Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Job Hunting? - JobAngels Networking May be An Answer to Your Prayer

An Interview with JobAngels Founder, Mark Stelzner

Are you one of the 30 million Americans looking for work right now? Have you been job hunting for 3 months, 6 months, or longer with little if any hope left? Have you talked to recruiters and applied for so many jobs online that they all run together in your mind now? And, you still don’t have a job or what seems to be a prayer in finding one?

Have you in fact said a prayer each night for strength to get through this time in your life and hoped for someone to care about your situation? The JobAngels network may be one answer to that prayer.

JobAngels is a grassroots, volunteer-based community dedicated to helping people find gainful employment one person at a time. The JobAngels network is people that have come together to pay-it-forward, help others, and seek the help they need. This extraordinarily simple concept is built on the basic premise of people helping people. Hundreds of thousands of people have participated in this grassroots movement since the JobAngels mission began in 2009.

The vision of JobAngels is “to bring people together in and across online communities where each person has a single goal – to help just one person find employment. It can be a friend, a family member, a colleague, or a total stranger.” As the Founder and Visionary of JobAngels, Mark Stelzner feels one of his greatest achievements was in sending that one simple message on Twitter that sparked the beginning of a global movement.

Mark Stelzner runs Inflexion Advisors, his human resources management consulting firm, as well as being a sought after public speaker and writer. He has brought over $3 billion worth of value to his clients and employers during his sixteen year career working with public and private sector clients worldwide.

An Interview with JobAngels Founder, Mark Stelzner:

BKH: Describe the first person's situation and outcome that you helped through JobAngels.
MS: Although it may not be the first, an early example involved a recruiter who had an urgent need for three specialized employees for immediate deployment to Puerto Rico. We put out the request to our network and within 48 hours three job seekers had secured new positions with her client’s firm. Everyone was shocked by the speed of the matching process and the fact that they never would have found one another were it not for the JobAngels network.

BKH: Are your networking resources 100% "free" to those needing help?
MS: Yes. The only cost is time and effort.

BKH: Does your JobAngels network have participants in all 50 states?
MS: Yes. There are participants in all 50 states and in over 20 countries.

BKH: Which are the top three states for participation?
MS: I can’t answer this with 100% accuracy, but it appears that Illinois, California and either Florida, New York or Texas has the most active participation.

BKH: Describe the type of people that become JobAngels in your network.
MS: “Angels” come from all walks of life ranging from stay-at-home moms to C-level executives. Because of the self-selecting nature of the movement, each volunteer offers their advice, guidance and support based upon their personal and professional comfort level. For example, here’s a message I literally just received in my inbox that may give you a sense of the type of people we associate with, “I live up in the northern Panhandle of Idaho in the town of Sandpoint. I have in my own meek ways tried to help people get back into the workforce whether it is by encouraging them to go back to school, mentoring them on applying for a career, and even hiring people to work with me in my small endeavors. I enjoy participating in helping people better their lives.” You really could not ask for anything more selfless.

BKH: What are the industries represented by your Angel participants?
MS: There are too many to list, and we see individuals ranging from retail employees in New Jersey to biomedical professionals in Hawaii.

BKH: What level of decision making is represented by your Angel participants - executive, mid-managers, and non-managers?
MS: It’s a broad continuum. Insofar as our online networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) are concerned, it likely trends more toward white collar professionals of all ages and experience levels.

BKH: What level of employment does the JobAngels network help with - white collar, blue collar, executive?
MS: All of the above. I personally spoke to over 100,000 blue collar workers in 2009 alone; and although one might not expect them to adopt new media tools as a means of finding employment, the premise of JobAngels and our advice still resonated strongly.

BKH: Approximately how many people participate in your network?
MS: We have approximately 45,000 participants that we know of, but many more that may never join our online networks directly.

BKH: Does JobAngels have established relationships with major corporations or business associations?
MS: Informally, yes. Because of my volunteer leaders’ strong backgrounds in working with public and private entities of all sizes, we have organically spread the word on the movement. In some instances, such as Intuit, they have gone so far as to add the JobAngels logo at the bottom right of their careers page.

BKH: Does JobAngels have established relationships with government agencies or elected representatives?
MS: Informally, yes. During my time in Washington, DC we did brief many agencies and officials on JobAngels. We also held several conference calls with the economic development and unemployment agencies for a variety of state governments.

