IKEA Encouraged These Kids to Be Bullies, and Here’s Why

Ever been bullied? Picked on? Teased incessantly by that one guy at work?

Annoying, sure. But you can handle it, right?

While I’d like to think I’m somewhat immune to the effects of the obnoxious, and even ill-intentioned, IKEA has proven me wrong…using a plant.

In honor of Anti-Bullying Day, May 4th, IKEA set up a live experiment in a Middle Eastern school where they put two essentially identical plants next to each other, with equal amounts of sunlight, fertilizer, and water. The only difference? How the kids at the school talked to them.

With one plant given lots of verbal encouragement and compliments, and the other fed negative, hateful words, the plants were observed for 30 days and the results were clear.

The plant that had received the relentless bullying was visibly worse for wear. It was drooping, turning brown, and seemingly undernourished, while the encouraged plant thrived and flourished in a nearly identical environment.

What a powerful visual example of the pain a living thing suffers when being bullied. And, as one of the students mentioned: if hateful words can so drastically affect a plant, how much more will they affect us as human beings?

And on the other end of the spectrum? The power of positive, uplifting words is incredible! Thanks for the reminder, IKEA!

 

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The post IKEA Encouraged These Kids to Be Bullies, and Here’s Why appeared first on TodaysMama.

IKEA Encouraged These Kids to Be Bullies, and Here’s Why

Ever been bullied? Picked on? Teased incessantly by that one guy at work?

Annoying, sure. But you can handle it, right?

While I’d like to think I’m somewhat immune to the effects of the obnoxious, and even ill-intentioned, IKEA has proven me wrong…using a plant.

In honor of Anti-Bullying Day, May 4th, IKEA set up a live experiment in a Middle Eastern school where they put two essentially identical plants next to each other, with equal amounts of sunlight, fertilizer, and water. The only difference? How the kids at the school talked to them.

With one plant given lots of verbal encouragement and compliments, and the other fed negative, hateful words, the plants were observed for 30 days and the results were clear.

The plant that had received the relentless bullying was visibly worse for wear. It was drooping, turning brown, and seemingly undernourished, while the encouraged plant thrived and flourished in a nearly identical environment.

What a powerful visual example of the pain a living thing suffers when being bullied. And, as one of the students mentioned: if hateful words can so drastically affect a plant, how much more will they affect us as human beings?

And on the other end of the spectrum? The power of positive, uplifting words is incredible! Thanks for the reminder, IKEA!

 

See More on TodaysMama.com!

How to Talk to Your Kids About Sexual Harassment — Before They Even Know About Sex

Here’s the Phone I Wish Apple Would Have Built For My Kids

Have Kids That Struggle With Anxiety? These 4 Strategies Will Help

 

The post IKEA Encouraged These Kids to Be Bullies, and Here’s Why appeared first on TodaysMama.

IKEA Encouraged These Kids to Be Bullies, and Here’s Why

Ever been bullied? Picked on? Teased incessantly by that one guy at work?

Annoying, sure. But you can handle it, right?

While I’d like to think I’m somewhat immune to the effects of the obnoxious, and even ill-intentioned, IKEA has proven me wrong…using a plant.

In honor of Anti-Bullying Day, May 4th, IKEA set up a live experiment in a Middle Eastern school where they put two essentially identical plants next to each other, with equal amounts of sunlight, fertilizer, and water. The only difference? How the kids at the school talked to them.

With one plant given lots of verbal encouragement and compliments, and the other fed negative, hateful words, the plants were observed for 30 days and the results were clear.

The plant that had received the relentless bullying was visibly worse for wear. It was drooping, turning brown, and seemingly undernourished, while the encouraged plant thrived and flourished in a nearly identical environment.

What a powerful visual example of the pain a living thing suffers when being bullied. And, as one of the students mentioned: if hateful words can so drastically affect a plant, how much more will they affect us as human beings?

And on the other end of the spectrum? The power of positive, uplifting words is incredible! Thanks for the reminder, IKEA!

 

See More on TodaysMama.com!

How to Talk to Your Kids About Sexual Harassment — Before They Even Know About Sex

Here’s the Phone I Wish Apple Would Have Built For My Kids

Have Kids That Struggle With Anxiety? These 4 Strategies Will Help

 

The post IKEA Encouraged These Kids to Be Bullies, and Here’s Why appeared first on TodaysMama.

The Easiest Way To Limit Screen Time {We’ve found it!}

One of the biggest issues facing parents today is how to limit screen time to healthy, constructive levels. Ever feel like monitoring your kids screen time is a full time job? You feel like a police officer instead of a guidance counselor? It’s can feel overwhelming, time consuming and frustrating. We’ve found a tool to make it easier.

