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.


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.


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.


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


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


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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Filed under Social Networking, wiredmoms

What to do about Violent Video Games?

Today marks the release of the 3rd game in the Gears of War series. Even though it has only been out one day it is alreay #1 on the best sellers list. Do you have a gamer under the age of 17? If you are concerned about violence in video games check out what our own Mary Heston has to say about this recent release. READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

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Filed under Video Games

The Etiquette and Policy of Photo Tagging in our Public Schools

Just before Labor Day our neighborhood held the annual picnic. My neighbors saw me walking toward the little park, where the event was being held, camera in hand. They all know that besides living down the street from them I also live online.  One neighbor said “Oh my goodness, I suppose this whole event is going to end up on Facebook”.  They all started to laugh a little but it was an interesting point because even though I know most of my neighbors by name I do not know if they want their pictures posted online or not.  I assured them that their faces would not be gracing the pages of my Facebook page unless I had talked with them in advance.  And if there was ever a picture of the neighborhood online that they objected to I would be happy to take it down (although we know you really can never fully remove an image from the Internet once it is out there).

This week many of us sent our kids back to school and we were most likely handed a Media Release to sign by our school district.  More and more schools are having to face a very similar situation.  The dilemma is what to do if they want to post a picture on their school website, or promote an event in the local newspaper (which inevitably will end up on the online version of that newspaper) or just take pictures of the their student body for some use they had not even thought of yet.

This is a huge challenge for public school districts, teachers, and coaches everywhere.  This was highlited in two different news articles this last week.

READ PARRY AFTAB’S response in the article: Internet Photos of Athletes Present New Challenges to Ads

In this article this discussion is presented from the perspective of the Athletic Director who is facing a challenge of bystanders taking pictures of his students without permission and posting them on various sites.

READ TEXAS SCHOOL is faced with unscheduled interview: Al Jazeera reporter not welcomed at Booker football game

At first glance, this article looks like a small town, ignorant, school administrator banning the news agency Al Jazeera from conducting interviews at his school. But you have to read through the entire article to get to the crux of the matter which really just boils down to advance notice by the media outlet and media releases on the part of the school.

As parents we can help support our schools in their attempts to keep our kids and their images and online reputations safe online and in the media. When your school hands you that media release to sign let them know you appreciate what they are doing and will do your part in supporting good online “photo tagging” etiquette.

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Filed under Internet Safety

Real People – August in Review

– by Mary Heston

August was an amazing month. What should have been a quiet month when families are spending more time offline actually ended up being a super busy month at Wired Moms.

Programming NOTE: Tune in to MTV August 30 at 8pm EST for Seventeen magazines big reveal in its Pretty Amazing cover contest. Our friend, and very Real, Pretty AND Amazing friend Nina Montgomery is one of the top 5 finalists in this contest. Meet Nina:  View NINA’s slideshow HERE Check out Seventeen Magazine’s Pretty Amazing Contest


One of the big conversations on Twitter this month was about teachers and facebook. With schools reopening their doors and getting ready for a new batch of students schools and communities are still struggling with what to do about social networking. Some school districts have fantastic, transparent policies in place that protect their students and establish clear guidelines for their teachers. But other communities missed the mark this summer.

READ PARRY AFTAB’s response to Missouri’s attempt to legislate Facebook use by teachers to the extreme.

Teachers are just real people trying to do their best. They need our support in helping our schools develop reasonable social networking policies that make sense for our children and our families.

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Filed under Distracted Driving, Internet Safety, Mobile, Texting, Twitter, wiredmoms

August Part II

(cont.) – by Mary Heston

August was also the month that I got to interview two very Real People – Rosalind Wiseman and Jane Lynch.

Rosalind Wiseman, a long time friend of Wired Safety and Wired Moms, is the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes which became the movie “Mean Girls“. She has teamed up with Jane Lynch (who you probably recognize as the Polyester warmup suit wearing, Cheerio Cheerleader Coach from Glee) and LG to put out a series of PSA’s on Text Education. I took my friend Carissa Rogers to the LG room Saturday morning during Blogher where we had the awesome opportunity to sit down with these two amazing women and talk Text.

One of the most delightful experiences of the morning was finding out that Jane Lynch is a real person. Of course she is a real person (even thought the picture above is so good of her that she almost looks like a cardboard cutout of herself) but she was really a REAL person. When we first walked in I was a little Star Struck as I am a huge fan. I have been a huge fan of Rosalind’s for years since I first picked up Queen Bees. It is the kind of book you can open to any page and get something out of it. She walked up to me and gave me a big hug and then Jane walked over and we exchanged introductions and within two seconds I felt like I was talking with an old friend of the family. Our conversation was fun and interesting and flew by too fast. She asked about our kids and was honestly and genuinely connected with the LG campaign to educate parents about the dangers of texting and driving.

Get Involved!

Watch the LG PSA’s on TextEd and pass it along to your friends. Visit

Join the conversation on Facebook

Follow WiredMom and LGTextED on Twitter

Join the conversation.

August was a great reminder that we are all just real people. Real people working together to make a better world for our kids and ourselves. Looking at the world through a screen can sometimes create a feeling that we are somehow disconnected from everyone else out there. But we have to remind ourselves that we are all just very real people and we really are all connected in one way or another.

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Filed under Internet Safety, Mobile, Texting