posted by on Cyber Safety, Identity theft, Online Privacy

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So far in 2015, there have been countless cases of mass identity theft. In the United States alone, millions have been victimized in data breaches and the year is not over yet.

While improvements to identity security, such as through Chip-and-Pin credit card technology, are making an impact — it’s not enough!

If you want to stay safe, avoid underestimating the value of each of these 10 great ways to prevent identity theft!

1) Consider a Credit Freeze IDTheft2

If you really stress over needing to avoid identity theft, the credit freeze is a more than the fraud alert when trying to avoid identity theft risks. This can help you prevent identity theft in many ways; with a credit freeze, a creditor will not be able to access your credit report without prior authorization from you.

The specific fees and laws for placing a freeze on your file will depend on where you live. So, make sure to find your state’s credit freeze laws before considering this option.

Pro tip: Placing a credit freeze typically costs $3 to $10, depending on your state.

2) Get Your Free Credit Report, 3x Annually

You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies, once per year. The easiest way to get your free credit report is by going to, which is also the only website authorized by the three major bureaus to give out your free annual report.

Do not request your three credit reports at once. You can request a free credit report from one of the three bureaus. That way, you are able to view your credit report information at no cost multiple times per year.

Pro tip: Save your money, credit reports are free even without credit monitoring!

FraudAlert3) Set Up Fraud Alerts

You can request a 90-day fraud alert from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. It just takes an application at one of the three, and then that bureau notifies the others. The alert is typically set up when you have a reason to believe your identity might have been stolen. It lasts for 90 days, and then you can request that it gets renewed.

The 90-day fraud alert is free to request. It’s not a bulletproof way to prevent identity theft, as creditors are not legally required to contact you to confirm your identity.

4) Improve Online Account Security

To further prevent identity theft exposure, make sure to limit what you expose about yourself on your online accounts. This includes the information that only shows when you log-in, and details about you that only staff can see. You can always set up two-factor authentication on your sensitive accounts to further deter hackers; it’s often impossible to prevent identity theft once your information gets compromised in a data breach.

5) Educate Yourself on Identity Theft

Knowing is half the battle, and with identity thieves always finding new angles to take — you must take the time to learn how to protect yourself. This means more than just finding a list of random identity theft prevention tips. If you have the time, read through ‘The 100 Best Ways to Prevent Identity Theft’ by Elite Personal Finance to get a detailed list of the many ways you can secure your identity.

6) Monitor Your Social Security Number (SSN)

Hands down, your SSN is the most dangerous piece of information an identity thief could hold over your head. If a fraudster gets their hands on it, they could try to do much more than just open new credit lines in your name. Your identity might get used to avoid paying fines, to score free medical procedures, or even to work a legitimate job while living under ‘illegal alien’ status.

Pro tip: If you track your SSN statement online, you will be more likely to prevent identity theft attempts from affecting you.

7) Improve Your Mailbox Security

Many identity thieves steal mail right out of your mailbox to get information on you. This is even more common around tax return season, which is when the most financially-damaging identity fraud attacks happen. In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), tax return identity theft was the most-reported type of identity crime in 2014.

The best way to improve your mailbox security is to invest in a post office (PO) box. If you are a student, and a PO box is not an option, you can consider redirecting your mail to your parents.

8) Be Careful Shopping Online

Shopping online can be dangerous, but it’s less so when you use a trusted third-party payment processor. For instance, you can pay through PayPal and limit yourself to trusting a single reputable corporation instead of various online shops.

Frequent shoppers should invest in prepaid, reloadable credit cards for their online shopping needs.

9) Secure Your Smartphone

You cannot prevent identity theft if your information is always accessible. Make sure you are cautious about the documents and images that are stored on your smartphone. This includes the contents in cloud-based storage.

While improving your phone’s security will not prevent identify theft, it could stop a phone thief from getting your sensitive information. For best results, you can also install a ‘phone locker’ that will disable (and even clear) your phone to keep your information safe.

10) Keep Your Cards Hidden

Whether it’s your credit card or your SSN card, you do not want anyone else to have access to it. This means you might not want to keep your cards in your purse or wallet — if someone steals it from you, all of a sudden all those cards are gone. Keep your SSN card at home, except for when it’s needed — at the very least, this is the one physical card you truly want to keep from others.

Conclusion: You Can Protect Yourself!

