posted by on Cybersafety, Digital Parenting, Identity theft, Internet Safety, Online Privacy, Online Security, Privacy

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As a parent, you are probably concerned about your tween and teen’s use of social media. While you understand the appeal of sites like Instagram and Snapchat, you want to be sure your children are not sharing too much personal info or posting too many photos.

What makes this concern a tad ironic, is that you might not be worried about how you are representing your kids on social media. But maybe you should be.

What is Sharenting?

Almost every cute kiddo has an online presence by the time she reaches her second birthday. From newborn shots posted by proud parents on Twitter to hilarious videos of a toddler trying to eat chocolate pudding while decked out in a Superman cape that are shared on Facebook, parents are quite willing to introduce their kids to the world via social media. This tendency to share what our kids are saying and doing online is calling “sharenting,” and it definitely comes with a number of risks. For example, check out the following examples:

Identity Theft

Children are at a high risk of identity theft, and sharenting can make them a bigger target. Those beautiful newborn shots posted on Facebook probably included the full name and birth date of your newest bundle of joy; this is enough info for a nefarious nogoodnik to open up an account in your baby’s name and start wreaking havoc. To help counteract this risk, consider purchasing a service that will monitor for and mitigate against identity theft. Pick a reputable and reliable company that offers protection for family members, including those under the age of 18.

Increased Safety Risks

The last thing you want is to put your child’s safety at risk. But if you post first day of school photos along with the full name of your kiddos’ school and their teacher’s name, you may have unwittingly done just that. As the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation at the University of Michigan notes, social media sites like Facebook often add in your location to your posts, so even if you leave off your tween’s school name, the site might do it for you. Also, depending on how you have selected your privacy settings, your photos of your kids and the personal info might be able to be viewed by not only your friends and family but also all of their contacts and total strangers who pull up your page.

A Lack of Trust Between Parent and Child

Remember when you were younger and you blushed with embarrassment every time your mom shared something private about you with a friend, relative or neighbor? You probably didn’t want Aunt Betty to know your latest GPA or the lady down the block to hear about your newest BFF and what movie you just saw. Now, if you are sharing personal stuff about your tweens and teens on social media, even if you have the best intentions, you may be creating a sense of mistrust and disrespect between you and your kiddos. To make matters worse, instead of sharing a cute story with one relative or friend, you may be telling the online world about what your kids are up to, without their permission.

In order to keep your relationships with your kids as open, honest and healthy as possible, ask them what they think about your posts about them on social media. You might find that your teenage son doesn’t care if you post photos of his awesome soccer goal, but your tween daughter was mortified about your seemingly innocuous post about back to school shopping.

Your relationships with your tweens and teens are far more important than any number of “likes” and positive comments from your social media peeps. As a bonus, this approach will also make you a positive role model for your kids; it will help teach them the importance of asking permission to post photos and comments about others, and possibly prevent any privacy or other issues involving posts of their friends.

A Few Final Words of Advice

Even if your daughter said it’s cool to post stuff about her success as a debater or softball player, let caution be your guide. Ask yourself if you are fine with the whole world knowing these tidbits about your tween — because this is pretty much what will happen when you post on social media. Resist the urge to ask for advice about your children and any struggles they may be going through, and use either their first initial or a nickname to identify them.

This is a guest post. We do not represent any services mentioned in this post nor are we compensated in any way. This is strictly for educational purposes.

posted by on Bullying, Cyberbullying, Cybersafety, Girl Bullying

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Unicef1As schools across the country get ready to open their doors, parents and educators prepare to address not only bullying but also today’s digital problem, cyberbullying.

Last year UNICEF released their report Perils and Possibilities: Growing up online, based on an international opinion poll of more than 10,000 18-year-olds from 25 countries, revealed young people’s perspectives on the risks they face growing up in an increasingly connected world.

One of the biggest issues facing youth today is online bullying and harassment. One survey found it to be more concerning than drug abuse.

Most teens know that when they encounter cyberbullies, they should stop, block and tell, (and I always advise them to screen-shot all the evidence before you block them), however the telling is most important.

