Recent Study Finds Sexting is the New "Norm" Among Teens

Sexting is the transmission of sexually explicit images through smartphones or other Internet connected or cellular devices like tablets and laptops. Until recently, it was considered a behavior that was limited to "at-risk" teens and a sign of potentially problematic behavior. New research, however, suggests that it may actually be a part of normal sexual development in teens.

Like virtually any controversial subject, however, there are two sides to this argument. Here is the first one:

In the journal Pediatrics, research found that thus far there is a total failure for anyone to prove a link between sexting and any sort of risky sexual behavior. There is also no link yet between sexting and diminished mental health. This was all part of a study that polled over one thousand high school students, and was conducted by researchers at the University of Texas.

Now that you have the "sexting is normal" side of the argument. Here is the counter-debate:

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Selfies Gone Wrong: 5 People Who Died Taking Selfies

You would be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t become privy to the selfie epidemic that has seized pop culture. Everyone from President Obama to Pope Francis has participated in the trend. The self-portrait photograph has become a staple of social media. With 91% of teens estimated to have posted a photo of themselves online, it's likely that your own teen or tween has contributed to the craze!

While the selfie trend is innocent enough for the most part, there are a few potential risks associated with taking selfies. Although it may seem surprising, there have been various world-wide reports of selfie-related accidents that have resulted in serious injuries or, in some cases, deaths. 

Here’s a list of people who have tragically died from accidents and events involving selfies.

    1. A couple visiting Portugal sadly fell to their deaths while trying to take a selfie with their kids on the edge of the Cabo da Roca beachside cliff. Authorities are continuing to investigate the incident, but suspect that the deaths happened directly resulting from the couple taking the selfie.

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3 Fantastic Reading Apps that Integrate Screen Time With Learning Time

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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Study Suggests More Family Dinners to Combat Cyberbullying

The Huffington Post reported on a recent study on cyberbullying that was conducted by the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. One of the conclusions of the study was that regular family dinners, where children can communicate with their parents, is a key to raising awareness of instances of cyberbullying. By being able to be open about how they are being cyberbullied, children can help their parents take action to shield them from the harmful consequences.

The study was based on survey data that was garnered from 18,000 students in 49 schools in Wisconsin. It found that one in five of the respondents had been cyberbullied at least once during the past year.

Family dinners were singled out in the report because they are the most common occasion when children and parents have face to face communication with one another. But the communication can happen in other situations, such as car trips.

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

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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Snapchat Breach: Sexting Through Apps Is Still a Risky Practice

In some instances, cell phones offer parents a lot of peace of mind. When your teenager has a cell phone, you know you can get ahold of them and that they have a resource to turn to if danger arises. In this regard, cell phones offer security to today's parents that previous generations of parents would have loved.

However, teenagers can also use their phones to get into trouble, embarrass themselves or even put themselves at risk. As a parent, you have probably already talked to your children about the kind of information they should and shouldn't put online, but sexting through apps has become such a trend in youth, as many believe that these apps are guarding their privacy.  

We have all heard about the dangers of the popular teen app Snapchat, which is an app that allows users to send a picture of short video that allegedly automatically disappears within seconds. With Snapchat, recipients of photos or videos can still screen shot and save images from a Snap. The app is widely believed to be used as an app for sexting, even amongst younger users. 

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The Selfie Culture: Should We Be Worried?

You can hardly go onto Facebook, Instagram or any other social media site without being inundated with selfies. A recent PEW study found that a whopping 91% of teens have reportedly posted a photo of themselves online. With this kind of statistic, odds are that your teen has already taken and posted at least one of these instant self-portraits. 

For most teens, selfies are a harmless bit of adolescent fun, no more dangerous than other passing fads. Actual damage by selfie is rare, but it does happen. As a parent, you need to be aware of these risks and become equipped to discuss them with your teen.

Selfies and Self-Esteem

One risk factor for selfies is that the act and obsession with taking them can lead teens to the development of poor self-esteem. There has been some speculation about whether self-portraits help or hurt self-esteem. Out of the few studies that have been conducted on the matter, the verdict on the effects of selfies on teen self-esteem is somewhat conflicting.

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3 Must-Have Internet Security Apps For Teens

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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Sexting Facts and Statistics: Why Parents Should Be Concerned

From all of the news we hear about the span and scope of digital dangers available to youth, it's clear that parents have every right to be worried about the types of activities teens are engaging in online and through phones. It's natural for any parent to be concerned about what their child could be getting into. Although teens may be disgruntled by it, parents have a responsibility to be aware of what is going on and prevent mistakes from being made in kids' digital lives. 

The Rise Of Sexting

If you haven't heard of sexting already, you probably will in the near future. Sexting is sending or receiving a sexually graphic or descriptive text message. Studies show that teen sexting is on the rise and many parents are wholly unaware of it.

