Talking Social Media Do’s and Don’ts on PIX11 NYC

Talking Social Media Do’s and Don’ts on PIX11 NYC

Last week I talked to Kori Chambers, anchor for the PIX11 morning team about social media do’s and don’ts for parents. Covering apps that keep your family pictures private, social media shaming and creating a digital footprint for your kid before they can even walk – the segment covered a lot of advice for parents online!

Watch the segment and let me know if you have other online and social media parenting topics you’d like to see covered!

Inside the KidzVuz Holiday House Party (Video)

photo credit: Josh Strauss Studios

photo credit: Josh Strauss Studios

100 mom and dad bloggers from all over the Northeast  – and their awesome kids, about 140 of them! – came ready to party with KidzVuz in NYC on November 24th, 2013.  We had amazing large sponsors like Homewood Suites by Hilton, Dermalogica, Samsung, Nintendo, Hasbro, Spinmaster and Audible.com along with smaller NY based brands we love like Downtown Bookworks, IScream NY,  Battery Pop, Green Mustache, Fairway Market and Chloe’s Soft Fruit.  Plus incredible non-profits like The Broadway League, ESRB and The Lamp NYC.

With hands-on activities throughout the room, and video stations where kids could talk about the fantastic products and sponsors that they really loved, the KidzVuz Holiday House Party kicked off the holiday season with joy, fun and plenty of candy to go around!

Watch the video and you’ll instantly see why KidzVuz is the only company that truly brings kids, families and awesome brands and experiences together in a really engaging and unique way!

VIDEO: What Do Kids Think About Violent Video Games?

There has been a renewed discussion about violent video games and the correlation with real life violence.  This discussion crops up after every tragic mass shooting since the gunman more likely than not also played a lot of games like Grand Theft Auto or other violent games.

I’m not going to wade into this debate right now, (though I find this conclusion from Adam Thierer incredibly interesting) but at KidzVuz we thought it would be worth asking kids what they thought.

After all, this is the digital generation and it’s worth listening to them about the media, and world, they are growing up with.

Here’s the VIDEO:

Using Virtual Piggy to Raise Money Smart Kids

virtual piggy logo

My girls are now officially tweens.  Along with the usual angst about middle school and friends there seems to be a new obsession – fashion.  One of my girls has morphed into a walking fashion encyclopedia over the last year, pouring over Lucky, Elle, Vogue and any other fashion mags she can get.

And then she goes online.

My daughter can build a Back to School wardrobe wish list that would shame the editors of Teen Vogue in about 10 minutes.  But, just because she can build it doesn’t mean the money to buy will follow.  And that’s where teaching her about value and need vs. want come in.  My daughters have generous grandparents and they have built up a nice little piggy bank of cash, but online shopping is something else.  It doesn’t have that sting of handing over carefully saved paper bills, and it requires mom and dad’s credit cards.  And I’m not alone – almost all parents surveyed have made an online purchase for their child, and over 70% of 6-15 year olds have asked their parents to make an online purchase for them, according to a PlayScience Survey.  Not exactly the best scenario for teaching the value of money.  That’s where Virtual Piggy comes in.

Last month KidzVuz co-hosted a brunch to introduce a group of select bloggers to Virtual Piggy, a site dedicated to teaching kids how to be financially literate – and give their parents the tools to help them achieve that goal. (Full Disclosure: we were compensated for co-hosting the brunch) I first met the Virtual Piggy team at the Digital Kids Summit last spring and was really intrigued with the idea that parents could have a site that would allow their kids to save, plan and purchase online, while learning about what it really means to be an active consumer.  I have found that teaching my own daughters the value of money when it’s just a simple click of a button is harder than ever.  So, I was genuinely interested in seeing how Virtual Piggy could make the now ethereal reality of online money seems real to kids.

This video explains Virtual Piggy and how it works:

And here’s the quick run down:

  1. Set up a Virtual Piggy account, with a payment source and mailing address.
  2. Add a profile for each child, setting a monthly allowance and spending controls.
  3. Your child can now checkout with Virtual Piggy at approved stores, using only their username and password.
  4. You get final approval on purchases, and can monitor their spending, requests and wish list.

