Internet Addiction of the Young and Not so Young

AddictionParents today have no shortage of things to worry about when it comes to the online world in which their kids are growing up. From online predators, to scam artists and explicit pages, the web houses many threats to today’s youth. However, in addition to these known digital dangers, parents should also be wary of the long-term damage their children are doing to themselves every time they place themselves in front of their laptop, tablet, or other mobile device.

With the average U.S. internet user spending 32 hours online per month, it’s evident that the digital revolution shows no signs of slowing anytime soon, and sadly, our children’s minds and bodies could eventually pay the price for it. Read on for an overview of just some of the effects our children—from toddlers to teens—may have to deal with in the future.

Impaired Vision

Sure bad vision and corrective eyewear are by no means new concepts, but unlike past generations who only had to worry about genetics or age sabotaging their sight, adolescents now have to consider how their extended periods of screen time might affect their eyes. Bright, beaming screens reflecting onto our faces for the majority of the day is far from healthy. Recent studies suggest that approximately 17% of all eye exams performed in a year were initiated due to indicators such as light sensitivity, double or blurred vision, eye strain and even dry eye—symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome. Sure, the majority of us are all exposed to inordinate amounts of digital screens daily, but today’s youth have never known a world without it. Cell phones, tablets and laptops have always been a part of their life, and most likely always will be, leaving them with an entire lifetime of eyestrain and exhaustion.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Another physical impairment the children of today have to look forward to in the future is the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome. Characterized as a nerve dysfunction, symptoms include numbness, tingling and muscle weakness in the hand, wrist and fingers. Hours of typing away on keyboards, phones and other gadgets is one of the main causes of the wear and tear. Numerous people already show signs of the disorder and as time goes on it’s likely only to get worse—as time spent online increases. Before, it was bad enough that someone was subjected to this from 9-5 while they were at work, but now everything from classes to games and even meetings are conducted via virtual means and require us to subject our and bodies to this overuse.

This is especially hard on children who have been dealing with this since these advancing methods since they could read and write. Time will only tell how soon they will start to feel the effects of this excessive action.

Inactivity

There’s no denying that the more time we spend sedentarily staring into a screen, the less time we are allowing ourselves to exercise and be fit. Sure some people are still disciplined enough to unplug, get up and DO SOMETHING active, but, obviously this isn’t always the case. And children will follow your lead, so if they see you coming home from work and planting yourself behind a sea of screens rather than enjoying the day, odds are they’ll do the same. This can be detrimental to your child in the long run—not only will they increase their chances of gaining weight, they will also risk weakening their bones—which can prove problematic the older they get.

Overview

Now, this is not to say that all online activity or screen time is a bad thing; it can actually be quite helpful and efficient. The digital revolution has streamlined many activities and practices, we just have to maintain a healthy balance and not abuse our gadgets and technology. As our children and teens age, their bodies will and minds will face obstacles with which we never had to deal—which may cause issues in terms of insurance coverage and health care in their adult lives.

As more and more schools and businesses move online and embrace the digital age—it’s important to give yourself time to unwind, or risk becoming a liability.

Contributor: Carol Wilson

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Digital Parenting and Your Teen’s Social Media Profiles

SocialMedia25It’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, Flickr, 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? 

Pros:

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. 

Cons:

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

Cyberbullying and Your Teen: What Parents Can Do To Help

CyberbullyingRealLivesIt may seem harmless to see your child engaged in the latest social media application. She may be snapping pictures to her friends on Snapchat or posting funny status updates on Facebook to stay in touch with her classmates and friends. However, when social media posts and tweets take a turn for the worse, your child may experience the devastating effects of cyberbullying, ultimately damaging her self confidence, self esteem and mental well being.

Defining Cyberbullying

According to Dr. Kate Roberts, Boston-based psychologist and cyberbullying expert, cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, hurt, embarrass, humiliate or intimidate another person. “Targets are the same students who are bullied in person,” says Roberts. “They are vulnerable, have difficulty reading social cues and they are often alone and socially isolated.”

Unfortunately, cyberbullying is able to occur 24/7 with the help of cell phones, instant messaging, mobile devices and social networking websites. “According to recent studies, almost half of middle and high school students have experienced or witnessed cyberbullying,” says Roberts.

Kids respond differently to abuse from others, says Jennifer Hancock, author of “The Bully Vaccine.”

“Parents need to understand that cyberbullying isn’t happening in isolation,” says Hancock. “It is a part of a larger pattern of harassment, that in the adult world would be considered stalking – and it is as emotionally damaging as stalking – so take it seriously.”

Knowledge is Power

Today’s parents consist of the first generation that has had to contend with this level of cyber harassment, says Roberts. Parents, however, can arm themselves and their children with knowledge when protecting their children against cyber bullies.

