posted by on Cybersafety, Depression, Digital citizenship, Facebook, Facebook addiction, Internet Safety, Social media, Social Networking

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SocialMediaGameToday almost everyone, not only teenagers, are connected to social media.

A Pew Research Center study found that 92 percent of U.S. teenagers use social networks at least once a day, with 24 percent reporting that they are online “almost constantly.”

Adults love their social media too.  According to PEW Research Center study, 74 percent of adults online use social media with Facebook leading by 71 percent.

What is all this social media doing to our health?

Depending on your personality everyone handles their cyber-stress differently. Don’t kid yourself, there is cyber-stress especially when teens start depending on LIKEs for their self-image (esteem) and adults start comparing their lives to their friends lives (or what they are posting online).

Let’s keep in mind this is social media.  There will always be those humble-braggers.  Yes, people that believe they need to one-up others digitally or lead others to believe that their life is more than it actually is.  It’s frustrating since those photo’s can be deceiving, and it makes you reflect on your own life — wondering where you missed the boat.  Chances are you didn’t, they are only a perception through what they want you to believe.

It can be more of a struggle for teens.  They aren’t mature enough to understand that it’s only social media and it’s not the end of the world.

The number of LIKEs today won’t determine their future.  

Limiting social media use can cause FOMO (fear of missing out), however it is important to find the healthy balance and talking with them about their self-worth outside of the cyber-world.

A new study published earlier this month, Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, found that teens using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more than two hours per day are more likely to report suicidal thoughts, psychological distress and rate their mental health as poor.

This study also found that teenagers using social media for excessive periods were more likely to say their mental health needs were going unmet and called for public health organizations to do more to engage with young people via such platforms.

The study acknowledged that social media can be a way to combat loneliness and depression, as well as increase self-esteem and social support, like I have witnessed with social media therapy. Chances are this is with more mature teens or people with a better understanding of how we need to use social media.

There was a second recent study, How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms, found that people feel depressed after excessive use of Facebook because they tend to make negative social comparisons with friends who crop up in their timelines.  Again, you need to remember, things are not always what they seem.

There is nothing wrong with social media, it is all about finding the healthy balance and learning that there is fact and fiction.  Just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s true.

Offline parenting is what helps your child/teenager with their online health and wellness. It’s not about one chat, it’s your daily discussions.  Check-in with them about how they are feeling about different posts, or if they are struggling with cyber-stress or anxiety.  Keep a pulse on their cyber-health offline.

posted by on Cell Phone, Cell phone safety

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people-on-cell-phonesWhat’s your ringtone?  Maybe you have your phone set to silent but you have your notifications popping up so you can see them from the corner of your eye.

Distractions.  Many people today live connected to their device (and I am speaking about all ages) not only the youth.

Whether you are having a meal with a friend or sometimes even talking on your phone – you receive a notification of any kind and you are suddenly distracted from your friend, and now focusing on that “bubble alert.”

Is it a text, an email, a voicemail, an email? Have you been waiting all day for it — or is it spam?

Until you find out, you will — for a second that will drive into minutes, most likely suffer from anxiety of needing to know.

Florida State University released a study recently that said:

Just receiving a notification on your cell phone can cause enough of a distraction to impair your ability to focus on a given task. The distraction is comparable to the effects seen when actually using a cell phone to make calls or send text messages.

Now we are speaking about cell phone distractions generally.  In reality these distractions are there for a reason, we need to have our alerts to know when we have a call, email, text or otherwise.

However when you are engaged with another person or especially (and this is critical) when you are driving, distractions should be limited if at all.  (Ahem, another words – turn-it-off or to silent when you are driving).  The fact is it is very easy to be distracted by the bubbles and the flashing lights – never mind the beeps, ding dongs and trendy songs.

Digital distractions can be not only rude to people you are with, they can be potential dangerous.

Recently AT&T released their latest campaign for #ItCanWait.  Picture your life. Picture how quickly it can change.  

Take 3-minutes to watch this video and share it with ones you love. It’s not only about texting and driving.  It’s about your digital distractions.  Remember – #ItCanWait.

Thanks to AT&T for sharing this important message.

posted by on Civility, Digital citizenship, Facebook, Social media, Social Networking

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My colleague and good friend Chris Duque has a phrase I love, #TechnologyDoneRight.  He refers to  it when we see the kindness and good things that social media and tech has done for many people and kids.

