You are in DISNEYLAND, PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN

I get it. Some of life’s tasks are boring.

Standing in the grocery line. Boring.
Waiting for an elevator. Boring.
Riding public transportation. Boring.
Waiting rooms. Boring.
Disneyland. Boring.

Wait. Did I say, Disneyland?

I did. I mean, what other logical conclusion could I come to after spending three days in the happiest place on Earth? A place that has been ENGINEERED to delight the senses?

Because all I saw were people, necks bent, immersed in their screen.

Regardless of whether you hold a season pass and are a local, or have crossed continents to get there, a trip to Disneyland is a financial feat. You’ve shelled out a fair amount of cash and precious vacation time to be there with your beloved offspring…perhaps you could PEEL YOURSELF AWAY FROM YOUR PHONE for a few minutes?

That tiny screen is still pumping out the same stuff…why drag yourself out of your basement and into the bright California sunshine if you’re still going to live and die by that tiny screen?

Do I sound like a judgmental hag?

I do.

Because at Disneyland, I saw a child riding in a stroller…watching a movie on an iPad.

I think we’re taking our FOMO, our discomfort with boredom, and screens-as-a-babysitter too far.

A big topic of conversation around these parts has been the startling information that has emerged about social media and tech usage among young children. The bullying. The pornography. The staggering amount of time they spend on it. The way it’s diminishing the social development and mental health of our children.

And yet. As adults, we’re doing a terrible job at showing our kids that there are more important things in life than that little screen.

I saw so many families seemingly completely disconnected from each other, all engrossed in their personal screen, shuffling along in line, walking through the park, as they ate, always staring at that tiny, addictive screen.

WHILE DISNEYLAND MAGIC LITERALLY SWIRLED AROUND THEM.

Golden opportunities to connect with their kids, completely missed because they had to play Candy Crush, or cruise through Instagram.

I find my phone and social media platforms to be a TREMENDOUS source of inspiration and value. I do. But I can’t actually ACT on any of that inspiration if I DON’T GET OFF MY PHONE.

I also absolutely treasure the photos of moments I’m able to capture on the fly because my camera is handily located in my phone.

So I get it. The chance to capture moments and communicate is super useful. That little screen is compelling.

But not as compelling as my kids.

Or whatever the heck you’re posting on Facebook that day.

That can wait until I get back.

Phone Addiction

Other posts you might enjoy…

8 NEW Pixar Fest Foods at Disneyland You Can’t Miss!

3 Must-Do Experiences During Pixar Fest at Disneyland Resort

The post You are in DISNEYLAND, PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN appeared first on TodaysMama.

You are in DISNEYLAND, PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN

I get it. Some of life’s tasks are boring.

Standing in the grocery line. Boring.
Waiting for an elevator. Boring.
Riding public transportation. Boring.
Waiting rooms. Boring.
Disneyland. Boring.

Wait. Did I say, Disneyland?

I did. I mean, what other logical conclusion could I come to after spending three days in the happiest place on Earth? A place that has been ENGINEERED to delight the senses?

Because all I saw were people, necks bent, immersed in their screen.

Regardless of whether you hold a season pass and are a local, or have crossed continents to get there, a trip to Disneyland is a financial feat. You’ve shelled out a fair amount of cash and precious vacation time to be there with your beloved offspring…perhaps you could PEEL YOURSELF AWAY FROM YOUR PHONE for a few minutes?

That tiny screen is still pumping out the same stuff…why drag yourself out of your basement and into the bright California sunshine if you’re still going to live and die by that tiny screen?

Do I sound like a judgmental hag?

I do.

Because at Disneyland, I saw a child riding in a stroller…watching a movie on an iPad.

I think we’re taking our FOMO, our discomfort with boredom, and screens-as-a-babysitter too far.

A big topic of conversation around these parts has been the startling information that has emerged about social media and tech usage among young children. The bullying. The pornography. The staggering amount of time they spend on it. The way it’s diminishing the social development and mental health of our children.

And yet. As adults, we’re doing a terrible job at showing our kids that there are more important things in life than that little screen.

I saw so many families seemingly completely disconnected from each other, all engrossed in their personal screen, shuffling along in line, walking through the park, as they ate, always staring at that tiny, addictive screen.

WHILE DISNEYLAND MAGIC LITERALLY SWIRLED AROUND THEM.

Golden opportunities to connect with their kids, completely missed because they had to play Candy Crush, or cruise through Instagram.

I find my phone and social media platforms to be a TREMENDOUS source of inspiration and value. I do. But I can’t actually ACT on any of that inspiration if I DON’T GET OFF MY PHONE.

I also absolutely treasure the photos of moments I’m able to capture on the fly because my camera is handily located in my phone.

So I get it. The chance to capture moments and communicate is super useful. That little screen is compelling.

But not as compelling as my kids.

Or whatever the heck you’re posting on Facebook that day.

That can wait until I get back.

Phone Addiction

Other posts you might enjoy…

8 NEW Pixar Fest Foods at Disneyland You Can’t Miss!

3 Must-Do Experiences During Pixar Fest at Disneyland Resort

The post You are in DISNEYLAND, PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN appeared first on TodaysMama.

