posted by on Cyber Safety, Internet Safety

No comments

As a parent, you want to protect your child from the dangers of the internet. There are countless stories of predators, hackers, and thieves targeting and exploiting young adults.

To avoid this, many parents will go as far as to limit or prohibit their child’s use of the internet. However, this solution isn’t practical.

The internet is everywhere and is used in almost every aspect of a teen’s life. The internet is a place for teens to do schoolwork, communicate with others, build meaningful connections, and express themselves freely. Rather than taking away their access to the internet, it’s best to teach them how to navigate it safely.

Teen Online Safety Tips

Don’t Post Private Information

What goes on the internet, stays on the internet. This concept is known as digital permanence, and it’s the idea that anything written, posted, or uploaded will be on the internet forever. Even if you delete a post, there are always ways for people to find it. Young adults need to understand this and take caution before oversharing online. Specifically, teens should refrain from putting personal information online.

Look up your teen’s name on Google or encourage them to search themselves to see what information about them exists online. If things like home addresses, phone numbers, identification documents, email addresses, or any private information pop up, then take it down immediately or request to have them removed. Although this information will be hidden from the public eye, hackers can still find a way to unearth this. If your teen’s email, phone, or identification numbers are made public, it may be beneficial to go the extra mile of changing them to ensure their security. 

Create Strong Passwords

No matter the account, whether it be online shopping, social media, or an email account, it’s vital to have a strong password. In 2020 the most common password used was “123456.” Passwords like these make it easy for hackers and thieves to gain access and steal your teen’s information. When creating a password, avoid dictionary words, names, and birthdays. Instead, encourage your teen to create a strong password that uses a mixture of letters, capitalizations, numbers, and symbols in a randomized order. It’s also important that each of your teen’s accounts has a different password. Using the same password or variations of the same password for multiple accounts can be problematic.

If a hacker is able to gain access to one account, they could easily log into others. When it comes to social accounts, make sure your teen is using the most private settings to avoid scammers and potential predators. Some accounts such as Gmail offer a 2-step verification process.

This will double protect your teen’s account and make it much more difficult for people to hack. Additionally, advise your teen to check their email. Many sites will alert you if someone accesses your account on a new device. If your teen has been hacked, it’s important for them to change their account details and to notify their contacts or anyone connected to the account as well. 

Be Cautious Of  Public Wifi

It can be easy for someone to connect to the first free WiFi they see. Some people even have their WiFi settings to connect automatically to public WiFi. Although public WiFi may be convenient, they’re usually not secure. When using an unsecure network, anything you do or send on your laptop or mobile device can be seen by someone else.

With new easily accessible technology, even a person with the most minimal knowledge of technology can steal your private photos, information, contacts, etc. Make sure your teen doesn’t enter any private information or access important accounts on public networks. It’s safer to assume the public WiFi you’re using isn’t secure than to take the risk of opening yourself up to a cyber attack.

On public WiFi, only use fully encrypted accounts. To know if a site is fully encrypted, look for the lock in the left corner of the URL, or make sure that the URL starts with HTTPS. The minute the search box shows a broken lock or no longer has HTTPS, leave the site immediately.

Pay attention to any warnings web browsers give you, as web browsers tend to alert you if a site is not safe. Encourage your teen to download a VPN on their laptop and mobile devices for additional protection. VPNs will encrypt your traffic, making it harder for people to intercept it, even on public WiFi. 

Recognize Identity Theft

Unfortunately, even if you use the most secure measures, there’s still a chance your teen may get hacked. Companies hold a lot of people’s data, and data breaches happen more often than we’d like. Because of how much information is on the internet, identity theft is a common occurrence on the internet.

Teens especially should be cautious about identity theft. Young adults are 50 times more likely to be victims of identity theft than adults. This is because teens tend to not have credit scores. Thieves will take advantage of this blank slate and use a child’s identity for economic gain and fraudulent purposes.

This can cause a teen to enter adulthood with a low credit score and massive debt; making purchases like buying a home much more difficult, since they have minimum credit score requirements. Using online safety measures will help to prevent identity theft, however, it’s always good to look out for signs. Many teens don’t realize they’re victims of identity theft until they enter adulthood.

One of the best ways to know if someone has stolen your child’s identity is by reviewing your child’s credit report since most teens don’t have any credit history. If your teen has a report without opening any lines of credit, or if there are discrepancies in the report, it may be a sign of identity theft. 

Consider Additional Protection 

As technology continues to advance, so does the threat of cyber attacks. Luckily, there are many ways to secure your devices from potential threats. Some healthy habits to help further protect yourself include shutting down your devices. Many people have their devices on 24/7. Rather than fully shutting down their devices, they have them asleep or logged off. Leaving your devices on all the time makes you more visible to possible attackers. Try to encourage your teen to shut down their devices at night or when they’re not in use.

