Over the past few weeks facebook has rolled out some changes, which have been met with some grumbling. By some mystery matrix, facebook is choosing which posts show up in your news feed, rather than just serving up status updates as they come. The result is that older status updates are showing up at the top, and others aren’t showing up at all. I’ve been frustrated to see the same status updates at the top of the news feed that were there hours before. I already read that! Why is it showing up again? No one really knows.
Here’s what I know about my facebook behavior: I just want to see the status updates in order. If there is someone whose updates I don’t care to see, I’ve already unfollowed them. I don’t need facebook doing it for me. So the work-around I found was to toggle my newsfeed from the default “top stories” and switch to “most recent.” You can do this by clicking on the arrow next to “news feed” in the top left corner. Now, all stories will show up in chorological order.
Another weird way facebook is attempting to control our feed is by hiding most of the posts made by the pages we have followed. This is undoubtedly a bid to get large brands to “pay” to have their posts show up, but the result is that individuals, authors, charities, schools, and organizations that have created pages are penalized as well. And here’s the thing: when I subscribed to a page on facebook, I actually WANT to see the updates. I WANT to see what’s going on at my church. I WANT to read Jenn Hatmaker’s feed. I WANT to see what Sarah has to say. And yes, I WANT to know if my flashmob club is planning something new. I don’t need facebook deciding for me. If there is a brand whose posts I don’t care to see, I don’t follow that brand, but thank you for the effort, facebook.
So, here’s how to make sure you actually see the posts of the pages you’ve liked. Go to the page, drill down on the arrow next to “liked,” and select “get notifications.” That way, the pages you follow are actually followed. Here’s an illustration from How To Be A Dad’s page:
And if you want to follow my facebook page (or already follow and want to actually see the updates), it’s right here. Just make sure to drill down under “liked” and select “get notifications.”
Have you noticed the changes on facebook? Any other tips for getting it to work better?
A couple weeks ago I wrote a post detailing how to secure an iphone so that kids couldn’t stumble onto explicit content. I had a few readers email me and ask for advice on what to do after you’ve found your child looking at adult content online. I want to talk about it because I think it’s important and relevant for all parents. Kids in the internet age will be curious about porn, and they have unprecedented access to it. Despite our best efforts, kids may find ways around the stopguards we put in place. I’m putting on my therapist hat for this post since I’ve not experience this as a parent – but I can tell you that in my practice, many shocked and dismayed parents called me after discovering an internet history full of porn sites accessed by pre-teen kids. It’s alarming to discover your child has been looking at porn. Pornography is an unfortunate and unrealistic education for most kids, but it can also quickly become a preoccupation. It’s important to remember that curiosity about sex is normal. Unfortunately, what isn’t normal is the extreme and often violating nature of sex depicted in pornography. Pornography websites are rarely focused on sex between a loving couple . . . very quickly, most sites are flashing advertisements for extreme fetishes, rape fantasies, degrading imagery, or “barely legal” girls (which is code for molestation fantasies). It’s a far cry from the days of a child stumbling upon a Playboy. Internet pornography is a disturbing introduction into human sexuality, and it’s reasonable to feel alarmed and disappointed. However, it is also critical that you respond with concern, empathy, and reason instead of anger and judgment. Your reaction could shape your child’s view of sex, and the most important step is to approach the situation that will leave the door open to an ongoing conversation. Here are some tips for talking with your child: Try to remain emotionally neutral. This is a hard one, because parents usually have strong feelings upon learning that their child is looking at sexually explicit stuff. It’s really important not to become unglued in from of your child. For one thing, it will increase their shame, which is not helpful to the situation. If you seem too emotional or angry, they are also less likely to listen, and less