Recently I wrote about how teens reached out with their digital wisdom in helping others.  Then we have the organization #iCanHelp Delete Negativity on Social Media which is constantly lifting people up online with simple words of kindness.

There isn’t a shortage of good people in our cyber-world, but we know it can get tainted when they are interrupted by Internet trolls and cyberbullies.

On July 8th, 2015 my day went dark.  I lost my best friend.  The old cliché, dogs are a man’s best friend, is absolutely true.  Anyone with a pet will most likely concur.

TybeeBeach55Tybee, my golden retriever of 13 years, left this earth last Wednesday.  It was one of the saddest days I have faced in a long time.

Every time I saw someone post on Facebook about a loss of a pet or a person, I would always send my condolences. My thought is,  it only takes five-seconds to let someone know you are thinking of them in their time of grief.

But it wasn’t until I had to actually post my own status update that I realized just how important that note of sympathy is.

Facebook has a way of making you feel like a rock-star on your birthday and when you face difficult times, it can the best form of therapy by lifting you up through cyber-friendships of genuine heartfelt messages.

The fact is many of us have virtual friends on Facebook we have never meet, and probably never will meet (unless you are Tanja Hollander) however feel we probably know better than most of our blood relatives.

Facebook notifies us on a daily basis when everyone’s birthday is.  We drop them a quick note…. “Happy Birthday… Have a fabulous day!”  They LIKE the comment and sometimes even respond back with a big THANK YOU!

Let me share with you how important a caring comment on a status update is when you lose a pet (or I would imagine a person).

I was simply overwhelmed with the out pour of support, cyber-hugs, hearts, love, prayers, several copies of the Rainbow Bridge poem, private messages of beautiful notes, people shared with me how they looked forward to pictures and videos I would post of  Tybee’s beach days (which I had no idea what an impact he had made on so many digital lives) and more….. I have been sent cards, flowers and one person is even making me a memory box….. These are Facebook friends….. THANK YOU — everyone… It is #TechnologyDoneRight.


Tybee and my son on one of his final day’s.

The beach was Tybee’s favorite spot and never without a tennis ball.

posted by on Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Digital citizenship, Digital Life, Internet Safety, Online bullying

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CyberbullyingLookLikeAs cyberbullying continues to be a major issue for many people of all ages in the United States, New Zealand’s government has passed a law designed to protect children from cyberbullying.

The Harmful Digital Communications law is only meant for the most serious cases.

Children under 14 can’t be charged with cyberbullying, while children between 14 and 16 will go into the youth justice system. In addition, the bill creates a separate crime of incitement to suicide, which will see a person jailed for up to three years if they are found to be encouraging such an act.

Under the new law, authorities can fine or imprison people up to two years who post “harmful digital communication.”

It reads in part:


Isn’t it sad that we have to instruct people to be kind to each other?

However that is exactly how the Internet has become, especially social media, people are using their keyboard as a lethal weapon – and sadly this is what it has come to.

People will use their keystrokes without realizing there is a living, breathing human on the other-side of the screen.  The emotional scars can live for years – while they feel like dying inside.

It brings us to the bystanders.

According to a new study published in the National Communication Association’s Communication Monographs, researchers examined bystander intervention in cyberbullying and found promising results that explain why many witnesses or bystanders choose not to intervene in defense of a victim.

It seems people don’t want to get involved.  If you watched Dateline’s special “My Kid Would Never Do That” when it featured the cyberbullying  and bullying segment, parents were quickly made aware that when kids are confronted with people they didn’t know that were being cruel (bullies), it was more difficult to be an upstander.

This is where it is about role playing with your kids, rather than just talking with your kids about awareness and prevention.

Being an upstander is important.  You never know when you will need someone to be there for you.

Upstanders2How to be an upstander:

  1. Learn more about mean, cruel, and bullying behavior.
  2. Help others who are being bullied.
  3. Stop untrue or harmful messages from spreading online or in person.
  4. Get friends involved.
  5. Make friends outside of your circle.

Visit for more valuable information.

posted by on Bullying, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Digital citizenship, Internet Safety, Online bullying, Online education, Online Safety, Parenting, Parenting Blogs

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InternetSafetySeniorsIt’s the last day of Internet Safety Month. On the first day I asked, what was your priority?