The best tool to limit screen time

Don’t get me wrong. No tool can fix the screen time problem at your house without your participation. As parents we’ve got to tow the line, model the behavior, and have ONGOING talks with our kids about building healthy habits. I wrote a little bit about the guiding principles at our house here:

 

3 Screen Time Rules My Kids Actually Thanked Me For

 

The reality is, we can talk all we want about not eating too many cookies, and if we fill all of the cupboards of our house with cookies, avoiding those cookies is going to be a whole lot harder. 

 

“By designing for laziness, you can stop or reduce a behavior. For example, put bad snacks in garage on shelf that requires a ladder.”

— BJ Fogg

 

So let’s do a little better. Let’s create digital environments that limit screen time to healthy levels and leave us all happier. 

Designing our physical and digital environments to set us all up for success is KEY! We want our kids to understand “the why” in all of this, and then back them up by setting them up for success . . . guard rails to keep them safe and help them establish good screen time habits while we’ve still got them under our roof.

One of the tools we’ve found that is our very favorite is Circle. It simply takes me out of the role of police officer and let’s me stick with the role of guidance counselor {most of the time}.  Consider Circle your digital assistant screen time manager. 

 

 

Our Favorite Tool To Limit Screen Time

 

Drum roll please . . . Circle!

There are 2 products: Circle Home and Circle Go

What’s the difference? We’ll break it down.  Here’s our Circle With Disney Review:

 

Circle Home

Circle Home pairs wirelessly with your home Wi-Fi and allows you to manage every device on your network. Using the Circle app, families can create unique profiles for each family member. From here, kids will have a connected experience that is designed just for them.”

The Circle Home is basically your parental control router (that thing that manages your home network). 

That means as a parent I can:

  • Set time limits both on the device and on individual apps and platforms
  • Assign a bedtime
  • Filter the bad stuff
  • Create rewards and incentives
  • Hit pause on the internet
  • Set “offtime” or screen free hours 
  • Track and monitor usage {Like, I can see exactly where my kids are spending time online broken down by app, platform and website}

Even better? I can tweak these settings for every person in our home. My 9 year old has her own profile and my 15 year old has his own profile. Different kids, different settings — ONE place to manage it {insert praise hands}! 

Basically, Circle combines the best features of the apps and services we’ve tried in the past, all in one place.

There was once a drawback . . . in the past Circle really only worked inside my home, when my kids were within the bounds of my wireless router. Now that’s changed. Enter Circle Go!

 

Circle Go

Circle Go does all that stuff I just outlined above, but now it extends beyond the walls (and wireless network) of my house. Yep – that means that while my kids are hanging out with their friends on a Friday night all those same guard rails are in place {more praise hands}! We think it’s the best parental control app for iPhone and Android. 

“Apps are the new Internet, and managing them wherever your kid goes is a must for parents. Filters and Time Limits apply anywhere and everywhere, even for apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube.”

The Circle App connects to both Circle Home and Circle Go and you manage everything from there. 

 

FAQ

What devices can connect with Circle / Circle Go?

iOS and Android! You can get a full list HERE

How much does it cost? 

A Circle Home is a one time cost of $99 and Circle Go is $4.99 / month for up to 10 devices.  Worth it? YES. 

How hard is it to install? 

Honestly, so much easier than most of the parental control apps I’ve tried to set up to limit screen time and manage our devices. Set up is simple and the design of the app is intuitive. A degree in tech ninja NOT required. 

 

Bottom Line

I’m deeply involved in my kids tech habits. I’ve got to be. But I also don’t like feeling like a one woman show, personal screen time tracker, internet timer, living breathing parental control app. Circle simply sets the environment on all the devices to make making good choices easier. 

You’ll still have work to do, you’ve still got to talk to your kids about technology (a lot), you’ve still got to put your phone down yourself, BUT you’ve got help. 

 

Disclosure

This post is sponsored by Circle with Disney. But guess what? We pitched them – not the other way around.  Our readers are constantly asking how we limit screen time in our homes. We reached out to Circle because they are legitimately our favorite parental controls, screen time management tool out there and we wanted to share. 

 

 

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Here’s the Phone I Wish Apple Would Have Built For My Kids

If you’re like me, you’ve been wishing for a different kind of cell phone option for your teenagers. Something between a Gizmo and the iPhone maybe?  I’ve been trying to talk my kids into a flip phone,  but I think I might have found THE BEST cell phone for teens and tweens!

Best Cellphone For Teenagers

Behold the Light Phone 2:

In their words:

The Light Phone 2 is a simple, 4G LTE phone with a beautiful black & white matte E-ink display. By allowing you to leave behind your smartphone, it encourages you to spend quality time doing the things you love the most, free of distraction. We call this ‘going light’. The Light Phone 2 brings a few essential tools, like messaging and an alarm clock, so it’s even easier to ditch your smartphone more often, or for good. It’s a phone that actually respects you.