You are in DISNEYLAND, PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN

I get it. Some of life’s tasks are boring.

Standing in the grocery line. Boring.
Waiting for an elevator. Boring.
Riding public transportation. Boring.
Waiting rooms. Boring.
Disneyland. Boring.

Wait. Did I say, Disneyland?

I did. I mean, what other logical conclusion could I come to after spending three days in the happiest place on Earth? A place that has been ENGINEERED to delight the senses?

Because all I saw were people, necks bent, immersed in their screen.

Regardless of whether you hold a season pass and are a local, or have crossed continents to get there, a trip to Disneyland is a financial feat. You’ve shelled out a fair amount of cash and precious vacation time to be there with your beloved offspring…perhaps you could PEEL YOURSELF AWAY FROM YOUR PHONE for a few minutes?

That tiny screen is still pumping out the same stuff…why drag yourself out of your basement and into the bright California sunshine if you’re still going to live and die by that tiny screen?

Do I sound like a judgmental hag?

I do.

Because at Disneyland, I saw a child riding in a stroller…watching a movie on an iPad.

I think we’re taking our FOMO, our discomfort with boredom, and screens-as-a-babysitter too far.

A big topic of conversation around these parts has been the startling information that has emerged about social media and tech usage among young children. The bullying. The pornography. The staggering amount of time they spend on it. The way it’s diminishing the social development and mental health of our children.

And yet. As adults, we’re doing a terrible job at showing our kids that there are more important things in life than that little screen.

I saw so many families seemingly completely disconnected from each other, all engrossed in their personal screen, shuffling along in line, walking through the park, as they ate, always staring at that tiny, addictive screen.

WHILE DISNEYLAND MAGIC LITERALLY SWIRLED AROUND THEM.

Golden opportunities to connect with their kids, completely missed because they had to play Candy Crush, or cruise through Instagram.

I find my phone and social media platforms to be a TREMENDOUS source of inspiration and value. I do. But I can’t actually ACT on any of that inspiration if I DON’T GET OFF MY PHONE.

I also absolutely treasure the photos of moments I’m able to capture on the fly because my camera is handily located in my phone.

So I get it. The chance to capture moments and communicate is super useful. That little screen is compelling.

But not as compelling as my kids.

Or whatever the heck you’re posting on Facebook that day.

That can wait until I get back.

Phone Addiction

Other posts you might enjoy…

8 NEW Pixar Fest Foods at Disneyland You Can’t Miss!

3 Must-Do Experiences During Pixar Fest at Disneyland Resort

The post You are in DISNEYLAND, PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN appeared first on TodaysMama.

Fortnite: The Video Game Craze You Don’t Need To Worry About

If you have a gamer in the house, chances are you’re familiar with “Fortnite”.  It’s taking gaming households by storm.  Fortnite is the new video game craze capturing excitement of kids, and adults, everywhere.

EPIC Games

Fortnite is a survival game that drops 100 players on to an island. You skydive out of a plane… (err…battle bus…my son just corrected me) and are thrown immediately in to survival mode.  Last man standing is the winner.  Although this is a hunger-game type battle to the death, the cartoonish characters and landscape make the game fun and lively.  This game is rated T for teen due to mild violence, but truly this feels more like a paintball game than a bloody battle scene.

Why is Fortnite so fun?

I don’t fully understand it, but I do know I can’t pry my boys off the xbox without a fight or  desperate plea of “After this round?!?! PLEEEAAAASE?!?! There’s only 10 of us left!”.

<insert eye roll and angry-mom-sigh>

Parenting Tip: Rounds can take up to an hour so don’t let those little rugrats drag you in to approving “just one more round” 20 minutes before bed. Let me tell you, I have been known to pull a power cord here and there.

 

Another piece of the game that gleans giggles from even my toughest teenager: dance moves. So many dance moves. If only my life could garner the same excitement as it did for my children when they discovered the “floss” had been released as a dance option in Fortnite. In fact, a lot of dance moves have been hijacked from our favorite characters and shows. 

 

 

As gamers try to survive they will collect weapons, build structures and even work as a team to survive as long as possible.  All the while a “storm shield” inches closer and closer to the middle of the island, forcing players closer together for a battle. And you don’t want to get stuck outside the safe zone because then… you guessed it, you die.

 

 

There are a lot of explosions and references to real-life guns and weapons, but no blood.  It’s all fun and games.  There is a fair amount of “taunting” from other players via emotes (aka actions of other players such as slow claps) but nothing terrible — just a little bit of playful banter.

Be aware that like any other online game, your gamers can converse in real life with real people.  These individuals can be added to a friends list or online party. Based on settings and the gaming console (or computer) you are on, anyone can join a “party” which allows real time conversation (like being on the phone together). Be sure to check your privacy settings if this is a concern of yours.

 

Epic Games

With constant updates and additions to the game (new dances, outfits, etc) your kids won’t be getting bored of Fortnite any time soon.  All in all, it’s just good fun; a strategy game that makes them think and work as a team to survive. My kids even convinced their Grandma to play online with them. Best. Day. Ever.

 

See More on TodaysMama.com!

The 10 Most Violent Video Games of 2017 (and What Your Kids Should Play Instead)

Do You Know the Secret to Raising a Safe, Smart Kid?

