Easter Baskets for Teens

Easy Family Dollar DIY Easter Basket Ideas for Teens. $25 or less with items from Family Dollar and free printable bunny tags. Fun gift ideas for teenager girls and boys!

Easy Family Dollar DIY Easter Basket Ideas for Teens. $25 or less with items from Family Dollar and free printable bunny tags.

Sponsored by Family Dollar

Family Dollar DIY Easter Baskets for Teens

Need some fun new Easter basket ideas for teens? Then you’ll love what I found at Family Dollar for my teenagers! Join me as I walk you through what I found for $25 or less at Family Dollar. Don’t miss my new giant free printable Easter bunny tags to make your gift baskets extra fun!

Family Dollar is full of so many great products and deals, that it’s hard to decide what to choose. I really could spend hours in that store! On my last trip, I spent a lot of time shopping for things I thought teenagers would like and actually use. These Easter basket gift ideas for teen girls and boys will definitely save you time on your next shopping trip to Family Dollar.

Easter Basket Ideas for Teens. $25 or less with items from Family Dollar and free printable bunny tags.

Easter Baskets for Teens that they can actually use!

Watch my video below to see how quick and easy these Easter baskets for teens are to make! I had so much fun finding affordable gifts my kids could actually use and love. Find more Family Dollar deals with their Smart Coupons.

Easy Easter Basket Ideas for Teens. $25 or less with items from Family Dollar and free printable bunny tags.

Smart Reusable Easter Basket Container

I like to choose Easter baskets that can be reused after giving. When I was little, my mom always found the most fun, unusual containers for gifts. I must have gotten that idea from her!

If you’ve never been to your local Family Dollar, then I highly recommend going there today! I found so many fun containers for $1-$3 each, that it was hard to choose which ones I would use for my teen’s Easter baskets.

These cute square caddy containers were only $1 each and come in various colors. New caddy’s are just what my kids need in their bathroom too!

Easy Easter Basket Ideas for Teens - cute caddy from Family Dollar.

What to put in an Easter Basket for Teens

First of all, think technology! My teens fight the most about who has taken who’s phone charger, so I immediately went to the front of Family Dollar to shop their tech products.

Wireless Phone Chargers

I found some great wireless chargers and know my daughter will love this unicorn charger!

Easy Easter Basket Ideas for Teens - wireless chargers from Family Dollar.

 

Adorable Plush Food Pillows

Next I found the cutest super soft, sweet treat food plushies for only $3! How cute are these? They have donuts, hot dogs, pizza and french fry mini plushies. I wanted to get all of them!

Easy Easter Basket Ideas for Teens - cute food plush from Family Dollar.

 

More Easter Basket Gift Ideas for Teens

  • Favorite Snacks – Teen boys (at least mine) are all about the food! So be sure to grab their favorite snacks along with the usual Easter candy.
  • Bath & Beauty Products – Teen girls can never have enough nail polish, make-up or bath products. I really love the hair towel I found for my daughter and need to get one for myself too!
  • Joke Items – I couldn’t pass-up the dollar whoopee cushion for my son!
  • Pens & Journals – You can’t go wrong with scented pens, journals or cute stickers.
  • Jewelry, Shoes and Hair Accessories – I saw a lot of cute flip flops and earrings on my last trip to Family Dollar too!

–> For more great Easter Basket ideas, check out Family Dollar’s weekly deals HERE.

 

Easter Basket Free Printable Tags

I designed some jumbo bunny tags for these Easter Baskets and think they turned out really cute! Download the tags below, then trim with scissors and tape to a colorful paper straw to insert into your gift basket.

Easy Easter Basket Ideas for Teens - Free bunny printable tags from LivingLocurto.com

 

Easy Easter Basket Ideas for Teens - Print Free bunny printable tags from LivingLocurto.com

Download the Jumbo Easter Gift Tags ©2019 LivingLocurto.com

 

Watch Me Make These Easter Baskets

I hope you found lots of fun gift ideas with these items from Family Dollar. Watch my video below to see how quick and easy these Easter baskets for teens are to make! Find even more amazing Family Dollar deals with their Smart Coupons.

 

The post Easter Baskets for Teens appeared first on Living Locurto.

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. 

 

 

The post The Easiest Way To Limit Screen Time {We’ve found it!} appeared first on TodaysMama.

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

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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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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Should Teenagers Trick or Treat?

Apparently some folks in Apex, North Carolina are so concerned they’ve laid down the law. Literally. As in a town ordinance:

Sec. 14-18. – Halloween restrictions.
(a) No person over 12 years of age shall engage in the practice of “trick or treating” at any time.  
(WLTX)

Heaven forbid. 

Let’s be real. Do you really care if you get teen-aged trick or treaters on your doorstep? And the next question: WHY??? 

Out of all the places my teenagers could be on Halloween night, I’d love for them to be trick or treating. 

It’s like no one really knows what to do with teenagers on Halloween. Should they stay home and pass out candy? Go to a Halloween rager? Go water balloon some cars? 

Or maybe just go out and trick or treat with some friends and be part of your neighborhood? As long a teenagers aren’t causing any trouble for the little kids I’m more than happy to hand out the candy. We don’t get enough trick or treaters anyway. 

People’s opinions are all over the map.  There are polls spread across the internet with people weighing in on cut off ages for dressing up and going door to door for candy. Check out this discussion on Facebook:

The discussion ranged all over the map. 

One person commented:

 “I’m tired of enabling people, period! (These) young adults DO NOT need to go door to door asking for candy!!!! Get a job!!!”

Hostile much? I think we’ve made a mountain out of a mole hill. 