There is no need to spend money on credit monitoring or identity theft protection. Many of the preventative features these services offer are available to you at no cost. They are just protected by layers of marketing; if you take the time, you CAN protect yourself!

posted by on Adult Bullying, Adult Cyberbullying, Bullying, Bullying prevention, Cyber Safety, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Cybersafety, Digital citizenship, Digital Distractions, Digital Life, Digital Parenting

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This month several surveys and reports have been released on tech, parenting, teens and cyberbullying.

Starting with the simple one that came from iKeepSafe, which was funded by AT&T, it focused on Cyberbalance in the Digital Culture.

  • 44% of teens admit they do to not get enough sleep because of digital devices
  • 40% of teens don’t complete their homework because of time with devices
  • 37% of teens admit their devices interfere with day to day activities
  • 30% of adults report their devices interfere with normal, everyday activities
  • 25% of adults admit they don’t get enough sleep because of digital devices

There was nothing truly shocking here, as we know that having our gadgets can interrupt our daily lives. It’s not like reading a book that typically would make us drowsy. The electronic buzz or digital lights keeps our brain cells going, we have to learn to disconnect not only in the evening but when we are in the company of others.

CyberRules2So what will you do about it?

Sometimes to acquire cyber-balance you need cyber-rules.

  • All devices stay in the kitchen at night (including the parents gadgets too). Role models matter.
  • Practice looking up when speaking to other people, putting your device down or away when you are with friends or other people.
  • Schedule your hands-free time.  (For both parents and teens). It starts with you!

Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) released their latest report conducted by Hart Research Associates, Parents, Privacy and Technology Use.

Here are a few of the findings:

  • 78% of parents believe technology has a positive effect on their child’s future, career and life skills
  • 54% of parents say they have learned something about their device (smartphone or tablet) from their child
  • 39% of parents have learned more about social networking sites from their child
  • 36% of parents have used parent controls such as a tool, app or program to monitor or limit their child’s Internet use
  • 87% of parents say they have rules for their child’s technology use and consequences in place
  • 19% of parents say they have posted something a child has asked them to remove
Do 81% parents really know what their teen is doing online?

Do 81% parents really know what their teen is doing online?

None of these stats are too surprising, until I read the following statistics:

  • 59% of parents are highly confident in their ability to manage their child’s technology
  • 81% of parents think they know a lot or most of what their children are doing online

I’m never one to dispute research and I’m not going to start now. If this is what Hart Research discovered, I’m thrilled!

I work with many parents of teenagers on a daily and weekly basis and I’ve yet to hear of one parent that is able to keep up with their teen’s digital and device ability.  On the contrary, they’re at their wit’s end! The frustration of not being able to keep up can be stressful.

From texting to social networking, teens (from parents that I speak with) seem to be way ahead of parents. Which is why we consistently remind parents today to get engaged both offline and online with their teenagers.

What can you do?

  • Stay updated on the latest acronyms, apps and sites teens are using
  • Know your teen’s digital playgrounds and preferences, where do they virtually surf
  • Check their smartphone usage – what are their most visited sites
  • Continue to have your teen teach you more technology, you will learn more about them – digitally and otherwise
  • Offline parenting is key to online safety, and can help your teen make better cyber-choices – such as, when in doubt–click out

New research conducted by Telus Wise in partnership with Media Smarts and PREVNet, discusses Cyberbullying and youth.

  • 71% of youth that witnessed cyberbullying said they did something to intervene

That is the headline to this study and is extremely important especially since being an upstander is key to combating bullying.

In this study youth said they were more likely to stand up for a family member, which is understandable. It’s no different than generations earlier when someone would dish your mother or tease your sibling – you stood up for your family.

  • 90% of youth would  intervene if the target was a family member and 89% said they would intervene if it were a close friend — by comparison only 37% said they would intervene if it were someone they didn’t know personally
Open the lines of communication before an incident happens.

Open the lines of communication before an incident happens.

Parents and trusted adults matter.

Youth seek to talk to a trusted adult or friend first when asked about how to handle a cyberbullying situation.

However these same youth said they would intervene more if  trusted adults and parents did a better job of supporting them.

  • 33% of youth believe that adults don’t give advice that helps
  • 43% of youth believe that talking to adults or teachers will not change anything

From the research, it’s clear that educating parents and teachers is a piece that is necessary- but we need the parents to get engaged.  In reality there’s a lot of information online about cyberbullying prevention, however parents need to want to learn more about is. Parents need to take the time to find out more about cyberbullying resources and prevention to be able to help their child when they are faced with difficult situations.

