Saturday, June 29, 2013

Tips to Know if Your Teen is Lying

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?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Does Your Teen or Tween Have Their First Cell Phone?

Tips to keep your kids and safe on their cell phone.


1. Be Aware of Surroundings

Emphasize to your child the importance of being aware of his/her surroundings. The element of surprise is a powerful tool. All of this new technology, cell phones and iPods, has created a diversion of sorts for criminals who are intent on performing an illicit or unlawful act. Cell phones are a distraction which detracts from a person’s attentiveness to their surroundings. When you are preoccupied with a phone conversation, you may not hear footsteps behind you or notice a person who seems to be just a little to interest in what you are doing. It is easier to overpower a person who is unaware than it is to face one who is prepared. While your child is absorbed in what the friend on the other end of the line is saying, a predator could be sneaking up behind them.
It isn’t just criminals your child must be concerned about. Talking on a cell phone while walking, bicycling, skateboarding, rip sticking or driving can be a hazard. It is important to pay attention to traffic when performing any of these actions near a roadway. If your child becomes too wrapped up in a conversation on the cell phone, he/she may not notice the car coming down the road. Your child should know they cannot rely on the drivers to notice their presence. Drivers have to divide their attention among too many things while on the road. If your child isn’t paying attention and steps or rides in front of a vehicle, the results could be devastating.

2. Parental safety controls

Take time to carefully consider which cell phone to purchase for your child. Choose a cell phone with parental safety controls. Programmable cell phones allow you to decide who your child can receive phone calls from and who they are permitted to call. You can set the numbers in their cell phone and eliminate the opportunity for someone to whom your child should not be speaking to call or be called from the cell phone. No need to worry about a wrong number resulting in an undesirable friendship. Some experts recommend you don’t buy a cell phone with a camera. There really is no reason your child’s phone must have a camera on it. You won’t have to worry about inappropriate images (i.e. nude photos of your child) being sent.

3. Limit Internet Access

Purchase a cell phone that doesn’t provide access to the internet. In all likelihood, your child already has a computer at home or school with internet access. It isn’t necessary for them to have the internet on the cell phone also. Not only can accessing the internet on a cell phone be extremely costly without a data plan, but it also provides another window for predators to reach out to your child. Everything that can be done on a computer through the internet can also be done on a cell phone. Instant messaging, emails, blogging on MySpace or any of the other social sites are all available with internet access on a cell phone. The difference between a cell phone and the computer is the level of privacy afforded with a cell phone. A computer can be kept in a common area so that you can monitor what your child is doing on the internet and to whom they are talking. On a cell phone, these activities can be done with you none the wiser.

4. Never talk to strangers.

Though you probably already gave this advice to them when they were young, as your children grow older they lose some of their fear of the people they don’t know and often need to be reminded that this rule still stands. Developing new friendships is exciting for the younger generations. In their excitement over the prospect of earning a new friend and the ensuing efforts to impress the person, children often forget their basic training from their early years. Their growing confidence in their own ability to recognize danger often leaves them vulnerable. Children are generally not skilled in recognizing danger in unfamiliar people. They don’t realize that predators are skillfully adept at blending in and appearing harmless. These predators are truly the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing, patiently developing friendships over time with the intent of eventually luring your child into a face-to-face meeting. A reminder of such facts could prevent a tragedy.