Quick facts about sexting:

  • 11% of teens admit they’ve sent pictures to strangers (Cox Communications)

  • 80% of teens who have sexted are under the age of 18 (Cox Communications)

  • Over half (57%) of teens from a 2012 survey reported that they had been asked to send a sext (JAMA)

  • 12% of teen girls feel pressured to sext (The National Campaign)

  • 38% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say they have had sexually suggestive text messages or emails—originally meant for someone else—shared with them (The National Campaign)

Plus, according to research, those teens who are sexting or propositioned to send a sext are more likely than their peers to have sexual intercourse.

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Public WiFi: a Threat to Internet and Mobile Safety?

For parents, the concept of protecting children has changed drastically even over the past couple of years. The popularity of smartphones has skyrocketed, making mobile and Internet safety more difficult to keep track of than ever before.

Who hasn't heard about cyberbullying, child pornography, or malware that takes control of a computer's web camera? Just a few years ago, all a parent had to do was keep track of their child's use of the family computer (or, for the lucky kids, their own computers) and possible threats were relatively easy to contain. 

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4 Foolproof Ways to Protect Your Reputation on Social Media

We’ve all heard it by now: the Internet is forever. A bad social media presence can follow anyone of any demographic down the road. Think of how many times you’ve heard on the news that a teen was expelled, cyberbullied, or rejected from colleges based on one digital mistake. Countless adults have been fired from jobs and penalized by the law based on poor social media choices.

The beginning of a new school year is as good a time as any to make sure that you and your kids are in control of your digital reputations. Use these tips to ensure that you are maintaining reputable social media accounts:

1. Be selective about who you're friends with on social media.

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9 Games and Apps that Encourage Kids to Get Physical

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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Does Tech Really Impact Obesity Rates in the US?

If you've ever had to persuade your child to put down the game controller and go outside -- or if you have to coax them away from their smartphones to eat a well-balanced meal -- you already understand the impact that technology can have on physical activity and diet. While modern innovations make academic research easier than ever, they also come with a whole host of health risks, and teenagers face a bigger threat than anyone else. 

It's no coincidence that obesity rates have skyrocketed in the United States right alongside innovation. While great thinkers can harness new technology to make the world a better place, there are downsides to modernization too.

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

"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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Facebook Terms of Service: What Are We All "Agreeing" To?

My husband Matt and I traveled to Orange County, California during this year’s terrible East coast “Snowmageddon” season.  It was sunny, warm and wonderful. When we returned to the threat of another potential snow storm (in April!), we had a text message conversation, discussing how great it would be to move to Orange County. Later that day, Matt logged into his professional social media app on his phone and noticed he had gotten job postings for Orange County. Strangely enough, when I logged into my own personal social media app, I was surprised to discover that I had received ads for real estate in Orange County.

Social media and mobile apps are moving toward predictive advertising and behavior to make our lives more convenient by alerting you about traffic congestion or items that you might want to purchase. The amount of personal data required to power these types of applications is staggering.  Companies go to great lengths and expense to create and employ the technology that powers the analytics necessary to perform this complex predictive modeling based on your data.

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Bible Apps: Does Tech Belong In Church?

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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6 Positive Social Media Activities for Tweens & Teens

Teens and tweens are on social media in their millions. In fact, that’s no longer the question; the question is which social media platforms are they on and what exactly are they doing there. The first part of that question is also easy to answer. You probably know that Facebook is the social networker’s favorite platform and that other websites such as Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter will also weigh in heavily. Other social websites frequented by this group of users include Vine, WhatsApp, Wanelo, Snapchat, 4Chan, and Kik Messager.

So, what do they do on social media?

Well, the truth is that some aspects of these social websites can be destructive for our teens and tweens. Vine for example is rated 17+ for a reason.

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Top Pros and Cons of Using the Photo Sharing App Instagram

As the popularity of the photo sharing app Instagram continues to grow, so does its user base. Children watch their older siblings and peers using the smartphone application and begin using it in order to fit in and feel trendy. Although there is nothing wrong with young children trying to keep up with the latest technology, it is important to weigh the Instagram pros and cons before letting your young children start using the app.

Pros

One of the greatest features of Instagram is its privacy settings. This ensures that outside users--people who are not following you--have to request your permission to see your photos. This helps ward off strangers and potential offenders who could possibly cause harm through their comments.

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Subtweeting: Inside the Harmful New Social Media Trend

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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Catfishing: Happening To Teens and Among Teens

The Internet has opened up the world to our children. In many ways, this can be beneficial. Knowledge that may have taken hours to find is available within minutes and children aren't stuck having to learn things at a pace that may be too slow for them.  

In other ways, however, the vastness of the Internet, and especially its ability to mask one's true identity, can be harmful and even deadly to our children. One trend that can be harmful has recently gained attention in both media and the courts. This is catfishing.

What is catfishing?

Catfishing is the term given to creating a false profile online in order to deceive others. The majority of cases are embarked upon in order to pursue a romantic situation with someone else.  A person will make up an entire identity, sometimes even creating a whole history and network of family and friends that do not exist, in order to get someone to share personal information and romance with them. 

Who participates in catfishing?

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