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Online Safety

Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 12, 2019  /   Posted in Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Book, Internet Safety, Mental Health, Parenting Books, Parenting Teens

By Ana Homayoun

Over the past decade, the new language created by social media and technology have ostensibly widened the communication divide between generations. Though students have long managed to find distractions, today’s technology innovations present new challenges for students and adults, and many adults struggle to keep up with what their kids are doing online.

With a proactive, practical approach based on over fifteen years of working with students in private practice and in schools, Ana provides simple, implementable solutions focused around the three main tenets of socialization, self-regulation and safety. In the face of our “always on” culture, Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World creates a new conversation around social media wellness — one that encourages tweens and teens to think about their own personal values and daily choices, while emphasizing the importance of parental attitude and a collaborative approach in helping all of us build healthier online habits and create more balanced lives.

Solutions for navigating an ever-changing social media world

Today’s students face a challenging paradox: the digital tools they need to complete their work are often the source of their biggest distractions. Students can quickly become overwhelmed trying to manage the daily confluence of online interactions with schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and family life. Written by noted author and educator Ana Homayoun, Social Media Wellness is the first book to successfully decode the new language of social media for parents and educators and provide pragmatic solutions to help students:

  • Manage distractions
  • Focus and prioritize
  • Improve time-management
  • Become more organized and boost productivity
  • Decrease stress and build empathy

With fresh insights and a solutions-oriented perspective, this crucial guide will help parents, educators and students work together to promote healthy socialization, effective self-regulation, and overall safety and wellness.

Order on Amazon today.

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Teens Use Burner Phones To Hide Online Behavior From Parents

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 12, 2019  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

Are you a parent that believes taking your teen’s device is a punishment?

Think again! This is one of the reasons burner phones are on the rise among young people.

As a tech-savvy parent, you’ve established rules with your teens about responsible cell phone usage and drawn up a detailed family contract. And by all accounts it seems to be working.

But teenagers can be ingenious about getting around the rules, and many of today’s teens turn to burner phones as a workaround to parental limitations. Here’s how to discover if your child has found this alternative, plus some tips on curbing the habit.

What Is a Burner Phone?

Burner phones are cheap, prepaid mobile phones you can discard once you’re done using them. They offer access to Wi-Fi and a phone number that can’t be traced to the individual using the device.

There are a few good reasons to use a burner phone. If you’re buying or selling something on Craigslist, for instance, having an untraceable number offers a degree of safety when communicating with strangers.

However, their anonymity and low cost make burner phones ideal for teenagers looking for a way to sneak around behind their parents’ backs. And that anonymity can get kids into problematic situations where they don’t have a parental lifeline to keep them safe.

Why Do Teens Turn to These Disposable Devices?

Teens consider cell phones a virtual lifeline, and many experience fear of missing out (FOMO) without them. A 2018 Pew Research Center survey found some eye-opening stats about teens and social media:

  • 81% say social media makes them feel more connected.
  • Approximately 2/3 of teens say online friends give them support in difficult times.

 Losing cell phone access as a punishment—and effectively losing access to their online networks—is one reason why teens may acquire a burner phone. But they might also buy second phones to maintain secret social media accounts. A finsta (fake Instagram), for example, is a private account where kids post content that only certain people have access to.

Teens may also turn to burners if they’re engaging in activities they think parents won’t approve of—getting involved in drugs or alcohol, or pursuing romantic relationships.

Some of these habits can be dangerous, putting kids in a place where they can be taken advantage of. Burner phones can also create a space for cyberbullying to go unnoticed, and thus unchecked. 

How Can You Know Your Child Is Using a Burner Phone?

If you’ve ever taken away your teen’s phone, you’re familiar with them pleading to get it back. If they suddenly stop doing so, that’s a hint they may be using a burner phone. Here are a few other ways to discover they’ve gotten a second phone:

  • Look for a dip in data use. Check your wireless carrier for overall data usage and details about specific applications. A decrease in visits to your teen’s favorite social media site may point to use of a burner phone.
  • Check your child’s other apps. Burner phones aren’t the only way to communicate anonymously; there are multiple apps that let you set up a temporary number. If your child has an app like Burner or Hushed, it’s possible they’re doing something that requires anonymity—which could be a red flag. 