5. Discuss Sexting

Sexting, for those of you who don’t know, is the act of sending sexually graphic pictures or messages from one cell phone to another. The most common instances of sexting in the younger set involve sending pictures of themselves in provocative clothing or completely nude. It is important that you discuss this practice with your child and let them know in no uncertain terms that it is not allowed and will not be tolerated. If you are afraid to bring this subject to their attention in case your child doesn’t already know what it is, don’t. You can be assured that your child is already familiar with it. You will not be teaching them about something they don’t already know about. Don’t wait until you see evidence that your child is engaging in this practice before establishing this rule. If you avoid this discussion because of a fear that you will be informing your child about something of which they know nothing about, you run the risk of them facing serious consequences.
This trend has become so prevalent it has even caught the attention of legislators. Lawmakers have begun to draft and create legislation making the act a prosecutable offense. Some have gone as far as to label it a child pornography offense with an equal punishment. These new laws are not arbitrary legislation created for the purpose of appearances; individuals caught engaging in sexting have already been prosecuted for the crime of distributing child pornography. Distribution doesn’t even require that you take the picture in order for you to be prosecuted under such a law; it only requires that you send it. So if your child receives one of these graphic sexting messages and forwards it to a friend for a laugh, your child could face prosecution. Explaining all of this to your child could save both of you a lot of heartache.

6. Cell Phone Monitoring Software

Purchase a subscription to a cell phone monitoring program or software. My Mobile Watchdog is one such service. It monitors all of your child’s cell phone activity and allows you to view it online. It is not done secretly so you will have to let your child know you are monitoring them. The website allows you to preset which phone numbers are trusted or unapproved to contact your child. There is also an assigned setting for suspicious. Alerts are sent out to warn you when an unapproved, suspicious or unknown person attempts contact. You also have access to a transcript of every text message your child sends and receive. You can read the entire content and see the phone numbers associated with the messages. You also have the option of printing the reports if you needed. You can also view every picture sent or received from the cell phone. The website also offers practical tools such as appointment and task reminders.

7. Keep Tabs On Cell Phone Activity

Check your child’s cell phone and activity regularly. If a subscription to a cell phone monitoring website is not in your budget or just isn’t something you choose to do, then you should check your child’s cell phone and activity regularly. Do not warn your child in advance or check the cell phone at the same time every week as that will give them an opportunity to clean the contents. Random checks will allow you to read the text messages going out or coming in as well as to see what pictures are being sent and received. You can also check the phone number on the incoming and outgoing call lists to see who is calling and at what times. Most cell phone providers make this information available to their customers online. Though it may be perceived by your child as an invasion of their privacy, explain that is not your intent. It isn’t that you distrust your child; you are only trying to protect them. If this is always the rule from a young age and treated matter-of-factly, then privacy may never even become an issue.

8. Don’t Disclose Private Information

Advise your child to be careful about what information is discussed in public. A person who is looking to do someone harm will eavesdrop on public conversations to gather any information which might be useful. Private and personal information can be used at a later time to gain your child’s trust. Once again, predators are devious creatures practiced at developing illicit relationships. Having personal information about your child will assist these types of people in forging a friendship based on common interests. It can also reveal places where the predator can plan ‘chance’ meetings with your child. Discussions about the school they attend, activities they participate in, or places they frequent can supply a wealth of information to the wrong persons.
Identity theft is another concern. Your child may be too young to have need for credit lines, loans and/or credit cards, but there are plenty of dishonest people who are old enough to find them useful. Even with limited information, a motivated criminal can find a way to obtain the remainder of the information they would need to use it to their full advantage. Your child is too young to understand the deviousness and conniving of these types of individuals and just how damaging their actions can be, but they would learn quickly when they eventually get out on their own and discover their identity has been stolen. The process of repairing the damage is time consuming and often costly. Identity theft usually leaves residual stain which cannot be completely eliminated. Teach your child to limit public calls on their cell phones to general conversations and leave the private conversations for times when they are, well, in private.

9. Be Respectful In Public

Teach your child to try to be respectful of others when using your cell phone in public. Instances of violence relating to cell phone usage are becoming more commonplace. The latest news reports of violent acts being committed as a result of someone’s inconsiderate use of a cell phone are becoming more prevalent. The public is becoming less tolerant of the lack of courtesy which is evident in the way the public is responding to these reports. The individuals committing the violent acts are being commended by the public. And as cell phone courtesy is becoming more of a point of contention, these incidents have the potential to become more commonplace.
Protect your child from cell phone violence as you would from road rage. Explain that being courteous when using a cell phone is important. For example, tell your child that the cell phone ringer should not be turned on while in a movie theater and of course should not be answered either. If a call comes through which must be answered, they should leave the theater and answer it in a hallway. Though something so simple may not seem all that important to a self centered teen or preteen, as a parent you know that to some people it is worthy of violence in the same way that being cut off in traffic is for the same person. A courtesy reminder could help protect your child from senseless violence and will ensure they remember their manners.

