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iPhone and Android are tracking your locations: How, where and what to do about it

Kids smartphones settings privacy location

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It’s hard enough to teach our kids safe, responsible use of the digital technologies we understand without worrying about all the stuff we don’t know. For example, did you realize that your (or your kids’) iPhone or Android device is tracking and recording all the locations you visit?

I had no idea. And it’s safe to say that most kids and parents don’t know about this either, since the setting is buried layers deep.

What does this mean? Anyone with access to your kids’ iPhone or Android device can view and map the places they visit frequently, the dates and times they were there. Their home. Their school. Their friends’ houses, favourite hangouts, the hockey arena, soccer pitch or dance studio where they go every week.

Apple, which included this feature in their iOS 7.0 update, insists this information isn’t stored anywhere on the cloud, so it’s totally safe. Unless, of course, someone gets hold of your phone and manages to access your data.It’s also unclear how this data is used when you access apps with location services, such as requesting a map with roads near you.

If you have an Android device it’s even worse, because this data is recorded through your Google account, accessible by hackers on any device. They don’t need your kid’s phone to hack into this information.

One of the challenges in keeping ourselves – and our kids – safe in a digital era is understanding the many ways data is collected about our activities. This is a worthwhile conversation to have with your kids – get them involved in adjusting the settings, so they understand why it’s important to manage personal data.

How do I change the settings? Changing the settings isn’t hard, but it ca be confusing, because it is buried layers deep. The step-by-step instructions for iPhone are listed below with screenshots.

How will this affect my use of the phone and apps? Not at all. You can still access Google Maps, Yelp and any other location-based app as long as location services are enabled.

Step 1: Go to Settings and click on Privacy.

iPhone settings safety location privacy








Step 2: Click on Location Services

iPhone privacy settings kids








Step 3: Click on System Services – you may need to scroll down to the bottom of a long list of apps.

iPhone location services settings kids








Step 4: Select Frequent Locations click to turn it off.

iPhone Frequent Locations settings kids








Step 6: You can click on any of the items in the list to see specific locations mapped with details of dates and times.

iPhone My Locations settings kids








Have an Android device? Follow the step-by-step instructions in this video to disable the settings, or follow the screenshots at the bottom of this page at



Public parenting workshop: What parents need to know about raising their kids as digital citizens

Sexting, hacking, cyberbullying, Internet addiction – the stories about kids’ misuse of the Internet is enough to make parents despair. But there is no need for that! It’s possible critical for parents to teach their kids safe, ethical, productive and creative use of digital technologies.

Join me tomorrow evening (7:30 p.m.) at the Trafalgar School for Girls for a practical workshop for parents with clear explanations, concrete strategies and a hefty dose of empowerment. In the clip below, I explain to Global TV’s Jamie Orchard how parents can offer their kids’ guidance, even if their children’s tech skills exceed their own:

Global TV with Jamie Orchard

Alissa Sklar Ph.D. speaks with Global TV’s Jamie Orchard about parents, kids and the safe, productive use of digital technologies.

We will look at what the research tells us in terms of effective guidelines for parents on email, password safety, actively monitoring our Google “footprint,” sexting and more. We will also cover the important ways schools can must  be teaching students how to be creative, productive and prepared online, so they are best prepared to meet the demands of college program admissions, job applications and the many, many careers that will require digital knowledge and skills.

You can read more about the Trafalgar presentation here – it is free and open to all parents (not just those with kids at Traf). RSVP:

Celebrity photo hacks and revenge porn: What parents and kids need to know about privacy online

Jennifer LawrenceAs a parent, you might wonder why you’d care about some naked pictures of celebrities that have been hacked and distributed online. Many of them appear nude (or almost nude) in print, film or images all the time, right? Even clothed, many of them leave little to the imagination.

But this is different. These leaked images of more than 100 A-list personalities such as Jennifer Lawrence (depicted in the above image), Kate Upton, Selena Gomez, Rihanna and even U.S. soccer star Hope Solo, were apparently obtained by a hacker that gained access to Apple’s online storage system, iCloud. The photos were posted anonymously to 4chan, an image-based website, claiming to show celebrities in “various states of undress.”

