are no identifiable names or information.

Omegle is a chat room for anonymous instant messaging with a stranger.

Watch for and deny access to these apps with your teenagers.

As I do in “Not of the World,” we have to constantly make the following loud and clear:

Social media, the internet, and texting

(McIlhaney, Jr., J. S., & Bush, F. M. (2008). Hooked. Chicago: Northfield Publishing.)
(Schryver, K. (2014, March 26). Trend Alert: 6 Messaging Apps That Let Teens Share (Iffy) Secrets. Retrieved from Common Sense Media Making Sense Blog: