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

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FamilyDinner3One of my constant mantra’s is offline parenting will help your kids, and especially teen’s, make better online choices.  The fact is when your children are in their digital world’s you are not there to protect there.  With all the parental controls, filters and monitoring, your teen is in that moment and will make that decision to click-out 0r possibly continue in a risky situation.

Studies have proven that family meals can help reduce risky behavior with adolescents. Back in 2011 when these studies were released, they were speaking more about offline behavior such as smoking, drug use, drinking and risky sexual behavior.

It seems (let’s hope) parents were listening.

A recent study sponsored by Pearson revealed that families are gathering around the dinner table together more often than in previous years with nearly four in five parents surveyed (79 percent) reporting that they have dinner with their families most days of the week.

This is fantastic news!  

Discussing offline behavior is just as important as talking about your child’s digital lives. Today studies show that our youth spend a majority of their time connected to their devices – which means the majority of their life today is spent online.

The Family Dinner Project joined Common Sense Media to offer some great suggestions to start your mealtime conversations about cyber-life with parents and kids.

I am saying mealtime, since you can be at a coffee shop or Sunday brunch – mealtime doesn’t necessarily mean you are cooking dinner five nights a week.  Find time to unplug and eat with your kids (have a smoothie or coffee) – even if it is at a restaurant.  It’s about spending time together and chatting.

Here is an excellent chart I hope you will either print it out or to take notes to help your kids make better online choices.



posted by on Internet Privacy, Internet Safety, Online Privacy, Online Safety, Parenting, Parenting Blogs, Social media, Teens and Technology

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SocialMediaGlobalResearch was just released by GlobalWebIndex that shows adults love social media almost as much as the kids do.

The average adult spends one in four online minutes on social media according to the recent research.

What is the most popular social media platform for adults?  Facebook – by far it revealed, as did the PEW Research study released in January of 2015.

So what are grownups doing on social media/networking?

Connecting with family, friends and making new friends!  Joining groups, creating conversations, learning about new things and simply exploring places they may or may not ever visit as well as many other virtual ventures.

The fact is with social media you can connect to so many people across the globe that would have never been possible prior these platforms.

However with all brightness comes some dark-side.

We always talk to our kids sharing too much of themselves online, especially on social media, but what are their parents doing?

sharentingI recently read an article by a colleague that I found very interesting.  Sharenting? Kids Are Beginning To Notice by Marti Weston.  Yes, kids and teenagers can become embarrassed and uncomfortable when parents over-post photos or other personal family issues that they feel shouldn’t be for the world to see.  Maybe they don’t want naked baby pictures of them up there.

If mom or dad are doing this, what type of role model is this for the teen?  If the teen turns around and starts posting about his/her parent’s argument about an affair or they can’t pay the mortgage — both of very personal nature, although way different from an embarrassing photo.  In a child’s mind, it is the same by comparison.  It’s humiliating.

Are parents behavior online paving the way to condone their child to act the same way online?

Back to the heart of the issue – oversharing online, whether it’s on social media or any other form of the Internet is something everyone of all ages needs to be careful with.

posted by on AT&T, Cell Phone, Cell phone safety, Distracted driving, mobile phone safety, Parenting, Social media

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NoEmailSo you are driving down the road – you have an impulse to take a selfie?  Seriously?

Yes, I have seen teens and young adults that insist on telling us their mood while driving down a highway with a selfie – exactly what are they thinking?

Oh – seriously – they aren’t thinking!

I see these images on Facebook threads or Instagram and it simply infuriates me.  I sometimes wonder why don’t any of their friends mention in the comments that snapping that selfie is not only putting them at risk – but putting the others around them in danger.

Instead – I see comments like – oh, you look greatlove your smile — great hair day — etc….  with youth, it is usually all about them.

Okay – so I am being a bit harsh here – but when it comes to behavior that can potentially put others at risk, this is serious stuff and we should reach out and say something.

I haven’t even mentioned taking photo’s, sending an email (which I am sure now we are getting into some adults that send that last minute work email from a red light or stop sign) or people that want to snap that video that think it might be the next YouTube sensation without thinking the safety of cars around them…..

So I have set up the preface for AT&T’s latest survey.

