Thursday, April 17, 2014

Digital Parenting and Cell Phone Etiquette

Remember when phone etiquette simply referred to the rules regarding answering the home phone? Now that most people, including teens, have their own cell phones, phone etiquette has a whole new meaning. It includes courteously using a phone to talk, text and enjoy the other features of today’s smart phones.

Here are some rules to share with your teen to encourage him to be a responsible and polite phone user.

Turn 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.

Don’t talk or text and drive. Not only is this good etiquette, it’s also an essential safety measure. Talking or texting while driving continues to rise and continues to cause injuries and fatalities. Make this a clear and unwavering rule for your teen to keep him and others safe on the road. There are also plenty of hands-free options available today. Many newer cars are equipped with built in Bluetooth connectivity, which makes answering a call or text safer. However, it’s never a good idea for your teen’s attention to be anywhere but the road, so carefully consider if hands-free calling is well suited to your child.

Don’t take pictures or videos without permission. It’s easy to snap a picture or grab a video with today’s smartphone technology. But just because it’s possible, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Ask your teen to make sure she has permission from everyone she takes a picture or video of. Many people, including other teens, don’t want to be caught in what others might think are funny poses or situations. Posting inappropriate pictures and videos has become a signature of bullying, so it’s a sensitive topic. Even if your teen has the best intentions when using her smartphone camera, it could lead to problems.

It’s easy for teens to get off track when it comes to phone etiquette. They have fewer and fewer opportunities to learn and practice interpersonal communication skills in their everyday life, so it’s no surprise when phone skills fall by the wayside. A few quick conversations and limits around phone use can easily get your teen back on track.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Does Your Teen Lie?

Let's face it, tweens and teens are a challenge and there will come a time when you are going to question something they are telling you. Are they really going to the mall or are they heading out to a party?

How do you know?

When your child is younger, spotting a fib isn’t much of a challenge. Little ones don’t quite have the skills they need to fabricate a plausible excuse, so picking apart a questionable story is usually the work of a moment. As kids get older and hone their skills in the world of deception, however, it usually becomes a bit more difficult to spot a false story. Accusing your teen of lying when she’s telling the truth can cause a major blow-up and do serious damage to your relationship, but letting her out of the house with a flimsy story can put her in dangerous situations. At no time in your child’s life is it more difficult to pick out a lie than when she’s a teenager, but it’s also the time when it’s most imperative.

While there’s no fool-proof method of sussing out the truth when a teen is determined to lie, there are a few things you can keep in mind that may help you get to the bottom of a story before things get out of hand.

Look for Out-of-Character Behavior
Just as all poker players have a tell or two that will tip off an opponent in the know, everyone has a few tics that can give them away when they lie. The key to spotting suspicious behavior in your teen, however, is to be intimately familiar with her habits when she’s telling the truth. When you know your child and her mannerisms through and through, you’ll be better positioned to pick up on inconsistencies that indicate a lie or two. For instance, a teen that normally looks at the floor may be conscious that she needs to make eye contact in order to sell her story, and may hold that eye contact for so long that it tips you off to her tall tales. Any mannerisms that are out-of-character and suspicious can be indicators that she’s lying, so be on the lookout for changes in behavior.

Listen Carefully
It’s easy to get so caught up in trying to decode your teen’s behavior that you miss out on the most important aspect of determining the veracity of a story: just listening. Make sure that you pay attention to not only your teen’s mannerisms, but also what she says and how she says it. Long pauses after you ask a question are usually the result of your teen looking for holes in her story before answering, concocting an answer to your question that falls in line with her previous tale or to cover her tracks in case of a misstep. Slight stuttering or stammering or a change in pitch may also be indicators that your teen’s story isn’t entirely true.

Observe Her Body Language
A teenager that’s normally poised and graceful may have a perfect, seamless story to tell that fails only because her shifty body language betrays her. Look for fidgeting, excessive touching of the face, mouth or neck, tapping toes or a visible struggle to stand still. If your teen is suddenly fascinated with the hemline of a shirt or a stray thread poking out of a seam, she may be looking for an excuse to avoid making eye contact with you. Watching your child’s body language and comparing it with her normal behavior can give you a good idea of when her story is less than honest.

Ask Questions
Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions, or even the strange ones. Your job as a parent is to find out where your teen is going and what she’s up to, so don’t shy away from questioning a story that doesn’t sit right with you. Follow your instincts and listen to what your own experience tells you. If there’s a loose thread in your teen’s story, follow it to see how well that story holds up. Look for inconsistencies or discrepancies with the information you already have versus what she’s giving you.