Child Internet Safety: Online Kid Games and What You Should Know

 

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6 Vacation Supplies You Shouldn’t Pack

The school year is winding down, and Elsa finally let go of this year’s eternal winter, which can only mean one thing—summer vacation is coming!

Independence Day Summer GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Summer vacation means summer vacationing, but I think we can all agree that packing is the worst part of traveling. Packing for an overnight trip or a week seems to be equally terrible. If you’re a mom, it’s even worse because you’re responsible for packing ALL. THE. PEOPLE.

I recently vacationed with some friends and their kids, and they taught me something that blew my mind. Instead of packing all the nitty gritty vacation supplies that weigh down your suitcase or make it necessary to check (hello, extra baggage fees), they made Amazon do the work for them and shipped stuff directly to their hotel. Genius.

Stacks of Amazon Boxes

The Today’s Mama Editorial Team put their heads together, and came up with six vacation supplies you shouldn’t pack. Instead, you can ship these bad boys directly to your destination. I’ve made it even easier by linking directly to some of our favs. Just click, add to cart, ship directly to your hotel, Airbnb, or relative’s house, and you’re done. At the end of your trip you won’t feel guilty leaving these goods behind. Or you can pack them home if you have room. The choice is yours. The world is your oyster. And I can guarantee this will make your vacation at least 9.7% more enjoyable.

 

Baby Supplies

For being so tiny, babies require a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff that takes up a lot of room. Don’t waste precious cargo space with diapers, wipes, formula, swim diapers, or pull ups. You will use most of that stuff completely up on your trip anyway. Pack only what you need for your travel time, and ship the rest to your destination.

 

Beach, Pool, and Other Gear

I’m just thawing out from winter, so I can’t think of a vacation destination that doesn’t involve a beach, pool, or the blazing sun. Pack these things for a trip where the sun shines: Sunscreen spray, face sunscreen stick, and because there’s a 99% chance I will mis-apply sunscreen on myself…after sun gel. You may also want floaties, goggles, sand toys, and a beach bag. If you’re headed somewhere wet, don’t forget the ponchos.

 

Toiletries and Medicine

This is the stuff I hate packing most of all. It’s all the necessities, and the “just in case” stuff you will inevitably need if it’s not on hand.

Grab a toiletry kit for women or toiletry kit for men to get all of the necessities like shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. Or at the very least, send some disposable razors to your destination.

I heard about pre-pasted toothbrushes awhile ago, and they seem perfect for vacation. Use them once and toss them out. No little tubes or bulky toothbrush holders. Grab a 36 count pack or 144 count pack.

You don’t have to pack your entire medicine cabinet, but it is nice to have Infant Tylenol, Children’s Motrin, Zarbee’s Children’s Cough or Baby Cough medicine, Advil travel packs, allergy medicine for adults and for kids, and a first aid kit on hand, depending on what you think you’ll encounter on your trip.

 

Food and Snacks

Why does everyone want to eat all the time? Don’t they know you’re on vacation too?!?! Sure, it’s great to eat out, but doing that for every meal can get pricey. Stock up on some basic snacks and treats like goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, granola bars, or cracker snack packs, or even bottled water. If you’re gluten free, check out these specialty snacks.

If you have space to cook, order your groceries online from Walmart. They will gather your order and even load it in your car. That means you have more time to enjoy your vacation.

Snack GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

Kid’s Entertainment

In a perfect world, kids would stay entertained with the vacation itself, but in reality, you may need some tricks up your sleeve. If you think you’ll need to entertain some kids, ship sidewalk chalk, bubbles, crayon and coloring book sets, or activity books like this one or this one, or this fun kit that’s both a craft and a game.

 

More than Vacation Supplies: Souvenirs, Birthday, and Holiday Gifts

Here’s a pro-tip for you. If you’re headed to Disney, or any other theme park or major attraction, don’t buy your souvenirs at the park. You can save a bundle by getting them on Amazon and having them shipped to you. Things like this Mickey Mouse plush, Minnie Mouse plush, Minnie Mouse headband, Mickey Mouse hat, Disney lanyard, or Disney pins will cost way less when you buy them online instead of at the park.

If you’re vacationing for a child’s birthday, or over Christmas, Easter, or another holiday, Amazon has you covered with toys and games for every age.

That’s our list of ship, don’t pack vacation supplies. Did we miss anything? What would you ship?

(Also, I should probably note that if you’re not already an Amazon Prime member, you should be. There are so many benefits. Sign up today here.)

 

See More on TodaysMama.com!

Vacation Envy: What’s It Really About?

10 Tips for a Stress-Free Family Road Trip

11 Ways To Give Your Kids Experiences, NOT Stuff

 

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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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To Spy or Not to Spy: When to Give Kids Privacy

Privacy: what kids want and what parents struggle to give. Tweens and teens especially crave independence and privacy from their parents. If they think their parents are spying on them, they will figure out how to be sneakier and do more stuff behind their parents’ backs. Also, parents who give kids more autonomy and privacy are victimized online less frequently than kids whose parents are more controlling and invasive. So we definitely want to give kids privacy!