AT&T today announced the findings of a survey which have prompted the company to expand the It Can Wait® campaign from a focus on texting while driving to include other smartphone driving distractions.

New research from AT&T shows 7-in-10 people engage in smartphone activities while driving. Texting and emailing are still the most prevalent. But other smartphone activity use behind the wheel is now common. Nearly 4-in-10 smartphone users tap into social media while driving. Almost 3-in-10 surf the net. And surprisingly, 1-in-10 video chat.

Smartphone activities people say they do while driving include:

  • Text (61%)
  • Email (33%)
  • Surf the net (28%)
  • Facebook (27%)
  • Snap a selfie/photo (17%)
  • Twitter (14%)
  • Instagram (14%)
  • Shoot a video (12%)
  • Snapchat (11%)
  • Video chat (10%)

AT&T will use the survey findings to help drive awareness of the dangers of smartphone use behind the wheel, and to encourage life-saving behavior change. The company will launch a nationwide virtual reality tour this summer to help people understand that it’s not possible to drive safely while using a smartphone.

Other unsettling findings include:

· 62% keep their smartphones within easy reach while driving.4

· 30% of people who post to Twitter while driving do it “all the time.”

· 22% who access social networks while driving cite addiction as a reason.

· Of those who shoot videos behind the wheel, 27% think they can do it safely while driving.

posted by on Digital citizenship, Digital Life, Internet Privacy, Internet profile, Internet Safety, Online image, Online Life, Online profile, Parenting, Social media

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Building Your Social Media Presence.

Building Your Social Media Presence.

I’ve heard from some parents that say they won’t allow their tweens or teens on social media sites or ban them from certain apps or other digital platforms that today’s teenagers are engaging in.  Of course many know that kids have way to defy parents – whether it is sneaking to a friend’s house or a library, however parents will try as long as possible to keep their child free from what they fear will take over their lives – Social Media Networking.

Is this a smart idea? 

We all want to keep our children safe, that is a natural instinct, however there has to come a time when they will face the Internet to be involved in social networking and most of all — they need a digital presence.

Maybe giving our kids a smartphone at six years old is not the brightest idea, which we haven’t truly confirmed this survey, however finding that balance for our tweens and teens is important.

Building your online image in a positive way will not only impress your college recruiters, according to a recent Career Builders survey, you will gain the attention of your potential employer.

Over one-third of employers are likely to ignore job candidates that don’t have an online presence.

PauseWe must encourage our tweens and teens to engage in social media wisely.  Posting and publishing on the fly is not smart — we have drilled into our minds to THINK before posting or sending, when I speak to large and small audiences, I encourage them to PAUSE – I want you to truly stop – before clicking that send button.

Whether it is on your mobile device or a mouse,  PAUSE for 30-60 seconds – it could literally change the direction of your future.

Especially when it comes to sending emails.  How many times have you sent an email to the wrong recipient since we all know there are several “Sue’s or Mary’s or Joe’s” in your contact list?  Did you take time to be sure it is your friend and not your landlord?

Instead of banning social media, start to learn to embrace it.  It’s not going away – it is only growing and evolving.  The studies, even for adults, show that social media is on the rise!  According the most recent PEW Study released in January 2015,  over half of adults online are engaged in at least two social media accounts with Facebook leading by seventy-one percent!

Yes, we are in the evolution of social media – and that includes the parents – as well as our teenagers.  Let’s use our keystrokes wisely, with a nice PAUSE before that click.

posted by on Cyber Safety, Cyberbullying, Internet Privacy, Internet Safety, Internet Scams, Online Safety, Online Scams, Online Security, Parenting, Security Online

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GirlKeyboardOnline social networks are part of daily life, especially for kids and teens. Unfortunately, these networks make for easy bullying. How do you protect your kids from cyber threats?


Bullying is fairly common, especially among teenagers. According to the Center for Disease Control in the U.S., nearly 20 percent of high school students have reported being bullied. Almost 15 percent of those same high school students reported being bullied online during the past year. Students who have experienced bullying are likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, have difficulties sleeping, and begin having a difficult time at school. suggests parents have some sort of monitoring device to keep tabs on their kids. The site also suggests kids refrain from sending photos or videos of themselves to strangers. Set specific expectations about your children’s computer time. Stay firm on the rules. And finally, make sure to connect, friend or follow your kids on social media so that you can keep up with what they are posting. Be proactive and attentive to prevent online bullying. Encourage kids to talk to you should it ever occur.


