How to Make Sure Your Texting Teen Can Still Have Real Conversations

Teens no longer have phone conversations or real face-to-face conversations with anyone. Texting has replaced those conversations entirely.  They no longer spend hours on the phone like they used to or just hang out with their friends and family and talk. Today they text each other and barely have live conversations at all.

How can you as parents change that? First of all, put your own phone down when you are around your kids. Lead by example. Teenagers learn through experience and from their role models. Teach the healthy habits – and show them what the unhealthy habits are – early on so they know what is allowed and what is expected of them.

In order to develop a healthy, open communication with your teen, you need to set boundaries and rules.

Don’t let them use their phone whenever they want to.  When you call them on their phone, make sure they know you expect to pick up and talk to you and not answer you via text. When you are talking to them in real time, they should be looking at you in the eyes, engaging in the conversation and listening to what you have to say, not looking down at their phone and barely paying any attention to you.  Those are all bad habits that need to stop now.

Some things that you can do in order to encourage more face-to-face conversations include:

  • No phones at the dinner table – use this time to actually talk to each other.
  • When your kids friends come over collect everyone’s phones so they are “forced” to talk face-to-face with each other. If they’re all together anyhow, why do they need their phones?
  • No phones after a certain time each night until morning. This will allow you to have quiet time before bed to talk about your days.
  • Perhaps devote one day a week (or one day a month if that’s too much) as an “electronic free day”.  Play games; go on a walk; go for a bike ride; play sports; or do a craft – whatever you all like to do together, Just spend the day enjoying each other’s company rather than your phones.

Parents need to start teaching their kids how to have a decent face-to-face conversation and unplug from their phones.  If they don’t, those kids will be in a bad place when it comes time to interview for jobs and live like an adult. You’ll be doing them a huge favor which will stay with them for years to come. They may not like it now, but they’ll thank you down the road!

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Tech Cheaters

Remember back in the day when you were assigned a research paper and your first order of business was to head to the library and find an encyclopedia?  Today’s kids have it a little easier.  They simply log onto their laptops, iPads or even SmartPhones and gain instant access to information about all kinds of topics.  While these amazing advancements in technology have made it easier for students to succeed in school, these advancements have also made it easier for them to cheat and harder for parents and teachers to catch them in the act.

Here’s how parents can make sure tech tools are being used in positive ways:

Know Your Technology.  Understand what all of your tech tools can do (and not do) and make sure you have set up online restrictions if needed.

Phones Can Be Used Against You.  Before your child begins doing his/her homework, make sure they have handed over their phone.  Even if your child doesn’t have Internet access on their phone, they can still be using it to text friends for information.

Never Say Never.  I know, YOUR child would never cheat, but why take the chance?  When you introduce a new piece of technology into your household, use that as an opportunity to have a conversation about what is and isn’t appropriate in using the new tool.  This is also a great time to go over the rules of using digital information, making sure your child knows that information, photos, etc. found online still have to be cited and credited just as they would if pulled from a hard copy.

Help keep our tweens safe on Social Media

Protect your Tweens.




When our children are young, we often go to great lengths to keep them safe in their physical environments.  Yet, as our children get older, it becomes more difficult for us to keep them safe as their environments expand beyond physical space and begin to include social media.   As a security expert, I see firsthand what can happen when kids fail to use social media tools in positive ways.  Here are some of my tips on how parents can keep their teens safe while using social media:

Make sure the tools they are using are age appropriate.  Did you know that your child is not allowed to have a Facebook page until they are 13?  Make sure your tweens and teens are using tools that are appropriate for their age and become as familiar as possible with the networks they are using, including reading the network’s privacy policy.

Be their ‘Friend’ or ‘Follower’.  Before you allow your teen to set up a social media profile require that they allow you to become their ‘Friend’ or ‘Follower’ on that particular network (such as Facebook or Twitter).  This way, you can monitor their activity and conversations in a very open and honest way.  I also recommend that parents have access to the usernames and passwords of their child’s accounts.