When I went through my darkest times of being a victim of online shaming and abuse, you feel completely alone, fearful and humiliated. As an adult — I felt this way, so when I hear about youth being verbally tortured online, I know this has to be extremely painful. Without having someone to confide in, it can emotionally kill you.

  • In Central European countries, 63% of interviewees strongly agree they would tell a friend if they felt threatened online, compared to 46% who would tell their parent. Only 9% would tell a teacher.

More than half, (53%) of  the 10,000 that were polled around the world strongly agreed that online dangers exist.

With more than half believing there are online risks and dangers, 90% believe they know how to avoid these problems.

“Despite recognition that dangers
exist online, nearly nine out of 10
adolescents think they have learned
how to protect themselves on
social media and know how to avoid
dangerous situations while using the

Whenever you are being harassed or bullied online, especially if virtual violence or otherwise is involved, being able to tell someone is imperative. With younger people we encourage them to tell their parents, however we know at times this can be difficult. They fear their will lose their online privileges or not be taken seriously. Sometimes they fear they will be consider a tattle-tale.

In this report the majority of adolescents polled said the would turn to a friend, and that’s okay. As long as you tell someone.

  • 54% said they would tell a friend.
  • 48% said they would tell a parent.
  • 19% said they would tell a teacher.

Today sexting is considered the new flirting. So if your teen shares flirty pictures with their boyfriend or girlfriend keep in mind, those images will typically have a life span longer than the relationship. Most important is discussing the consequences of sexting: Sending or receiving a sexually suggestive text or image under the age of 18 is considered child pornography and can result in criminal charges.

Don’t assume your sexy images will be kept private even if your friend makes a promise they will be — once there’s a break-up, all bets are off.

It’s why we see the rise in revenge porn and sextortion.

  • 67% of girls agreed they would be worried if someone made sexual comments to them online.
  • 47% of boys said they had the same concern (a significant difference).

We often read so much about women being targets online when it comes to digital shaming, harassment, revenge porn and more, which is understandable with these statistics. Men can be victims too – but we do hear an overwhelming amount of stories that revolve around the female gender.

Parenting tips:

  • Communication is key.
  • Offline chats are imperative to online safety.
  • Go online with your child, be as interested in their cyber-life as you are in their school life.
  • Remember, short chats are better than no chats at all.
  • It’s not the apps – it’s having the skills and wisdom to know when to click-out when they are uncomfortable.
  • Continue to remind your kids you are there for them – but it’s also okay for them to talk to any trusted adult. If someone is being harassed online, they have to tell someone. Don’t be hurt – but grateful they are sharing it with someone.

“When young people, governments, families, the ICT sector and communities work together, we are more likely to find the best ways to respond to online sexual abuse and exploitation, and send a strong message that confronting and ending violence against children online – indeed anywhere – is all of our business,” said Williams.


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

The full study is here:

posted by on Digital citizenship, Digital Life, Digital Parenting, Online image, Online reputation, Reputation Management

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SocialMediaSignSummer can be a great time for teens to decompress from school and their hectic schedule of running from events and squeezing in your homework and studying for exams.

They will also have more time for social media, which isn’t all bad.  Especially if they are in high school and going to be applying to colleges.  Creating your online image (reputation) is going to determine your future.

Your digital trail started when you received your first keypad, however you truly need to start enhancing it for the college recruiters as well as potential employers.  The fact is, your name will be put through a wash-cycle of a search-engine.

One of the biggest mistake I see teens making is over-sharing and post remorse.

With over-sharing comes managing your privacy settings appropriately.

As we mention in Shame Nation, my upcoming book, it’s time for teens to start considering their LIKE’s. Remember, it’s not about quantity, but rather about quality.

Think of every LIKE as your endorsement of that post, image or comment.

It may be funny at that moment, but how will a potential recruiter or employer feel about it if it floats on top of an Internet search?

Here are some tips to begin your mid-summer social media footprint:

Privacy Settings: I promise to check my privacy settings on all my social networking sites weekly.

Share with Care: I promise not to use social media as a venting machine or a scrapbook. I will use custom privacy settings on photos that are for family only.

