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5 Alarming Apps That Your Teenager is Probably Using

By Steven Woda on November 14, 2014 at 3:34 PM

In this technologically advanced world, we understand that almost everyone has a cell phone by now. It isn't uncommon in our era for children that haven't even made it into middle school yet to be seen thumbing it up on their iPhones.  

But, with all of the apps available to kids, with little to no parental consent required, what, exactly, are our children downloading?  We have compiled a list of what we have found to be the top scariest applications available (for free) out in the digital world today. 

SNAPCHAT

Although the app's website states that "Snapchat is intended for use by people who are 18 years of age or older, and persons under the age of 18 are prohibited from creating Snapchat accounts", a whopping 50% of Snapchat users are between the ages of 13-17. 

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Understanding Why Teens and Tweens Use Trendy Text Lingo

By Tim Woda on November 13, 2014 at 6:59 PM

Text messaging is a fairly recent invention. As parents, it's often easy to get confused about how in the world you're supposed to hit those tiny buttons with your fingers, or what exactly "LOL TTYL" means. (Hint: it doesn't stand for "lots of love.")

Teens especially love to use trendy text lingo to get their point across. All of those acronyms and shortened words are easier than typing everything out and they still get the same point across if the person who receives the message understands them.

As a parent, you're probably annoyed with the turn that language has taken. But, in fact, language is constantly evolving, and has been for hundreds of years, ever since it was created. That's part of what's so great about it. This move toward text-speak is just the latest evolution of the way we speak.

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Common Mobile and Internet Child Safety Dangers to Avoid

By Steven Woda on November 12, 2014 at 6:09 PM

The moment that a child logs on to the Internet is the moment that they are exposed to a number of risks. While the Internet is designed to help us all accomplish tasks, learn new information, and even do business, there are potential threats that lurk as well, particularly for children. Mobile and Internet child safety is an important topic to learn about. 

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Texting: A Miraculous Tool for All Digital Parents

By Steven Woda on November 12, 2014 at 2:49 PM

Texting has quickly become one of the primary forms of communication in the world today. There is a lot of focus on the negative forms of texting like texting while driving, texting at the dinner table or texting while a parent is trying to have a conversation with their child. Even though there are a lot of negatives associated with texting there are several positive things that texting can be used for. 

Interacting With the Community

Schools have started embracing text messages to notify parents of certain events happening at the school. Parents are also able to quickly exchange texts with other parents, sports coaches, and other community leaders easily and efficiently.

Speedy Communication During Emergencies 

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iCloud Safety: What Parents Can Learn from the Celebrity Photo Hack

By Steven Woda on November 7, 2014 at 1:27 PM

It's likely that you have heard about the recent celebrity photograph hack incident, where the private photographs of numerous celebrities were stolen and leaked on the Internet. It is reported that the photo hack stemmed from a criminal either breaching the iCloud system or hacking stars' personal account usernames and passwords.

Although the attacker responsible for this crime was clearly targeting celebrities, it is important for parents to know that these kinds of breaches can happen to anyone. Learn about how to secure both account usernames/passwords and the iCloud service.

The Cause of the Celebrity Photo Breach

There is a dispute regarding the source of the hack and this, in itself, is an indicator of how tricky security can be. The photos were obtained from Apple's iCloud service, but the exact nature of the iCloud breach remains in question - Apple maintains that the pictures were obtained through targeting usernames and passwords, but others suggest there was a more fundamental breach of the iCloud.

In reality, for the purposes of many people, the source of the hack is a secondary consideration - both methods are entirely plausible and whichever was used here, either could be used in the future. In consequence, to ensure security of things such as pictures, both factors should be given consideration. Parents seeking to ensure their children's privacy should take steps to ensure both that usernames and passwords are secure and robust, and that a future iCloud breach has only limited information to steal anyway.