It’s so much more than stop, block and tell…. it’s hey, we’re here for you and this is how I can help you.

Has your child ever been falsely accused of being a bully? Here’s 12 steps of what you need to know by Mary Kay Hoal. Be an educated parent when your child comes to you no matter what side of the fence they are on.

posted by on Cell Phone, Cell phone safety, Civility, Cyber Safety, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Cybersafety, Online activity, Online bullying, Online Safety, Sexting, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Predators

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CellPhone77Everyone loves their cell phones and most can’t live without them.

PEW Fact Tank shares that 64% of adults in 2015 own a smartphone, but when it comes to cell phones in general, it jumps to 90% of adults.

In a PEW Research in 2013, 74% of youth between the age of 12-17 own a cell phone. Of course we can assume that is higher now, with their 2015 study of 88% of teens owning a mobile device.

Like with the sex talk that our parents had with us (well, most parents had with their kids), having a tech talk is just as imperative for this generation – but with a huge difference. The tech talk has to be a regular discussion, if not daily. It should be as common as asking your child how their day at school was.

We continually drive home the message with our teens not to text and drive. We show them how distracted driving kills the same as drunk driving. Now we also have to be sure we are discussing how the other ‘exting’ —- sexting that could potentially ruin your/their life too.

The concern over sexting for all ages is very serious and has serious consequences.

Let’s consider adults first. 

According to a study last spring by Primus/PrevNet, they reported that one in five parents admitted to digitally sharing intimate photos and/or sexually related messages. With a 41% divorce rate for a first marriage and 60% for a second marriage, parents (and everyone else, for that matter) need to pause before sending sex-related texts and/or pictures. You never know when you will be the next victim of eVenge or revenge porn.

No one, at any age, is immune to the consequences of sexting. If your significant other suddenly has turned into your foe, you need to be very cautious of what you may have sent them and how they will use it.

Now to our youth.

The recent sexting scandals in high schools among teenagers has become a wake-up call for many parents and students. Parents that don’t want to believe their child would engage in this behavior, and students that don’t understand that what they are doing could potentially land them in major trouble.

In a study by Drexel University in June 2014, the majority of teens were not aware of the severity of the consequences of sexting.

  • Over 54% of the students reported sexting as minors. However, only 28% sent photographic sexts.
  • 61% were not aware that sending texts could be considered child pornography.
  • In the study, 59% of respondents reported that knowledge of legal consequences “would have” or “probably would have” deterred them from sexting.

Having knowledge is power.

This goes back to our offline parenting skills helping your teen make better online decisions. Like the texting and driving lecture — sexting needs to be discussed frequently. With the current headlines of teens hiding nude phones in apps, the ghost apps and other ways that kids are finding ways to discretely send sexual notes, it’s imperative you step-up your digital parenting skills and become just as creative as these apps!

We have the knowledge of these apps now, you have read many articles about how to search your child’s smartphone for them.  One of the best was by Dan Tynan on Yahoo Parenting. Read it – and educate yourself on finding those sneaky apps.

Most importantly, does your teen understand what sexting is – and do they know the consequences?  Start the sext chat early.

Cyberbullying Research Center lists the sexting laws by state.  Find your state and become aware of the legal ramifications. However, keep in mind, if you don’t have any state law yet, it doesn’t mean it couldn’t change. Also, just because it isn’t law in your state – doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. Especially if it crosses state lines electronically – and remember, your online reputation matters.

Now find new ways to chat with your teen about their digital lives — not only offline, but let’s go online too – together!

  • Ask them for tech lessons on your smartphone. Let’s face it, teens usually know more than us on these devices – engage in a digital conversation with them.
  • Time to clean out old apps and add new for the holidays – together. (Who’s paying for it?) Chances are the parents – on their cell service.
  • Find some new recipes for the holidays, maybe some cooking apps. Ask your teen for help. Get chatting about technology any way you can with your child.  Bring it back to their experiences online.
  • Always sprinkling your conversations with the reminders of sending questionable photos, comments, distracted driving and other important digital lessons that can affect their future.

Back to basics of cell phone manners.

Before texting (and the dangers of sexting), is your teen using cell phone etiquette?

