Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Teens and Online Safety: It is as important as driving safely

Safety and kids are sometimes like oil and water. Parents go to the ends of the Earth to protect their children from harm, yet kids believe they are invincible. That naïve childhood thinking is envious and unrealistic, so the adults must step in at times.

In today’s digital age, Internet safety is quite similar to automobile safety. Both require a higher level of responsibility and can be considered rites of passage. As parents, we’d love to surround our little ones in bubble wrap, but we also know that they must learn to fail in order to grow. Imagine if they never made a mistake!

Here is a little roadmap and a few tips to navigate Internet safety.

Car insurance is a must-have for all drivers, but online insurance is just as important. What do we mean by that? Spyware, adware, and other types of online protection keep your computer and its contents secure. There are many companies that offer such online protection, and your kids must know about it. They should never disable any firewalls to gain access to any sites that could compromise the computer or the files. Of course, no one will give you a ticket if you don’t have insurance on your computer. But a hacker or a computer virus doesn’t need much to steal your online identity or destroy the computer contents.

Restraints in any situation can be a life-saver. While they can’t be buckled, parental controls can guide kids in the right direction when they might be veering off course. Hopefully only used in dire situations, these controls can be loosened or tightened depending on the child and the circumstance.

Reliable Vehicle
Nowadays, computers come in every shape, size, and price range. Remember that not every kid needs his or her own laptop or Mac. The tried but true brands of computers still connect to the same Internet as the higher-end ones. It’s the guidance from parents that makes the difference.

Roadside Assistance
We’ve all been there when a car battery refuses to start or we blow a tire. Thank goodness for roadside assistance, even though some of us hate to admit that we can’t change our own tires. Our kids feel the same way. While parents shouldn’t hover or secretly log into their children’s accounts, parents still need to make themselves available. Fostering an environment where kids can ask questions and make mistakes without judgment is paramount to building trust and opening the lines of communication.

Owner’s Manual
In the end, a plan must be determined by adults and be understood by the children. In no uncertain terms, lay out prohibited and accepted sites and online behavior. No child should be secluded in his or her room to surf the Web, and parents should be aware of what their children are using the computer for each night.

Another tip: Limit online and computer usage. There’s nothing like a breath of fresh air to clear the mind, and your kids deserve that luxury.

Contributor:  Laura Burkey is a freelancer who writes on various topics including home décor, gardens, and online reputations.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Teens, Financial Literacy and Entitlement Issues

Let's have the talk.... 

Teaching your teen to be financially literate is a priority. 

While encouraging good grades in school, sportsmanship and respectfulness are all a part of parenthood, teaching about money also plays a profound role. Educating your family about financial literacy and creating a healthy monetary environment will equip your children with the skills to make good decisions now and in the future.

Money management, credit card responsibility and valuing the dollar are lessons that will help your teen develop good characteristics and become a good member of society. Before you hand your teen a credit card and wads of cash, keep in the mind how financial illiteracy, money carelessness and even entitlement can have a significant negative effect on your teenager.

The Teenage Brain
If you're thinking about providing your teenager with a credit card, remember to emphasize to your teen how this little plastic purchasing tool comes with high risks and long-term consequences that they're most likely unaware of. According to Health, the teenage brain is actually attracted to risk-taking behaviors. In other words, "teens' senseless choices may result from biological tendencies." explains that research shows teens are very aware of risks and consequences, such as unprotected sex and STDs, rather they're more drawn to the unknown risks. Think excessive, irresponsible credit card use and frivolous purchasing. Agnieszka Tymula, the lead author of a study on adolescent risk taking behavior, stated, "adolescents engage more in unknown risks than they do in known risks." Because of teenage information processing, they also tend to fixate on the rewards.

Rewards vs. Risks
Teens like rewards — rewards like the instant gratification from owning a smartphone or admiration from peers for wearing designer clothes to school. On the other hand, risks like a poor credit score, credit card debt and identity theft, go unacknowledged in the teenage mind. Teenagers want those rewards, and now, regardless of the risks associated with obtaining them. Teens aren't thinking about long-term consequences, such as debt collection, or how Lifelock protection would safeguard their identity.
Purchasing a future home and credit checks, for example, aren't typically going to have a profound effect on the decision to purchase something in the moment. Protect your teens' future and spending habits by emphasizing how and when to charge a purchase. Teach your family to be financially literate with crash courses on how to use credit cards and practice healthy monetary habits that also contribute to good character traits.