But the world is a scary place – what if something bad happens and you aren’t even aware it’s happening? How do you protect them while also giving them the independence and privacy that they deserve and need to become responsible, thriving adults?

How much privacy you give depends on your child’s age and level of responsibility. Start out young, like when they are preteens, with less privacy.

kids privacy rules

So for instance, your 10 year old wants an Instagram account. This is a great opportunity to start getting your child used to what is okay for social media. Let your child know that you will be monitoring her activity and after a weekend of having Instagram, the two of you will review what’s been going on and then create a social media contract. This will give you the chance to see what she does with Instagram and how it could possibly be dangerous or inappropriate – like having a public account and random people liking her photos.

Once you’ve set up those guidelines, continue to monitor her account with your own account. Check out her photos, who is liking them, and what comments people are making. Whenever something weird happens, like maybe there is a comment that you think could be mean, ask her about it.

Then keep the conversation going. Ask her about things you see on Instagram – fun videos she has posted, how to create an Instagram story, has she heard about a recent news story on cyberbullying and why might someone cyberbully someone else? Getting these conversations started early, when you are still monitoring her activity, and she is open to talking with you about these things will make it easier to continue these conversations as she gets older.

Often during these conversations, our own preconceived judgments come out. Maybe you think your child said something mean to someone else. But sometimes, that’s just an adjustment in communication that happens across generations. So instead of accusing her of saying something mean, start the conversation by approaching it from a truly curious perspective. That will help your child feel comfortable talking with you and won’t put her on the defensive every time you talk about social media.

teens privacy guidelines privacy rules

The more your child proves that she is responsible, the less you check in on her – the more privacy you give her. Maybe she can have a SnapChat account. There are still rules that you came up with before in your contract that you continue to develop, but you also give her space to be independent and stop checking to ensure she’s following the rules because she’s already proven how trustworthy she is.

Giving your kids privacy doesn’t mean that you’re not paying attention to their online or in real life lives. You keep that conversation going that you started when they were younger. You ask them about new apps and how they work. You can ask them about their friends. You can ask them about their Instagram account. You can ask about something you heard happening at school and what do they think? Do they ever have trouble with social media? Again, by being truly curious and open to learning from your child, they will feel more comfortable coming to you and telling you what’s going on. Then, when something uncomfortable, risky, or hurtful happens, they will know it is safe to come to you for help. And that is how we keep them safe.

 

About Fireborn Institute

Fireborn Institute is a non-profit that provides parents with practical and easy-to-remember strategies to help their children in school. Through our lectures, podcasts & handouts, we coach parents on topics such as helping with homework or conquering a messy backpack. Our ultimate goal is to help parents help their kids thrive at school.

About Katherine Firestone

Katherine had a hard time in school because she suffered from undiagnosed ADHD till her junior year of high school. What made her successful during this time was the support system she had around her. After college, she worked as a teacher, and saw that parents wanted to help their kids at home, but didn’t know what to do. She started the Fireborn Institute to give parents ideas on how to help because success at school is enhanced at home. 

She is also the host of The Happy Student, a podcast for parents on promoting happy academic and social lives.  The show provides practical strategies on a variety of topics based on Fireborn’s 4 pillars

 

 

See More on TodaysMama.com!

Facebook Says They “May” Collect Data From Your Calls and Texts. Here’s How To Turn It Off

The Facts About Online Predators Every Parent Should Know

The Sneaky Science Behind Our Kids’ Tech Addictions

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17 Sites and Apps Kids Are Heading to After Facebook

By Christine Elgersma, Common Sense Media

Gone are the days of Facebook as a one-stop shop for all social-networking needs. While it may seem more complicated to post photos on Instagram, share casual moments on Snapchat, text on WhatsApp, and check your Twitter feed throughout the day, tweens and teens love the variety.

You don’t need to know the ins and outs of all the apps, sites, and terms that are “hot” right now (and frankly, if you did, they wouldn’t be trendy anymore). But knowing the basics — what they are, why they’re popular, and what problems can crop up when they’re not used responsibly — can make the difference between a positive and a negative experience for your kid.

Below, we’ve laid out some of the most popular types of apps and websites for teens: texting, microblogging, live-streaming, self-destructing/secret, and chatting/meeting/dating. The more you know about each, the better you’ll be able to communicate with your teen about safe choices.

The bottom line for most of these tools? If teens are using them respectfully, appropriately, and with a little parental guidance, they’re mostly fine. So take inventory of your kids’ apps and review the best practices.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash


TEXTING APPS

GroupMe is an app that doesn’t charge fees or have limits for direct and group messages. Users also can send photos, videos, and calendar links.

What parents need to know

  • It’s for older teens. The embedded GIFs and emojis have some adult themes, such as drinking and sex.
  • Teens are always connected. Without fees or limits, teens can share and text to their heart’s content, which may mean they rarely put the phone down.

Kik Messenger is an app that lets kids text for free. It’s fast and has no message limits, character limits, or fees if you only use the basic features. Because it’s an app, the texts won’t show up on your kid’s phone’s messaging service, and you’re not charged for them (beyond standard data rates).