BKH: What are most people looking for in general that come to your network for help?
MS: That’s an interesting question. We believe that many seek a community of individuals who understand what they might be facing. When the movement first began, I received hundreds of emails simply thanking us for “making it okay to be unemployed”. Many people are ashamed, devastated, and unsure how to proceed from the darkest days of their lives. Simply offering a sympathetic ear was often the most rewarding outcome for those in need.

BKH: What is the average length of unemployment for those that come to the JobAngels network for help right now?
MS: Again, this is difficult to say as we see new arrivals that have been laid off within days of joining the movement. We see others that are approaching 2+ years of unemployment and almost see JobAngels as their best and last light of hope.

BKH: What are the top three mistakes most job seekers make in looking for employment in today's market?
MS: Two that I speak to often is the need to know their destination and pursue it with complete abandon. Too often job seekers are attempting to boil the ocean through mass distribution of resumes to a wide swath of possible opportunities. Instead, they must find the time and wherewithal to reflect on their skills, assess market conditions and honestly define what they want from their career. For many, this requires them to toss away what has come before and reinvent a “new you” for the future. And once they’ve defined a course, be relentless in their attainment. Don’t apologize for their destination and use all means at their disposal to achieve the desired goals. They’ll encounter barriers, so they should surround themselves with those who will either lift them up or get out of their way. My third point is that job seekers need to do research on how others have attained their goal and do not be afraid to ask for assistance.

BKH: How does JobAngels enhance how the unemployed are already networking to find employment?
MS: For one, it broadens how many have traditionally pursued networking and allows shy and more withdrawn job seekers to participate in a comfortable, stress-free environment. JobAngels also offers exposure to a wide variety of individuals that they would not have been privy to otherwise. Finally, no one is judged, and this is important during a time of personal and professional uncertainty.

BKH: You use social media to bring people together. Hooking up with JobAngels on Facebook and LinkedIn are a given, but I found your Twitter use pretty amazing! Please tell us how you use Twitter to help job seekers.
MS: Thanks for the kind words. On Twitter, we ask individuals to follow “@JobAngels” and we will automatically follow them back. We then ask that they send us a “Direct Message” describing their desired geography, type of work, experience level and a link to an online resume or LinkedIn-type profile. In turn, we “Retweet” that information to our following and include the “#JobAngels” hashtag for those who actively search via Twitter. The results are pretty amazing as one average we see anywhere from 300-600 clicks onto that person’s profile and online resume. In addition, millions of messages, articles, job postings and the like have been posted on Twitter with the “#JobAngels” hashtag to let people know that these are JobAngels friendly organizations. It has been amazing to watch how the Twitter community has embraced our movement.

BKH: How do those that need help or want to help join the JobAngels network?
MS: Start by visiting JobAngels and getting to know our organization, my volunteer leadership team, and each of the social media properties where we exist. Then simply join those that make sense to you, and follow the instructions as listed. Or instead, simply learn from the premise of the movement and call an unemployed former colleague, take a neighbor to coffee, visit a local community center helping the unemployed and generally offer yourself to those in need.

BKH: What is JobAngels success rate in helping the unemployed find jobs?
MS: This is difficult to track given the “pay-it-forward” nature of the movement, but we do know of over 1,600 people who have found employment as a direct result of their association with JobAngels.

BKH: Do you have plans to expand the JobAngels mission?
MS: We do. In fact, we have found that it is quite difficult for many passive and active job seekers to sort through the noise in the career space and find advice that truly speaks to their needs. This is why JobAngels will be supporting the deployment of an online career summit in the fall of 2010. Although the website is still in construction, those interested should go to The Career Summit for more information.

BKH: What are the two most significant pieces of advice you have for those looking for employment today?
MS: Do not try and go it alone. When we have surveyed job seekers we have been shocked to find that over 50% of those in need had yet to ask for help. Despite our cultural disdain for “asking for help” or a “handout”, you have to know that there are people in the world who are willing and able to offer meaningful assistance. If you do not believe in yourself and the goodwill of others, you will absolutely fail. Build your confidence through little victories and know that somewhere in the world I am cheering you on.

BKH: Thanks, Mark. Network today with JobAngels at

In reality, every day networking is the most successful “employment agency” in today’s challenging work environment. Internet technology, social media, and people are the best tools for job hunting.