 

The research is rolling in and it’s full of the detrimental effects that smart phone ownership and usage is having on kids.  A recent study shows that the average age that kids are getting phones is 10 years old. Yet at every turn we’re seeing that we are raising a tech addicted generation, and it’s not their fault. In fact, it’s ours. It’s time to put the guard rails back on and to help them build healthier relationships with the technology WE put in their hands. 

That starts with us as parents. It means that we arm them the right tools at the right times. I’m convinced that smart phones are not the right tool at the right time for kids. Just listen to this interview with the author of iGen (Jean Twenge). Anxiety, depression, and suicide trends have spiked through the roof. That spike trends perfectly with smart phone ownership and kids. 

So let’s back things up. Let’s give our kids the right tools at the right time.  I’ve said it over and over again. Phones are for communication. Every device we touch does not need to be able to do EVERY THING. So let’s just use our phones to talk and text — to communicate. 

I’ve been lamenting that Apple has not created some sort of in between product that works for tweens and teens. A scaled back version of the iPhone. A phone that parents don’t have to spend so much time managing. A phone with basic functionality that could still sync up with things like iPhoto and iTunes. Wouldn’t that be great? 

While Apple has done nothing, the Light Phone has hit the market. The Light Phone doesn’t sync up with my Mac based household but guess what? Hey Apple! I’m done waiting. 

The Light Phone wasn’t created specifically for kids. And I think that’s a bonus for teens. I’m not trying to arm them with the Lady Bug cell phone from Diary of a Wimpy Kid. And frankly, I think we’d all benefit from using a scaled back version of the super computer we’re carrying around in our pockets. 

Check it out on IndieGoGo.  Would you buy this phone? 

 

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7 Reasons Why Your Teen Smartphone Contract Will Not Work

Building strong “digital citizens” does not begin with a smartphone contract.

By Melanie Hempe, Founder/President, Families Managing Media

You (nervously) just gave your teen his first smartphone. Now you are on a strategic mission to build a responsible “digital citizen,” although you’re not exactly sure what that means or how to really accomplish this goal. You have done your homework and have decided to meet on neutral ground with a well-thought-out plan to ensure a safe, positive phone experience for all: a smartphone contract.

Like any rite of passage, the signing of this important document by you and your teen will prove their maturity and your responsibility as a good “digital parent.” The contract seems to be the perfect solution to increase the understanding and seriousness of smartphone ownership, plus it will build good habits, character and responsibility in your teen. Your nerves are starting to calm down, this is a brilliant idea!

Not so fast…

After trying this incredibly popular tool, many parents have discovered that the family smartphone contract is just not worth the paper it is printed on, nor is it worth the high hopes and emotional energy invested in it. Building good “digital citizens” does not begin with a smartphone contract. So, before you print off that contract and call your teen off the video game or away from Snapchat to sign it, you may want to read on.

Consider this red flag:

Before we dive in, let’s state the obvious: the fact that we are allowing our children to use a tech tool that is questionable enough to require them to sign a written contract should raise a huge “parent” red flag! 

Configured with built-in distractions, temptations, and traps to gather personal data and time, smartphones are not intended for kids. In addition, the smartphone contract establishes a dangerous mindset, giving parents a false sense of security and giving teens a false sense of “power.”

 

Here are 7 reasons why a smartphone contract may not be best for your family:

 

1) You are dealing with a teen brain. Contracts are not for kids. The frontal cortex (executive control judgment center in the human brain) is not fully developed until approximately age 25. Your teen may indeed be very smart, but we know that scientifically and practically, intelligence has nothing to do with maturity. Their lack of maturity shows as they plead with you and chip away at your leadership through utilizing the following “wear down” skills:

  • Overreacting: “Are you kidding? No phones during homework? I am going to die!”
  • Exaggerating: “I am the only kid in the world with a 15-page (really two-page) contract!”
  • Comparison: “Matt’s mom would never give him a contract because she trusts him.”
  • Guilt: “I guess you just don’t want me to have any friends!”

Some will even spend hours writing “legal briefs” to negotiate their position. You will be impressed, but don’t give in to that underdeveloped frontal cortex! Simply smile, and encourage them to pursue a law career instead. Your brain is mature, theirs is not.

 

2) You can’t trust them–and that’s okay. Most tweens will be eager to blindly sign the smartphone contract so they can get their hands on the prize, but they will not follow it. Teens not only think they are smarter than their parents, but, while the ink is still wet, they will be calculating the loopholes. Remember, it is their job right now to test the boundaries, bend the rules, take risks, seek novelty, enjoy low-effort/high-reward activities, and have fun at all costs. Would you really trust them with the keys to your shiny new sports car because they signed a contract not to go over the speed limit? Your car insurance company doesn’t and neither should you!

 

3) We don’t make deals with our kids. A contract is like “making a deal” to a teen: “You (the teen) do this (behave well on social media) and we (the parents) will do this (keep paying for your phone).” Deals seemed to work when they were little (“Eat your green beans and you can have your dessert”), but that stage has passed. You are the parent. You do not make deals with your tweens and teens now. Instead, you lead them with reason and logic. Don’t believe that deals are working for other parents either. According to the emails filling my inbox, parents who are making “phone deals” are waving a white flag over failed contracts. As one mom put it, “The contract experiment was a failure at our house. Our daughter is being seen by a psychologist for social media anxiety now. The only thing that works is me being more involved, receiving her texts on my phone, checking her apps and content every night, and physically taking her phone when she gets home from school. She has proven that she can’t manage it on her own.”

 

4) Teens are not your equal; you are the parent. A contract implies that both parties have an equal say over the terms and there will be compromise on both sides. Your teen will mistakenly think that they are your equal if you give her a contract and then begin the negotiation process; they may even think that because they know more than you about how to operate the phone, they can renegotiate the contract at any time.

 

5) A phone contract may damage your relationship with your teen. Your teens’ greatest need is to be unconditionally loved by their family, and the very nature of a contract may make them feel like they are an outsider (you against them). Family conflict increases when contracts are broken, and the rules are not clear, concise or enforced consistently. Focus on your child developing manners, and learning empathy and responsibility in real life first, before phone ownership.

 

6) Remember how well those chore charts worked? If you are still convinced that your smartphone contract will work, let’s talk about that chore chart from years ago. How did that work out? If you are like many families, that well-crafted chore chart is under a magnet on the fridge behind the pizza take-out menu (at least that’s where ours is). It got used for almost a week and then it lost all of its power. This will happen to your cell phone contract, too. You can’t expect your children to follow a phone contract when they can’t consistently follow simple directions to floss their teeth, unload the dishwasher or empty the litter box without your constant prompting.

 

7) Smartphone contracts are impossible to enforce. In a recent survey of teen drivers (1), more than 80 percent admitted to using their smartphones while driving. I’m pretty certain that a clause to not text and drive is in every teen smartphone contract, yet they do it anyway. Let’s face it, most parents have no idea what their kids are doing on their phone or social media for eight hours a day and would admit they are unable to track all cell phone activity. The burden generally falls on the parent to enforce and continually check if the agreed upon terms of the contract are being followed. Do you really have time for that? In reality, how will you enforce the contract? A lot can go wrong. And quickly.

 

But don’t just take my word for it. Eric Goldfield, a counselor based in Charlotte, NC, said: “I never recommend contracts for screen management. There is a level of parental naivety if they think contracts will keep their kids on track; they are hoping for accountability but are getting avoidance of consequence instead. Kids know that they don’t have to follow the contract because there is no way to enforce it. There is no investment on their end because they know that their parents can’t keep track of their phone activity. The parent is giving all the power back to the child with a contract.”

 

Is there a better option?

Yes! Your teens don’t need a contract to be good “digital citizens,” and parents must understand that everything changes once their child gets a smartphone. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Care enough to put the brakes on for them and delay the use of smartphones and social media, as they will have the rest of their life (with a more fully developed frontal cortex) to use them. Again, an active digital life is a surefire way to create more stress and anxiety in your child’s life, and consider what your child is giving up and compromising on by using the phone for hours a day. I often share this story from my own experience; after my oldest child became addicted to video games, the rule for our remaining three children became no smartphones or social media until age 18. My daughter did just fine going through high school with a basic phone and my youngest two sons don’t have any type of phone yet.
  • Spend more non-screen time with them. Plan fun family time together and enjoy the quiet, together times. 24/7 access to smartphones will further compromise the already limited time with your kids, while they are under your roof. Time on smartphones and social media is an isolating activity and does not encourage more time together as a family. Remember, you set the “tone” for phone use in your home. They are watching you and your smartphone use as well.
  • Give them a chance to grow up and fine tune real-life social skills that will prepare them better for the world ahead. Developing critical life skills doesn’t happen magically nor do they happen on a smartphone. Life skills come with a lot of hard work, grit, self-discipline and determination. They must be learned and practiced (and certainly don’t include four pages of instructions and terms on how to stay safe).
  • Start with a basic phone to see how they do with text and time limits. Many mental health professionals are suggesting, as we are at Families Managing Media, that basic cell phones are a better choice for teens. Michael Rubin, a San Francisco Bay area psychotherapist who has worked with teens for more than 19 years, recommends that teens have a basic cell phone, not a smartphone.(2) Also, consider the role of the camera on a phone. Photos are the cause of many social media blunders and problems; this may be an option your teen can live without.
  • Establish clear, enforceable RULES with consequences once your child gets a phone. Setting phone rules written by loving parents who care enough to set limits and healthy boundaries will be a much better choice than a contract that is negotiated by children and makes them feel that they are your equal and in charge. Simply write down the rules (view sample here), and smile when you hand them to your teen. Explain that this is a new day. Let them respectfully give their opinion, thank them for sharing bits of their budding wisdom, but don’t argue with them; just keep smiling! They don’t like the rules? Then they are not quite ready for a smartphone. Again, a basic phone is perfect for most teens.

