Take Steps to Protect Your Child’s Online Identity

by CMHines4 on February 25, 2015

Safety is something that happens between (1)Since February is Data Privacy Month, this is an ideal opportunity to share some ways to protect your child’s online identity even if your kids aren’t online yet. Because they have a squeaky clean credit history, kids are attractive targets for identity thieves who can operate undetected for years. Here are some ways to protect your child’s identity:

  • Other than for tax purposes or your child’s school and medical records, few institutions actually need your child’s social security number. Push back on companies that ask for this sensitive information.
  • Avoid carrying your kids’ SSNs around with you or storing them in an insecure location.
  • Set up a Google Alert with your child’s name to help you monitor if she shows up anywhere online.
  • Be careful of how much personal information you provide to company websites. If the company’s customer service is hacked, a child’s birthday, age and place of birth are good starting points for thieves. (It is also a good idea to hide your birth year on sites like Facebook.)
  • Turn off geolocation tags when posting status updates and photos, especially when you post from home. This information can help thieves zero in on your home address. Many financial institutions use home addresses to confirm the identity of their customers.
  • While you may be proud of your child for getting her first driver’s license, avoid posting a photo of her license (or any other documents with sensitive personal information) online. Remind your excited teen of this rule too. 
  • Avoid posting your child’s birthdate, age and place of birth online or in a baby gift registry. Make generic online birth announcements and ask the company to remove your child’s gift registry after you are done with it.
  • Each year run a free report on your child through one of the three credit reporting agencies, including Experian, Equifax and Transunion. If a report shows up, there’s a strong chance that your child’s identity is being used fraudulently. 
  • Finally, before submitting personal information about you or your child to companies, ask them if they are using secure private clouds to protect your family’s information. According to SingleHop, which provides private cloud hosting to businesses around the world, secure private clouds protect stored information and make it harder for hackers to gain access, whether remote or physical.

Wondering how well you are protecting your privacy and safeguarding your personal data online? Try taking this Data Privacy Month Quiz from SingleHop. Let me know how you score! Thank you to SingleHop for providing this eye-opening survey!

Sources: iKeepSafe.org, Identityguard.com, SingleHop.com

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26 Tips to Rekindle that Lovin’ Feeling

by CMHines4 on February 11, 2015

Create a

This Valentine’s Day, take a moment to reassess the state of your union. A happy marriage helps set the foundation for a happy, secure family. When we remain intentional about showing our love for one another and not taking each other for granted, the threads that bind a marriage grow thicker and richer enabling us to weather the crises and heartache life tosses our way.

Your kids may pull groans and “ughs” when they see you kiss and hug, but your displays of affection toward one another models what a healthy marriage looks like.

If life has interrupted the attention you are paying to your marriage–and it can happen in any marriage–check out these 26 simple tips to rekindle that lovin’ feeling with your mate. Want to read more about why affection in marriage matters? Check out my article “Show Your Love! The Importance of Affection in Marriage” in this month’s Connecticut Parent magazine.

1. Hold hands

2. Hug and kiss

3. Look each other in the eyes

4. Get involved in a hobby together

5. Listen when your spouse talks about his or her interests

6. Flirt with each other

7. Laugh together

8. Talk to each other about your day

9. Pen a love note and leave it on your spouse’s pillow

10. Send a flirty text message

11. Email a link to a sweet love song to your mate

12. Give your spouse a back rub

13. Offer a sincere compliment

14. Schedule a late dinner, just the two of you, after your kids have gone to bed

15. Create exclusive traditions for the pair of you to share

16. Help each other around the house and with the kids

17. Call each other during the day just to check in

18. Court each other

19. Take a walk together

20. Plan a lunch date

21. Tell your kids what you love about your spouse

22. Make your partner’s favorite meal or dessert…just because

23. Cook dinner together

24. Stand up for your spouse when he or she is feeling vulnerable

25. Give your spouse the opportunity to sleep in while you take your kids to breakfast

26. Say “I love you” every day

What are your tips for a happy marriage?