What Can You Do to Manage the Behavior?

  1. Maintain consistent rules of use. If you’ve gone to the trouble of setting ground rules, then stick with them and make sure the consequences for breaking them are fair and applicable to everyone in the family. Consistency equals credibility. 
  1. Help your teen set boundaries. Encourage your child to understand and embrace core values that will drive healthy online interactions. If your child can feel okay about posting online because they always consider how it will reflect upon them first, they’ll have less interest in setting up secret accounts.
  1. Reward honesty. Let your kids know they can come to you when they’ve made a mistake online, such as going to an inappropriate website. Being able to do so without risking punishment will maintain the level of communication that pays dividends in all kinds of parent-child interactions—not just those related to cell phones.

At the end of the day, this burner phone trend is more about behaviors than devices. If you can set clear expectations and have open conversations about smart phone conduct, you’ll see a lot more progress than if you focus solely on managing your kids’ access to a phone.

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Contributor: Hilary Bird is a digital journalist who writes about the things that fascinate her the most: relationships, technology, and how they impact each other. As more and more people become more and more reliant on their tech devices, Hilary wants to help them stay safe and understand how these devices will reshape the way we communicate.

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Teens: Online Safety and Security

Posted by Sue Scheff on January 21, 2019  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens

What teens need to know about cyber-security.

As parents and guardians, we’re all too familiar with the fact that this generation of teenagers are very adept at exploring the many uses of their smartphones, tablets, and laptops. 

In a study by Pew Research that we reported on, 45% of 13 to 17-year-olds self-reported that they were “constantly online,” and 95% either had their own smartphones or had access to one.

This is the reality of today’s screenagers. But as much as the web empowers teens, it also puts them at risk of being targeted by hackers intent on grabbing their private, personal, and financial information for profit. This prompts an important question that we should all be asking about our children – do teens know enough about cyber security and how to protect themselves? As evident by the growing incidents of hacking around the globe, the short answer is no.

Remember last year’s Facebook data breach? The incident, which The New York Times calls the largest cyber security breach in the company’s 14-year history, exposed the personal data of nearly 50 million users. This was, and is, especially dangerous considering how Facebook – the world’s most popular social media site and app – give users the option of connecting to other popular apps like Instagram and Spotify.

This means that the hackers who got into Facebook also got into whichever other apps the accounts were connected to, giving them access to a large variety of personal user information, including banking details for in-app purchases. And while Facebook’s reputation has plummeted since, its popularity hasn’t dwindled in any significant way.

More and more teens are still using it on a daily basis, either unconcerned or unaware of the security risks attached to voluntarily entrusting the company with their personal information. 

Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, there are teens who are so well-versed with cyber security that they’re able to play the other side of the game. Teens as young as 14 are reportedly making thousands of dollars per week by hacking into private accounts on the popular first-person shooter game Fortnite and then selling them online. The BBC got in touch with 20 of these hackers who are part of a burgeoning global black market based around the popular game.

While Fortnite is free to play, it allows players to use their online accounts to purchase avatar skins as well as other add-ons with real money. Based on what the former owners of the accounts have already purchased, the stolen accounts can be sold for as low as 25 pence (30 cents) or as high as hundreds of dollars apiece.

One of the hackers interviewed said that he first got into “Fortnite cracking” when his own account, already worth £50 ($64.47) in in-game purchases, was hacked into and stolen. Devastated, he got back into the game by purchasing a “new” account for just 25 pence (30 cents) even if it was clearly worth a lot more.

