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Digital Parenting

Digital Parenting Challenges

Posted by Sue Scheff on November 30, 2017  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

“Everything has a time and place.” This familiar saying is a popular motto for juggling life’s demands and pleasures. We can also apply this mantra to managing the abundance of today’s technology with our children. Somewhere among the love and hate relationship with social media and homework searches, we must find a healthy balance in regards to our children’s technology use. To help us on this journey, we need to consider what teens are doing online, if we should be monitoring our children’s Internet activity, and ways we can curb overuse.

What Are Teens Doing Online?

It’s no secret that our kids rely heavily on their devices, but as parents, we often find ourselves wondering what is so compelling to keep their attention fixated on glowing screens for hours and hours on end. We know they enjoy scrolling through social media, taking selfies, posting funny DubSmash videos, or streaming videos. Afterall, these features have made digital devices an indispensable luxury for our kids.

However, lurking behind all of the merriment is a dark side to our daughters’ and sons’ digital activity. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to recognize all the scary situations awaiting our children just by glancing at their screens. No, these scenarios can range anywhere from oversharing personal information to cyberbullying to interacting with online predators. Up until a few years ago, these topics were foreign and completely left out of parenting guidebooks.

Consider how a recent study found that 87 percent of our kids have encountered cyberbullying as witnesses or victims. These numbers are up from around 28 percent just a little over a year ago, which means rates of cyberbullying have basically tripled. This is disheartening on many levels, because cyberbullying has been linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts in our children.

In addition to cyberbullying, sexting is so commonplace that experts see these behaviors as normal and many teens view sexting as a safe alternative to sex. This might be true when it comes to pregnancy and disease, but if kids are underage, the simple act of snapping a provocative selfie is considered child pornography. Sexting, even if it is consensual, will be prosecuted as distributing or possessing child pornography. In addition to legal battles, this can open kids up to digital exploitation, bullying, and harassment.

Should You Monitor Or Not?

Realizing our children might be participating in risky online behaviors is frightening, but we need to realize that 70 percent of our kids actively seek ways to hide their online activities from us. This is only compounded when our sons and daughters are plugged in an average of six or more hours every day. Which can lead many of us to contemplate spying or using monitoring to stay on top of our children’s digital presence. Afterall, anything posted online has the potential to be made public.

Typically, experts warn spying should be avoided, because these behaviors have the potential to ruin parent and child relationships. Monitoring, however, doesn’t rely on sneaking around or hacking devices. This technique can range from simply following a teen’s social media accounts or openly installing software to compile a complete picture of a child’s texts, social media apps, contacts, and locations. If done correctly, this method offers opportunities for open dialogue while protecting a teen’s privacy.

How Should We Handle Constant Device Use?

To help parents overcome modern digital parenting challenges, please check out the following seven tips:

Begin an ongoing conversation about developing a healthy balance of technology in our lives. 

Teach social media etiquette early and build on topics as a child ages. 

Institute a “blackout policy”. An example of this could be powering down all devices from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m. to allow a break from technology.

Limit the amount of data a child has access to on their Smartphones or tablets. 

Provide opportunities for children to log off for a few minutes daily. Reclaim family meals, sign up for extracurricular activities, or dust off the old board games for an alternative to pixels and selfies.

Reinforce a child’s good choices. Give them feedback to show that you notice their good choices.

Create a technology contract for the family that clearly lays out all expectations and consequences.

How does your family manage digital parenting challenges?

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5 Ways to Protect Your Teenager Online

Posted by Sue Scheff on November 14, 2015  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

TeenOnlineSafetyAn astonishing 75 percent of teenagers have access to smartphones and 24 percent of teens go online “almost constantly.” As a parent of a teenager in this constantly evolving cyber world, it’s overwhelming and frightening thinking of all the potential threats compromising your teens digital and physical security. A Pew Research study found that 90 percent of children have witnessed or experienced cyber bullying within the last year and a study by Drexel University found that 54 percent of minors have reported sexting.

Here are five ways to protect your teenager online:

Take Advantage of Smartphone Applications

There are a variety of free and paid applications that provide parents with a wide range of access to their teenager’s mobile phone activity.

