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We’re all a click away from digital disgrace

Reality is, we’re a tweet or post away from losing an interview, a job or for many young people — a spot for their first choice college.

The percentage of college admissions officers who believe that incorporating applicants’ social media pages into their decisions is “fair game” continues to trend upward, reaching 65% in the 2020 survey of over 300 of them from Kaplan, up from 59% in 2019 and 57% in 2018.

The study says, among other things, that college admissions staffs are continuing to review applicants’ social media activity and online reputations.

Digital Reputation and COVID

In the age of Covid-19, when we are spending more time on social platforms, it’s important for students (teens) to be extremely careful about their online behavior.

For example, how might an admissions officer react to seeing a photo of you in a large group of friends, with local social distancing and safety precautions not being followed? These are things applicants didn’t have to think about years prior, but may have to do so now.

Life Before Tech

Do you remember when we were kids and the biggest threat a teacher had was putting a grade on our permanent record? We lived in fear of the idea of someone, years down the line, reading about the time when we poured our milk over a bully’s head in the cafeteria.

Then we grew up and learned that employers would never read that permanent record and would never care about the time in tenth grade when we called a teacher a “jerk” before that teacher was out of earshot.

Those were simpler times – times when employers didn’t check credit reports, when college admissions (for the most part) staff only cared about the grades you earned in high school, and earning a bachelor’s degree was optional.

Pause Before You Post

This isn’t the case for our kids. They live in a world where college degrees are now viewed the same way we once saw a high school diploma. The chances of getting even a minimum wage job without one are tiny. They live in a world where they share everything via public and social mediums. Their permanent records start when they’re born and their parents put their baby pictures up on Facebook.

In some ways, this makes them more web savvy than their adult counterparts. They have a seemingly inherent understanding that everything they put online can be accessed by pretty much anybody. The idea that their internet activity is private is foreign to them.

That doesn’t mean that they aren’t still teenagers, and teenagers, as much as we love them, aren’t so great at impulse control. They are also still figuring out who they are, and that means trying out all sorts of different things…things that might be embarrassing later on and things they definitely wouldn’t want to be held accountable for when they grow up and out of a particular phase.

Online Actions, Offline Consequences

The Kaplan study presents a number of problems for kids who are applying to college. While admissions staff have gone on record in a number of publications saying things like awkward selfies probably won’t negatively influence their decisions, they also say that reading things like disparaging comments about teachers and peers as well as proven association with alcohol or other illicit substances could cause them to refuse a student’s entrance into their school.

What makes this even more stressful is that most online reputations are only given a cursory glance. This means that someone in your kid’s chosen school could be inadvertently looking at a profile for someone else with the same name as your child or, worse, looking at a fake profile one of your kid’s rivals set up to be mean.

Being Proactive

So what can you do? As a parent, how much of this is within your control?
Talk to your kids about the importance of their online reputations. Remind them that everything they post online has the potential to go public (and viral). Encourage them to only post those things that they wouldn’t mind being grilled about by their highly prudish great great aunts and uncles over Thanksgiving dinner.

This is not the look you want to see on someone's face when they search for your teen!

Connect with your kids online as well as at home. Make sure that your kids have friended you on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and that you can follow their Twitter and other social media accounts.

This way you can see what they post the same way their friends can.

Work with them to set their privacy settings to the strictest levels possible. This way, even if someone searches for their profiles, they won’t see anything you and your kids don’t want them to see.

Why not cut them off at the chase? Include links to social media profiles with applications to ensure that admissions officers are looking at the correct profiles. Plus, knowing that those links are included in applications should hopefully encourage your kids to practice some social media decorum.

It pays to be proactive!

Guest post

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Are you a parent of a teen that is using a dating app?

In most cases, online dating is unsafe for teens. This is because, as you probably already know, there are a lot of predators online who try to prey on teens.

That cute 16-year-old lacrosse player who lives a few hours away that your daughter is talking to online could really be a 40-year-old dude who lives with his parents a few blocks away from you. It’s easy to stretch the truth online, and people do it all the time.