Although illegal, purchasing and using cracked accounts has become surprisingly common within the game, which itself is estimated to be worth around $1.23 billion. In short, there are teens who certainly know enough about cyber security to become profitable hackers – enough to create a small industry within just one online game. This also reveals the fact that most Fortnite players don’t know nearly enough about protecting themselves online.

All of these incidents have led to an increased demand for experts in the field of cyber security. This is reflected through the growing number of courses at universities aimed at producing professionals who can actually address the world’s growing cyber security concerns. In an overview of Maryville University’s Cyber Security Master’s degree, it notes how today’s students are taught about mobile device hacking and forensics.

This is a direct reflection of how common and dangerous attacks on smartphones and tablets have become. Designed to streamline access to information, the latest touchscreen devices store private user data.

This of course doesn’t mean that teens should be completely cut off from using the Internet. Instead, parents and guardians should do their best to teach teens (as well as themselves) about simple and manageable ways to keep their personal data safe while online.

Sanjay Goel who is the director for cyber security programs at the University at Albany’s School of Business, shares how his first task as a teacher and researcher is always to describe potential threats to students that he works with. This is followed by teaching them simple cyber security protocols and behaviors that anyone can (and should) adopt.

This includes using strong, 10-character long passwords that include numbers, letters, and symbols to make them harder to crack – and using a secure password manager instead of just writing them down. In terms of mobile safety, Goel advises not just assigning a password for your smartphone, but also disabling Bluetooth in public places to prevent hacking, and avoiding using public Wi-Fi networks.

On your laptop’s browser, you should never click on any unknown links or open any e-mails from unknown people. When playing online games, avoid using and sharing personal information, and only download official content that’s verified to be safe.

These are just some of the most important points worth remembering if you want to use the Internet in a safe manner. The more you and your teen know about how to protect yourselves online, the less you’ll be at the mercy of hackers who will go to great lengths to steal your data.

Article contributed by Eloise Martin

Exclusively for helpyourteens.com

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Raising Humans In A Digital World

Posted by Sue Scheff on January 10, 2019  /   Posted in Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Book, Internet Addiction, Internet Safety, Parenting Books, Parenting Teens

Helping Teens Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology.

Sexting, cyberbullying, revenge porn, online predators… all of these potential threats can tempt parents to snatch the smartphone or tablet right out of their children’s hands. While avoidance might eliminate the dangers, that approach also means your child misses out on technology’s many benefits and opportunities.

Raising Humans in a Digital World (Harper Collins 2019) is a must read for all parents of connected tweens and teens.

Cybercivics teacher and author, Diana Graber, brilliantly shares with her readers how digital kids (tweens and teens) must learn to navigate through today’s online environment:

  • developing social-emotional skills
  • balancing virtual and real life
  • building safe and healthy relationships
  • avoiding cyberbullies and online predators
  • protecting personal information
  • identifying and avoiding fake news and questionable content
  • becoming positive role models and leaders.

This book is packed with at-home discussion topics and enjoyable activities that any busy family can slip into their daily routine. Full of practical tips grounded in academic research and hands-on experience, today’s parents finally have what they’ve been waiting for—a guide to raising digital kids who will become the positive and successful leaders our world desperately needs.

Order your copy today wherever books are sold.

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Public and Permanent: Creating a Mindset That Our Digital Actions are Public and Permanent

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 20, 2018  /   Posted in Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Book, Online Repuation, Parenting Books, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

Creating a Mindset That Our Digital Actions are Public and Permanent®

By Richard Guerry

This information will help to protect you and your family from making life and legacy altering mistakes online or with any digital technology.

Students, Parents and Teachers across the Globe are using this book to learn and reinforce a powerful and effective method for reducing:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Sexting
  • Sextortion
  • Sextcasting
  • Poor Social Media behavior
  • and many other cyber issues many are not yet aware of!

Public and Permanent® is a life changing philosophical guide providing the knowledge that all users of digital technology must know as citizens of a rapidly evolving digital village.

In today’s world where teen’s are quick to post and think later, they could be risking a college scholarship or being passed over by a potential employer – never doubt your online reputation will dictate your future.

