Top Social Media Safety Tips for Teens

Top Social Media Safety Tips for Teens

Let’s face it… we’re parents and we worry about everything, especially when it comes to our teens and social media safety.  There are so many reasons why social media can be extremely dangerous with all of the horror stories of kids being lured, abducted, sexually assaulted, and bullied.

I know your teenager doesn’t want to be told what to do and what not to do, but by offering these guidelines you can set safe parameters for them to explore the entire world of social media without being bullied, ripped off, scammed, or disrespected while they’re just trying to have a good time online.

It is possible for your teen to have a safe, positive experience within the social media world, if the proper boundaries are in place.

First Steps:

  • Make sure your teen’s social media pages are set to private, not public. 
  • Turn off geo-tagging, so they cannot be located from their social media posts.
  • Do not let your teen “friend” people they do not directly know. Teens should NEVER make plans to meet someone they met on social media.
  • Report inappropriate content (bullying, hate speech, obscenity) to the social media platform AND be sure to block the poster.

Social Media Safety tips to talk about with your kids:

  1. How often do they check their settings on all social media pages?

Encourage your child to regularly review the app or social networking privacy settings. Many social networks are set to public by default, meaning anyone can see your child’s posts, pics, and videos.  We would recommend using a ‘friends-only’ setting. Keep your teen accountable, and ask them to participate in their own safety settings on a weekly basis. They will feel like you are entrusting them with the responsibility to take care of themselves, while giving them a task that keeps them safe.

  1. How many social networks are you currently using?

Just like their bedrooms, it is important that children give their social media presence a spring clean every so often.  Remind your child to deactivate any old social media profiles/accounts they may have signed up to. This can help minimize the risk of getting hacked.

  1. Is it possible to copy a photo, video, or snap without the other person knowing?

Explain to your child that anything that appears on a screen can be copied and shared regardless of the privacy features of the services they are using.  Nearly all mobile phones can save what is displayed on screen by pressing a couple of buttons. It is just as easy to capture what is displayed by taking a photo of the screen using a camera or camera phone.  Make sure they understand that once their content is posted online, there is the risk of that photo or video being seen by others forever, so make sure they think twice.

  1. What type of information/photos are okay to share online?

It’s a good idea to give some guidelines about what to avoid discussing or sharing online.  Some children may not understand how quickly content can be shared online, it may be helpful to explain that even by deleting a post/photo it may still be too late, and the content may already have been shared.

  1. Are they accepting friend requests or follows from strangers?

Make sure they understand, that they should only accept friend requests or follows from people that they know.  Tell them that they should not be chatting or messaging with any people online that are not personal friends, because these conversations can lead to dangerous encounters that they will wish they had never started.  Explain that what might seem innocent at first, can have major repercussions later that can’t be undone.

Try to be as open as possible with your teens about these topics, and include them in monitoring their own safety so they will feel that you are entrusting them with newfound responsibility because they are getting older.  

This will make these conversations a lot easier, and ultimately bring you closer to your teen, empowering them to feel like they can talk to you about anything.

Here some links if you would like additional information on social media safety:

Help Your Kids Be Prepared for Accidents!

At the park or playing ball – your kids can be prepared for the sun AND accidents with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind.  

Check out our kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.

Be On Santa’s Good List

Be On Santa’s Good List

The Holiday season encourages us to ‘Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly,’ go ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland,’ and ‘Have a Cup of Cheer,’ and trust me all of that sounds wonderful but I can’t help but also add that we should be smart about it. Who says you can’t have it all right? You can enjoy yourself during the holidays, relax a little, and be on Santa’s good list by being safe, too.

Here are some helpful tips to make ‘Christmas brownie points’ with Santa and keep you and your family safe and on his good list.

Cooking:

When preparing that wonderful, delicious holiday meal there are a few things to keep in mind. Never leave a stove unattended, because unattended cooking equipment is the leading cause of home cooking fires.  You should also make sure you wash your hands, utensils, sink and anything else that touches raw meat. Food-borne illnesses are especially prevalent around the holiday season. Use separate cutting boards, plate and utensils for uncooked and cooked meats to avoid cross-contamination.  Use a food thermometer to make sure meat is cooked to a safe temperature. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration website provides some valuable holiday food safety tips to follow.

Space Heaters:

Do not leave a space heater unattended and make sure you turn it off when you’re leaving a room or going to sleep. Do not let pets or children play too close to a space heater, because they will get hurt.