JobAngels’ describes it best on their website, “Today, through the power of social media, each of us is just a few connections away from someone who may be able to help you by opening up their network, offering real-world advice from experts in their industry or field, connecting with individuals inside organizations who are hiring; and ultimately putting people back to work. We are not a placement agency or a recruiting company. Rather, following the ancient wisdom of helping others to do for themselves, we facilitate connecting volunteer mentors – Job Angels – with jobseekers, so that these Job Angels can provide guidance, instruction, and mentorship to jobseekers. We are truly taking networking to a whole new level – driven by the people, for the people – not just of this country but from around the world.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Real Estate Data & Trends Expert Tom Ruff's July 2010 Housing Report - Foreclosures

“I call them like I see them.” - Anonymous

What do the Information Market and World Cup soccer officials have in common? We call um like we see um. Last week I received an email from a friend whose job it is to know Phoenix housing. The analysis flowing across his desk points to higher foreclosure numbers in the fourth quarter of this year; aside from our projections, the forecasts he was seeing were consistent. Regardless, I’m sticking to my story; I call um like I see um. In all fairness, I must report after my last eye exam, my Doctor looked at me and said, “How do you manage to get around?”

In the News:

We recently started tracking news stories about our housing market and cataloging them within a database. We hope to develop a plus minus scale and actually trend the news coverage, but until that task is complete I can only offer a few anecdotal observations. There is still a lot of negative press out there, but we’re starting to see the pendulum swing.

On the positive side in June we’ve seen multiple national stories declaring Phoenix real estate as undervalued with rent vs buying indicators strongly pointing towards purchase. Interest rates are mentioned often and trending downward with headlines of 30 year lows. Banks are reporting a turn in delinquency rates, mortgage bankers are seeing 2009 loans increase in profitability over loans made in 2008.

On the negative side we’re seeing underwater mortgages and strategic defaults gaining more ink. Federal programs to the layman are still confusing and suspect, new home sales reports and stock prices have turned downward with the expiry of the housing tax credit. Shadow inventory stories and the next tsunami of arm’s resetting still pop up but with less and less frequency. Job numbers are disappointing and SB1070 continues to bring national attention and lawsuits while stirring constant local debate with added concerns of population losses.

What are the foreclosure numbers telling us?

Through this month and next we’ll take a look at foreclosure numbers in general and see how they are trending. I will be presenting monthly and quarterly charts of notices of trustee’s sales, cancellation notices, trustee’s deeds and what we refer to as pending foreclosures. I’ll also be giving you some numbers regarding bank owned and government owned properties, as well as talk about the confusion amongst analysts. This month we will look at notices, cancellations, and pending foreclosure numbers and the relationships between them.

Notice of Trustee’s Sale:

If we look at recorded notice of trustee’s sale, this is the document in Arizona which starts the foreclosure process and is often times referred to as a pre-foreclosure, this is the beginning of the foreclosure process. The lender, through a Trustee has notified the property owner they need to bring their loan current or make other arrangements. If no action is taken the property will be sold at public auction. The notice of trustee’s sale sets an auction date; the scheduled sale date will be at least ninety days from the date the notice is filed.

The chart above shows the volume of new notices filed each month in Maricopa County, as you can see; monthly numbers tend to move up and down. If you look closely you will see the effects of Federal intervention in October 2008, the December/January holiday moratoriums; as well as the increase in numbers when these intervals end as evidenced in March 2009. This is the reason people reporting monthly numbers have such varying opinions; the monthly numbers, when viewed separately give very mixed signals and are difficult to interpret, kind of like the early stages of dating.

I imagine if we were to take a poll and ask the general public how these numbers have been trending the past year, their opinion would be the numbers of people entering foreclosure each month have been increasing. The correct answer, as displayed by the quarterly chart below, new notices peaked the first quarter of 2009 and has since been steadily declining. That’s right, 5 straight quarters of declining notices. I expect this trend to continue. Think of the quarterly chart below as a relationship, after the monthly high and lows of early dating you settle into a relationship, after six months of going out, you kind of know what you got.

If notices began decreasing in the second quarter of 2009, why did pending foreclosure increase through December?

That is correct, while new notices started declining in the 2nd quarter of 2009, pending foreclosures, the number of properties with an active notice, continued increasing through the end of the year.

One reason, the average number of days from the time the notice is filed to the time the property is foreclosed is approximately 180 days. The notice of trustee’s sale is a ninety day notice and some properties are foreclosed according to Hoyle, ninety days and out, but the average number of days between the recording of the notice and the actual trustee’s deed for all foreclosed properties is 180 days. So, if notices began declining in the second quarter of 2009, and it takes on average six months to actually foreclose on a property, it would make sense that the total number of active notices would peak in the last quarter of 2009.