More and more college admissions are using social media to review their applicants prior accepting them and a recent CareerBuilders survey revealed that 70 percent of employers will not interview a candidate if they find unflattering social feeds. Today you are considered an extension of their brand – both online and off.

What goes online — stays online. It is Public and Permanent®. This is must have book for parents, teens, educators and a perfect gift!

Visit www.iroc2.com for more information on the author’s extensive speaking engagements – he may be coming to a school near you! If you don’t see your school listed, contact them and schedule him soon! It’s an excellent and educational conference that both adults and students are raving about!

Order on Amazon today.

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Sexting Scandals, Slut Pages, Nudes: What Teens Face Today

Posted by Sue Scheff on August 10, 2018  /   Posted in Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens, Teen Depression, Teen Help

Sexting Scandals, Sluts Pages, Nudes: What Teens Face Today

Does your teen know the risks of sending or receiving sexual content?

There’s no denying it, sex is no longer limited to physical contact thanks to technology, sexting has become a new normal for many.

Sexting might be considered the new form of flirting, but that doesn’t mean a sext isn’t going to get you in trouble if your recipient decides to use it for unsavory purposes.

In a recent report in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, sexting is becoming more common among young people. According to this study, nearly 15 percent of teens have sent a sext message while 27 percent have received one.

This research also shared that older teens are more likely to engage in sexting and about 8 percent had their private sexual content forwarded without their consent.

Nudes and slut pages

Everything is permanent online. If someone asks you for a nude, no matter what age you are, be prepared for the potential consequences.

Just because it’s frequently done doesn’t mean it won’t land you in serious digital consequences. Slut pages aren’t only a child’s playground. In 2017, it was exposed that some U.S. Marines were involved in creating social media pages full of non-consensual shared nudes of their colleagues.

Sexting isn’t just common among swinging singles and digital natives. One study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that 12 percent of married couples admitted to sending nude or nearly nude photos to each other. However, with the divorce rate of first marriages at forty percent and of second marriages at sixty percent, the impulse to get even with your spouse has taken a new, evil turn.

Another study found that 4 percent of online Americans, or 10 million men and women, reported either being threatened with revenge porn or actually victimized. If you’re considering taking or sending a nude, make sure you are aware of the risks and ready to deal with the potential consequences. What could the impact be on your future relationships? Employment? Career?

If adults are behaving this way and they’re supposed to be the role-models, what example does this give our children?

Sexting scandals

Statistics show that 20 percent of teens and 33 percent of young adults have posted or sent nude or semi-nude photos, which can be a pathway to an embarrassing ending—witness the sexting scandals that have popped up in small towns across America, from Duxbury, Massachusetts, to Cañon City, Colorado.

Risks and consequences

There are sexting laws across the country depending on what state you reside in. It’s important not only for you to understand these laws, but to have frequent discussions with your children about them. Start these chats early, in the JAMA report it points to sexting starting in the tween years.

Revenge porn  and sextortion is no joke. What may have started out as sending flirtatious messages, could end in malicious e-venge. With sextortion, you may not even know the person. To date, 38 states plus D.C.have revenge porn laws. If you become a victim, tell someone immediately. Cyber Civil Rights Initiative offers a free Online Removal Guide.

Everyone does it

Most young people are naive to believe that sending sexual content is the norm, maybe it will land them a friend — everyone is doing it — and bad things won’t happen to them.

Know that everything you put out there has the possibility of becoming “Public and Permanent®,” an expression perfectly coined by Richard Guerry, founder of the Institute for Responsible Online and Cell-Phone Communication. “Far too many people with technology are not stopping to think about the long-term repercussions of their actions,” he says. Guerry advocates for digital consciousness—always posting with the awareness that anything you’ve documented could be disseminated.