It Can Happen to Anyone

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3 Fantastic Reading Apps that Integrate Screen Time With Learning Time

By Tim Woda on November 5, 2014 at 6:22 PM

It's often a struggle for kids and parents to strike a nice balance between screen time and learning time. Okay, a struggle is putting it lightly. It's more like a battle, war, or holy crusade even! Regardless of personality, disposition, or intelligence level, kids want their screen time. Conversely, parents want their kids to be active, independent, and spend time reading or learning

Our advice: Stop the insanity, declare peace, and integrate screen time with learning instead. Laptops, tablets, and smartphones can actually be used for far more than just Angry Birds, YouTube, and Facebook. In fact, you can make excellent use of any of these devices to help your child cultivate a potentially lifelong love of reading.

These devices are actually great tools in this learning endeavor. Apple's App Store and the Google Marketplace are loaded with opportunities to encourage this task. Here are three of the best reading apps available for kids:

  • Learn with Homer: Reading and Educational GamesD'oh! No, not that Homer. It's actually an app from a company called HomerLearning, Inc., and it's drawn rave reviews from such noteworthy critics as the New York Times as well as many parents. The website boasts that just ten minutes a day can result in increased confidence and academic success. It's designed for kids from pre-k to first grade, and contains literally (pardon the pun) hundreds of hours of lessons designed specifically by literacy experts.

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"It Can Wait" Calls for New Etiquette to Avoid Texting & Driving

By Steven Woda on October 21, 2014 at 2:39 PM

None of us mean to get into situations where we are texting and driving. We want to set a good example for our kids and keep the roads safe for drivers and pedestrians by making driving the top priority. When splitting the focus between driving and carrying out a conversation through text messaging, safety for everyone on the road decreases drastically.

Distracted driving, the umbrella category for texting and driving, is a behavior that is particularly prevalent among the teen demographic. In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in distracted-related crashes. 11% of those killed were under the age of 20. Additionally, one out of five young drivers thinks that texting makes no difference to their driving.

That's why AT&T, one of the leading cellular carriers, has started a campaign to try to curb the urge to text and drive. Their campaign is called, "It Can Wait" and it tries to teach the general public that no text conversation is more important than keeping yourself and others safe while you are driving.

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New "Dora the Explorer: Into the City" Show Features a Map App

By Steven Woda on October 17, 2014 at 3:09 PM

The show "Dora the Explorer" has been a fan favorite for many children throughout the past decade. Dora has embarked on exciting and exotic adventures with kids everywhere and she has taught them some Spanish along the way. Now, our favorite Latina adventurer is back with a brand new adventure: "Dora the Explorer: Into the City." 

On this show, Dora is older (10-years-old to be exact) and has some brand new pals to join in on her adventures in the city. Dora now uses some high-tech gadgets, including a smartphone, during her adventures. While she used to turn to her trusty map when going out and about, she now relies on a map app to help her with her travels.

Perhaps these new changes to our beloved Dora and the additions of plenty of other shows with tween characters sporting phones are simply a means of keeping up with the times. Although these shows might encourage more kids to ask parents for their first cell phones, the question ultimately becomes: is this a bad thing? Let's take a look at some of the risks and benefits that accompany giving a child their first phone and discuss how you can get the best of both worlds.

First, here are some statistics displaying how many kids and tweens have cell phones currently:

  • About six out of ten parents in the United States have provided their "tweenager (child between the ages of 9 and 12)" with a cell phone.

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Roundup: This Week’s Top Digital Parenting News

By Tim Woda on October 10, 2014 at 1:58 PM

Get the latest and greatest on the top digital parenting news and stories of the week!

This week: cyberbullying escalates during the transition from elementary to middle school (shocker!), parents are encouraging kids to pursue careers in digital fields, and a texting-while-driving tracking device is in production. Check out the news roundup and join the conversation in the comment section below.

Students Experience Increase in Cyberbullying During Elementary to Middle School Transition

A study that was recently published in School Psychology Quarterly found that students increasingly become targets of cyberbullying during the transition from elementary school to middle school. The study took place in the Midwest and examined three semesters of data following 1,180 students.

