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!

Scary Santa (or Being Jewish on Christmas)

There are many aspects of Christmas that I envy as a Jewish girl.  Tree trimming,(and the fabulous ornament shopping and collecting), baking, decorating, just one morning of gifts instead of eight nights of pressure, and the amazing holiday songs (the best of which were written by Jews)

But Santa was never a source of envy for me.

A strange man manages to break into your home, even though your parents have assured you that could never happen. He eats your cookies and tries to win your favor by leaving toys.  (Don’t take toys from strangers, right?)

But weirdest of all is that your mom will stick you on the strange man’s lap and expect you to be happy about it.  If you’re Jewish it is especially strange to partake in this tradition.  Or, as you can see from this photo of me, and my screaming sister, terrifying.

scary santa

And don’t get me started on the Easter Bunny.

The New Drug Talk You Need to Have With Your Child

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Disclosure:  I received compensation for my participation in the Stop Medicine Abuse awareness month program.  However, the opinions in this post are my own, as always!

We all know that we’re supposed to talk to our kids about sex, about drugs, and about personal safety (and tech, of course.)  One thing I’ve realized about these “talks” is that they are rarely a sit-down-in-a-quiet-room-and-discuss-things kind of situation .  Questions come up all time.  While one broad discussion might be a good way to lay a foundation, you really have to be on your game and ready to answer more complex questions or confront more complicated situations as they come up.

And, you can’t have “the talk” just once.  The relevance and depth of these issues change as your kid get older.  The first sex talk is more about the birds and bees, and your body being your own, as they get older it becomes about about boundaries, safe sex, emotional and physical realities, and even internet porn.

The same is true for a talk about drugs.

When I think about drugs I think about pot and alcohol.  I know those are the two substances my kids are most likely to encounter.  Ecstasy, probably.   Cocaine, maybe.  Heroin, I doubt, but it’s possible. So, I would cover those bases, and try to be honest with my kids about my own experiences, within reason.

But what I never really thought about was abuse of over the counter medication, other than my kids accidentally getting into them when they were little.  But it turns out that OTC cough syrup is a major source of drug abuse because it contains Dextromethorphan (DXM), which basically makes you high in high enough dosages.  It’s relatively cheap, it’s legal and it’s easy to obtain – 3 things that make it an easy target for abuse.  And, teens take up to TWENTY-FIVE times the recommended dose to get high.

Stop Medicine Abuse Infographic

Since October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association has launched the Stop Medicine Abuse campaign to alert parents and community members of the dangers of teens abusing OTC cough medicines.

But, as a parent you can be proactive!  Studies show that what parents say does matter. In fact, teens who learn about the risk of drugs from their parents are 50% less likely to use drugs. 

So have that talk!  Have many talks!

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Talk with your teen about the dangers of OTC cough medicine abuse and monitor your medicine cabinets.
  • Listen to the language your kids use. DXM is often referred to as skittling, tussin, robo-tripping, CCC, triple Cs, and dexing. Check out the Stop Med Abuse site for a list of slang terms and conversation starters for parents.

Look out for these warning signs identified by Stop Medicine Abuse:

  • Empty cough medicine bottles/boxes in the trash of your child’s room, backpack, or school locker
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or favorite activities
  • Changes in friends, physical appearance, sleeping, or eating patterns
  • Declining grades
  • The first step in preventing this abuse is to EDUCATE yourself and your family. For more information and useful resources for parents, log onto www.stopmedicineabuse.org

And you can follow @StopMedAbuse on Twitter and use #NotMyTeen for tips and advice on how to empower yourself and your teen.

 

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:

Don’t Blame the (KiK) Messenger – What the REAL conversation needs to be about Cyber Bullying

There was an extremely sad story in the New York Times about a 12 year-old girl in Florida who committed suicide after being relentlessly bullied both on and off-line.  It’s unfortunately an all too familiar heartbreaking story involving mean girls, cyberbullying, school officials who didn’t really know how to intervene, and a parent who did every thing she could to prevent this from happening.  And unfortunately the reporter took an equally well-tread path in blaming the use of apps as a catalyst for the suicide.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think social media and mobile tech can amplify the effects of cyberbullying, and make it harder and harder for kids to escape bullying.  Whereas kids used to be able to come home, or go to an after school activity, and leave the school bullies behind, social media photos and texts follow a kid from place to place.  Even changing schools has less positive impact since so much bullying can live right in the palm of a kid’s hand via their smart phone or iPod Touch.   BUT there are key points missing from the reporting of this story, and in my opinion blaming the apps, specifically KiK Messenger and ask.fm, and the technology is diverting us from the real issues.