So, for my daughters Claire’s is a HUGELY popular store.  And for my fashionista daughter accessories have become a go-to option to change-up outfits instead of purchasing more clothes.  I am constantly channeling Tim Gunn in the morning and telling her to “Make it Work!” instead of giving in to her request for another shirt or skirt or pair of shoes that would make her life complete.  Claire’s is one of the approved vendors for Virtual Piggy.  YAY!

CLAIRES

So, after setting up my daughter’s Virtual Piggy account – having her hand over her cold hard cash to me in return for my funding her VP account on my credit card – she can then shop at Claire’s within the limit we’ve agreed on.  She has freedom to shop and feel grown-up and responsible for her spending, and I don’t get nagged.  Even more importantly, now that it’s her own money she’s spending online she is MUCH more discriminating about what she buys.  Suddenly all of the things that she needed are mere wants after all.  And we’ve had many conversations about if something is worth it, if she should wait for a sale, or if maybe she and her sister will go in together and share items to make their money go farther.  There’s a sense of empowerment there that Virtual Piggy has given them and that’s been very freeing for me.

Having the money talk for many parents can be hard.  But, it’s better to have the talk in conjunction with tangible financial accounting and practice than to keep having it in the context of “no, you can’t have that” without explanation.  Virtual Piggy has some great tools to talk to your kids about money, and for kids to explore on their own.  I especially love the money quizzes for kids:  Money Tips.

Check out Virtual Piggy and let me know what you think!   And if you have any parenting money dilemmas or tips for raising money smart kids I’d love to hear them!

Easy Tips for Parents to Keep Kids Safe Online

On July 1st the new regulations for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) went into effect.  But, COPPA really only concerns the collection of information from a child under 13.  It does not care about content, about moderation, about bullying, about many of things that actually concern parents when they think about their kids online.

Last week I was on the CBS show The Couch talking about what parents can look for to keep their kids safe online:

We were very ready for these changes at KidzVuz.com.  In fact, we’ve always required parental consent for kids to make videos on KidzVuz.  Now we have taken that a step further and implemented new methods of verifiable parental consent, starting with an easy to fill out form for parents, and some of which will be rolled out later this month.

On KidzVuz we watch and moderate every video and comment before it goes up – not just for lewd content, but for a kid wearing the name of their school on their shirt, saying their address or cell phone number, giving out their location, and more.  However, that’s not true of many sites – and certainly not true of YouTube and Instagram, two of the most popular places for kids to virtually hang out.  And, trust me, we see kids trying to give out this information all the time.

It’s important that kids under 13 do NOT lie about their age and open accounts on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Vine.  It’s illegal, and it’s also dangerous because they are naive and earnest enough to really, really want to connect and get feedback from strangers.  From anyone.

Here are the Online Safety Tips for parents and kids we recommend from KidzVuz.com

Don’t Share Personal Information 
That means making sure your kids know what personal information is. Tell your kids never to share their phone number, email, full name, address or school name (even if it’s just a logo on the shirt they’re wearing in a picture) on any site, text, or app — even if they think the site is “safe” or “private.”

Treat your kid’s smart phone like the computer it is
Smart phones are basically powerful computers in the palm of your hand. So whatever safety precautions you take on your child’s computer should apply to his or her phone. (And don’t forget about geo-location – turn it off on your kids’ phone.

Have a Game Plan 
Your kids can’t protect themselves from what they don’t know: talk to your kids about what they might see on the internet — and what to do when and if they do see something they shouldn’t., or if someone contacts them in a way that makes them uncomfortable. Having a game plan will make your kids more likely to respond in a healthy way to unsafe situation.

Keep up on the latest apps and sites
You can’t protect your kids from what you don’t know. Your kids should know that you’re aware of the newest sites and apps they’re on, and ready to intervene should something go wrong.

Repeat yourself 
Parents need to have the Digital Safety talk with their kids early and often. Tell your kids about what they might see. Remind them about passwords and privacy. Let them know you mean it!