We all know the story of the person who was noticed a year prior and the property is just now sold at auction. The number of properties in Maricopa County with active notices ended 2009 at 51,466 properties and ended June at 42,324. Current trends indicate this number will fall below 30,000 by year’s end. When the surplus of active notices is absorbed, actual foreclosures (Trustee’s Deeds) will finally begin their descent. We’ll look at Trustee’s Deeds and REO’s in depth next month. .

What do cancellations tell us?

Cancellations notices tell us a couple of things, short sales are consistently increasing, modifications are playing a factor, and Bank of America does not think the timely recording of cancellation notices are important. Again, if we look at cancellation notices on a monthly basis we’ll see some ups and downs. The extreme spikes are Bank of America/Recon Trust clearing the tops of their desks and catching up on paperwork. One daily metric we capture, a thirty day running total of all properties selling while in foreclosure, will give insight into the cancellation chart. In January of 2009 we had approximately 239 such sales occurring, today that number is 1230 and trending upwards. When these properties sell the active notice is canceled. The banks and the home owner and Realtor are now working together using short sales as a viable option to foreclosure, and, they’re getting better at it each day.

On a side note, all new notices filed each day are available within the iMapp system. A simple query and a simple export each morning will provide you with a file of all properties which had a notice filed the previous day. Of the 40,364 homes in Maricopa County currently in foreclosure, 8,983 or 22% are either listed for sale or are showing as a pending sale. There are currently 7055 active listings and 1928 pending sales with active notices within Flexmls in Maricopa County. Just like the new notices, when we look at Cancellations on a quarterly basis we see the number of cancellations showing an obvious trend. Part of this upward trend is do to the shear volume of notices filed, but beyond dispute, short sales are clearly impacting this number and can directly be credited with a higher percentage of notices of trustee sales being canceled.

This month we looked at two pieces in the foreclosure equation, new notices and cancellations. Next month we’ll look closely at properties that are actually foreclosed upon as represented by recorded Trustee’s Deeds. We’ll look at how these recordings are trending as well as the direction bank owned inventories are taking.

And now, a completely different but related subject:

Yuma Sun Link

The million dollar question involves jobs. While everyone is talking about immigration, our real focus should be on job creation. On June 29th Governor Jan Brewer signed an executive order creating a 34 member board of business leaders taking steps towards the creation of the Arizona Commerce Authority focusing tightly on economic development. Under Brewer’s plan, the governor will chair the authority but the day to day operations will be overseen by Jerry Colangelo. “I’ll use whatever means I can to sell our state and attract businesses and new companies,” he said. “And I want a tool box full of all kinds of initiatives, tax breaks, whatever it takes,'' Colangelo continued. “Because we have to bring ourselves back.''

One final note:

Huffington Post Link

Paul the Octopus has retired, but before his official announcement, he had time for one last divination. Paul was presented with two boxes containing food in the form of a mussel, one box marked with The Information Market logo; the other marked “The consensus opinion of experts”. Paul immediately devoured The Information Market mussel, totally ignoring the consensus opinion of expert’s mussel.

Contact Tom Ruff at The Information Market.

Tom is a graduate of the University of Nebraska. He founded "The Information Store" in 1982 and quickly became known as “The Source” of publicly recorded real estate data in Maricopa County. In August 2005 he formed "The Information Market" specializing in foreclosure data and housing studies. Mr. Ruff is an expert on publicly recorded data and is known for his monthly housing opinion which shares an inside and sometimes irreverent look at the Phoenix Housing Market. He is often quoted in local and national publications.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Can You Name Your U.S. Senators or House Rep? – Do Their Votes Represent You?

An Interview with Co-Founder/President, Nick Secrest

Do you know the names of your state’s two U.S. Senators and your Congressional District House Representative? Do you know how they voted on the Healthcare Reform legislation or any other recent bills? Do they vote in a way on issues that represents how you would want them to vote on your behalf? Do they have a Facebook page or a Twitter account? What has been in the news about them recently?

A new website makes it possible to get a complete, real-time view of those representing you in Washington D.C. easily and quickly in one place – If you know your zip code, you have all the information you need to get connected to your specific U.S. Congressional District House Representative and to your U.S. Senators.

PeepGov is truly an innovation in politics. It is a unique political website. This is quite an accomplishment in today’s world of millions of websites and countless political ones. PeepGov identifies your Washington D.C. politicians and provides links to them including to their official political website, Facebook page, and Twitter page.

