What We Discovered at The Discovery Museum

This is the first post in a series I call, “Out and About in Connecticut”. As many of you may know, we recently moved from New York to Connecticut. One of the very best things about moving, at least for me, is getting to check out new restaurants and activities and I’ll be sharing some of our best finds here with you.

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One of the challenges of having a huge age gap between kids is finding activities that all will be happy at. For this reason, museums are usually at the top of my list but finding ones that will keep my 3 year old occupied can be a challenge. When I heard about the Discovery Museum it sounded like it checked all the boxes so our crew of five (my husband and myself and three of our five kids ages 19, 14 and 3) headed there on a recent Sunday morning.

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There are three floors to check out and a large space for eating (make sure to bring lunch if you plan on staying because they just have vending machines with snacks).

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A great spot to eat a packed lunch

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When you first walk in, there’s an awesome light board called Everbright which was inspired by the classic toy, Lite-Brite (Ahhhh, memories! Yes, I had to order her one right away). We had to pry the 3 year old away from it; she was fascinated that she could change the colors.

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We continued into the Dare to Discover room where Daddy and Juliette had some fun together while my oldest got busy wiring a lamp. Even the 14 year old got off the bench when her sister dragged her over to see things float. Mama was happy that everyone had something to keep them occupied.

We headed upstairs where everyone except the youngest had fun shooting baskets and attempting to bank shots (BONUS- learning the science behind it!)

The highlight was definitely the Get Physical room with the pulleys and levers where I captured my favorite picture of the day- a moment when all three girls were connecting, having fun, and creating a memory!

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Other fun pics from the Get Physical room…

We then headed over to the Adventure Science room. My little one was a bit too young to do most things independently but that didn’t stop her from exploring with the help of dad and her big sis.

We then headed all the way down to the MoonBase Discovery area. There was a stimulator where you could drive a lunar rover and other very cool things but honestly my 3 year old’s highlight was driving the big yellow school bus and playing with legos!

Other museum highlights include great art lining the walls, a planetarium which has three different age-appropriate show (check schedules for the day before going), and a Preschool Power area for infant to toddlers under 3.

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There isn’t a gift shop but they do have an area by the entrance/exit where you can by souvenirs.

Overall it was great Sunday morning spent at The Discovery Museum!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Love Affair With Trader Joes

Can you be in love with a grocery store? I think it’s possible 🙂 Since moving to Fairfield and living 2 minutes away from Trader Joes, I’ve developed a great appreciation for the store and it’s unique products, great pricing, and stellar customer service.

I figured I’d share a few of my most favorite products and how I use them.

Starting at the front of the store and working my may through, this is what I grab each and every time…

Not pictured but always in my cart- inexpensive flowers, organic fruit and vegetables, nuts in large qualities, and frozen acai

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Gluten Free & Dairy Free Mini Pancakes- these come in a pack of three and are one of my little one’s favorite breakfasts. I usually serve them with blueberries and strawberries and a bit of maple syrup.

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Frozen Mangos- so delicious, right out of the freezer, as a healthy snack and perfect to use in smoothies

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Zucchini Fries- these are my daughter’s go-to after school snack

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Chocolate Covered Bananas- a perfect nibble when you want something sweet

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Multigrain Crackers- We use these for blueberry cheese (more on that below) and hummus

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Everything But the Bagel Seasoning- Can you say OBSESSED? I put this in my eggs, on toast, and sprinkled over avocado

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Orange Blossom Hand Soap- I use this as my kitchen hand soap. It smells great but my favorite thing about it is how it feels; the oils in it make your hands feel super soft!

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Lavender Scrub- great ingredients, amazing smell and my skin feels awesome after using

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Coffee- just good coffee 🙂

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Blueberry Cheese- someone recommended this to me and somehow, someway this has become my little one’s favorite snack (goat cheese is a bit of an odd choice for a three year old but it’s so tasty so I can understand why)

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Spicy Hummus- WARNING! VERY ADDICTING if you like spicy things

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Cereal- I always need to have on hand when my college- aged daughter is home. She like this one and the Banana Crunch Clusters.