Of course, just because June is over doesn’t mean we stop thinking about online safety.  This is a topic that should be in our daily conversations.  It should be as common as how a was your day?  Any new apps today?  Cool videos you want to share with me?  Many something funny you saw online?  Oh – and let me share one with you!  Yes – parents can share too – and open that dialogue to help your teen know you are interested and interesting!

So, what did I learn?  I am always learning from so many great experts, advocates and great people I respect.

It opened with Intel Security’s research they released in June,  The Realities of Cyber Parenting: What Pre-teens and Teens Are Up To Online.

What it revealed was parents need to get cyber-smart! Why?

  • 79% of the youth surveyed said they learn online safety from their parents.

The study also uncovered that:

  • 35% of them said they’ve been a cyberbully.
  • 27% of them said they have met, or would meet, a person in real life who they initially met online.
  • 29% know each others passwords. (Which is 29% too many)

These are all disturbing statistics that require more conversations between parents and kids.  What experts are also discovering, it’s not about about the conversation as much as it is about role playing.  Give your child an actual example of what could happen or how it can feel.  Remember parents, this doesn’t happen in one conversation – this topic is ongoing.  Common Sense Media and Family Dinner Project has some great conversation starters for you.

So what have you learned this month?  It’s time you get more involved in digital citizenship and online safety.

It brings me to the next learning session of Internet Safety Month.  The educational Tweet Chat that was presented by Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) and Intel Security Family about CyberParenting.

It was a high-speed, informative Twitter feed of tremendous tips, resources, and outstanding conversation about Internet Safety, digital wisdom and all-around kindness online.

We hear so much about the dark-web, cruel trolls, cyberbullies – and just mean people – but in reality, there are many people out there like these teams of advocates and experts that are fighting to keep cyberspace a safer place for everyone – not only our youth.

I wrapped up my Internet Safety Month by getting to know an organization better that is making a difference in thousands of schools across the country.  They have been on my radar – and I have, unfortunately, never had the time to speak with them, until this month.

gaggleGaggle has been around for over a decade, but what I was so impressed with was their Safety Management System.

They have recorded over 10 million items from students that were in potentially risky situations.

If you haven’t visited Gaggle or your school doesn’t implement Gaggle, you may want to get to know them better too soon!

Take a moment to listen to these real students – real stories from Gaggle. It’s a great way to better understand Internet Safety matters – all year round.

posted by on Parenting, Parenting Teens, Parenting tips

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TeenSibsBy Christy Crandell

The great thing about having a sibling, whether older or younger, is always having someone to talk to, play sports with and learn from. Younger siblings have someone to look up to as a role model, while older siblings have the opportunity to pass down knowledge from their experiences to their younger brothers and sisters.

However, it’s also important for parents to be aware of some of the potentially not-so-positive influences that siblings can have on each other. For example, an older sibling’s actions and experiences may set a standard for younger siblings. While this is somewhat common, parents should try not to let one child dictate expectations for their other children – especially during adolescence.

Here are a few things to remember as a parent of more than one child:

  • Encourage activities that make sense for each child: Just because your older son enjoyed being in band or orchestra during high school doesn’t mean your younger daughter will enjoy it as well. This isn’t to say that she won’t like it; rather, it’s important to allow each of your kids to be themselves instead of trying to shape them to be exactly like their older or younger sibling.
  • Communication is key: If your son or daughter went through a positive or negative experience in which they learned an important lesson, make it a learning opportunity for all of your kids. Sit down and share this lesson over dinner or in the car when everyone is together. You never know if another one of your kids may come across a similar situation in the future, and this way, everybody can be better prepared to handle obstacles that may arise.
  • Family time and friend time: It’s only natural for siblings to want to hang out with their separate friend groups. As your children grow older, make sure there is a balance of both friend time and family time. Suggest that your children go see a movie, grab some frozen yogurt or go on a hike together. Even though these are simple activities, they can help your kids maintain a strong sibling relationship.

In a nutshell, as a parent you should aim to encourage healthy and loving relationships between your children while simultaneously acknowledging each child’s unique differences and needs.