Password Security: Never give out your password to anyone except your parent. Don’t use passwords with common names and numbers of your family. Remember to use passwords that are not familiar to your friends (such as your pets names).

Keystrokes matter: Think before you type, pause before you post – it is really that simple. The Internet is the largest tattooing machine in the world – once it is sent, it is nearly impossible to erase.  Kindness counts – if you don’t have anything nice to say, just click off for the day.

Build-A-Blog: Especially teens that need to start building their online reputation, a blog is a great launching pad! It is a platform to showcase their interests, hobbies, sports, awards, selective photos, trips, community service and more. Your digital real-estate begins with you! It’s free with WordPress or Blogger.

With the cyber-world expanding everyday – this list could go on forever.

Don’t allow the summer time over-time get you in keystroke trouble, make it a time to create your platform for the future!

Most important again not to over-share.  Some things are better left between you and your closest friends – not for digital distribution.

Here’s a great reminder from Cyberwise, you are your “Digital Billboard.”

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posted by on Adult Cyberbullying, Cyberbullying

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In a recent PEW Research Survey, Online Harassment, 66% of Americans say they have witnessed some type of harassing behavior directed toward others online, with 39% indicating they have seen others targeted with severe behaviors such as stalking, physical threats, sustained harassment or sexual harassment.

The good news is people are starting to take cover (implement basic precautions to protect themselves) and/or become upstanders.

Just over a quarter of Americans, 28% of Americans say that observing the harassment of others has influenced them to set up or adjust their own privacy settings.

More than a quarter of Americans have chosen to not post something online after seeing harassment of others

Harassment has also caused 27% of Americans to stop sharing or commenting on posts after witnessing abuse on the platform, while 13% have decided to stop using a social media network all together due to the severity of harassment.

It also can impact adults mental health, while 8% say that even reading the cruelty online, although it isn’t targeted at them, makes them very anxious.

Becoming an upstander.

We frequently hear the word upstander as it pertains to kids with bullying and cyberbullying, but now grown-ups are understanding the importance of stepping-in online.

Three-in-ten Americans (30%) say they have intervened in some way after witnessing abusive behavior directed toward others online.

This latest survey by PEW Research confirms that no one is immune to digital harassment – at any age. This is a reflection of the decline of civility online yet also tells us that people are trying to climb out of it.  We can do this – 75% of Americans believe it starts with us. Today there are also many resources for adults to turn to for help.

Check out my forthcoming book, Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate (Sourcebooks) releasing on October 3rd, during National [Cyber]Bullying Prevention Month. From surviving, prevention and overcoming digital disasters, you will hear inspiring stories from people that came through dark places and top experts from around the globe. Pre-order today.

posted by on Cyberbullying, Cybersafety, Digital Parenting

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Keeping teens and tweens safe online continues to be a growing issue that concerns parents everywhere. Statistics indicate that 20% of youths receive hateful or harassing messages via the internet. This is not what a parent likes to hear.

As a parent, you want to protect your children from dangers both in real life and online. Learning how to keep your kids safe online is a new form of parenting that is integral to this generation. Children as young as two are already using electronic devices for entertainment purposes and will graduate to social media in what feels like no time.  For these reasons, it’s important to educate both yourself and your child about online safety, cyberbullying, digital reputation, and potential predators.

What is digital parenting and is there any way to truly keep your kids safe online?

What is Digital Parenting?

Digital parenting means that as a parent, you are going to become informed and involved with your child’s online social life, and to educate yourself on how to keep your children protected. To tweens and teens, Digital Parenting may seem invasive. But its actual use is to help your children understand how to be safe online and prevent negative experiences with internet use.

Here is what you can do to become a better digital parent and educate your children about potential risks and acceptable online behavior.

Learn about the risks of using the internet

The internet is a great place for children to learn and connect with peers and can be an asset for doing homework, having fun, and strengthening cognitive thinking. However, your job as parental protector becomes much more difficult the moment your child steps onto the virtual streets of the internet.