likely to share. Remember: it’s not an emergency. Take the time to diffuse your own feelings and calm down before you talk to your child. Normalize the situation. It’s likely that your child feels some shame about the behavior, and it’s important to reduce the shame. Reducing shame doesn’t mean you endorse the behavior. But it DOES mean that you reduce your child’s fears that they are dirty or perverted for being sexually curious, or for being aroused by looking at sexual imagery. The pairing of sex and shame is an insidious and toxic combo. Your child needs to know that their sexual feelings are not innately bad . . . but rather something that you would prefer to be expressed in another way. Talk in positive terms. It’s easy to fall into NO! BAD! language when we talk about porn, but it’s important to explain the reasons to your child beyond you wanting to ruin their good time. Encourage your child to view sex as something good and healthy, and affirm that you actually want them to have good, fun sex when they are adults. Help them take a long-term view of sex with the goal being healthy sexual relationships, educating them on the research that indicates that extensive viewing of pornography produces a decreased respect for long-term, monogamous relationships and can even cause sexual dysfunctions. Teens are old enough to understand delayed gratification. Making rules about porn about goals instead of punitive rules can help your child see that you aren’t just being a prude, but that in fact you have their best interest in mind. Educate your child on the fallacies of porn. If they’ve been looking at porn, they’ve probably seen it all, so it’s no time to be delicate. You need to have a frank conversation about the mechanics of sex and the realities (and fallacies) of pornography. Time for an education on the male vs. female sexual response and the fact that pornography is a production and therefore not representative of the way a typical sexual encounter occurs. If you haven’t yet, it’s probably time to talk about masturbation as well. Explain why porn is problematic. For some families, this might include religious convictions. But if you are an adult who is down with porn, it’s still important to help your child understand that explicit material is harmful for the developing brain. The video below does a great job of explaining it, and I think it’s appropriate to watch with any child who is old enough to be interested in porn. You may also want to talk to your child about the exploitive nature of porn. Many feminists are opposed because the exploitation of women involved in pornography is rampant. Porn also eroticizes the domination, humiliation, and coercion of women, and reinforces attitudes that condone rape and sexual harassment. Many believe that pornography contributes to the male-centered objectification of women and thus to sexism.Ask them what they’ve seen and if they have any questions. Again, it’s no time to be delicate. Show your child that you aren’t afraid of the subject and that you are there and willing to talk, help, and answer questions. Honestly, when I counseled parents and kids through this, this question often elicited a lot of emotions from kids, because they really did want to talk to their parents about it. Let your child know you can handle what they saw by asking questions like, “Did you see anything that scared you?” or “Is there anything you saw that was confusing to you?” to help facilitate the conversation. This part may not be comfortable. Pretend like it is, and be prepared to answer any questions they have. Explain your boundaries going forward, and enforce them. After you’ve had the chance to normalize, reduce shame, answer questions, and explain your rationale, it’s time to go over the rules again. If you haven’t previously installed controls on the devices in your home, now is the time. I cannot tell you how many parents have told me, “We didn’t do controls because we talked about it and we trusted them.” My opinion is that this approach is doing a disservice to children. It’s like slipping a candy bar under their pillow and then talking about how you trust them not to eat it. The best way to approach porn in your home is to MAKE SURE IT”S NOT AVAILABLE TO CHILDREN IN YOUR HOME. I cannot stress this enough. Last year I wrote a post detailing how to install controls on a Windows computer. Some other Mac-friendly options are OpenDNS and K9 Web protection. Have you dealt with this as a parent? Any wisdom or experience to share? If you aren’t there yet, have you thought about how you would handle this situation if it came up?