Although most reputable dating sites don’t allow teens to sign up for their services, there are a few online dating sites and dating chat rooms geared toward teens. If you discover that your teen has starting dating someone online, you should definitely be concerned. Here are a few tips to help you deal with this type of situation:

1. Have a serious discussion about the risks

Your teen probably already knows that meeting people online isn’t the safest choice. However, he or she decided to do it anyway. As a parent, it’s your job to communicate the risks of online dating to your son or daughter without seeming too much like an overprotective, overbearing parent. So, sit down together and have an adult conversation about online predators.

Try not to get angry with your teen, and calmly ask your teen to stop visiting online dating sites. This discussion may not be enough to convince your teen to stop meeting people online. It will, however, get your teen to start thinking more about how dangerous online dating can be.

2. Monitor your teen’s online behavior

Install some software on your computer that will let you monitor your teen’s online habits. You can choose whether or not you let your teen know you’re doing this. After the software is installed, check to see what sites your teen is visiting regularly, but avoid invading your child’s privacy too much.

There’s no need to go through all of his or her SMS messages, unless there’s good reason to suspect something is up. If you notice your teen is regularly visiting sites that appear to be online dating sites, you may want to get some software to block those sites from your family computer.

3. Do a background check on online suitors

If your teen still finds a way to online date, despite your efforts to curtail this activity, find out who he or she is talking to. Find out the name of the person, where he or she lives, and where he or she supposedly goes to school. Then conduct a background check on the online suitor to see if he or she is telling the truth to your teen.

Call the school the suitor allegedly attends and try to see if he or she is actually enrolled there. Try to find the phone number of the parents of the suitor, call them, and let them know their child is dating your child.

If it turns out that the person your teen is communicating with is actually another, normal teen, you’ll have to decide whether or not you’ll allow your child to continue communicating with him or her. If you discover that the online dater isn’t actually a teen, it’s best to report him or her to the authorities.

Online dating is a real risk in your teen’s life. So, make sure you have an open, honest conversation about meeting people online with your son or daughter. And keep tabs on your child’s online behavior. It’s critical that you take the necessary steps to protect your teen from online predators.

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When Safety Trumps Privacy

This has been a debate for years and the answer comes back to when safety trumps privacy.

Especially now as technology is in the hands of every teens and many tweens, as well as COVID has locked us online more than ever — parents need to be in tune with how are teens are dealing with peer pressure, friendships and most of all, digital school life.

Teenagers earn their trust with their parents. Respecting each others privacy should always be priority, however if you fear your teenager is heading down a dark path, and is not willing to talk to you or a third party (therapist, guidance counselor, relative or adult friend), you may have to cross the line of trust.

Warning signs that monitoring may turn to snooping:

  • Is your teen becoming very secretive? Sure, teens do like their privacy, however if you have a “gut feeling” something is deeper than a secret, you may have to cross that line. There is nothing stronger than a parents intuition.
  • Is your teen becoming withdrawn? Again, teens will develop some attitudes of not wanting to be with adults, however when it becomes extreme, it may be time to cross that line. The pandemic has caused a rise in stress, anxiety and defiance in many teenagers. Parents are struggling to keep up with the challenging behavioral changes.
  • Is your teen changing peer groups? Are they hanging with a less than desirable group of friends, even virtually? Have they started joining risky chatrooms? Possibly meeting strangers? Sneaking out?
  • Is your teens eating habits changing? Eating more or less? Binging? Especially during this pandemic, families need to try to have meal times several times a week.
  • Is their sleeping patterns changing? Is your teen sleeping a lot? Bloodshot eyes? Do you suspect drug use?
  • Is your teen sneaking out? Becoming extremely defiant? Not respecting your boundaries or house rules?
  • Overall, is your teen slowly becoming a child you don’t recognize?

Are you snooping or are you legitimately monitoring your teens?

Should you read your teen’s diary? Scroll through their text messages or even befriend them on their social networking sites? That is a personal question only you can answer.

Remember writing can be very healthy for teens (and adults for that matter), so if your teen isn’t giving you any valid reasons to “invade their privacy” – respect it.

When safety trumps privacy – may be time to pry – but every day you should be monitoring your child’s online activity – it’s called parenting.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer teens.

Join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.

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Cyberbullying, Online Shaming and COVID

It’s been an extremely challenging year for many people. The pandemic has everyone on edge and many are retreating to their devices as a distraction of reality. Sadly social media and the internet can be a sea of negativity as well as hateful content.