Discuss what items should-and shouldn’t-be posted.  Let your teens know that they should never give out personal information—even on their profile pages—and that comments and photos they post should only be those items they feel comfortable sharing with you as a parent.  In addition, emphasize to your teens that what happens online usually stays online—messages and photos rarely stay private in the world of social media and cannot be taken back.

Let’s Protect Our Teens

The Virtual Bully

Have you seen the movie “BULLY”?  If not, I highly recommend you rent the movie and get ready to watch one of the most powerful documentaries to ever grace the big screen.  The movie follows, over the course of a year, five case histories of ‘schoolyard persecution’, giving us an intimate look inside the lives of kids and their families who are affected by bullying behaviors.  The movie reminded me that today’s bullying doesn’t just happen on the playground, it also happens online—making it even more difficult for kids to walk away from the situation and feel safe and secure.


Could your kids become a victim of cyberbullying?  Here are a few tips for how parents can keep teens safe from online bullies taken from my e-book, Safe Text:  Protecting Your Teens from the Dangers of Texting,


Use technology to fight technology

There are a wide variety of free and fee-based filtering and blocking software applications that may help minimize the possibility of incidents.  I have several of these applications listed in the “Resources” section of my book.


Educate your teens about acceptable online behavior

Teach your teens how to choose online friends wisely and what behaviors to look for that may make it necessary to cut the online ties with some of their acquaintances.  Encourage your teens to not respond to a cyberbully and show them how to block people from sending them messages.


Draw up a contract

Make your teen aware that using a cell phone is a privilege, not a right.  Therefore, it comes with numerous responsibilities—including always telling an adult when they feel they are being cyberbullied.  A sample of a parent/teen contact is available in my e-book.

Let’s Protect OUR Teens!

Teaching Your Child About the Dangers of Social Networking

Social networking has become such a part of life that even kids have learned to “Facebook” or “tweet.” That’s why it’s important to teach your child about the dangers that lurk on such sites and how they can protect themselves from such dangers as phishing and other scams, computer viruses, cyberbullies, online predators and other Internet hazards.

Begin by verifying that your child is old enough to create a profile on the site they want to use. Most social networks are open to ages 13 and up. If your child isn’t 13, don’t let her sign up until she is. Instead, help her find a network geared to children her age and become involved there.

Next, share with your child what he can, and cannot, share online. For instance, he should never give out an address or a current location. Many sites, such as Facebook, for instance, make it easy to list where a user is at any given moment. Doing so can open your child up to the danger of stalkers or worse and should be avoided entirely.

Talk to your kids about their time spent online. Ask what they saw, what they wrote, what their friends said. It’s not a matter of being nosy. It’s a matter of being a part of your child’s life, communicating with her, and understanding what she is going through. Encourage your child to let you know if someone threatens them, scares them or harasses them online. Don’t yell or blame. Instead, help them to work through the issues and keep the lines of communication open between you.

Set specific guidelines for Internet usage, regardless of the age of your child. This may include the amount of time he can spend online, and on social websites, in particular. It may also include which networks he can join, and other rules that you can agree on. But don’t let your child’s agreement be the deciding factor in setting boundaries. His safety is at stake, and it’s your responsibility to ensure he’s protected. If necessary, set the rules you think are appropriate and let your child know they’re not up for discussion.

Be sure any rules you make are written down and that you child keeps a copy by her computer. This is the best defense against, “I forgot” or “I didn’t know.” Ensuring that there is a written reminder will go a long way in helping your child remember your guidelines.

Explain your reasons for the rules you set. For instance, let your child know that limiting his time spent online isn’t designed to limit the amount of fun he has, it’s to minimize the influence the social networking environment has on your child and reduce his exposure to online dangers.

In addition, share the potential dangers with your child. While you don’t want to be so blunt and graphic as to cause nightmares, letting your child know that not everyone online may be who they claim is a good way to help her become more discerning in who she friends and who she shares personal information with.