Financial Literacy & Teen Entitlement
Teens feel invincible — invincible from consequences and free of responsibilities. You lecture them on the risks of drinking and having unprotected sex and then cross your fingers that when your teenager walks outside your line of vision, he or she will make good decisions. While trying to prevent car accidents, teen pregnancy or failing grades, teaching your teen about the value of a dollar may be a battle you choose to lose. Perhaps you enforced an allowance for walking the dog or washing the car, but eventually as life got busier and more complicated, you gave in.
What's at stake with a financially illiterate teenager? A respect for work ethic, responsibility and gratitude. What's to gain? Entitlement. Teenagers with a sense of monetary entitlement can start to develop character flaws such as disrespect and a lack of appreciation for money, working and earning the privileges that you're awarded. Financial literacy is the idea of teaching our children at a young age about the exchange of money and what it takes to have that iPhone or wear those Nike Air Jordans.

Keep in mind teens don't necessarily need to know about the family's financial details, such as mortgage payments or 401(k) plans. Financial literacy starts with instilling good values so that they're not only developing good character attributes, but preventing poor monetary habits that can lead to serious financial troubles in the future.

Money Management

Teach your teen to be financially literate by starting with basic money management and personal financial skills — tailored to the teenage life. From a new car and gadgets to social expenses and extracurricular activities, teenagers face decisions about money and challenges on how to pay for what they desire. Margaret Magnarelli, senior editor of Money magazine and author of Per$onal Finance, tells that "the first step to [a teen's] financial understanding should be taught by parents."

Teach your teen money-management skills with the following:
  • Communicate: Make time for creating dialogue around desires and purchases. If your teenager asks for money for new clothes or video game, Magnarelli suggests asking, "what it would take for you to save up to buy that?" or "How many hours of your part-time job would it take to achieve that?" Once you've started the conversation, find a fair solution. As a team, establish a savings plan. For example, agree to match your teen's $20 weekly savings for costly items such as an iPod. Make a bargain. For example, offer to pay for weekend activities with friends as long as your teen takes care of weekend chores.
  • Say No: Listen to your teen's request and digest the reasons for why he or she wants something. According to's MoneyWatch, a quick no marks parents as "intransigent, uninformed, and simply out to make [your teenager] miserable." Start a conversation, acknowledge your teenager's point of view and explain why you decided to say no.
  • Practice What You Preach: Instill healthy money habits by setting an example. Show your family the value of budgeting and saving by vocalizing smart financial decision making. For example, explain how paying for piano lessons or going on a family trip are more meaningful to your family than bringing the latest gadgets into the home.
  • Set Priorities & Limits: Ensure that your teenager knows how to distinguish between a want and a need. New shoes for cheerleading could actually be a need that takes precedent over a designer pair of jeans. Although there's nothing wrong with "wants," establish limits and be consistent when you do buy something for your teenager. For example, while school shopping, provide a price range for a new pair of shoes or set a budget for how much you're going to spend on clothes. Decide ahead of time what you're shopping for to avoid impulse spending. Also teach your teen about delayed gratification to prepare them for responsible financial habits as an adult.
Contributor: Kevin Parker

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Risky Behavior Teens Will Do: Parents Be Alert!

Many teenagers think they are invincible, and are always looking for the next thrill.  While the stunts that were tried 10 to 20 years ago may have seemed daring and dangerous at the time, teens today are pushing the envelope in even more dangerous new ways.  Parents truly need to be aware of the risky things that some teens are doing.