Similarly, create a healthy habit of keeping Bluetooth off when they’re not using it. Another habit to instill in your teen is to clear their search history. Not only will this save your device’s battery life, but it’ll also diminish the amount of information a hacker can gather. To help protect your whole family, consider buying antivirus software. Most antivirus protections are sold in bundles, so you’ll be able to protect all the devices in your family. 

The internet can be a wondrous place filled with innovation and creativity. As we move forward, it becomes more ingrained in our lives. However, don’t forget just how easily anyone can fall victim to a cyber attack. Although teens need to be especially careful on the internet, it’s important everyone in the family takes the necessary precautions for online safety and security. 

posted by on Uncategorized

Facebook Knew Instagram Could Be Harmful to Our Teens

The tech giant has studied how the app affects youth.

  • An article in The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook’s own documents found Instagram to be damaging to teens.
  • A 2017 survey, published by the U.K.’s Royal Society for Public Health, found Instagram to be “worst social media network for mental health.”
  • Seeing others “edited to perfection” can be challenging for teens who may struggle with self-esteem or are vulnerable to social approval.

When one of my daughters was about 13 years old, I took her to a Teen Vogue event at our local mall. Afterward, she started getting a Teen Vogue magazine in the mail each month. One Saturday morning she walked into the kitchen with a stack of them and asked, “Will you please take these away? I don’t think looking at pictures of perfect girls is good for me.”

This incident predates Instagram, the social media network owned by Facebook that enjoys 500 million+ active users daily and is used by 76 percent of U.S. teens. Whereas my daughter was troubled by perhaps a few dozen images in a magazine she might have leafed through once or twice a month, today’s teens are literally barraged with such images daily—some even spend hours a day using this app.

What brought the memory of my daughter back was a recent article in The Wall Street Journal titled, “Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show.” The article reports that “(f)or the past three years, Facebook has been conducting studies into how its photo-sharing app affects its millions of young users.” Facebook’s own researchers “found that Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage of them, most notably teenage girls.”

By reviewing internal documents produced by Instagram (Facebook), The Wall Street Journal‘s reporters found these statements in a company slide presentation from 2019: “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls” and “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression… This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”

Perhaps the most disturbing revelation in the WSJ article was this:

“Among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13 percent of British users and 6 percent of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram, one presentation showed.”

This News is Not New

To me, what’s most irritating about this revelation is that it’s old news. While writing my book a few years ago, I referenced a 2017 #StatusOfMind survey, published by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society for Public Health, that predates and mirrors Facebook’s own findings. Surveying almost 1,500 teens and young adults, the study found Instagram (along with Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter) to be associated with high levels of depression, bullying, and FOMO, the “fear of missing out.”

Instagram, where personal photos or selfies (often carefully staged or touched up) rule, was discovered to be “the worst social media network for mental health and well-being.” A teen respondent to the survey wrote, “Instagram easily makes girls and women feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough, as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look ‘perfect.’”

“Instagram culture creates an environment that rewards perfection,” says Dr. Pamela Rutledge, Director of the Media Psychology Research Center. According to Rutledge:

“The trouble is, when people look, they forget that many of these images are not real and it creates unattainable expectations and beauty ideals. Our brains are wired to react as if virtual images were real. We are hardwired to compare ourselves to others. This had some evolutionary benefit as it was how people learned to navigate the social environment. It has little benefit on social media when we use it to judge ourselves against imaginary, often unattainable goals. This is particularly harmful to teens who already struggle with self-esteem and are vulnerable to social approval.”

Photoshop is So Five Minutes Ago

Today, a digitally perfect body or face is just a few clicks away, thanks to the ubiquity and ease of use of new “editing” apps. One of the most popular is “Facetune.” According to its own website, Facetune is the #1 self-editing app in the world, used by over 100 million worldwide. With this app, users can “(s)mooth skin, whiten teeth, swipe away blemishes, contour features, add makeup…” and more.

Facetune, which experienced a 20 percent increase in usage at the start of the pandemic, sees 1 million to 1.5 million retouched photos exported every single day. It is so widely used that the word itself is used interchangeably with “edit… in much the same way “Photoshop” was used by the generation before.

According to the study “Selfies-Living in the Era of Filtered Photographs,” a direct correlation exists between the proliferation of digitally manipulated selfies and body dysmorphic disorder, an under-diagnosed mental health condition causing sufferers to obsess over minor or imagined defects in their appearance.

Researchers at Boston University who conducted the study warn that Facetune and similar apps “are making us lose touch with reality because we expect to look perfectly primped and filtered in real life as well,” which can cause serious psychological harm.

What exacerbates the situation further is the Instagram (Facebook) algorithm. It feeds users more of what it thinks they like or have expressed interest in. In other words, if a teen looks at health, beauty, diet, or similar posts, they are likely to be bombarded with more of the same kinds of posts every time they open the app.

What Can Parents Do?

