Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Should Parents Befriend their Teens on Facebook?

Kids these days, with their Facebooks and Twitters and the phones that are smart–who do they think they are? Flash Gordon? One thing’s for sure: When it comes to computers, these whippersnappers think their knowledge and expertise leave their parents in the Stone Age. So, Mr. or Ms. Cavedweller, should you be your child’s friend on Facebook? Is it your priority as a parent to protect her, or to trust her to do what she knows is right?

Facebook is a netherworld of deceit and temptation–a series of gutters, each overflowing with more filth and depravity than the last. A child has neither the life experience nor the emotional maturity to recognize or appropriately deal with an online con artist or sexual predator. He needs you as his Facebook friend, if only to keep a loving watchful eye over him as he navigates the turbulent waters of social media. He may know every line of code behind Facebook’s technology, but he does not know the darkness that lies in the heart of human sharks who use Facebook as their feeding grounds. He will friend you, and that’s that.

The tenuous bond between a parent and a teen is made of thin strands of trust. You have passed your wisdom on to her, you have led by shining example, and you have helped her to learn by her–and your–mistakes. Now is the time when you must let loose the moorings and trust her to row and steer the currents and eddies of the Sea of Facebook to find safe passage to adulthood. Leave her be, and trust that the love you two share will engender two-way trust; when she encounters trouble, she will come to you, knowing that you will assist unconditionally. Do not friend her.

Levity aside, this is not a choice that can be made for you, nor is it one that you should make on your own. Talk with your child; even if you exercise veto power, solicit his input. Don’t enter the discussion with preconceptions or a final decision.
The first thing you should ask is: Why does she use Facebook? Is she simply socializing with real-world friends? Does she collaborate on schoolwork or extra-curricular activities? Is she getting involved in causes or learning more about other cultures? These are a few of the ways in which Facebook can positively influence a teenager.

On the other hand, if you get the feeling that he uses Facebook to bolster his self-esteem by presenting himself to be someone he isn’t, or to find a group to fit in with, investigate further.
Whether her reasons for being on Facebook are positive, troubling, mixed, or unknown, you should at least work out a way in which you can get an idea of who she interacts with and what the tone of those interactions are. If you need more information on how Facebook works and how to talk to your child about it, check out the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) Parent’s Guide to Facebook (PDF).

Guest contributor:  Al Natanagara is a writer, journalist, and blogger whose career includes stints with ZDNet, CNet, CBS, LexisNexis, and law enforcement. He has hundreds of Facebook friends, but all of them are blocked.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Google and Your Teenager

Do you know what Google is saying about you?
What is it saying about your child or your teenager that will be applying for college or a job shortly?  This is a very important question you have to be ready for.

Years ago your resume was based on your education and experience, today there is a machine waiting to dispute and humiliate your reputation. That machine (and technology) is the Internet or the World Wide Web.  It isn’t going away so it is time many parents and everyone learn to embrace it!

5 Tips to help secure your teen’s digital profile

PEW study shows that about 75% of all Americans are using the Internet. More importantly over 53% of people are Googling each other! Do you know what Google and Bing are saying about you?   Do you know what it says about your teenager?  Is he/she virtually dressed for the college or job interview?
Whether your teen is applying to colleges or interviewing for a job, chances are very good that they are being Googled.

•53% of Americans Google each other. Pew Internet & American Life
•26% of college admissions officers use search engines to research candidates. University of Massachusetts Center for Market Research
•64% of teens say that most teens do things online that they wouldn’t want their parents to know about.
77% of executive recruiters use search engines to research applicants. CareerBuilder

What can you do?  Encourage your teens to be sure they are virtually dressed  before an Internet search is done on them!  Another words, don’t get caught naked onlineNaked doesn’t necessarily mean nude – it means inappropriate pictures and language that wouldn’t make your parents or grandparents blush!

Here are some 5 quick tips to start. Remember, the Internet is today’s  information highway and your name has a road sign.

1. Sign up for free services and post your resume or other information that pertains to your services, business, profession etc. Some of these services are,,,
2. For teenagers that will be applying for colleges, keep in mind, what you post today can haunt you tomorrow. More and more college admissions are using search engines to research their potential candidates. Take the time to secure your social networking sites and other places you surf.  What does this mean? Keep it clean.  Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want to show your parents or your grandparents!
3. Be sure to own your own name. Sign up for free services on Blogs with your name as the URL. and are two that are most frequently used. Try to keep them updated as time permits, however owning them is most important.
4. Set up your Google Alerts. You want to know when your name it being used online. This is another free service that will take you minutes to set up and keep you informed when your name is posted on the Internet. is used for Twitter Alerts. This is another free service to be alerted if people are using your name on Twitter.
5. Buy your domain name. This can be minimum in costs and the return will be priceless. Purchasing your name through GoDaddy or another source, can cost you about $9.99 a year (ie: Building a small website can also be cost effective. GoDaddy and offers services to assist you. You may even know someone that can build this for you. Most teens today are very proficient with their technology skills.

