Tag Archives: parenting

Distracted Driving: Is the Canary Project App Really A Good Idea?

We all have heard about the horror stories and a growing number of us have been touched by this growing nightmare personally…distracted driving. How many times per day do you see someone next to you talking on the cell phone or sending a text? After so many people have died, it is unbelievable that so many people still find it to be okay to do so. This is especially rampant among our teenagers. In response to this, a new app called “The Canary Project” has been released. Simply call it Big Brother for parents of teen drivers as it pretty much keeps tabs on what they do and where they go. Is this the way to go to truly make a difference? Let’s look at the good and bad:

What does Canary do?

Essentially it can tell the parents when the child is using the phone while driving. It might be that the child is texting or talking on the phone. If the child’s phone is unlocked and in use while a vehicle is going more than 12 mph, the parents will get a notification. It also can tell the parents where a teen might be in a given time period or if they go outside of certain parameters that are set by the parents geographically.

Why Canary might be a bad idea

The only people who would really be against this idea would be the teens themselves. On the surface it feels like a device that invades privacy. It tells parents when and where, but very little of the what. This means that kids will struggle to break curfew or go outside of certain boundaries without having to answer for it. Teens will no doubt be against such parental vision, but what rules and regulations are welcomed by teens?

Why Canary could be a great idea Continue reading Distracted Driving: Is the Canary Project App Really A Good Idea?

5 Tips for Teaching Your Toddler to Use Tablets & Other Technology

ipad table wikiDon’t you wish we had some today’s toys and games when we were kids?  Today’s technology is amazing and the learning tools, apps and resources for our kids to learn and be entertained are better than ever before.

These games and apps are powerful tools we can use to help give our kids a head start on learning, but it’s important to teach them how to use them safely as well. Here are a few tips if you’re starting to teach your toddler how to use your tablet or computer.

 Set Time Together

Especially if your child is very young, you don’t want to just turn them loose with an iPad or computer on their own to explore. Set aside some special time to spend with your child to teach them how the device works and how to play the games. Explain things, let them practice navigating and turn the time into a learning experience together.

 Set Time Limits

While the learning and educational benefits of most of today’s apps are amazing, there can also be too much of a good thing. It’s important to set limits for how much time kids spend playing games or getting online. Be sure set limits and make sure that your kids are still getting lots of good old fashioned playtime offline as well.

 Set Parental Safety Controls

While the web is filled with millions of amazing things, there’s also lots of scary stuff out there too, sometimes when you least expect it. My niece was recently doing a homework assignment on corn (we live in Iowa so it’s an important topic!) and she typed the word into Google to search for images to use in her report. Because not many people search for pictures of this particular vegetable, instead the search engine substituted what it thought was the closest search term that would work. Let’s just say it started with a “P” and rhymes with “corn”. Up popped millions of inappropriate images just for an online search about a vegetable. After that my sister and brother-in law realized they needed to set up stricter parental controls to help protect their kids — even during innocent homework assignments.

Set Purchasing Controls

While that one click purchasing on iTunes or on Amazon for your Kindle Fire might make things easy for you, it can also make things easy for your child to quickly rack up large amounts of unauthorized purchases. We have several friends whose toddlers have ordered hundreds of dollars of merchandise without Mom and Dad knowing because that one click ordering was a little too easy. Be sure to log out and set a password that your child doesn’t know before allowing them to explore on your tablet or iPad. It could save you a surprise on your credit card bill.

Set Rules and Guidelines

While you might have parental controls in place to keep out some of the bad stuff, it’s still important to have additional rules and guidelines about using technology to keep your young child safe. Our kids are only allowed to use the computer or tablet while they are sitting down (to prevent drops and breaks) and have to stay within sight of Mom or Dad so that we can keep an eye on what they are doing. Our preschooler is only allowed to use his approved apps, while our his big sister is allowed to explore a little more. However she still needs to surf only with our supervision and ask permission before visiting a new website she hasn’t been to before.

What rules do you set for your children online?


Thanks to our guest contributor.
Kim R. is a busy working mom of two in small town Iowa. She blogs at www.twokidsandacoupon.com, providing readers with daily information on frugal family fun and living. 
Image courtesy of Creative Commons License Wikipedia

This image, originally posted to Flickr, was reviewed on  by the administrator or reviewer Leoboudv, who confirmed that it was available on Flickr under the stated license on that date.

The Basics on Stopping Cyberbullying and Protecting our Kids

Before social media and widespread access to the internet came along, it used to be that parents only had to worry about bullying in the school yard. Now, however, our kids are facing a new threat: cyberbullying. Unlike traditional bullying, it’s a pervasive problem because kids can’t get away from it, and it spreads far faster.

Cyberbullying includes text messages, e-mails, as well as posts on social media such as Facebook. In some cases, the harassment is directed at the child, and in other cases it may be rumors or embarrassing photos are spread throughout the school and beyond using the mass reach of social media. Unfortunately, all kinds of bullying can cause the victims to want to lash out, hurting themselves or others, and that’s why it’s so important for parents to be aware of what cyberbullying is and how to fight back.

