Do you know what your kid is posting on Facebook?

Recently a kid named Hannah blocked her parents from her facebook page and then proceeded to post a rant on her page about having to do chores around the house. Of course, her dad saw that rant and made a video response to his daughter.

There has been a huge response from parents everywhere and many of the Wired Moms sent messages to make sure I saw the video too.

There are a number of things going on here.

1. It’s important to have natural consequences for bad behavior – when a child brings home a bad grade the natural consequence would be to impose more study time at home not necessarily to take away their iPod. Removing an iPod does not help your kid get a better grade. This video seems to be a demonstration of natural consequences (even though it is a little extreme ).

2. Technology is a privilege not a right.

3. It is important for parents to be involved with their kids online life. If you have a child over the age of 13 (even though many kids under 13 also get pages) there is a very high likelihood that they have facebook page, a tumblr, a twitter and possibly other pages like MySpace. First of all talk with your kid but then also Google them.

Watch the video and then let us know what you think.

PS Many people have said that the Dad should have just sold the laptop to recoop his software expenses. But after watching the video with my kids they all agreed that this guy could still sell the laptop as is on Ebay and get way more for it than he spent on the software. This laptop is now Legendary.

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Filed under facebook, Internet Safety, wiredmoms

Miss New and Wired Safety Take on Bullying

— By Mary Heston

The Miss America pageant has a long rich history in my own family.  There were never actually any Miss America’s in my family (that I know of ) but we watched the show every year and had our own little talent shows in our living room.  My mom would even dress up as Miss Washington – but that’s another story.

So, you can only imagine how thrilled I was to hear that Miss New York, Kaitlin Monte, (not pictured above) was running this year on a Stop Cyberbullying platform.  It was even more exciting to hear that she had already teamed up with Wired Safety and Parry Aftab to get this message out.  Of course last Saturday we sat on the edge of our seats as final runners up were being called and she was still standing.  One by one they left the stage at the 2012 Miss America pageant until there were just 3 of them standing there.  Then they called her name.  2nd runner up.   She may not be Miss America this year but she dazzled me as I’m sure she dazzled so many other people with her very straightforward answer to what was invariably THE toughest question of the night during the interview segment of the competition.

Check out her personal website HERE.

Cyberbullying is something  that I thought might diminish as we all became more social network savvy and as more education on the topic became available through those same social networks and through our schools.  But the bullies persist and they take on new and more ingenious ways of tormenting their victims every day.

We all need to work together to help get the word out.  CLICK HERE to go to a Cyberbully Census survey.  If you know any students from 3rd to 12th grade please have them take this survey. You don’t need to be from NY to participate.

2012 has already started out with too many Cyberbullying related tragedies – it’s time to take a stand.

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Appy New Year

Yes! There’s an App for that!  This is a phrase we are becoming more familiar with.  My kids seem to know intuitively how to find all these great apps.  I am still relying on the kindness of my friends, associates, and strangers to help me find these spectacular apps.

Over the holidays I heard from a number of moms who had just discovered that the wonderful piece of technology they had just given to their child to listen to music or to read eBooks, also had the ability to surf the internet and download Apps! They didn’t really realize that the gift they had just given their child had so much more functionality than they had planned on.

We have to face it – Apps are part of our world now.

The good news is that we don’t have to figure this all out ourselves OR rely soley on our children as the source of information.  ( I am still reeling from the story I heard from one mom whose darling 9 year old daughter convinced her that it would be ok to go see Hangover II in the theater this last year – that girl has a job waiting for her in some sales department some day.)

As a Wired Mom the only thing to do is to recruit the help of other fabulous, concerned, and in-the-know, people to help us out.  So that is exactly what we’ve done!  This Thursday, January 19th, we will be celebrating the “Appy New Year” with our good friends from Famigo (@Famigo), Ruckus Media (@RuckusMedia), ZiggityZoom.com (@ziggityzoom), Carissa Rogers from GoodnCrazy.com (@CarissaRogers) and our very own @maryheston to talk all about apps. Join this amazing group on Twitter at 9pm EST and follow the hashtag #Appy2012.  Follow us @wiredmom along with the other panelists and join in the fun on Thursday.