First of all, there was no mention in this article that at 12 years-old it was not legal for this girl to have a KiK messenger and ask.fm account.  That is because of COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) which prohibits companies from collecting personal information about kids under 13 without express verifiable parental consent.  Most companies don’t want to deal with that legal headache – and they want to collect as much info as possible about their users – so they are NOT COPPA-compliant.  But of course kids know how to easily lie to get on these social media apps.  All you have to do is scroll down and select the right birth year.  Most parents don’t even know that Instagram and these other social media apps aren’t allowed for kids under 13.  They’ve been so focused on Facebook as some boogeyman of the web that they haven’t noticed that kids are on apps – and Facebook is just not one of them. Though this young girl also had a Facebook page that was shut down.  So she was very immersed in social media – and that is very common.

Parents who think that shutting down a Facebook page is going to be enough, or commenters who said that kids just shouldn’t have smart phones and that would solve the problem,  are massively missing the point.  THIS is our kids’ world.  They are online.  They might not have a smart phone, but they may have an iPod Touch or a tablet.  Being connected is not just about a phone.  And in the end what we are left with is a generation that needs to have the tools to manage social media responsibly and safely.

And that takes me to the next big omission – where are the parents of the girls using these apps and social media as weapons?

At the core of this issue is the freedom that kids (and adults) feel to be outrageously cruel online because hiding behind the screen has a way of emboldening people to bring out their worst.  And tweens and teens who are already in a narcissistic haze of hormones and myopia are particularly susceptible to pushing these boundaries via social media (and in real life too.)  That doesn’t mean we should ban social media, it means there has to be real discussion about how to use it. There needs to be consequences for the bad behavior online – and not arrests after something horrible happens – but parents who are monitoring their children’s online behavior not just for being bullied but for being the bully too.

I’ve written extensively about how parents can and should monitor their kids’ online and social media use, and as the co-founder of KidzVuz – a site made expressly for kids under 13 – I see every day the kind of behavior that kids try to get away with and the information they try to put out there.  They desperately want to connect and share.  We give them a safe space to do that, but the truth is they see the huge popularity of Instagram and YouTube and it’s beyond exciting to them.  They don’t get that those sites aren’t going to moderate for inappropriate content or bullying, they are on their own.

There are so many emotional and maturity level reasons they shouldn’t be on these apps and sites in the first place, but they are – and at 13 they are allowed to be legally.  A 13 year-old isn’t exactly the epitome of a careful, thoughtful person.  So even if you are shutting your kids out of social media until they are “legally” allowed to be there, they will have NO idea of what to do or what the ramifications of their behavior will be when they turn 13, unless you teach them.

The most important take-away parents must learn is not to just monitor but to participate.  Have the same social media apps as your kid, connect your iTunes account, friend them on everything, and most of all if your kid is the bully shut THEIR account down.  Take away THEIR phone!  Most of all, don’t be afraid to parent.  You would never say you don’t want to know the friends your child hangs out with everyday or going to parties with, but parents turn a blind eye to the “friends” online all the time.  There is no distinction between the online and offline world for kids – and parents need to respect and understand that in order to parent Generation Z.

If You Give a Monkey a Passport….

niagara falls

This little monkey named Marlin has been with my daughter since she was born – 11 years.

He’s traveled on road trips up New England and through the Midwest, to Mexico, Puerto Rico, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, overnight camp, France, Italy, Disneyland (where he actually rode on rides tucked safely in my daughter’s jacket), and Disney World, and a few weeks ago to Canada where he enjoyed Niagara Falls.

It’s strange how a little stuffed animal can become a member of the family.  But, there he is, stuffing sagging, a bit deflated, his fur matted down and his sewn-on mouth long gone.  And yet no family journey would be complete without him.

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!