‘Zoom bombing’: Protecting kids from online trolls

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — “Zoom bombing” is the newest term to enter the public lexicon thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You’ve heard of ‘photo bombing’ and ‘video bombing,’ and every other sort of virtual ‘bombing.’ This is ‘Zoom bombing,'” said Chris McKenna of Protect Young Eyes, a nonprofit that promotes online safety for kids.

With millions turning to the online platform Zoom to connect with others amid home hibernation, it’s no surprise some trolls are trying to take advantage. Sometimes it’s the kids themselves disrupting virtual classes held via Zoom.

“There’ve been a couple of instances out east. A Boston school had a classroom of students together (on Zoom), and the students decided to share certain things they shouldn’t have,” McKenna explained.

McKenna has not heard of West Michigan children witnessing inappropriate content on Zoom and he wants to keep it that way. So the youth pastor turned online safety advocate created clear, step-by-step guides to help teachers and parents set up safe Zoom meetings.

>>Protect Young Eyes: Best practices for Zoom

The first and perhaps most critical tip is not to share the invite link with anyone who’s not invited to the meeting.

“Let’s make sure that that Zoom link isn’t known by other people, that you haven’t shared it, say, on your Instagram account, or you haven’t shared it any other public way,” McKenna urged. “The Zoom bombing tends to take place when the link is shared outside of the people who are supposed to be on the call. Then the trolls get in or the predators get in. So we tell teachers, ‘If you’re going to have Zoom virtual classrooms, make sure that when you send the link to parents, you tell the parents not to share that link with anybody else.'”

Additionally, McKenna advises teachers — or anyone hosting a Zoom meeting that involves kids — to change the platform’s default settings before the meeting.

“It needs to be set up (for safety) ahead of time by a teacher in order to prevent some of these things from happening,” McKenna explained.

To do that, said McKenna, the host should go to ‘settings’ within the Zoom site on a laptop or Chromebook in order to turn certain default functions on or off.

Among the default options the host might want to change:

  • Join before host
  • Mute participants upon entry
  • Chat or Private chat
  • File transfer
  • Allow host to put attendee on hold
  • Screen sharing
  • Allow removed participants to rejoin
  • Virtual background
  • Waiting room

McKenna said parents should also talk to their children about proper online conduct before any virtual class or meeting. 

“There are things that parents should prepare their student for conduct-wise in order to be a good online digital learner,” McKenna said. “Make sure they’re in a space where there isn’t a ton of distraction going on, make sure your kids knows that if you pick your nose everybody’s going to see you. As a parent, you can just guide your kid.”

If your child is going to connect with other children via Zoom, McKenna advises parents to talk with each other beforehand:

“If my son or daughter is speaking with a friend on Zoom, as a parent, I want to know that the other parent has had a conversation with their kid to tell that kid, ‘Hey, don’t flash pornography on the screen while my son is having a Zoom call with you.’ I mean basic things. But in the same lane of, if my kid’s going to be on social media with other kids, I hope there’s a shared understanding of what safety is in that platform. The same rules exist on Zoom.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

COVID-19 in West Michigan

Know something newsworthy? Report It!

Coronavirus Resources

More Coronavirus Resources