Even the most careful child can easily get into trouble online. On the internet your child can be at the risk of sexual predators, doxing (hacking for personal information with malicious intent), viewing pornography and violent materials, being cyberbullied, and connecting with strangers online.

Get involved

Nobody wants to be a helicopter parent, but when it comes to your tweens, it’s important to have access to their social media accounts. You must  get to know about the different social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and Tumblr, as well as potentially dangerous or inappropriate platforms for your child to be on such as Kik, Tinder, and Reddit. Get familiar with these forms of social media so you can better understand your child’s digital life.

Check Internet History and use Internet Tools

Another part of being involved means checking the internet history and setting protective passwords.

You can download an add-on to your internet browser that is password protected. This add-on will allow you to block access to particular websites and keywords. This is great for blocking pornography. Just make sure you do it across all browsers you have, as well as on your child’s phone. Otherwise, they will be able to get around this add-on.

Another great tool to use online is called SpectorSoft, this program will take snapshots of your computer screen and then play the file like a video. This will let you know exactly what goes on when your child uses the internet. 

Set Rules

To ensure your child has less opportunity to get into trouble online, set ground rules that must be obeyed. This may include not being on the Internet via computer or phone past a certain time of night, or on certain days. Have your computer in the main living space of your home that faces outward so nothing can be hidden.

Setting rules ensures there is no confusion about what is and isn’t acceptable when using the internet. 

Explain the Importance of Privacy

There are some things your child is going to know are wrong after hearing your ground rules such as watching pornography or talking to an adult online. But, reiterate to them the importance of online privacy. Do not have your young child put their personal information such as last name, school, age, address, phone number, e-mail, or photos of themselves on the Internet. If your child does post photos on an account such as Instagram, have the account made private so that only people they know in real life can access their information. 


Your child may be a victim of cyberbullying; an epidemic that is only growing as the years go on. This commonly involves someone, or a group of people, harassing and bullying a child via social media.  Opposite of this, your child could be on the opposite end of the spectrum. They could be the bully. Keeping an eye on their social accounts will help you monitor potentially hurtful situations.

Talk openly about cyberbullying and underline the important of your child coming to you if they are bullying or being bullied, and also if they see someone else being bullied. 


Sexting is extremely dangerous for children, whether they are texting an adult or a child in their class.

This can have devastating effects on their social lives and mental state. Explain, in age-appropriate terms, what sexting is and why they should not indulge in this behavior. 

Online reputation

Your child’s online reputation is important. What goes on the internet stays there forever. Even if they are young now, sending sexual photos or catfishing another person can stay with your child well into adulthood. Talk about your child’s online reputation and how important it is to protect it. 

Keep the flow of Communication Open

The best way to ensure your child stays safe online is to keep the flow of communication open. Express how vital it is that your child come to you whenever they feel uncomfortable online. Don’t jump down their throat when they tell you something that you don’t approve of. Instead, listen patiently, express logical reasons why the behavior or action concerns you, and talk respectfully. This will make your child feel more comfortable about coming to you in the future.

Author Bio: Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for, a reliable resource to support healthy, happy marriages. Follow her on FacebookTwitterStumbleUpon, Google+ and Pinterest.


posted by on Cyber Safety, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Cybersafety

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The facts about cyberbullying are sobering. More than 40 percent of kids say they have been bullied online, 87 percent have witnessed cyberbullying and yet only one in ten victims will report the abuse to an adult. Kids who are bullied are at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and in extreme cases, suicide. Furthermore, kids spend the majority of their internet time on smartphones, making it the likeliest place for cyberbullying to take place. These statistics are enough to give any parent pause about arming their child with a smartphone and sending them out into the scary online world alone. Keeping kids offline altogether and forever denying them a phone of their own is near impossible and, in most cases, undesirable. Instead of shielding children from smartphone and Internet use in an effort to prevent online abuse, use their phone as a tool to protect them. Here are three ways to use your kid’s smartphone to guard against cyberbullying:

1. Set Limits

The first piece of advice doesn’t require any technical know-how from you. A smartphone opens your child up to the internet and all the awesome and awful things that includes. And as you would with anything else potentially harmful or addictive, you need to educate and set limits for your kids. In addition to talks about topics like internet permanency, privacy and dangerous adults, talk to your kids about cyberbullying from friends and acquaintances, letting them know about trusted adults they can talk to about being bullied, what to do if they witness bullying and about acceptable and unacceptable behavior online. Consider limits on time and usage, like who your child can call, what times of day and where she can use the phone, what apps and websites are acceptable and what are the consequences for breaking the rules. Limits will help your kid from being consumed by their newfound freedom and let you keep a better watch over their internet use.