If you’re concerned about your teen stumbling upon adult content, K9 Browser is a free application that blocks adult content and is available for smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. For more thorough access to your teen’s activity, the Norton Family Parental Control application’s paid version allows parents to see the sites their teen is visiting from the computer or mobile device but also allows you to block sites and see text messages.

Create a Contract

Before your teenager receives their first mobile device or personal computer, create a contract spelling out each of your expectations. According to the Family Online Safety Institute, almost 50 percent of teenagers are not concerned that their online reputation today will hurt future goals and 58 percent feel it is safe to post photos or intimate details online. A written and signed contract makes it very clear to your teenager what your expectations are in regard to online activity.

Stay Informed & Up-to-date

Setting up guidelines, boundaries and privacy software is not enough. The Internet and cyber criminals are changing so fast that as soon as you have a grasp on the newest social media or application and its potential threats or privacy terms, it has already evolved. To stay up-to-date on the latest cyber security news and tips, bookmark LifeLock Unlocked.

Mark All Profiles as Private

The most important takeaway for your teenager, is that nothing is temporary online. Even if they delete a post, a photo or an account, it can be easily retrieved and anyone can copy or save it. Besides filtering what he or she posts, ensure your teenager’s online profiles are private. Do not rely on the site’s default settings and adjust settings accordingly. Stress to your teen that this does not mean what he or she posts is now “safe” but it does make it more difficult for individuals to access.

Safeguards Passwords & Change Them Frequently

Identity theft is just as much of a threat for your teenager as it is for adults. Teach your teen how to choose safe and secure passwords that are changed every three to six months to ensure maximum security. Advise your teen not to share passwords with anyone besides parents or guardians.

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Should You Read Your Teen’s Text Messages or Emails?

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 25, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help

TeenWritingGenerations earlier the question would be, should you read your teen’s diary or journal?

In today’s digital lifestyle, some may not even know what a diary looks like.  This is sad since a diary has many benefits for youth.  There was recently an article about why all children should keep a journal, and most importantly, it does take them offline and keep their information private.

Either way, the question is the same, when is it appropriate to invade your child’s private space?

It always comes back to when safety trumps privacy.

Our teens deserve to be trusted unless they give us reason to suspect something is wrong.

Here is a review of some warning signs.

  • Is your teen becoming very secretive? Sure, teens do like their privacy, however if you have a gut feeling something is deeper than a secret and you are not satisfied with the answers they are giving you, trust your gut.  A parent’s intuition is usually pretty good.
  • Is your teen becoming withdrawn? Teens will develop some attitudes of not wanting to be with adults, however if it becomes extreme, it might be time to dig deeper if they are not opening up to you.
  • Is your teen changing peer groups? Is your once goal oriented good kid now gravitating to a negative peer group? You will again attempt to talk to your teen and find out why and what happened to the other friends.
  • Is your teens eating habits changing?  Not eating with the family or barely eating?
  • Is your teen sleeping a lot? Or rarely sleeping?  Spending a lot of time – connected digitally?  Bloodshot eyes?
  • Do you suspect drug use?  Maybe drinking?  Is there an odor on their clothes or them?
  • Is your teen sneaking out? Becoming extremely defiant? Not respecting your boundaries?
  • Are they overly protective of their cell phones or computer?  Always covering their screens when you are around, or clicking out?
  • Do they hide their cell phones? Or completely attached to them?
  • Are they anxious when at their computer, seem fearful, attempt to hide their incoming emails?
  • Overall, is your teen slowly becoming a child you don’t recognize?

TeenTexting5Like with determining if you should invade their privacy with their journals or diary, unless your teen or tween gives you good reason to read their text messages and emails, as parents, you should respect their privacy.

When it comes to younger children, especially under 10 years old, parents should always be allowed to see what they are doing.  Most younger children are usually not as protective as teens or tweens.  As a responsible parent, you will know when there are red flags or warning signs and you need to step in.

Keeping an open dialog with your tweens and teens is critical.  Letting them know you are there for them as well as talking to them about the issues of sexting, cyberbullying, predators and other areas of concern.

Be sure you are updated with the secret language of texting!

Should you read your child’s emails or text messages?  Only you can answer that.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer children.