TeenCellRudeTurn off your phone when you’re having a face to face conversation with someone. The increased use of cell phones, tablets and laptops has taken a toll on personal communication skills. Many teens have a hard time putting their phones down and engaging in a real and sustained conversation with another person. It’s become harder and harder for parents, teachers, coaches and others to connect with teens in meaningful ways, and when they are able to it’s often cut short by technology. While being able to answer the phone every time someone calls is convenient, interrupting a face to face conversation for a phone chat is disrespectful.

Teach your teen to turn off his phone or set it to vibrate (and then ignore it!) when he’s involved in a face to face conversation. Help him understand that by giving someone his full attention, he’s sending the message that he genuinely cares about what the other person is saying. Imagine how great it would be to enjoy dinner with your teen without his phone ringing, beeping or vibrating every few minutes.

Remember that basic phone rules still apply. Although your teen will know most of the people calling him, he will still need to know how to correctly answer a phone call meant for another. Remind him to speak clearly, ask if he can take a message, repeat the message back to the caller and use “please” and “thank you.” As a follow up, he should get the message to the intended party as soon as possible.

Keep the volume down when in a public place. There are few things more annoying than someone loudly chatting away on a cell phone right next to you. Remind your teen that when he’s in a public place like a restaurant or movie theater, he’s sharing that space with a bunch of people who aren’t interested in his conversation. He should keep his voice lowered and step away from the crowd to talk. Some may still be able to hear him, but his phone conversation will be much less intrusive to others.

Keep it G rated. Teens often try out a wide variety of curse words and crude statements as they find their “voice.” Although it’s a natural part of the teen years, that doesn’t mean others should have to endure it. Let him know it’s unacceptable to use that type of language in any public conversation, especially if children or young adults are around.

posted by on Cyber Safety, Cyberbullying, Digital citizenship, Parenting, Parenting Blogs, Social media, Social Networking

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Who is your teen's digital influences?

Who is your teen’s digital influences?

Common Sense Media recently released their latest report  regarding today’s media consumption and our youth.

Tweens and teens spend about 9-hours a day on media.

This includes a variety of media entertainment such as– music, television, tablets, computers and of course mobile devices.

According to Common Sense, here are a few key findings:

  • Youth love media in all forms! Teens use an average of nine hours of entertainment media per day, and tweens use an average of six hours, not including time spent using media for school or homework. Of that, tweens average more than four and a half hours of screen media use a day and teens more than six and a half hours.
  • The differences between how girls and boys view media vary. Teen boys average 56 minutes a day playing video games, compared to girls’ seven minutes; and teen girls spend 40 minutes more a day than boys on social media (1:32 vs. 52 minutes).
  • Social media is in play, but not always fun. Social media is an integral part of most teens’ lives (45 percent use it “every day”), but only 36 percent say they enjoy using social media “a lot,” compared with 73 percent who enjoy listening to music and 45 percent who enjoy watching TV “a lot.”

What’s important to understand is no matter what form of media your child is interacting with, are you familiar with what it is?

Who or what is influencing them?

It may not be a video game that determines their employment future, but do you know if it is age appropriate for your child?

What music is your child listening to? Of course, it’s difficult to control all this, however with your offline discussions, ask them about the artists and music they like. Find out and learn more about who is influencing your child.

Interestingly is how the study relates to social media. It’s not always fun anymore. Why? For those that watched #Being13 The Secret Lives of Teenagers, you will see the stress of what some teens go through to be sure their pictures are perfect, or the struggles of online harassment, compounded with FOMO (fear of missing out).

Isn’t it time we find out who your child’s media and digital influences are?

It’s impossible to be with our kids all the time, but having frequent and consistent offline conversations about their media and digital lives will help them not only make better choices when you aren’t around, it also gives you an opportunity to learn more about their media lives.

Be an involved parent – you will have safer digital kids.

posted by on Civility, Digital citizenship, Digital Parenting, Parenting Teens

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just-be-nice (1)We are heading into the holiday season. This means more interaction with store clerks, more time online, and most likely more time with customer service people on the phone. Our words and reaction will to others in all these spaces and places will matter. It’s a time for patience, understanding – and most importantly, simply being nice when we know it can be an extremely stressful time for some people.

Back in 2013 I wrote this blog post. I want to re-publish it as a reminder. Everyone, at every age has the ability to spread kindness with their words. Let’s not forget this as we head into what is supposed to be a season of joy.