Predators are a serious danger online. Be vigilant and monitor your child’s online activity and relationships. The FBI provides the following tips to keep your child safe from online predators:

  • Keep the lines of communication with your child open. Explain to them that there are online predators and give them some tips on staying safe.
  • Ask your children to teach you a few things on the computer. By spending time with your kids online you will be more familiar with their usage.
  • Never allow your children to keep computers in their rooms. Put the computer in a common area of the house, like the living room so that it is visible to you or another member of the household.
  • Take advantage of all of the free parental controls provided by service providers.
  • Keep track of your children’s accounts and logins.
  • Make sure you teach your children about the fact that anything that goes on the Internet is permanent.
  • Teach your children to never give out identifying information or download photos from strangers.

Keeping your kids safe is important and by being honest and attentive you can ensure that predators are not communicating with them.

Identity Theft

Cyber criminals are being charged every day with identity theft. Companies like Lifelock have spent years perfecting tools and creating resources to help you and your child avoid identify theft. Phishing scams and malicious software are often used to acquire the identity, logins, and passwords of individuals. We’ve learned to spot scams quickly, but children and teens have not yet learned these valuable lessons.

US News suggests that you check your child’s credit report regularly. This will allow you to quickly address any concerns you may have about questionable activity. Teach your kids about phishing scams and to be suspicious about any links or messages that request their login or personal information.

Do your best to keep your children safe online. By being a proactive parent and staying informed can help your children avoid cyberbullying and identity theft.

posted by on Cyberbullying, Digital citizenship, Digital Life, Internet Safety, Online Safety, Parenting, Social media

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With 92% of middle and high school students online daily, 24% of them “almost constantly,”* it’s time schools had some help with social media! We welcome your support of a helpline that schools can call or email to address cyberbullying, sexting, reputation and other issues involving students, staff and other members of their communities that surface online and on phones. The Indiegogo campaign will help cover “construction costs” for piloting this helpline in California next school year – the communication system, Web site construction and staff training that need to happen by August 1.

When, for example, a cyberbullying, sexting or reputation-related incident occurs, schools or districts will be able to reach helpline staff by phone, email or through a form on the Helpline Web site,, for help in resolving the problem.

“The helpline will be the hub of a whole help ecosystem,” said Matt Soeth, co-founder of #iCANHELP, “with real-time, research-based advice, help in reporting and escalating abuse in social media services, a directory of school policy and investigation resources and a growing, searchable database of school social media case studies.”

“Contributions, big or small, are huge to the helpline,” said Anne Collier, president of San Jose-based Net Family News. “They’ll support our work with Internet helplines around the world creating a new layer of mediation and support between the social media industry and users of all ages, bringing the industry local context and users perspective help in getting content taken down that violates terms of service.”

Please make a donation to the iCanHelpline campaign at
Internet Data and iCanHelpLine resources.


Net Family News is a San Jose, Calif.-based national nonprofit organization founded in 1999 to educate the public and advise the Internet industry about research and developments in technology related to youth.

#iCANHELP is a Bay Area-based national nonprofit organization that creates and promotes positive, school-based solutions & interventions to anti-social behavior online.

posted by on Cell phone safety, Online activity, Online Safety, Parenting, Parenting Blogs, Sexting, Teen Issues, Texting

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TeenSexting_5Now that vacations, camps, and long school breaks are here for the summer, teens are often separated from their friends and crushes. The distance and time between them may increase the chances that our sons and daughters will be oversharing personal information and sexting. It is important to address sexting before it occurs, but far too often parents uncover sexts after the messages have been sent.

Catching our child in the act of sexting can be awkward and infuriating at the same time. Feelings of doubt, outrage, fear, and worry can cloud a parent’s judgment and emotional response. This intense burst of feelings can lead to heated arguments or yelling matches that accomplish little, except shutting down the communication line between parents and teens.

So how should a parent address their teen’s sexting?

