Kids spend too much time on their phones

Most parents worry that kids spend too much time on their phones. There are steps you can take to help them unplug.

Last week, my family spent a week at the beach. Of course the sun, sand and surf were amazing. However, what I loved most about our trip was that our daughters unplugged. No WIFI. No Instagram. No texting. Yes, I’ll admit, at first they were a bit lost. But it was great to see how they used the time once the initial discomfort wore off. My 12 year-old spent hours body surfing, boogie boarding and reading. My 8 year-old dug for sand crabs, splashed in the waves and built sandcastles. They were both so present and in the moment.


I have to admit, it took me a while to adjust as well. But before long, I was having so much fun playing games, making jewelry, swimming, reading and coloring. I didn’t realize how nice it would be to take a vacation from technology.

If your kids are like most, they spend a huge amount of time on their devices over summer. I get it. It’s easier sometimes to let them plug-in. But you will be amazed at the creativity that is born from tech-free time.

5 Ways to Help your Child Unplug:

  1. Create an “Unplugged” Schedule: Set a time during the day that is technology-free. No ipads, cell phones, video games, etc. Most likely your child will not think this is a great idea. That’s okay. If your child is short on ideas, you can suggest they invite over a friend, bake something, do an art project, play a board game, ride bikes, or go for a swim. The ideas are endless once they start brainstorming.

  1. Family Time: Our less-scheduled summer days are the perfect time to do something fun together Play a board game, go to the river, take a hike, go on a picnic. Keep in mind, it’s really important to put your devices away too. We model the behavior we expect from our kids and they will definitely notice if we aren’t unplugging as well.IMG_3429
  1. Get Out Into The Community: Check your local events calendar to see what’s going on around town. The summer months are full of outdoor concerts, picnics, reading programs and day camps. Many of these events are free. Encourage your child to leave their phone at home and enjoy the day.
  1. Allow Boredom: I’m sure you’ve all heard it: “I’m bored!” Devices are a quick go-to response for many of us. However, allowing your child to be “bored” usually inspires them to do something much more creative.
  1. Tech-Time: Allow some time during the day where they can use technology. Whether it’s texting friends, watching a show or playing a video game, let them have some space to plug-in. Kids miss their friends when school is out and often times social media is the easiest way for them to connect. It’s okay to give them some time to interact as long as there are limits.

I’d love to hear from you. How have you helped your child unplug? What obstacles did you face? How did you overcome them? Click here to comment on my Facebook Page. As parents, we can all learn from each other.



Is YouTube safe for kids?

Does your child watch a lot of YouTube shows? If you answered “yes” you are not alone. You may wonder: Is YouTube safe for kids?

When I was 13, I spent many hours watching my favorite tv shows. I can remember cuddling with my sister, watching Threes Company and The Facts of Life after school.

Kids today are growing up watching huge amounts of shows too. However, they aren’t glued to the tv. Instead, they are on their devices watching their favorite YouTube stars. Awesomeness TV, PewDiePie, Bethany Mota and Smosh may be unfamiliar names to you, but chances are they are familiar to your child. In fact, a recent study in Variety Magazine found that the top 5 most influential people amongst US Teens are YouTube celebrities.

The problem with YouTube is that videos are not monitored or controlled the way tv shows were when we were growing up. It’s ridiculously easy to click on something inappropriate and can be a challenge to monitor what your child is exposed to.

Furthermore, many kids want their own YouTube channels. My daughter and her friends talk about wanting to make and upload their own videos. Although fun, this poses risks as well.

The good news is there is something you can do.

5 Steps To Use Youtube Safely:

1.  Monitor your child’s viewing:

I know as parents we are all super busy, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to take the time to check in with your kids’ digital lives. A good starting place is with what they are watching on YouTube. Since a Google Account is required to watch and post to Youtube, it is a good idea to either have your child use your account or to create a family account that notifies you of activity.

Take time to talk with your child about their favorite YouTube channels. Sit down and have them show you some of their favorites so you can get an idea of what they’re watching .

Once you have a feel for a channel, subscribe to it and receive notifications of new videos. This is much safer than allowing your child to use the search feature to find things to watch.

Teach your child to be careful about clicking on “Up Next” videos as they aren’t always as appropriate.

You can also click on “History” at the bottom of the YouTube Home Page to see recently viewed videos and make sure they are suitable for your child.