It provides information links to their recent votes on bills, news articles about them, and blog posts about them. The information is updated in real-time including their tweets. It is a creative and effective one-stop political education for the informed constituent.

Most importantly, PeepGov is a time-saver for the busy upcoming mid-term election voters. We are all reminded by political events almost daily it seems that elections have consequences. There is a lot of renewed interest in politics and making your vote count these days.

An Interview with PeepGov Co-Founder and President, Nick Secrest.

BKH: What was your "light bulb" moment for PeepGov?
NS: I was flying back to Chicago from Washington D.C. on a work trip and just happened to sit next to a congressman the day the Tarp Bill was signed. Our conversation inspired me to go home and look up who my congress person was. It took me a very long time to figure it out. So, my light bulb moment was when I said to myself, "There needs to be one place where you can go to learn about what your representatives are doing, saying, and what people are saying about them." I got a couple of my friends from college together that are Computer Science majors. We put our ideas together, and PeepGov was born.

BKH: How long did it take you to develop the idea?
NS: From idea to launch was a little over a year and a half.

BKH: What are your ultimate goals for PeepGov?
NS: We want to be the one place that everyone comes to for all news on who represents them in government from the national level to the state and local level.

BKH: Do you find voters under 30 are more interested in politics and policy these days?
NS: I feel the over 30 crowd is more interested in politics and policy these days, but I believe that as the country’s political volatility continues to increase; it will be impossible for the under 30 crowd not to become more interested in politics.

BKH: Who is the target market for PeepGov?
NS: Anyone whom can vote and political junkies. It doesn't matter whether you are new to politics or if you follow politics daily. The site is very simple. It allows everyone to really understand how their voice is being represented in Washington and what your fellow citizen thinks about how your congress person is doing.

BKH: What has been the initial reaction of voters in general?
NS: It is very positive. Everyone seems to really like how we show information in real time. Also, people really like that we aggregate all of the information on their representatives in one place. This allows them to stop spending time searching. They do not have to anymore.

BKH: What has been the initial reaction of members of Congress?
NS: It is new enough that we do not have a lot of input yet. We do not really know at this point.

BKH: I would guess political candidates for the House and Senate would love to be included on Do you have plans to expand in this way?
NS: Absolutely! The Joel Pollak Illinois 9th District campaign is currently using PeepGov as a tool for people to learn about Mr. Pollak and his views on issues compared to his incumbent challenger Jan Schakowsky.

BKH: Do you have plans to expand to include political organizations?
NS: We feel this is possible to expand into for PeepGov.

BKH: Do you have plans to expand to include state and local politicians?
NS: Yes. I do not know when yet, but hopefully we will be expanding down to the local level soon.

BKH: It's interesting that you include bloggers on the site. What is the criterion for a blogger to be included?
NS: Right now it is anyone writing political articles on the Internet.

BKH: Who are the top three politicians that have consistently had the highest peepscore since the site went live?
NS: Senate Majority Leader, Nevada Senator Harry Reid was quite high for awhile. West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd has stayed in the top 3 since he passed away a couple of weeks ago. Arizona Senator John McCain has also been in the top peepscore. The best part about the site is it really highlights whom is really being talked about at the moment in real-time. Joe Sestak was high through his Democratic senate primary battle with Arlen Specter.

BKH: What are the top three states that have consistently had the highest activity?
NS: Again, this goes back to what or whom are being talked about at that moment. Arizona has really had a lot of political figures being talked about recently due to the immigration issues. The congress members in the gulf states are usually being talked about because of the oil spill. Usually states and congressmen and women in states that are having primaries tend to really jump up in activity as well. One example was Congressman Gresham Barrett in his campaign for South Carolina Governor. South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn had a lot to say about Alvin Green’s South Carolina Democratic senate primary win. People had a lot of say about it as well.

BKH: What do you hope site visitors take away from PeepGov?
NS: I hope visitors find that PeepGov can bring them all the information they need to discover how their voice is being represented in Washington D.C. I want it to be easy for them to follow how they are being represented. Also, I hope that if a person comes to the site and sees that their congress person is not being talked about; I hope it encourages them to start talking about that person through all of the great social platforms on the Internet.

BKH: Thanks Nick.