Rise in online usage

From school lessons and office work to physical exercise and doctors’ appointments – more aspects of people’s daily social and professional lives are moving online as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

According to the L1ght, an organization that tracks online harassment, there has been a 70% increase in cyberbullying in just a few months. Aside from the increase in technology use, there are other factors contributing to the rise in online hate

  • Increased stress: The pandemic has been highly stressful and confusing for everyone. Oftentimes when kids feel stressed or confused, it leads to acting or lashing out at others, arguing among friends and risk-taking behaviors in response. 
  • Isolation: Mandatory stay-at-home orders can cause feelings of loneliness, which can lead to fragmented relationships. Some kids may have limited access to the internet, which can make them feel further isolated. In return, they may make mean or cruel comments in frustration, especially if they feel like they are out of the loop within their friend groups. 
  • Decreased supervision online: With many parents trying to balance working from home, helping with schoolwork and managing this new world, they aren’t available to pay close attention to what their kids are doing online. 
  • Boredom: Kids sometimes engage in cyberbullying because they are bored, lonely or want attention. Because the pandemic worsens these issues, it can lead to mean behavior online. Some kids bully to relieve stress, but also because they are bored. 

Adults acting like children

Whether it’s neighbors policing neighbors, mask shaming or our heated political election, this past year we have seen grown-ups acting worst than most kids online. Parents (especially) need to pause before they react to comments or post questionable content online. Believe it or not, you are your child’s biggest influence — by you behaving inappropriately on social media, it gives them the greenlight to act the same way.

Unfortunately mean-people, such as bullies and cyberbullies, don’t take holidays or vacations.  On the contrary, they are the type of individuals that are on the clock 24/7 – 365 days a year.

Since we know this, it is imperative we also know how to equip not only our children, but ourselves to better handle situations when they happen – especially online.

First there has to be a clear understanding that no-one is immune to cyberbullying or online shaming.  Anyone can be a target of another person’s cruelty.

  1. Never engage with the bully or the person that is harassing you.  Never have any of your friends retaliate in your defense.
  2. Save, copy, print out — any evidence.  Print screen can be the easiest way.
  3. Block and report the person to the social media site you are using.
  4. Never meet anyone in person.
  5. Tell someone you trust.  Hopefully a parent or a trusted adult. If you are an adult, talk to a friend. Being insulted or harmed online is painful at all ages.

3 Steps for building digital resilience

As someone that has been completely humiliated, shamed and bullied online (and survived), I know that if I was prepared with the knowledge I know today, I still would have struggled with the emotional pain and distress. I don’t believe anyone wants to be berated or harassed especially on the world-wide-web.

With that – it’s about learning what I know today and that’s to build your digital resilience to protect you from the toxicity of the internet and give you the tools and coping skills to better handle the hate.

  1. Prepare yourself for the ugly-side of social media and the internet. You can’t control how people act, but you can control how you respond to them (or not respond to them).
  2. Know how to block, mute and report abusive content and users on all the social platforms you are using. Take a few minutes to read the terms of service about what constitutes online hateful behavior. You will be a stronger reporter.
  3. Understand that online is not reality! That’s according to  research looking at online honesty, which found that “online deception is the rule, not the exception.” Use your critical thinking skills. Never forward or repeat misinformation.

Finally never forget that like you, cruel and mean people won’t be taking the holidays off. They will be online too. Do your best to be an upstander especially during this trying time. If you see your friend struggling or being harassed, reach out to them. If you are reading hateful or harmful content — flag it as abusive. Do your part as a responsible and respectful digital citizen.

For more resources and wisdom for dealing with online hate order Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate. It makes the perfect gift, especially during this time.

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3 C’s of Digital Civility Online

Never doubt, our keyboards can be used as a tool or a weapon. It’s completely up to the user. I often hear, parents especially, that like to blame the apps or social platforms for cyberbullying, however we have to keep in mind that it’s human behavior that is using a keypad to inflict cruel content.

We can use our keystrokes 4-ways:

  1. Help
  2. Hurt
  3. Heal
  4. Harm

It improve our online behavior, it starts with civility.

3 C’s of Responsibility Online Behavior

  1. Conduct

Self-awareness: Before you use your device or keyboard, check-in with yourself. How are you feeling? Are you happy, sad, emotional?