 

Did you know Trader Joes has a website with amazing recipes using their products? Check it out!

 

Finally, here are some links to some incredible blog posts which feature more Trader Joes recipes.

 

Are there any incredible products I missed? Please share your favorites in the comments!

What Potty Training Actually Looked Like For Us- Keepin’ It Real!

Naked and three days. That’s what you’ll hear again and again regarding potty training and that’s the method most people I know use. But I’m here to tell you that for us, it certainly wasn’t three days. Here’s what the process looked like for us.

First of all, know that all kids are different and it’s in everyone’s best interest to wait until your child is ready. We first gave potty training a go when my daughter was 2 years and 4 months. She was showing many signs of being ready but, after two days of staying home and keeping her naked from the waist down, she was no where near 50% success; she was literally peeing everywhere! We decided to stop and it was definitely for the best.

We tried again when she was 2 years and 7 months and this time was much different right from the start. On the first day, she only had one accident! I couldn’t believe the difference three months made- she really understood what was going on. The following days were not as great as day one but she was easily at 75% success so I knew we were on the right track.

We stayed home as much as possible for the first few weeks. I tried to put underwear on her at home but she would just pee in them. I used pull-ups for nap time and bed time and when we would go out. We were very successful when she was naked but if she had underwear or a pull-up on, she treated it like a diaper. I was beginning to get frustrated.

I decided it must be the pull-ups. I stopped using them for outings and nap time (I still use them for bed time) and just keep her naked from the waist down whenever we were home. And THAT was the magic that worked for us! For my daughter, feeling anything down there must have reminded her of a diaper. After a full month of this strategy, she was 90% potty trained and went many days without accidents.

The Details

Before you start, gather your supplies. Here is what we used.

 

 

It turns out my little one wasn’t interested in the sticker chart at all so I used “pee pee candy”- one single M&M.  Knowing kids very commonly have an issue with going #2 on the potty, I made the reward for that a lollipop (a small Dum Dum). (I realize there are many opinions about using candy as a reward but this is what worked for us so please no judgement!). We keep one potty in the car and that has been a lifesaver!

Know that taking your child to pee in public SUCKS. I’m not going to sugar coat it. Bathrooms are dirty and they’ll want to touch everything. In the beginning you’ll have to take them every 15-30 minutes so be prepared to get to know every bathroom of the places you frequently visit. Watch this hilarious video on peeing in public with a toddler for a visual 🙂 The struggle is real, my friends!

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Momsplained- How to Teach a Toddler to Pee in Public

 

And that’s what potty training looked like in our house. We are two months in and she still occasionally has accidents; it’s not usually 100% for quite some time. I sometimes keep her naked from the waist down at home for sheer ease because she can’t fully pull down her pants by herself but if she’s naked she can go to the potty and wipe herself independently- hallelujah!

*This post may include affiliate links which means if you chose to buy something I mention, please do so using the links above. There is no additional cost to you and it’s a nice way to say thank you and help offset this Mom’s addiction to Amazon Prime*

One simple thing you can do to make your house safer for your teens

You would have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the opioid crisis here in the US. In addition to opioids, teens have been known to get into prescription drugs (and even over-the-counter drugs such as Nyquil and cough syrups) looking for a free, easy high.

Its very easy to overlook these articles and bypass these stories, thinking “my kid would never…” but rest assured that many parents of those kids thought the exact same thing.

So today I urge you to do one simple thing to make your house safer for your teens-

Lock up your prescription medicine and any potentially dangerous over-the-counter medicines in a safe.

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It’s easier than you think. I ordered my medicine safe on Amazon for under $40. My husband, who is not particularly handy, installed it in minutes. I wouldn’t describe this particular safe as heavy-duty but we don’t have many prescription drugs in our home so this fits our needs. There are many more larger, more substantial safes on the market. Find one that fits the needs of your home and order it today.

This is a no-brainer. I hope and pray that it will never by “my kid” or “your kid” but it is always someone’s kid so lets take that extra step of precaution to keep them safe.

