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Mobile and Internet Child Safety: Comparing The Old With The New

By Steven Woda on April 14, 2015 at 3:53 PM

When considering mobile and internet child safety as parents, it may cause you to reminisce. "Well, back in my day this was never a concern."

Don't feel old, we're all working through it. Technology has changed and will continue to. Due to this, considering a child's safety hasn't changed - instead, there's now more to be cautious of. 

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App Trends for Teens & Tweens: What's In and What's Out

By Steven Woda on February 13, 2015 at 2:09 PM

Nowadays, young people spend a good chunk of their free time staring into their screens. Whether it's a smartphone, a tablet or a laptop, the screen gets their nearly undivided attention. Most kids make use of apps on their multitude of screens for entertainment, learning and socialization purposes.

With digital trends going in and out of the door contantly, it's tough to keep of track of what your teens are up to. Let's take a look at some of the apps that are currently in or out of favor with middle school tweens and high school teens.

These Apps are "Out":

  • Facebook: Facebook has lost its luster with youngsters. Only 45 percent of teens use Facebook for social networking. About 72 percent used the social networking service in 2013. That's an alarming drop off. While kids haven't totally ditched Facebook Messenger, it is clear that the decline in use is prominent.

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Photo Leaks: The Latest Scary Digital Trend

By Steven Woda on January 2, 2015 at 3:18 PM

Today, news stories about teens getting caught up in sexting and resulting photo leak scandals are a dime a dozen. As parents, we usually say to ourselves “that could never happen to my child” when we see stories like these, but the truth is that a digital slip-up like a photo leak can happen to anyone.

Just a few years ago, advancements in video, photos and messaging technology all seemed so harmless. Now, sexting seems to be all the rage as teenagers experiment with these advances in technology. Disturbingly, sexting photo leaks appear to be becoming somewhat a trend among teens and, as sexting continues to be prevalent, the images are imprinted on technology forever.

Here are a few synopses of photo leaks that have happened in towns across the US. An especially disconcerting facet about these photo leaks is that each case has occurred in just the past six months:

  • In November, two students from McLean High School in Virginia acquired and organized folders containing compromising photos of 56 female classmates. They passed around the folders to other students in a carefully concealed Dropbox page. The 16 and 17-year-old teens plead guilty to three misdemeanor charges each for distributing obscene material.

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Redirecting Teens and Technology for a Better Body Image

By Tim Woda on December 29, 2014 at 9:42 PM

Technology is great, isn’t it? We can scroll through Facebook and see what our family and friends are doing. We can start a conversation on our desktop and continue on our phone in the woods while we mushroom hunt. Then we can send a picture when we find the biggest one. Technology can help us learn and help keep us entertained.

But can too much technology be a bad thing?

Parents are trying to maintain a respectful distance and still keep an eye on their kids’ interactions and relationships, contending with Snapchat, Face-time, Facebook, Skype, texting and endless selfies. A teen or tween can base their entire reputation on their online social life, wanting to look as good as or better than the images they see.

Even games and movies are filled with unrealistic images of sleek men and women, with size 2 avatars and beautiful, slim princesses dancing with barrel-chested princes. A steady diet can skew a child’s reality of how “normal” people look.

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A Sweeping Look at 2014's Biggest Digital Trends for Teens

By Tim Woda on December 26, 2014 at 2:20 PM

YouTube challenges, hashtags and other digital trends spread like wildfire among the group of children who are in that magic, impressionable age between grade school and high school. Most digital trends are harmless and quickly forgotten; some can be positive, and some are downright bad news. 

As 2014 winds down, now is a great time for parents to reflect on the year's top digital trends. Here is a glimpse of some of the biggest online fads from the past year.

Social Media is Still King. But Which Networks?

Facebook has long lost its groove among those younger than thirty. A social media network where Grandma might leave a sweet message for everyone in school to see isn’t where kids want to hang out. Newer networks like InstagramSnapchatKik, and Vine have blossomed in teen popularity towards the middle and second half of 2014.

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YouTube Challenges and Peer Pressure

By Steven Woda on December 4, 2014 at 12:14 PM

The digital age has moved peer pressure from classrooms and neighborhood blocks onto the Internet. Teens follow the pack on social media websites and apps like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. The main difference between the old form of offline peer pressure and today's online peer pressure is public. When peer pressure is applied on a medium that more than a handful of people can see, teens are often tempted to succumb to it even if they'd rather not.

Before the Internet exploded in popularity, teens were often lured into shenanigans by their friends while hanging around in public parks, school parking lots and backyards. Since these situations were limited to a small group of people, fewer knew about the social pressure. Now that peer pressure is online, it is viral. If someone is hazed, taunted or challenged on the web, just about everyone will know about it.