PeepGov continues to build on their brand, product, and technology. They are in the process of opening up the company for outside investment for the first time in the history of the company. Mr. Secrest acknowledges it is the perfect timing for complimentary development, and their research indicates several exciting avenues for meaningful expansion.

Kathy Graham, a 68 year young retiree, and a PeepGov avid user notes, “Anyone who likes to follow politics should go here. You find more information about your representative at PeepGov than you will ever see in your local paper. They bring information about your representatives to you from outside your local district also.”

Joel Pollak, a U.S. congressional candidate for IL-9 finds unique elements of PeepGov to like from the politician’s perspective, “It is a useful, one-stop website destination where we can track Internet leads we might not otherwise find. It’s a way to make sure everyone in the campaign is on the same page regarding what we are saying and what is being said about us. As a new media tool, it's very effective."

The bottom line is “knowledge is power”. People are busy, yet voters are highly engaged and watching their Washington D.C. representation closely in preparation for the mid-term election in November. Everyone is talking and thinking politics it seems. PeepGov is fast becoming a new, comprehensive, and must have time saving tool for voters and politicians alike.

Friday, July 2, 2010

McAfee “Secret Life of Teens” Survey Report, Part 5 – What Parents Can Do

Part 5 of a 5-Part Series
Photo Credit Flickr Creative Common
It is easy for parents to feel overwhelmed after digesting the information and statistics revealed in the McAfee “Secret Life of Teens” survey results. The bad news is most teens, yes even your teens, are not taking online safety warnings as serious as parents want to believe they do. The survey results clearly affirm teens continue to share personal information online with people they do not know and hide most, if not all, of their online activities from parents. Cyberbullying is still a significant problem, and it appears it will remain a serious teen threat in the near future.

McAfee Chief Security Cyber Mom Tracy Mooney sums it up well, “Keeping kids safe no longer only means teaching them about the dangers of alcohol or how to deal with a school bully. This report is a wake-up call to the real dangers our teens face when they make themselves vulnerable online. As a mom, it worries me that kids aren’t practicing safe ˜street smarts” when they’re online.”

The good news though is the real world knowledge the McAfee study provides is power for parents and a good starting point for moving forward to maximize their teen’s online safety. Now that parents know the alarming “secret life of teens” online behavior confirmed in the McAfee data, parents can take steps to empower everyone in the situation.

There is no point in getting mad at your teens or going off the deep-end and forbidding technology in their lives. It is important to remember, like all crazy and unsafe teen behavior, the main reason it is happening is simply because teens have limited life experience (and therefore limited mistakes and consequences as learning experiences) to draw from; and as we all hopefully can still remember, it’s natural for teens to believe they are invincible – that bad things that happen to other teens will not happen to them. The majority of teens are good kids, but good judgment often comes with maturity.
                                                                                                              Photo Credit Flickr Creative Common

What can parents do? A consistent message and good communication is key as it is in any relationship. Ask lots of questions. Role play to creatively point out scenarios your teens may not automatically consider inappropriate or dangerous. Role playing also offers teens specific words to use in situations that may be beyond their maturity to formulate without these parental examples.

I asked McAfee’s Tracy Mooney some additional teen safety questions.

BKH: Are most parents as tech savvy as their teens in 2010?
TM: The younger ones are! But there is still a huge gap in parents being as tech savvy as they should be.

BKH: What can parents do when they understand there is a problem? What do they normally do?
TM: If your kids behavior changes suddenly, trust your instincts and ask if anything is wrong and don't give up if they say "nothing" the first time. Just be available for them if they make a mistake. That’s our job - to catch them when they fall.

BKH: What do you consider to be the single largest threat with the most impact for teens online?
TM: I think the single largest online threat for teens is Cyberbullying. Every few months we hear the terrible news that another teen has taken their life because they could no longer take the way they were being treated by their peers online. With 14% of teens participating in Cyberbullying and 22% of the teens polled not knowing what to do if they experience it. I think it is time for more to be done to stop it. As a parent, I have talked to my teens and made it clear that they are under no circumstances to participate in Cyberbullying. And, if they ever feel like they are being mistreated by their peers, they know they can come talk to me.

BKH: Are law enforcement and current laws on the books keeping up with these threats?
TM: Adequate laws are not yet on the books for cyber criminals to be prosecuted in all cases.

BKH: If there is a problem, when should it be reported and to whom?
TM: If you suspect that your teen has been the victim of an online crime, you should call your local law enforcement immediately.