2.  Enable Safety Features:

YouTube has an option to turn on “Safety Mode” at the bottom of the screen. This helps block inappropriate information. It isn’t foolproof. It’s still a great idea to talk to your child about how easy it is to stumble across inappropriate videos and to share with you if they see stumble across something upsetting. Unfortunately there is a phenomenon called “YouTube Poop” where videos start off innocently enough but switch to inappropriate content mid-way. (My daughter and I experienced this first-hand years ago when her beloved Barney blew up mid-video!)

 3.  Protect Personal Information:

Kids are supposed to be at least 13 years old to have a YouTube account. However, many younger children create them anyway. If your child is dying to create his or her own YouTube Channel, make sure their personal information is protected. They should never post information that would allow someone to find them in real life. This means they shouldn’t say their full name, where they live, go to school, play sports, etc.

Also, talk about the danger of posting videos such as: Do You Think I’m Cute? (Pretty, Fat, etc.) It’s shocking how many tweens and teens post these videos on YouTube. As you can imagine, they are a breeding ground for hurt feelings.

4.  Post Privately

When your child uploads a video, they can choose whether it is public (meaning anyone can watch it) or private (where they have to give the link to their viewers.) The second option is much safer since they control who views their posts. Again, this isn’t always fool proof since kids can share links or show them to people who haven’t been approved. This is the perfect opportunity to remind our kids that ANYTHING they post in the cyberworld has the potential to become public information. If they wouldn’t want it on a billboard in front of their school, they shouldn’t post it.

5.  Disable Comments:

There are a lot of people who post mean comments after watching YouTube videos. This can cause a lot of hurt feelings. It is very easy to turn the comments off, eliminating communication from strangers or people with cruel things to say.

Just like with most technology, YouTube can be great fun but needs to be used responsibly. Talking to our kids about how to make safe choices and explaining why it’s necessary goes a long way with keeping them safe.

Now I’d love to hear from you!

Do your kids watch YouTube videos?

What challenges have they experienced?

Hop on over to my Facebook page and share your stories.


Like what I have to say? Please share with your friends.

We can all learn from each other.




Texting Etiquette

Does your child understand texting etiquette?

  • Jenny sleeps with her phone next to her bed. It buzzes all night long as her friends send text messages into the wee hours of the night.
  •  Sarah is offended by a text from her BFF so she unfollows her on Instagram, starting a chain of nasty messages and hurt feelings.
  • Sam is ready to throw out his cell phone. He’s at his wits end about the number of group texts his friends have included him in and the volume of messages he receives.
  • Matt is fed up with the number of texts he receives as well. Several girls from school text him repeatedly before he even has a chance to respond and he is frustrated!
  • Krissy, Macy and Angela start a private group text at a slumber party that sparks hurt feelings amongst the girls who are excluded.
  • Alisha never puts her cell phone away. At restaurants, family get-togethers and while hanging out with her friends, it’s always out and she’s always quick to respond to her incoming texts.
  • Johnny is surprised and embarrassed when his girlfriend takes a screen shot of his romantic text and posts it to her Instagram account.

Do these situations sound familiar?

One of our challenges as parents is helping our kids develop what I like to call: Texting Etiquette. (Which of course applies to emails, posts and all forms of digital communication.)

As parents, it’s important to take the time to talk to our kids about social etiquette when using technology and how to handle it when they feel offended or upset by messages they receive.

  1. Just like they shouldn’t call someone on the phone repeatedly, kids need to learn that they shouldn’t text repeatedly without receiving a response. I’ve heard from many kids who feel annoyed by the volume of messages they receive.
  1. Kids also need guidance with how to handle arguments that develop via text or posts. Often times they fire back right away or “unfriend” or “unfollow” the person they are upset with. This typically escalates the tension. Instead, talk to your child about coming to you if they are upset about messages they’ve received. Encourage them to take time to “cool off” before responding, since often times they handle these situations much better after a breather. Also encourage them to handle disagreements in-person, instead of via text.
  1. Avoid creating group texts. Once kids add their friends to group messages, they cannot remove themselves. This can be very frustrating since the number of texts can be high and the interruptions excessive. If parents are monitoring their child’s text messages via the cloud, they can be flooded with messages as well.
  1. Have a bedtime for devices. Allowing kids to have their devices in their bedrooms can create lots of problems. They often text late into the night or are disturbed by incoming messages. Just like it’s impolite to phone someone late at night, the same rules should apply to text messages.
  1. Encourage your kids to talk face-to-face for lengthy conversations. If the message is longer than a few words a phone call is more effective.
  1. Set guidelines about texting when they are with other people. Encourage them to put their phones away and enjoy being with their friends. Just because their phone dings, they don’t have to interrupt what they are doing to respond.
  1. Create situations where your kids are device-free. Since texting is now the number one way young people communicate outside of the classroom, many kids are not learning good social skills. Kids need time together without technology, so they can develop strong interpersonal skills.
  1. Since nonverbal communication is eliminated with text messages (expression, tone, etc.) kids need our guidance looking at their messages and talking about whether or not they could be misinterpreted. By using emoticons, and adding “pleases” and “thank yous”, many messages are received as intended.
  1. Even though text messages are not truly private (they can so easily be shared and forwarded) teach kids to treat their messages as private and not share them without permission from the sender.