It is such a simple word, kindness.  To be kind to one another seems like such a simple task, yet on almost a daily basis we hear about peer cruelty online (both adults and kids) that will use keystrokes as their weapon of choice to hurt others.

Recently I was at the movies waiting in line.  There was young girl, she couldn’t have been more than 12 years-old.  She complimented me on my necklace.  I thanked her.  It was so genuine and nice of her.  I thought, wow, this is strange, since tweenagers usually are not so cordial to older people (umm, not that I am “that old”).  Then she was at the window buying her ticket and she complimented the ticket attendant on their shirt and how she really liked the color.  Kind words.

These are all small words of kindness that can really change the day a person is having and put a smile on someone’s face.  The girl’s mother was with her and I wanted to go up and commend her for raising  such a thoughtful child, but I didn’t. I wish I had.

Instead, I am writing about this event in hopes all parents will remind their kids that words can be used to lift people up as much as they can be used to break people down.

This goes for adults too.  I am now going to make it a mission to compliment others on  daily basis, from our grocery check-out person, to you bank teller and your neighbors.

Let’s be real.  Most people are on social networking most of the time.  Take the time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or wherever you are cyber-surfing to spread kindness.

Be kind online and remember parents, your children are watching you.  If you are gossiping (even in your kitchen) your kids will be mimicking your behavior.

The biggest secret to kindness is that it also makes you feel so good!

Go ahead, pay it forward ~~ be kind online and in person, you will be amazed at your attitude change!

Let’s spread kindness today and everyday.

posted by on Adult Cyberbullying, Cyberbullying, cyberbullying prevention, Cybersafety, Digital Parenting, Online bullying, Online harassment

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ParentTeen2We have constantly said that although October was Bullying Prevention Month, we also consider it Cyberbullying Prevention Month, we have to continuously discuss awareness and educate our communities on curbing this type of cruelty – both offline and online 365 days a year.

The fact is bullying is no longer limited to our playgrounds, school hallways, bathrooms or even the cafeterias – these bullies follow your kids home electronically through their devices.

This is why it is imperative to continue to learn as much as you can about online abuse as well as offline.

This past October we had some great experts, advocates and educators that contributed to helping parents, students and others learn more.

I want to share some of my favorites here, as well as some that I have written for this month… there are many others, be sure to continue to share them on Twitter with me at @SueScheff or on Facebook.

How Empathy, Kindness and Compassion Can Build Belongingness and Reduce Bullying – Cyberbullying Research Center

Want to Know About Cyberbullying? Ask A 6th Grader – by Diana Graber

10 Strategies for Stopping Cyberbullying – by Signe Whitson

10 Ways to Help Kids Deal With Digital Friction – by Toni Birdsong

31 Difference Makers for School Bullying Prevention Offline and Online – Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI Training)

Keep Your Child Cyber-Safe, There Is No Rewind Online – CPI Training

Cyberbullying Fact and Other Student Safety Concerns That Will Astound You – Gaggle

11 Possible Signs of Cyberbullying – Dr. Michele Borba

Practice What You Preach: Stop Bullying for Kids AND Adults – CPI Training

Bystander Revolution #MonthOfAction was extremely inspiring! Check out their site, and challenges. If you can instill some of their ideas in your life, you will be making a difference – both online and offline.

Your Daughter’s Safety On YouTube – Bright Girls Company

Upstanders On the Rise –

Cyberbullying: It’s Not Just for Kids – Connect Safely

#Kindness Wins Challenge#SeeTheGood – by Galit Breen, These Little Waves (Galit is the author of Kindness Wins. In the month of October she shared the most amazing stories of people that gives you faith in humanity today. Take the time to read her website and her posts – they are so inspiring).

Your Child’s Online Behavior Is A Reflection of Offline Parenting – Education Nation








Facing Reality: Cyberbullying Is Not A Fad, It’s A Trend

What It’s Like to Become A Halloween Costume – by Monica Lewinsky

As October came to a close, I read an article that Monica Lewinsky wrote.  She writes, “..there’s a fine line between clever and cruel.

Isn’t that what online harassment sums up to be in many situations? Sometimes people think they are being funny – it’s only a joke, but do they forget that there is a human, breathing person connected to the other side of the screen. We all matter – and we all have feelings – it hurts.