StopMedAbuse1Christy is a mother of two, an author and a contributor to The Five Moms blog on Christy is also a drug awareness advocate, passionately working to educate other parents about risky teen behaviors such as over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine abuse. Join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.


posted by on Digital citizenship, Digital Life, Digital Parenting, Internet Privacy, Internet Safety

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PauseIf we haven’t heard it once, we have heard it a hundred times;

Think before you post.

Pause before you send.

Both statements are absolutely true.  It’s my opinion that when we are thinking we are usually still typing and clicking since the average person is double or triple tasking.

Tell me I’m wrong?

With pause, we usually will actually stop.  Review what we have typed and then decide to send or publish.

think-before-you-postYes, PAUSING before sending is probably safer than thinking – but we shouldn’t give-up on thinking too.

Let’s face it, most of us have sent an email to a wrong recipient and hit the panic button in our heads – when we realized it went to the wrong “Sue” in our address book.  When it happens – you swear – from that day forward you will be checking and double checking that email bar….

But several months go by and you are slacking again.  Don’t — this is something that we must be diligent about 365 days a year.

Or if a spell check doesn’t pick up a word that has two meanings and one of them definitely doesn’t belong in your email to a business associate.  Yes, it happens.  Learn to use PAUSE as well as thinking – it could save you many potential embarrassing moments.

Recently I contributed an article for Connect Safely for Internet Safety Month.  “Are You A Parent or Sharent?” which I shared with them my acronym of P.A.U.S.E.

P – Picture yourself in that photo, not your child. Is this something that can be embarrassing or humiliating at a later date or does it reveal too much information? If so, it is likely your child wouldn’t want that picture published.

A – Ask permission of those who are in the photo before posting it. Be respectful when posting pictures of others, including friends of your children.

U – Understand there is no rewind or delete key once it is posted. The Internet can be unforgiving.

S – Share other people’s photos, especially your own child, with respect. Never assume they have given you permission unless they have.

E – Exercise digital citizenship: Use your privacy settings (checking them frequently), never post to shame others, be kind online as you would offline, and if you are having a bad day – click off.

Implement your PAUSE key today!

posted by on Digital citizenship, Digital Life, Parenting, Parenting Blogs, Parenting Teens, Parenting tips

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Rolemodels2It might be something you say off-the-cuff while you are driving or cooking.  It may even be the way you greet a waitress or hold the door for someone behind you…. your children are watching you and listening to you.

If you mention something ugly about a neighbor or another parent while on your cell phone or even online, again, your kid’s are listening.

Does this give them a pass to act the same way about their friends?

Watch your words.

You may think they are innocent words.  You may think they are nothing, but to a child they can open the door to allowing them to behave the same way.

“Did you see Mrs. Smith’s dress? What was she thinking? The color didn’t flatter her at all.”

Although that may sound innocuous, it could be taken out of context if your child was to go over to Mrs. Smith’s home and say – “My mommy thinks your dress is ugly.”  Let’s face it, that is how kids can interpret things.

facebookinstagramtwitterSocial media can have more of a cutting edge when it comes to teenagers.

Parents can be guilty of oversharing in many ways, as much as the youth (and they are watching!).

Brace yourself for a study that was released this year: One in five parents admit to sharing intimate photos and/or messages online or via text.

We have to constantly discuss with our teens about the consequences of sexual picture sharing (sexting), since they are serious and some states have criminal charges that can be brought against you and your teenager.

Cruelty online.

According to new research, cyberbullying on social media is linked to depression in teenagers.

Cyberbullying is not new.  73% of adults have witnessed online harassment of other adults while 40% of them have been victims of it.  Why is this upsetting when it comes to grownups? Because they should know better!  Who are the role models?

Sadly the part that continues to be disturbing is that many teens don’t tell their parents or another adult when they are struggling with being harassed online.  Instead continue to silently suffer which isn’t healthy for anyone.


The main reason is they fear being disconnected from their lifeline, the Internet.   Many parents will over-react and pull the plug, remove their devices.  Panicking and not realizing they are punishing their child for something they have no control over.

Becoming a CyberParent or Digital Parent, is part of parenting today.  There is simply no getting around it.  From the moment you hand your toddler your cell phone to play those games while you trying to get ready or to keep them entertained, you are prepping for their tech-future.

Digital citizenship starts as soon as they start chatting – it’s really that simple.

Kindness, respect, integrity… offline simply blends into online.  