Don’t be this guy!  If you have a kid of any age running around the house this is an important twitter party to join.  Bring your questions and suggestions as we spend an hour celebrating this Appy New Year.  Get up to speed on the world of Apps before your kids convince you that the Hangover II app* is family friendly.

You can also get the discussion started early at Wired Moms on Facebook

See you there!  ( IS there an App for that ? )

 

* There’s not really a HOII app that I know of – but we always have to watch out….

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Filed under Apps, Internet Safety, Twitter

What to do about texting and driving

The numbers are in and they aren’t good. People are still texting and driving. More men than women are texting according to a recent report but the overall number is still too high. In a split second tragedy can happen and it is just not worth it.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE

The important thing for us to remember is that our kids are watching us to set the example. Some studies show that kids’ driving records can be directly correlated with their parents driving records. This is really interesting because it definitely shows us that it doesn’t matter so much what we tell our kids as it does what we show them.

If you must talk on your phone while your driving – which is still not optimal either – use a handsfree device.

My favorite bluetooth of the year is by far the LG Tone Wireless Bluetooth

It is super easy to connect with your phone and even easier to use. The great thing is that it doesn’t sit in your ear but instead hangs around your neck like a wonderful fashion accessory. When your phone rings the device vibrates just a bit which is wonderful. The ear buds sit in either end of the device and you only put them in your ear when you are actually making a call. The comfort level on this is super high. The voice dial feature is very easy to use. I got one for my husband who had only briefly used a blue tooth once before and did not have a good impression of using a blue tooth device. He is loving the LG Tone.

This is possibly my favorite tech gadget of the year. It still doesn’t solve the problem of people texting and driving. We still have to work on that.

(The only thing is you still have to watch yourself when talking on your phone while using this bluetooth in a public place. People will think you are a crazy person talking to yourself. People are getting used to looking for a blue tooth gadget resting in a persons ear when they see someone talking to themselves in the store – but they are not used to seeing the bluetooth hang around your neck.)

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Join the discussion:  “Like” the Distracted Driving Safety Alliance on Facebook and let us know about your experiences with other people texting and driving. ( a Facebook Like button can be found on the right hand side of this page).

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Filed under Distracted Driving, Mobile, Texting, Travel, wiredmoms

Best Gift for the Holidays

This last year has been an amazing year for new techy gadgets. We tested out a new blue tooth for our smart phone that is amazing. The iPad, Kindle and Nook have all come out with new versions of themselves that are amazing. As an early adopter it is hard to put all these new tablets on my wishlist since I have the original versions and they are all working great. Netbooks have bigger screens, more power and weigh less than ever before. And of course, the smart phones are smarter than George Jetson and Cogsworth would have even imagined.

So, what do you get your socially networked, gadget happy friend for the holidays?

Reach out to someone and send them your love. It doesn’t even need fancy wrapping. In these busy times where we communicate with each other in 140 characters or less, this is a very powerful gift. It is amazing how a person can have over 500 friends and still at times feel alone. Letting someone know that an actual person out there cares is the best gift of all.

( WIRED MOMS pro tip: Don’t send your #love in a tweet or to a bcc mailing list – this should be a one on one thing with an actual message that shows the person you understand them and are there for them when they need you even if it is just virtually there. )

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Keep your laptops off your lap

By Mary Heston

Last week an article was published on Reuters titled, “Laptop Wi-Fi said to nuke sperm, but caveats abound”. The caveats in this article are provided by Dr. Oates, the president of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, who told Reuters Health he doesn’t believe laptops are a significant threat to male reproductive health. It is understandable that he doesn’t want parents to be concerned without real evidence and I can fully appreciate this.

At the same time they quoted him as saying that he was able to father two children even though he owns a laptop and an iPad. The point here is that laptops and iPads have not really become popular for in-home use until just recently. Parents today did not grow up having access to these tools until they were heading off to college.

The problem is not even so much the laptop, or the Wi-Fi, as much as it appears to be the heat that is given off by these devices. This heat, being directed right on our young boys mid section, may affect their sperm. The research is not fully conclusive yet and more research needs to be done. The research done in Argentina seems to be a good starting point.

We could, with some certainty, say that if our children would abstain from using laptops until they were in college, like most of us did, then there would probably be no concern about their reproductive abilities. But since our kids are using iPads and laptops as early as 3 years old now, there is reason enough to at least think about what that direct heat may be doing to our little boys.