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Teen Sexting: Knowing and Understanding the Consequences

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 09, 2015  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help

Teens-SextingWhether it’s summer break or back to school, studies have shown teens spend a lot of time online. PEW Research revealed that 92% of teens are online daily while 24% are online constantly!  From social media to texting, their keyboard is never far from their fingertips.

The fact is, does your teenager (or pre-teen) know and/or understand the consequences and risks that are connected with sending or receiving a text message that is considered sexual?

This is a serious concern for parents today that can have legal ramifications not only for the child, but can extend to the parents.

Let’s start with the parents.  According to Lawyer.com a parent may face the following consequences if their teen is caught engaging in “sexting activities”:

  • If a parent knows that his/her minor is engaging in “sexting” activities and does nothing to prevent it, that parent is at risk of being charged criminally with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
  • Furthermore, a parent who ignores and/or takes ineffective action against a child engaged in “sexting,” faces the potential of an investigation by the Child Protective Services and the resultant risk of losing and/or restricting some of the parents’ rights vis a vis the minor.
  • A parent who negligently supervises his/her minor child that is engaged in “sexting” also faces the potential of a civil lawsuit for negligent supervision and negligent infliction of emotional distress filed by the parents of the minor child who received the photos.
  • In addition, the parents of a “sexting” minor might have to pay monetary damages to the recipient teen if it is found that the parents were negligent in supervising their child and/or failed to adequately discipline their child after discovery that their child was engaged in “sexting.”

Sexting2What about your teenager, what consequences do they potentially face?  Lawyer.com continues:

  • Teens participating in “sexting” activities – those that send and receive the sexually explicit photos – are at risk of potential criminal charges for child pornography OR criminal use of a communication device, and in some states, face the exposure of having to register as a sex offender – a stigma that could haunt them the rest of their lives
  • Not only do teens who participate in “sexting” face the risk of criminal prosecution and the prospects of incarceration and/or probation, which will potentially remain on their criminal record for the indefinite future, they also face the prospect of the possibility of being required by the Court to register as sex offenders.
  • This label has horrific consequences for teens including mandated reporting of the sex offender in various public records and very burdensome notification requirements that the sex offender must comply with – which may remain with the sex offender for the rest of his/her life.

If you believe your teen is engaging in risky behavior online, talk to them.  Discuss the consequences.  Many offline discussions can help your child make better online choices.

There are residential programs for teens that are addicted to digital devices or pornography. For more information please contact us for details.

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Internet Safety Month: What’s Your Priority?

Posted by HelpYourTeens on June 01, 2015  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens

InternetSafetyWordle-300x288June is Internet Safety Month.

It’s great that we designate a month for Internet Safety Awareness, as we do for Bullying and Cyberbullying Awareness in October, but this doesn’t mean that we ignore it the other eleven months of the year.

I think it is great we will see many articles and resources through this month on apps, social media, parenting tips and advice as well as insights from experts that we can all learn from.

What is most important to you?  What’s your priority?

If you’re a parent, your child’s online safety is probably on the top of your list.

  • Do they know when to click out if they feel uncomfortable?
  • Will they tell you if they are being harassed online?
  • Do they know not to share personal information online?
  • Are they careful with the photo’s the publish?
  • Do they check their privacy settings frequently?
  • Do they exercise good digital citizenship?

InternetSafetySeniors-300x169If you have a parent (a senior person) that is online, safety is a major concern for them.

  • Be sure they don’t get involved in online scams.
  • Click on suspicious links that can steal their identity.
  • Get involved with online strangers pretending to be their friends for unsavory reasons.
  • Giving out too much information – again, potential fraud.

For yourself.

  • Privacy.  Almost everyone I talk to is concerned about their privacy which is almost becoming extinct.
  • Passwords.  Keep them private.
  • Oversharing.  It’s not only the kids.  Everyone needs to pause before sharing online.  Pause before you post or send that email.
  • Digital Citizenship. You’re never too old to remember who you are online reflects who you are offline.  Use your keystrokes with respect.
  • Online Reputation. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. In today’s digital society, chances are very good your first impression will be your virtual one.  Are you Google worthy?

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