Things Parents Should Avoid

Encountering a sexting child is gut wrenching, because parents understand the dangers this behavior exposes our sweet children too. Here are a four things parents should avoid when they catch a child sexting:

  • yelling and screaming
  • name calling
  • ignoring the behavior
  • blaming others

Caught In The Act: How To Handle Sexting Teens

After discovering a child’s sexts, you will want to initiate a heart-to-heart conversation. Intimate talks between parents and children are notorious for being awkward, but it is paramount that children get this information from adults and not their peers. Accurate information will prepare a teen to make sound judgment calls when it comes to future sexting.

After a parent has calmed down from the shock it is a great time to initiate a conversation. Things might be tense at first, but remaining cool and collected with help keep the conversation going. Acknowledge that this topic is difficult to talk about, but it is necessary.

Remember to listen to a child and respect what he or she has to say. Parents will not always agree with what teens are saying, but we need to hear them out. Experts recommend focusing on listening and asking children questions to help them elaborate on their ideas and feelings clearly. This will build trust and develop a precedent for future conversations.

Using the right words and questions will propel the discussion forward and strengthen the family bond. Using phrases like, “I understand what you are feeling, because I felt that way also when I was your age.”, “Please, tell me more.”, or “What I hear you saying is…” will help aid the conversation. As tempting as it is to lead the conversation and do all the talking, we need to remember to listen and ask them questions.

TeenParentTalk_5Things To Include In A Sexting Conversation

The sexting conversation should be guided by your teen, but be sure to include the following key points:

  • Anything posted online or sent digitally has the potential to be recovered anytime. Stress the permanence of the Internet and social media apps while encouraging caution when it comes to posting something they wouldn’t want their grandmother to view.
  • By sending sexts you give the recipient all the power in the relationship. If they become angry or upset, they might lash out by sharing your images to cause you pain.
  • If your partner values you and your relationship, they will respect your choice to abstain from sexting. This is a very important message to stress, because 60% of all children who sext admit that they were pressured. Teens need to know that it is alright not to engage in a behavior they are uncomfortable with.
  • Sexting has serious possible legal consequences. Many states prosecute sexters for distributing or possessing child pornography regardless if it was consensual.

How To Approach The Situation

Experts have been talking lately about how the act of sexting might be a normal part of development. They often compare it to “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours”. Even though sexting might fall under regular behaviors, the act of sexting can land a kid in circumstances that are far from normal.

Even though sexting only takes a second to snap or send a photo, the repercussions can last well into adulthood. Children who sext may face being charged with felony child pornographic charges, being registered as a sexual offender, and having the images accessible on social media for years to come. There is also a high probability that the images will be shared by peers which can lead to extreme cases of bullying or teasing.

Simply forbidding sexting will not work. Parents need to keep the momentum of the conversation moving forward and revisit the topic every now and then. We need to be honest about the seriousness of the issue and that their actions have caused mistrust. Meaningful conversations are a great tool, but it may be necessary to keep an eye on the teen’s cell phone, Internet activity, and social media as a deterrent for sexting behaviors. Working with our teens will help overcome this issue.

amywilliamsContributor:  Amy Williams, a journalist and former social worker passionate about parenting and education.

You can follow Amy on Twitter.

posted by on Cell Phone, Cell phone safety, Distracted driving, Parenting, Parenting Blogs

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TextdrivingMemorial Weekend, proms, graduations, and summer approaching – all times when more youth will be behind the wheel.

Sure, our teens know they shouldn’t text and drive – and we have preached forever about drinking and driving – but are they listening?

Most teenagers still believe accidents won’t happen to them – they are immune to bad things happening – they actually believe that looking at that that text for a second or worse, responding to one, won’t make a difference.

It’s imperative that parents get the message across to them that not only is buzzed driving considered drunk driving, but only seconds of distraction is dangerous not only for them, but for others with them and those on the road.

TALK TO YOUR TEENS FREQUENTLY about distracted driving.

The conversation is not one time discussion.  It is an ongoing chat – a daily reminder of the importance of being aware and alert of others on the road as well as respecting your passengers safety and yourself.

One of the most important things you can do for your teen is lead by example.  You are the greatest influence and role model.  If they are watching you text and drive – this leaves a huge gap for them to do the same thing.