If your little guy is going to use a laptop or iPad or other heat producing tech gadget it may be good to consider the following precautions:

1.      Get them in the habit of sitting at a desk when using a laptop (even though the name of the devise is laptop)

2.      Have them develop the habit of not placing these gadgets right on their laps

3.      Monitor their time spent on their laptop

4.      If they do want to sit with their laptop on their lap consider getting them a laptop chiller or some other device to keep the heat off of their body

5.      Ensure that they are eating a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables and getting in regular exercise every day

Eating a healthy diet is the one thing that we do know for sure will positively benefit both our sons and daughters. But until the evidence is clear, I will be making sure that my sons keep their laptops off their laps.

This article was also published on Lifetime Television’s The Balancing Act blog

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Watch out for those Crazy Drivers!

On the Information Super Highway you have to look out for the crazy drivers!
by Mary Heston

With four kids in the house who are all approaching or newly driving we have been focusing on teaching them how to be good drivers. And they are. They walk all the way around the car before getting in to make sure there is nothing behind the car before pulling out. They put on their seatbelts. They do not text and drive. They come to a complete stop at the stop sign (something I have to remind myself to do on occasion). Overall, they are excellent drivers.

The only thing is that they are not the only ones out there on the road. Pretty much every time we get in the car my husband drills it into their heads “Watch out for the crazy drivers”. You may be driving along following the rules of the road and minding your own business when some idiot ahead of you falls asleep behind the wheel or decides that it is ok to drive home after that holiday party even though they lost count of just exactly how many drinks they had.

This last weekend we had a little run in with a couple of Crazy Drivers on the Information Super Highway.

For the past 15 plus years our family has been growing up with the Internet along with Parry Aftab, the worlds leading Internet safety expert, at hand to help guide us through some of the interesting and unexpected challenges that have presented themselves along the way. The Internet really just became part of everyone’s world when my kids were very little. And so we basically learned how to drive this highway together.

This last week there were two different cases where my kids pointed out some “crazy drivers”.

VIDEO GAMES and Under age drivers

Tuesday November 8 was not only election day but it was also the midnight release party for Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3. This is an M rated game and it is pretty violent. It was designed by grown up gamers for a mature audience who like to play this kind of game. It is a game that can be played online with other players around the world. My 20 year old went to this midnight release ( which as we mentioned before was on a Tuesday which is a school night anyway ) and there were some very young kids waiting to buy the game. This was discouraging to my son whose first thought was for himself – the game is way more fun when you can play it as intended and you don’t have to worry about hurting some 11 year olds feelings who is playing the game but really shouldn’t be. And then he thought to himself ‘Wait a minute. It’s a school night and I would have never gotten away with this when I was 11’.

CELL PHONES and the new driver

Giving your teen a cell phone is a big point of discussion that goes on with Wired Moms all the time. It is a great tool but it is also really easy for even a good kid to run into trouble in a blink of an eye. A video can be recorded and uploaded to the Internet before anyone really even thinks about whether or not that was a good idea. Pictures can be forwarded and then get passed along like wild fire. One weak moment with a bad decision could result in months of agony.

This last weekend we encountered a person who is new to the cell phone texting world and sent way too many text messages to one of our family member’s phones. We didn’t think too much of this because we figured we could just block that incoming number. But apparently, that is now a premium service with our phone company which they will gladly provide for an additional charge. In my next post you will get to read the back story and hopefully the resolution to this one.

Technology is changing. Parenting is not. We still have to watch out for our kids and keep an eye out for all those crazy drivers.

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Filed under Internet Safety, wiredmoms

Daylight savings: Time to review your Family Terms of Service

Today is daylight savings time and many people take this opportunity to also check the batteries in their smoke detectors or change the air filter in their furnaces.  It might also be a good time to review your Family Terms of Service with your kids.  Each year kids grow and these terms should be updated too.  With the holidays coming up it is a great time to talk about some of these things before kids gleefully unwrap the latest and greatest gadget of the season.

This last week we received a letter from a parent who was preparing to give their 13 year old a new iPod iTouch but they wanted to know about keeping their kids safe.  Having a conversation about your Family Terms of Service now will prevent several confrontations in the future.  It’s a much easier conversation to have than you might imagine.  It is not 100% and doesn’t always work but if you have these terms laid out for your teen before they even turn on a gadget then it will be so much easier to impose the natural consequences if needed than if you never had this conversation at all.