Firmly insist that your child never arranges to meet someone in person whom they’ve only met online. This is terribly dangerous and should guarded against at all costs. Teach your child to focus their attention on people they know personally rather than those they just meet online.

Doing your best to educate your child about online dangers will go a long way toward keeping him safe. The Internet brings potential danger into our lives, yes. As does school, shopping, and just about anything else we do. Knowing the possible dangers helps us guard against them. And teaching them to our kids will help to ensure their safety as well.

Help protect our teens!

Olivia McNamara was starting her freshman year at Vanderbilt University when she applied for her first credit card.

“I was applying to get a student credit card the summer before I came to college, and I was denied from the first credit card company that I applied to,” said McNamara.

After being rejected twice, she did some digging and found that someone had stolen her identity and had run up massive debt – to the tune of $1.5 million.

“I can’t even describe it,” she told ABC News. “It’s just really shocking and we just had no idea.”;

What was even more shocking to McNamara and her family was that the crime had started when she was 9. Someone had stolen her Social Security number and set up false identities and more than 42 accounts. All of them had defaulted.

“They took loans out on boats and houses and everything,” McNamara said.

Months after uncovering the crime, McNamara is still working to clear her credit. She still faces being rejected if she applies for a credit card or student loan or tries to rent a car or a house.

“I don’t know why this happened to me,” she said. “It’s been very frustrating, very difficult for us to fix, and we don’t really know how this is gonna affect me in the future.”;

McNamara is not alone in her ordeal. Thieves took 11-year-old Brianna’s Social Security number and ran up more than $132,000 in debt, buying a car and a house.

Using 8-year-old Bradley’s identity, thieves took out two student loans and got five credit cards. The damage totaled $19,200.

Authorities say that children are increasingly becoming the preferred target of identity thieves.

“We’ve seen children have this crime begin as early as 5 months old and then it goes on for years,” said Bo Holland, founder and CEO of All Clear ID, a company that offers basic identity theft protection to consumers.

“A parent will typically find out when their child is moving into adulthood,” Holland added. “When they are about to go to college, they apply for that first loan and, boom, they get denied.”;

In the last three years, there have been 57,000 cases of child identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission. A new report from All Clear ID estimates that one in 10 U.S. children are victims.

Criminals can hack home computers in search of tax forms with a child’s Social Security number. They also can target hospitals, child-welfare agencies and even schools.

“They’ll use your child’s Social Security number with a different name and a different birth date,” Holland said. “So if you pull a credit report, the credit report is looking for a specific name and the birthday that goes with it. And so you won’t find it. You’ll get “file not found,” and you’ll feel safe.”;

“The problem is large and growing,” said David Vladeck, the FTC’s director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Part of the problem is it’s undetected and undetectable.”;

Authorities advise parents to:

·         Make sure you have antivirus software installed on your home computer.

·         Tell your children never to give out their Social Security number without your permission.

·         Check your children’s credit periodically, even when they are under age.

“Parents need to understand that there are measures they can take to safeguard their children’s identity,” said Vladeck. ”Parents should think about protecting their children’s identity, and the Social Security number is absolutely the foundation there.”;

Enjoli Francis and Jack Date contributed to this report

Let’s protect our Children


Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day! This is a day where we celebrate all that is wonderful about those men in our lives who love us unconditionally and protect us from everything—in our real and even our virtual worlds. Dads are the chief protectors and that includes taking the lead on protecting their teens from all that can go wrong via their social media connections and text messaging. And while Dad uses these great new technologies to keep track of their teens, they can also be using them to build a deeper relationship with their children—which ultimately is the very best way to protect them.

So, on this Father’s Day, I challenge all Dads to move beyond text messages that simply ask “Where are you?” or “What time will you be home?”, and send your teens some of these messages (adapted from National Fatherhood Initiative):

• What are you up to this weekend? I was hoping we could spend some time shooting hoops at the park.
• Let’s get some ice cream after dinner tonight—should we invite your Mom?
• Good luck on your test today. You’re going to do a great job—I’m so proud of you.
• How’s your day? Hope it’s great.
• Hang in there. I know it’s been a crazy week!
• You looked really nice this morning—that new shirt looks really great on you.
• Great game—I loved watching you on the field!
• Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I love you.