*This post may include affiliate links which means if you chose to buy something I mention, please do so using the links above. There is no additional cost to you and it’s a nice way to say thank you and help offset this Mom’s addiction to Amazon Prime*

Friday Favs

Friday Favs- a spot where I share my favorite products, apps, sites, articles, and moments from the week.

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What’s better than hygge?

Have you heard of Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) ? It should be everyone’s winter goal this year! Hygge is a danish word that is more of a feeling than a wordit’s finding simplicity and creating cozy moments throughout the winter months, which we all need more of. Check these articles out for the basics… How to Master the Art of Hygge, The Hygge Phenomenon and this great book, Making Winter: A Hygge Inspired Guide to the Winter Months.

Going along with the idea of Hygge, another topic I’ve been hearing about is eating and drinking only warm foods. Winter is a great time to start.

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My oldest loves bees. It’s a passion for her and she recently did this awesome project for a college class. So what better gift than honey that not only tastes great but has amazing health benefits? Here’s what’s going in her stocking and why.

Lets talk advent calendars. When my girls were little I never did them because I wanted to stay away from excess candy. Now there’s so many non-candy options to choose from!

 

We chose this one and I’m loving it! Advent calendar from Crayola

I couldn’t leave my teen out so I picked up this 12 Days of Beauty from Target.  Target also makes many different 12 Days of Socks sets. How fun!

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After so many years of not buying Barbies, I must admit that picking up this year’s Holiday Barbie made me exceedingly happy. It’s a great tradition to begin- my girls were always so excited to see the special Barbie Santa would bring 🙂

Have a great weekend and enjoy the snow if you’re getting any!

*This post includes affiliate links which means if you chose to buy something I mention, please do so using the links above. There is no additional cost to you and it’s a nice way to say thank you and help offset this Mom’s addiction to Amazon Prime*

Juuling Basics- A MUST READ for anyone who has a child in middle/high school

I find myself envying my parents more and more these days when it comes to raising teenagers. Gone are the days when your child would come home and you could give them the once over- pull them close and give them a good sniff- and detect if they’ve been smoking cigarettes or pot. E- cigarettes, AKA vaping, AKA Juuling, has taken smoking to a whole new level.

The Basics (taken from E-cigarettes and vaping: Everything you need to know)

  • E-cigarettes are battery operated inhalers that consist of a rechargeable battery, a cartridge called a cartomizer and an LED that lights up at the end when you puff on the device.
  • Vaping is defined as the act of inhaling water vapor through a personal vaporizer or electronic cigarette. When users draw on the device, the battery heats the liquid, which is then atomized into an inhalable vapor.
  • Juul is a specific, very popular type of vaporizer.

So in essence when you hear about “Juuling”, you are hearing about vaping and e-cigarettes.

 

What You Need To Know

What it looks like…

 

 

 

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A Juul looks just like a USB drive and could very easily be overlooked or mistaken for something else. They also sell skin decal wraps in the most popular brands.

What it smells like…

The vapor from Juul smells super, super sweet. I’m talking toothache sweet. If your child is Juuling, you may be able to pick up the fruity scent on them. They come in flavors such as creme brulee, mango, and fruit medley. Kids are Juuling in school (bathrooms, cafeterias, even in the classrooms! because there is no scent of smoke and the vapor disappears in an instant.

Why it’s dangerous…

Kids are under the very wrong impression that juuling is not dangerous. While it’s true, e-cigarettes and Juul do not have tobacco, they do have nicotine. In fact, one juul pod has as much nicotine as an entire pack of traditional cigarettes.

Another danger is the possibility of something called popcorn lung. Diacetyl (which is found in Juul) is a buttery flavored chemical. “When inhaled, diacetyl causes bronchiolitis obliterans – more commonly referred to as “popcorn lung” – a scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways. While the name “popcorn lung” may not sound like a threat, it’s a serious lung disease that causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, similar to the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” (taken from Popcorn Lung: A Dangerous Risk of Flavored E-Cigarettes)

It’s also important to note that these devices can be modified to use THC oil. A quick search on youtube and your child will know how to if he/she has the desire.