Here is the letter we received:

Hi Mary – I’m getting my 13 year old an ipod touch, but am concerned about internet access. We use NetNanny on his desktop computer, and I see that there is an internet filtered app for the ipod that might do the same thing. What is your Wired Mom take on how to protect our kids here?

Sincerely, Concerned Parent

Hi Concerned Parent,

Thanks for asking! There are two very important things that we recommend here especially with a new teen. This is a pretty big deal getting an iPod Touch (my 15 year old has one and it has been a lifesaver for us on many occassions so I am actually all for the device).

1. The main thing here is to start out with a Family Terms of Service (TOS).

Facebook has a terms of service and most other social networking websites have a TOS. What you do is sit down with your teen and in advance of even turning the machine on decide what your Family Terms of Service are going to be and what the consequences are going to be if those terms are broken.

Some things people include in their TOS are:

  • school work vs. iPod Touch/gadget use. If grades begin to slip are you going to ground your kid from using the iTouch/gadget or not.
  • Using the iTouch when Granny is visiting – human interaction is a requirement for being able to use this gadget.
  • Chores – are they getting their chores done?
  • What sites are ok for them to visit and which ones are not.
  • Include in the family TOS that parents have access to the teen’s passwords for all of their social sites and their iTouch
  • What other activities are important to your family?

This might sound like a lot and big conversation but it is really made much more productive if you get your teenager to talk about the rules and the consequences for breaking the rules. If the teen is included in this conversation 3 things are likely to happen

  • Consequences are much easier to impose.
  • Kids are more likely to take their responsibility more serious.
  • The consequences the kids come up with are often more harsh than the ones the parents might suggest

OK Now there is a second recommendation that is pretty much non-negotiable around here and that is

2. No sleeping with their iTouch

We have a docking station in the living room where everyone can charge their phones and gadgets and they get plugged in at night.

There is no reason for a kid to take the Internet to bed with them. Studies have shown that kids do much better in school when they have a full nights sleep.

So – Short answer is

1. Family TOS
2. No sleeping with the Internet

The main thing is to talk with your kiddo – let them know there was no such thing as the Internet when we were growing up and that social media is really less than 10 years old. So, it’s all new. Everything that happens online happens really quickly and when things get posted they are public and permanent. You are on their side and will Fiercely watch out for them and do everything you can to protect them from getting into something they are not ready for – or something that none of us have even anticipated yet. We are all learning these new rules together. Also, that as your teen grows up and demonstrates more responsibility then the Family Terms of Service will be modified to reflect that.

Good kids can get in big trouble really quickly with this new technology. My son – who is now 20 – has a friend who is one of the goofiest kids you will ever meet. He got a cell phone when he was 14 and girls from another state started sending him topless photos of themselves. I know this because I knew all my sons parents and they knew I check cell phones and so on occassion I would ask the boys what they had on their cell phone photo file and in their text message history. With my kids, the rule has always been that as long as I am paying for the cell phone I have full access to look at anything at any time. Once my boys reached 18 I told them that they could start paying for their own phones and I wouldn’t check them anymore – they both told me that it was ok – I could keep checking.

If your teen gets something sent to them that makes them uncomfortable they should know that they can come to you and talk to you about it and there is not going to be any repercussions – the best thing to do is delete it as quickly as possible and block whoever is sending that inappropriate material.

The big thing for you is to remember to NEVER freak out when your kid does come to you. If you freak out they will not come to you again. Do your very very best to just listen and if you don’t know what to do then take a few minutes – tell him you have to go to the bathroom and will be right back – then go into the bathroom and do a silent scream and come back when you can be cool again.

Another thing we did when our teens started getting handheld gadgets with Internet connection was to start a family tradition of Friday night family movie night and we started having YouTube nights – instead of renting a movie we would have everyone in the family show each other their favorite YouTube video for that week. This can be very enlightening and give you great insight into what your kid is searching up on YouTube but then you also get a chance to show them your favorites.  It is a great non threatening way to check up on their Internet habits while building trust and get into great conversations at the same time – its win win win all the way around.