Your online resume can literally make or break your interview or acceptance at colleges.  Don’t risk it,  keep your virtual presence alive and clean.

Be an educated parent, pass this on to your teens!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cell Phones and Teens: Do they Need Them?

A debate that can depend on the child?

A debate that can depend on the age of the child?
A debate that can depend on the maturity of the child?
A debate that can depend on the family and their beliefs?

The debate regarding the necessity of mobile phones for children continues to rage on as kids demand cell phones at younger and younger ages. Many parents, however, believe that cell phones are a non-essential luxury that can be reserved until a certain age; others feel that in this day and age, mobiles are an important asset for everyone, children included.

In this article, we’ll look at 10 reasons why your kid can do without a mobile:

1. Children shouldn’t be any place where there isn’t responsible adult supervision – Any time children aren’t within the care of their parents there should always be someone old enough to watch the kids with them. There is no need for them to carry their own personal phones when they and their parents adhere to this simple common sense policy, which has worked for centuries.
2. What children actually use phones for varies greatly from why the phone was initially bought – Children are using these phones for everything but the emergencies that parents use as a rationale for equipping them with mobiles in the first place. Facebook won’t help in an emergency, and neither will Angry Birds. And who texts an emergency message anyway?
3. The phones being purchased for emergency situations are coming equipped with the latest technology – Most parents who argue that the phone is a safety measure for their child wind up spending a bundle on web access and texting service for their kids’ phones, both of which are totally unnecessary for their supposed purpose.
4. Cell phones are becoming less a help and more a hindrance – Kids spend time on their mobile phones that could and should be spent more productively. Given the state of education in this country, the time is past due to eliminate distractions rather than hand them out to our kids.
5. Cell phones open gateways to trouble – Most of the dangers to their kids that parents are dealing with are related to the fact that their kids are in constant contact via cell phones. Cyber-bullying, sexting and other such issues are far more likely to put your child at risk than not having a cell phone.
6. Having the world at your fingertips can be a dangerous distraction – Cell phone use could in fact put your child at risk to the sort of perils that parents envision when they buy the kids phones to begin with. Think about it: your child is too busy texting, surfing, or playing games that she becomes otherwise oblivious to her surroundings.
7. They cause a dependence on constant connection – It isn’t healthy for kids to remain so dependent on constant connectivity in order to function. Kids need to develop independence and the capacity for responsible decision-making without supervision.
8. They have a negative influence on productivity and learning – Kids are frequently using their cell phones, to their own detriment as well as others, at times and in places at which there is no need for them to have one, such as in school. Some schools, for this reason, have taken steps to ban them.
9. Cell phones encourage superficial relationships – Cell phone use inhibits social development. Kids become more reliant on their devices to communicate and spend less face time with friends and family as a result.
10. They make kids grow up too fast – Kids should be allowed to be kids. There will be plenty of years ahead when they will have jobs and responsibilities that might necessitate their having these electronic leashes. We should let them enjoy this time in their lives while they still can.

Source: Land Line Phone Service

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

5 Signs Your Teen's Friend Isn't Who They Seem to Be

The Internet has given child predators new hunting grounds: a place where they can pretend to be anyone they need to be in order to gain a child’s trust. But there is only so much that parents can do to limit exposure to potentially dangerous areas of the Internet. Aside from technological safeguards and a list of rules, the best thing moms and dads can do to protect kids from child predators is to observe.

When to Pull the Plug

There are some obvious signs that your child’s online buddy isn’t who he/she seems. For instance, if your child is posting nude or semi-nude photos of herself via chat, social media, and/or email, put a stop to it immediately and contact authorities. When obviously unsafe online activity occurs, take steps to keep your child from accessing the Internet: Remove his cell phone; secure other phones, laptops, and tablets; alert parents of friends; and above all, remain calm. Do not get angry with him or indicate in any way that he is to blame. A child’s trust is easily gained by a crafty, determined predator, and what he needs most at this point is reassurance that there are adults who love and protect him.