“There is no way to control what is going to happen, none,” he says. “Digital tools were never designed for privacy. We’re going against the grain for what these tools were intended. By no means is everything going to be Public and Permanent®, but you have to be prepared. Think about your legacy. It’s not just imagining [that] your ninety-year-old grandma will see your naughty text—but [that] your own grandkids will too.”

Even with the strictest privacy settings, we don’t have control over human behavior, technology glitches, or cyber-criminals. Maybe your teen leaves their phone behind on the bus or it gets picked up in the locker room. Their best friend today (and usually teens will share passwords) can be their foe tomorrow.

Being proactive

Your teen may always be an app ahead of you or more cyber-savvy than you, but they will always need your parenting wisdom. Never allow technology to get in the way of conversations offline about online life.

The sext chat outline for parents to open the dialogue:

  1. Talk about it.Frequently and start early.  Stress the importance of safe sharing online. When your kids hear news of sext crime cases, initiate a conversation. Talk about how sexting leads to negative consequences even for adults. Revenge porn is rising every day. It can happen to anyone at any age.
  2. Make it real.Kids don’t always realize that what they do online is “real-life.” Ask them to consider how they would feel if their teacher or grandparent saw a provocative comment or picture. Remind them there’s no rewind online and no true delete button in the digital world. Comments and photos are not retrievable.
  3. Address peer pressure. Give your kids a way out – blame it on us. Tell them to let their friends know that their parents monitor (and/or spot check) their phones and social media, and you can’t risk losing your devices.
  4. Discuss legal and online consequences. Depending on your state, there can be legal ramificationswhen you send sexual content or even participate in forwarding it. What goes online – stays online. This is your digital landscape.
  5. If you receive a sexual message, never engage in it or forward it. Tell your parent or trusted adult immediately. If necessary, contact the authorities or your school.
  6. Know that your parent is only a call away.Let your child know they can always come to you without judgment. These conversations are about building trust — our kids may always be an “app” ahead of us, but we will always be the adult in the family – lead by example and be there for them.

Has your teen been a victim of sextortion or revenge porn? Maybe involved in a sexting scandal? Know there is help and resources available:

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Is Your Teenager A Screenager?

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 19, 2018  /   Posted in Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Internet Addiction, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

Is your teenager constantly glaring at their screen? Are they part of the screenager generation?

Did you know that according to new studies teens are frustrated by their own obsession with their smartphones?

How can parents help them find their digital balance?

Smartphone addiction has become an increasing concern for many parents, especially with the start of school just around the corner, and many students getting smartphones. A 2016 survey from Common Sense Media  found that half of teenagers felt addicted to their devices, and 78 percent checked their devices at least hourly.

Seventy-two percent of teens felt pressured to respond immediately to texts, notifications and social media messaging. A Pew Research report found that 73 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds had their own smartphones or had access to one, and 24 percent said they were online “almost constantly.”

So what can parents do to help prevent their teenagers from becoming screenagers? AT&T offers these tips:

  1. Start with a contract. The first step is to set boundaries, and what better way to do this than to put the rules in writing. Draw up a Cell Phone Contract, or a Family Agreement, with your young user. Family agreements can include rules about when and how the phone may be used, and detail consequences for breaking the rules. You can find numerous examples of cell phone contracts or family agreements online. Almost all of them focus on the same key items, such as sharing passwords with parents, limiting use of the device to certain times of the day and in certain places, promising not to use the device for inappropriate photos or bullying, and so on.
  2. Set limits and monitor use. Consider creating “no phone zones” in your home, like the dining room table, and making sure your teen is putting the phone away at certain points of the day. Also, take advantage of parental controls to set limits on your child’s smartphone use, and monitor it. For example, AT&T Smart Limits allows parents to block unwanted calls and texts from up to 30 numbers; set monthly limits on texts and mobile purchases; and restrict texting, data usage and outbound calling during specified times of the day. There are also monitoring services that let you view your child’s texts, call logs, phone location and more.
    And if you have a teen driver, use an app that curbs your teen’s temptation to use their phone behind the wheel. The free AT&T DriveMode app silences incoming alerts and automatically replies to text messages, letting the send know you are driving. DriveMode also sends a text message to a parent if the app is turned off.
  3. Create daily and weekly offline time. Most teens admit to having FOMO, or fear of missing out, on something, and the need to respond quickly when they receive messages and notifications. That constant potential feedback loop can lead to obsessive behaviors that disturb the course of daily activities. Researchers say creating daily and weekly offline time as part of the family routine can be helpful.
  4. Be cyber aware. Being constantly connected brings increased risk of theft, fraud and abuse. Educate your young user on internet safety tips. Stress the importance of never sharing their personal or family information online and never engaging with strangers online. The AT&T Cyber Aware website at www.att.com/cyberaware provides tips to help you and your child avoid falling victim to scammers.
  5. Be a role model. As parents, we should consider our smartphone habits as well. The 2015 Pew survey found that 46 percent of American adults  believed they could not live without their smartphones. If we expect our kids to limit their time on their smartphones, then we too need to practice what we preach.