Read the Fine Print!
Read the Terms of Service and Privacy Policies of the sites your child is joining (and your own!). It isn’t fun, we know. But at least the new law has made it mandatory that sites make all that legal mumbo-jumbo easier to understand.

Opt Out
Many sites offer “opt out” provisions for being tracked on the web. Sometimes you have to dig tor them, but if you care about behavioral tracking this is key for you and your kids.

Set a Google Alert for your kids’ names
It’s an easy way to keep track of new content being posted or created by or about your child.

and finally -

JOIN!

It’s not cool to be a Luddite when you’re a parent.  Get in there.  If your kids are on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube 0r even Club Penguin or Moshi Monsters you should be too.  You don’t have to live there – but you need to know the rules and your kid needs to know you care enough to want to know ALL their friends, virtual or real.

 

Brave’s Merida – Redefining the Word Princess

There was a lot of uproar about Disney “sexing” up Merida in their lead up to her official induction into the Disney Princess Pantheon.  But, at the Disney coronation ceremony last week, which I attended as part of the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, she was exactly as you would imagine – wild haired, bold, in her everyday velvet dress and riding a horse.

photo courtesy of Disney

photo courtesy of Disney

My daughters never went through a princess phase, but Merida they relate to.  Archery is one of their favorite sports – and my daughter could easily give Merida a run for her money in the biggest, curly hair category.

archerygirls

The word princess is weighed down with years and years of anti-feminist meaning – damsel in distress, pampered and spoiled, helpless and silly.  And if you’re also Jewish – well that just adds a whole other level of stereotype.   Thanks, Bravo.

But, I will be the first to admit I was all in for Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty when I was growing up.  Just like a was all in for Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman and Princess Leia – not to mention Sandy in Grease.   The “princesses,” didn’t differ in my mind from any other title and lead female character – they were all important enough to have the story revolve around them, or be key characters that drove the story.  And in the end, that is the most empowering message – you drive the story of your life.

So, I love this new I am a Princess Campaign from Disney.  I’ve written before about the power of owning a word that was used to put you down.  Girls defining what it means to be a princess now, to them, for them – that has the potential to be truly powerful.  Watch the video and tell me what you think.

 

My Daughters are Film Makers – Take Two Film Academy and What Makes a Great After School Class

As New York City 10 year-olds my girls have taken a huge range of after school classes.  From sports to cooking, arts to performing, we’ve covered pretty much every venue on the Upper West Side.  I’ve found that some classes are harder to do well than others, cooking for example is often nothing more than baking, often involving Pillsbury Crescent Rolls or assembling of ingredients rather than real cooking.  And I won’t even discuss the disastrous swim class we took where they put kids back in the pool after another kid had thrown up in it. So, I was definitely skeptical of Take Two Film Academy, kid focused film program, since most of our experience has been a “film” class that consists of a non-film teacher making videos on iMovie and the kids merely actors in the teacher’s script or ideas.  But, Take Two Academy seemed a lot more professional and worth a shot.

The first thing that impressed me about Take Two and their fabulous teachers was that they use real professional equipment. The cameras, boom mikes, and Final Cut Pro editing software challenged the students to make higher quality and richer movies.  But what I really loved was how they focused on the process and on collaboration – two things that are essential to good filmmaking.  The kids range in age from 8-15, not an easy group to get to work together, but they did.  They broke down into smaller groups, but each took bigger or smaller roles within each group – from writing, to acting, from directing to editing.  In just 5 days they produced 3 short films – each of them unique, interesting, and completely from their own voices.  And, they were all really proud of each other, the teachers took a total backseat to the students at the final viewing.

Here’s what one of their students (and star KidzVuz Reviewer) has to say about Take Two Film Academy:

And here is sample of one of the films my girls made:

It’s not cheap – but classes of this quality rarely are in Manhattan. I highly recommend checking it out for your budding film maker, actor, writer or performer.

Disclosure: I received a discount on the one-week film class in exchange for a review.  All opinions (and those of the kids) are unbiased and our own!