  • Have the ‘Cyberbullying’ Conversation: Children don’t like to talk about bullying, but according to Roberts, “the reason for this is they have likely bullied themselves, been bullied or been a bullying bystander and the talk brings up these memories and feelings of shame.” Parents need to have an open conversation and respond without judgment as their children open up about what they know.
  • Explain How What You Don’t Know Does Hurt You: Some kids minimize or justify cyberbullying by saying that the target didn’t even know what was said. Roberts suggests explaining to your kids that it still hurts. “Use their life experiences to illustrate how badly they feel when people talk about them negatively,” she says.
  • Set Cyber Safety Rules: Whenever your children interact online, remind them that they never really know who is on the other end of cyber communication. With that in mind, Roberts recommends enforcing the guideline of “don’t do or say anything online that you wouldn’t do or say in person.”
  • Monitor Online Use: Know what your children are doing online to help them prevent cyberbullying and cope with it. Limit time spent on technology to naturally minimize access to and involvement with cyberbullying, suggests Roberts.

Helping Your Child Cope with Cyberbullying

Your child’s school may be the best advocate for prevention of cyber bullying and, more importantly, enforcement of cyber bullying school policies, especially if your child is a victim. If you fear that your child is a target of cyberbullying, Roberts suggests getting to know the school administrator in charge of overseeing bullying.

“If you discover that your child is being cyber bullied, save the URLs of the location where the bullying occurred and document it by printing the e-mails or web pages,” says Roberts.

Many school districts enforce a “no tolerance” bully policy that now includes cyber bullying. In addition, school officers and law enforcement officials often monitor the social media accounts of middle and high school students to prevent cyber bullying.

The best thing you can do, as a parent, is engage your child over time to develop a strategy with them and make reporting a central part of that strategy, says Jennifer Hancock, author of “The Bully Vaccine.”

“Whatever strategy you develop has to be comprehensive and your child has to take the lead on it with your support and assistance to report any incidents,” says Hancock. “They probably won’t be willing to disconnect entirely, but perhaps you can convince them to ban certain individuals from their Facebook stream so that they don’t see the content anymore.”

Unfortunately, many kids do not tell their parents about cyberbullying because they fear the parent’s first response is to get rid of the child’s access to the Internet. Be more creative, says Hancock. “Help them keep their access to the Internet but eliminate the people harassing them,” she says. “That works to instill trust and helps your child come to you for help in the future.”

Seek help from outside resources, too, such as your child’s peers, friends and neighbors, and ask them to inform you of any cyber bullying that may be occurring and affecting your child. In many cases, children who have been bullied – either online or offline – may benefit from sessions with a family therapist to discuss coping methods.

Cyberbullying Doesn’t Recognize Holidays: Tips to Prevent Online Harassment

CyberbullyingRealLivesLearning that your teenager has been the target of bullies is both heartbreaking and infuriating. The discovery that your child is party to the torment and agony of a classmate, however, can be even worse. No parent wants to believe that a child they’ve raised could be so cruel, but the truth is that bullying is a very real problem. More kids than you might think can be involved in the bullying of their peers, and the practice is not constrained to only the “bad” kids. Even good kids can find themselves swept up in the mob mentality that leads to bullying and harassment. The most effective weapon in a parent’s arsenal is simple prevention. Stopping such behavior before it begins is imperative, especially online.

The Internet has changed not only the way that kids learn and interact with the world, but also the way that they bully their less popular classmates. It wasn’t all that long ago when kids who were bullied could at least enjoy something of a respite when they were away from school grounds. In today’s always-connected world, a group of committed bullies can make sure that the torment is incessant. Cyber bullying is insidious and overwhelming, leaving young victims feeling as if they have no way to escape their tormentors. Making sure that your child is not part of this growing group of cyber bullying teens will require a bit of work and dedication, but it’s far from an impossible task.

Monitor Your Teen’s Web Presence

There is a fine line between respecting your teen’s privacy and willfully turning a blind eye to their online antics. It’s important to provide your child with some semblance of privacy and independence, but it’s equally important to make sure that you’re aware of their habits. Friend or follow your child on their social media sites or have them accept a friend request from a trusted adult. Remember that your teenagers’ brains are not fully developed, regardless of how mature they may seem at times. Your kids need guidance, and they need you to keep an eye on their online behavior. This will not only prevent them from becoming either the target or the perpetrator of cyber bullying, but also ensures that they’re not engaging in unsafe activities that could make them the target of online predators.