What parents need to know

  • Stranger danger is an issue. Kik allows communication with strangers who share their Kik usernames to find people to chat with. The app allegedly has been used in high-profile crimes, including the murder of a 13-year-old girl and a child-pornography case. There’s also a Kik community blog where users can submit photos of themselves and screenshots of messages (sometimes displaying users’ full names) to contests.
  • It’s loaded with ads and in-app-purchases. Kik specializes in “promoted chats” — basically, conversations between brands and users. It also offers specially designed apps (accessible only through the main app), many of which offer products for sale.

WhatsApp lets users send text messages, audio messages, videos, and photos to one or many people with no message limits or fees.

What parents need to know

  • It’s for users 16 and over. Lots of younger teens seem to be using the app, but this age minimum has been set by WhatsApp.
  • It can be pushy. After you sign up, it automatically connects you to all the people in your address book who also are using WhatsApp. It also encourages you to add friends who haven’t signed up yet.

PHOTO AND VIDEO-SHARING APPS AND SITES

Instagram lets users snap, edit, and share photos and 15-second videos, either publicly or within a private network of followers. It unites the most popular features of social media sites: sharing, seeing, and commenting on photos. It also lets you apply fun filters and effects to your photos, making them look high-quality and artistic.

What parents need to know

  • Teens are on the lookout for “likes.” Similar to the way they use Facebook, teens may measure the “success” of their photos — even their self-worth — by the number of likes or comments they receive. Posting a photo or video can be problematic if teens are posting to validate their popularity.
  • Public photos are the default. Photos and videos shared on Instagram are public unless privacy settings are adjusted. Hashtags and location information can make photos even more visible to communities beyond a teen’s followers if his or her account is public.
  • Kids can send private messages. Instagram Direct is like texting with photos or videos and you can do it with up to 15 mutual friends. These pictures don’t show up on their public feeds. Although there’s nothing wrong with group chats, kids may be more likely to share inappropriate stuff with their inner circles.

Musical.ly – Your Video Social Network is a performance- and video-sharing social network that mostly features teens lip-synching to famous songs but also includes some original songwriting and singing. Musers, as devoted users are called, can build up a following among friends or share posts publicly.

What parents need to know

  • Songs and videos contain lots of iffy content. Because the platform features popular music and a mix of teen and adult users, swearing and sexual content are commonplace.
  • Gaining followers and fans feels important. Teens want a public profile to get exposure and approval, and many are highly motivated to get more followers and likes for their videos.

 


MICROBLOGGING APPS AND SITES

Tumblr is like a cross between a blog and Twitter: It’s a streaming scrapbook of text, photos, and/or video and audio clips. Users create and follow short blogs, or “tumblogs,” that can be seen by anyone online (if they’re made public). Many teens have tumblogs for personal use: sharing photos, videos, musings, and things they find funny with their friends.

What parents need to know

  • Porn is easy to find. This online hangout is hip and creative but sometimes raunchy. Pornographic images and videos and depictions of violence, self-harm, drug use, and offensive language are easily searchable.
  • Privacy can be guarded but only through an awkward workaround. The first profile a member creates is public and viewable by anyone on the internet. Members who desire full privacy have to create a second profile, which they’re able to password-protect.
  • Posts are often copied and shared. Reblogging on Tumblr is similar to re-tweeting: A post is reblogged from one tumblog to another. Many teens like — and, in fact, want — their posts to be reblogged.

Twitter is a microblogging tool that allows users to post brief, 140-character messages — called “tweets” — and follow other users’ activities. It’s not only for adults; teens like using it to share tidbits and keep up with news and celebrities.

What parents need to know


LIVE-STREAMING VIDEO APPS

Houseparty – Group Video Chat is a way for groups of teens to connect via live video. Two to eight people can be in a chat together at the same time. If someone who’s not a direct friend joins a chat, teens get an alert in case they want to leave the chat. You can also “lock” a chat so no one else can join.

What parents need to know

  • Users can take screenshots during a chat. Teens like to think that what happens in a chat stays in a chat, but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s easy for someone to take a screenshot while in a chat and share it with whomever they want.
  • There’s no moderator. Part of the fun of live video is that anything can happen, but that can also be a problem. Unlike static posts that developers may review, live video chats are spontaneous, so it’s impossible to predict what kids will see, especially if they’re in chats with people they don’t know well.

Live.ly – Live Video Streaming poses all the same risks that all live-streaming services do, so poor choices, oversharing, and chatting with strangers can be part of the package.

What parents need to know

  • It’s associated with Musical.ly. Because of the parent app’s popularity, this streamer is all the rage, and “musers” (devoted Musical.ly listeners) have built-in accounts.
  • Privacy, safety, and creepiness are concerns. Because teens are often broadcasting from their bedrooms to people they don’t know, sometimes sharing phone numbers, and often performing for approval, there’s the potential for trouble.

Live.me – Live Video Streaming allows kids to watch others and broadcast themselves live, earn currency from fans, and interact live with users without any control over who views their streams.

What parents need to know

  • Kids can easily see inappropriate content. During our review, we saw broadcasters cursing and using racial slurs, scantily clad broadcasters, young teens answering sexually charged questions, and more.
  • Predatory comments are a concern. Because anyone can communicate with broadcasters, there is the potential for viewers to request sexual pictures or performances or to contact them through other social means and send private images or messages.