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How to Keep YouTube Safe for Kids

by CMHines4 on February 2, 2015

The world at your fingertipLast week during a Twitter chat at the Mothers & More Online Expo (#MMExpo), a mom asked me if I had suggestions about keeping kids safe on YouTube. With nearly 80 percent of kids between the ages of 8 and 12 playing games, downloading apps and watching videos online, this was an important question I felt should be addressed in more than a 140-character tweet.

First let me start by saying YouTube can be a fantastic learning tool. My 9-year-old’s social studies teacher made levees interesting by showing the kids how they work using videos from YouTube. My son couldn’t wait to share these videos with me. 

My 7-year-old and I have used YouTube to watch videos of fighter jets and Blue Angels’ stunts since this is his current interest.

Both my kids like watching Minecraft videos. (I’m including a link to Common Sense Media approved Minecraft channels below if your child is also a Minecraft fanatic.)

YouTube allows us to share the world with our kids in meaningful ways. Unfortunately, the site can also expose our kids to people, colorful language and images we don’t like.

Here are a few ways to help ensure you and your child enjoy a positive YouTube experience:

  • Turn on Safety Mode to help filter questionable content.
  • Kids often want to watch the videos their friends watch. Ask them what the video is about and watch it with them. If you notice inappropriate material, talk about why you don’t like it. For example, if they are watching a music video that portrays women in a sexist way or you see drugs/alcohol, you can use these opportunities to discuss your values and expectations without lecturing.
  • Monitor what your child watches by reviewing her video history. If she has deleted the history, see what videos pop up as recommendations since these will be similar to what she’s watched.
  • If you aren’t sure about the contents of a video and want to pre-approve it before allowing your child to view it, watch the video or the trailers first (if available). Also, Google the creator of the video to see the types of videos they typically produce.
  • Ads can be a good sign that the material is produced in accordance with YouTube’s rules. Videos where the producers want to make money through advertising revenue have to pass muster with YouTube by becoming a YouTube Partner. The creators have had to share samples of their work and meet YouTube criteria before being approved.
  • Once you have approved certain channels, subscribe to them so that your child can go straight to those without doing searches.
  • Learn about YouTube’s community guidelines

Here are some additional resources to check out:

A Parent’s Ultimate Guide to YouTube (Common Sense Media)

The 10 Best Kid Friendly Minecraft Channels on YouTube (Common Sense Media)

How does your family enjoy YouTube together? What do you do to ensure a positive experience for your child? 

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Make Your Time Matter

by CMHines4 on January 20, 2015

M&M-EXPO-2015-BadgeWhen a child isn’t gaining the weight she needs due to inadequate nutrition, doctors use the diagnosis “failure to thrive.” At that point, extra measures are taken in an effort to help the child grow healthier. As moms, when we don’t nourish our spirits and our bodies, we also fail to thrive.

When we’ve arrived at this stage, we’ve lost sight of our dreams, our sense of purpose and our zest for life. We may be feeling sick and lacking confidence. Not only is this state of living dangerous to our own personal well-being, it negatively affects our families.

Considering the multiple responsibilities today’s mom attempts to balance on top of the thousands of distractions daily life presents, you can see how frighteningly simple it is to find ourselves slipping down the rungs of the “priority ladder.”

Living life with intention has never been more critical if we are to feel happy, at peace and fulfilled. That’s why I’m excited to participate in the 2015 Mothers & More Virtual Expo: Mothers’ Time Matters, which will provide moms with the resources, experts and community to live life with more intention.

Where you can find me at the expo:

On Monday, Jan. 26 at 12 p.m. CST, blogger and bestselling humor author Jen Mann and I will be hosting a joint conversation, titled “Find Your Path, Find Yourself.” During this conversation, you’ll learn ways to invest more time in yourself to help you achieve a happier, more fulfilling life. After all, when moms are feeling happy and healthy, their families do too.