Just like kids need guidance learning how to be polite and respectful in-person they need our help learning how to communicate responsibly electronically.

What challenges have you seen with kids and their “Texting Etiquette?” What’s worked for you? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below and share your stories. We can all learn from each other.

Keep Your Child Safe On Any App

Do you want to learn ways to keep your child safe on any app? Most parents do but feel overwhelmed about keeping up.

The other day I received a phone call from Tracy.*  She was reviewing her daughter Ashley’s* texts and posts (which is their agreement) and became quite concerned about some of her conversations.

Ashley and her friends have been getting follower requests on Instagram from men they don’t know, and some of Ashley’s friends have been accepting them. Tracy was quite concerned since she thought Ashley’s privacy settings protected her from strangers.

After digging further into Ashley’s texts, Tracy discovered that Ashley has several new apps (Vine, Followers +, Ask.FM) she doesn’t understand. She was feeling really overwhelmed and wondered how she could possibly protect her daughter in such a fast moving and ever-changing cyberworld.

As a parent, you can probably relate. It is virtually impossible to keep up with all of the apps and programs kids use, since they are typically one step ahead of us. This can feel very scary.

The good news is you don’t have to understand them all. There are 5 cybersafety steps that can keep your child safe on any app. It doesn’t matter if you don’t fully understand the app (although I encourage you to take the time to understand as many as you can).

5 Strategies to Keep Kids Safe:

1. Always think about your digital footprint.

Everything we do in the digital world, whether it’s an email, text or post, leaves behind a permanent record. It’s important for kids to understand that even if it feels like a private conversation, it has the potential to become public. Would they want their post on a billboard in front of their school? If not, then don’t hit send. Period.

2. The cyberworld is NOT a safe place to make friends.

Even though kids like to collect followers, they should never accept requests from people they don’t know in real life. People can pose as anyone they like in the virtual world and it can be dangerous. Encourage them to make friends in-person but not online.

3. Trust your instincts.

Explain to your child that we all have instincts that are designed to protect us. If they are doing something online that they wouldn’t want you to see, or feel “funny” about, those are their instincts and they are trying to protect them. Listen.

4. Remember the Golden Rule.

Kids are much crueler in the digital world then in person. With anonymity (especially on sites like Ask.Fm) and the lack of face-to-face feedback, kids are much more likely to say and post things that they would never say in person. Talk to your child about the importance of treating others the way they would want to be treated and never forwarding or reposting embarrassing, mean or unkind posts or pictures. Not only will it be on their digital footprint, they could potentially cause someone else a lot of pain.

5. Get help.

Encourage your child to come to you if they see something they are concerned about. Even though Ashley texted her friend not to talk to a guy she doesn’t know (As she put it, “He could be a murderer!”), she didn’t talk to her mom about it. The good news is her mom was monitoring her activity and was able to intervene. Remember: everything is public in the cyber world. It is not an invasion of your child’s privacy to review his or her texts and posts since they are public.

It is a great idea to have clear rules and consequences with your child about what you expect from them when using technology. Some parents approve all social apps before their child signs-up or deletes an account. Others make it clear that they will be monitoring their activity at regular intervals. I also recommend that you have your child put away their devices before bed since lots of problems occur late at night when they feel unsupervised. Kids love their devices and clear rules and consequences can help them make better choices.

I know it can feel scary to think about how to best protect our kids. The good news is that these 5 strategies can help kids make good choices and stay safe, no matter what program they are using.

I love to hear from you! Do you have any problems that you need help with? What’s worked for you? Please comment below.

