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.

posted by on Cyber Safety, Cybersafety, Digital citizenship, Internet Safety

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TwitterChat_CyberParentingEarlier this month Intel Security released their latest study, The Reality of CyberParenting: What Pre-Teens and Teens Are Up To Online.

The month of June is Internet Safety Month.  It’s a month that we take extra time to learn more about cyber-skills, apps, security and all things digitally driven especially as it pertains to our youth.

Family Online Safety Institute and Intel Security are going to join together to offer more insights for advocates, parents, teachers and everyone that wants to join for a TweetChat on Wednesday, June 24th at 3:00pm EST.

Using hashtag #CyberParenting, to be able to hear (digitally speaking) from the experts at @FOSI and @IntelSecurity as well as ask questions.

What is the topic?

Digital Parenting

The focus will be on the research Intel Security shared earlier this month.

  • What is most important to you when it comes to Internet Safety?
  • How you do you limit screen time in your household?  How do you set boundaries?
  • Do you employ a monitoring system on your child devices or do you simply trust them?   The research is interesting.
  • What do you discuss with your kids about social media?  Do you talk about their online reputation?  Do you discuss engaging with strangers online?
  • What type of parental controls do you find helpful?
  • Do you have any ideas for parenting safety tips that others should know?  Sharing information is priceless.
  • What area of Internet Safety do you wish you knew more about and there isn’t enough resources out there?  For example, you can find a lot of information on cyberbullying and identity theft – is there a topic you feel that is lacking on resources?
  • How do you start your digital conversations?  Last month I wrote about conversation starters by Common Sense and Family Dinner Project, they offered great tips.  Keep in mind, it’s not about one chat – it’s many of them, as frequently as possibly.  Keeping it going all year round…. speaking of…
  • What is your suggestion to keep Internet Safety as a priority in your home?

Think about these and other Internet Safety questions or comments you have and join the pros on Wednesday, June 24th at 3pm EST.

Everyone is invited!

posted by on Internet Addiction, Online Safety, Parenting, Parenting Blogs, Parenting Teens

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DisconnectWe have heard about abstinence when it comes to sex, now it is about disconnecting from your digitally devices and social media.  It’s not easy.

However a parent that was determined to get her family’s offline back gathered some volunteers (with the same mission) and created the Disconnect project.

According to a recent Slate cover story about Disconnect:

“It’s cheered me up for some reason, I don’t know why,” one boy explained in the video. “I feel different. I can concentrate more.”

They read books, talked more with their friends face to face, and did their homework with time to spare.

This project has been very successful in the United Kingdom, maybe it will reach the U.S. eventually…. can our society really turn-off technology for a weekend?

DarkForDinner1Let’s try for one-day!

#DarkForDinner is Sunday, June 14th, but you can designate it for any day or every Sunday.  Make it a time to unplug and get to know your friends and family offline.

It’s about getting to know what they did last week or in general – getting to know more about your family.  Did they meet anyone new, find a new shade of lipstick they liked, maybe a new teacher or substitute that was cool — most importantly, you can talk about how their digitally lives are — offline.

I wrote a couple weeks ago about conversation starters for family meals about social media and digital lives.  Common Sense Media and Family Dinner Project offered a great chart on that blog post, refer back to it for tips.

DarkForDinner2Let’s say you are single and have friends you join on Sundays.  Chances are good your smartphone is attached to you – well, both of you!

Put your devices away – turn it off – and enjoy your friend’s company.  Have  a conversation with them about their week, their life, their family  – whatever…. Take a tech-time-out for your friends.  They will appreciate it as much as you will when they start really listening and hearing what you are saying rather than scrolling down their screen.  Maybe they do have a secret to share – but really want your full attention!

Isn’t it time to really disconnect and connect in real life – at least for one day?

posted by on Cyber Safety, Cybersafety, Internet Safety, Online Safety, Parenting, Parenting Blogs

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parenting-in-a-digital-worl__largeNew Intel Security recently released their latest study, “Realities of Cyber Parenting: What Pre-teens and Teens are Up To Online” which gave us some insights of what parents are most concerned about when it comes to Internet Safety.

June is Internet Safety Month, but as I have always said, practicing online safety is something we implement 12-months a year.  This month is the time we officially recognize it, and hopefully make extra time to learn something new.

Realities of Cyber Parenting Study examined the online behavior of pre-teens and teens ages 8-16 and also surveyed the concerns of parents.