Protecting kids from cyberbullying

Parents can help keep their kids safe from cyberbullying Continue reading The Basics on Stopping Cyberbullying and Protecting our Kids

One amazing giveaway! Amazon $40 Gift Card and One Year Kids Email service free

We recently had a chance to share with you our experience with KidsEmail.org. Now you get a chance to try them out too – for FREE! Thanks to KidsEmail.org for sponsoring this generous giveaway you can enter to win one year free KidsEmail service program as well as receive a $40 Amazon Gift Card! 

Hmm with Christmas just around the corner I wonder what you will spend it on?

kidsEmail.org is an email service (just like your hotmail or gmail accounts) but designed just for kids and their parents. Parents can use the tools available to teach their children responsible online and email habits while keeping them safe from cyber bulling, inappropriate ads, language and images, and yes, you can even set it to detect “stranger dangers.” Read our full review of the service to find out more.

Entering is easy. Just use the Rafflecopter form below. This contest runs Nov. 11-18, 2012. Entries will be verified.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Do your kids need a safer email account? KidsEmail.org may be the answer

As parents we have been warned of the increasing risk of identity theft to our children, often because information is so easy to access. But there are also a number of other online dangers that parents need to address as our children use the Internet more frequently. These dangers include cyber bullying, stalking, pornography, spam, viruses and inappropriate email messages and pictures. With children ranging in ages from 17-6 I’ve found that somethings work for keeping the older children safe online and some things work well for keeping the younger children safe online, especially while they are sending and receiving email. One of my favorite tools so far I have found for the younger children is Kids Email.org.

Kids Email is an email system that is designed with kids ages 6-12 in mind, but there is also a teen tool available. Here is what Kids Email does in a nutshell:

We decided to give Kids Email a try, since I refused to give in to the younger children’s request for a cell phone and email is one of the ways that they can easily keep in touch with grandparents which live far away.  Here are some of the features mom liked:

  • privacy, security and safety online
  • filters out all the “stuff” and just offers the kids a clean and easy to use email system
  • several different features that I can tailor towards our family’s specific needs and concerns
  • easy to set up and use
  • free trial with no credit card required
Kids Email.org is easy to use.  You simply register (no credit card required) and then answer some simple yes or no questions about the security settings you want to use.  These questions include things like do you want copies of emails sent and received sent to your email or who do you want to allow emails from?  You can set up more than one email address so you can tailor made your security settings age appropriate for each child.
One of the things I liked about these settings is that I can manage the kids email accounts down to the minutes they spend on there as well as even ground them from their email and set the dates and times of the “grounding.” I hope I don’t have to do that, but it is nice to know that these options are there if I need them.  I can also run reports of the activity on the accounts.
Next the girls got to jump in and have some fun.  They selected from 10 different templates that gave them a specific look whenever they signed into their email.  My middle daughter selected the princess  fairy template which gives her a cute pink and purple background for her email account.   Then the emails began!  Just to test drive they sent emails to grandma, grandpa and dad and once they received responses I think that they were hooked!  (I recommend sending all those who may be getting a message from the kids a message about the new account so that they recognize it and can add it to their safe list).
I like that I can design each email account to do what our family needs it to do for security, safety and fun.  KidsEmail provides a safe way to teach my children about email and Internet responsibility and use as they learn all those rules that even the most mature adult has trouble remembering sometimes, because after all “my friend sent it to me” so it must be safe.
There is a one month free trial available, but after that it is a paid service.  I know what you are thinking, but guess what you don’t have to give your credit card to get the free trial.  That was a big plus for me right at the beginning.  The current price is 13 months with up to six email accounts for $38.95.


5 Ways to Make Sure Your Teen Is Using Their First Credit Card Safely

If there’s one thing teenagers are good at, it’s wanting. They want later curfews with fewer check-ins, they want to take the car out on weekends without telling you where they’re going, and most of all they want a credit card to call their very own. Now, there’s nothing wrong with teaching your teen how to build and use credit responsibly, but if you’re going to pick up a piece of plastic for your kid these days, you need to be extra-vigilant about how they use it. Why? Because credit card theft has changed since you were a kid.

These days, a thief doesn’t even need to pick your teen’s pocket to steal that first credit card. They can just skim it with a hidden device on a gas pump, or read the information wirelessly from a hacked cell phone. So if you want to make sure your child’s first foray into the world of credit is a safe and happy experience, try following these 5 steps to make sure they’re using their credit card responsibly.

1)    Don’t just give them your premier credit card. If you’re going to give your teen a copy of one of your credit cards instead of signing them up for their own, make sure it isn’t your ultra-exclusive credit card with the $10,000 limit. That’s like handing your kid the keys to a new Corvette the day they get their license and telling them to step on it. Instead, start them out with one of your low-limit cards – like the one you use for online shopping. This way, if and when they lose the card, you can cancel it before any serious damage is done to your credit score.