As a result, youngsters feel an extraordinary amount of pressure to respond to social persuasions to avoid hurtful criticism, teasing and social ostracism. It is very difficult for teens to buck the trend and take the road less traveled. Many succumb to peer pressure simply because their refusal to do so will be made public through social media.

Of particular note are the viral YouTube challenges. Most of these are absurdly gross but their proponents have lured in numerous teens.

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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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Worried That You're Oversharing? Try the Empty Case Challenge

By Tim Woda on November 12, 2014 at 5:36 PM

Oversharing on social media can be a serious problem for your kids, as we've posted before. One of the problems with teaching your kids about oversharing online (or for that matter, recognizing if you're doing it yourself) is that sometimes it's hard to recognize that you're doing it.

Posting Without Thinking

Part of the reason kids and adults alike share so many things on social media is that it's so easy. Pulling out your phone to snap a picture, write a post, or click a few "likes" is such a simple action that it quickly becomes habit.

Habits are actions we do without thinking about them, and sometimes even without noticing them. This is great when a habit helps you do something positive, like developing routines to carry you efficiently through the day. It's not good when habits lead you to oversharing and obsessive social media use, because you don't even realize how often you're checking in.

How can you become aware of phone habits, and help your kids learn about theirs? Try the empty case challenge.

How It Works

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7 Obvious Signs Your Teen is Suffering From Peer Pressure

By Tim Woda on October 31, 2014 at 12:04 PM

Peer pressure is something that is increasingly commonplace among young people and often it can have a major bearing on how they live their lives. Thanks to social media and improved communication networks, tweens and teens are in constant contact with peers. From updating statuses, looking at photos and instant messaging, children are linked to friends on a 24-hour basis, which has its advantages as well as its dangers.

Peer pressure is a problem that affects most youth to a degree. It can impact the way they dress, the choices they make, the music they listen to or the way they spend their time; but what happens when peer pressure takes its toll and how you can spot the signs of your child suffering under pressure from their friends? Here are 7 signs to look out for:

  1. Behavior changes. Look out for changes in your child’s behavior, especially when they are around certain groups of friends. Watch for the things they say, the way they act and the things they do; if they seem to change around certain people, this is a sign that they may feel under pressure to behave in a certain way.

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Top 10 Trendiest Teen Texting Lingo Defined

By Tim Woda on August 5, 2014 at 3:18 PM

With the advent of the digital age, the evolution of language is happening more quickly, especially among teens. They come up with their own language to express themselves, and often, it's nearly impossible for parents to understand what their kids are saying. Internet slang and lingo cycles so rapidly that it's hard to stay on top of figuring it out, especially when you aren't quite as plugged in as your son or daughter.

To help you understand the latest lingo, we've compiled a list of 10 current slang terms that your son or daughter might be using:

  1. FOMO: This acronym stands for Fear Of Missing Out. This is a form of social anxiety where someone is compulsively concerned about missing out on an event or interaction.

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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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Is My Child Suffering From Gaming Addiction?

By Steven Woda on July 10, 2014 at 3:57 PM

The number of children addicted to video games is increasing at an alarming rate. More and more kids are choosing the television and PC screens over interpersonal interactions with friends and family. Games have become so advanced that they have the power to captivate players like never before. Let's take a look at some signs of video game addiction along with some parenting strategies that can wean kids off of video games.

Signs Of Addiction

Your child may be addicted to video games if he spends most of his free time in front of the screen and has developed an anti-social personality. If the first thing he does when he gets home from school is head over to his console for some Xbox Live or his PC for an online game like World Of Warcraft,

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Is My Teen Falling Into the "Hooking Up" Trend?

By Steven Woda on July 4, 2014 at 3:27 PM

Although underage sex is an uncomfortable topic to broach, the truth is that plenty of teenagers are “hooking up”. This term refers to having "no strings attached sexual activity" with a partner. Many sociologists argue that the hooking up trend is part of a larger societal movement toward obtaining immediate gratification.

While most parents will argue that it is unacceptable for teens to be having sex, some have accepted it as inevitable. Yet this doesn't mean that the teens should be engaging in sexual activities with people that they hardly know. Herein lies the underlying problem with hooking up.

Today's teens often speak of “friends with benefits”. This is a term that refers to two people engage in sexual intercourse or sexual activity without passing through typical courting rituals or even becoming boyfriend and girlfriend. Research conducted by Students Against Destructive Decisions shows that almost one in four sixth-graders and one in three seventh-graders have engaged in sexual behavior. More than three in four twelfth-graders report the same.  Simply put, teens are jumping to dessert without eating their appetizer and main course.

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Teens Overshare & Chat With Strangers Online More Than You Think

By Tim Woda on June 20, 2014 at 1:12 PM

In case you missed it, McAfee released a Teens and Screens study earlier this month exposing shocking revelations about the depths of the extent and how often teens overshare and chat with strangers online. In McAfee's Teens' Online Behavior Can Get Them in Trouble, Robert Siciliano reports of the study that:

About 75% of tweens and teens friend people whom they know in the real world, however, 59% engage with strangers online. And one out of 12 meet the online stranger in real life. This could be because 33% of them say they feel more accepted online than in real life.