Mark and I recently updated our phones which means we have two older iphones available for the kids to play on when they earn screen time. We also often relinquish our own phones for the kids to play on, especially when we find ourselves in a long line or another situation where we need to keep the kids distracted. In addition to this, we’ve also got an ipad that the kids use from time to time. I love the educational apps that are available on the ipad and iphone platform. I’ve previously written about some of my favorite educational apps for preschoolers, for kindergartners, and for elementary-aged kids. My school-aged kids attend a technology-enthused school and with the help of apps like Spelling City and Lexia, they can even do some of their homework assignments on our smartphones. At the same time, iphones without a filter can pose serious risks for kids. I’ve been witness to therapy clients, friends, and even family members discover, much to their horror, that their kids had been looking at adult content online. And guys? OF COURSE THEY ARE. Kids searching for sexual content is not about “what kind of kids they are” but more about natural curiosity and access to the internet. It’s naïve to assume that our special kids will never do something like that. We wouldn’t leave a playboy next to the toilet in the bathroom and tell our kids not to look at it when the go to the bathroom. Nor should we hand our kids a smartphone that hasn’t been secured to keep it from becoming “pocket porn” in the hands of a curious child. (And I say child because it’s not just teenagers that are looking things up. Think about what age you think your child might look up explicit content, and lock down your devices a good 3 years before that age.) My kids are 8, 6, 6 and 3 and we’ve got all of our devices preventatively secured because I want to be proactive about this, not reactive after they’ve found something. Step 1: Switch to a monitoring browser. Unfortunately, Safari does not have adequate parental controls, but there are some great apps that provide a family-friendly browsing experience. Based on my research, K9 Web Protection Browser is the best option. You can find it in the app store. After downloading and installing K9 Web Protection Browser on your device, you will want to set restrictions on the device, so only K9 Web Protection Browser can be used to access web sites. Until you do this, a child can access ANY website using the built-in Safari browser. First, go to “Settings” >> “General” >> “Restrictions Press Enable Restrictions and enter a 4-digit password if you haven’t already. This will be the password needed to change or remove restrictions in the future. You will want to chose a number you can remember, but one your child won’t easily guess. Enter and re-enter the password. Under the “Allow:” section, toggle Safari to OFF. This will disable the built-in Safari web browser, which does not have any filtering or controls. Step 2: Disable Installing Apps. Unless you disable this, your child can add another browser from the app store and search the internet without a filter. This also allows you to be sure your child does not download Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, or any other apps that you don’t want them using. (If you aren’t familiar with SnapChat you should read about it here.) Step 3: Set Age Restrictions for Downloads. Under the “Allowed Content:” section, you change the settings for “Music & Podcasts”, “Movies”, “TV Shows” and “Apps” to the appropriate level for your family. Specifically under the “Apps” section, you will want to set the setting to “12+” or less. Otherwise, the user can download another unfiltered browser app (which are generally rated as 17+). Personally I think turning “In-App Purchases” off and having your child ask for permission is the safest best. Step 4: Disable YouTube. Yes, I know your child enjoys watching fun and harmless videos on YouTube but as this article illustrates, kids on YouTube are usually about 3 clicks away from explicit content. Turn it off. You cannot delete the YouTube app but you can disable it in settings. To do so, from settings go to “General”, then “Restrictions”. Choose “Enable Restriction” and set up a restriction passcode if you haven’t yet – one that your children won’t guess. Scroll down to YouTube and switch it off. Step 5: Disable Location: Turning this off keeps apps from disclosing your general location (as determined by wireless towers or internet access point). This way, if your child is using Facebook or Instagram they won’t be revealing their location with each post. Step 6: Install A Monitoring Program for Texts. If your child has their own phone, it’s probably a good idea to install some accountability for explicit text messages. This is a huge issue among teens today, with research showing that up to 60% of teens are participating in “sexting”. An app like PhoneSheriff can block phone numbers from calls and text messages, set time restrictions for when your child can use the phone, and monitor text messages. Our kids are currently using devices without a cellphone plan, but once they are old enough to text we plan to monitor them. I believe that this will protect them and also give them a line of defense and accountability in talking with friends through this medium. What about you? Do you kids have access to internet devices yet? Have you done anything to secure them from adult content? Any great filtering apps or programs that you would recommend?