Poisonous Holiday Plants:

Some popular and beautiful holiday plants can also be poisonous or toxic, especially to children and pets.  Holly berries can be poisonous. A child can eat 1-2 holly berries without harm, but 20 holly berries is a serious concern.  You don’t want to eat a beautiful, decorative poinsettia that is on your holiday dinner plate or placed by your fireplace. Worst case scenario, if you eat a few leaves of a poinsettia you will feel ill or vomit, but they’re not the absolute worst holiday plant to have around.  On the other hand, mistletoe contains phoradendron which can cause blurred vision, nausea, and even death. All parts of the mistletoe are poisonous, but the berries are most attractive to kids. If your child eats 1-2 berries of mistletoe, it probably won’t cause a problem, but if your pet eats a few leaves or berries it could be endangered.

Christmas Trees:

Make sure you are watering your Christmas tree daily, because dry trees can cause a very serious fire hazard. You should also make sure that they are on a stable platform at all times.

To remainInspect Electrical Decorations for Damage Before Use: 

Check holiday lights for fraying, bare spots, gaps in the insulation or excessive kinking in the wire. Cracked or damaged sockets can also cause a serious shock or start a fire. You don’t want to overload electrical outlets, and you should only plug one high-wattage appliance into each outlet at a time. Connecting more than three strands of lights may not only blow a fuse, but it can also cause a serious fire.

Automated Teller Machine (ATM):

If you absolutely have to stop at the ATM before a night out, try to choose one that is located inside a mall, police station or well-lighted location.  You should only withdraw the amount of cash that you will need. You can protect your PIN by shielding the ATM keyboard from anyone who is standing near you. Whatever you do, do not throw your ATM receipt away at the ATM location.

Attending a Party:

If you’re invited to that special holiday party your friends or family have every year, make sure you have something to eat before consuming any alcoholic beverages. Eat things like high protein foods, which will stay in your stomach longer and slow the absorption of alcohol into your system. Only time will truly eliminate alcohol from your body, so know your safe limit and don’t drink and drive. To remain on the good list, be sure you designate a sober driver to give you a ride home, even if it’s on a sleigh.

Stay Warm:

‘Oh the weather outside is frightening… and those cold temperatures can cause serious health problems, especially in infants and older adults. To remain on the good list, be sure to dress warmly and wear lots of layers of loose-fitting, tightly woven clothing. Make sure you are checking on the kiddos, your elders and don’t forget about your furry friends as well.  Our pets sometimes seem to be the last thing we think about at this time of year, so be sure to make sure they are cozy and warm as well.

Manage Stress:

The holidays don’t need to take a toll on your health.  Be sure not to over-commit to too many parties and activities, and do your best not to over-spend.  Balancing your work, home and play is a tough task, but with the support of family and friends it is possible to have a relaxed attitude about the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ and possibly catch some zzzz’s at night as well.

‘Tis the season of ‘love’ and ‘craziness!’ Try to take lots of deep breaths and remember that none of us are perfect, but we can do our best to enjoy this holiday season as safely as possible. 

I know I definitely want to be on ‘Santa’s Good List,’ so I will be taking my own advice and using these tips as well.

Here are some additional links to help you do some more research on how to keep your family on Santa’s good list this year:

Help Your Kids Be Prepared for Accidents!

At the park or playing ball – your kids can be prepared for the sun AND accidents with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind.  

Check out our kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.

Top 6 Holiday Decorating Safety Tips

Top 6 Holiday Decorating Safety Tips

online safety for kids
Yes, it’s that time of year again! The holidays are upon us, and it’s time to head to the attic, your basement, or your storage closet and bring out those boxes of decorations that have been collecting dust for the last eleven months. It doesn’t matter if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or maybe all three! You know you love it when all of the lights are up, the tree is decorated, and the candles are lit…but while you’re busy decorating the house and admiring the romantic glow of the fireplace, safety might be the last thing on your mind.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 240 injuries per day related to do-it-yourself holiday decorating activities during November and December of 2017. Let’s make sure you have a safe, healthy and happy holiday season with your friends and family. 

Here are some of my top tips to keep in mind as you deck out your home in style this season.

online safety for kids

1. Trees Get Thirsty Too!

A dried-out tree will definitely catch fire faster than one that has been properly watered. Be sure to check the water level every day to ensure it has proper hydration.

