Technology and Teens

How to Snoop on Your Kids Online Behaviors Without Snooping

As a mom of three teenagers and a tech trainer who works with teachers, I am highly aware of the slippery slope that our kids can get into online.  I shy away from using the word “dangerous”, because it makes me sound like a fanatic.  If there is one thing I’m not it is a fanatic- about anything.  It is a fact that our kids are spending hours online.  Our job as parents is to monitor and discuss what they are doing online.  This isn’t as easy as it sounds since most of our kids have a computer in their hand in the form of an iPhone or devices.

Each of my kids use the internet differently.  I have one who can spend hours on Pinterest looking at nail art and decorating ideas.  I have another who will read all sorts of online articles on whatever topic she is into, and my son will spend hours watching Netflix, YouTube, Instagramming, or playing Minecraft.

I really try not to read their text messages, because I wouldn’t eavesdrop on their “real life” conversations.  I feel strongly that teenagers need to know they can be trusted until proven otherwise.  I will admit to looking over a shoulder every now and then, but hey, nobody is perfect.  I do know parents who actually have their kids text messages channel through them first.  This method isn’t for me- there is no way I could keep up with all of the text messages!

If you are concerned about how much your kid is sharing online here are five ways to facilitate online safety for your kids

1.  Keep family computers in a common area like the kitchen or family room.  There is no reason for any kid to have their own laptop in their bedroom or tucked away where there isn’t much house traffic.  It has been proven that kids using a computer where the screen can be seen are safer online.  It lets them know that you are monitoring their traffic and what they are up to.

2.   If you are really concerned about their online habits just check their browser history.  If your child continues to clear the browser history you probably have a problem.

3.  Talk with your kids about texting and social media behavior.  I always say, if you wouldn’t say it in person, you don’t say it online.  Social media exposure for teens creates an atmosphere of overexposure.  Our kids can choose to increase privacy by not posting too much information.  We have a rule at our house that no one can post anything about people in their family and definitely no posting when you are feeling emotional.

4.  Know who your kids are connecting with.  A person online that your child does not see in real life is a stranger.   We don’t think about the risks our kids could encounter.  For example, my son has been a Minecraft junkie.  One feature of Minecraft is the ability to chat with other players who are in your “world”.   My son has encountered predators in this situation and as soon as he became uncomfortable blocked that user.

5.  Follow your kids social media accounts online.  This is different than reading their text message conversations.  The problem is that once it has been posted online, it never goes away.  If your teenager has a Twitter, Vine, Instagram, or Facebook account follow their streams just to ensure they are being safe and wise about what they are sharing. They won’t like it, but don’t worry it won’t be the last thing they don’t like about you!

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Click below for even more information about internet safety for kids.

http://www.netsmartz.org/internetsafety

http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/family/net_safety.html

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holidays

Our Weird Easter Tradition

I remember when Easter held a magical power over my children.  I would buy my girls matching dresses and clean up my little guy in his church best and off we’d go to what I like to call the annual fashion show at mass.  I love the lenten season and the celebration at mass on Easter morning.  Lent is a wonderful time to reflect on our habits and gives us an opportunity to be a better person.

Our Easters these days look much different than they used to.  We sleep in on Sunday morning and the “Easter bunny” throws some chocolate and jelly beans into three old Easter baskets before the kids roll out of bed.  We eat breakfast around 11 am and if I am lucky enough to have nice weather in April in Nebraska I go for a nice long run.

It is ok- this shift from magical Easter to reality easter.  We do make a memorable day of it, just not how most people do it.  We have a nice meal on the china in the dining room, go to mass in the evening, but we add a in a weird tradition.

It is called “The Ugly Easter Egg Contest”.  We’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember and the tradition came from my husband’s side of the family.  Here is how it goes.  Everyone gets 2 hardboiled eggs.  They must make one pretty egg and one ugly egg.  The fun part is that there are hardly any rules for the ugly egg except that it must still be edible.  Each year, we seem to take it one step further.

This year one of my daughter’s applied black dog hair from our lab and placed a black jelly bean on the egg as a top hat.  She titled it “demonic furball”.   My other daughter used avacado mush, honey, & chia seeds, and exploded peep goo.  My son thought mushed bananas and catsup might win the prize, and my husband created a decapitated peep egg with catsup blood included.  Everyone also had to create a title for their creations on notecards.  I was assigned the role of the judge.  This year I graded on creativity, ugliness, and edibility.

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The winner of the ugly egg was my 16 year old whose egg looked like a rotting avacado. The winner of the pretty egg was my husband, Jim who threw in a kiss during the judging for good luck.  His egg was titled “Color of life, I love everyone”.  His win was contested due to swaying the judge, but hey it worked!

I am thinking of opening this up to our friends and hosting it the day before Easter.  But then what would my family do on Easter day?  Would you come to an Ugly Easter Egg Contest?

Oh and my tech connection?  Well Instagram of course!  We tweeted it, Facebooked it and Instagrammed it!  You can follow my Instagram page @ jennykbps.

 

fitness

Omaha Kids~ Tri it Out!

I say I am a triathlete, but really I just dabble in it.  I have been a runner for years and I love cycling.  I grew up swimming on swim teams and spending summer weekends at the lake.  So I have done a handful of triathlon races.  I love them!  I love being outside, training with friends, and finding my own physical limits and breaking through them.  I would like to think that I inspire my own kids, but honestly they just think I am crazy.

One of my training partners and sweet friend, Liz Wallace, heads up the Lifetime Run Club at Omaha’s Lifetime Fitness Club.  She is organizing the first ever INDOOR KIDS TRI.  The event this year takes place June 8 in the morning at Lifetime Fitness.  Here is the rundown on the race:

  • First wave begins at 7 am.  For your newbies that just means the first group of kids hit the pool.  There isn’t actually a wave. The younger group will start first.
  • Kids ages 12-14 will have a 5 minute swim, a 15 minute stationary bike time, and a 10 minute treadmill run.
  • Kids ages 15-17 will do a 10 minute swim, a 30 minute stationary bike time, and a 20 minute treadmill run.
  • Fee is $30 for members and $35 for nonmembers.

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This race would be perfect for any active kid just to try out this sport, and with this crew of volunteers I know these little racers will have a blast.  Gear is low maintenance as well- just a swimsuit, tennis shoes, and comfy workout clothes.  No helmet or bike needed!

Your kids will be in the presence of some serious racers who have accomplished half iron man races, olympic distance tri’s, and all around supportive and positive individuals.  There will be a post pool party for the racers and the volunteers with food a DJ and swimming.  If you have any questions about the event contact ewallace@lifetimefitness.com