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Children cyber-bullying Social Media

Shepherding a Child’s Heart in a Social Media World

When it comes to social media, protecting your kids can be a daunting task.

While you want your kids to be able to communicate and have access to a wealth of information through social media, you probably also want to protect them from the downsides of social media—cyber bullying, access to inappropriate content, and vulnerability to criminal activity.

And even if you think you’re pretty good at keeping tabs on your children’s online activity, according to Guard Child, 67% of teens know how to hide their online activity from their parents. I know, it’s pretty scary, right?

So, what can you do to ensure that your children aren’t hiding what they do online and potentially putting themselves at risk?

Here are some useful tips that I use with my daughters.

Set Age and Time Limits

No child needs to be on social media all the time—that’s just asking for trouble.

In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children younger than 18 months shouldn’t use media of any kind—with the exception of video chatting platforms such as Skype or FaceTime to connect with grandparents, of course!

Some social networking sites even have stipulated age limits. For example, did you know that anyone under the age of 13 isn’t allowed to have a Facebook account? Do your homework to find out which sites are age appropriate for your kids and keep them off the ones that aren’t intended for their age group.

Take it a step further and set time limits for their online activity. Have you ever thought, “I’ll just catch up on Facebook for 10 minutes,” and then found yourself online an hour later? With kids’ curiosity, it’s easy for them to get caught up checking things on the web. Setting time limits will reduce the risk of your children getting pulled into things they shouldn’t be doing in the first place.

Supervise and Get Full Access

In this day and age, it’s not nosy to have access to your children’s social media accounts—it’s smart.

Ensure that you have the correct passwords for your children’s accounts. There are unique benefits to being able to view their accounts from their perspective, rather than just checking on their profile through your own account. By doing random check-ins you can find out who your children are following, what content they’re seeing on their personalized feeds, and who they’re communicating with privately.

You may be able to put a stop to cyber-bullying by checking for any mistreatment of or by your children. You can also keep your children from falling victim to social media predators who actively seek out young children.

As your kids get older and become more aware of online threats, you may not need to check their accounts as often. However, especially with young kids, frequent monitoring is a smart tactic to keep them safe.

Encourage Private Accounts

Your kids don’t need to share their information with the entire world. So, ensure that your children’s social media accounts are set to private, not public.

Do this by checking their privacy settings on individual social media platforms. This will hide your kid’s information from strangers on the internet, even pictures or posts that they’re tagged in by other people.

Privacy settings are not foolproof, however, so you may want to install filtering software on your web browser that will protect your children—and your device—from various invasive viruses and spyware.

Let Your Children Know What to Share

Children, in their naivety, usually see nothing wrong with sharing every detail of their lives—from what they’re wearing and eating to their location and activities at any given time.

However, sharing information such as your location or personal details online gives other people a lot of access to you. Depending on who sees this information, it can actually put your safety at risk—no matter your age. Even Kim Kardashian was a victim of criminals who targeted her using information from her Instagram account to determine her location and activities.

Make sure to monitor the pictures, posts, and location tags your children share to see if they’re appropriate and set clear rules about what information they can and cannot share online.

Keep the Conversation Going

Before establishing rules about social media for your kids, it’s important to have a frank conversation with them about the dangers of the online world and why you’re setting rules in the first place. An honest and open conversation will help them understand why you’re concerned and will better equip them to handle things without you.

Just as you would teach your kids about dangers in the real world, teach them about the dangers of social media.

Remember that the rules you establish should work for you and your family. Consider the age and maturity of your children—what you enforce with a 12-year-old will likely be very different from what you would with a 16-year-old. As they mature you may have to revisit and adjust the boundaries you’ve set for them.

No matter their age, it’s important to encourage your children to be open with you about what goes on with their social media, both the good and the bad. Honestly, it’s difficult to monitor every single thing they do online, so the more comfortable they feel being open with you, the more easily you can protect them from online dangers.

Children Step Parent

Blended Families: The Joys of Being a Step-Parent

Let’s face it, the stereotypical step-parent and step-child relationship is pretty nightmarish—just picture Cinderella’s evil step-mother and step-sisters!

It’s no wonder that with such a widespread negative stereotype many people tend to shy away from being a step-parent.

But the truth is, acquiring a step-family doesn’t have to be a negative experience for anyone involved. Many adults and kids have very pleasant experiences and find themselves in a loving, supportive blended family.

It’s normal to be nervous about your new family, whether you’re a step-parent, foster parent, adopted parent, or even a biological parent. So, instead of focusing on the challenges that may come with this new role, let’s spend some time highlighting the joys that come with being a step-parent.

Developing Strong Bonds 

Step-parents and stepchildren can have wonderful, loving bonds.

Naturally, you may be concerned about how you’ll be treated in this new family, but instead of focusing on that, focus on how you’ll treat your partner and their children. How you treat them will directly impact how they’ll treat you in return.

Yes, it takes time to develop bonds—especially if you come into the children’s lives when they’re slightly older. But, spending quality time with your stepchildren so that you can all get to know each other will go a long way towards establishing strong, healthy relationships.

There’s More Love to go Around 

Remember the old adage, it takes a village to raise a child?

Well, as a step-parent, you have the amazing opportunity to bring more love and support into a family that may be struggling, particularly the children. A child can never have too many loving adults looking out for them.

You’ll also receive love! There’s nothing like a child’s love—they love totally and without restrictions.

See What Kind of a Parent Your Partner Is

If you and your partner intend to have kids of your own, being a step-parent also gives you a preview of your partner’s parenting style.

Plus, since they’re a parent already, your partner will be much more equipped to handle a lot of things—from changing diapers to handling a sick child and everything in between.

Parenting can be scary at times, and it will be great to have someone experienced in that area who you can count on for guidance.