Don’t wait for your daughter (or son) to walk into the kitchen asking you to take Instagram away. Chances are that’s not going to happen because the app isn’t just feeding them images that might promote self-loathing—teens are also using it in a myriad of (and sometimes really awesome) ways. They might be communicating with friends, sharing life updates, learning about current events, sharing inspiring or funny images, or advocating for causes they care about.

There is even an ever-growing community of Instagram users with huge followings who are calling attention to touched-up content and unattainable images of beauty. One of my favorites is @beauty.false who has over 1.2M followers. If you have an Instagram-using teen, ask them if they have heard of or follow this or similar accounts.

Finally, if you need a checklist to help you address this problem, here’s a very short and easy-to-follow list:

  1. Spend a little time exploring Instagram yourself, but remember what you see has been curated specifically for you.
  2. Talk to your teen about Instagram.
  3. Listen (non-judgmentally) to what your teen has to say about Instagram.

By Diana Graber, founder of CyberCivics author of Raising Humans in a Digital World.

posted by on Uncategorized

No comments

Teens today have grown up surrounded by technology. Some might argue they were practically born with smartphones in their hands. In some cases, your teenager might even know more about the Internet than you.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t susceptible to getting into trouble online. Because teens feel so comfortable using computers and phones, they might actually get too confident at times and fall into a variety of traps. That could include anything from talking to the wrong people to giving out private information that could cause problems later.

So, how can you help your teen identify misinformation online? Doing so can protect their mental (and possibly physical) health and provide them with the critical thinking skills they need to make important, safe online decisions in the future. Let’s take a look at a few strategies you should put in place.

Navigating the News

It’s not uncommon to hear phrases today like “cancel culture” or “fake news”, and while your teenager might have a basic understanding of those things, it’s a good idea to further explain what they are. Chances are, your teen is going to get most of their information and news online. Being able to differentiate between what’s real and what isn’t will make a big difference not only in what they believe but how they process what’s going on in the world.

So, how can you help your teenager truly spot “fake news”? It starts by pointing out common sources of false narratives. Some of the most popular outlets for misinformation include:

  • Viral messages
  • Challenge videos
  • Influencers
  • Comment sections
  • Online videos
  • Scam emails

Some websites go to extremes to look as professional and “newsworthy” as possible, but they don’t post all of the facts. In these cases, make sure your teen knows how to check multiple sources to determine if something is true. If something feels “off”, let them know it’s okay for them to question what they see.

Often, misinformation will play on people’s emotions to get them to buy into a false narrative. Helping your teen improve their emotional intelligence will make it easier for them not to give in to their emotions without knowing the facts. You can help them to boost their emotional intelligence by practicing gratitude, guiding them through a greater sense of self-awareness, and teaching them about empathy.

Picking Out Predators

It’s estimated that there are over 500,000 predators online every day. Children between the ages of 12-15 are often their targets, as they can be easily “groomed” and manipulated. Your teen might think they know how to handle themselves when talking to people online. But, many child predators are very good at what they do and know just what to say to make your child believe them.

Online predators provide a slew of misinformation. They often lie about their ages, interests, and sometimes even their genders to gain the trust of kids and teens. They also can often make up excuses for any “fishy” behavior, such as not having a webcam to send pictures, or suggesting that their phone is broken so they can’t call. These are all techniques to keep their real identity hidden.

In today’s ever-changing world of technology, it can be difficult to pick out predators – even as a parent. So, the best thing you can do with your teenager is to openly communicate about online dangers, and put the following in place:

  • Set ground rules about talking to strangers online (don’t share photos, personal information, etc.)
  • Have computers and phones in a central location at home.
  • Use parental control filters.
  • Look for changes in your teen’s behaviors and attitude.

It’s important to stay as involved as possible with your teenager’s online habits. It can keep them from falling for expert lies and manipulation. Speaking of which, there are also things you can do to get ahead of any potential problems and keep your teenager safe with a few preventative protocols.

Practice Routine Protocols

Is your teen going to groan about having “Internet rules” in the house? Probably. But, putting protocols in place will keep everyone safer and more secure online. You never know when your teen could end up on a shady site, and chances are they won’t know the difference either.

One of the best things to do is educate your teen about cybersecurity and keep rules in place, including:

  • Keeping social media profiles private.
  • Never giving private passwords to anyone.
  • Not installing any apps without permission.
  • Leaving out personal information (address, phone number, email) on social media.
  • Turning off devices when they aren’t in use.

You should also invest in antivirus software for everyone in your household. Cyber threats are very real and can happen in the blink of an eye. Though your teenager might think they know everything about spending time online, it’s easy to fall into misinformation traps. You can help them identify these falsehoods faster and keep them safe as they navigate the ever-changing world of online information.

posted by on Uncategorized

Coping with remote learning by understanding viable options

The emergence of the Covid-19 emergency has caused catastrophic disruptions throughout the world. Almost every aspect of life has suffered from the uninterrupted chaos globally. However, the unpreceded healthcare crisis has also presented itself as an eye-opening incidence.