2. If You Fake It, Make It Safe!

If you decide to ‘go faux’ and buy an artificial tree, make sure it’s labeled “fire-resistant.” Fire-resistant trees are less susceptible to catching fire.

3. Double-Check Your Lights

The CSPC issued new guidelines for seasonal light safety back in 2015. There is a setting for minimum wire size, as well as standards for strain relief and over-current protection.

4. Prevent Electrical Cord Damage

Always avoid using nails or tacks when hanging up those cords, and don’t mount lights in a way that might damage the cord. Use hooks or insulated staples to prevent any type of damage. Cords should never be pinched by furniture, forced into small spaces such as doors or windows, placed under rugs, or located near heat sources.

5. Secure Those ‘Old Flames’

Old flames can die hard…especially when they’re burning on a holiday candle. Never leave a lit candle unattended, because these neglected candles are the cause of one in five home candle fires. Always keep them on a sturdy base to prevent tipping. Battery-operated candles are the perfect substitute, with none of the risk and all of the glow! 

6. When You Say “Lights Out,” Mean It!

When leaving the house, make sure to turn all lights off to avoid a short that could start a catastrophic electrical fire. Half of home fire deaths occur between the hours of 11:00pm and 7:00am. When it’s time to call it a night and the kids have finally made it to dreamland, be sure to turn off all of the lights before your head finally hits the pillow.

It’s important to have fun decorating this holiday season and enjoy special quality time with your family and friends.  If all goes as planned, hopefully there won’t be any accidents if you follow these simple tips. If by chance you do have a minor mishap, it’s always good to have a first aid kit nearby and our PreparaKits have got you covered with the essentials.

Be smart, have fun and be safe this holiday season. 

Help Your Kids Be Prepared for Accidents!

At the park or playing ball – your kids can be prepared for the sun AND accidents with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind.   Check out PreparaKit.com for kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.
Preparing Kids For Online Gaming

Preparing Kids For Online Gaming

online safety for kids

It can be very difficult at times to pull your child away from that special video game that they love so much, and this is why it’s so important to prepare your children for the ‘online gaming world.’  A recent study from the Pew Research Center indicates that 59 percent of girls and 84 percent of boys ages 13-17 regularly play video games. Many of these games are played online and may involve multiple players. 

In addition to safety and privacy concerns, parents must ensure that their child’s gaming activities do not become an addiction. When a gaming addiction develops, children may become detached from reality, resulting in negative consequences regarding their ability to socialize and regulate their emotions.  In extreme cases, parents may need to look to a professional for help. However, there are steps you can take to help prevent this. 

Setting healthy boundaries for your kids can help to guard against extreme gaming behavior.  For example, ensure that children have their homework finished before allowing them to engage in gaming.  Also, limit gaming sessions to a set time period of time. When finished playing video games, children should move on to other activities, engaging in active movement and social interaction with others.  

Parents should also know the ratings on games, talk to their children about how they feel when they play, and even play these games along with their children to experience them first-hand. I know I do this quite often with my children, so I can see the kind of activity that is taking place within the game.

online safety for kids

Here are some helpful talking points to help start the conversation with your child about video games and online gaming:

1. Can you show me your favorite game?

It is a good idea to get to know the games yourself and sit down with your child to let them show you how the game is played.  Talk to your child about what they can do in the game they’re playing. What is the overall objective of the game? What do they like most about playing it?  Is there anything about the game that they don’t like?

2. Can you play against other kids?

Some games have optional multi-player modes where your child can play with and against others.  Make sure you’re clear on whether you are happy for your child to play with others. If you are, ask them who they are playing with.  Establish rules around this that you can both agree on. Most games have a rating you can check to see if they are age-appropriate.

3. How much time should you spend playing?

It makes life a lot easier if you bring this subject up early on; it can be tricky to change well-established practices. Talk about why it’s important to have limits.  It’s a good opportunity to talk about the importance of being active, being outdoors, and spending time in the company of other children, and striking that suitable balance is key.

Remember, it can be hard to enforce restrictions.  It can also be difficult to accurately track the amount of time they are spending playing the game.  Some devices allow you to use parental controls to strictly enforce daily or weekly limits. In many cases, the device simply switches off once the allocated time has been exceeded.  While this is handy; it can be very frustrating for a child who is just about to reach a landmark in the game after a great deal of effort. We recommend not relying exclusively on parental controls, but use them to support your usual parenting approaches.