2. Privacy Settings

Most smartphones have privacy settings and child safety controls that will let you decide if you want to turn off features like texting or downloading apps, or restrict the websites they can visit. For example, using iOS on the iPhone 7, you can turn on parental controls through the Restrictions folder in Settings. Under Restrictions, you can turn off access to the social aspects of the Game Center or prevent apps from accessing your child’s current location. In the Messages app, you can filter iMessages from people who aren’t saved in your child’s Contacts. If your child is receiving harassing texts or calls, you can also block phone numbers or contacts in the Phone app.

Likewise, any social networking app should be at the highest privacy setting so that strangers are not able to view your child’s page or profile. Ensure that you have access to your kid’s social media pages by friending or following them, even requiring them to turn over their passwords, and let your kid know that you will be monitoring the accounts regularly. Knowing a parent has access will curb bullying behavior by your kid and let you watch out for it from others. Also, be aware that many kids have “finsta” accounts (fake Instagram), that they keep hidden from their parents.

3. Download Anti-bullying Apps

The last way to use your kid’s smartphone to protect against cyberbullies is to download anti-bullying apps that can educate your kids on what to do if they or someone they know is bullied, help you monitor their online behavior and make it easy to report bullying to a trusted adult.

a) KnowBullying – The KnowBullying app was created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and released in 2014. This app is an education tool that will open the discussion between parents and kids and give tips on how to deal with cyberbullying.

b) STOPit or Bully Block – Check with your child’s school to see if they participate in Stopit, which is an app that allows students to anonymously take screenshots of cyberbullying and send them to the administrative team. Similarly, Bully Block lets the user record and report bullies.

c) Monitoring Apps – There are multiple apps that allow parents to monitor internet activity. Go Go Stat monitors Facebook, while Safety Web tracks texts and instant messages as well as Facebook and Twitter. Other more comprehensive monitoring apps include Social Shield, Mobicip and Net Nanny.

posted by on Cybersafety, Internet Privacy, Online Privacy, Online Safety, Online Security

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Identity theft is at an all-time high. More than 15 million consumers fell victim to some kind of identity theft in 2016, according to Javelin  Strategy & Research. This is up from about 13 million in the prior year.

As technology evolves with new ways to keep thieves out of our wallets, hackers find new ways to steal credit cards and other sensitive information.

You may think it can’t happen to you. You’d be wrong. No one is immune to identity theft, but armed with current information and a bit of caution, you can outwit even the smartest thieves.

Dangers of identity theft

Identity theft occurs when someone uses credit cards or personal information as if they were you. Essentially, they are trying to get you (or someone else) to foot the bill for whatever they purchase. They may also use your information for non-monetary things that can show up on your credit report, like employment.

Identity theft can ruin your chances of getting new credit, cause you to pay higher rates and affect your job hunt. To avoid such major headaches, here’s what you need to know about identity theft and how it can be prevented.

  1. Thieves don’t need your credit card number

You’d be surprised at how far a thief can go with just one or two pieces of information. Let’s say they know your email and the answer to one of your security questions. That may be enough for them to gain access to one of your accounts. Once they are in one, the criminal may learn more information that can help them access more accounts.

  1. You may be able to protect yourself by finding small charges

Have you ever noticed an unauthorized charge for a small amount of money? It may be one penny or one dollar. Thieves use these small amounts to test whether a card is still active, so you may notice a small charge before a larger one. If you do, contact your bank immediately.