Among every gloomy picture, there was a glimmer of hope for the betterment. It enabled the global population to contemplate concerning problems and associated loopholes. It means the catastrophic challenge has also surfaced various avenues to solve prevalent issues and search for potential opportunities.

In many cases, the crisis has enabled people to explore and expand beyond their boundaries and capabilities. The widespread adaption of online learning is one of the significant benefits of pandemic-induced disturbances.

Acquiring knowledge from online digital sources is not a new phenomenon. Even before Covid-19, the effectiveness of digital means was one of the important agendas of educational policies around the world.

Investment in technology-based universal education was the main focus of concerned stakeholders and educational experts. It is the reason the education and technology combo has surfaced various digital tools, such as virtual tutoring, video conferencing, e-learning, and language apps.

At present, many people consider virtual learning is more convenient, relaxed, and adjustable compared to the physical means. Hence, it is the new standard and viable option in the wake of global healthcare and academic challenges.

Let’s explore and discuss a few of the universally acknowledged benefits of online learning in the following sections.

  1. Understanding and improving doubtful concepts

Acquiring adequate knowledge and mastering previously less explored subjects and areas is relatively more straightforward today. The public is also accepting less popular programs, such as online social work master programs, which encompass a broad spectrum of disciplines like public health, education, business, and medicine.

The digital tools and platforms have reduced the complexity of obscure social sciences concepts. Now, individuals can easily polish their knowledge using abundant resources. It is also possible to pursue various offshoots as specialization majors.

Hence, students can enhance their knowledge about core social concepts and broaden their horizons. Understanding the fundamentals in any area, including family, substance abuse, and mental health, is not a problem today.

In addition, individuals can also explore unfamiliar specialties, such as gerontology, the study of aging and its consequences through different periods and social lenses. Nevertheless, a compressive understanding of various social phenomena can produce capable and well-informed social work professionals. Eventually, society, region, and nation get benefits.

2. Ability to schedule information acquisition

In modern times, academic progression can be a challenging endeavor. Preoccupied students have to cater to various social, occupational, and personal aspects of their lives. Fortunately, the virtual model is a savior in todays’ multifaceted lifestyles.

Its flexibility facilitates students to design self-paced and easily accomplishable learning agendas. With the help of relaxed schedules, students can attain milestones without losing confidence and track of their other engagements.

Without disturbing fixed assignments, learners can manage and organize their schedules by logging in to their administrative accounts. Similarly, students can disperse their assignments and homework throughout unoccupied time slots and maintain more control over their routines.

3. Designing customized learning

Initially, the rapid shift of academic activities to the online mode had increased frustration. Over time, repetitive and prolonged use has raised awareness among the participants.

As a result, students are now able to explore suitable means of information rather than accommodating themselves. Previously, even if students were unable to understand, they had to bear with available resources.

At present, the diversity and scope of virtual means have unraveled countless options. Learners can now categorize and choose resources that quickly suit their requirements and understanding. It is also possible to substitute physical tutors for in-depth clarity on the subject matter.

In addition, individuals can effortlessly engage in discussions with peers and professors. Hence, the online mode has enabled students to spare more time for attention-demanding tasks. Rather than engaging in trivial activities, such as assembling and organizing papers, students can customize their learning experience.

Eventually, attaining learning objectives is easier.

4. Cutting down travel and related cost

One of the significant advantages of online learning is no travel to and from physical campuses. Less commute has enabled learners to save transportation and maintenance expenses. As a result, students do not waste time traveling in public transportation or searching for a suitable parking spot for their vehicles.

Most importantly, the reduction in travel has contributed to cutting down travel-related carbon emissions remarkably. Thus individuals can now minimize their carbon footprints and fulfill financial and environmental obligations.

5. Access to diverse resources

Irrespective of the geographic position, individuals can instantly explore several digital resources without any cost. Unlike physical learning materials, including books, magazines, copies, online resources are freely accessible.

Though some material is protected under copyright laws and implies royalty charges, the rest of the resources only require an internet connection. Hence, students can access journal papers, websites, blogs, e-books, and presentations without excessive charges.

In addition, online learning programs are also cost-effective and require relatively fewer expenses to pursue higher education. The virtual form of learning does not consume additional resources to furnish classrooms, libraries, and laboratories to dispense education.

As a result, academic programs are economic throughout their duration.

6. Administering and exercising self-discipline

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, online learning is undeniably the most suitable form of pursuing education and updating existing information. However, taking convenience and flexibility for granted and ignoring the importance of discipline can backfire.

For long-term goals, virtual learning has also highlighted the significance of organization and punctuality. Without specific agendas and appropriate objectives, simultaneously juggling with multiple tabs and windows can only delay tasks. Otherwise, the sense of unrestrained freedom can hinder setting priorities.

At times, achieving desired outcome within strict time limits can be challenging. Rather than accomplishing predefined objectives and improving performance, anxiety surfaces as emerging trouble. Therefore, it is crucial to exercise self-discipline.