Five Not-So-Obvious Signs

Then there are signs that are not so obvious–behaviors on the part of your child or their online acquaintance that could indicate harmless communication among peers, but when they persist or are observed in combination with other signs, they could add up to a dangerous situation.
  1. The “friend” asks questions about your child’s physical attributes, such as height, weight, or bra size. While it is within the realm of possibility that a peer might innocently ask such questions, this is one of the signs that requires cessation of online activities and a thorough investigation into email history and account logs. For more information on monitoring your children’s computer activity, check out the NetSmartz Workshop site.
  2. The “friend” asks to meet your child in person. Even though this is the sign that Law & Order: SVU repeats every other week as the One Sign that signals “predator” in flashing red neon, it can slip by parents if the child’s behavior seems otherwise normal. Before you allow your child to go online unsupervised, let her know that she is to tell you if someone asks her this or any of the questions from sign #1. If she is old enough to go to the mall on her own, you still need to know who else is going; if you have any suspicions at all, check with those kids’ parents before she leaves home.
  3. Your child’s behavior changes. Is he suddenly spending more time online? Does he become angry when he is not allowed to use a computer or cannot get access to one? Does he dodge questions about his online activity? Does he lock the door when he is using his computer?
  4. Your child keeps her online activity secret. Closing a chat window, deleting emails and chat logs, and locking parents out of social media groups could be signs that she is communicating with someone who has told her to hide their relationship from her parents. It could also be typical teen behavior. Err on the side of caution by looking for further instances of this and other telltale behavior.
  5. Your child receives gifts. We are living in a material world, and like it or not, your child is most likely a material girl…or boy. A bribe from a predator could be anything, including any innocent trinket or Bieber-branded product of the moment. Items that raise a red flag include: webcam, cell phone, iPod, iPad, or anything that facilitates online communication and/or seems too expensive for a peer to afford.
For more information on keeping your children safe from predators, visit the website of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Special guest contributor:  Al Natanagara is a writer, journalist, and blogger whose career includes stints with ZDNet, CNet, CBS, LexisNexis, and law enforcement. He has done his time both in a cubicle and in the real world, but wherever he is, he always has one protective eye on his children.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Talking with Your Teenager: 10 Tips to Make it Easier

Communicating with teens can be even more difficult. During your children’s teenage years you’ll likely encounter a period of time when it seems like you have nothing in common with each other and carrying on conversations is akin to climbing Mt. Everest. This is heavily influenced by the fact that teenagers and the adults who care for them are very different creatures and are at very different points in their lives. Understanding those differences will help open the lines of communication between you and the teen in your life.

Check out these ideas for ways to get teens talking:

  1. Create a topic jar. A topic jar is a jar that you fill with different pieces of paper containing conversation topics. Each night at dinner a different person gets to choose a slip of paper from the jar and read it aloud. The reader gets to start the conversation. For example, the slip of paper could say, “Tell about something that surprised you today”.
  2. Ask open-ended questions. By asking questions that cannot be answered with only a yes or no, you are opening the door for your teenager to say more than a couple of words in reply to you. Try to avoid grilling her and stay away from asking questions like, “How was your day?” Her answer will most likely be a one word answer to these type of questions. Instead, say something like, “Tell me about your day.”
  3. Talk about topics she likes. Often teens feel like they are misunderstood by their parents. Instead of trying to get her involved in whatever you want to talk about, try talking about something that you know she likes. If she is an avid soccer player then ask her if she heard about the latest soccer match between Spain and Italy. She will probably be stunned that you even know that Spain and Italy recently had a soccer match and might actually want to talk about it. Once the door is open she may continue to talk about other things that are on her mind.
  4. Schedule some one on one time with her. Take her out to her favorite restaurant with just the two of you. If that is too expensive, just go for dessert and linger over coffee. Do something that she enjoys, like going to a local soccer match. Sharing these moments with her will give her the opportunity to talk to you while you are both relaxed and alone.
  5. Listen more than you speak. Every minute of your time together with her doesn’t have to be filled with idle chit chat. If you are trying to get someone to talk, leaving some silence will give them the opportunity to fill that silence with conversation.
  6. Be patient with your teen. If she is going through a rough time with her boyfriend or her other friends at school it may be difficult for her to talk about. Give her opportunities to broach the subject with you, but don’t try to force her to talk to you. That will only result in her becoming more stubborn and closed off.
  7. Put yourself in her shoes. Teenagers think that their parents and caregivers don’t understand them. Try to resist saying things like, “I understand what you are going through because I was a teenager once too you know”. Every generation has their own obstacles to overcome, and you can’t know what she is going through until she tells you. Really try to imagine how you would feel if you were in her shoes going through what she is going through.
  8. Don’t try to fix her. Parents and caregivers often try to fix a situation before they even understand it. Everyone is busy, but make time to hear her out. Don’t jump in and offer advice until it’s asked for. The only thing you should be doing while she is talking is nodding and saying the occasional, “hmm” or “I see” to indicate you are actively listening. This part is very difficult, but she needs to feel heard. Imagine how it would feel if you were sharing one of your problems and the person kept interrupting you to offer advice. Would you enjoy that?
  9. Try to be her soft place to fall, not a road block. Teenagers are faced with a lot of peer pressure. Amazingly enough, teens will come to the right decision most of the time if given the chance. Comfort her if she’s had a fight with a friend or if she breaks up with her boyfriend, but don’t condemn the boyfriend or friend. Anything negative that you say now will come back to haunt you when she gets back together with her boyfriend or the next time that her friend comes over to spend the night.
  10. Only offer your opinion when she asks for it. If you are lucky enough to get your teen talking, don’t interrupt with your opinions. Telling her what you would do isn’t going to help because she will remind you that you and she are nothing alike. Teens are trying to break away and prove their individuality. If she asks for your advice, start by asking her what she has considered so far. This will give you an idea of where her head is and you can act accordingly. Avoid lectures at all costs.

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