The idea that a “magical” smartphone contract will protect your kids and teach them responsibility is a myth. These powerful devices, although they are a great adult tool, are designed to capture our kids’ attention, their time, their innocence and, unfortunately, their childhoods.

Parents, keep in mind that you are in charge!  You know the added responsibilities and stress that a phone brings to your family, so it’s time to rethink the phone decision completely. Stop worrying over raising good “digital citizens” and focus on raising good kids first; you won’t need a contract for that!

For more tips on how to manage cell phones, including setting rules instead of signing contracts, visit us at http://www.familiesmanagingmedia.com

 

About The Author

Melanie Hempe is the founder of Families Managing Media. She has coached hundreds of families on the effects of screen media use and has helped them achieve a healthier, more balanced media life. With a nursing degree from Emory University, Melanie draws upon her medical background to demystify the questions of why technology has such a strong grip on our kids and why it is replacing normal childhood activities. She offers busy parents easy-to-follow scientific information and practical solutions for children of all ages, as she stresses the importance of REAL life connections in a digital world.

Melanie and her husband, Chris are raising four children in a media balanced home – and have successfully replaced video games with sports, music, art and good manners and they have also done the impossible: they have kept social media and smartphones from controlling their kids.

 

See More on TodaysMama.com!

Apple Shareholders Call For Company to Tackle “Growing” Evidence Of Device Addiction In Kids

3 Screen Time Rules My Kids Actually THANKED Me For

Parents, Stop Teenage Privacy Now

Apple Shareholders Call For Company To Tackle “Growing” Evidence Of Device Addiction In Kids

“It would defy common sense to argue that this level of usage, by children whose brains are still developing, is not having at least some impact,” the letter reads, “or that the maker of such a powerful product has no role to play in helping parents to ensure it is being used optimally.”

This is an excerpt from a letter sent by two major Apple shareholders, JANA Partners and CalSTRS who represent over $2 billion worth of shares in the company. 

These two shareholders are calling on Apple to do more to protect children. 

 

“There is no good reason why you should not address this issue proactively,”

 

The group recommended some initial steps in it’s letter:

  • Expert Committee: Convening a committee of experts including child development specialists (we would recommend Dr. Rich and Professor Twenge be included) to help study this issue and monitor ongoing developments in technology, including how such developments are integrated into the lives of children and teenagers.
  • Research: Partnering with these and other experts and offering your vast information resources to assist additional research efforts.
  • New Tools and Options: Based on the best available research, enhancing mobile device software so that parents (if they wish) can implement changes so that their child or teenager is not being handed the same phone as a 40-year old, just as most products are made safer for younger users. For example, the initial setup menu could be expanded so that, just as users choose a language and time zone, parents can enter the age of the user and be given age-appropriate setup options based on the best available research including limiting screen time, restricting use to certain hours, reducing the available number of social media sites, setting up parental monitoring, and many other options.
  • Education: Explaining to parents why Apple is offering additional choices and the research that went into them, to help parents make more informed decisions.
  • Reporting: Hiring or assigning a high-level executive to monitor this issue and issuing annual progress reports, just as Apple does for environmental and supply chain issues.

 

It’s a good start. But as parents and consumers, we should demand more from Apple AND OURSELVES.  It seems as if we’ve all been asleep at the wheel as we’ve let these devices, technologies and social platforms creep into every aspect of our lives. 

License to Drive? 

A friend of mine compared cell phones to the first automobiles. When cars just hit the scene there were no driver’s licenses or rules of the road.  There were just inexperienced people armed with a potentially dangerous machine. It took years for best practices, laws and regulations, and common sense to enter the scene. Even now we’re still trying to figure out how to get people to behave behind the wheel (road rage, drunk driving, distracted driving etc.).

The stakes are high. When my now 15-year-old son was in 5th grade, he told me out of the blue that he felt like they were an experiment. His generation. No one knows how all of this technology would impact them in the long term. And the thing is, they all know it. We know it. It’s like we’ve handed them all cocaine but asked them to be smart about it.

We know better. Apple knows better. 

One of the quotes that often comes to my mind comes from an interview on Co.Design with Tony Fadell, one of the creators of the iPod:

 

“I wake up in cold sweats every so often thinking, what did we bring to the world?”