You Bring a Fresh Perspective to the Table

Being the newcomer can seem daunting at first, but it can be good for the entire family to have someone with a fresh perspective join the mix.

Maybe your partner is having trouble with their adolescent children. You could be a great sounding board for listening to their troubles, giving advice, and positively influencing your partner’s parenting and relationship with their child.

Plus, once you’ve established a relationship with your stepchildren, they may appreciate coming to someone who isn’t their mom or dad for advice—that makes you the cool parent instead of the evil step-parent!

Just be sure to have a conversation with your partner about parental roles so that you don’t accidentally overstep any boundaries. Being on the same page as co-parents is crucial for effective parenting!

Everyone Involved Becomes More Resilient

When families separate, for whatever reason, it’s a very painful, emotionally-draining process for everyone involved.

But every cloud has a silver lining—the upside of this one is that blended families can become more resilient because they learn how to bounce back from that pain and make the best of a complicated situation.

As complicated as things may be, put in the effort to work through family problems instead of sweeping things under the rug. That just leads to resentment and a reluctance to change.

In the same vein, due to the complicated nature of a blended family, ones that are happy and well-adjusted also tend to be open-minded and accepting of others. Wouldn’t it be great to be a part of that?

You Get to be a Relationship Role Model 

Depending on the situation, children of divorced or single parents may not get to see what a healthy marriage looks like. This is you and your partner’s chance to show them what a healthy marriage is—day in and day out, the good and the bad.

Because of your influence, your stepchildren will be able to use your marriage as a benchmark for their future relationships and will mirror the valuable lessons they’ve learned from you.

Being a Step-Parent: It Takes Time 

As with all relationships, building bonds and letting people in takes time—especially when trying to fit into an existing family dynamic.

If you want this experience to change you and your new family for the better, it’s best not to force relationships, but to nurture them instead. Give it time and don’t push everyone to adjust at the same rate.

You have the opportunity to create positive experiences and teach important life lessons as a step-parent. Yes, it takes time, effort, and emotional involvement, but it will all be worth it in the end.

Children problem-solving Resilience

Teaching Our Kids Resilience: The Difference Between Being Good vs. Getting Better

Sometimes you hear about resilient kids who take on difficult tasks and don’t give up until they’ve accomplished what they set out to do. Other kids give up and throw tantrums at the simplest of things. While age is a factor, there comes a time when kids need to hold their own. But what makes some children keep going and others give up?

It’s resilience. The kids that face difficult tasks and come out successful are problem solvers. They face tough situations head-on and figure out the best solution. Despite what you may think, it’s not all about intelligence. According to Psychology Today, one’s IQ says nothing about how we face difficulties in our lives.

So, if you’re sitting there thinking, “I wish my kids were resilient!” the good news is, resilience can be taught. You would actually be doing them a favor: teaching children to problem solve in a healthy way from a young age can go a long way. It’s an important life skill, after all. Plus. It will make everyone’s lives easier.

Teaching Our Kids Resilience

The goal here is to get our kids to strive to be better, rather than be good. What’s the difference? Being good at something only shows how smart you are, whereas getting better is about developing your skills. According to Psychology Today, kids who strive to get better are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than the kids who simply aim for being good. They are more likely to see a bad grade as motivation to try harder, rather than resign to the fact that they are “not good at” a particular subject.

So, how can we teach our kids this all-important life skill? These tips will get you started:

1. Talk About Challenges Before they Happen

We may not be able to predict every single trial our children will face, but there are a few we can prepare them for. Perhaps your child is moving to a new school; be sure to explain to them that it’s an opportunity for them to build a new skill, like making new friends. Avoid saying things like, “I’m sure everyone will love you.” Although you mean well, statements like that can be misleading.

2. Don’t Give in to Everything

As moms, we can be overprotective at times (okay, all the time!); but by doing so, we aren’t giving our kids a chance to develop their problem-solving abilities. Giving guidance is great, but sometimes we have to let them face relatively tough situations on their own—and this applies to children of all ages. Mommy won’t always be there to solve all their problems.

If a kid is trying to take a toy away from your child in the sandbox, wait a minute before intervening and see how they handle it on their own.

3. Encourage Age-Appropriate Risk

Wait, what? I’m not denying that part of our job as parents is to keep our children safe; but some measured risk can be a good thing. Age-appropriate risks help teach our kids life skills and allow them to discover their limits. Children can then apply what they learn as they grow older.

4. Giving Feedback

The whole point is for your child to learn, and constructive feedback is always a good thing. Focus on how they can improve, but make sure not to compare them to anyone else. They should strive to do better than they did the previous time—to compete against themselves, rather than competing against others.

For example, if your son didn’t do well on a test, shift his focus to what he can do to improve his own grade, rather than what he can do to be the best in the entire class. If he got a ‘C’ on the last test, a realistic goal would be to shoot for a ‘B’ on the next one, instead of pressuring him to get an ‘A+’ and outperform all of his classmates.

Your feedback should emphasize that your child has the ability to change. You might explain to your child that, in order to improve at their chosen discipline, they could practice harder and more often.

Give suggestions, but don’t provide all the answers. Ask questions that will challenge them to think for themselves, and make sure to be encouraging and positive.

It All Comes Down to Balance

For parents, the question becomes to what extent you should let them discover things on their own rather than giving instruction.

Think “guided tough love.”

Start with letting go of the little things and gradually build from there. You can even give examples from your own life. Perhaps you weren’t good at swimming, but with hard work and practice you became better at it—and eventually joined the water polo team. Examples of when you gave up before you should have are also great.

We can all agree that resilience is a skill that helps carry us through our not-so-perfect lives. The sooner you start teaching your kids, the better their problem-solving skills will become as they get older.