Late last week I was sitting in line to pick up my kids when I noticed my phone alerts for instagram were coming fast and furious – a little odd since I hadn’t posted a photo in a while. When I got home, I checked instagram and noticed I had been tagged by a number of fan pages for Mia Talerico . . . the little actress who plays Charlie in the popular Disney Channel sitcom. Apparently, several of them had made the discovery that an instagram user posing as Claire Talerico, Mia ’s mom, was pilfering my instagram photos and passing them off as Claire and my daughter as Mia. Indeed, this account was claiming to be Claire Talerico, and it featured a number of photos from my feed. It seems whoever was behind it was following Claire’s movements in real life, and then picking and cropping photos from my feed to make it appear as if they were real-life candid shots from Mia’s life. She would change the caption to imply that the photos were of little Mia. She even had a photo of India and I as her profile shot. Here are a few shots of her photos, side-by-side with the original photos from my own feed. My photos comprised about 75% of her feed, with the other 25% containing press photos of Mia Talerico that she likely lifted from Google images. In the photo below, every single picture is one of mine. With over 7000 followers, she was obviously fooling quite a few fans of the Disney Channel show. I really have no idea how she found me, but I’m guessing it may have been when I posted a picture of India posing with Bridget Medler, who plays Mia’s older sister on the show. I suppose India does vaguely resemble Mia Talerico in this photo. Perhaps that sparked the idea. I did a bit more digging and discovered that there was yet another Instagram account posting my photos. It was another “fan page” for Mia Talerico . . . this one supposedly being run by Mia’s cousin. Again, someone was posing as a family member and passing off our photos as candids. Several of the photos were watermarked, which is a bit hilarious given that they are stolen photos. The watermark led me to discover the facebook pages. There were two facebook pages using my photos as well. Again, one claiming to be Claire (the little girl’s mom) and another claiming to be her cousin. The similar style of both of the accounts, and the fact that both seemed to be mining my instagram account, led me to believe that it was the same person running both accounts. So, to recap: There are two instagram accounts using my photos: one pretending it’s the account of Claire Talerico (Mia’s mom) and one that was a fan page written by Mia’s cousin. Both have corresponding facebook pages also using my pictures, and I suspect both are being run by the same person. Based on the language, I assumed it was someone relatively young. After a little sleuthing, I figured out who it was. I was correct – it was a 13-year-old girl. I confronted her in the comments about the use of my pictures. Yet instead of backing down, she amped the charade up a notch. First, on the “fan page” of fake cousin, she posted this supposed cell phone interchange between herself and Claire Talerico: I have to admit, this obvious script made me laugh a bit, as I imagined this girl exchanged texts with her own email account (or however she did it) and then taking screenshots assuming this would resolve the whole thing and throw me off her scent. Also, if I was the Real Claire Talerico, I would be offended by the poor grammar as much as anything. Then she doubled down and took to the fake instagram account of Claire to announce that, yes, she was really Mia’s mom, but her account had been HACKED! Apparently hacked for 5 weeks or so. I love the fake apology here in regards to her own behavior. This definitely sounds like a 30-something mother. I continued to press her on the lie, and suddenly she changed the instagram account to a “celebrity finder” account. She deleted all the photos and then uploaded pictures of random celebrities. When people started calling her out there, she change the account name AGAIN, and then claimed she was a sketch artists and started posting pictures of celebrity artists that she had put through an app that made it look like a drawing. She then passed these off as her own drawings. A fact that her 7000 followers started to question. She changed the account again, and to be honest I lost track. I have no idea what her username is now or what she is posting. Meanwhile, my own instagram account has been hijacked by preteens who have previously followed this account, some supporting me (OMG I can’t believe she did this to you poor innocent lady!) and others angry at me for “making Claire Talerico leave instagram”. A photo I took of the kids at guitar lessons had over 100 comments from little tween girls, some as young as 9 years old, trying to engage me in drama about this whole thing. I will be honestl, I really didn’t get that wrankled about having my photos stolen. It was annoying but in truth it didn’t hurt me pesronally in any way. I am public online and it’s a risk I assume in doing so. The part that bothers me most, though, is that there is a little 13-year-old who is impersonating an adult, lying, stealing photos, lying, getting caught, and then lying some more. It’s so disturbing. Despite me repeatedly calling her