We all mourn the fact that our kids grow up too fast — so why are we pushing them out of Halloween so fast? 

What do you think? What’s the cutoff age for trick or treaters? 

 

 

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9 Ways to Turn Your Teen Into a Reader

Photo: Germán Poo-Caamaño, Flickr

By Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media

Parents know how to inspire a love of books in babies and toddlers: Just put ’em on your lap, and start reading. But as kids get older and go to school, reading can be seen as work rather than fun — and kids, especially teens, may stop reading for pleasure. Here are nine ways to get teens reading, either again or for the first time.

  1. Find the “why” in YA. YA (young adult) novels tackle the edgy issues teens struggle with, from peer pressure and romantic longing to grief and trouble at home or school. Whether they’re personally grappling with these issues or seeking vicarious thrills, teens gravitate toward subject matter that’s relatable. Check the YA bestseller lists and Common Sense Media’s book reviews for ideas.
  2. Merge movies with books. Hollywood is turning to teen lit for ideas more than ever. Offer your teen the print version to read before or after a big film adaptation comes out, and talk about the similarities and differences between the two. Try a few of these awesome books being turned into movies. 
  3. Get graphic. Gone are the days when graphic novels were dismissed as comic books. Now recognized as literature, they may be the key to getting some teens hooked on books. They’re available in a wide range of genres — from adventure and fantasy to historical fiction, memoir, and biography — so certainly there’s a graphic novel out there to suit your teen’s taste. See Common Sense Media’s picks for Graphic Novels and Graphic Novels That Teach History.
  4. Lure ’em with adult books. Find nonfiction titles on subjects your teen’s curious about, such as climate change, race, political corruption, or true crime. Check adult nonfiction bestseller lists to see what’s catching fire. Funny adult books also work (by David Sedaris or Tina Fey, for example), as do horror (Stephen King), mysteries (Agatha Christie), thrillers (James Patterson, John Grisham), fantasy (George R.R. Martin), science fiction (Isaac Asimov), and sports (Michael Lewis).
  5. Try poetry. Novels in verse are a popular trend. All that white space on the page makes them easy to read, and the spare, lyrical approach can really pack a punch. Try Sarah Crossan’s One, Stasia Ward Kehoe’s The Sound of Letting Go, or Ellen Hopkins’ Rumble. Memoirs in verse are taking hold, too; check out Marilyn Nelson’s How I Discovered Poetry. 
  6. Let them listen. Spark teens’ interest by getting an audio book to listen to on the way to school or on long drives. Let them download audiobooks to their smartphones. (They won’t risk looking uncool, because they’ll be under headphones or have their earbuds in.)
  7. Model reading. Read at home where your teens can see you. Talk about what you’re reading, and express your enjoyment. Always take a book or magazine along when you go to the beach or face waiting in a long line. Send your teen the message that reading is a pleasure, not a chore.
  8. Keep reading material around. Kids who grow up with lots of books around tend to read more. Stock the bathroom, car, dining table — wherever there’s a captive audience — with comic books, graphic novels, and magazines geared to your teens’ interests; first books in hit YA series; or classic sci-fi and mysteries. There’s nothing wrong with “micro-reading.”
  9. Give the gift of reading. Hand your teen a gift card to your local bookstore. They’ll discover the treasure-hunt fun of looking for a good book.

Disciplining Teens: Talk Less. Listen More.

Is corporal punishment an acceptable form of discipline and when does it become child abuse? — to the specific — Is it befitting of a Christian to physically discipline a child?

The answers vary depending on who is asked,  Although “Prov 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”

Some believe “Taking privileges or punishment, but if a child is willfully disobedient, defiant or disrespectful, I still think corporal punishment is effective.” However that is where some experts and other faith leaders disagree.

“It is important, he said, to live by example, whether that be encouraging prayer or preventing violence — a lesson that can be drawn from Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

“What matters for us is asking, was Jesus the sort of person who would push or hit people to get his point across?” The truth is plain before our eyes. We know the difference between right and wrong.

 

When the book of Proverbs can be cited by both supporters and detractors of corporal punishment, it’s not surprising that right and wrong gets muddied.

Discipline is about building character and any action should be aimed in that direction. “When you violate a kid’s physical boundaries like that, you are setting them up to be pushed around as adults or to push others around. It is not the kind of character we want to build, however we discipline youth is a topic worthy of discussion, it is also one of the hardest to address because it touches so many sensitive areas including parenting style, religion and race.

“You can’t tell a parent they are right or wrong as to how they discipline their child,” often many parents become frustrated with their child’s disrespectful behavior. “We can give them tools and offer assistance to help them do things a little better,”

It is necessary to teach children that their actions have consequences, but to do so with respect. “We have to add respect to our relationships even if it is a younger child,”

“Parenting involves taking care of someone who may not understand that care. The parent is doing what they are doing out of love.”

 

Tips for disciplining children:

 

–Don’t punish. Reward.

–Don’t criticize. Praise.

–Put the relationship first. Being right is not what matters.

–Talk less. Listen more.

–Understand the world from their perspective.

 

Keba Richmond-Green, M.A., is an Author, Therapist, Accountability Coach, Advocate, Speaker & Mentor. For over 10 years she has been dedicated to the empowerment and education of youth through her no-nonsense approach by promoting accountability, responsibility, and integrity.

Keba’s motto “plant a seed and watch it grow” has allowed her to connect and influence many young people’s lives. Her vision, strategic execution, and analytic skills help her to work with youth to help them find their purpose and individuality. The only way to affect change is the willingness to change yourself. Learn more about Keba Richmond-Green by visiting her website here.

 

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