 

The most dangerous thing of all, in my opinion, is that the same kids who think cigarettes are disgusting think juuling is cool. It literally checks all the boxes- it looks “cool”, it smells good, it tastes good and it charges like all of their other devices. Boys, especially, are very into doing tricks with the vapor and even have instagram accounts set up to document it all.

What’s a parent to do?

Stay informed. Talk to your kids- A LOT. Do spot checks on their phones (when you check their phones, make sure to check their pictures and screenshots) and every now and again, give a quick look in their rooms/backpacks. Make sure they know how dangerous juuling is and that it is addictive. Good luck- we all need it!

Think your kid is Juuling? Pick up a nicotine test kit.

 

Transitioning From a Crib to a BIG GIRL/BOY BED

This experienced mom made a rookie mistake.

I thought the transition from a crib to a toddler bed would be no big deal, when in fact any change for a two year old is a very big deal. Take my advice and follow these tips for the smoothest transition possible.

My best piece of advice? WAIT AS LONG AS POSSIBLE. My daughter climbed out of the crib once and I thought she needed a bed right away. I should have waited to see if that was a fluke or an actual issue.

 

Assuming you are ready and have waited as long as possible, first, choose the bed. You may want to consider just placing a mattress on the floor. There are also some really adorable floor beds on Etsy. Whether you choose to use your crib mattress or go straight to a twin, the most important thing is your child needs to be able to get in and out easily to foster independence.

Most toddler beds come with some type of rail but it proved basically useless for my kid. These magic bumpers were a wonder and so inexpensive.

It’s important to mention, if you haven’t already, you must completely baby proof the entire room. Attach dressers and bookshelves and anything else that could tip over to the wall. Cover all outlets. Make sure all windows are properly secured. Your child is about to get a taste of freedom and they’re certainly going to use it!

Next, plan what you will do if (more likely, WHEN) you child will attempt to exit their room. If you currently shut their door after you put them to bed, this may continue to work. If you don’t or if they can open the door, have this extra tall gate on hand. I would say have it on hand regardless. You can put it in place and still shut the door- then it just serves as an insurance policy that they are not wandering the halls at all hours.

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My daughter sitting on the floor, very unhappy she could no longer wander the halls (we practiced “fading” and would first sit close to the gate, then in the hallway where she could see us, and then in the hallway out of sight)

Finally, pick up one of these handy “OK to Wake” alarm clocks. Even though my kid is far from understanding actual time, she gets that green means it time to wake up. When she calls for me at 5am, I ask her to look at her clock and see if it’s green. She says no and *mostly* goes back to sleep 🙂 🙂 🙂

Be prepared that you might need to sleep train your child all over again. Hopefully these tips and products will make it as easy as possible for you!

*This post includes affiliate links which means if you chose to buy something I mention, please do so using the links above. There is no additional cost to you and it’s a nice way to say thank you and help offset this Mom’s addiction to Amazon Prime*

 

 

Choosing a Preschool

Just six short months ago I was spending my days and nights researching colleges for my 18 year old. Fast forward to my last three weeks visiting five nursery schools, with two more schools scheduled to visit next week. Is choosing a preschool really such a big deal? I believe so and I’ll do my best to explain why and what you should be looking for in a quality preschool program.

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Me and my now 14 year old (!) at a Mothers’ Day event at her preschool

When to Send

At two? At three? At four? Back in the day, preschool literally meant “before school” and that was typically at the age of 4. Nowadays, it can be used to describe a two’s program. So when is the right time? Research shows that there is no benefit to child attending a program before the age of three. Now for my two older children, I was working full time and it was not a choice. For many of us, it is not a choice. In that case, you should look for the highest quality program you can afford- focusing not only on the facility but also on the educational backgrounds of the caregivers.

To put it simply, most children under three are not equipped with the skills needed to interact with other children successfully and may not be ready to separate.