out, she is STILL impersonating Claire Talerico on facebook. Today I let her know that I had her full name, the name of her school, and the name of her town (things I easily found by browsing her instagram photos) and that she had 24 hours to supply me with her parent’s’ phone numbers or I would call her in for identity theft of Claire Talerico. Honestly, had she come clean and apologized, or deleted the accounts, I would have let it go. But her persistence has made me feel like a phone call with her parents is in order. I would be mortified if my daughter was behaving this way and continuing to lie to adults even after being caught. And honestly, if she continues in this vein of deception, I would hate to see where this leads. So I’m doing my best to coax her into providing me with her parents’ info. Not because I want to get even, but because I see a troubled girl making bad decisions online, and my mothering red flags are going off. Anyways, the moral of the story is: we .need to monitor what our children are doing online. Getting embroiled in this little drama between tween-girl fan sites has opened my eyes. I’ve seen accounts posting pictures of cutitng, I’ve seen pro-anorexia photos, and I’ve seen tons of girls running multiple accounts and sharing intimate details online. Most of them were using location services, even checking in at home and at school. Almost all of them had personal accounts that were not private. But the thing is . . . with instagram, any child can have a profile that their parents monitor and then log out and create one that they don’t tell their parents about. I suspect that was the case with a lot of the accounts I was seeing. Honestly, previous to this experience I didn’t see the harm in younger kids having private instagram accounts. This changed my mind. What do you guys think? Should kids be on instagram? Are yours? Do you have any controls put in place to monitor their behavior? Instagram allows kids who are over 13 . . . but is this even mature enough? After this experience, my gut says no.
It seems like I’ve been writing about screen time allovertheweb this month, and probably for good reason: many parents are figuring out how to maintain some balance with our tech-obsessed kids. This has been an issue in my house ever since the kids have been old enough to operate the computer. My kids are huge technology fans, which is no big surprise given the fact that they have two parents whose phones are tethered to their hands 24/7. I think technology can provide some great educational opportunities for kids . . . after all, I credit the website Starfall.com with teaching my daughter to read. At the same time, screen time that goes unchecked is concerning to me. I think that kids need a good balance, and boundaries have to be put into place to make sure that kids don’t end up staring at a screen all day long when they could be playing or interacting with family. I thought I would share one of the tools we use for screen time. We call them “screen time sticks”, but it’s really just a token system to try to tangibly help the kids understand their limits in regards to the t.v. and computer. In our house, screen time is a privilege, not a right. Each of my kids have the chance to earn screen time for the following day by being respectful and following the rules. If they aren’t towing the line with their behavior, the screen time privilege is lost. Each day, the kids have the opportunity to earn 2 screen-time sticks for the following day. One is good for 30 minutes of tv time, and one is good for 30 minutes of computer/phone time. At the end of each day, we have a quick family meeting where we discuss whether or not these were earned based on the obedience and respect each child exhibited. If they earned it, the stick goes into the jar for the following day. (There is a video of me explaining the system in action over at Babble). The next day, the kids can redeem the stick with screen time. I set the timer to 30 minutes, and what’s that rings, their time is up. It is simple but it works. When they decide that they wants to redeem their screen time, they turn their stick in to me. Kids can choose to use their screen time together. For example, my kids might decide to watch a Jake and the Neverland Pirates episode together. But if they watch together, then all of the tokens must be relinquished. If they don’t want to spend their token and another child is watching a show, they have to do an activity in another room. Any symbol can work for this kind of token system: a marble, a star sticker, a laminated paper certificate . . . but the key is something that represents a child’s screen time, and that they must relinquish once they have decided to use it. This is a concrete way for parents to keep things in check, and also for kids to understand limits. Over at Huffington Post, I’ve got a few more ideas on screen time management, including using timers and the “clean before screen” rule. You can read those here. (And in this video, you can see me admit that I’m not always perfect at this because, HELLO. I get some benefit from the glowing screen of distraction as well). How to do negotiate screen time with your kids? Are you comfortable with the amount of scree time your kids watch, or would you like to implement more controls?