On Tuesday, Jan. 27 at 12 p.m. CST, Mothers & More has also invited me to share tips for preparing our kids for social media. If you are unable to attend at the scheduled time, both presentations will be recorded and available for expo participants to listen to later. I will be giving away a copy of my book Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World.

On Tuesday, Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. CST, Jen and I will also take to Twitter and be available to answer any questions you might have. Use the hashtag #MMExpo to participate.

If you’d like to register or learn more about this event, click here or on the Mothers & More Expo icon in this post. I hope you’ll join in and bring a friend. Your time matters and this year, wouldn’t you rather see yourself thrive rather than just… well…survive? So join us. Let’s do this together and make 2015 the best year ever!

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Photo courtesy: Girl Scouts Council of the Nation’s Capital

Mmmm….Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs…Everyone I know has their favorite Girl Scout cookie. And now if the council in your community is participating, you can order these delicious treats from your favorite scout through a digital cookie platform.

For the first time ever, Girl Scouts is introducing their scouts to a high-tech approach to cookie sales. Scouts will have the opportunity to market and take online orders using their own customized websites or through a mobile app.

Scouts can email a link to their customized website to family and friends. Their customers pay by credit card and the cookies are shipped directly to them. Girls who aren’t using the website option, can download an app to their “smart” device and accept credit card orders in-person.

According to the Girl Scouts’ organization website, “Digital Cookie will expand girls’ knowledge of and hands-on experience with online marketing, app use, website customization and e-commerce.”   

GSA goes on to say that they will ensure the safety of their scouts by having parents and girls sign an Internet safety pledge and require parental oversight and consent for any changes made to each scout’s personally customized website. And if you were wondering, 100 percent of cookie sales proceeds will still go directly to the scout’s local council.

If done with guidance and support from parents and leaders, I think this is a positive opportunity for girls to learn modern lessons in e-commerce. The more guidance we can provide our kids about how to engage in positive, professional communication practices online the better. And what a great way for these families to discuss ethical, safe interaction online and steer their children in the right direction as they begin exploring the ins and outs of online engagement.

What is your favorite Girl Scout cookie? What do you think of the digital cookie program?

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Find Your Village, Reach Your Goals

by CMHines4 on January 2, 2015

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Want to know how to find your village? My book “Confidently Connected: A Mom’s Guide to a Satisfying Social Life” can get you there!

Happy 2015! Did you make any new years resolutions this year? Studies find that we are more likely to achieve our resolutions if we share them with others and tap into a network of support.

Depending on your personality, you may only need one or two people to lean on or a team. Either way, having others there to cheer you on, offer advice and provide moral support will make a difference when you are feeling less than confident in yourself. Of course, the challenge is finding and fitting into a group that’s right for you.

Where do you begin? Search out people who share similar interests. If you would like to start a walking/running group with other moms, for example, ask around on social media, your neighborhood or at your gym.

Or maybe you would like to join a moms group. Search online and see what groups exist in your area. Check with your local library or your place of worship. Look at Meet-Up.com for neighborhood groups or start your own. Sign your child up for a parent-child music class to connect with other moms. *I include a list of moms groups here on my resources page.

Reconnect. Some individuals may currently be shallow connections, particularly friends in social media. Make a list of people who you would like to try and get to know better or reconnect with. Reach out to them and see if they’d like to meet up for coffee or lunch. Set a reasonable goal for yourself like “I will connect with someone I want to get to know better once a week.”

Invest. If you join a group, invest your time to become not only a name on a roster, but a part of the group. This means attending group get-togethers and taking the initiative to lead or help with an event or responsibilities within the group.

Be patient. We live in an instant gratification society. We want friends and we want them now! But, friendships take time to develop. Only a few friendships are formed immediately and usually those kindred spirits only come around once or twice in a lifetime.