YouNow: Broadcast, Chat, and Watch Live Video is an app that lets kids stream and watch live broadcasts. As they watch, they can comment or buy gold bars to give to other users. Ultimately, the goal is to get lots of viewers, start trending, and grow your fan base.

What parents need to know

  • Kids might make poor decisions to gain popularity. Because it’s live video, kids can do or say anything and can respond to requests from viewers — in real time. Though there seems to be moderation around iffy content (kids complain about having accounts suspended “for nothing”), there’s plenty of swearing and occasional sharing of personal information with anonymous viewers.
  • Teens can share personal information, sometimes by accident. Teens often broadcast from their bedrooms, which often have personal information visible, and they sometimes will share a phone number or an email address with viewers, not knowing who’s really watching.
  • It’s creepy. Teens even broadcast themselves sleeping, which illustrates the urge to share all aspects of life, even intimate moments, publicly — and potentially with strangers.

SELF-DESTRUCTING/SECRET APPS

Snapchat is a messaging app that lets users put a time limit on the pictures and videos they send before they disappear. Most teens use the app to share goofy or embarrassing photos without the risk of them going public. However, there are lots of opportunities to use it in other ways.

What parents need to know

  • It’s a myth that Snapchats go away forever. Data is data: Whenever an image is sent, it never truly goes away. (For example, the person on the receiving end can take a screenshot of the image before it disappears.) Snapchats can even be recovered. After a major hack in December 2013 and a settlement with the FTC, Snapchat has clarified its privacy policy, but teens should stay wary.
  • It can make sexting seem OK. The seemingly risk-free messaging might encourage users to share pictures containing sexy images.
  • There’s a lot of iffy, clicky content. Snapchat’s Discover feature offers a grab-bag of articles, videos, and quizzes from magazine publishers, TV networks, and online sources mostly about pop culture, celebrities, and relationships (a typical headline: “THIS is What Sex Does To Your Brain”).

Whisper is a social “confessional” app that allows users to post whatever’s on their minds, paired with an image. With all the emotions running through teens, anonymous outlets give them the freedom to share their feelings without fear of judgment.

What parents need to know

  • Whispers are often sexual in nature. Some users use the app to try to hook up with people nearby, while others post “confessions” of desire. Lots of eye-catching, nearly nude pics accompany these shared secrets.
  • Content can be dark. People normally don’t confess sunshine and rainbows; common Whisper topics include insecurity, depression, substance abuse, and various lies told to employers and teachers.
  • Although it’s anonymous to start, it may not stay that way. The app encourages users to exchange personal information in the “Meet Up” section.

CHATTING, MEETING, AND DATING APPS AND SITES

Monkey — Have Fun ChatsIf you remember Chatroulette, where users could be randomly matched with strangers for a video chat, this is the modern version. Using Snapchat to connect, users have 10 seconds to live video-chat with strangers.

What parents need to know

  • Lots of teens are using it. Because of the connection with Snapchat, plenty of teens are always available for a quick chat — which often leads to connecting via Snapchat and continuing the conversation through that platform.
  • Teens can accept or reject a chat. Before beginning a chat, users receive the stranger’s age, gender, and location and can choose whether to be matched or not.

monkey app parents should know

MeetMe: Chat and Meet New People. The name says it all. Although not marketed as a dating app, MeetMe does have a “Match” feature whereby users can “secretly admire” others, and its large user base means fast-paced communication and guaranteed attention.

What parents need to know

  • It’s an open network. Users can chat with whomever’s online, as well as search locally, opening the door to potential trouble.
  • Lots of details are required. First and last name, age, and ZIP code are requested at registration, or you can log in using a Facebook account. The app also asks permission to use location services on your teens’ mobile devices, meaning they can find the closest matches wherever they go.

Omegle is a chat site that puts two strangers together in their choice of a text chat or a video chat. Being anonymous can be very attractive to teens, and Omegle provides a no-fuss way to make connections. Its “interest boxes” also let users filter potential chat partners by shared interests.

What parents need to know

  • Users get paired up with strangers. That’s the whole premise of the app. And there’s no registration required.
  • This is not an app for kids and teens. Omegle is filled with people searching for sexual chat. Some prefer to do so live. Others offer links to porn sites.
  • Language is a big issue. Since the chats are anonymous, they’re often much more explicit than those with identifiable users might be.

Yubo (formerly Yellow – Make new friends) is an app that is often called the “Tinder for teens” because users swipe right or left to accept or reject the profiles of other users. If two people swipe right on each other, they can chat and hook up via Snapchat or Instagram.

What parents need to know

The bottom line for most of these tools? If teens are using them respectfully, appropriately, and with a little parental guidance, they should be fine. Take inventory of your kids’ apps and review the best practices.

  • It’s easy to lie about your age. Even if you try to enter a birth date that indicates you’re under 13, the app defaults to an acceptable age so you can create an account anyway.
  • You have to share your location and other personal information. For the app to work, you need to let it “geotag” you. Also, there are no private profiles, so the only option is to allow anyone to find you.
  • It encourages contact with strangers. As with Tinder, the whole point is to meet people. The difference with Yellow is that the endgame is sometimes just exchanging social media handles to connect there. Even if there’s no offline contact, however, without age verification, teens are connecting with people they don’t know who may be much older.