  1. ATMs and store card readers aren’t immune to tampering

It’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security when you see the familiar bank logo, but if something looks off, trust your gut. Thieves can tamper with ATMs and store card readers too. Look for loose keypads and card slots. And be wary of strangers loitering nearby. They may be attempting to read your pin.

  1. You’re more susceptible to identity theft on vacation

There are a few reasons why thieves prey on tourists. Tourists are prime targets because they are in an unfamiliar place and more likely to be disoriented. People are also more relaxed on vacation, which means they are likely to let their guard down. Enjoy your vacation, but stay alert, especially in public places.

  1. It is extremely difficult to recover from identity theft

It’s much easier to prevent identity theft than to clean up your credit report after fraud. Follow steps and use your best common sense skills to keep your information safe, so you don’t have to spend time and effort trying to prove that your identity was stolen.

Tips for preventing identity theft

If you don’t have time to review your credit card and bank statements or daily activity, you can hire a company to do this and alert you of any suspicious activity. There are many companies that offer this service and a simple Google search will turn up various options.

If you’re monitoring activity on your own, look into what your credit cards offer. You may be able to setup phone notifications or email alerts every time you make a purchase. This may seem overwhelming, but it offers a way to review purchases as they happen. If something seems off, you can contact your bank immediately.

Shred any documents with sensitive information. Even if it is a only a generic invitation to apply for credit, shred the document. It’s better to be safe.

Avoid accessing financial information, such as logging in to your bank or credit account, while on public wifi. Also, avoid making payments with your credit card when on public wifi. If you don’t want your neighbor to have the information you’re sharing online, don’t share it.

To be safe, don’t store credit card information in your browser or on any website for future use. The fewer places your card information exists, the more protected you are.

What to do if your identity is stolen

First, review the charge to determine whether it was one you made. Sometimes, the company name listed on your bill is different than the company name you purchased from. It may also be a subscription you didn’t remember starting. If you have any doubt, call the company listed on your statement. If the charge is clearly unauthorized, call your bank and ask to speak with someone in the fraud department. They will walk you through the next steps.

Next, order a copy of your credit report and review it for suspicious activity. If you notice anything, be sure to report it as fraud to the bank or lending institution. You may also report any unauthorized items to the credit bureaus as fraud, but beware that the act of doing so may prevent you from opening any new accounts for a period of about six months. This will help prevent thieves from opening any new accounts in your name.

Note: There are three credit bureaus (Transunion, Equifax and Experian). You must report the same item to each bureau separately.

Contributor: Trevor McDonald

posted by on AT&T, Cell Phone, Cell phone safety

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May is National Teen Safe Driving Month

Prom season is here, and that means many teens will be driving on that special night. And of course, most will have a smartphone in hand to capture the memories. But AT&T wants to remind young drivers during this, National Teen Safe Driving Month, to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phones while driving.

According to AT&T research, many drivers today are snapping selfies, posting to social media, instagramming, even video chatting, all while behind the wheel.

To help keep those prom memories happy ones, AT&T is offering these tips:

  • Take the pledge to NEVER drive distracted at, and get your friends to do the same. AT&T research shows pledging matters and makes a difference. According to the findings of a 2016 survey, almost half of people who pledged said they now don’t use their smartphones while driving. Those who share their promise or pledge with others are even more likely to stop, and more likely to speak up to others.
  • Use #TagYourHalf on social media to pressure your friends to never drive distracted. New AT&T research shows 57% of drivers would stop using their phones behind the wheel if pressured by a friend. The #TagYourHalf social media campaign encourages you to tag your better half, your BFF – the one person you can’t live without – encouraging them to stop driving distracted. Also, a teen survey conducted by AT&T also revealed 90% of teens say they would stop texting while driving if a friend in the car asked them to.
  • Download a free app, like DriveMode, to help curb the urge to text and drive. AT&T DriveMode is available to customers of all wireless carriers for iPhone and Android users. It can silence incoming alerts and phone calls so you stay focused while driving. Its auto mode feature automatically turns on the app when you reach 15 MPH and turns it off after you stop. The app can automatically respond to texts on your behalf letting the person know you’re behind the wheel and will get back with them when you reach your destination.