Of course, there are exceptions and there are children who do amazing in the twos and there will be children at three who are not ready. Every child is an individual. This is also not to say that sending your child to a twos program will hurt them; research just shows that it does not have a measurable benefit.

“There is no evidence that daycare is advantageous to children from middle-class families,” Oliver James writes in his most recent book, How Not To F*** Them Up. “If daycare is as distressing to under-threes as many researchers believe, it would not be surprising if it affected their cortisol levels: when distressed we usually secrete the hormone.”

Here are some additional articles that discuss when is the right time to send children to school.

Preschool/Nursery School/Daycare

These terms are often used interchangeably but there are subtle differences.

  • A preschool tends to focus on learning and development
  • A nursery school tends to focus on play and socialization
  • A daycare tends to focus on the care of young children

Not surprisingly, many of these places, even if they call themselves one thing or another, incorporate all of the ideals mentioned above in the day of a young child,

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Different Philosophies (most common)

Play– The focus of the day is learning through play. Any academic skills are taught through theme-based activities. The teacher serves as a facilitator of learning, not as a direct instructor.

Academic– In an academic-based preschool, the teacher is the direct instructor. Children spend the majority of the day learning letters, letter sounds, numbers, colors, shapes and handwriting.

Montessori– The Montessori method is known as a child-centered learning approach. Children are placed in mixed age classrooms and learn through working with carefully chosen materials set at their level. Teachers are specifically trained in the Montessori method.

Cooperative– Known more commonly as a “co-op”, cooperative schools may have varying philosophies but the main thing is that parents are very involved in the classroom, often working along side the teachers.

Check out this article on preschool philosophies.

What to look for (in no order) and questions you should be asking

  1. Secure facilities– How difficult was it for you to get in? Was the door locked? We’re you buzzed in? ASK– Do classroom doors lock? Do they have a policy for lockdowns and lockouts? Who can come into the classroom at any given time?
  2. Classroom setup– Look to see if materials and board (if there is one) is at a child’s eye-level. Are there bathrooms in the classroom? This is important for young kids who are still working on independent bathroom skills.
  3. Teacher backgrounds– Certification to work in a preschool varies by state. In most areas, all someone needs is a certificate earned in as little as two weeks. ASK– Do head/lead teachers have degrees in education? Are all employees CPR trained? Do all employees undergo background checks?
  4. Curriculum– There is no set curriculum a preschool must follow. There are, however, guidelines set by the state. ASK– Does the school follow the state guidelines? Are teachers responsible for creating lesson plans? Who decides what is done in the classroom on a daily basis?
Other important questions to ask-
  • How do they deal with a child who is having difficulty separating?
  • What is their potty training policy?
  • How do they handle discipline issues?
  • Is the school/classroom nut free?

Closing Thoughts

Preschool may be your child’s first time away from you on a regular basis and will be their first educational experience. This experience will shape their feelings and thoughts toward school, peers, and usually the first non-family adults they will spend time with regularly. Choose wisely!

Cyberbullying- Could Your Child be a Target? (Guest Post!)

Today’s post comes to you from Laura Pearson. Laura created Edutude – she believes that every student has great potential and aims to help as many as possible unlock it. She also strives to find unique, creative ways for parents and educators to encourage students to be challenged, motivated and excited by learning.

Parents: Say No to Cyberbullying

There are plenty of times when kids should be left on their own to figure life out for themselves. For parents of children who are being cyberbullied, now is not the time for kids to be kids.
With the increasing prevalence of technology playing critical roles in children’s lives, parents must be aware of how to help their child avoid being cyberbullied and, if they are already, how to provide solutions that will cease the torment. This is especially true for parents who have recently moved, their child being rendered the “new kid in town,” which often makes them an easy target for bullies.

Prevention: The First Goal

If possible, parents should aim to prevent any instances of cyberbullying before they arise. The Cyber Bully Hotline suggests several strategies for preventing cyberbullying. While many pertain to instances of cyberbullying that have already occurred, it’s important for parents to be proactive in monitoring their child’s use of technology.