Concluding remarks

Undeniably, the massive shift to online platforms for learning purposes has saved the academic sector from complete collapse during the pandemic. Even today, digital platforms are effective and safe sources of information attainment around the world.

Though there is some uncertainty over the prolonged duration of the current e-learning trend, its significance during the prevailing emergency is indisputable.

Guest contributor Carla Adams

posted by on Internet Addiction

Signs of Teen Gaming Addiction

Many parents are concerned with the amount of time their tweens and teens spend online.

Whether it’s communicating with friends through social media, texting or chatting — or they are playing video games, it all involves screen-time.

What is gaming internet addiction?

Experts say that just because someone uses the internet a lot, or even obsessively, doesn’t mean they’re addicted.

The key signal of internet use disorder — more commonly called internet addiction — is if the uncontrolled use of the internet for gaming, gambling, pornography, social media or blogging starts to interfere with the teen’s daily, real-world life.

At this point, internet use becomes a problem because it may affect teens’ physical health and social skills. Most importantly, it may aggravate any underlying mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, which are sometimes the major contributing factors to why teens develop internet addiction.

It has been extremely challenging times for both parents and teens. With the increase of digital addiction, we have seen a shift in behavioral changes with young people such as:

  • Defiance
  • Rage
  • Anger
  • Withdrawn
  • Failing in school

Especially if parents remove or threaten to take their devices away from the teen, the behavior escalates. Their online life is oxygen them.

It’s more beneficial to help them learn healthier digital habits and healthy relationship with their devices.

Signs of internet addiction in teens:

  • A need to be on the internet that is more important than being with friends or engaging in other hobbies.
  • A dip in grades for no other reason other than the desire to spend time on the internet, which prevents concentration on schoolwork.
  • Anxiety when away from the internet.
  • Ignoring school work, chores at home and personal hygiene in order to maximize time spent on the internet.
  • Fatigue from staying up late or getting up early to be on the internet.
  • Irritability, anger or emotional outbursts when questioned about the time spent online.

Treating internet addiction

Have you tried home contracts, even bargained with your teen in order to limit screen time and nothing worked?

It might be time to consider a more extensive digital detox plan so your teens can develop a healthy relationship with technology.

The fact is — the internet is not going away. It’s imperative they learn coping skills to be productive and emotionally secure with their social media. There are too many young people living for likes and followers. Many teens actually base their self-worth on the number of likes or followers they have acquired. Sadly, this is now the world they live in.

Some of the more common psychological treatments of Internet Addiction Disorder include:

  • Individual, group, or family therapy
  • Behavior modification
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Equine Therapy
  • Art Therapy
  • Recreation Therapy

Have you exhausted your local resources? Is your teen struggling with their obsession with their device? Is their physical and mental health suffering? It might be time to consider residential therapy.

Contact us for more information.

posted by on Social media

Preventing the Adverse Effects of Social Media on Teens

Social media was created to make people socialize virtually, and that has been possible to some extent. There are multiple other benefits of social media as well, but the question is do the pros outweigh the cons of social media.

If you aren’t wise enough, things can get worse while using social media platforms. Especially with teens, with a lot of free time and the lack of proper guidance, things can go south for them.

Impact of Social Media on Teens

Not Social

We all have heard of so-called “Social Media platforms,” but are they really Social? Some people use social media purely for socializing, but not everyone has similar intentions. The internet is harsh, and people with bad intentions make social media not social at all. Social media doesn’t depict real human interaction and doesn’t help with the social skills of teens. People on the internet are narcissists and are there to promote themselves instead of caring about others.

Increased Teen Depression

Social Media has taken many teens with its toxicity. Different studies support the fact about social media causing depressive symptoms in teens or everyone in general.  A study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania found out increased loneliness and depression with the high usage of social media. It’s hard to handle the negativity, racism, body-shaming, and harassment going online. Cyberbullying and fake expectations that are way difficult to meet also contribute to added depression or anxiety in Teens. 

Misinformation and Self-harm Content

Social Media being unregulated, carries tons of misinformation and harmful content. Although social media platforms have their guidelines and rules, people still find a way to spread harmful content. The misinformation has been on the internet for a long time, be it about fat loss, height gain, or even the COVID-19 vaccine. Teens are becoming vulnerable and trying to take their lives by getting addicted to the self-destructive content on the internet.

Avoiding adverse impacts of Social Media on Teens

Set Limit and Monitor the usage

Most of the social media problems are caused by the overuse and the addiction of the platforms. While spending more time on social media, we tend to forget the real world and get lost on the internet. A 2019 study suggests that people who spend more than three hours a day on social media might be more at risk of mental health problems. Now, most platforms also have a “Your activity” feature where you can check the total time you’re spending there. It can help you keep track of your social media usage.

Encourage more face-to-face and live interactions

Like we said, social media isn’t social, so we encourage you to spend more time on live conversations. That way, you get to socialize and learn more from different people and perspectives. Having face-to-face interactions with people in real life helps you deal with loneliness and reduces the isolation factor from your life.