*Names have been changed

What is Cyberstrong Kids?

Do you wish you had a Facebook or Instagram account when you were growing up?

Even though it might have been fun, most of us are thankful there is not a public record from our teen years.

Kids are growing up in a very different world.

They spend hours every day on their devices.  Texting is now the number one way they communicate outside of the classroom. We know that there are advantages to today’s technology, but we want to protect our kids.

To add to our fears, we are bombarded with news headlines and horror stories from our friends. With cyberbullying, sexting and online pornography it is easy to feel OVERWHELMED.

Cyberstrong Kids can help.

Cyberstrong Kids is an online class you and your child (ages 9-14) take together.  Your child will learn how to stay safe in today’s digital world while you learn the best ways to protect and guide them.

Cyberstrong Kids includes:

  • Understanding digital footprints
  • Protecting personal information
  • Understanding social media
  • Cyberbullying prevention
  • Dealing with inappropriate information
  • Texting safety
  • Creating a positive digital reputation

Cyberstrong Kids is different from other programs.

  • Kids take control of their digital footprints. They learn how to create a digital reputation they can be proud of.
  • Parents are included. This is crucial. When you understand your child’s digital world, you can help them make good choices and stay safe.

Get started today.

Slumber Party Safety

Slumber party safety that every parent needs to know:

Little Girls Laughing

Last year, my daughter had a slumber party for her 11th birthday. The moment the kids arrived, I noticed a big difference: They all had devices.

I thought I was prepared with food, games and movies. However, I had no idea the various issues their devices would create. In fact, something happened that really scared me and never even crossed my mind before the party.

The girls had fun all night doing the typical slumber party activities. They were cozy in our living room, getting into their sleeping bags, when I went to bed.

Around midnight, one of the girls decided she wanted to go home. However, she didn’t say anything to anyone at the party.  Instead, she texted her mom to come and get her. Since it was late, when her mom pulled up at our house she texted her daughter to come outside. Most of the girls were asleep by now. Again, nobody knew that she was planning on leaving.

Thankfully, as she walked to the front door, another girl was coming back from the bathroom and asked her what she was doing.

I am so thankful they bumped into each other. We would have woken up in the morning and she would have been gone! Can you imagine having to call her parents and ask them if she by chance was at home?! Thankfully that didn’t happen.

It did get me thinking though. It never occurred to me to talk to the girls about directly communicating with me if there was a problem.

Today’s technology brings about a whole new set of potential issues that we didn’t deal with growing up. Before hosting your next slumber party, consider these slumber party safety rules:

The Wifi Code: When the girls arrived they all wanted access to our Wifi.  I realized quickly that there was no way I could control what they were viewing, especially once I went to bed,  so decided against passing out the code. Since the internet has information on everything and most kids have stumbled across inappropriate information online, consider how much access you want them to have during your party.

Texting Groups: Another issue that developed was the different texting groups that formed. Even though they were all in the same house, a few girls created a texting group that didn’t include everyone. You can imagine that the others quickly felt left out. Talk with the kids about not using their devices in a way that excludes other guests, whether it’s with texting, games or photos.

Texting Other Friends: One of the girls started texting a boy she liked. I had no idea whether or not her parents would approve. Since all families have different rules, I asked her to wait to chat with him until she got home. It’s important to think about how much contact you want the kids to have with other friends during your event.

Sharing the Fun: Kids love to show the good times they are having in real time on sites like Instagram. Not only could this be hurtful to kids who aren’t invited to the party, if they use “map my photo” or geotagging,  people could know where they are, which is dangerous.

Posting Photos: Kids love to upload pictures of themselves. However, everything they post, share or send leaves behind a digital footprint. Remind the kids that all posts can become public.

At our party, I ended up having the kids put their devices away.  They complained, but once they were out of site, they had so much more fun together.

There are definitely advantages to today’s technology, but other issues crop up as well. As parents, it is really hard to predict all of the potential problems, especially since we didn’t have to deal with these issues growing up. Before hosting your next slumber party, think about how much access you’d like the kids to have and clearly share your guidelines with them.

As I get ready for this year’s party I am going to set our rules about technology at the start. I know this may not be popular with the kids, but I want to keep them safe and encourage them to have fun together.

I’d love to hear from you.

Have you had any similar issues with technology at your parties? What happened and how did you handle it?

Please comment below and share with your friends.