The study revealed that although cyberbullying seems to be most prevalent in the headlines, parents are most concerned about their children interacting with strangers online.

The 2015 research revealed that when it comes to online activity, parents are most concerned (28%) about their children unknowingly interacting with predators/pedophiles, while 21% fear them interacting with strangers in general. This concern could be warranted as 27% of teen/pre-teen respondents said they would meet or have met someone in person they first met online.

One of the highlights of this study was about sharing selfies.

  • 56% of youth share photos of themselves.

PauseHave you spoken to your child about oversharing lately?  As parents are concerned about predators, we need to remember to caution our children and ourselves about what we are posting online.  Parents can be guilty of oversharing too.

This is the perfect time to chat with your child about pausing before posting.

The good news is that 94% of the parents surveyed believe they know what their children are doing online.

Hopefully they are implementing the offline parenting chats.  Offline parenting does help your child make better online choices.

Dare to go dark starting June 14th, 2015.  Really get to know your family.  It will probably be better than a reality show.

Use hashtag #DarkForDinner
Make family your priority for #InternetSafety Month!

Read more about this latest study from Intel Security – click here.

posted by on Parenting, Parenting Blogs, Parenting Teens, Parenting tips, Summer jobs

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Keeping busy, motivated and involved this summer!

Guest Post by Blaise Brooks

With summer vacation quickly approaching, teens can look forward to a lot of free time to relax, hang out with friends and spend time with family.

However, this newfound free time includes a lot of potential opportunities to engage in dangerous activities like alcohol consumption or drug abuse. What can you do as a parent to prevent your teen from partaking in such behaviors?

The answer is to help your teen stay busy and motivated over the summer. By limiting the amount of idle time teens have, you can directly decrease the likelihood of them taking risks that are detrimental to their health.

Here are some ways that you can encourage your teen to stay busy – and out of trouble:

  • Set goals: At the beginning of summer or as soon as school lets out, ask your teen what he or she would like to accomplish by the end of summer break. Encourage your teen to set daily, weekly or monthly goals that he or she can work towards. It can be something as simple as learning how to make a favorite family recipe, reading a book series or completing a personal project that he or she wasn’t able to pursue during the school year. Have your teen write down the goal(s), then display it in a high-traffic area in the home (refrigerator door, bedroom door, etc.). This way, your teen will be reminded of that goal every day. Whatever the goal is, make sure to check in every so often and see how your teen is making progress throughout the summer.
  • Summer job, internship or volunteer experience: A summer job or internship allows a teenager to build a solid work ethic, improve communication and develop leadership skills (not to mention a summer job or internship looks great on a resume and college application). Alternatively, you could encourage your teen to volunteer for something he or she is passionate about. Whether it’s with a local animal shelter, youth sports team or non-profit organization, there are plenty of opportunities for teens who are looking to be part of something over the summer months.
  • Travel: Summer presents the perfect opportunity for fun getaways that the whole family can enjoy. Spending time in a new environment may allow you to bond and connect with your teen in a different way than if you were at home. If your budget is tight, be a tourist in your own city and visit the fun and unique places your hometown is known for. Museums, parks, restaurants – there are a lot of options!

Do you have any other ideas to keep teens busy this summer? Be sure to share your ideas with other parents!

StopMedAbuse1Blaise is a mother of one, caregiver of two, accountant and community advocate. Blaise is also a contributor to The Five Moms blog on, working to spread the word about cough medicine abuse with other parents. Join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.

posted by on Cyber Safety, Digital citizenship, Internet Safety, Online education, Online Privacy, Online Safety, Parenting Blogs, Social media

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InternetSafetyWordleJune is Internet Safety Month.

It’s great that we designate a month for Internet Safety Awareness, as we do for Bullying and Cyberbullying Awareness in October, but this doesn’t mean that we ignore it the other eleven months of the year.

I think it is great we will see many articles and resources through this month on apps, social media, parenting tips and advice as well as insights from experts that we can all learn from.

What is most important to you?  What’s your priority?

If you’re a parent, your child’s online safety is probably on the top of your list.

    • Do they know when to click out if they feel uncomfortable?
    • Will they tell you if they are being harassed online?
    • Do they know not to share personal information online?
    • Are they careful with the photo’s the publish?
    • Do they check their privacy settings frequently?
    • Do they exercise good digital citizenship?