This isn’t our generation anymore.  Everything we are doing we need to consider it for online and offline.

Your online behavior will reflect your offline character and vice versa.  

You are your child’s role model – lead by example.  They will mimic the good and not so good.

posted by on Bullying, Bullying prevention, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention

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CompassionateCartoonBy Kelly Kamowski

My daughter was cyberbullied for being chubby in middle school by a girl she truly thought was her friend.  My son was shoved in the hallways and called a fag in middle school and high school.  I, myself, was bullied in the third grade by a boy who had a sick puppy love crush on me.  He would smack me on the playground almost every day and then call me at home and ask me if I liked him.  The teachers told me to just ignore him.  I couldn’t.  I still remember his first and last name.  Most formerly tormented people do.

The cartoons that syndicated cartoonist, Stephanie Piro, and I produce about cyberbullying and bullying visually illuminate the pain of bullying and the reactions of bystanders, parents, and teachers.  They are our powerful way of showing the many aspects of bullying including kids killing themselves to escape it.  We want it to end, and this is our way of doing it.  These cartoons show people they are not alone in what they are going through.  We have 100 of them…. so far.

I have also written some about the positive things that individuals and schools are doing to prevent and end bullying in their own and others’ lives.  I hope to write more of those as I read more and more about what is being done.

Our brand, Compassionate Cartoons, began with poignant cartoons about divorce and death from both the child and adult perspectives. I was working at a nonprofit, Rainbows for All Children, that helps children who are grieving due to divorce and death, while going through my own divorce.  I was inspired to write these after seeing how many kids were helped by talking to other kids about their grief and journaling about their feelings.  The bullying cartoons were a natural offshoot to those first efforts to capture strong emotions in a drawing with a caption.

StephKellyStephanie Piro and I have been working in the cartooning world for over 25 years creating mostly humorous cartoons for many publications.  Stephanie is the artist, and I have been a freelance gag writer (ghost writer) for many cartoonists over the years.  Compassionate Cartoons, however, are our most meaningful work.

Learn more by visiting our website and LIKE us on Facebook.

Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your Compassionate Cartoons with my readers.  I think they are amazing and it is true – how few words and a picture can speak volumes.

Recently Compassionate Cartoons was able to help youth understand that no matter who you are, every body is a bathing suit body.  A great post about body image.

posted by on Parenting Teens, Stage of Life, Teen Etiquette

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RAKStageofLifeSometimes it can seem like we are always hearing doom and gloom when it comes to our youth, especially teenagers.

I want to turn that around with this great survey that Stage of Life (that offers writing contests for high school students) conducted with a group of teenagers, regarding Random Acts of Kindness.

We often thinking of teens as very self-absorbed, into their gadgets, social media, LIKEs, and especially their friends.

Stage of Life revealed teens expressed empathy and cared about others!

  • 96.5% of teens have performed a random act of kindness.  Of those that have personally performed a random act of kindness, 63% were inspired to do so because of the international writing contest prompt.
  • 88% of teens have been on the receiving end of a random act of kindness.  Of those students who have experienced a random act of kindness performed on them, 85% wanted to pass along the kindness to someone else.

This is the part I really loved, it’s not a phase:

  • 56% teenagers (of those who have performed a random act of kindness) have done so more than 7 times.

As I mentioned earlier, Stage of Life had a writing contest for these students.  After taking the survey, students submitted their essays and this was the trend and story themes that emerged:

  • Kindness Doesn’t Have to be Big: Many teens learned that kindness, especially a random act, doesn’t have to be a grand gesture to be significant. Being kind is as simple as sharing a smile with a sad stranger or giving a dollar to a homeless person.
  • Kindness Can Save Lives: Of course, big acts of kindness can literally save a life. Some teens wrote about times strangers helped them when they or their parents were hurt. Sometimes, a stranger’s kindness snapped these teens out of an awful depression and gave them a better direction in life.
  • Volunteering is Rewarding: While all people love being on the receiving end of an act of kindness, many teens discovered how great being kind to others felt. These teens found a new sense of self while helping homeless people in the city or serving food in a church.
  • Random Acts Should be Regular: Kindness makes everyone feel better, so why limit random acts of kindness to prompted challenges? Try being kind all the time! It won’t hurt anyone.

Read the entire survey and the finalists on Stage of Life.