Anger is temporary, online is forever.

Think twice, post once.

2. Content

Is what you’re about to post going to embarrass you or humiliate someone else? You don’t want to wake up a day, month or year(s) later to a tweet regret or post remorse moment that could cost you a job or relationship.

What goes online, stays online. There’s no rewind online.

3. Caring

It should be natural to care about others, however it’s just as important to care enough about yourself to know when you should click-out. Are you about to leave a snarky comment? Send an emoji that may not translate well to others?

When in doubt, click-out. You will survive by taking time offline.

Read more about how to share smarter online and ways to stop online hate.

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Oversharing contributes to cyberbullying

We live in a time where many people (of all ages) have become comfortable documenting their offline life — online. This has caused problems for some, especially if you’re in the job market or applying to colleges.

As most of us know, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, today that first impression is what an internet search will say about you. Right or wrong, in most cases people won’t take the time to decipher cyber-fact from cyber-fiction and will move on to the next candidate.

What is oversharing?

Oversharing is when people share too much personal information to the public or a stranger. It can happen both on and offline. However, it is a big problem on social media sites, which make “putting yourself online” easy.

I want to cite 2 interesting studies that help us to understand there is truly no benefit to oversharing online.

  1. A  report from UCLA confirmed what I have been saying for a long time – oversharing on social media is putting you at potential risk for becoming a victim of cyberbullying or digitally shamed.

People have less sympathy and empathy for those that over-expose (overshare) themselves and end up being ridiculed or harassed than those that are innocently minding their own business or have fallen victim to an online prank.

2. According to a Harvard study, humblebragging (such as oversharing too much about yourself) can get you in trouble – they are perceived as less than credible or genuine people, not well liked and viewed as insincere.  Some were even considered frauds. Not everything needs to be digitally documented.

5 Ways to Share Smarter Online

  1. Is it necessary?

Are you social sharing for your platform or oversharing for your ego? Not everything you do offline needs to be on display down your feeds.

One way to prevent this is avoid sharing in haste. Don’t be so impulsive about sharing in the moment – enjoy your moment and reconsider later if the world really needs to see it.

2. Emotional sharing.

Are you having a bad day? Arguing with your partner or friend, maybe your boss? Your cyber-friends are not cyber-therapists. Take it offline.

Avoid using your social platforms as venting machines.

3. Inappropriate content.

Although this should be self-explanatory, there is never a place for profanity, nudity, drugs or any other irresponsible posts.

I understand that some may believe that sexting is normal, however never believe that anything is private online – especially with technology. What goes on in the dark – can and will come out in the light. Post at your own risk.

4. Constructive sharing.

Especially during this year of COVID and politics, we are all struggling with stress, anxiety and angst. There has never been a time that we need to be more careful with our tone online. We all have differences of opinions on social responsibility as well as politics. If you can’t share constructively, do yourself a favor — take some time offline.

There’s nothing wrong with agreeing to disagree, however when you turn to cyber-combat online, no one wins. No one listens and it’s a reflection of your character offline. Be contructive, not combative.

When in doubt – click-out.

5. Know your audience.

Before you share a comment, post or image — who are you sharing it with? Is it friends, family, teachers, colleagues, co-workers, etc…. Is it a public post for the entire world to view?

What we need to understand, as we remember the infamous tweet of Justine Sacco, that cost her public shaming and her job, even sharing with your small number of friends doesn’t guaranty you safety.

It only takes one person to copy, paste and post – and one of your personal images or content will then become viral. Again confirming – there’s really no such thing as privacy in the digital world.

Share with care.

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3 Ways to Combat Online Hate

Preparing young people to prevent online bullying

There’s no question, 2020 has been a difficult year. Teens and tweens are spending even more time online as they are adapting to distancing learning virtually. It’s been a struggle both emotionally and socially for everyone.

Different studies and surveys conclude that cyberbullying is on the rise, which is understandable with more screen-time combined with stress and anxiety that most are feeling. People are acting out of fear and frustration without consideration of how their comments, posts or other online behavior will impact their peers.

3 Ways to stop online hate

  1. Teach them how to report, block and flag abusive content

Apps will come and go, however bad online behavior is human behavior. Whatever app your teen or tween has, they must take the time to read and understand the terms of service as it pertains to abuse and harassment.