TV senior editor Polly Conway and former Common Sense Education writer Kelly Schryver contributed to this article.

 

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Facebook Says They “May” Collect Data From Your Calls and Texts. Here’s How To Turn It Off

The post 17 Sites and Apps Kids Are Heading to After Facebook appeared first on TodaysMama.

Facebook Says They “May” Collect Data From Your Calls and Texts. Here’s How To Turn It Off

3 Facebook Settings You Need To Review TODAY

There’s been a lot of noise over the past few weeks about Facebook, the Russians, and YOUR personal privacy. {Read up HERE}

If you’re sticking around, it’s time for a little house cleaning. 

Let’s start with Facebook’s access to your calls, texts, and contacts:

Chances are that when you set up Facebook Messenger you may have clicked a button that would allow you to “text anyone in your phone”. By activating that feature, you gave access to Facebook to “continuously upload info about your contacts like phone numbers and nicknames, and your call and text history”.  (via Facebook Newsroom)

Facebook defended itself by explaining that:

“People have to expressly agree to use” the opt-in feature for importing their contacts on Messenger or Facebook Lite to allow Facebook to collect the cell phone data, but Sunday’s statement is the first time the social media company actually spelled out that practice in clear terms for users. (via Time Magazine)

Here’s how to turn it off in Facebook Messenger:

Android:

  1. From Home, tap your profile picture in the top right corner
  2. Tap People
  3. Synced Contacts to turn this setting on or off

iPhone or iPad:

  1. From Home, tap your profile picture in the top left corner
  2. Tap People
  3. Tap Synced Contacts to turn this setting on or off

 

Time To Review The Apps That Have Access To Your Facebook Profile (And Your Friends!)

Ever taken a quiz to find out which Disney Princess you are? (Or any other crazy personality test etc.)

Here’s where you can see all of those Apps and Services that you may have inadvertently opened the door to!

Go to your personal profile page on Facebook:

  1. Click on the dropdown menu in the upper right hand corner of your page
  2. Click on Settings
  3. Click on Apps
  4. Review the list of apps and websites you’ve given access to your Facebook profile. 
  5. To see what access each app has or to edit the settings on a specific app click on the light grey pencil icon to the right of the app
  6. To delete apps or revoke access tap or click on the light grey “x” to the right of the app

 

Next Up: Let’s Look At Your “Ads” Settings

Why does this one matter? Here’s where Facebook shows you SOME of the data they’ve tied to you and how they target ads to you.

  1. Click on the dropdown menu in the upper right hand corner of your personal profile page
  2. Click on Settings
  3. Click on Ads

You’ll see:

Click on each section. See how Facebook has been targeting and tracking you so far. The data they had tied to my personal profile was highly inaccurate. They had tied grocery stores to me outside of my state, retail stores that I would never shop at, and interests that were completely off base (listing interests like “Gambling” and “Alcohol” for the Mormon girl who’s never had a drink). 

Review each section and clean it up. You can delete the information they have tied to you, hide ad topics, and limit how your ads are served to you.

Big surprise? I deleted most everything and limited access as much as possible. You may not mind the data that Facebook has tied to you and how they are serving your ads — but you’d still benefit by doing a good review of this page and the info they have stored there.

What Next?

If you want to dig a little deeper, review your personal “About Page” and the details you’ve listed there. Take a look at the places you’ve “Checked In” on Facebook. Review all of the Movies, TV Shows, Books, Likes, Events You’ve Attended etc. Save that one for an afternoon when you’ve got time to kill!

This is not an exhaustive list of all the ways that Facebook manipulates your experience within the platform. We haven’t even touched on how it’s built to be addictive, how studies show that it’s not unhappy people that are using social media but that it’s social media that’s MAKING PEOPLE UNHAPPY, and all the ways we’ve given our privacy away to these platforms.

We’re working on some great resources for families that we’ll be releasing in the coming months. In the meantime, leave us a comment and tell us what we’ve missed and how you are “cleaning house” when it comes to technology.

 

Must Watch: This Is Exactly How Much Your Personal Information Is Worth To Facebook

 

 

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The post Facebook Says They “May” Collect Data From Your Calls and Texts. Here’s How To Turn It Off appeared first on TodaysMama.

The Facts About Online Predators Every Parent Should Know

By Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media

Every parent worries about online predators at some point. And while it’s smart to be cautious, the facts show that it’s actually fairly rare for kids to be contacted by adult strangers seeking sexual communication. Of course it’s natural to be concerned when your kid goes into an unknown world. But instead of acting out of fear, arm yourself with the facts so that you can help your kids be smart, cautious, and savvy. If the concerns below ring true, use some of these strategies to be proactive in protecting your kids — they’ll make your kid safer and help you feel a lot better.

The concern: Every time I read the news, it feels like there’s an article about some creep contacting a kid in a game.

The facts:

The strategy: More than inspiring fear in our kids, we want to arm them with information. So when you talk to your kid, tell them there’s a chance someone could approach them online to get personal information, exchange pictures, and/or meet in person, and it might be someone who feels like an online friend. It’s not the norm, and it’s not a reason to be afraid all the time. It’s simply a reason to be aware and know that if someone starts asking for personal information or talking about sexual stuff, it’s time to get help from an adult.