Trust Her
While it may seem like trusting a teenager is just asking for trouble, you may be actively harming your relationship with her by questioning every word that falls from her mouth. Realizing the importance of showing her that you do trust her, and letting her know that you’re approachable when she’s in need of help or advice can actually foster a more open relationship that’s based on mutual trust and respect. When you work to build that trust, you won’t have to worry so much about picking apart her stories, as she’ll be more honest with you from the outset of a conversation.
Accusing your child of lying when she’s telling you the truth only makes her angry and makes her more likely to stretch the boundaries of the truth in the future. After all, if she’s being accused of lying and punished undeservedly for dishonesty, why shouldn’t she at least earn your lack of trust and the penalties you level against her by doing exactly what you accuse her of?

Source: Babysitting.net

Be an educated parent, you will have safer teenagers!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Teens Sexting

Sexting is a topic that has been in the headlines and it isn't only about teens.  Adults are guilty of sending and receiving sexual content via digital devices.

What is sexting?

Sexting is the sending of sexually explicit photographs or messages via mobile phone.

Why does it matter when it comes to our teens:

In a technology world where anything can be copied, sent, posted, and seen by huge audiences, there's no such thing as being able to control information. The intention doesn't matter - even if a photo was taken and sent as a token of love, for example, the technology makes it possible for everyone to see your child's most intimate self.

In the hands of teens, when revealing photos are made public, the subject almost always ends up feeling humiliated. Furthermore, sending sexual images to minors is against the law, and some states have begun prosecuting kids for child pornography or felony obscenity.

What can parents do?
  • Don't wait for an incident to happen to your child or your child's friend before you talk about the consequences of sexting. Sure, talking about sex or dating with teens can be uncomfortable, but it's better to have the talk before something happens.
  • Remind your kids that once an image is sent, it can never be retrieved - and they will lose control of it. Ask teens how they would feel if their teachers, parents, or the entire school saw the picture, because that happens all the time.
  • Talk about pressures to send revealing photos. Let teens know that you understand how they can be pushed or dared into sending something. Tell them that no matter how big the social pressure is, the potential social humiliation can be hundreds
    of times worse.
  • Teach your children that the buck stops with them. If someone sends them a photo, they should delete it immediately. It's better to be part of the solution than the problem. Besides, if they do send it on, they're distributing pornography - and that's against the law.
  • Check out ThatsNotCool.com. It's a fabulous site that gives kids the language and support to take texting and cell phone power back into their own hands. It's also a great resource for parents who are uncomfortable dealing directly with this issue.

    -Source Common Sense Media

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Safer Internet Day 2014

Today digital parenting is considered part of raising our kids.  Especially with teenagers an all their gadgets.

Most teens are mobile now, and the ones with cell phones, 48% of them have data plans (internet).

It is more important than ever that parents discuss privacy concerns as well as their digital footprint.  From the moment your child is given a keypad, their future starts on the internet.

Safer Internet Day is about creating a better internet together!

Safer Internet Day (SID) is organized by Insafe in February of each year to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially amongst children and young people across the world.





Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Teens and Fake Profiles on Facebook

Recently I have read reports about teens leaving Facebook.  Of course we can understand why -- more and more parents and seniors are joining Facebook and teens want their privacy!

However I am not convinced that teens are quitting the largest social networking site - for several reasons.  Sure they have Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, SnapChat and others - but none will give you the functionality that Facebook has.

I believe teens (and tweens - since we know that minors are also on Facebook) are likely creating fictitious profiles on Facebook.

How would a parent know and why is it important to know?

Safety reasons obviously.  As a parent it is your responsibility to monitor your child's digital life.  Especially if their off-line behavior starts acting suspicious (withdrawn, secretive, changing friends, etc) you need to be aware of what is going on with them so you are able to help.

Recently I wrote an article in Huffington Post Parents with tips to see if your teen has a fake profile on Facebook.  Read more and pass it on to a friend with kids.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer teens! On and off-line.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cyberbullying: It Doesn't Recognize Holidays

Order today!
Wouldn't it be nice if there was a time when you could power up your electronics -- whether it's your iPad, tablet, PC or cell phone -- and not have to worry about any type of hostile content?

Internet trolls and cyberbullies never take vacations or summer breaks, and they don't recognize holidays.

This holiday season, as cyberbullying and bullying sadly continues, you can give your teens and kids the gift of cyber-armor!

Read my latest post on Huffington Post Parent - click here.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Good Teens Bad Choices: Helping Your Kids Build Self-Esteem

Help! My teen is hanging with the wrong crowd!