10. Place a curfew on cell phone usage.

Children despise curfews, but they are in place for a reason. A telephone curfew is nothing new. Many of us had such curfews on our home phones when we were younger. Phone calls were not permitted during or after certain times. Just because the phones are now mobile doesn’t mean this practice is now irrelevant. The same reasons that a curfew was important when we were young still apply. Late night phone calls interfere with sleep, studying and can lead to trouble. Prank calls and texts are more likely to occur after bedtime. It’s all coming back to you now, isn’t it? Sexting is easier at night, also. Think of all the trouble which can be curtailed if you have possession of the cell phone after hours. A curfew is an effective method of preventing trouble. And it will provide an opportunity for a quick look at the content of your child’s cell phone.

11. Have a plan for unusual calls of text messages

Encourage your child to talk to you about any concerning phone calls or text messages they may receive. It is important that your child knows what to do in the event that he/she receives harassing phone calls on the cell phone. Any type of threatening or bullying phone calls or text messages should be reported to you so that you can help them decide how best to handle the situation. This includes sexually inappropriate pictures, messages, or requests. If something like this occurs there are a few options available to you and your child. You can contact your cell phone provider and ask to have the number changed. Most providers will do this at least once free of charge. You can also request that text messages be blocked from the cell phone. Though it will be an inconvenience since this action will block all text messages from coming through, this is an effective method of stopping offensive texts from being sent. After a couple of weeks of unsuccessful attempts, the person sending will grow tired of the constant rebuffs and quit trying. You can always have the service reactivated.
Technology is rapidly evolving and will continue to do so. You have to be prepared to adapt your rules accordingly. Remember that criminals are not intimidated by technology and are using it to find easier ways to find victims. They are just waiting for opportunity to present itself. And criminals are not the only danger from which your child needs protection. Your child depends on you to lead them away from trouble, even if they do not always appreciate your guidance. You do not need to be an expert in the use of technology to establish relevant, general rules. Don’t use inexperience as an excuse.

A few basic steps and rules could help protect your child from danger and you from heartbreak.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Parent Empowerment Blog Selected as Top 20 Blogs and Websites for Parents and Teens

For over a decade I have been helping parents with struggling teens after my own challenges with my teenager.  Back in the time when the Internet was in its' infancy, there wasn't a lot of information to be out here yet.  Now it seems there are literally thousands, if not millions of sites and bloggers with every click of a mouse.

With this, I am so flattered and honored to be selected in the list of of top 20 blogs and websites, not only once, but for two of my sites.  This one and which I created only several years ago.

I want to personally thank the team at Wilderness Ventures for believing in my work and understanding my passion for what I do.

Here is there recent press release as well as the other top sites and blogs that are all tremendous!!!

Wilderness Ventures, the oldest and most experienced adventure travel program offering teen summer camps, is announcing their choices for the “Top 20 Blogs and Websites for Parents with Teens” for 2013. The blogs and websites selected by Wilderness Ventures are being honored for their innovative and creative content as well as their ability to offer parents and teens a personal connection and invaluable virtual resources.

Team members at Wilderness Ventures scoured the web to find bloggers that demonstrated practicality, creativity, personal engagement and fun in their blog while offering unique perspectives on being a parent of young children or teenagers. Criteria such as design, helpful tips and pointers, level of engagement, number of followers, and more, were factored into the final selection process.