Good Luck and Happy Parenting!

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Filed under Apps, Internet Safety, Texting, TV, Video Games

Cell Phones, Radio Waves, and our Children’s Brains

Kids today seem to be born with an innate sense of how to use a smart phone and text. You have seen a very small child holding their moms cell phone and playing some game while Mom sits there and has coffee with a friend. Lately, there have been more discussions about whether or not cell phones are safe for our children to use primarily because we don’t know what the waves that connect our cell phones to each other are doing to our children’s developing brains.

My four children all have cell phones. But as I was telling another mom who was concerned about her teenager using a cell phone, I’m not entirely convinced my kids know there is a phone on their cell phone. They use these devices to text, play video games, record video and upload it to the internet, take still pictures and tune their guitar (yes there’s an app for that).

Kids don’t spend as much time with their cell phones held up to their ear. Even still there are things we can do to ensure their cell phone use is as safe as possible.

Recommendations

1)Do not give them a smart phone under the age of 13.

Know your own kid – some kids are ready for the responsibility of a phone earlier than other kids. One gauge our family used was the way they were able to take care of their own bedroom. When they could keep their own room clean then we knew they were ready to take on more responsibility.

If you really want to give your younger kid a phone consider one with limited functions. Look for a phone that only calls Mom, Dad, and an emergency number. The point is that you want to be able to get ahold of them and you want them to be able to call you. That is all that is needed.

2)Encourage Texting

3)Use a headset

4)Set up a docking station in a central room of your house where everyone always charges their cell phones and have your child / teen plug their phone in at night.

Do not let them sleep with their phone.

Do not let them use the “my battery died” excuse for not calling home when they are going to be late.

5)Set limits. Have your kids involved in this conversation and let them know what your concerns might be. Revisit these limits yearly – as your children grow and mature their phone privileges should too.

6)Be a good role model for your kids.

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Filed under Apps, Mobile, Texting

You can change the world for another Mom with just the click of a mouse

If you could change the world with a couple of clicks of your mouse would you? A typical week at Wired Moms is filled with discussions of video games, social networking, gadgets and other technologies that can bring the family closer together. For some reason this week was all about reaching out and helping women around the world. And thanks to technology it can be so easy.

THE RIGHT TO DRIVE

In Saudi Arabia a woman was charged with Driving and sentenced to 10 lashes for this offense. Driving. I cannot even imagine a life without my driver’s license. Women in Saudi Arabia recently won the right to vote but they still cannot drive. The twitter hashtag #women2drive was lit up this week following this story. Finally, the tweet on Wednesday that we had all hoped for started circulating RT @AmeerahAltaweel: #women2drive Thank God, the lashing of Shaima is cancelled. Thanks to our beloved King. I’m … Next time you get the urge to text and drive put your cell phone down and think about these women in Saudi who would love to just have the right to drive their car without fear of being lashed.

WOMEN SUFFER THE MOST FROM THE WORLD WATER CRISIS

Our friends at the Balancing Act on Lifetime Television sent us information on the cause “A Spring for Hope”. A Spring of Hope is a non-profit foundation that builds water wells in rural African schools to improve community health conditions and to promote education at a grassroots level. You can support this cause with just two little clicks.

Chase American Giving Awards is donating money to the cause with the most votes. Voting is now open – CLICK HERE TO VOTE. For more information on this project visit their Facebook page

WORLD PEACE ONE MICRO LOAN AT A TIME

One way we can empower women around the world is by helping them start and run their own business. In many parts of the world this might be a small matter of $200 for fabric to start or expand their own business. Kiva is a company that helps match a lender with a micro loan project around the world. Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.

Hillary Clinton has been a long time supporter of the micro loan. “For many years, I have believed in the power of these small loans,” Clinton said, standing in a modest village temple as turquoise ceiling fans whirred over her head. “You are really making a better future for yourselves, your families, your villages and your country.”

Find out more about this program here

AT THE END OF THE DAY

So at the end of a really hectic day, when you feel like you may not have made any progress and your kids are complaining about what you have planned for dinner, pour yourself a tall glass of cool water instead of that glass of wine. Take a look at that glass of water and realize how lucky we are that we have fresh water at our fingertips, food for our kids to complain about and a driver’s license in our wallet and pick up your mouse and start clicking.

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