5 Essential Stocking Stuffers for Kids with Smartphones

If your teen or tween is expecting a smartphone from Santa this year, make sure he has all the gear he needs so you both get the most out of this life-changing and bank-balance-draining purchase. From keeping the phone powered so you can always stay in touch to protecting it from damage, these five essential smartphone accessories will not only make great stocking stuffers, but they'll help with parental peace of mind.

1. A Durable Phone Case 
As soon as the phone is out of the box, it needs to go straight into a durable, drop-proof case such as the Otterbox Defender. Offering three layers of protection, including a plastic interior shell that cushions the device and a built-in screen shield to prevent scratches and scrapes, this case is practically indestructible, making it the perfect accompaniment to a smartphone this season.

2. Back-up Power 

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Teens Try Virtual Reality Texting and Driving Simulator

Every generation of teens tends to think that they are invincible. It is part of the exuberance of youth we have all enjoyed. That care-free attitude is much to be envied, unless it leads any young people to assume that the dangers of risky behavior don't apply to them. However, simulation technology gives this generation of teenagers the chance to see how vulnerable they are to the dangers associated with texting and driving.

If you asked most teenagers if they knew that texting and driving was dangerous, they would probably tell you that they did. However, teens texting and driving remains a major problem. The knowledge that they have about the dangers of texting and driving has not influenced their behavior as much as we might hope. Until they experience the consequences first hand, it may be hard to convince them that they should change, but no one wants teenagers to have to get an accident before they make a commitment to keep themselves safe.

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5 Essential Navigation Apps for Your New Driver

It’s a nerve-racking experience to have kids on the road. And if your teen has just started driving, you want to do everything that you can to keep them safe. One useful technological advancement that can help? GPS and other navigation applications.

While GPS technology has been around for a while, GPS apps make it even easier for young drivers to get where they’re going – without relying on anything but their smartphone. Below are five of the best navigation apps for new driver. All of these apps are designed to keep drivers safe and precise on the road.

    1. MotionX GPS Drive. MotionX GPS Drive was one of the first GPS entries into the market.

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Location Sharing in Facebook's Messenger App: The Basics

The launch of Facebook's Messenger App came with a whole lot of concern. Everyone seemed immediately worried about its safety as it has the ability to send your location along with every new message.

Questions and concerns about Facebook's location sharing feature and the safety of the feature have made waves across the media. The social media powerhouse even required that its mobile users either install the Messenger App, or give up using the Facebook private messaging feature altogether. The result: (even with clear evidence that it did indeed include your location in messenger by default) over 500 MILLION people downloaded it. Million.  

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Contest Designed to Help Teens Resist Texting and Driving

Every day, car accidents that involve texting and driving make the news. Texting and driving is arguably just as dangerous as drunk driving, and is certainly the most prevalent form of distracted driving. There is no question that texting while driving contributes to way too many automobile accidents and considerably decreases the safety of all drivers and pedestrians.

All over the country, people are trying to solve the problem of texting and driving, particularly focusing their efforts on convincing teens to avoid texting and driving. Curbing the impulse for teenagers to text and drive is particularly important because they are less experienced drivers to begin with, they are more prevalent texters in their daily lives, and because if their generation understands the implicit dangers involved with texting and driving, perhaps the practice can be thwarted.

The South Carolina Press Association was tired of reporting on texting and driving accidents and decided to be proactive in bringing awareness to the safety risks texting and driving creates. They recently held a statewide contest for high school students to create essays and videos promoting AT&Ts "It Can Wait" campaign.

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5 Alarming Apps That Your Teenager is Probably Using

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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?

"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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