Braces, Brushing and Other Tween Tooth Issues (plus a Listerine Challenge)

listerine challengeMy daughters wear glasses. They’ve worn them since they were 5.  So when they heard they were going to get braces this year it didn’t go over so well.  Glasses AND braces – a tween nightmare.  But, luckily for us we found a fabulous Orthodontist, Dr. Jennifer Stachel – whose purple painted office, incredible patience, tween-erific assortment of cool rubber band colors, and all around great demeanor made the process not quite as traumatic.

girls and braces

She sent the girls home with a whole little kit of toothbrushes, bracket brushes, floss, wax, dental mirrors – you name it.  Because here’s the one thing that is overwhelmingly true once your kid gets braces – they have to super clean their teeth and gums, at least twice a day, or they risk serious tooth decay, staining and worse over the next 2 years.  Also, all that trapped food makes for horrendous tween breath.

Things went very well the first week.  The braces were new and exciting.  Teeth brushing with all the new little gizmos and doodads was kind of fun.  Then that wore off.  And we still had at least 104 weeks to go.  Not good.  So, we had to find some new incentives and new products in the arsenal.  Now we’re taking the Listerine Oral Care Challenge to amp up everyone’s oral health.

First, I scared my daughters with some facts like these:

  • There are more germs in your mouth than there are people on earth! 
  • Oral disease is now the most chronic childhood illness in the U.S.
  • Millions of children are suffering and experiencing pain so severe, it affects their ability to eat, sleep and learn.
  • As many as 130 million Americans lack dental insurance, including more than 15.4 million children.
  • More than 51 million school hours and 164 million work hours are lost each year due to dental disease, leading to increased educational disparities and decreased productivity. 

So, after freaking them out, I also incentivized them with doing good.

For every person who signs up for the challenge, the LISTERINE ® Brand will make a contribution to help Oral
Health America’s Smiles Across America® program toward their goal of connecting 210,000 children with
needed oral health services in 2013.

I love the idea of kids doing good for other kids.  And this is a really easy way for them to develop better habits for themselves and give back to other kids who don’t have the same access to great dentists and Orthodontists like they do.

It’s still a battle to get my girls to carefully and completely clean their teeth and braces twice a day (I had to give up on the after lunch brushing at school.)  But, I’m hoping with the whole family taking this 21 day Listerine Ultraclean Challenge they will see that we are all dedicated to good oral health.  And by swishing and rinsing twice a day with Listerine, I’m hoping their Orthodontist will notice a difference too.  (I’ll let you know after their check up in a few weeks…)

You can sign up for the Listerine 21 Day Challenge on their facebook page to get tips, and an app to help you improve your oral care, and help connect kids with dental providers across the country.

I received products from Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Products Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc. and The Motherhood as part of my participation in the LISTERINE® 21 Day Challenge. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Turn Your Kid into a Citizen Reporter and Reviewer With the New KidzVuz App!

appshot

I am super excited to announce the launch of the first and only video creation and sharing app for kids!  After months of hard work with a team of fabulous developers, our KidzVuz app has hit the iTunes App Store!

What can kids do on the KidzVuz app?

First of all it’s awesome for travel.  No more eye-rolling or saying, “I’m bored.”  Now kids can create travel videos instantaneously, engaging and empowering them to be a part of the trip – and share their tips with other kids.

Got a budding foodie?  Instead of zoning out at the table with a game, let them make food reviews from the restaurant – who doesn’t want to know what’s beyond the kids’ menu?

And of course it’s great for movie, theater, sports, toy, tech, book and fashion reviews too.  (not to mention showing off music, dance and athletic skills)

Anywhere your kids goes they now have the ability to have their say on the go!

Plus, they can check out what other kids have to say BEFORE they buy something.  And so can their parents.

It’s totally monitored and moderated just like our main KidzVuz.com site and it’s FREE!

So, what are you waiting for?  It’s made for iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad.  Download the app right now and please rate and review it in the iTunes store!  Have fun and have your say!