AT&T started the It Can Wait campaign against distracted driving in 2010. Since then, people have made more than 15 million pledges to not drive distracted. The campaign has also resulted in 13 million downloads of the AT&T DriveMode app.

posted by on Cybersafety, Digital Life, Digital Parenting, Internet Safety

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By the time children reach the teenage years, tech is entrenched in day-to-day activities, from school work to socializing. Teens are eager to explore the digital universe, which presents many dangers alongside its advantages. That puts parents in a tricky situation as they seek ways to protect their teens from the dangers lurking online without cutting them off from the digital world entirely.

Balance: The Right Approach to Teens and Tech

“Parents often struggle with the many questions surrounding this issue,” explains Angela Stringfellow, Managing Editor at Family Living Today. “Should your teenagers have their own smartphones? Should you permit them to join popular social networks and download the hottest messaging apps? And to what degree should you monitor your teen’s online activities, demonstrating that you trust them yet being diligent enough to identify and mitigate potential risky behaviors? There are so many what-ifs that parents often just don’t know where to begin.”

So what’s the best approach for parents who want to ensure their teen’s safety in the digital world, yet aren’t sure how to monitor and manage their teen’s online activity without watching their every move? “Like so many aspects of parenting, the technology issue is about balance,” Stringfellow suggests.

If your teen is venturing into the digital world, here are a few ways to encourage safe online behavior and ensure that your teen stays safe in the online world without going overboard and sacrificing trust.

  • Talk to Your Teen About Safe Online Behavior: Teens first navigating the social media landscape may not realize that habits that seem ordinary could actually be exposing them to risks. Make sure your teen knows the safety risks of putting personal information online publicly – such as their phone number, home address, the name of their school, and personal photos. Agree to some guidelines together so that your teen feels like she’s participating in laying the groundwork. For instance, you and your teen might agree that she won’t accept friend requests from people she doesn’t know personally, at least without running it by you first. It’s also a good idea for teens to keep their profiles private, meaning that only people they’re connected with can see the information they share.
  • Monitor, But Don’t Helicopter: Monitoring is a fair solution, but just how much monitoring you should do depends on factors such as your teen’s age, maturity, past behaviors, and any history of questionable encounters online. “This doesn’t mean that you have to have to approve every post your teen publishes. And you don’t have to sit with your teen as she or he use the Internet,” says Peggy McKibbin, a school nurse, in an article for the Family Online Safety Institute. “Just check-in every once in a while to see what sites your teen is visiting and how much time he or she is spending online.”
  • Watch Out for Troubling Apps: Knowing what apps your teen has installed on her smartphone or tablet is a fair approach that gives parents an idea of how their kids are spending time online. The tricky part is that there are thousands of apps, and the must-have app of the moment can change from day to day. What’s more, some apps are disguised as something they’re not, designed to fool parents into thinking that a calculator is a calculator, when in fact it’s a secret photo messaging app. Stay on top of the most popular apps for teens and the associated risks with sites like Common Sense Media, which rates the safety of apps for different age levels and analyzes any risks that they present.
  • Keep Open Lines of Communication: Parents are in the best position to proactively address many of the challenges of parenting teens (digital media, peer pressure and bullying, sex, drugs, and the like) when they have open lines of communication with their kids. When your teen feels like she can talk to you about anything, she’s more likely to come to you for guidance when she encounters situations she’s uncomfortable with online.
  • Consider Tech Tools Designed for Parents: There are a variety of apps and services that help parents more efficiently monitor their kids’ online behaviors, such as TeenSafe, an online service that enables parents to monitor their teens’ texts, social media, phone calls, and phone location. This is the juncture at which many parents struggle. Your teenager may resist the idea of you having total visibility into all their communications, but for some parents, this is the right choice. Also, remember that you don’t have to view every chat message and conversation, but having the ability to do so when needed can provide peace of mind.