 

Tony Fadell’s wife likes to remind him when their three children’s eyes are glued to their screens that it’s at least partly his fault.

It’s time for us all to peel our eyes away and begin to shift our attention back to real life. 

What’s our role as parents? What’s Apple’s role as the technology provider? 

What do YOU think? 

What else do you think should be done? What features and safeguards do you want from your devices? What rules and regulations do you think should be in place? 

Tell us in the comments. 

 

STAY TUNED!

I’m working on a post with my laundry list of feature requests for families.  Apple I hope you are listening! 

Want to stay up to date with all of our latest posts? (like the one I’m working on above?)  Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll deliver updates right to your inbox each Tuesday morning! 

 

More on TodaysMama.com

 

 

My 12 Year Old Was Blackmailed for Nude Photos

As a mom, and a communications professional in the technology space, I’ve heard some pretty scary stories about kids’ use of social media. Predators lurking on Facebook, bullying happening via Twitter and even suspicious activity occurring on Minecraft.

As parents, we try to stay on top of what our kids are doing, but the technology seems to be outpacing our ability to monitor. And there seems to be a new breed of apps out there that are wreaking havoc on our children. SnapChat and ask.FM seem to be particularly problematic. Well, at least that was before a friend — someone I have no doubt is an engaged mother — wrote the following words to me:

“I want to share my story to as many moms as possible, so it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

I thought she would share a bullying story gone wrong, but it was much, much worse. My heart ached for her — but even more for her 12-year-old daughter.

girl blackmailed for naked photos on snapchat

You see, we continue as parents to try to give our kids an inch of technology so they can feel accepted and part of their generation. We often complain that we see only the tops of our kids’ heads because their noses are always in their phones — but we don’t take them away or limit their use. We think we have explained the rules, controlled the mechanism, established boundaries — but then a new company comes along with a new “app” that is better, faster, easier in every way, and it probably is. Until it’s used for evil and not its original intent.

And we don’t even know it’s happening.

Enter Kik (and several other messengers that fly under the radar of parental controls because they are apps. And oh yeah, kids can delete the messages so they are no longer on their device –although they can remain on the recipients.)

Kik Messenger (launched in late 2010, but gained a lot of popularity in 2012) is an instant messaging app for mobile devices. The app is available on most iOS, Android, and Windows Phones operating systems free of charge. It uses a smartphone’s data plan or WiFi to transmit and receive messages, so kids that have limited texting or no cellular texting at all love it — particularly because we now live in a world where free wi-fi is everywhere.

But kids really love Kik because it is more than typing messages. They can add videos and pictures to their text. They can also send Kik cards, which let them include YouTube videos, GIFs, or their own drawings in their conversations (these also fly under the radar of most parental controls.) The problem is some kids share their private Kik username on public social networks, or can find other users, usually with “cute” photos as their profiles. Kids post their username on their Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr pages and once someone knows their username, anyone can send them a message — and sexual predators are using it to contact minors ALL THE TIME.

According to an article from The CyberSafety Lady: “There are no parental controls for this messaging app of course, this app is designed for adults. And the usual parental controls on your child’s device won’t work within the Kik Messenger app. So blocking YouTube for example on your child’s iPod, won’t disable the YouTube app within Kik Messenger. Some parents are sharing messaging apps with their children to supervise their interactions. This can be especially helpful for younger users. Kik Messenger doesn’t enable this ability. The moment you log into the same Kik account on another device previous messages and conversations are deleted from the account. Logging out (resetting) of Kik messenger also deletes all previous conversations and messages, which for many parents makes parent supervision quite unreliable.”

So, if you are like me, this is where you say: “This wouldn’t happen to me. I’d monitor my kids’ devices better. And they understand the dangers of talking to strangers.”

And then I read this from my friend, and realized that if placed in a situation like this, I’m just not sure my daughters wouldn’t act the same

The below is a first-hand account of the incident. It is abridged for privacy and publication:

I picked up my 12 year old from summer camp one day, and her counselor made a joke about my daughter with her “phone” during a fire drill. Oddly enough, she doesn’t have a phone, but she does have a Galaxy Player. It’s an android device like the phone, just without the phone components. She is strictly forbidden from taking this device to camp, so, I took it from her right then and there as a punishment.

When I got home, I started investigating what was on the device to see what was new and what she was so interested in. She started sobbing dramatically and announced through hysterics, “Mom, please don’t be mad… I got a Kik account.”

Because I try to keep up with the latest in social media for tweens/teens, I was furious with her. I knew that these sorts of apps were bad news. I pulled it up and sure enough she had deleted the conversations as she went so I had no idea what she had been doing on it. I sent her to her room, and started looking at other things on the device to see what else was on it.

