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

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.