4. Can you chat with the other kids you are playing?

Many games allow players to chat with each other.  Be sure to agree on rules around this, and ask your child about who they think it is okay to talk to online.  Discuss your expectations around the type of language they should not use and how they treat others. Be very clear on the consequences of using bad language, being disrespectful, or not following the other agreed rules.  The threat of withdrawing access to the game can be a good deterrent to bad behavior.

Check if the game gives the option of disabling chat and if there is a safe chat mode. Some games allow limited forms of chatting where gamers can communicate with each other by selecting from a menu of phrases.  

5. What sort of information is NOT okay to share when gaming?

Explain to them the importance of not giving away any personal information online.  In the case of online gaming, it is a good idea not to use real names for game profiles and not to share passwords with friends.

6. What would you do if something inappropriate happens when you are playing a game online?

It’s important that your child is familiar with safety settings, privacy and reporting tools. It is equally important that your child understands they can talk to you if they experience anything inappropriate online.  This is also a good opportunity to encourage your child to play fairly and treat other gamers with respect.

Whether we like it or not, the online gaming world is here to stay so it’s best to be proactive and responsible when navigating this with your children.  As much as we may think some of the games in this ‘virtual world’ are disturbing or are indoctrinating our children with bad behavior, these games are here to stay.  We have to teach our children how to play and use these games responsibly.  

After all, I can still remember when Nintendo & Atari were the ‘new gaming devices.’  There was a time when people thought a game called ‘Donkey Kong’ was violent because they hit each other.  Nowadays kids are seeing things in these newer games that are a lot more disturbing than that, and in ten years those same people will be saying the same thing about the games of today.  

Ultimately, the responsibility lies with us as parents.  We have to teach our kids right from wrong, so when they are out in the ‘real world’ they will know the difference.

 

For more information, check out these resources:

Help Your Kids Be Prepared for Accidents!

At the park or playing ball – your kids can be prepared for the sun AND accidents with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind.  

Check out PreparaKit.com for kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.

Online Photo Safety for Kids

Online Photo Safety for Kids

online safety for kids

Online photo safety for kids should be on every parent’s mind.  It’s not uncommon nowadays for photos of children to be posted online before they are even born, but is it safe?  Announcing your pregnancy by posting a baby scan is a ‘thing’ on Facebook and Twitter. It doesn’t stop once there, a recent survey found that an average parent will post almost 1,000 photos of their child online before he or she turns five.  We live in an age of “sharenting,’ so we have to learn how to navigate this new trend in a safe manner.

Our children learn most from watching us and copying what we do.  If you want your child to only post photos when they have the consent of the people in them, ask their permission before posting photos of them. Likewise, if they ask you to remove a photo that they find embarrassing, take it down. The chances are your child will do the same if they find themselves in a similar situation.

There are no hard and fast rules for this topic, however, there are some things to consider before you hit the share button:

online safety for kids
Edit your life:

Be selective about what you share online.  Don’t post photos of everything that happens in your life no matter how cute you think your child looks in them.  Think twice about sharing photos taken in bathroom and bedroom settings. You can’t control the context in which the photos will be seen.

Ask yourself will this photo cause my child embarrassment now or in the future?

Everything we post online creates a digital footprint and for young people maintaining a good online reputation is becoming increasingly important. Parents should consider any long-term risks of sharing photos of their children online. Some photographs have the potential to go viral.

Check Your Settings:

Social networks regularly update settings, so it is important to review your settings. If you are a regular user of Facebook, the social network allows users to do a Privacy Checkup which makes it very easy for users to understand who they are sharing content with.

 

Who will see my photos?

Ensure you are happy with your privacy settings and understand who may potentially see your images. It is a good idea to regularly review your friend/connections on social networks. Some networks, for example, Facebook allow users to limit/customize who they share posts with.  Some things will always be public. Parents should beware that some posts/photos are always public for example; Twitter profile photos, Facebook cover images and featured photos.

Is your location service disabled? 

Many social networks and apps allow you to share your location. Some people may not be aware that this function is automatically enabled on some apps and networks.  Consider reviewing this when sharing family photos.

I realize that we ultimately want that ‘connection’ with people- to share our lives, our families, our children, and a great way to do this is through posting photos on social media and online.  The virtual world has brought us an entirely new way of interacting and connecting with others, but we just want to ensure that we do so in the safest way possible. 