I pulled up the photo gallery section of her device, and when I saw the Kik file, my heart just broke into a million pieces. Photos of my daughter in her underwear posed in sexy selfies in front of her mirror. I started sobbing and my knees gave out.

daughter blackmailed for naked photos on snapchat

I immediately thought she was sending these photos because she thought all her friends were doing it. But then — amongst the sexy scandalous selfies — were photos of her crying. Like she was trying to send the photos but mis-angled the camera and it showed her face instead. The million pieces of my heart broke into a million more. Something was really wrong.

We called her to the living room and had a very serious discussion with her. She said she downloaded Kik at camp (free wifi) on Thursday. Then, on Friday she “kik’d” some cute guy (reportedly a teen boy) who posted a photo with the comment, “Kik me,” so, she said she did exactly that. He asked for a simple photo of her, and she complied. Once she gave him a harmless photo, he started demanding more scandalous photos, like the ones in her underwear.

She didn’t know how to make him go away, and he kept telling her he would “upload her picture” and “ruin her life” and her “friends and family would disown her if they found out” if she didn’t comply with his demands. This all happened in two short days of her having a Kik account.

She told us through tears that she had deleted all the conversations that would back up her story, so of course, I had my doubts. We told her if the story was true, we needed to call the sheriff, and she surprisingly agreed.

The officers came to our house and had no idea what Kik was. Initially, they told us because she wasn’t “nude” or in pornographic acts that the photos and such were harmless. We felt they were merely implying that we needed to get a better handle on our kid.

Frustrated, heartbroken, and confused, I downloaded Kik to MY phone and logged into her account. She showed me the name of the person who was blackmailing her, and told me who was who on her list of people she talked to. I just wanted some idea what she was exposed to.

 

SEE MORE: Bill Gates Reveals Minimum Age For Kids To Get A Cell Phone

 

That night, the app buzzed all night long from her “friends” at summer camp, all wondering why she wasn’t replying. Then the next morning, while I was at work, it happened.

Him: “(daughter’s name)” “Answer me” “What are you doing”

Me (as my daughter, trying to talk like she would): “Go away”

Him: “No sorry. You don’t get to tell me that.”

“I will upload this photo.” (One of her in her undergarments.)

“You want your friends and family to see these photos? “(then proceeds to post each and every photo she’d sent him)

Me: “Wat do you want?”

Him: “Let me see you. What are you wearing. You can take a photo.”

Me: “wat kind? wat kind of pic do u want?”

Him: “Show me what you are wearing.”

I thought it was now or never, so I went to the Sheriff’s office to show them the exchange.

I replied: “Busy”

Him: “Photos you have to take: (here he goes down a list of 5 photos – ranging from a fully dressed to “fully body naked in front of the mirror.” He also included some inappropriate graphics.) You do all that I want and I won’t ruin your life.”

Him: “Do you understand?”

Me: “U need to wait. can’t now. busy.”

Him: “I give you one week to do all those photos. If not next Wednesday I start to post your photos online. Do you understand?”

All this is happening while I am sitting with a Sheriff’s deputy from the Special Victim’s unit. The officers had a meeting while I waited. They discussed the points of the case, and what was being said in conversation while we were watching it happen.

They decided to pursue the case, because the demands of the 5 photos took the event from “a family scandal” to an assortment of felonies. The police seized my phone as evidence, then followed me home (without allowing me to call my husband and let him know we were coming), interviewed my daughter, took all the internet devices that accessed Kik and left.

A week went by and we finally heard from the detective. He said pursuing this guy was a long shot. Kik normally doesn’t cooperate with US Law Enforcement (it’s a Canadian-based company,) and he also said there are 10 cases just like this on his desk. He would keep the case active though.

Another long week in and the detective contacted us again about using our account for a Sting operation. We immediately agreed, and were anxious to hear what the police would tell us next. About three weeks later, the detective said in a surprise move Kik complied with his U.S. Warrant. They got all the information about the user, and surprisingly, he was a minor himself — a 16-year-old boy in London.

Because he’s a minor, the U.S. won’t prosecute him since the crime committed is no longer a felony when both people involved are minors. It’s more like a speeding ticket.

But you know why this was ALL good news to me? Because this month of hell is finally OVER. I don’t have to drag my daughter to depositions or a trial. We know who he is and know we won’t be seeing him. We have closure and know that it wasn’t a trafficking ring or an adult predator, although it is disturbing that there are young kids out there doing this and they most likely have disturbing futures ahead.

 

SEE MORE: Parents, Stop Teenage Privacy NOW

 

My daughter’s photo is now in the database for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. If the photos are to surface, ever, law enforcement agencies around the globe can use facial recognition software to identify victims of internet exploitation.