CyberMentor2Let’s all try to curb cruelty with a touch of kindness. Cyberbullying is not going away, we can slow it down, we can take accountability for our own actions and most importantly, we can start off by becoming a cyber-advocate and/or cyber-mentor for someone you care about. A sibling, friend, family member – maybe even your grandparent. Be there for them not only offline – but be their extra eyes online too.

PS: Be sure to put ‘cyberbullying‘ in the search box on this site, and you will find many recent articles I wrote here too this month!


posted by on Cell phone safety, Digital citizenship, Digital Life, Digital Parenting, Online Safety, Parenting Teens, Parenting tips

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TeensConnectedThe little boy who used to beg you to take him to the park every afternoon or the sweet young girl who used to love riding bikes with you around the neighborhood is now a teenager who is, for all practical purposes, addicted to technology.

As a parent, you probably feel like you see more of the top of your teen’s head than his or her face, and you worry that the only part of your child’s body that gets a regular workout are the thumbs.

Fortunately, with the right combination of encouragement, collaboration and solid role modeling, it is possible to get your teenager off the couch, off the phone, and back outside for some much-needed fresh air and exercise. For example, check out these tips:

Take Note of Your Own Phone Habits

Even if they seem like they are ignoring you most of the time, teenagers are definitely watching what you are doing. If you are constantly checking your emails or Facebook updates while sitting at a restaurant with your family, your son or daughter is more likely to follow suit. As Common Sense Media notes, as a parent, you have to model the manners and behaviors that you want to see in your teens. Before you start asking your teens to put their phones down and get outside, do the same. Stop texting during dinner, start making an effort to get regular exercise and see if you can go for a day or two without playing Candy Crush—your teens will be impressed, and more likely to do the same.

Brainstorm Fun Things to Do Together

When kids morph into independent teens, parents might feel like they no longer know what these quickly-growing young adults like to do—outside of texting their friends. Tell your teen that you’d like to spend more time together, and then ask your teen for ideas and also brainstorm some activities that you can try. For example, you could strap on your dusty old roller blades and see who can zip around the neighborhood the fastest, or you can go bowling one afternoon after school. Head to a paint ball facility and have a blast zapping each other with paint balls, or go to the local Go Kart track and race your budding driver for a few laps.

You can also set up old fashioned games in the backyard and encourage your teen to invite friends over for some fun games of badminton or lawn bowling. If you have a backyard pool, ask your teen to go online with you and pick out a new pool game; for example, In The Swim sells a great in-ground pool volleyball game that is perfect for friendly competitions among family and teen friends. By making your teen part of the decision making process, it will encourage him or her to be part of the action.

Encourage Exercise with Tech Rewards

If your teen is reluctant to swap text time for a brisk walk with the dog, you may have to play parental hardball. After all, you are the boss and you can determine just how much screen time your teen is getting on a daily basis. Up the ante a bit and tell your teen that in order to use his phone, he will have to earn it with some physical activity. Every minute that he spends doing something physical outdoors can be traded equally for phone time. Or, tell your daughter that she can get bonus screen time minutes by walking to the store with her friends for a snack, or taking her little brother to the park for an hour.

posted by on Internet Privacy, Internet profile, Internet Safety, Online reputation, Online Safety, Parenting, Parenting Blogs, Parenting Teens

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OnlineSafety6It’s eight o’clock on a school night; do you know where your kids are?

In our constantly wired world, you not only need to know whose house your kids are visiting, but also where they’re hanging out on the Internet. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter,

Instagram and YouTube are great ways for kids to keep in touch and connect with the world around them, but they can also be ideal settings for inappropriate content, bullies, and even sexual predators.

Many parents are friends and followers on their children’s social media sites, but should you go a step further and have direct access to their accounts? 


Having the login information for your kids’ social media profiles grants you access to their friends, their conversations, and their pictures. It allows you to see who your children are communicating with and what they’re saying, which can help hold them accountable. Even more importantly, you can control the privacy settings on your kids’ profile and block certain users from contacting them. This enables you to censor questionable subject matter and have meaningful conversations with your children about Internet safety. In the long run, paying more attention to your kids’ friends and interests could help you form a stronger bond with them. 