BKH: What are the most important things parents can do to keep their teens safe?
TM: Start talking to your kids as soon as they start using the computer about how to stay safe. 85% of teens use a computer someplace other than home, so make sure your kids know how to play safe even when they aren't at home. Not sharing passwords, "what goes online, stays online", strangers online equals strangers offline, and not giving out location are all things to talk about with your kids.

BKH: What age is appropriate for kids to be given their own laptop and cell phone?
TM: This is a personal decision for each family to make. In my family, cell phones with very limited plans are given in sixth grade - about the time that after school activities start to kick into high gear. My oldest son got a laptop when he started college. Family computers are shared before that and laptops are not allowed in bedrooms. Every family needs to make that decision for themselves and also remember that computers are not the only device that kids can go online with these days.

BKH: Do parents know the password to their teens' accounts? If not, why not?
TM: That’s also a personal choice question which varies from family to family.

BKH: Do most parents check the history regularly on their teens' computers? Their text message history on their teen's cell?
TM: They should! 32% of teens clear the browser history when they are done using the computer. An empty "history" after your teen has used the computer should be a big wake-up call that kids are doing something that they should not.

BKH: Do most parents use parental controls on their computer and teen's cell phone? If not, why not?
TM: I don't think most parents use parental controls, because they don't realize that the technology has changed from the very restrictive one size fits all parental controls from years ago. I don't think many parents know that parental controls are available for cell phones. I use McAfee Family Protection for my family. I love that I can set each kid with an account that I customize just for them.

BKH: Do most parents have regular talks with their teens about safety - weekly, monthly, bi-monthly?
TM: I don't think so. I use current events surrounding Internet safety to spur conversations with my kids. I start the most difficult conversations when we are driving in the car so they are a captive audience!

BKH: Thanks again Tracy for all the valuable information you provided for this series!

Acknowledging they must monitor their teen’s online activity in addition to talking to their teens to keep them safe may be tough emotionally and logistically for many parents. Yet, living in denial or minimizing the problem isn’t a realistic attitude in today’s online world. Monitoring teens online comes from the same place for a parent as worrying about a teen with a new driver’s license. It is not that you do not trust their driving ability necessarily – it is that you do not trust the other drivers they will come in contact with on the road.

In conjunction with the June 22, McAfee “Secret Life of Teens” survey results release, McAfee announced its new product offering of the McAfee Family Protection iPhone, iPod touch and iPad Edition. This product helps empower parents in dealing with the reality contained in the McAfee survey. McAfee now provides strong parental controls to keep children safe when they are browsing the Internet on an Apple mobile device. McAfee released McAfee® Family Protection for the PC in June 2009.

McAfee® Family Protection iPhone, iPod touch and iPad Edition offers Web site and search filtering. The program will automatically block age-inappropriate sites, such as known pornography web sites. It also includes location tracking for Apple devices that are equipped with GPS.

Parents can also view usage statistics, including visited websites and access times, as well as add and remove custom websites while having the option to remotely disable all Web browsing. The McAfee survey concluded 65% of students revealed they use their mobile devices at their school. Parents can now block mobile Internet usage during hours they deem inappropriate.

McAfee’s Tracy Mooney speaks for many, “Parents want their kids to enjoy their mobile online experience and also want them to be aware of how to be safe when on line. I’ve tried to be vigilant about checking in from time to time to see what my kids are doing online, but I know that my kids have more access now than ever with their mobile device. This product will help parents be at ease when they are equipping their kids with the latest technology.”

McAfee Family Protection iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad Edition is available for download now at the iTunes App Store and for $19.99. For more information about McAfee mobile products, you can visit

Photo Credit Flickr Creative Common
The reality is it is hard to trust a teen’s online judgment as much as most parents probably did before reading the McAfee survey results. A smart approach to trust with teens realistically is “trust, but verify”. Stepping up teen online monitoring is not a reflection of trusting your teen – it is a realistic step in keeping them safe, even if they hate you in the moment for doing it. After all, now that you are a parent, you understand why your mom and dad did the things they did when you were a teen. Ten years from now, your teens will too.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

McAfee “Secret Life of Teens” Survey Report, Part 4 – What Teens Hide & How

Part 4 of a 5-Part Series

Photo Credit Flickr Creative Common
One of the elements of a teen’s secret life is that it is, well, a secret. Keeping a secret from parents generally means doing it without their knowledge and away from their view. This can equate to hiding what they are doing on a home computer or going online somewhere other than home.