Be curious. The word “communication” is derived from the Latin word “communicare” which means “to share.”As you head out into the social scene, you may feel uncomfortable and nervous. Approach new situations by inviting people to share a little about themselves. This begins as small talk, but can deepen into fascinating conversation when we discover interests in common. Remember this: people like people who are interested in them, not people who are trying too hard to impress or be interesting. Ask questions like “what brought your family to this area?” “how did you find out about this group?” “how old are your children?” “what are your family’s favorite places to spend time around here?” Then listen.

The benefits.  As you launch into Operation Get Connected, you’ll start feeling both physically and emotionally better. This isn’t a coincidence. Social connection is wired into our DNA. When you have the opportunity to engage in conversation with others who share your interests, you feel more alive and positive. Feel-good hormones like cortisol will flood your body, boosting your immune system and providing a buffer from depression which can be fueled by isolation.

As you strengthen your village, your family will bask in your efforts. Your children will have a brave role model to help them as they navigate their own social circles, and as a whole, your family will feel more at ease and integrated into the community.

Are you struggling to find your tribe? What are the challenges holding you back?

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Is Your Holiday Turning into a Circus?

by CMHines4 on December 4, 2014

Between a certain elf that must be encouraged to find a new location each night (bonus points if he does something interesting), gift purchasing and the millions of other little things we do in an effort to create a happy holiday for our families, it is easy to get run down. For your sanity and your health, check out my seven tips to recapture the magic of the holiday season. What do you do to calm the frenzy of the holidays?

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Apps that Work to Prevent Cyberbullying

by CMHines4 on November 20, 2014

ID-100288795Over half of adolescents have been bullied online and 43 percent of kids in grades four through eight have been victims of cyberbullying. Check out these two free apps that aim to prevent and address bullying:

KnowBullying – Created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, this free app provides conversation tips for parents to begin talking about bullying with their kids. It also helps families learn to recognize the warning signs of bullying and strategies to prevent bullying for ages three to six, seven to 13 and teens.

STOP IT – Available for Apple or Android, there are two versions, one for schools and one for individuals. The app is customizable and includes four features that empowers kids to stop cyberbullying, including Stop It, Help It, Friend It and Report It.

Using the StopIt function, if a child is cyberbullied, he can take a screen shot of the message and easily forward it to a customized list of trusted adults and/or school administrators (if the school is enrolled in the program). The system also automatically sends out a message to the person who wrote the message letting them know that their behavior has been reported.

Through the HelpIt function, kids can access resources for help 24-7 if they are struggling or in crisis.

FriendIt helps kids anonymously stand up for other kids by taking a screen shot of a message and reporting the bullying behavior to a trusted adult.

The ReportIt function allows kids to document messages from cyber-predators by reporting the behavior immediately to law enforcement.

*Also, if your child is on Instagram, you might be interested in reading this fascinating opinion piece called “The Secret Language of Girls on Instagram” that appeared in Time magazine.

Know of other cyberbullying prevention apps? Let me know in the comments below!  

For more on helping kids manage online relationships and communicating well both online and off, check out my ebook Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles

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Talking to Kids about Suicide

by CMHines4 on November 11, 2014

“Place your hand over your heart, can (1)Two teenage girls, who attended our neighborhood high school, committed suicide this past weekend. One ended her life Friday afternoon and the other teen, who had just expressed her grief about the loss of her classmate on her Twitter account, stood in front of an oncoming train on Sunday evening.

My deepest condolences go out to the families and friends of these two teens.

Whenever anyone so young chooses to end his or her life, the tragedy reverberates throughout the entire community. No matter where you live, talk to your kids about suicide and learn ways to help your child grow more resilient.

I want to share an excerpt of a letter that Gwen Poss, the principal at the girls’ high school sent to parents and released to the media. These are important reminders for all of us to think about when talking to kids impacted by suicide.

Here is my request for all parents for this afternoon or evening – please have a heartfelt conversation with your student about these tragedies and specifically about suicide. Have this conversation with your son or daughter tonight – you know them best. Ask them how they are feeling, be non-judgmental, and avoid any gossip related to details of the deaths or causes. Keep communication open and maintain high supervision and knowledge of their whereabouts. It will be vital that you are closely monitoring your student’s social media accounts for messages being sent and received.