The study categorized students who were bullied into 4 groups:

  • 29% were occasional victims of traditional bullying (verbal or physical bullying)

  • 10% were occasional victims of traditional bullying and cyberbullying

  • Half of bullied students were infrequent victims

  • 11% of bullied students were frequent victims

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3 Must-Have Internet Security Apps For Teens

By Tim Woda on September 22, 2014 at 6:04 PM

As parents of a generation of teens and tweens that have easy access to the Internet, it's natural to be concerned about what kind of things they could be getting into online. Internet security should be thought of as being just as important as any other type of security that a parent provides their child.

Here are a few smartphone apps that can help parents in their quest to keep children safe online:

K9 Browser 

This app can be used in place of something like Internet Explorer or Sfari. The purpose of it is to give parents the ability to have the app block out things like adult content. Anything that should not be seen by a teenager's eyes can easily be blocked out by just using this application. Most parents are quite grateful to have a tool established that can help them filter what their child sees online.

Available: iOS and Android

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9 Games and Apps that Encourage Kids to Get Physical

By Tim Woda on September 8, 2014 at 1:27 PM

Physical activity for kids is extremely important to overall health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest children (and adults) get at least 60 minutes of exercise each day; but this is easier said than done. The problem is that kids today are not the same as kids were 20 or 30 years ago.

Times Have Changed

Older generations of children spent most of their time outside playing, while kids today, no matter how old they are, have access to smart phones, tablets, video games, computer games, and other electronics. Technology has a widely-known correlation with childhood obesity and this correlation is especially present in the US. Although this concern is not 100% off-base, technology is not completely to blame.

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Apps that Make Summer Car Rides Fun

By Steven Woda on August 18, 2014 at 3:23 PM

Children naturally have wild imaginations and a thirst for adventure. As the primary authority figure in their lives, it's your job to strike a balance between nurturing and being supportive of their curious minds while also monitoring their behavior and social interactions to keep them out of harm's way. This can be a difficult task, especially during the summertime when your little ones are free from the confines of school walls and homework. 

If your kids have a growing interest in technology, your duty as regulator can be twice as challenging. Digital parenting definitely has its setbacks, but you can easily overcome them and encourage fun activities for your children without worrying about their welfare. As you plan that next summer vacation, take into consideration these kid-tested and parent-approved digital apps that can hold your juvenile's attention while you're on the road. 

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How to Use Location Monitoring Without Being Creepy

By Steven Woda on August 13, 2014 at 11:18 AM

As parents, it's only natural for you to worry about where your children are, who they are with, and what they are doing. However, it is just as important to respect their limitations and privacy. So how do you do both?

Nowadays, there are so many ways to use location monitoring that it could be overwhelming. It could be used to share your location on social media, find directions, book travel, and more. It's no wonder than many find location monitoring creepy! On the upside, since most people use location services nowadays, monitoring children can be easier and less-intrusive than it was before. 

Recently, we wrote about why location monitoring your teens and tweens is not creepy. Put the idea into practice with these steps:

1. Have a discussion with your child.

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Your Child's First Cell Phone: When is it Time?

By Tim Woda on August 4, 2014 at 2:41 PM

Check out what guest blogger and winner of the Annual Parenting Blog of the Year Contest, Mommy Masters' Ellie Hirsch, has to share about her insight on the topic of kids' first cell phones!

It seems like my seven year old asks me for a cell phone on a daily basis. What does a seven year old need with a cell phone? Who is he planning on calling? Would it come in handy in case of an emergency? Do any of his seven-year-old friends have a phone? Should I consider this crazy idea? I never thought this conversation would come up at such an early age, especially since I did not get a cell phone until I was 22.

My son's response to this fact? "You are old so they didn't have cell phones yet when you were my age". TOUCHÉ.

Whether it's a cell phone baby rattle or simply watching Mama texting on the phone,

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Oversharing Online: Do Vacation Status Updates Put You at Risk With Burglars?