Follow people who inspire you more on Social Media

Now in the generation of the internet, everything is there at the tip of your finger. You could get the best out of social media by following influencers that inspire you. You can also use social media to learn, as ample pages share informative content that adds value to people’s lives.

The impacts of social media on teens can get horrific, but things can also get better if you get smart and monitor the usage. People have even lost lives due to social media, so be aware of its usage and negative impact.

Read about how removing your teens’ devices doesn’t always work.

Check out our featured book – Raising Humans In A Digital World, helping you become a smarter digital parent.

posted by on Cyber Safety, Cybersafety, Internet Safety, Online activity

Young people spend much of their lives in front of a screen, and with the pandemic, that time has increased substantially.

Yet, few young people are taught how to be good citizens online, let alone how to balance the time they spend online with all the other parts of life—like sleeping, mealtimes, exercise, and face-to-face time with family and friends.

Learning how to be a citizen of the digital world may be the most important thing for a young person to learn today.

What is Digital Citizenship?

We live in an age when we are as much a citizen of the online world as we are of our town, state, or country. In a captivating TED Talk, the CEO of Citizen University, Eric Lui, describes civics as “the art of being a pro-social, problem solving contributor in a self-governing community.”

I love this definition and can’t think of any communities more “self-governing” than those online. Can you?

Consider the social media communities where youth hang out, share information, and spend the bulk of their time—like TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, and so forth.

These communities are largely devoid of parents, internet police, crossing guards, or even rules to keep their users in line or safe. Kids are left to their own devices to figure out how to be a good citizen in places like these.

Lui further explains civics by quoting Microsoft founder Bill Gates’s father, Bill Gates Sr., who says civics is “simply showing up for life.”

I love that descriptor, too, and especially the three things Lui says it encompasses:

  • A foundation of values
  • An understanding of the systems that make the world go round
  • A set of skills that allow you to pursue goals, and have others join in that pursuit.

These are three capacities we aim to equip students with through a comprehensive curriculum called “Cyber Civics.”  By guiding kids through a series of discussions and activities surrounding a range of technology-related topics, they become digitally literate.

This holistic approach to possibly the most important skill kids needs today, given the time they spend with tech, achieves an important end. It arms them with the superpowers they’ll need to keep themselves safe and be, well, super–online and off.

What is Digital Literacy?

Digital literacy “is more than technological know-how. It includes a wide variety of ethical, social, and reflective practices that are embedded in work, learning, leisure, and daily life,” according to Canada’s MediaSmarts.

Cyber Civics teaches students to be digitally-literate through a three-year series of weekly activities that cover the entire spectrum of digital literacy. It includes lessons in:

  • Digital Citizenship (the safe and responsible use of digital tools).
  • Information Literacy (how to find, retrieve, analyze, and use online information).
  • Media Literacy for Positive Participation (using critical thinking to analyze media messages, including “fake news”).

The entire curriculum is available online, so teachers can easily download lessons that they deliver in the classroom. All lessons include interactive activities, hands-on projects, problem solving scenarios, and role-play.

As of this writing, schools in 48 U.S. states (and seven other countries) teach Cyber Civics to their students, and the program continues to grow. Today there is even a book–Raising Humans in the Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship With Technology (HarperCollins Leadership) that tells the Cyber Civics story.

Too Important To Ignore

No matter what a child’s future brings, you can be sure it will include using digital tools.

Given all the things they need to know in order to use them well (online reputation management, learning balance, privacy protection, fake news, cyberbullying, sexting, porn, online predators, media misrepresentation.... need I go on?), it is imperative that every child receives an education in digital literacy.

Please contact us if we can help you help your kids learn how to become digitally literate.

Post contributed by Diana Graber, founder of CyberCivics and author of Raising Humans In A Digital World.

posted by on Summer Camps

Summer Camps to Help Digital Addiction

Will a therapeutic summer camp help your teen’s digital addiction?

Many teens today have been experiencing depression, anxiety, under-performing in school if not completely failing classes — we’ve even witnessed a rise in truancy and youth that were once excelling that are now barely passing.

Internet and cellphone addiction has been a major contributing factor to young people’s decline in mental wellness.

This can lead to extreme defiance, rage and explosive behavior.

How can summer options help & what are the benefits:

There are therapeutic summer programs that are designed to give families a good foundation of what they are facing with their child’s behavior. It can offer immediate support and typically continues with a Psychiatric Evaluation with medication recommendations (if needed); an Educational Plan with specific goals and course recommendations (residents will have the option to recover essential grade credits, prepare for the SAT’s, gain organizational skills, as well); and a wellness plan, with goals for health and fitness, in addition to nutritional recommendations.

This is a time for digital detox as well as developing a healthy relationship with technology and building social skills with people in real life.