On the other hand, being able to log in to your children’s Internet accounts can undermine any sense of trust that you’ve worked to establish with them. If your kids know that you can sign on to their social media sites, it might lead them to create alternate profiles (and engage in risky online behavior). Additionally, when you have unlimited access to your children’s information, it’s tempting to overstep your boundaries by posting embarrassing content or telling other parents what their kids are doing online. This can strain your parent-child relationship and alienate your children from their friends. Also, when you take total control of your kids’ accounts, it doesn’t help them learn how to responsibly manage social media.

Whether or not you choose to have access to your kids’ profiles, you should still be aware of their Internet activity. If possible, keep the family computer in a central location (not kids’ rooms), and check in on your children frequently when they’re on the Internet. Visit the websites that they’re talking about with their friends, and be on the lookout for increased Internet use or changes in mood, which could indicate that they’re getting into trouble online.

Before you allow your children to set up social media profiles, make sure you sit down to have a conversation about appropriate use, and set up rules for sharing information on the Internet. Remind them that it’s hard to control (and remove) content once it’s posted online and that there can be real world repercussions for their online behavior. Keep the line of communication open so that your children feel comfortable coming to you when they need advice or if they encounter a problem on social media websites.

Special Contributor: Stephanie Marbukh

In respect to the pros and cons, in my opinion, it probably depends on the age and maturity of your child.

Keep in mind, with all the monitoring, nothing replaces old-fashion parenting. Your offline frequent offline conversations about online life will help them make better choices when you’re not with them (offline and online).

posted by on Holiday gifts, Parenting, Parenting Blogs, Parenting books, Parenting Teens, Parenting tips, Uncategorized

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Order today!

Order today!

No one said raising kids was easy, but when it comes to teenagers that’s a completely different animal.

On a weekly basis I am bombarded with calls and emails from parents that are at their wit’s end dealing with their teen — we hear this a lot:

“Our highly intelligent son used to bring home all A’s now he is barely making D’s!”

Our daughter used to be a cheerleader, she was the captain, now she just quit!

It’s not my son, it’s his friends.

My daughter is so beautiful, smart, always had so many friends — now she is failing and someone we don’t even recognize.

Generalizing this, they are good kids sometimes making bad choices.

Is it today’s society of technology? Peer pressure? Parenting?

Maybe it can be a combination of life as a teen with a sprinkle of each of the above, after-all, it’s just not easy being a teen in any generation — and it’s not easy being a parent either.

Every parent needs the priceless Gift of Failure.

When I read this book this summer, I couldn’t put it down – and I don’t have teens or children anymore! It’s a page-turner and it made me realize the many parenting mistakes I made as a parent. It also actually helps me to understand why my adult kids act the way they do. Yikes!

This book is priceless!!! 

Jessica Lahey

Jessica Lahey

Author, Jessica Lahey, was kind enough to answer a few questions.

Q.  For the many parents that have told their teenagers from a very young age just how very smart they are and now they are facing the consequences since their child is either failing or severely underachieving — is there a way to turn this around if they are in middle school or high school? 

JL:  When parents get emotional at my speaking events, it’s usually the parents of teens who have been overparented into a state of near-helplessness, or praised for being smart or talented or gifted solidly into a fixed mindset. These parents get upset because they are finally coming to terms with how VERY little time they have left to turn that ship around. They can do it, though. The first step is to get SERIOUSLY honest with their teens about the fact that mistakes have been made. Extreme honesty may be frightening, but the only way to get buy-in from teens is to admit to mistakes, announce your intentions to let go and give your teen more autonomy and opportunities to learn, and – here’s the most important part – mean it.

Next, set crystal clear expectations – for school, household duties, wherever you are backing off, and explain what the consequences will be if those expectations are not met. Try to keep the consequences as relevant to the task at hand as possible. For example, if homework is not getting handed in, it will be the teen’s responsibility to set up a meeting with their teacher and find out what needs to be done to remedy the situation. Inform your child’s teachers of this change in protocol if you have previously been over-involved in your child’s academic life, and let the teacher know that you won’t be checking in, or logging into the grading portal, and therefore, the teacher will need to inform you if things go deeply awry.

Once you’ve handed some autonomy back to your kid, tell them that you trust them to be able to handle it, and that you are still there for them if they need you. There will be a honeymoon period where everything goes beautifully, followed by a relapse and testing period where the teen feels out the limits of his or her new autonomy, but eventually, the pendulum will come to rest in a reasonable, healthy place.

Q. Parent’s frequently will say, “It’s not my teen, it’s their friends/peers that they are hanging with,” when it pertains to negative behavior. If this is true or not, should parents intervene with friendships?