This helps them to become stronger reporters of online hate and what constitutes abusive content.

2. Don’t perpetrate hate

What would you do if you saw hateful or harmful content?

Our young people need to understand by engaging in cyber-combat, it’s a reflection of your character. Your online reputation is everything today – and it will impact your future.

1. Report and flag abusive content.

2. Don’t forward, share or retweet cruel content.

3. Liking a harmful post is equal to endorsing it.

4. Don’t engage in cyber-combat.

Energizing hate gives it life or credence.

3. Critical thinking: Stop spreading misinformation, gossip and fake news

When people spread wrongful information it can lead to cyberbullying, shaming and harassment. It’s important to help our young people to develop critical thinking skills to decipher posts that they may believe is not truthful before forwarding them or sharing them.

The C.R.A.P. Detection Test, by Howard Rheingold, is one way that can help us determine fact from fiction (or at least) give us some guidance:

  • Currency: How recent or up-to-date is the information.
  • Reliability: Is the content opinion based or balanced? Does it provide references or sources for data?
  • Authority: Who is the author or source, and are they reputable?
  • Point of view: Does the poster have an agenda or are they trying to sell something?

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Texting Trivia

While we are all living in this new normal, it seems our devices are our main source of communication. This is an an oldie but goodie post that I think is very interesting — especially now as we are all attached to our phones.

You probably already have a few pretty good ideas about text messaging and how they can impact our lives – the good and not so good ways.

For instance, you know walking while texting can be tricky, and distracted driving (whether it’s texting or reading your messages while driving) can be deadly. You didn’t need a study to tell you so, but researchers went ahead and did them anyway. But not all the research done on the subject can be filed under “obvious.”

15 scholarly facts about texting that you may not have suspected:

  1. Getting a text makes you happier: It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to learn that receiving a text message from a close friend makes you happier, but now we have the research to confirm it. Berkeley psychologists found even sending a text message makes people feel more connected and causes an upswing in mood.
  2. Hypertexters are less healthy: Texting may make you happier, but those who do it too much seem prone to unhealthy habits. Case Western Reserve School of Medicine concluded a study in 2010 that found “hypertexting” — sending more than 120 messages a day — can “have dangerous health effects on teenagers.” Hypertexters were found to be more likely to engage in harmful behaviors like binge drinking (43% more likely) and drug use (41% more likely).
  3. Texting behind the wheel is even riskier than we thought: Few things are as distracting to a motorist as trying to read or send a text message. Researchers at Texas A&M University’s Texas Transportation Institute now say, based on their study, that texting while driving double’s a driver’s reaction time. In the test, drivers using their phones were 11 times more likely to miss a flashing traffic light than focused drivers.
  4. Texting while driving killed 16,000 in a six-year period: Exactly measuring the number of traffic deaths caused by texting is impossible, but researchers from the University of North Texas Health Science Center have put the number at 16,000 between 2001 and 2007. Their findings were compiled based on information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and were published in the American Journal of Public Health. They estimated that in 2008 alone, 5,870 people died as a result of drivers distracted by texting.
  5. Texters use fewer abbreviations than we thought: Three universities are currently partnering to determine whether it’s true that cell phone communication is really ruining the way we write. The study began in December 2011, and head researcher Christian Guilbault of Simon Fraser University in British Columbia says the research has already revealed some interesting info. It turns out people don’t resort to shorthand as often as we might think. “See you” is used four times as often as “C U,” and of 12 variations of the word “OK,” “okay” is the most common.
  6. Black people send the most text messages: The Nielsen Company looked at monthly cell phone bills of 60,000 users in the U.S. and determined that African-Americans send more texts than Hispanics, whites, and Asian-Americans. The 790 text messages they send per month, on average, is more than twice the amount sent by Asian-Americans, who send an average of 384 per month.
  7. Texting helps HIV sufferers take their meds: A study that recently appeared in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that sending HIV patients weekly text messages to remind them to take medicine and to ask them how they are doing can help them stick to their antiretroviral therapy treatment plans. Researchers at UC-San Francisco’s Global Health Sciences recommend hospitals text patients on the treatment, which has tough side effects, but is also critical to survival.
  8. Texters don’t believe that’s a word: Blame it on autocorrect. A University of Calgary student did a study of texters and word usage, expecting to find that texting encouraged “unrestrained language.” Instead, the results showed people who text more are more likely to reject new words rather than accepting them as possible words. The people who were more open to a range of new words were readers of traditional media like magazines and books.
  9. Texting makes it easier to lie: The Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia recently published the results of their study that paired students playing roles of stockbroker and buyer, with the stockbroker needing to unload a stock that will soon lose 50% of its value. Deals done via texting were 31% more likely to involve lies than those by face-to-face talks. And buyers who were lied to via text proved to be much angrier than buyers lied to in person.
  10. Many people are addicted to texting: Researchers at the University of Maryland studied 200 students after 24 hours of no texting or other media. They found many of them were basically experiencing withdrawal, anxiety, and difficulty functioning. Dr. David Greenfield of the Center for Internet Behavior has compared constant texting and checking email to gambling addiction.
  11. Most people still prefer a phone call: Nearly three-fourths of American adults text. However, while 31% say they prefer to be contacted by text message, fully half of adults still prefer a good old phone call. The findings were the result of a study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, the first such time the group has polled Americans’ on their contact method of choice.
  12. Banning texting while driving is not the answer: At least one group of researchers is making a case against laws banning texting while driving. Researchers at the Swedish National Road and Transport Institute found that driver education is more effective than a ban, partly because people would disobey a law and partly because hands-free devices meant to replace texting as a safer alternative do not actually lower crash figures.
  13. Female teens text the most: Perhaps the only surprising thing here is that it’s older teenage girls, not pre-teen girls, who send the most texts of any group. Girls 14-17 send a median of 100 texts a day. Pew’s Internet and American Life Project also discovered that 87% of all teens in this age group have a cell phone, while only 57% of 12- and 13-year-olds have one.
  14. Texting has spawned its own injury: Texting is convenient, but it could also be a pain in the neck. Dr. Dean Fishman has trademarked the phrase “text neck” to describe an ailment he is seeing conflicting more and more patients. He even started the Text Neck Institute in Florida to treat pain in the neck, back, arms, and shoulders of frequent texters. “Forward head posture” pain, his original diagnosis, did not catch on.
  15. Predictive texting changes children’s brains: Using the built-in dictionary when texting on a cell phone makes children prone to making more mistakes. An epidemiologist from Monash University in Melbourne studied children ages 11-14 who sent 20 texts a week and found that the autocorrect technology makes children more impulsive and less accurate in their learning.

posted by on Online reputation, Online resume

Finding Your Teen’s Passion

Does your teen love writing, film, arts, graphics, creativity?

It’s been a difficult past six months, especially for teenagers. From boredom, to anxiety and even depression, young people are emotionally struggling with this new normal.

Now they are facing the new classroom. Online and distance learning can be challenging, so if you can find something that they are interested in — it can help motivate and inspire them.

You can’t simply take a traditional class and put it online and expect students to just adapt, it’s not happening. But I believe if you can get them interested (excited) in one area, it makes it much easier to excite them in other areas, as well.

The Expert

Bonnie Garvin, with decades of experience as a writer, producer and professor – understands that storytelling is the key to understanding the world we live in–whether it’s understanding how to tell a story, interpret as story or write one.

She has spent thousands of hours teaching thousands of students, from college students to adults, she knows what’s required to attain, hold and sustain attention. Now she is expanding her new classroom to younger students starting at 16 years old.

Bonnie has created a six week, wholly unique course offering a multimedia approach to storytelling that spans the disciplines. It teaches a range of skills applicable to multiple fields of study.

This course is not only FUN and intellectually stimulating it has an added bonus: inspiring and enhancing communication within the family. 

The Storytelling Lab

How it works

Using film, graphic novel, and documentary storytelling, students will learn to translate what they’re watching into a broader life experience. Each class will encompass topics such as theme, metaphor, character development, and interpersonal relationships.

Each story will be examined through a broader lens to include history, culture, art, gender, race, music, etc.  Students will be challenged to form and express their ideas and opinions through writing assignments and verbal weekly “debates.”

The lab will be a cohort model, consisting of only six students. The intimacy enables students to form a cohesive group where everyone can contribute, and no one hides or gets lost. The atmosphere promotes a safe environment to express thoughts and ideas. 