Some of the benefits can be the following:

  • Grade recovery
  • Learning coping skills
  • Anger and stress management
  • Peer relationships offline
  • SAT prep classes
  • Self-esteem building (helps them make better choices)
  • Overall healthy relationship with their devices

Why use a therapeutic summer program?

In some situations, maybe your teen only needs a summer boost, depending on the issues they are facing.

Some parents feel more comfortable committing to a shorter version of a therapeutic program rather than jumping into a full 6-9-12 month school. It can give them an opportunity to evaluate the program, therapists and staff. They are unsure if their teen needs a full therapeutic boarding school just yet.

The positive side of therapeutic summer programs are that they are part of long-term programs so your child doesn’t have to switch facilities if you determine they need longer care. This can also be helpful if your child successfully completes the summer session, however months later starts to stumble. Therapeutic schools offer open enrollment all year round so they would be able to be there to assist you.

Why are therapeutic summer programs rarely the answer but can be helpful?

Again this depends on the teenager. If your teen is only struggling academically, the summer grade recovery could be the perfect answer for you. However if you’ve been battling defiance, anger, rage, depression and other mental health concerns you might have a longer road in front of you.

It didn’t take 4-6 weeks for your child to get to where they are today, it’s not going to take 4-6 weeks for them to change this behavior.

Since 2001 we have been helping and educating families from all over the country. We rarely hear from families where a summer program has been successful for long-lasting results in behavioral changes but it can definitely be a strong starting place.

However, in some situations a solid 60-90-day program has been exactly what a student needed to get them back on the right path academically or at least give the family a sense of direction and a balanced home life.

What do therapeutic summer programs typically cost?

Therapeutic summer programs that have quality credential therapists, accredited educational team and enrichment programs will start at about $7000 a month and up. In some cases, PPO insurance may cover a portion of your clinical component of the program.

This tuition is competitive if not less than wilderness programs that rarely offer an educational component or enrichment programs.

In conclusion, if you’ve been struggling with your teen for over a year and have exhausted your local resources (therapy, out-patient, in-patient, maybe sent them to live with a relative) – and feel like you’re living like a hostage in your own home – or possibly fear for your child’s life, it might be time to consider residential therapy.

Each child and family are different. For many teens, in order to have long-lasting changes, it usually will take 6-9-12 months. However, we completely understand some families want to start with a summer option to ‘dip their toes in the water.’

Learn more about a therapeutic boarding school and residential treatment center.

Contact us for more information.

posted by on Uncategorized

How the Cancel Culture Can Impact Your Online Reputation

The Cancel Culture (formerly referred to as the “call-out” culture) is now how people are using social media to publicly shame (usually celebrities or brands) due to what they deem is a controversial issue or act.

Whether it’s politics or the car you drive, it seems everyone has an opinion.

However if something is against their beliefs or morals, instead of having a diplomatic conversation – or seeking the truth, it’s easier to use their keystrokes to jump to conclusions — and assume it’s true since it’s on the Internet.

There’s no rewind online

The Internet is unforgiving, even if Chris Pratt or any celebrity that makes a mistake (thinking back to Kevin Hart) true or false — the gang-like mentality of social media can be overwhelming.

The fact is the digital population doesn’t take a moment to determine cyber-fact from cyber-fiction. They will quickly destroy a career and reputation within a few clicks and taps of their keypad.

The Cancel Culture is very troubling, since many of these people are adults acting like children; they are all quick to react without taking the time to consider all sides of a story.

No one is perfect, many of us have made stupid comments or even posts years ago and what we’re witnessing is the corrosion of humanity. People using the power at their fingertips to ruin and hurt others — and they don’t think twice about it.

Online reputation and being cancelled

Your online behavior is a reflection of your offline character. If you are the shamer or the person being shamed, your online reputation can be affected. We are all a click away from digital disgrace, including being canceled!

It’s an aim and shame society online – and sadly, celebrities or major brands typically take the hit, since they are public figures or easy targets.

What we learn from this is no one is immune to online hate (even celebrities); Bad things happen to good people online, this doesn’t have to define you.

We are living in very contentious times, especially for those that have strong viewpoints and believe that others are wrong or bad people for not having their same belief system.

Right or wrong, in these heated times anyone can easily become a target for almost anything. Especially if it pertains to politics, religion or race — if you have ever made any comments (whether in jest or not) – you never know how they can come back to haunt you or be taken out of context.

Young people especially need to think twice before engaging in this type of behavior, it can literally define your future. Whether it’s applying to colleges or interviewing for jobs, your online behavior is available to anyone that puts your name through an Internet rinse cycle. 

People today are quick to judge and slow to consider all the facts behind these posts or images. It’s really sad – since you can ruin an innocent person’s life, especially regarding their online reputation – which is just about everything today. 

Like online shaming, there are very few instances that the Cancel Culture has a place in our society.

3 Ways to avoid being cancelled

Personally, I’m not convinced that the cancel culture will be gone anytime soon. For now, here are 3 ways you can navigate online safer.