This means consistently enforcing rules about when a child can be on their phone or computer for the use of social media. While cyberbullying can’t be completely stymied through limited usage, the message inherent to these limitations goes deeper. Considering a McAfee study, which found that 87% of students ages 11 to 15 at one school had witnessed cyberbullying, it’s clear that the problem is virtually unavoidable. This means parents must fortify their own child so that they won’t be prone to the often-crippling effects that cyberbullying can have.

Children put far more stock in the perceptions of their peers than adults. For this reason, teaching a child that their worth shouldn’t be determined by the masses but instead by their true friends and family is crucial, and reinforcement of this message is never too frequent. For children who have recently moved, the home may be the only source of familiarity available, making the fostering of positivity all the more critical.

Start at Home

First and foremost, it’s important that home is a safe zone. Particularly when moving to a new city, it’s imperative to take the time to create a stress-free environment. This allows a child to have a place where they feel comfortable and safe, especially during such a rough transition as moving to a new school.

The greatest asset a parent can have in ensuring their child suffers no true harm as the result of cyberbullying is communication. Livestrong.com notes many of the benefits for children who live in a household with strong communication. These benefits include increased self-esteem, an ability to share feelings and emotions maturely, a decrease in “acting out,” and greater listening skills. All of these benefits can help a child develop a strong sense of self and the ability to confidently combat bullies in person, decreasing the chances of being persistently picked on.

A child who personifies a strong sense of self stands a better chance of understanding that bullies are not rational and that their words are not to be assigned any value. This type of child is equipped to succeed in any environment, which is why families who move to a new town must ensure that active communication throughout the move and after relocation is consistently practiced.

If a child does experience cyberbullying, they’re more likely to speak to their parents about the issue if household communication is strong. HASA notes that good communication in the home prepares a child to withstand even greater issues. Still, parents should make it clear that the child is not on their own and that should an issue arise, parents can intervene for the better without embarrassing the child.

When Problems Arise

If a parent finds out their child has experienced a form of cyber-torment, they should first talk to the child. Asking the child to be honest, probe whether the bullying is consistent, or whether it was a one-time instance that has not recurred.

If the problem is persistent, and the bully is known, a call by one or both parents to the offending child’s parent may be the quickest way to nip the problem in the bud. If the bully’s parent is not receptive to counseling and/or disciplining the child, any evidence of cyberbullying should be documented and brought to school administrators’ attention.

As stated, bullying is nearly unavoidable. When a student is different, whether due to their appearance, mannerisms, interests, or their status as new kid on the block, they can be particularly prone to being victimized. But parents can negate the potential damage of cyberbullying by maintaining open lines of communication and an atmosphere of safety and security at home. Not only will this enable a child to shake off the malevolence of self-loathing bullies, but also to feel comfortable disclosing any persistent issues to their parents. A strong mind is a strong child, and molding that strong mind starts at home.

Parenting in the Age of Social Media

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Social Media. For me personally, and I’m guessing many others, I have a love/hate relationship with it.

I love being able to keep up with friends and family all over the world and I love the wealth of information I gain from Facebook groups and by following topics of interest on Instagram. I love connecting with my kids on Snapchat and seeing snipets of their days.

I hate how it takes “keeping up with the Joneses” to an entirely new level and how we only see the highlight reels of everyone’s lives (for the most part). I hate how exclusion is now very much in our faces and how we thrive off of likes and comments on posts.

Regardless of how we feel, here we are. It’s 2017 and parenting through the age of social media is tough and it sometimes feels as though it’s impossible to keep up. Here are the basics as of September 2017; I’m sure I will need to update this again soon.

Social Media Accounts

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The big two- Instagram and Snapchat

If you have a tween or teen, you need to have these two accounts. There are various opinions regarding how much you should get involved in your child’s social media life (more on that to come) but I feel strongly that at the very least you need to have these apps so you know how they work.

Instagram– an app/site where you can post pictures. This, like many apps and websites, has evolved and will continue to evolve both in the features of the site AND how the kids use it. Today, I will be focusing on how 13-16 year olds tend to use these sites.

