Understand the Consequences of Sexting

I'm feeling nostalgic for the days when we crammed into a photo booth and took silly photos.

Or we pulled out a Polaroid to get wild.  Yep, those days are long gone.

Today teens are using their smartphones with integrated cameras in ways that would make parents cringe.  So get ready, for the cringe factor as I fill you in on teens and sexting - and the consequences. And a quick alert, sexting is not a new phenomenon; it has existed for several years years now.

Sexting is the sending of sexually explicit photos, videos or text messages through mobile phones.

Teens are sharing sexually risqué photos and/or messages online and oftentimes using apps like Snapchat, VaporChat, Cyber Dust to hide their behavior. (Those apps cause the photos to "disappear" after a certain period of time, but they do not preclude screenshots from capturing the photo.)

Amazingly, teens are sexting even though they "openly admit that they know it's wrong to post these sexual photos, they feel...

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Parenting in the Digital Age: Are You in the Know?

Digital natives, digital immigrants, digital parenting, digital, digital, digital.

Just what does all of this stuff mean anyway?

Digital natives are children who are born in the digital age, this age of technology.  They are children who spend a few minutes holding a tablet and smartphone and feel no fear or trepidation in manipulating the technology.  They swipe, pinch, poke without always understanding what they are doing, but with the confidence that something is happening on the screen.  According to Marc Prensky, "our students today are all “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet."

Digital immigrants are people who were born before the advent of technology.  It is a phrase also coined by Prensky in 2001 used to describe the "generation of people who did not grow up in the digital age."  Again Prensky describes it perfectly by saying: "Those of us who were not born into the digital world but...

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Recapture Quality Family Dinner Time

Tech Tale: How does a family who loves technology manage tech-free dinners?

Nathalie is the mother of an 8 year old boy and a 13 year old girl. Her children love technology and since they do their homework and household chores with minimal yelling, Nathalie hasn't imposed any strict limits.

But Nathalie has noticed something that is really displeasing: eating out with technology. Initially when the children were younger, Nathalie and her husband would go out to dinner and in order to have a bit of quiet time so that the adults could talk, Nathalie would hand over her smartphone while her husband did the same.

Little by little the family outings became less and less family and more and more tech and Nathalie now wants to recapture the family togetherness, but she's worried that it's too late. Her kids are too used to gaming and texting while waiting for their dinners to arrive.

How can Nathalie re-create the family dinners that she remembers when she was young? (You know, the family...

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Sanity, Screen Limits and Sitting Less

I think the question I am asked most by parents is “How can I set screen limits – that work?”

Sometimes the parents explain further in no uncertain terms: “How the hell do I get my kid away from that gaming console?” or “I want my iPad back and I’m sick of negotiating for it” or “If I have to scream one more time to get the kids out from in front of the TV and to the dinner table, I can not be held responsible for my actions.”

If any of those scenarios seem familiar to you, read on. I’m going to share some of the parenting tips that I have heard, read or implemented and hope that something resonates for you.

Screen Tickets: Give your child 2 tickets a day, each worth half an hour. Once they’ve cashed them in, that’s it. No more TV. No more tablet. No more gaming console. You define the rules for your tickets. Get creative, perhaps a yellow ticket for TV time; red ticket for tablet; green ticket for gaming...

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Educational Apps for the Summer

I know what you're thinking: "But what a minute - she's been advocating screen limits for summer, extracurricular activities so the kids won't reach for their tech and now she wants them to play with apps?"  No I haven't been out in the sun too long, but I do think that technology - in the right dosage - is a very good thing indeed.

So what about those educational apps?

If your kids are looking for a little time on the computer or tablet or smartphone, why not let them engage in an age-appropriate educational activity? They will think you are being super cool and laid-back about their screen limits, while you know that they are getting some much needed intellectual stimulation over the summer.  And as the experts are keen to note, summer reading and learning activities help reduce the Summer Brain Drain.

Check out Common Sense Media's Summer Learning Guide which specifically breaks down different learning categories by age (2-7, 8-12, 13-17).  Your child can Explore...

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Teens, Beaches, Selfies - Oh My.