Courtesy of AT&T. Contract by The Exhausted Mom.
Disclosure: P.U.R.E. is not compensated by AT&T and doesn’t endorse products or services. We provide informational and educational resources for parents of young people today.

If you believe your teen is struggling with addiction that is now interfering with their life, Internet or otherwise, and have exhausted your local resources, please contact us.

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Tips To Keep Your Teen Safe Online without Being Intrusive

Posted by Sue Scheff on April 30, 2018  /   Posted in Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Internet Safety

Can You Monitor Your Teen’s Internet Use without Being Intrusive?

The internet is a great source of information and entertainment. It’s how we shop, how we research, and how we connect with other people. Adults aren’t the only ones spending time online, though — pre-teens and teens use the internet and online apps to communicate with others online, and they use them a lot.

According to a 2015 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 92% of teens report going online daily, and even pre-teens and younger kids have started using connected devices in higher numbers. So as your kids spend more time on the internet, how do you make sure they stay safe online without overstepping healthy boundaries?

The four tips below can help you teach your children how to use the internet safely and responsibly.

  1. Create a Family Media Plan

Talk with your teens and tweens about setting up a family media plan. This includes discussing screen-free areas in your home, acceptable screen time and unacceptable screen time, and appropriate online behaviors. Here are a few examples of common family rules:

  • Phones are turned in at night
  • Screen time isn’t allowed past a certain time
  • Phones aren’t allowed at the kitchen table
  • Computer time is allowed only after homework is completed
  • Certain information shouldn’t be shared online
  • Apps should be downloaded only with a parent’s permission

These rules can not only help your tween or teen be safer online, but give you a great opportunity to model good online behavior. By showing your kids that good online safety practices apply at all ages, you can make it clear that you aren’t enforcing unreasonable or overbearing rules.

  1. Teach Responsibility and Good Judgement

Teach your children to set limits and create boundaries for themselves on the internet. If kids are taught early on that internet use should come secondary to family time and school time, they will be less likely to abuse the web as they approach their teen years.

Remind your teen that using the internet responsibly means thinking before you post — they shouldn’t post their location, address, money information, or any other personal information. Teach them that quizzes and giveaways are often used to capture personal info, for instance, so they should never click on those types of pop-ups or ads.

Also, be clear about what appropriate online time looks like and how they should manage their online time. If your child has a test coming up the next week, help them plan their prep time and internet time so they can work hard and have some screen time during their downtime.

  1. Install and Use a Monitoring App or Filter

If you’ve decided that an internet monitoring app or a web filter is the best way to track what your teen or tween is posting to social accounts or texting their friends, it’s important to follow a few basic guidelines when you start:

  • Inform your teen or tween that you’ll be using a monitoring app or internet filter, and explain how it works. Being honest with your child from the start will help them avoid any feelings of you going behind their back.
  • Install a parental control program that is only as strict as is necessary. The program should run in the background on your child’s phone or computer, and your child can use their device as they normally would.
  • Review habits and behaviors with your kids. Taking time to review messages or internet use with your teen can help you identify how your child is spending time online and make sure they’re not receiving any dangerous messages or being bullied.
  1. Help Them Set Social Media Preferences

If your kids share pictures, videos or messages on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or other social media platforms, they may be unclear about who can see their posts. Take a moment to help your tween or teen set their privacy settings so they can easily restrict who they let see their information.