2)    Monitor their credit scores. Under federal law, everyone is entitled to a free annual credit check from each of the three major monitoring services – TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. You should use these free reports to check up on your teen’s credit score every four months. Not only will you be able to see if they’ve been using their card responsibly, but you can also check the charges for suspicious activity.

3)    Teach them to use a shredder. One of the most common ways for thieves to get hold of personal information like credit card numbers is by sifting through trash cans and dumpsters for old statements and bills. That’s why it’s important to get your teen into the habit of shredding all of their bank statements and credit card bills before throwing them away. It’s a cheap and easy way to ensure that sensitive information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

4)    Make sure they’re using their credit cards online, not their debit cards. It can be hard for teenagers to tell the difference between a credit card and a debit card, but they’re going to have to learn if they ever want to shop online. Why? Because credit cards offer a number of protections under the CARD Act that will limit your teen’s liability if their information is ever stolen from a merchant database. Debit cards, on the other hand, don’t offer these protections at all.

5)    Keep their computers clean. Even if your teen uses his or her credit card responsibly, information can still be stolen by malware hidden on their computer. It only takes one wrong click on a phony email or website link to download this dastardly software, and once it’s on a computer it can transmit personal information to hackers for years. That’s why you should install malware removal software on any computer that your teen uses to transmit credit card information. By running regular checks and removing suspicious files when they’re discovered, you can make sure that your teen’s computer stays as safe as it was the day you bought it.

Nowadays, credit cards are as much a risk for teens as they are a resource. Thieves are waiting around every corner, so it’s important to keep an eye on the way your teen  is using that first credit card. By teaching your teenager how to check credit reports, shred personal documents and use credit cards online, you can help your child develop healthy habits. You’ll be teaching your son or daughter how to spend safely well into adulthood. Then the only thing you have to worry about is that whitewater rafting trip the gang is planning for next summer.



Thank you to our guest author Bill Hazelton of CreditCardAssist.com! 

Bill Hazelton is the founder and CEO of CreditCardAssist, a leading pro-consumer credit card resource. Since 2004, he’s been providing American consumers with all the tips, tricks and news they need to navigate the world of personal finance. His on-site reports have been cited by the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Post, Yahoo! News and more.



Facebook and Fake Modeling Agencies that Target Teens

Aspiring models and actors may get more than they bargained for if they respond to a Fake Modeling Agency “ad” on Facebook.  Law enforcement officials in the United Kingdom report that fake modeling agencies have been trolling the popular social networking site attempting to get pictures of minors in their underwear. These agencies claim the photos are necessary to determine if they could be a model.  These fake agencies are very convincing, even going so far as to set up websites and use company logos, sometimes even falsely assuming the identity of legitimate modeling agencies, making their solicitation even more believable.

Law enforcement official in the UK warn:

“Do not be fooled by these emails, a reputable modelling agency would never approach you in this way. Do not post pictures online of yourself posing in your underwear and if you are under 18 these photographs may be indecent under UK law.

You have no control when posting photos on the internet where they may end up and they could appear on the internet forever. If you do find yourself in a situation of this nature online you can use the CEOP Report Abuse Button which is now available as an app on Facebook or contact police.”  (Detective Sergeant Ed Jones, from Leicestershire Constabulary’s/UK Press)

The UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center recommends that children’s Facebook page privacy settings should be set to private, or friends only.  I would add that parents should regularly and unexpectedly check their child’s friends pages for those people who are really not so friendly.

Facebook is working with the police and a spokesperson states “The safety of the people who use Facebook is our top priority. Unfortunately there will always be malicious people who try to fool people, both online and offline. Just as you should check if someone ‘scouting’ you in a shopping centre really is a legitimate model agent you should also use the same caution on Facebook.

“We encourage people using Facebook to think carefully before they add a new friend and check that the person is who they claim to be and not to add or accept friend requests from people they don’t know. It’s against Facebook’s rules to use a fake name or operate under a false identity. We provide our users with the tools to report anyone they think is doing this via report links on every page of our site and we strongly recommend their use.”

Parents, a little supervision can go a long way whether it’s helping your child determine whether an email asking them to be an extra in the latest Twilight Saga , warning them about online sextortion or advising them about the latest online Facebook, Twitter or MySpace scams.

What is your best advice for keeping your children safe online?

FBI Program Offered in Schools to Help Keep Kids Safe Online

Did you know a staggering one in seven youngsters has received unwanted sexual solicitations online? And that one in 11 has experienced some type on online bullying? That’s according to the FBI’s website touting a program designed to keep kids safe while online.

Did you also know that the FBI works to educate kids and their parents about the Internet—both the wonderfully educational and insidiously opportunistic aspects of it? They offer schools a Safe Online Surfing program to help students recognize, avoid and report  online risks.

The Safe Online Surfing (SOS) program Continue reading FBI Program Offered in Schools to Help Keep Kids Safe Online