Having been marooned together at the dinner table, the class will have to encourage meaningful table talk. Students will receive a weekly suggested topic relating to the broader issues addressed in the film.

This course is recommended for ages 16 years-old and up.

Attain New Skills

Your teen and young adult will have the opportunity to:

  • Analyze and deconstruct the elements of storytelling
  • Enhance and hone writing skills 
  • Build confidence and ability 
  • Expand and improve verbal communication
  • Learn how to contextualize and express ideas
  • Promote cultural awareness and understanding
  • Open new intellectual pathways 
  • Stimulate imagination and creativity
  • Understand and appreciate film in a broader context

Contact Bonnie at [email protected] for more information and visit STORYTELLING LAB.

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The New Classroom

Credit: Pexels, Julia M. Cameron

Imagine it is fall and your child is smiling away in in her new Zoom classroom, hair a mess, pajama shirt still on. From the corner of your eye, you notice another parent in another child’s square hold up her iPhone, poised to take a picture of the class.

Would you be surprised?



Chances are that your reaction would likely vary based on your own comfort level with sharing pictures of you children with others. While there has been much discussion about tech privacy features in the age of COVID-19, most have focused on “Zoom bombing,” data collection, and what teachers share about kids, not on what other parents share about other kids online.

Any while iPhone pictures of Zoom classrooms are becoming as popular as back to school pictures in front of homes, there is one big difference – many of the parents in your child’s Zoom classroom may not view privacy in the same way that you do.

Laws surrounding children’s privacy in the online classroom focus on common occurrences in a pre-pandemic world. In those instances, administrators were more likely to have taken the time to check for FERPA compliance and to analyze potential risks before setting up the technology in virtual classroom settings.

But in a world where everything from student government to sports are taking place in online settings, perhaps we need to think not only about how the technology itself poses dangers to student privacy, but also to consider whether we should be more concerned with how others in the virtual classroom are able to use information about our children.

I have been researching children’s privacy on social media for the past five years, and my work on sharenting found its genesis in self-reflection. I did not realize I was oversharing until I found myself doing it regularly, and I had to take a step back and try to do better. Even now, as my book Growing Up Shared makes its way into the world, I still rethink, analyze, and talk to other parents to refine how I can best keep my family safe in a no-privacy world. These steps can help parents get started as they start to prepare for our students to return to their online classrooms.

  1. Know the school’s privacy policies. Ask administrators for clear guidance before logging your child onto online platforms. Many have had the summer to think through these issues, and its important that parents insist on school districts “showing their work” when it comes to establishing systems that protect their children’s information online.
  • Talk to other parents. Many parents are slowly considering how online learning could impact our children’s digital footprints. Can schools publicly share your child’s grades? Can they share their class rosters? What about your child’s group art project without asking first? When we think about these questions in the context of brick and mortar classrooms, we can logically reason how they might be answered online. But answers may differ based on local interpretations of norms, policies, and laws.
  • Set Expectations. If the situation mentioned in the first paragraph gives you uncomfortable chills, speak up and share your concerns with teachers before the situation arises. Teachers have so much on their plate right now, and they might appreciate you raising the issue early in the school year, so that when there is a potential concern, it is already on their radar.
  • Talk to Your Kids. For many of us, we will be working on our own laptops as our kids plug away at schoolwork in the other room. Help your kids understand how classroom rules in their traditional school apply in their new online classroom. Many of us are starting to think more about the backgrounds in our own Zoom meetings. Can you see a bed? A personal document? A sibling? Kids may want to take control of their virtual background, and as we plan out our school supplies, we can help them think about their virtual spaces. Parents can also have conversations about appropriate clothing and other hygiene basics to consider for when they virtually “show up” in class.

There are excellent scholars and attorneys already looking at issues surrounding student data collection and privacy, and their work is critical to these conversations. More work is needed in this area, as opportunities for student data exploitation will likely only continue to grow as we continue to move our children’s academic interactions online. As policy makers work to integrate the research into our new COVID realities, parents can start thinking through these issues as well, helping to keep their kids safe in the virtual classrooms they may sit in next month.

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Stacey Steinberg is a legal-skills professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law and the author of the new book, Growing Up Shared.