  1. Planking- Kids have taken what started out being a move done for strengthening the core to a trend that was kind of cute to something downright dangerous.  Planking is where you lay face down on any surface and have your picture taken.  The picture is then uploaded to Facebook or some other social media site.  Teens turned this fun trend into a dangerous stunt when they started planking on things like escalators, moving cars, trains and rooftops.
  2. Car surfing- Instead of surfing in the water standing on a surfboard, teens are standing on moving cars.  Some start by standing on the trunk with the car moving very slowly, and in an effort to continually raise the stakes they have moved to more even more dangerous locations on the car, and now teens have been killed doing this.
  3. Smoking Smarties- According to tutorials online, the candy is crushed to a fine powder and the end of the tube is opened and the powder is puffed and inhaled like smoke.  On the surface the activity is not illegal or all that harmful, but it could lead to infections and chronic coughing.  The bigger concern is that this behavior could lead to more dangerous experimentation with drugs in the future.
  4. Vodka eyeballing- To avoid getting caught with alcohol on their breath, teens have started pouring vodka directly in their eyes.  The alcohol is absorbed through the mucus membrane and goes directly into the blood stream.  This trend has been shown to cause blindness in a worst case scenario, but at a minimum it can burn the cornea and cause scarring.
  5. Chatroulette- is a site that connects users through their web cams with people from all over the world for live chat sessions.  They do have filters which allow the user to speak to only English speakers or only females.  While the policy on chatroulette is against nudity and other inappropriate activities, risky behavior still happens.  Sexual predators could use this medium as a way to interact and ultimately harm kids.
  6. Purple drank- Drinking this mix of jolly ranchers, cough syrup with codeine and Sprite can lead to hallucinations and is extremely toxic. Kids love to copy the next celebrity trend, and for some celebrities, this purple drink it is.
  7. Rainbow parties- A group of girls at a party will wear various shades of lipstick and perform oral sex on the same guys.  At the end of the evening the genitals of the guys have many colors of lipstick, thus mimicking a rainbow. 
  8. Choking game- The choking game is where kids choke each other or themselves with various things like belts or scarves, to cut off the flow of blood to their brain in order to get a high.  When the choking stops the blood goes back to the brain quickly and they get a natural high.  Many teens who have tried this have passed out doing it and could, and have, died of asphyxiation. 
  9. Distilling hand sanitizer- By combining salt with liquid hand sanitizer the alcohol can be distilled out of it.  The alcohol is very strong and some teens who have drank it have ended up in the ER with alcohol poisoning. 
  10. Rummy bears- Kids and adults alike are soaking gummy bears in various alcohols, like rum or vodka.  The gummy soaks up the alcohol and kids are said to be eating them at school and getting buzzed. 
Knowledge is power. If adults are aware that these trends are going on in other areas of the country they will be better able to spot them in their own kids or their friends.


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Friday, October 5, 2012

5 Rules Most Teens Will Break!

Parenting teens is challenging!

The teenage years are some of the most exciting times for a teen and the most stressful and terrifying for a parent. Teens are in between the stage of no longer being a child but not quite old enough to be an adult.

New things are presented and for your child’s mental, physical and emotional health are sensitive and you have placed rules to keep them safe. As much as you hope your teen doesn’t break the rules, chances are they will, here are 5 they are most likely to break:

Curfew: Missing curfew is probably the least life altering rule to break but the most common rule teens break. Whether they miss curfew by 5 minutes or 2 hours, it will happen. Missing curfew usually happens because teens tend to just lose track of time and not pay attention. The reason why parents enforce curfew is for their safety late at night.
Lying: Even if your teen is a horrible liar, lying is easy. Teens lie for the same reasons adults lie, to prevent getting in trouble, hurting someone or facing unfavorable consequences. Lying can get tricky because teens tend to think a ‘little white lie’ won’t hurt anything or anyone. False; lying is a bad habit to pick up. Teach them that there are always consequences and the best thing to do is to just face the facts like an adult and suffer the repercussions.
Cheating: But Mom, everyone else did it! Cheating in school is common for teens, especially those who are nearing the end of their high school career and lack the motivation to complete course work. Cheating is also another trait that can be hazardous to their adult life. Cheating is not acceptable as a teen or an adult.
Going too far: Teens are full of hormones and discovering themselves and others on physical levels. That first boyfriend or first girlfriend is both exciting and scary for the parent and teen. Have a sit down conversation that is honest but firm about sexuality and the mental, emotional and physical consequences that come with it. The more you talk and educate your child, the less you have to worry about possible situations arising. It’s an uncomfortable topic for everyone involved, so make it easy for your teen to talk to you about it.
Drinking: Drinking, smoking and drugs are more common in high schools than you a parent wants to believe. Just as you do with the sex talk, talk to your teens about these other vices. They need to know what happens legally, personally, mentally and physically if your teen chooses to abuse these vices before the legal age limit. Drinking and driving is a problem among teens, teach them that no matter what, they can ALWAYS call you for a safe ride home. The more your child knows the better off they are on making the right decision.

Source: Jack Meyer is a regular contributor for Nanny Background Check.

It is important to remember, you are a parent first -- you can become their friend later. They need a parent to guide them to a bright and healthy future.