Be Conscious of Cell Phone Usage

It seems like modern teens always have a smartphone in their hands. These mobile devices make it easy for kids to stay connected with their peers and explore social interactions, but they also present an almost constant opportunity for cyber bullying. Talk to your teens about how some messages and actions can be construed as bullying, but also make a point of establishing an “open phone” policy. Make sure your kids know that you will monitor their phone use and that any indications of bullying will be met with a zero-tolerance policy.

Talk About Bullying

All too often, parents assume that their teens know what bullying is and know better than to engage in such behavior. The truth is that bullying is a complex problem, stemming largely from the fact that some teens don’t realize that what they’re doing is bullying. Make sure that your teens understand that there’s much more to bullying than simply taunting someone at school or being physically violent. Establish an open line of communication about bullying, making sure that your teens are well informed on the issue. Encourage kids to not only abstain from bullying, but to take an active stance against bullying behavior from their friends and peers.

Consider Your Own Behavior

Just as teens can have a skewed perception of bullying, so can their parents. Think about the language you use during discussions about harassing or bullying behavior. If you’ve held a stance asserting that bullying is the result of “kids being kids,” you’re sending a message of tacit approval to your children. Realize that bullying is more than roughing someone up for their lunch money, and that it’s a very serious issue for today’s teenagers. Online harassment and bullying can have tragic results, and is never just “kids being kids.” Consider the attitudes you’re modeling for your teens and whether or not you’ve been inadvertently sending the message that online bullying isn’t all that serious. Even when your kids become teenagers and seem to disregard your actions and opinions, they’re still looking to you for cues as to how they should react in a given situation. Make sure the message you’re sending is one that openly disdains bullying it all its forms.

Resources:
http://www.stopbullying.gov/kids/what-you-can-do/
http://stopcyberbullying.org/teens/because_i_can.html

Contributors:  WhiteFence.com

Teen Driving: What Parents Need to Know

  1. TeenDriver533 percent of deaths among 13 to 19-year-olds in 2010 occurred in motor vehicle crashes.
  2. 16-year-olds have higher crash rates than drivers of any other age.
  3. 56 percent of teens said they talk on the phone while driving.
  4. Statistics show that 16 and 17-year-old driver death rates increase with each additional passenger.
  5. Only 44 percent of teens said they would definitely speak up if someone were driving in a way that scared them.
  6. Teen drivers with involved parents are twice as likely to wear seat belts.
  7. More than 40 percent of teen auto deaths occur between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  8. Talking on a cell phone can double the likelihood of an accident as well as slow a young driver’s reaction time down to that of a 70-year-old.
  9. In their first year of driving 1 in 5 16-year-old drivers has an accident.
  10. 56 percent of teenagers  rely on their parents to learn how to drive.
  11. Crash risk for teens increase incrementally with each mile per hour over the speed limit.

Source:  DoSomething.org

Teen Runaways: 10 iPhone Apps for Tracking Your Child’s Whereabouts

fbichild1Parenting teen’s today is a challenge.

Every parent frets over their child’s whereabouts, wondering where they are and what they’re doing when they’re away from home. However, with the technology available on the iPhone, you can now rest easy. There are a number of apps that, when combined, will mean you always know your child’s whereabouts. These 10 apps will help you track everything from how fast your child drives to where he’s hanging out on the Internet and for how long.