It is not uncommon for middle schoolers and high schoolers to have THOUSANDS of followers. Where kids used to post pics all the time, that has changed (they use snapchat for that now) and Insta is now more like a digital photo album- only the best, usually heavily filtered and edited, pictures get posted. The caption is very important and usually very clever (although most kids find these online so they aren’t even their own). When a picture is posted, the amount of likes and comments are watched like a hawk and if they aren’t getting the number of likes they expect, the picture may come down. It is very common for friends to comment multiple times to show their love. “Tagging” friends in pictures can be a very big deal. Friends expect tags even if they’re not in the picture and the position of the tag is also very important (many kids layer tags upon tags so you only see the top ones, hence being able to give many friends the tag but only the best friends’ names will show). I’m guessing at this moment you’re thinking this sounds stupid and complicated AND IT IS but this is a very, very big deal in a middle schooler’s life so if you want to stay in touch with what your child’s going through, you must keep up. Being left out of a picture by not getting a tag is equivalent to getting snubbed- it’s subtle but it sends a big message. Girls will then ask for a tag and the girl who left the tag off now has the power. (If you haven’t read Queen Bees and Wannabes you absolutely must). She can either be nice and say she forgot and add the tag or further complicate the situation and ignore the asker completely (read more about girls and social media here)

To further complicate your life, many kids also have a “Finsta”, which stands for “Fake Insta”. This is a more “fun” page where they will post funny, silly, random pictures to be viewed by only a select group of friends. These finstas have also been know to be used for bullying since most parents don’t know anything about them.

Snapchat a site where you can share quick pics that disappear within 24 hours. There is no “wall” or even a page like FB or Insta that you can go to to see your child’s account. The closest thing to that is on the main page where you can see peoples’ “stories”.

I’ll do a quick breakdown to explain how it’s used—

  • I take a picture. I can send it to an individual person or post on my story for all my friends to see (or both).
  • If I send you a picture everyday and you send me one back everyday, after 3 days we will have a “streak”. The more we communicate with each other, the longer the streak, thus highlighting our level of friendship. As you can see, streaks are very important (no one wants to lose a streak!).
  • Important things that I want everyone to see (pics or videos from a party, fun outing or plans with friends), I post on your story, much like I’d post on FB or Insta, except these will disappear after 24 hours.
  • Filters are fun.
  • If I open a picture, I am supposed to send one back right way, otherwise I “boxed” that person (this is a key difference between how older people and younger people use Snapchat- my college aged kid couldn’t care less about “boxing” but it’s important to my 14 year old). Kids will snap back pictures of the ground or other things that don’t even show anything just to “snapback”. This is strange to me but seems to make sense to middle schoolers.

An important note about Snapchat- kids these days are not texting much anymore; instead, they use Snapchat to message each other. It’s just like texting except it disappears, just like the pictures.

New, Very Dangerous Social Media Accounts

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Sarahah– It seems like the awful, anonymous apps just won’t go away. When my oldest was younger, it was askfm. Now it’s Sarahah. The appeal is strong to middle schoolers because it runs on the premise that you can get feedback anonymously. I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you how dangerous this can be and how quickly it turns mean and encourages online bullying. The day I read about it and shared an article on FB warning other parents, I saw a story on my daughter’s snapchat that said, “swipe up” with her Sarahah account info. Aaaahhhhh! I would not have seen this on her phone because it’s not an app but a site and if I hadn’t been on snapchat that day, I would have never known. The struggle is real. (More on Sarahah here)

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Omegle– Just read the description and you’ll know you’ll want your child to stay far, far away but unfortunately they’re using it. Taken from their website- “Predators have been known to use Omegle, so please be careful.” Fantastic. Not too much to say about this one except to please speak to your kids about the dangers!

Other Social Media Accounts Worth Mentioning

Houseparty– A group video chat, much like Facetime or Skype except it’s with a group of people. This can be relatively harmless if your child is doing it with friends they know. The only downside is that kids can kick out others or “lock” the Houseparty which can lead to feelings of exclusion.