Actress Mary E. Winstead tweeted out her reaction to the leaked photos: “To those of you looking at photos I took with my husband years ago in the privacy of our home, hope you feel great about yourselves.” In another tweet, she wrote, “Knowing those photos were deleted long ago, I can only imagine the creepy effort that went into this. Feeling for everyone who got hacked.”

It’s easy to write off this invasion of privacy as part of the cost of putting oneself in the public eye. After all, these women trade off on images of their faces and bodies already. Isn’t this part of the risk?

But if you believe this, where do we draw the line? Are sports figures also fair game? Writers? Musicians? Politicians? Anyone with a female form?

The issue here is not merely the nudity – it is the invasion of privacy. It’s the humiliation of having the picture stolen from you and disseminated without consent. It’s the unasked-for gaze of millions of eyes on something that you thought was yours alone. It’s what we have come to call “revenge porn” among non-celebrities and it may directly impact you and your children. Remember this case of high-school aged boys in Laval charged for allegedly circulating naked pictures of their female classmates?

That story made it into the news, but in my work in Montreal-area schools, I come across many, many other stories of illegally circulated nude pictures. Some were girls who trusted their boyfriends when they said they loved them and would keep it private. Some were impulsive, boundary-pushing instances of breasts flashed at a webcam. Others were private jokes intended only for friends or lovers. And when they are shared with all his friends, or the whole grade, or the whole school, lives are ruined. Reputations destroyed. Self-esteem crushed.

It can be terribly difficult to recover from this invasion of privacy. Teens whose nude images are disseminated without consent are at higher risk for coercion, blackmail, sexual assault. They are at higher risk for depression, anxiety and a whole host of other serious problems. The trusted adults in their lives need to intervene in a timely manner and offer structure, on-going support at school and at home. offers an excellent set of resources for self/ peer sexual exploitation online.

Here is the most important takeaway for parents and kids online: You can never be sure that anything in a digital format is private. 

Nothing. Not that text message to your best friend. Not that email to your colleague. Not that silly video you made with your girlfriends on that sleepover party. Not those pictures of your college roommate drunk and passed out on the floor. Not even the images you deleted on your smartphone that still exist somewhere on an iCloud backup.

This doesn’t mean it isn’t OK for consenting adults to take naked pictures if they want to – after all, humans have been appreciating the naked body (sexual and otherwise) in pretty much all media available to us since the dawn of recorded history. And no one deserves to be publicly shamed if something they intended to be private is stolen and aired without permission. The women whose images were stolen are not to be chastised for taking these pictures of themselves – the blame needs to fall squarely on the anonymous digital peeping tom who hacked them.

Nevertheless, this whole mess offers an instructive lesson for the kids growing up online: Digital “private” is simply not the same as analog, real-life private. And while it is possible that someone might sneak into the back of your sock drawer and read your handwritten diary, or steal your key and open your safety deposit box to read those files, it’s certainly far, far less likely. Think about all the stories you’ve heard of “secret” pictures, emails, texts and videos shared without consent.

So here’s the practical takeaways:

  1. Think twice. Before snapping that photo, typing that message. How mortifying or destructive would it be if this got out?
  2. Don’t share passwords with other people. This online survey found that more than half of people share the passwords to their accounts with families, friends or co-workers. Teens increasingly believing that sharing passwords with friends or romantic others is a sign of affection and trust in a relationship. It’s not – it’s a sign of inexperience and poor judgement.
  3. Don’t share passwords across accounts. I know it’s hard to remember all those passwords, but using the same one on many accounts is seriously bad idea. Use an app like LastPass to keep track of them (and hope it isn’t hacked) or try these clever tricks to create a memorable password system for yourself.
  4. Understand targeted attacks. Opening emails, files or even using a memory stick with compromised files may install a  trojan keylogger on your computer, recording every click and keystroke for a hacker.
  5. Beware of public wifi. When you use a public wifi hotspot with your laptop or smartphone, you make your files vulnerable to hackers. This is a particular concern for kids and teens who may have iPads or smartphones without data plans, relying on public wifi to access email and social media accounts. Make sure your firewall is on, and secure your web-based email (Gmail,, Yahoo or others) or other cloud-based services such as social media by ensuring that you use an https connection throughout your session (not just “http”). You can install a VPN to protect yourself (here’s an excellent free one).