InternetSafetySeniorsIf you have a parent (a senior person) that is online, safety is a major concern for them.

  • Be sure they don’t get involved in online scams.
  • Click on suspicious links that can steal their identity.
  • Get involved with online strangers pretending to be their friends for unsavory reasons.
  • Giving out too much information – again, potential fraud.

For yourself.

  • Privacy.  Almost everyone I talk to is concerned about their privacy which is almost becoming extinct.
  • Passwords.  Keep them private.
  • Oversharing.  It’s not only the kids.  Everyone needs to pause before sharing online.  Pause before you post or send that email.
  • Digital Citizenship. You’re never too old to remember who you are online reflects who you are offline.  Use your keystrokes with respect.
  • Online Reputation. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. In today’s digital society, chances are very good your first impression will be your virtual one.  Are you Google worthy?

Takeaway tip:  Your offline conversations will help online safety for all ages! 

posted by on Cybersafety, Digital citizenship, Internet Privacy, Online activity, Online Privacy, Online Safety, Parenting, Parenting Blogs

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Everyone is ready for summer and we know people of all ages love to share or sometimes overshare their summer activities with their online friends.

I have recently discovered a great way to define and archive your memories to better protect and re-visit what you did summer of 2015 (or other events you want to archive).

Guest post from GeckoLife, a platform created by parents with you in mind.

geckolifeA Gecko Summer: Social 2.0

We live in a world in which we have access to whomever and whatever we want, wherever and whenever we want it. We want reach, availability, speed and interactivity.

Fortunately (or not), we have a good dozen online tools that meet some of our needs, but not one tool that brings them all together into a single experience. Chat on some, share pics on others, store on others. Why can’t a tool live up to the adage “Less is More?” An app that combines postcards, albums and even a diary. Sure this sounds old school, but why isn’t there an online platform that does it easily in the advanced technological world of today?

After waiting for someone to give us what we need, we decided to build this platform tool ourselves, and it’s called GeckoLife.

Let me set the stage for what GeckoLife does. Social media platforms become addictive like chocolate. You desperately want it. When you are lazing around, you chomp at it. However, after bouts of it, it gets tiring and less delicious. In fact, it becomes harmful. Just like all things, too much of anything will have negative ramifications.

I remember I used to roll over in the morning before my alarm at 5:30am. I would grab my smartphone and browse through my social media feed. Who uploaded a pic of their holiday. Who shared what they ate for dinner the night before.

Who liked a picture I uploaded yesterday of my birthday dinner. Most importantly, how many people actually wished me happy birthday. This was back in 2012. I then realised, why did I care? Wasn’t the extra sleep more beneficial? Why do I care about whether a person from 10th grade whom I haven’t seen in 20 years was wishing me a “have a great day on your birthday!”

Let’s face it, social has been around in some shape or form since the early 90s with chat on our old Compaq computers. Accelerate 25 years and social communication is now entrenched in our lives with 3G/4G/WiFi coupled with (smarter) smartphones.

However, there is just too much frivolous social – where has the meaning gone? Why is sharing a picture of a bowl of spaghetti with 700 friends so important? Why does a selfie of me need to go to those 700 people? You get my point. Social is often adding no value. It is often pointless and a waste of time (but addictive).

This summer 2015, we hope people begin to change their behavior about their use of social media. Why not create social communication around more meaningful and defined events? Are you headed to Camp, Disney in Florida, a basketball tournament in Chicago or to see the Great Wall of China? Perhaps you are doing all of this these upcoming holidays. Instead of posting in one co-mingled timeline on the likes of Facebook or Instagram, or sharing pics on Dropbox or reverting to gold old email, why not create each of these as a defined event? Everything you do will not appeal to everyone, so define the audience you share it as well. Now, accelerate 5 years into the future.

Rather than see your atypical social feed where co-mingled content makes it difficult to easily find those wonderful 2015 defined events, wouldn’t you like a Life Library of Summer 2015? Today, everything is instant, in the now. On GeckoLife you create “Canvases” which are defined by subject &/or audience. This way you share what you want, with whom you want. Further, existing social media is not built for recall or archive if you want to revisit the pics/ video and comments around what you did during summer of 2015.

This is at the core of GeckoLife – filed, defined, archived.

Download the GeckoLife App today, and see what Social 2.0 is all about.

By Rajeev Gupta
Founder, GeckoLife