This simple step will help your child establish who can contact them, who can view their info and photos and who can see the messages and posts they publish.

Most tweens and young adults use social media and technology responsibly. They’ve grown up surrounded by the internet, but often, their technical knowledge can far exceed their judgement. By following these tips, you can help your children be better educated on how to conduct themselves online and you can keep a watchful eye on them without being too intrusive.

Contributor: Hilary Bird is a digital journalist who writes about the things that fascinate her the most: relationships, technology, and how they impact each other. As more and more people become more and more reliant on their tech devices, Hilary wants to help them stay safe and understand how these devices will reshape the way we communicate. 

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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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The Connection Between Online Safety and Teen Medicine Abuse

Posted by Sue Scheff on January 19, 2017  /   Posted in Internet Safety, Parenting Teens, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

By Anita Brikman

As parents of teenagers, we know that it’s not unusual for teens to spend time online chatting with friends, visiting social networking sites, following sports or celebrities and – hopefully – doing their homework. While this might not seem worrisome, the digital world is a space where anyone can say anything, and teenagers don’t always evaluate whether the information they are exposed to is true or false. There are many dangers lurking online, including websites that promote how to abuse over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine to achieve a “high.” In fact, there are online communities in which users share and glorify their medicine abuse experiences, which may influence teens to engage in this dangerous activity.

It’s impossible to be aware of all your teen’s online activities, but you can help reduce the risk of your teen being exposed to the promotion of OTC cough medicine abuse by taking the following actions:

Educate yourself on the issue:

It is important to first understand the dangers and warning signs of OTC cough medicine abuse. Look out for pro-drug sites that promote and provide instructions for the abuse of dextromethorphan (DXM), the active ingredient in many OTC cough medicines. These sites spread false information about DXM, leading teens to believe it is safer to abuse than illicit drugs. Stay alert for internet orders, the arrival of unexpected packages and unexplained payments.

Educate yourself on the space:

Teens are quick adopters of new platforms and technology, which can make it difficult to keep up with their online lives. You can better recognize dangerous online communities by knowing what platforms your teen is using as well as how these platforms are used. You can learn more about the number of websites and online communities that promote OTC medicine abuse here.

Talk to your teen about internet safety:

Once you have a firm grasp on the issue of medicine abuse, visit and discuss websites like WhatIsDXM.com, drugfree.org and StopMedicineAbuse.org with your teen. This way, your teen has the facts about substance abuse and knows where to access credible information. Teens who learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are 50% less likely to use drugs. Having regular conversations with your teen can make a big difference.

Connect with your teen online:

Follow and connect with your teen on social media. They may not be open to this initially, but they might be more accepting to the idea if you assure them that you’ll respect their space. This will also open up an opportunity for you to model good online behavior to you teen.

Spread the word:

Share what you learned about OTC medicine abuse with other parents and members of your community. This will enable others to have these important conversations with their teens and, in turn, ensure that more teens are practicing safe behavior online.

Even though it might not seem like it, teenagers look to their parents for support and guidance. Setting up guidelines around what behavior is and is not acceptable online will help ensure your teen is being smart and safe no matter what new media comes along.

Contributor: Anita Brikman joined the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) in 2016 and leads the association’s communications and public affairs functions. As a member of the senior management team, she is responsible for establishing and directing the organization’s communications strategies and goals. Anita is passionate about healthcare issues, with over two decades of experience as a news anchor and health reporter in major television markets – making medicine abuse awareness and prevention efforts important to her. She is also the mother of three teenagers. Join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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