By Tim Woda on August 1, 2014 at 12:37 PM

"I'm so excited!! The family and I are headed to Myrtle Beach for the next week. We finally got the car all packed up with beach gear galore. We'll be sure to post pics after :)"

We have all seen a post similar to this. In fact, you may be guilty of having posted something like this yourself! If you and your family are headed out on vacation sometime in the remaining weeks of summer, the worst thing that you can do is share this information online. While you can limit viewership of your social media to only those on your friends list, you still run the risk of them mentioning that they'll be going out with you or that you'll be away from home for an extended period of time.

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Bible Apps: Does Tech Belong In Church?

By Steven Woda on July 24, 2014 at 12:49 PM

It’s Sunday morning and time for church. Your pastor comes up to preach the Word. He pulls out his tablet and begins reading the scripture. You look around your church and many of the congregants have their mobile devices as well reading along using their Bible app.

Ten (or even just five) years ago this would have appeared odd, but we have now arrived at a new normal. More and more pastors across the country have decided to forego the leather bound Bible that has passed through generations of their family. They have instead chosen to pick up the modern technology of a Bible app on their mobile device. Yes, tech now goes to church.

A Wealth of Information

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Why It's Not Creepy To Monitor Your Teen's Locations

By Steven Woda on July 18, 2014 at 3:26 PM

Location monitoring is a recent innovation, based on modern GPS technology. Parents can now use it to determine where their children are, particularly when they are in their teens. As a parent, you may be hesitant about using this impressive bit of technology on kids and teens. Perhaps you may think of it as an intrusion, or you may be afraid that they will be angry with you.

The fact is, however, that teenagers are still minors and that it is your perrogative to use whatever means you have at your disposal to monitor your teens. Teens are learning and growing during a time when they're given increasing amounts of responsibilities and it is natural for there to be some issues along the way.

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What is Geotagging and Is It Safe for My Teens To Be Doing It?

By Steven Woda on July 11, 2014 at 11:13 AM

You would never post your home address online or tell the world that your kids were home alone at that address, would you? Yet many of us are innocently and unknowingly doing just that, by geotagging.

Geotagging is a relatively new phenomenon in that age of smartphones and many teens and parents are unaware of exactly what it is and why it's dangerous. True privacy and safety are becoming ever more elusive and complex in the information age. Here's what you need to know about geotagging to protect your teen's privacy and safety online. 

What is Geotagging?

Geotagging is a way of embedding location information into photos or posts made through social media sites, providing the exact coordinates of where a photo was snapped or a post was made (within 10 to 15 feet depending on the accuracy of your GPS chip). Ultimately, geotagging is not a safe practice for anyone for a myriad of reasons.

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Android Apps That Your Teens and Tweens are Probably Using

By Tim Woda on July 4, 2014 at 3:14 PM

In this day and age, just about everyone (adults, teens and tweens alike) has smartphones! With the prevalence of smartphone use comes prevalence of app use. Check out and get to know which Android apps your tweens and teens are most likely using.

Facebook and Facebook Messenger. Facebook continues to be one of the most popular social media platforms out there and many young teens are on it. Facebook is one of the fastest ways to stay updated with friends and family. It allows users to chat, upload photos and videos, share common interests, and so much more. The Facebook Messenger app allows users to get personal messages instantly, a lot like texting, but without the standard text fees. Facebook Messenger users can create group chats and send videos and photos. Also, a fun and popular part of this app are the stickers and Emoji (icons that express emotions).

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Sex Offender Monitoring Apps Every Parent Should Have

By Steven Woda on June 19, 2014 at 4:55 PM

We already know that there are a plethora of online resources available to inform parents about the residence of sex offenders. With the integration of these registeries and apps, parents can stay up-to-date on the sex offender registeries.

Here are some easy-to-use and effective sex offender monitoring apps:

Sex Offender Search AppThis App is great for families looking for a new home. You can use the App to put in the address of a house you're interested in and a map will pop up, showing you if there are any sex offenders in the area. The same goes for your child's school; virtually anywhere in the US

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