 Your teenager is advancing to the next class level, life is good and summer is here. Pat yourself on the back and give your teen a high five.

Now before you start dancing that summer jig, thinking about frosty blue drinks with paper umbrellas in them (or my personal favorite, an icy glass of rosé), let’s quickly run over some summer tips for you - the super cool, up-to-date and safety-conscious digital parent of a teenager. Yes, I mean you!

It goes without saying that summer is an absolutely fantastic time and many teens slip into easy routines and may slack off a bit. Rules are less visible, life structure is more relaxed and your teen is just trying to recuperate after the school year. (You can remind them of these recuperative summers once they start working a real job.)

But until that high point, as a digital parent of a teen, you still have to help your teen navigate the digital highway – even during the summer months. To make things easier, I have...

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Should I Buy an Apple Watch for My Child?

I didn't stand in line to buy my Apple watch, but I admit that I ordered it online on the very first day.  Almost 6 weeks later, I pulled it out of the gorgeous Apple box and I sighed with pleasure. The watch was fabulous looking.

But being an eSafety expert is serious business, so I shook off the giddy feelings and got to work with my burning question: Is the Apple watch safe for kids?

First technology is a tool. It can work for good and unfortunately it can be used for bad. Think of a kitchen knife or a pair of scissors.  Good things to cut with, but dangerous in the wrong hands or with the wrong intent.  Same thing for technology.

So let's take a peek at the Apple watch. It's definitely a tool. It's a watch for goodness sake. A very, ultra, über, super cool watch, but it's a watch.  Beyond all the cool things that it can do (visit your local Apple dealer as I won't go into those details here), let's look at how the Apple watch can be used in the wrong...

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Mommy, What's a Telephone Booth?

The other day, I was walking with my sons when I gestured to a telephone booth and made some comment.

Imagine my surprise, when my 7 year old, looked at me with a perplexed expression on his face and asked, “Mommy, what’s a telephone booth?”

Aghast, I thought to myself – how could my sonnot know THE favorite clothes changing place of Superman? Or the phone booth / elevator at the end of the long corridor for Agent Maxwell Smart?

The answer came so swiftly, it was astonishing.

My son is a bonafide digital citizen.  He has never used a telephone booth, because smartphones are EVERYWHERE.  And he can swipe with the best of them.

He can toggle between screens.

He can find long-lost cartoon gems, such as Underdog, on a Youtube equipped ipad.

He can leap tall buildings in a single bound.  Oops, got a bit carried away there, but you see my point.

Children today are superheroes and they can do some amazing things.  But like every superhero, they...

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Can You Post Pictures of Other People's Children?

What is the proper online etiquette or netiquette for posting pictures online of other people’s children?

This is a question I usually get as people head out on vacations (usually sun-filled vacations) as they take pictures of children, friends and family on the beach, in parcs, hanging out, and enjoying themselves.  So, can you post pictures of other people's children?

Um, in a short answer. NO.  But if you do, here is a quick checklist:

  • No photos where the kids are easily recognizable.
  • No photos where the kids are in skimpy beach wear and bathing suits.  (Please don't think I'm being ultra paranoid. There is a reason behind this. In my consultancy work in children's rights and internet stuff, unfortunately see the underside and icky stuff of online issues affecting children.  And it is regularly reported about social media photos being stolen, photoshopped and then re-appearing on porn sites. So trust me, no photos of your kids in skimpy gear.)
  • No...
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Student Viewpoint: Tips for Parents

What do students think parents should know?

I asked one of my former international public law students to give her perspective on Internet and tell parents what SHE thinks they should know. 

Here is what she said:

My name is Susanna and I am a 22 year-old living in San Francisco, CA. My generation was basically raised on social media. We were the first to experiment with Myspace and instant messaging online. I can recall back in 7th grade, creating various screennames because I could not just pick one. I remember I had to wait (not patiently I might add) until my parents made all the phone calls so that I could use our dial-up internet to chat with my friends. These were the days before it was common for a 7th grader to have a cellphone.

Needless to say, the world of social media has continued to grow across all age groups, demographics, and countries. Today, you can literally message or share a photo with someone across the globe in a matter of seconds. That’s the great...

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