Protect your Teen

Happy Mother’s Day to all of my ‘mom’ readers!  As a mom, you know how hard it is to stay connected to your teen—especially if your teen has a busy online life in addition to all the activities and events they are participating in offline.  I encourage parents to be involved in the online communities of their teens—especially when it comes to Facebook.


“Friending” your child on Facebook is just the first step.  The next step is making sure you keep this “Friend” connection alive and well.  Here are some of my tips for having a great Facebook relationship with your teens:


Do not be an editor:  Opening yourself up to their online world means you will see the good, bad & ugly from your teen.  Do not feel the need to discuss each and every post with them in detail such as correcting their grammar or asking them why they had such a terrible time during that recent family reunion.  Only step in when absolutely necessary.


Watch what you post:  Think twice before posting on your teen’s Facebook page.  This really isn’t the place to reprimand Jimmy for not cleaning his room or for telling Sally what a sweet daughter she is for helping you with the laundry on a Saturday night.


Do not embarrass your teen:  In addition to not posting embarrassing comments on their page, do not share embarrassing information about your teen with your own group of Facebook friends.  No teenager wants to find themselves tagged in a photo from their 2nd birthday where they are wearing nothing but a diaper and cowboy hat.


Remember, their friends do not have to be your friends:   Do not make it your mission to be Facebook friends with all of their friends or to comment (either online or offline) about their friends’ activities and posts.


Pay attention to your own page:  Now that you can see your teen’s page, they can also see your page.  Do not post comments or pictures you would not want your kids to see—show them the appropriate way to use this great social networking tool.


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Let’s protect our Teen’s, while they are texting and using social media site.

Protect your Teens on Facebook!  Facebook has become the new battleground for parents and teens –a place where teens are trying to gain more independence and parents are trying to keep them safe.  When it comes to ‘Friending’ your parents, not all teens are ready to click the “accept” button and feel having their parents become part of their online community is similar to having their parents read their diary.

Some parents are opting to not step foot onto this virtual battleground and are choosing to not even attempt to become Facebook ‘Friends’ with their children.  As a security expert, this is a move I do not endorse—in fact, I sit firmly in the camp that becoming your child’s Facebook ‘Friend’ is one of the key ways to keep them safe during their teen years.

Why?  Here are 3 reasons why it is important for parents to become Facebook ‘Friends’ with their teens:

It allows you to monitor your child’s online activity and conversations in a very real and honest way.  They know you are there, they invited you in—it is not as if you are sneaking into their room and looking through their drawers.

It helps deter the posting of inappropriate messages and photos.  Before a teen posts a message or photo they will be thinking ‘is this something I would want my mom or dad to see?’  If the answer is no, they won’t post it—keeping them from making what could be a very big mistake.  In addition, if you do see inappropriate messages or photos being posted, this is a great way to begin those somewhat hard conversations with your children.

You get valuable insight into what is happening in their offline world.  Not that you need (or want) to know how many times Susie broke up with Billy, but just seeing what your child is posting and/or is having posted to their page, gives you a glimpse into what is happening IRT (In Real Time).  This may explain changes in behavior and help encourage offline discussions.

Teenagers, Texting & Driving mistakes can cause legal problems.

Girl Texting on PhoneMy job as a security expert requires me to assist others in protecting their physical and intellectual assets, which is why I am so passionate about educating parents and teens regarding the real safety issues that can be associated with inappropriate texting behaviors. While parents certainly have the best intentions when they give teens a cell phone, they may also be setting themselves up for future legal issues. Most teens lack the maturity and experience to know how to use their newfound technology freedom and without proper parent monitoring (and at times intervention), teens may find themselves (and their parents!) in legal hot water. Read more to find out what happens when Teens Texting mistakes cross the Legal Line. [click to continue…]