The concern: I can’t keep up with all of the media my kid is into, so I don’t know what games and apps to keep my eye on.

The facts:

  • According to the New England Journal of Public Policy, contact with online predators happens mostly in chat rooms, on social media, or in the chat feature of a multiplayer game (RobloxMinecraftClash of ClansWorld of Warcraft, and so on).
  • Most games meant for kids — like Roblox and Animal Jam — have built-in features and settings that are designed to prevent inappropriate comments and chat. Though they’re often imperfect, they do help.
  • Games that aren’t designed only for kids have fewer controls, settings, and safeguards.
  • Any app or online space that allows contact with strangers without moderation or age verification can allow contact between kids and adult strangers.
  • Teens sometimes visit adult sites, chat rooms, and dating apps out of curiosity about sex and romance.

The strategy: First, stay on top of what your kid is doing online by asking them which apps, games, and other tech they use. If they’re on social media, friend or follow them. Set rules about times and places for device use — for example, banning phones and tablets from bedrooms. Find out how they chat — is it through an app or through their phone’s SMS texting? (If they’re using an app, it won’t be easy for you to see it, so ask to do occasional spot checks.) Make rules around who they can chat with — for instance, only people they know in real life. If your kid’s a gamer, use these questions to probe deeper: Do you like multiplayer games — and why? Do you chat with others while you’re gaming? What’s been your experience so far? What would you do if someone you didn’t know contacted you? Help them set privacy settings to limit the contacts in their games.

The concern: I don’t even understand how this works — does an adult pose as a kid, then ask to meet?

The facts:

  • Only 5 percent of online predators pretend they’re kids. Most reveal that they’re older — which is especially appealing to 12-to-15-year-olds who are most often targeted.
  • Some predators initiate sexual talk or request pictures immediately and back off if refused. They’re in it for an immediate result.
  • In contrast, some predators engage in “bunny hunting,” which is the process of picking a potential victim for “grooming”: They’ll look at social media posts and public chats to learn about the kid first.
  • Once they’ve selected someone, they may begin the grooming phase, which often involves friending the target’s contacts, engaging in increasingly personal conversations to build trust, taking the conversation to other platforms (like instant messaging), requesting pictures, and finally requesting offline contact.
  • Sometimes if a kid shares one compromising picture, a predator will engage in “sextortion,” which involves demanding more pictures or contact under threat of exposure or harm.

The strategy: We often tell kids not to talk to strangers or share personal information, but a kid’s online relationships can feel just as real as their offline ones. So before they start chatting with anyone online, kids need to know some basic digital citizenship and online privacy information. For instance, kids should never share a phone number, address, or even last name with someone they’ve never met. Also, sharing sexy pictures or being overtly sexual online leaves an unwanted legacy, with or without creepy adults, so we need to teach kids about being mindful about their digital footprint. Plus, having nude pictures of a minor — even if you are a minor — is against the law and teens can get into legal trouble as a result. Finally, it’s important to teach kids that if someone is asking a kid for sexy pictures or chat, that person is not a friend, no matter how cool or understanding they seem.

The concern: How would I even know if this is happening to my kid if they don’t come out and tell me?

The facts:

  • Predators target kids who post revealing pictures, divulge past sexual abuse, and/or engage in sexual talk online.
  • There’s some conflicting research about what ages are most at-risk, but 12 to 15 seems to be prime time, and girls are more frequent victims.
  • Teen boys who are questioning their sexuality are the second-most targeted group because they often feel talking about it online is safer than sharing in real life.
  • Sometimes, teens egg each other on to pursue contact with strangers online, and it can feel like a game.
  • Teens want to feel special, validated, attractive, and understood at a time when they’re separating from their parents, so an older “friend” who’s very interested in them can feel exciting and special.
  • Most often, teens engage in relationships with predators willingly, though they often keep them secret.
  • If your kid withdraws and becomes secretive around a device (hiding the screen, clicking from a window suddenly), it could be an indicator.
  • Phone calls and gifts from unknown people are possible signs.
  • Porn on the device your kid uses might be a sign.

The strategy: The tricky part is that most tweens and teens withdraw and are sometimes secretive; it’s part of their development. If, however, you notice these in the extreme, that’s a concern — no matter the reason. Spot checks on the devices your kid uses to monitor for sexy posts and pictures and knowing some lingo can help, but open communication — without accusation or overreaction — is usually the most effective.

The concern: This already happened to my kid, and I don’t know what to do next.

The facts:

  • Your kid told you.
  • You saw something on his or her phone or social media.

The strategy: First, don’t panic. Instead, gather evidence: Take screenshots, save communications, and so on. Talk with your kid about the details without making them feel like it’s their fault or that they’re in trouble. Then report it to the platform or service your kid is using, block the person, and find the reporting features on other apps and games your kid uses together. Finally, contact the police. Even though it may seem like a one-time thing, that it’s over, or you don’t want to make it a big deal, it’s best to let the authorities know in case the person is a known offender and to prevent them from doing it to other kids.

 

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