Don’t Focus so Much on the Negatives That You Lose Sight of the Positives

While it’s important to take precautions and remain vigilant, parents also shouldn’t ignore the creative and educational possibilities that exist in the digital world. “While we want our teens to be safe online, we also want them to feel empowered by the possibilities and resources the Internet offers,” says Kerry Gallagher, Director of K-12 Education for “There are opportunities for creativity. My teacher friends with kids from age 11 up through high school age have told me they create their own YouTube channels with original, upbeat video podcasts like Kid President or how-to videos like Club Academia.”

Gallagher points out that kids who engage in these types of online activities engage in skills such as brainstorming, drafting, and storyboarding, and parents who have safety concerns have options, such as setting videos to private.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for keeping teens safe in the digital world, but parents who follow these best practices can gain some peace of mind in knowing that they’ve laid a solid foundation – allowing their teens to explore the valuable opportunities for education and enrichment the online world has to offer, while setting the stage for a safe online experience.

Contributor: Cynthia Lopez

posted by on Bullying, Bullying prevention, Cyberbullying

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Sometimes it can be very difficult to know for sure if a loved one is being bullied or abused. Often the victim will not share their true feelings out of fear. They may be afraid that no one will believe them or that their abuser will punish them. For children, they may think how they are being treated is normal, so it is important to talk with kids about bullying and what to do if someone is treating them poorly.

Bullying is a major problem in the United States, leading many teens into depression, self-harm, addiction, eating disorders, or even suicide. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among young people. According to, 14% of high schoolers have considered suicide. This is why it is so imperative to recognize if a loved one is being bullied and have constant communication with them.

Some of the warning signs are more subtle, while others can be more obvious. Of every successful teen suicide there were at least 100 attempts. Talking about suicidal thoughts should not be taken lightly or looked at as “attention seeking”. Suicidal ideation or suggestions should be treated medically. If a teen says they can’t handle life anymore, or constantly talk about death, this could be a big red flag for bullying.

Some other warning signs of bullying include:

Personality changes

Victims of domestic violence or bullying often display a noticeable personality change. They begin to isolate from friends and family and display more sadness. They may become very tired and unmotivated. Often bullying victims will begin to lose interest in favorite activities and start to miss work or school. These should all be clear signs that something is wrong.

Low self-esteem

Bullying victims will often begin to have very low self-esteem and self-worth. They may suggest they “aren’t worth people’s time”, or “don’t want to be a hassle”. They are afraid to let people give them time or go out of their way to help them. They may insist they aren’t smart enough for school or work. Sometimes teens will become sexual promiscuous in an attempt to gain self-worth. 

Substance abuse

Bullying and addiction have a very significant correlation. Often victims will become depressed and look for external stimuli to give them comfort. Drugs or alcohol can give victims a false happiness or confidence that quickly becomes addictive. Substances can offer a “safe place” for someone who is constantly living in fear and depression. Here are some signs of addiction.


Bullying victims, especially teens, often engage in reckless behavior or self-harm. Cutting is more popular among youth, and can often be found on wrists or thighs. This behavior becomes addicting for victims because it gives them a sense of control and can help “relieve” emotional pain, replacing it with physical pain. Eating disorders are also common among teen girls, like bulimia or anorexia. Rapid weight loss or refusal to eat meals should be a major concern, especially if the person is displaying other signs of bullying or domestic violence.

Here are some ways to help again bullying.

  • Always take someone seriously if they threaten suicide or show signs of suicidal thoughts. Pep talks are not appropriate, but rather medical help from psychiatrists and psychologists.
  • Talk to children about bullying and insist that they can always come to you for help if someone is abusing them or being mean to them.
  • Monitor a teen’s social media outlets. Unlike bullying of the past, a lot of bullying takes place online. Many suicides have been attributed to cyber bullying.
  • If a child complains about bullying, take it very seriously. Talk to school authorities and look for solutions to solve the problem. If school authorities offer little help, take it up with police of attorneys. Many states are putting laws in place to stop bullying, whether it be inside or outside of school.
  • For domestic violence, offer a domestic violence help line. If you know for a fact a person is a victim of domestic violence, contact local authorities.
  • If you suspect a child is a victim of child abuse at home, contact Child Protective Services in your state.

Contributor: Trevor McDonald