This is a common statement from parents when their child is starting down a negative road.
Your child’s self-esteem is an important part of his self-image. It helps him feel he’s worthwhile just as he is and helps him feel good about his choices and decisions. A healthy self esteem doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s something that is nurtured and grown throughout a lifetime, and something that the important people in his life have a chance to help cultivate.
Here are some tips for boosting your child’s self-esteem.

Give your child choices throughout the day. A big part of healthy self-esteem is feeling capable. Offering your child choices about what outfit to wear, what to have for a snack or for lunch, or if he should pick up the play room before or after going to the park will give your child practice making good choices. When offering young children choices, the key is being comfortable with whatever the child chooses. The goal is to help him think about both sides and make a decision that he feels will best satisfy his needs.

Avoid generic praise. Parents want kids to feel good about the things they do and to encourage them to repeat the types of behavior they value. So parents often say things like “Great job!” after everything from finishing vegetables at dinner to putting socks on in the morning to going down the slide at the park. While generic congratulations feel good to a child for a short time, after too many times it becomes meaningless. In fact, congratulating a child for things that don’t require real effort can make a child lose trust in the parent’s honesty.

Use specific praise generously. It’s helpful to a child’s self-esteem to hear from parents and other adults about their accomplishments, both big and small. Instead of using generic praise, let your child know how much you admire and appreciate his specific behavior. Phrases like “I appreciate your help in picking up the play room this afternoon. It means we have more time at the park!” or “Eating your vegetables will help your body grow strong and healthy. I love your willingness to try new things.” or “I’m so proud of how you climbed to the top of the tower. That took strong arms and great balance!” will help your child feel good about his abilities and choices.

Avoid negative labels. Most of the way we communicate with others is based in lifelong habits. Unfortunately some unhealthy habits may find their way into your parenting or caregiving vocabulary. Labeling a child as being mean, lazy, uncoordinated or hyperactive, or calling him a whiner, liar or babyish can negatively affect his self-esteem. Children are sensitive to what the people they love think about them and words can have a huge effect. Choose your words carefully and talk about challenging behaviors or traits in positive terms.

Become a great listener. Giving your child your full attention and truly listening to what he is saying and how he feels is an immediate self-esteem booster. When you turn off your phone, the TV and the computer and fully engage with your child it shows him that you really care about him and that you’re interested in what he has to say. That kind of undivided attention is rarer than it should be these days and will make your child feel valued and loved.

Model healthy self-esteem. Your child looks to you for clues about how to think, act and feel. Make sure you’re sending the right message. Invest in developing your own healthy self-esteem and you’ll be on your way to helping your child develop it too. Have a positive body image, be confident about your abilities, and don’t let petty criticisms from the outside world make you feel bad about yourself and your choices. If you struggle with esteem issues, talk about them with your child in an age appropriate way and show him the steps you’re taking to develop a healthy self-esteem. Showing your child that you’re not perfect, but that you’re working towards being better, gives him the freedom to accept his flaws too.

Teach problem solving skills. Teaching your child how to objectively assess a situation, brainstorm solutions, and put a plan into action is a proactive way of building self-esteem. Children who feel able to handle challenging situations, who recognize that when they get knocked down they can get right back up and try again, and who are confident that every problem has a solution have a strong sense of self-esteem.

Self-esteem is an important part of a child’s healthy emotional development. It acts like a suit of armor for your child, protecting him from many of the bumps and bruises that come with everyday life. It also gives him a strong foundation to build life skills on.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

What Is Your Parenting Style?

Does your teen listen to you?
Most parents know that raising teens is a challenge today.

Consider these suggestions when dealing with the following temperaments on a day-to-day basis:

• Flexible and affable. These teens live on the sunny side of the street. They are generally agreeable and tend not to take things personally.

Appreciate their good nature and let them know that you do. It’s unfair and risky not to give them your very best parenting just because they are less likely to get angry or become sullen.

• Sensitive. These teens often take awhile to adjust to anything new. They like routine and knowing what is going to happen when. They may not appreciate teasing or certain kinds of humor.

Give these teens plenty of advance warning when a change is about to happen. Take a little extra time to explain things to them. If you hurt their feelings, apologize.

• Challenging. These teens can be critical, especially of their parents. Their first reaction is often a negative one, and they seem to enjoy arguing for its own sake.

These teens dislike rules, so set only a few that speak to your top priorities. Model a good example for them. Don’t return criticisms with criticism of your own. Let them know you always love them, even though you may not love their behavior.

Copyright © 2013 Parent Institute