Avoiding Being Cancelled:

  1. Share with care: If you can’t contribute constructively, consider not sharing your thoughts at all.

    The truth is, if you have a strong viewpoint you might be better off telling them to your friend offline. You will be less likely to risk online controversy or shaming at all.

  2. Politics and religion: This is a very slippery slope and you want to be very careful on how you share your comments.

    Your online behavior is always a reflection of your offline character. You might be strong in your convictions, but could it cost you a job, relationship or career.

    It’s also important to remember your words don’t always translate the way you want them to online. So much can be taken out of context.

  3. Humor: Everyone loves a laugh, but keep in mind that online context (tone especially) can translate very differently.

    What may seem harmless and humorous to you – could be construed as sarcasm and cruelty to others.

Maybe cancelling has some good intentions such as people wanting to bring awareness to social justice causes. People don’t get cancelled for having bad hair or preferring pineapple on their pizza, but because they’ve done or said something problematic.

If you use common sense and keep it friendly, you shouldn’t fear being cancelled or shamed (though it’s never a guaranty online). If you do make a mistake (we’re all human), be accountable, apologize swiftly. Remember, even if you do remove it – chances are good someone already copied it to another place in cyberspace.

It might be time to take a digital detox.

posted by on Uncategorized

No comments

We’re all a click away from digital disgrace

Reality is, we’re a tweet or post away from losing an interview, a job or for many young people — a spot for their first choice college.

The percentage of college admissions officers who believe that incorporating applicants’ social media pages into their decisions is “fair game” continues to trend upward, reaching 65% in the 2020 survey of over 300 of them from Kaplan, up from 59% in 2019 and 57% in 2018.

The study says, among other things, that college admissions staffs are continuing to review applicants’ social media activity and online reputations.

Digital Reputation and COVID

In the age of Covid-19, when we are spending more time on social platforms, it’s important for students (teens) to be extremely careful about their online behavior.

For example, how might an admissions officer react to seeing a photo of you in a large group of friends, with local social distancing and safety precautions not being followed? These are things applicants didn’t have to think about years prior, but may have to do so now.

Life Before Tech

Do you remember when we were kids and the biggest threat a teacher had was putting a grade on our permanent record? We lived in fear of the idea of someone, years down the line, reading about the time when we poured our milk over a bully’s head in the cafeteria.

Then we grew up and learned that employers would never read that permanent record and would never care about the time in tenth grade when we called a teacher a “jerk” before that teacher was out of earshot.

Those were simpler times – times when employers didn’t check credit reports, when college admissions (for the most part) staff only cared about the grades you earned in high school, and earning a bachelor’s degree was optional.

Pause Before You Post

This isn’t the case for our kids. They live in a world where college degrees are now viewed the same way we once saw a high school diploma. The chances of getting even a minimum wage job without one are tiny. They live in a world where they share everything via public and social mediums. Their permanent records start when they’re born and their parents put their baby pictures up on Facebook.

In some ways, this makes them more web savvy than their adult counterparts. They have a seemingly inherent understanding that everything they put online can be accessed by pretty much anybody. The idea that their internet activity is private is foreign to them.

That doesn’t mean that they aren’t still teenagers, and teenagers, as much as we love them, aren’t so great at impulse control. They are also still figuring out who they are, and that means trying out all sorts of different things…things that might be embarrassing later on and things they definitely wouldn’t want to be held accountable for when they grow up and out of a particular phase.

Online Actions, Offline Consequences

The Kaplan study presents a number of problems for kids who are applying to college. While admissions staff have gone on record in a number of publications saying things like awkward selfies probably won’t negatively influence their decisions, they also say that reading things like disparaging comments about teachers and peers as well as proven association with alcohol or other illicit substances could cause them to refuse a student’s entrance into their school.

What makes this even more stressful is that most online reputations are only given a cursory glance. This means that someone in your kid’s chosen school could be inadvertently looking at a profile for someone else with the same name as your child or, worse, looking at a fake profile one of your kid’s rivals set up to be mean.

Being Proactive

So what can you do? As a parent, how much of this is within your control?
Talk to your kids about the importance of their online reputations. Remind them that everything they post online has the potential to go public (and viral). Encourage them to only post those things that they wouldn’t mind being grilled about by their highly prudish great great aunts and uncles over Thanksgiving dinner.

This is not the look you want to see on someone's face when they search for your teen!

Connect with your kids online as well as at home. Make sure that your kids have friended you on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and that you can follow their Twitter and other social media accounts.

This way you can see what they post the same way their friends can.

Work with them to set their privacy settings to the strictest levels possible. This way, even if someone searches for their profiles, they won’t see anything you and your kids don’t want them to see.

Why not cut them off at the chase? Include links to social media profiles with applications to ensure that admissions officers are looking at the correct profiles. Plus, knowing that those links are included in applications should hopefully encourage your kids to practice some social media decorum.

It pays to be proactive!

Guest post