Additional facts to understand:

  • Our tweens and teens overshare personal information – 50% posted their email address,

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6 Requirements for Managing Peer Pressure Among Kids/Teens

By Steven Woda on June 17, 2014 at 1:56 PM

Peer pressure can be extremely hard to deal with for kids and teens.  It becomes increasingly difficult without the support of their parents.  When it comes to managing peer pressure among kids/teens, there are things that you should do, and things that you must do. Here are six such "musts" for dealing with peer pressure:

    1. Talk to your child about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and sex: Talking to your child opens up a dialogue that can be very important.  If your child feels safe discussing these difficult topics with you, there is a greater chance that they will come to you if they are curious about trying them.

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Subtweeting: Inside the Harmful New Social Media Trend

By Steven Woda on June 13, 2014 at 11:36 AM

One of the more insidious digital trends for tweens and teens has been the development of subtweeting. While this may sound like an innocent social media fad, this impression could not be further from the truth. Among digital trends for tweens, this is one of the worst because it is a form of cyberbullying that can be difficult to pin down and combat.

What is Subtweeting?

Subtweeting consists of using social media (Twitter being one example that inspired the name) to talk negatively about or gossip about a person without naming that individual specifically. All that people involved have to do is use descriptions, characterization or some sort of code to discuss the person with impunity. In some cases, this happens without the participants even realizing what they are doing.

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Teen Prescription Drug Abuse: It Happens More Than You Think

By Tim Woda on June 3, 2014 at 11:04 AM

It's no wonder that parents spend so much time contemplating illegal drugs, given the large number of horror stories on the news every night. But as you weigh how to talk to your child about heroin, pot, and meth, an equally dangerous drug lurks in your medicine cabinet. Prescription drugs pose serious dangers to your child, and it's just important to protect your child from these drugs as it is to protect her from illegal street drugs.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy reports that prescription drug abuse is now the single largest drug threat to teenagers. While illicit drug and tobacco usage rates have remained relatively stable, prescription drug abuse rates among teenagers have increased 33 percent over the last five years. A study commissioned by MetLife in 2008 found that one in four teens had abused a prescription drug at least once.

But teenagers are often blind to the risks of prescription drug abuse. Fifty percent of teens believe that prescription drugs are safer than street drugs, and between 60 and 70 percent of teen drug abusers rely on prescription drugs as their primary means of getting high.

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Is This Donut a Secret Message From Your Kid?

By Steven Woda on May 25, 2014 at 9:35 AM

The issue with parenting in the digital age is that it moves at the speed of light, and kids are at the very forefront of it. They know about the latest apps weeks, perhaps months before you do, and they are quietly discussing who-knows-what with their friends via texting apps and Facebook messenger. The age of being able to eavesdrop on a conversation and get all the knowledge you ever needed is over.

While those days are over, we’ve developed a new way to keep up with our kids, and digital parents need digital weapons. With that being said, kids are starting to get a bit wise to the ways of the digital parent.

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5 Methods to Limit Screen Time in Your Home

By Tim Woda on May 17, 2014 at 12:47 PM

Let's face it: most of us spend too much time in front of screens. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that kids and teens ages 8-18 spend about 7.5 hours using entertainment media daily. Kids and teens aren't the only age groups that spend too much time in front of screens! In 2013, Advertising Age magazine concluded that adults in the U.S. spend approximately two and a half hours a day online, nearly the same amount of time on mobile devices and smartphones, and another four and a half hours watching TV. 

While, at best, screens can be educational, entertaining, and convenient, there's a fine line that exists between screens adding value to our lives and where they begin to negatively impact our health. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that no one should spend more than 1 or 2 hours in front of a screen daily. Excessive screen time has been

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Digital Parenting Disconnection: Is Technology Winning the War?

By Steven Woda on May 16, 2014 at 3:02 PM

There is no doubt about it: parenting has changed quite drastically in recent decades. With social networks being the new "must-have", parents must work harder connect with and locate their children online so they can keep them safe and healthy. 

However, parenting with technology has gone even further. Parents use it to keep up with schoolwork, location monitoring, and checking their online activity. Somehow, technology is making being a parent easier, but the workload is harder.  Parents are losing the battle to technology as their children continue to meld into the digital world, and they have no choice but to join it and try to use technology more effectively.

Digital Parenting Challenges

As a result of technology booming, more decisions are made on things that never existed only a few years ago.  Social websites, applications, games, online surfing, cable channels and DVR are coming to light, and parents are faced with the tasks of monitoring many aspects of these activities

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