Wilderness Ventures, who has offered teen adventure camps for more than 40 years, believes that active personal engagement and communication between parents and their teenage children are important factors for parents whose job is to teach the next generation of young adults. For this reason, Wilderness Ventures is choosing to recognize blogs and websites that they feel promote interpersonal connection between teens and their parents as well as shared resources between parents.  

The list of top 20 blogs and websites for parents with teens included here, in no particular order:

About Wilderness Ventures:
With more than 21,000 student alumni, Wilderness Ventures has pioneered outdoor adventures for young adults and has paved the way for youth travel around the world.  Their 40 years of experience, unwavering values of community, inter-personal growth, wholesome environments, safety, wilderness education, discovery, conservation, and exploration have led to their unmatched and trusted reputation. Wilderness Ventures currently holds special permits to operate their teen adventure camps in 20 National Parks and 17 designated wilderness areas with special permits.

Monday, June 3, 2013

How to Set Realistic Expectations for your Teenager

No one ever said parenting was easy.  But parenting a teen can at times make you want to pull your hair out.  Choosing expectations for your teen that are both challenging but not overbearing is like waking a tight rope.  Here are a few suggestions to help ease the tension you feel.

Don’t expect each of your teens to need the same boundaries to be set. Not every child is the same.  You may have one teen that can handle the responsibility of having a Facebook account at the age of 13 while your next child could not handle that same privilege at 16.  This can be frustrating for both older and younger siblings who question your “fairness” but it is important to treat each child as an individual reminding her that she has other areas in which she has shown great responsibility.

With each birthday, give the child 1 new responsibility and 1 new reward.  A great way to help set separate boundaries while still teaching responsibility is to use the child’s birthday.  This habit can start early on.  When you give your child a new responsibility at her birthday coupled with a reward it shows her that you recognize that she is maturing.  Safe and respectable use of the reward can be tied to the new responsibility to some degree.  If at age 13 your child is able to gain a Facebook page but she refuses to consistently mow the lawn like agreed to at her birthday, Facebook privileges can be suspended until the lawn is mowed.

Your ultimate goal as a parent is to help your child develop independence.  When discussing and selecting the expectations you have for your child, keep in mind that you want your child to learn what you teach for a lifetime.  When she leaves your home, you want to know that you have instilled responsibility into her so that whatever school, job or career she chooses she will be well equipped.  When setting expectations keep this ultimate desire for independence in mind.

Expectations should start out small and grow.  You cannot expect a child to wake up one day and suddenly be able to understand how to do her laundry from separating the colors to putting them away in her drawers.  This habit needs to be taught slowly.  The same is true for independence.  You cannot expect your child to be able to always make the best choices when it comes to peers, school and even listening to you.  She needs to start being given small independence.  Expect mistakes but know her ability to make mature choices will grow.

Put expectations and consequences in writing. Often times directives are mentioned to a teen in the car or while the parent and child are doing other things.  These directives may seem really clear to the parent but are often misunderstood by the teen.  Sometimes teens may even use your business as an excuse to avoid doing what you asked because she thinks you will not remember it.  This situation leads to anger, resentment and often times yelling.  When you create an expectation, it is best to in some way get it in writing and have both you and your teen agree to it.  That way if the instruction is ignored or forgotten, you are able to simply and calmly show the child where that you had indeed agreed to it.  You can use new technologies to do this if the child has a smart phone or access to a computer.  If you choose to put it on paper in the house make sure it is where all adults and the teen can see it but is not out in public where it might embarrass the child.

Don’t expect too little.  Parents can make this mistake for a few reasons.  Perhaps they had an older child that wanted to break all the rules.  Maybe they themselves had very troubled teen years.  Whatever the case, lowering the expectations you have for your child can actually cause her to make bad choices.  Instead build your child up, letting her know that you see the strength and determination in her to make healthy and mature choices but that you know how it can be difficult at times.
Parenting a teen can be stressful but it is a high responsibility to raise the next generation.  It takes patience, understanding and self-control to help a small child become an adult.

Contributor: Marcia Hall from