Include in your conversations tonight these messages:

- Suicide is a horrible decision and is not an option.

- There is nothing they could have done or said to change the outcome of these tragic deaths.

- Emphasize that suicide is not the way to handle problems, no matter how big or how painful.

- Help is available. Talk to a parent, a teacher, any trusted adult.

- If they know of a friend that is struggling, let an adult know as soon as possible.”

Prevention tips and awareness

Ways to help lessen the chances that your child will consider suicide an option when times get rough include building a strong, cohesive network around your child and developing a relationship built on good communication. That’s not always easy with teens, but don’t give up and stay on top of what they are saying on social media.

These aren’t one-time conversations. Use books, movies and TV shows to highlight individuals who overcome unimaginable odds, refusing to give up. Share your own stories and challenges. Life may seem dark and overwhelming right now, but it always gets better.

Encourage your child to let an adult know if they notice a peer posting messages on social media that indicate they might end their life.

According to the the National Association of School Psychologists, factors that can strengthen a child’s resiliency  to suicide include:

  • Peer support and close social networks.
  • School and community connectedness.
  • Cultural or religious beliefs that discourage suicide and promote healthy living.
  • Adaptive coping and problem-solving skills, including conflict-resolution.
  • General life satisfaction, good self-esteem, sense of purpose.
  • Easy access to effective medical and mental health resources.

For more information also check out the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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The Sting of Invisibility

by CMHines4 on November 4, 2014

Hello- Is anyone there-Social media can be something of a double-edged sword. Adults and adolescents alike crave the instant positive reinforcement that online friends deliver after posting a status update or a photo. But how does it feel when your posts generally seem to go completely ignored by your social network?

This form of rejection, according to a study out of the University of Queensland in Australia is like living in a “mental hell” affecting a person’s sense of loneliness and lowering his self-esteem. 

If adults feel this way, imagine how an adolescent might be affected? How can we buffer our kids from putting too much stock into online “likes”?

Peer relationships become increasingly important as kids enter third and fourth grades, a few years before most start jumping onto social media. This is a prime time to help your child nurture a solid support network “in real life.” 

Imagine, for a moment, your child sitting at the lunch table at school and he tries to chime into or start a conversation with his peers, only to be ignored as if he is completely invisible.

Made to feel irrelevant, insignificant and excluded is just as difficult to bear as mean, hurtful comments. In fact, deliberate exclusion by a peer group is considered a form of relational bullying. The resulting sense of isolation can affect a child’s self-worth, fueling dangerous feelings of negativity, depression and anxiety.

Your child doesn’t have to have a lot of friends, but finding ways to solidify fledgling friendships can help him feel more positive and resilient.

  • Look for extracurricular activities at school that underscore his distinctive talents and interests. He’ll derive self-confidence and pleasure from activities that he enjoys. These activities will help him connect with other like-minded kids who appreciate his abilities and efforts.
  • Talk to your child’s teacher to find out which kids your child seems to have a lot in common with. Ask if there are ways to bring the kids together as study partners, lunch mates or recess buddies.
  • Find ways for him to nurture budding friendships by hosting playdates outside of school.

By honing these relationships, you can help your child realize that she matters a great deal, that she isn’t invisible and is an integral part of a caring community. And while rejection will still sting no matter what its form, knowing that she has friends and family who “have her back” will build her resilience now and into her adolescent years.

Once she gets onto social media, she’ll begin to learn that posts that go unacknowledged or ignored aren’t a reflection of her self-worth. Shouldn’t our goals and life pursuits be loftier than the number of thumbs up we get? “Likes” after all, simply aren’t a reliable measure of our value as human beings. Not when our innovative, creative and smart kids have so much more to offer this world.

How do you feel when you are ignored online? How are you helping your kids prepare for the ups and downs of online social interaction?

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