  • FBI Child ID – This is every fearful parents must-have app. You can keep a store of detailed information about your child, which is instantly accessible at all times. The information that you store can quickly be forwarded to authorities, should your child go missing. With FBI Child ID, if you even lose sight of your child at the mall, you can show security guards a detailed profile that will help track their whereabouts in no time.  The app has a database of hints and tips on child safety, and is free to download, too.
  • Find My Kids — Footprints – With Find My Kids you can virtually track everything that your kids are up to while they’re out of your line of sight. If they are speeding, the app sends you notifications. When they cross a fence, you’ll know about it. The app is completely automatic, so you don’t have to do a thing. Your kids cannot disable the app, giving you full peace of mind. If you wish to, you can also share waypoints with your partner or trusted friends.
  • Family Tracker – If you are concerned about any of your children’s whereabouts, Family Tracker will let them know. The app costs $3.99 and works by sending a repetitive push message every 60 seconds. Once the message is acknowledged, the location of the child is updated on GPS and sent to your device. You can access Family Tracker from either your Apple device or any browser.
  • Life360 Family Locator – Some of the key features of the free Life360 app include the ability to track non-smartphones, safety point and threat alerts and family chat. If your child has arranged to go to a particular location, the app allows you to track their progress and lets you know when they have arrived.
  • Best Baby Monitor – Use two Apple devices with this $3.99 app to create your very own baby monitor. You can hear, watch and speak to your baby from any location that has WiFi. Best Baby Monitor will work with a combination of iPhone and iPad, or iPhone and Mac. If you already own these devices, this is a great way to save on a baby monitoring device.
  • iCam – Webcam Video Streaming – If you’ve ever wanted to install a home surveillance system but found it to be too expensive, iCam – Webcam Video Streaming is the option for you. It only costs $4.99 for the app and can connect to multiple webcam feeds of your choice. iCam will even send you notifications if you are linked to a motion detecting feed whenever there is a potential alert.
  • Alarm.com – Provided you have compatible systems in your home, Alarm.com will allow you to control security cameras, alarms and alerts; switch off lights, set the temperature, and even tell you when the kids get home from school. There are a number of custom features, too, which allow you to set alerts for important reminders, such as leaving the garage door open, or someone changing the temperature on the thermostat. Best of all, the app is free.
  • Mobicip Safe Browser – This is a free browser with parental controls, which allows you to monitor and control what your child accesses on the Internet. Your child’s data is encrypted the moment they log onto an unsecured connection, helping keep them safe from hackers. The app uses a number of filters to restrict access to undesirable content, all of which you can control.
  • SecuraFone – This free app allows you to set boundaries for where your kids go and how fast they drive. As soon as they breach the rules, you receive an automated call letting you know. SecuraFone uses the built-in GPS in your child’s iPhone, and even sends alerts if the phone becomes inactive. Parents can view up to 90 days of data that help you analyze your child’s habits.
  • Game Time Limit – Another great app for keeping track of your child’s virtual whereabouts, Game Time Limit allows you to dictate how long he spends playing games on the phone. Once the time is up, you don’t have to worry finding him because an alarm appears on the phone that only you can switch off with your passcode. The app costs $0.99, however, it is a great way to keep you from having to constantly chastise your child to finish playing games.

Source:  Babysitting  Jobs

Parent Teacher Conference: Tips for Parents

parent-teacher-conference1Now the time is nearing for parents.

Parent teacher conferences are usually set for October.

Are you ready?

Here are some tips to help you get the most from your time with your child’s teachers.

Before the conference:

  • Check grades and teacher expectations. Many schools post student’s grades on their Student Information System. So review your child’s past work. There’s no reason to get caught off guard.
  • Jot questions and prioritize concerns. Take a few minutes to jot down questions for the teacher. Take those with you so you won’t forget to ask. Also, don’t forget to ask your kid if there is anything the teacher might tell you that you don’t know. (It’s always best to not be surprised.)
  • Meet your needs. If you need extra set of “ears” to be with you, you feel intimidated, or worry the teacher may use jargon you don’t understand, bring a friend (a neighbor, relative, older child). If you need a translator (language or sign), call the school to arrange one. Let the teacher know before the conference if you are in a contentious divorce or if your partner requests to come to the conference separately.
  • Block time. The teacher has scheduled only a set amount of time, so you will want to use every second wisely and not be distracted. Arrange a baby sitter for a younger child and allow ample time to get there.

Here are the four areas of learning to discuss during the conference:

  • Academic: Find out what your child’s strongest and weakest subjects are, how he compares to the other students and if he is keeping up with the workload. You might ask: “If you were to evaluate my child now, what would his grade and average test score be in each subject? “If the teacher uses educational terms that you’re not familiar with, ask for a simpler explanation. Ask to see specific examples of any academic problem so you know how to help or if a tutor might be helpful.
  • Social: Find out how your childgets along with others. Let the teacher know of any bullying or repeated peer rejection and create a safety plan. Ask for recommendations for a new friend if there are social problems.
  • Behavior: Find out how your child behaves around peers and adults and if he is showing up on time and prepared to learn. If there are behavior issues, get specifics: what the behavior looks like, the teacher’s discipline approach, any triggers or patterns (when and where the behavior usually happens), and how it is being resolved.
  • Emotional/health: Find out how your child is coping. Explain any home issues that could affect your child’s learning performance (a divorce, deployment, illness of a relative) and any serious allergies, sleep problems, medication, counseling or other health-related issues that the teacher should know about.

If your child is having any kind of problem in one or more of those four learning areas, then discuss strategies you and the teacher can do to help your child by creating common goals. Discuss how you will you know if things are improving or declining and if there’s no improvement, ask what our “next step” will be and how the teacher would like to be contacted.

After your conference:

Go home, share what you learned with your child and parenting partner, and then commit to doing what you discussed. If you see that your child continues to struggle or you do not see improvement in a few weeks, or things get worse, call for another conference. If you still don’t get help, then it’s time to seek the help of the principal, vice-principal or counselor.

BBPS

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Parents, what are your parent- teacher conference experiences? Do you have any tips of your own to share? Please leave them in the comments.

Special contributor: Michele Borba, Parenting Expert and author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions.

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