I keep telling her camp counselor that I owe her a lunch, for if she had she not joked about her “phone”, I wouldn’t have checked her Galaxy for another week. If she had gotten those messages (the 5 demands, sent 12 hours after we discovered the incident) she likely would have done it out of desperation. She truly felt like she had no options because this guy said so.

I am so thankful this story had what cannot be described as a happy ending, but at least a safe one. The fact that this young girl was so scared of getting caught that she engaged in even more desperate and unsafe behavior is so troubling, but yet so understanding. Who among us hasn’t tried to avoid getting caught by our parents when we knowingly go against the rules? But have the stakes ever been as high?

I did some research of my own, and found some extremely disturbing trends in the way kids are using this app, as well as a few others, and why Internet predators find these such an easy way to get in touch with potential victims.

It literally scared the crap out of me.

I am still searching for the appropriate way for tweens and teens to use the Internet and engage in social media, but I become increasingly convinced that the development of technology far outpaces the maturity of our children.

I encourage you to share this story with your friends and if appropriate, with your children. I encourage you to have meaningful discussions about Web-based behavior and treat it like drinking and driving — there is no instance about social media where they should be scared to tell you what they have done or contact you to help get them out of trouble. And I encourage you to hug your kids tight tonight.

I know I will.

 

About the Author

Whitney Fleming is the creator of the “Playdates on Fridays” (also known to adults as her wine plyagroup) blog and keeps all of us moms laughing on her Facebook page. She is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, and has additionally published work with Scary Mommy, In the Powder Room, Coffee + Crumbs , and Lies About Parenting among others. If you would like to connect with Whitney, or simply enjoy a good laugh and dose of reality, visit her Facebook page here.

 

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Moms, Get the Big Stuff Right

Every mom worries about failing her kids. We wonder what we will do if our kids turn against us, grow up to hate us or end up disliking their lives. These are natural worries, but these fears can drive us crazy. 

They can also drive us to focus on minor details, hoping that if we can control the small things, the big stuff will fall into place. But, posting the perfect “first day of school” picture on Instagram or making sure that our son gets the right football coach won’t improve our parenting. It will just give us a false sense of control.

So, I have a suggestion. Why don’t we forget the multitude of small parenting details and start focusing on getting the big things right. I believe that when we do this, life goes a whole lot better for moms and their kids. Here’s where we can start.

Be Kind. I’ve pulled the car over a few times in my life with a backseat full of fighting kids. I know firsthand how hard being nice can be. So I think that it’s important to train ourselves to be nice.

moms get big stuff right parenting

Personally, I need some alone time in order to keep myself calm and less irritable. Some moms need to work a little, exercise, pray more or go out with friends periodically. These aren’t selfish things. They are important because they help us be kind, and being patient with our kids is crucial to good parenting.

Speak Well. We often spend more time with our kids than anyone else, so they hear everything we say. They hear us talk to friends, our husbands, parents, and neighbors. And of course, they take to heart what we say to them.

Words are powerful. They can heal relationships or crush them, shape the identity of your children or deeply injure it. Pay attention to your words and the tone that you use.

Love Unconditionally. As much as we’d like to believe that we are good at loving our children unconditionally, the truth is, we’re not always very good at it. We always want more from our kids. We want to show them that we love them, but we also want them to succeed and love us back. 

Loving them when they’re flunking fifth grade, not liked by any of their friends or doing things to embarrass us is tough. But loving them when no one else will is what being a good mom is all about. That’s where we shine. 

Be Tough. The kids who I see in my practice who get in trouble aren’t the ones with strong mothers. They are the ones whose mothers have no spine.

parenting moms get big stuff right be tough

Forgoing discipline, failing to stick to rules and blurring boundaries makes kids crazy. Kids need to look at their moms and see stoicism. They won’t listen to a mother who is a pushover, who can’t make up her mind or who has no convictions. But they will listen to a mother who knows who she is and makes no apologies. 

Assert who you are, and your kids will stay close by your side.

Moms, you’re doing a great job! Hang in there, focus on love, kindness and discipline and most of all, don’t sweat the small stuff.

 

About The Author

Pediatrician, mother and best-selling author of six books, Dr. Meg Meeker is the country’s leading authority on parenting, teens and children’s health. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, certified by The American Board of Pediatrics and serves on the Advisory Board of The Medical Institute. She lives and works in northern Michigan where she shares a medical practice with her husband, Walter. They have four grown children and one beautiful granddaughter. To read more from Dr. Meeker, visit her website here.

 

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Meet my good friend’s son Elliot. He’s in the 2nd grade. He might want to be a cop when he grows up. Here’s why:

I might want to be a cop when I grow up . . .

This little guy has this whole thing worked out.  Most importantly:

#2 – I like my phone number as 911. 

Makes sense. It’s 3 numbers. I can see that Elliot values simplicity . . . and a side of JUSTICE.