Musical.ly– Where kids can take video of themselves lip-syncing and dancing and share with “friends”. The premise is cute but make sure to monitor the content AND who’s has access to watch your child dance.

Facebook– not really a thing for the kids these days. My older daughter uses it to read and share articles and for the FB groups. My 14 year old has an account but zero interest

Twitter– More for older teens and adults.

Vine– Not relevant anymore since Snapchat and Instagram now have videos.

Parenting in the Digital Age

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So now that I’ve given you the 411, what should you do? How do we parent in this new, digital age?

I’ve come up with a few ideas that help but I am also the first to say that this could be a full time job and if you have a child who’s into all this, as most are, they will most likely find a way around many of your rules. I’m always looking for more help in this area so if you have any tips that work, please share in the comments section below.

  1. Stay informed and aware. Know the apps your child is using. Use them yourself so you understand how they work. Personally, I believe you should be “friends” and “follow” your child on any site their using. In our house, this is rule- if you’re on a site, I must be able to access it. ***Disclaimer- I have caught my daughter “blocking” me and hiding posts. She is not perfect and does not follow my rules 100% of the time. However, when she is caught, there are consequences and learning opportunities.

       2. Have parental controls set so your child cannot download any app without your                approval. This will allow you to check out new apps before your child uses them.                ***Disclaimer- this doesn’t work on websites.

       3. Have rules in place regarding cell phones (see this post for a great contract)

       4. Have rules in place regarding social media. Listed below is a contract to get                           you started. Modify as needed but don’t be so quick to remove the parts                                 regarding pornography. I know this is a super uncomfortable topic but it is                           soooooo important to have these discussions with ANY CHILD over the age of 10                 (some would say even younger) that has access to the internet (see this post for                   tips about talking to your kids about online porn)

Social Media Contract

1.  I agree to keep my settings at “private” at all times.

2. I agree not to post any pictures of body parts. I will only post pictures of myself or friends if they include our faces. I understand this is not because there is anything wrong or shameful with any parts of my body, but that it is not healthy to sexualize myself to strangers as a young person.

3. I agree not to post sexualized images. This includes kissing of any kind, grabbing body parts or making sexual gestures of any kind. There is nothing wrong with being silly, but the Internet is not a safe place for young kids to be silly in a sexual way.

4. I agree to be respectful of myself and others in the words and images I use. This includes agreeing not to use social media to mock, tease, embarrass, gossip or reveal secrets.

5. I agree for safety not to reveal the specific place I am when I am there. For example, I will not post a picture saying “I am at the pool with a friend and then we are walking home.”

6. I agree to immediately tell an adult family member if I ever receive any threatening or sexual messages or images on any social channel.

7. I agree not to view pornography. I understand that sex is a wonderful and healthy part of an adult life, but that pornography is a different thing than sex, and not healthy for a young person. I understand that I cannot control the images I see once I start looking at a pornography page or video, and those images will never leave my brain, and that can be harmful to my emotional health. I agree that if I accidentally stumble across pornography or a friend shows it to me, I will stop watching.

8. I agree to acknowledge that everything I put online is permanently available, even if it can be immediately deleted or hidden. I understand that people who know technology well can access images and words that have been deleted even if the app tells you otherwise. I understand that even private messages can be copied and pasted somewhere else. I understand that when I am grown and an adult, someone can look my name up and find every single thing I’ve ever put online. This includes bosses, boyfriends, girlfriends, future family and friends, neighbors and co-workers.

9. I agree that when I am having family time, I will put away my devices, including my phone. This goes for the adults as well.

10. I agree that occasionally I will have Internet blackouts. This means that when I am showing signs of needing a tech break—such as lack of reading or creative activities, irritability, constantly pulling out my phone, unable to concentrate and not wanting to participate in family activities or time—my parents might ask that I stay off the Internet and my phone for a day or two.

11. I agree to be done with all tech including phone by 10pm nightly unless I have asked for and received an exception.

12. If I do not follow these agreements, I understand that I will lose my social media privileges for as long as my parents feel it is necessary. I understand that my parents love me more than anything in the world and create these boundaries out of that love.