When you use the excuse that you are more experienced, it doesn’t register with their brains – they are not mature enough to accept that.  They believe they are invincible – remember, they believe it can’t happen to them.

Start the conversations now – stop your own texting and driving.

Share this video – the average text is only 5 seconds. Does it matter? You decide.

posted by on Cyber Safety, Internet Safety, Online Privacy, Online Safety, Online Security, Parenting, Parenting Blogs, Social media, Social Networking

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frienedy-logoI write frequently about respecting age restrictions, especially as it pertains to social media sites.  Popular sites such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter all clearly state you have to be 13 year-old to have an account – yet some parents have allowed their tweens to sign-up earlier.

Recently I was introduced to a new site that allows all ages.  For parents that have tweens or children, you may want to review this option.

Friendedy Puts Parent Back In Control

Frienedy, the first site of its kind that lets users of all ages manage life in groups, is a unique concept in social media that launched this April.  Engineered with parental permissions at the core, Frienedy complies with COPPA standards for users under 13.  The company has created a private online environment that leverages parental engagement for younger users to guide the social media experience while offering users of all ages a web application for managing all of life’s “groups” in one place.

Until now, there has been a void in the social networking space both for users under age 13 and for managing content and social feeds for groups of all types.

According to Janel Patterson (founder and CEO of Frienedy), “Kids are getting online much younger than they were when today’s social networking norms were first established, which has led to a rise in cyberbullying and cyber predators.  Parents need a tool that enables them to proactively introduce social media to their children on their terms- and before kids discover it themselves and risk becoming victims of their own innocence.  At Frienedy, our core mission is to prevent cyberbullying before it starts and promote positive digital citizenship for all ages.”

There is also a market for managing social feeds and content for groups that have members of all ages. According to Jake Giganti, COO for Frienedy, “I grew up using social media.  I never saw an easy way to manage all of the events and social feeds and basic information for every group I was part of growing up.  Not just my soccer team and classes, but my different groups of friends.  And, now as an adult, I have even more social groups I’m part of and want to stay engaged with in an organized manner. Frienedy Groups solves this problem- but more compellingly- for users of all ages.”

Groups can communicate privately and maintain practice or meeting schedules, classroom assignments, youth group activities, photos, videos, documents, even trigger last minute notifications for event changes.  Frienedy is unique because it isn’t targeted at kids.  Rather, it’s designed for every user in the social media world today who realizes the need to be selective about what, and with whom, content is shared.  For younger users, that is accomplished within their parents’ terms and under discreet parental oversight.

Frienedy also includes a robust shopping list feature- called the WishList- to promote user engagement and make it simple to add a wish from any merchant online, follow other users’ WishLists and streamline shopping for any gift or need.

Mobile apps are in development, and the website is currently mobile responsive for any device.  You can sign up for a free account by going to

posted by on Bullying, Bullying prevention, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Parenting, Parenting Blogs, Parenting Teens, Parenting tips, Teen Depression

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Online harassment can lead to offline issues.

Online harassment can lead to offline issues.

Maybe your child is a victim of a cyberbully.

May 7th, 2015 is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.  Whether your child is a victim of a bully or someone that inflicts emotional or physical harm to someone else, you need to take the time to look closer at this situation.  There are no winners.

Bullying has changed from the days of taking someone’s lunch money or giving them a swirly in the bathroom. Now, children are much more likely to engage in cyberbullying, or the use of electronic communication to bully a person. In fact, 20-30% of today’s children will be cyberbullied, and 10-20% of students will be cyberbullies.

However, it can be tricky for a parent to figure out if their child is experiencing cyberbullying; more than half of the children who experience cyberbullying do not tell their parents about it. And while around 55% of teens report having observed bullying behavior online, 95% report ignoring the behavior when it was observed.

There are a few tell-tale signs that can give clues that your child might be engaged in cyberbullying. For example long periods and odd hours of internet use, or changes in a child’s patterns of internet use, can signify cyberbullying. A child engaging in cyberbullying behavior might also become upset if their internet usage is confronted or cut off by their parents. Children with excessive social media accounts may be using them to follow and harass others.

Is Your Child A Cyberbully: Facts About Cyberbullying

Attribution to Yellowbrick Program