JL: It’s important for parents to understand that the role of friendship changes as kids mature. Early on in life, friendships are more about proximity than anything else. Kids pick friends from whomever is nearby. As kids get older, they begin to choose friends based on identities and traits they’d like to try on for themselves. Those friends may not always be your cup of tea, but try to think of these kids as a safer way for your child to decide whether they want to be like that friend. Talk to your child about how that friend makes them feel. What do they admire in that friend? Why do they like to spend time with that friend? Talk about your own relationships – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Talk about the people you have left behind because they made you feel bad about yourself, inspired competition, or tried to change you. Your experience, offered in a supportive manner, is invaluable to your teen as they navigate these friendships and trial identities.

Q. As a teacher, please share with parents of teenagers (especially since they will be heading into adulthood shortly), why the Gift of Failure is such an important lesson to learn – and it’s better to start now, then never.

JL: If there’s one takeaway I hope parents of teens will take away from The Gift of Failure, it’s that our short term goal of making our children happy and making ourselves feel good about our parenting are sometimes incompatible with the more long-term goals of creating competent, capable adults. Think long term. Think about how you will feel about your parenting a year from now, rather than tomorrow. Parenting is a long-haul job.

Thanks so much Jess!

I rarely recommend parenting books – but this one is priceless!

Order The Gift of Failure on Amazon.

Visit Jessica Lahey’s website and follow her on Twitter.

Read an excerpt of The Gift of Failure.

posted by on Apps, AT&T, Cell Phone, Cell phone safety, Parenting tips

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halloween_safetyWith most people carrying smartphones today, it’s become easier than ever for parents to keep tabs on their little goblins. Cell phones today provide more than just the ability to call and check in on your children’s location. AT&T wants parents to be aware of other ways they can use their wireless device, and their child’s, to have a safe and enjoyable Halloween.

  • First, pre-program ICE – In Case of Emergency – numbers into your child’s speed dial on their cell phone, such as your number, a neighbor, and the police station. Make sure your child knows how to use their device in case of an emergency, such as dialing 911 and providing their location, landmarks, etc. to the 911 operator.
  • Make sure your child’s cell phone is fully charged before they leave the house.
  • Use the alarm clock on your child’s device to give them periodic reminders to text or call home along their route or to remind them when it’s time to head home. Make sure the volume on the device is at its highest so the child can hear it in a crowd.
  • Create a wireless “Trick-or-Treat” patrol for your neighborhood. Have various parents stationed along your community’s trick-or-treat route and have them text one another when they kids have reached certain points and are heading home. The patrol is a great way for adults to monitor Halloween activities in their neighborhood as well.
  • Consider a wearable, such as the FiLIP, a wearable phone and locator for kids. The device allows the child to make and receive calls to up to 5 pre-set contacts, receives one-way text messages, has a built-in smart locator, and lets you create safety zones.

ATTPanicWith all the safety apps available at your fingertips today, peace-of-mind is just a download or click away. For example:

  • Download a free FLASHLIGHT app, like the iHandy Flashlight app so your child’s device can be used for easy navigation.
  • Download the RedPanic Button app to your child’s device for extra peace-of-mind. The free version of this app allows trick-or-treaters the option to press the Red Panic Button to automatically send out a text message with their exact coordinates on Google Maps to family members. Panic can also be shared on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Track your trick-or-treater with a location-based service, like FamilyMap, which lets you track the location of your child’s device on an interactive map from your smartphone, PC or tablet.
  • ATTFBIDThe free FBI Child ID app lets parents store their children’s photos plus other identification (height, weight, hair and eye color, age) for quick access if a child ever goes missing. The information is stored on wireless device only until parents need to send it to authorities. Notable features include safety tips, checklists for what to do if something happens to your child, and shortcuts to dial 911 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Parents also have the ability to email info immediately to law enforcement agencies if the unthinkable occurs.
  • The Sex Offender Search app which will show you if there are any registered sex offenders living along your child’s trick-or-treat route. Simply activate your smartphone’s GPS and connect to the National Sex Offender Registry to locate registered sex offenders and predators in the area. You can search by name, address, and zip code, and results will be displayed on an interactive map. Click on a location for more details, such as pictures, names, addresses, and a list of offenses. The app is free.

Courtesy of Kelly Starling, AT&T