The McAfee “Secret Life of Teens” survey results released on June 22 reveals “85% of teens go online somewhere other than at home and under the supervision of their parents, 32% of teens say they don’t tell their parents what they do while they are online, and 28% engage with strangers online.”

“Kids today are using mobile devices more than ever to get connected, which means increased opportunities for unsupervised usage,” said Todd Gebhart, McAfee Executive VP of Consumer, Mobile and Small Business. He further noted, “It takes both education and technology to keep children protected. McAfee helps parents gain control of what their children may access online, informs them where their kids go online and gives them peace of mind that their kids are safe.”

What are teens hiding exactly? The McAfee survey affirms, “Parents should note that about one third of young people say that they “often” or “always” hide their online activities.” McAfee Chief Security Cyber Mom Tracy Mooney offers more detail, “There are many things kids hide from parents about their online behavior, usually it is whatever their parents say is off limits. That could be a secret email account, a social networking page that they are not old enough to have and in some cases it is looking at adult content.”

In my own research, I found it’s scary out there. Adding to Tracy’s specifics, parents would be wise to realize a teens’ secret life may also include:

* Cell phone text messages, some including “sexting”.

* Chat room activity.

* Instant online message chats.

* Webcam activities.

* Online group memberships.

* Secret online relationships.

Key findings in the survey by McAfee sheds more light on teens’ general use and attitudes.

* Today’s youth are online pros who know how to navigate through content, play games, and use communication services.

* Half of kids surveyed say that they have been using the Internet for five years or more, and 58% consider themselves heavy users who access the Internet six or seven days a week.

* Communicating and downloading content are two primary uses of the Internet by young people, but education also plays an important role. Nearly 80% say they use the Web to do research for school assignments.

* Gaming is also a popular activity, with 61% of kids saying they play games online, including multiplayer online games.

* Social networking is a fast-growing online activity. 81% of 16- to 17-year-olds report having at least one social networking account; this number has grown significantly since 2008.

* More than half (53%) of kids say that they typically view and download media online.

The report concluded parental influence can make a difference and asks parents, “Given the amount of time kids spend online, how much are you involved in their online habits? We found that, for the most part, parents try to stay informed about their kids’ online lives, but they more closely monitor younger children.” The survey results concluded:

* Nearly all kids (91%) say that their parents trust them to do what’s right online. However, 56% say that their parents know some of what they do online, but not everything, and a quarter (26%) report that their parents don’t have time to check up on what they do online.

* About one-third of kids (32%) say that they don’t tell their parents what they are doing online, and would change their behavior if they knew their parents were watching (31%).

* Even though parents are less likely to monitor their children’s behavior as they get older, young people are more inclined to hide what they do online from their parents as they get older. By the time they reach the ages of 16 or 17, 56% of teens hide their online activities.

Obviously it is easy for teens to hide their online activity if parents are not home, not in the same room, or if teens are away from home at the library or at a friend’s house. How do teens hide their online activity in the presence of their parents? McAfee’s Tracy Mooney offers, “From my own experience, if you walk up to the computer and they close the window they were just looking at - that is a pretty good tip off that they are hiding something. They also delete the history of the websites they have visited.”

The survey also explains, “The most common ways that kids hide their online activities from their parents are by minimizing the browser when their parents are nearby (29%), hiding and deleting text messages (20%), and clearing the browser history (21%). Interestingly, girls are more likely to engage in the first two activities than boys.”

Ironically, my friend Holly Gordon Lundgren whom is certainly an intelligent, engaged mother of 3, shared with me her recent real-life experience on the topic; “Being a parent of 2 teenagers, I find this to be a very scary topic. I've caught one of them with a secret Twitter account and was astounded with what she was posting. Somehow she slipped under the radar of all of her parents. Scary to think what else they're hiding.”

I asked McAfee's Chief Cyber Security Mom Tracy Mooney for her opinion on any surprises or possible additional red flags for parents on teens hiding their online behavior:

BKH: What surprised you the most in the McAfee survey results?
TM: That 91% of the teens polled felt their parents trusted that they would do the right thing online but more than half of 13 - 15 year olds and 70% of 16-17 year olds knew how to hide what they were doing online. That's a huge discrepancy in trust versus behavior.

BKH: Did your son think there were any important points not uncovered or not a part of the survey?
TM: My son thought some of the numbers were conservative, such as the number of kids who know how to delete history. He would have liked to see statistics take into account the numbers of kids who know how to use proxy sites to get around web blocks at school.