Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Teen Dating: What They Need To Know

Summer is around the corner.  With summer could be summer romance for your teenagers.

One day, your little one is skipping down the sidewalk with her hair in pigtails and a firm grip on a teddy bear. The next, it seems like, she’s bouncing down the stairs on her way to greet her first date. Watching kids grow and mature, especially during the teenage years, can be a bittersweet experience. It can also be the harbinger of the most difficult period of your parenting career. Preparing your child for the world of adult interactions, romantic entanglements and independence isn’t always easy, especially when you’d much rather they stayed small forever. Just as you can’t keep a child from growing into an adult, neither can you stem the tide of romantic attraction and the desire to date. All you can do is hope that you’ve instilled the values that you set out to, and that you’ve adequately prepared your teenager for the complicated and sometimes painful world of dating.

The Friendship Code
There are certain rules that come along with both dating and mature friendships, and they largely go unspoken until one of them is broken. One of the most pervasive and important rules for your teen to know before he starts dating is that the “friendship code” shouldn’t be broken. This code entails everything from dating a friend’s ex to trying to date a friend’s current girlfriend, and everything in between. While you’re trying to instill an inherent respect for the opposite gender, be sure that you also discuss the ways that dating and friendship can become messy, and how certain decisions can have far-reaching implications when it comes to both friendships and romantic relationships.

The Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship
No parent wants to think about their child being the victim of dating violence, but the sobering statistics show that this is one conversation that parents simply must have with their teens before dating becomes an issue. A study published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundations shows that as many as one in three seventh grade students have experienced “psychological dating violence,” and that up to one in six have been the victim of physical dating violence. A different study, headed up by the Liz Claiborne corporation, also shows that less than 25% of teenagers have discussed the subject with their parents. Both teen boys and teen girls need to know that dating violence or emotional abuse is never acceptable and should be aware of the warning signs of an abusive relationship. Once a pattern of accepting abuse is established, it can be a difficult and painful cycle to break. Make sure that your teen starts off on the right foot by ensuring that he’s educated and aware of the issues surrounding teen dating violence and abuse.

The Importance of Boundaries and Respect
Parenting comes with its fair share of awkward conversations and embarrassing situations, but it’s far better to weather that momentary discomfort to educate your teen about boundaries and the importance of respecting them than to send them off into the world of dating with no clear understanding of them. Teens need to know that “no” means no, and that pressuring their significant other into anything they’d rather not do is completely unacceptable behavior. They need to know that anyone who subjects them to such pressure is not a good friend or someone that truly cares about their feelings, and that there’s nothing wrong with breaking off a relationship if their boundaries aren’t being respected.

Popularity is Not a Sound Reason for Dating
At no other time in life is the prospect of popularity or gaining entrance into the “cool crowd” more valued or desperately sought than during the teenage years. Teens may date someone that they have little in common with or little regard for simply to maintain or achieve a position of power in their social circle. Conversely, teens often choose not to date people that they are compatible with and attracted to due to a perceived social stigma attached to dating outside of their circle. Before dating even becomes an issue in your child’s life, be sure that she knows just how irrelevant popularity will be to her in five years, and how much she could potentially miss out on if she’s dating someone solely because they’re popular and capable of affecting her social standing.

Your Expectations and Their Responsibilities
While you may think that your expectations and your teen’s dating responsibilities go without saying, it’s important to realize that your teen only knows what you tell him. Don’t assume that your teenager knows what you expect of him as he starts dating, or what his responsibilities are to both you and his significant other. Communicate the rules and what you expect clearly and concisely, so that there’s no confusion or pleas of ignorance later.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Online Safety Measures: Tweens and Online Gaming

Summer is approaching  --- it can mean more time spent in cyberspace especially playing online game for tweens.  Here is a guest post a with 5 safety tips for your pre-teens.
When you look in your living room, are your pre-teens immersed in a video game on a console, computer, or cellphone? Chances are, the games they’re playing have online connectivity. Gartner reports that a large portion of the $111 billion video game market consists of online games. 38 percent of minors enjoy video gaming as a hobby, according to the Entertainment Software Association, and there’s plenty of benefits to encouraging them to play online enabled games. They provide your pre-teens with entertainment, socialization, computer skill development, and brain stimulating activities. Unfortunately, these socialization elements also open your pre-teens up to certain risks and dangers, such as becoming a victim of hacking or social engineering. Knowing how to protect your pre-teens and developing their own risk- aware skills is an essential part of safe online gaming.
Checking for appropriate content
Online games span many genres, from a hidden object game by iWin to MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft. Pay close attention to the rating and types of content and concepts presented in the game your pre-teens are playing. Consider playing along with your children to see exactly what information your kids are picking up, as well as steering them to age appropriate games if the content is not suitable for them. The Entertainment Software Rating Board handles video game ratings, starting at EC for early childhood and going up to AO for adults only.
Checking for Chat rooms
Many online games have chat rooms or messaging functions to provide social interaction with other gamers. Online games with parental controls allow you to filter out bad language, block private messages, and control whether your child gets chat room capability or not. This is another way of ensuring your pre-teens aren’t exposed to inappropriate content. Some games also allow you to mute specific players if a particular individual is harassing your child.
Time Monitoring
The allure of online gaming makes it easy for your pre-teen to spend many hours playing all of the games at their disposal. Track the amount of time that they play through parental monitoring software. Some games, such as World of Warcraft, allow you to prevent an account from being played past a daily or weekly amount, or restricting the time of day that the child can log in. This helps you keep your kids happy with their favorite activities while not allowing it to take up all of their free time.
Avoiding Hackers
Online gaming portals provide hundreds of games through a single website. Some of these games play directly in the browser, while others are downloaded and installed on your computer. Keep the computer anti-virus running to avoid downloads and browser plugins with viruses and trojans attached. Read through gaming portal reviews to find legitimate sites, or check gaming magazines and blogs for this information. Check for https encryption when your child logs into the site, and handle downloadable game installations yourself to stop companion software, such as toolbars, from getting installed.
Check Game Emails
Some online game services send out emails informing players of new developments, specials, and updates. Phishers take advantage of this by posing as official game representatives and tricking users into providing account information. Monitor the email address your child used to sign up with a service, and screen any emails for phishing attempts.
Contributor: James Stewart