Let’s do it responsibly, and you will find that if they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” we will be sharing beautiful novels with our friends, families and loved ones every time we post our cherished photos!

For more information, check out these resources:

Help Your Kids Be Prepared for Accidents!

At the park or playing ball – your kids can be prepared for the sun AND accidents with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind.  

Check out PreparaKit.com for kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.

Child Safety in the ‘Online World’

Child Safety in the ‘Online World’

online safety for kids

How do we keep children safe in the ‘online world?  I know the ‘ordinary world’ we live in can be extremely difficult to navigate (especially with kids).  The ‘virtual world’ is no different.   Our responsibility can get even more complicated as parents.  It makes me wonder how can we protect our children effectively in this ‘brave new world?’  How are we supposed to keep them safe from something that is nearly impossible to control?

Online Safety Tips for Kids:

I didn’t have a guide for how to handle the internet with my children, but now I do.  Check out my top internet preparation tips to make sure going online is a positive experience for both you and your kids:

online safety for kids

1. Discover the Internet together

Be the one to introduce your child to the internet, because for both us as parents and children  it is an advantage to discover the internet together.  Try to find websites that are exciting and fun so that together you achieve a positive attitude when it comes to surfing the web.  This could make it easier to share both positive and negative experiences in the future so that your children will come to you for anything.

2. Set rules with your child for Internet use 

Try to reach an agreement with your child on the guidelines which apply to Internet use in your household. 

  • Discuss when and for how long it’s acceptable for your child to use the Internet.
  • Agree on how to treat personal information (name, address, telephone, e-mail).
  • Discuss how to behave towards others when gaming, chatting, e-mailing or messaging.
  • Agree on what type of sites and activities are OK or not OK in your family.
  • Follow the rules yourself! Or at least explain why the rules are different for adults.

3. Encourage your child to be careful when disclosing personal information

A simple rule for younger children should be that the child should not give out their name, phone number or photo without your approval.  Older children using social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, should be encouraged to be selective about what personal information and photos they post to online spaces.  Regardless of privacy settings, once material is online you can no longer control who sees it or how it’s used.

4. Talk about the risks associated with meeting online “friends” in person

Adults should understand that the internet can be a positive meeting place for children, where they can get to know other young people and make new friends.  However, for safety and to avoid unpleasant experiences, it is important that children do not meet strangers they have met online without being accompanied by an adult you trust.  In any case, the child should always have their parents’ approval first.  In addition, it’s also a good idea to have a fool-proof plan in place such as calling them shortly after the meeting begins so that they can bail out if they feel uncomfortable.

5. Teach your child about evaluating information and being critically aware of information found online. 

Most children use the internet to improve and develop their knowledge in relation to schoolwork and personal interests.  Children should be aware that not all information found online is correct, accurate or relevant.  Show your child how to check the information they find by comparing it to alternative sources on the same topic.  Show them trusted sites they can use to compare their information.

 

6. Don’t be too critical towards your child’s exploration of the Internet

Children may come across adult material by accident on the web.  Also, a child may intentionally search for such websites; remember that it is natural for children to be curious about off-limits material.  Try to use this as an opening to discuss the content with them, and perhaps make rules for this kind of activity.  We have to be careful but also realistic in our assessment of how your child uses the internet.

 

7. Let your children show you what they like to do online

To be able to guide your child with regard to Internet use, it’s important to understand how children use the Internet and know what they like to do online.  Let your child show you which websites they like visiting and what they do there.

 

8. Remember that the positive aspects of the Internet outweigh the negatives.

The Internet is an excellent educational and recreational resource for children, so encourage your child to make the most of it and explore the internet to its full potential.

As we know, the internet is now part of our culture and it is here to stay.  Since it is such a valuable resource for us as parents in many positive ways, it’s not something we should be fighting against, rather something that we need to embrace with our children in a healthy way.   If we help them to develop these good online habits at an early age, these practices will stay with them through their adult lives and will help them to form a positive relationship with the internet, making their virtual world a healthy and safe reality. 

As always, I’d love to hear which blogs resonate most with you!  Feel free to reach out and message me on Facebook & Instagram!

 

For more information, check out these resources:

Help Your Kids Be Prepared for Accidents!

At the park or playing ball – your kids can be prepared for the sun AND accidents with a first aid kit designed exclusively with you and your kids in mind.  

Check out PreparaKit.com for kits and tools created for busy parents who want to be ready for the unexpected.