An Easier Way to Control Internet Use

We’ve written before about various ways to monitor, control, and spy on your teens’ internet and phone use.   If you multiply all the cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc. in your home, it’s no wonder parents get overwhelmed and give up.  So instead of trying to manage, one by one, each and every wi-fi connected device in the home, one product can help you do it all from one place…the router. recently reported on The Skydog web app and Smart Family Router (, which can simplify and organize content control over many devices in your home, easily!  Said one parent reviewer on, “This amazing bit of technology is actually useful, relevant and solves a number of problems that I, as a parent of a teenage son, have been trying to solve for years now.  What the Skydog will do for you is create safe zones for the users and devices that connect to your network. Depending on the level of filtering you want to apply to each person, you can drop each family member and their respective devices into groups that will monitor and block inappropriate destinations based upon rules you define.”

Going to Bed Late Linked to Poorer Outcomes Years Later

It’s a constant battle for some of us to get our kids to go to bed at a decent hour.  What is “decent” is actually not too hard to figure out due to recent research by UC Berkeley.  An article discussing the research reported that “teens who went to bed later than 11:30 p.m. on school nights and 1:30 a.m. in the summer had lower GPAs than teens who got to bed earlier. They were also more susceptible to emotional problems.”  This was not a short term problem, that sleeping in on weekends solves.  The research showed an association with poor educational and emotional outcomes an entire 6 to 8 years later!  What can we do as parents?  One thing my husband and I did was put our router in our bedroom, with a timer on it so that the internet turned off at 11:00.  With cell phones now offering 24/7 access to the internet, it’s important to cut off phone access at night as well.  We are host parents for international students, and the private school they attend requires us to have the students park their phones outside their rooms overnight.  We use a table in the hall outside our bedroom.  Parents…do you have any ideas to share?  We welcome your comments.

Online-Only Relationship a Cause for Concern

The “Ask Amy” advice column in the Chicago Tribune had a question from parents who had discovered that their 14-year-old daughter had very close online-only contact with an 18-year-old boy.  Because I’ve also talked to teens who talk about the “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” they’ve never met, I realized this is something parents should be alert to.  The advice, from Donna Rice Hughes of, may sound strict, but it strikes me as wise and necessary. The obvious answer in my mind would be to ban any further contact.  But because a determined teen has ways to circumvent such a ban, she suggests:

“… you should check her texts (unannounced) to make sure they are not sexual and follow her presence on social media.

You should also open this up to the extent that you can get to know this young man whom she cares so much about. At her age, you as parents should make every effort to meet and get to know all of her friends, real world or virtual. This is non-negotiable.

Communicate with him via Skype, phone or email, with your daughter present and with an open attitude. Verify that he is who he says he is. (And does he know that she is 14?) Also connect with his parents to let them know of this relationship. Basically, you want to demonstrate to both that you are present and involved.

Limit your daughter’s phone time to make sure she gets her homework done and participates in family life. Encourage her to get involved with at least one school activity and help her to foster friendships closer to home.

Teens Who Walk and Talk On Cell Phones Risk Injury

It’s not surprising that a  study reported on by USA Today shows that “cell-attached” pedestrians most likely to be injured are young people.  The group at highest risk, 16- to 25-year-olds, experienced injuries ranging from “falling off walkways or bridges to walking in front of moving traffic.”  In the 6-year period studied, the number of injuries almost tripled.  As we prepare our teens to use cell phones wisely while driving, we shouldn’t forget to add in a discussion about distracted walking!  The tweet, text, or Facebook message can wait until your child arrives safely at his or her destination.

Is your teen bullying or being bullied online?

I’ve been reading about lately.  The buzz is about teens that have committed suicide after being bullied on the site.  For all the teens that resort to suicide, often after being urged to kill themselves by anonymous bullies, there are many, many more that are living in fear and despair.  Anonymity allows teens to act on their worst impulses.  I couldn’t help but think of the soul-crushing guilt or loss of conscience that the bullies must feel when they face the very real consequences of their cruelty.  Heaven forbid, that my child, or yours, could be that bully. has posted an article telling us what we need to know about, including the following:

  • As is true of Facebook and Twitter, you must be 13 to use it.
  • allows anonymous objectionable content, which it does not monitor.
  • Therefore, it’s being used for the worst type of bullying and sexualized content.
  • Users can’t increase privacy settings, as you can with Facebook and Twitter.
  • content can be linked to Facebook and Twitter, increasing the spread of the bullying.
  • “A user can disable his/her account, even if the password is forgotten.”  Kids have been known to lie about that.
  • One user can block another, but the person can still view any interactions under any profile.

Action YOU can take:  Find out if anyone is posting hurtful or sexual things.  Ask if these “friends” are friends in real life.  It’s OK to insist on transparency…sit down and take a look at your teen’s account.  Advise your teen, “Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your  family to see.”

Stay Focused! Helping Your Teen Work and Study

I have two teens in my home again, and I love it!  My two international students are diligent students, and quite put to shame most American kids I’ve known.  That got me thinking about how I would help distractible teens stay focused with all the competition for attention from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, texting, etc.

First, I’d probably have them park their phones in an attractive basked or pretty box on the kitchen counter during a regular (set in stone) “study time.” Then I would make use of technology to get control of technology!  It didn’t take me long to find some great helps for students who procrastinate (I had one of those) and who are so social (I had one of those too) that they find it hard to disconnect long enough to focus on their  studies.  One I found is called StayFocusd.  This add-on works with Chrome (a browser like Firefox or Internet Explorer), and allows you to limit the amount of time you let yourself be on certain websites you choose.  For instance, if your child is tempted to check out Facebook constantly, set a time limit.  Once it’s up…that’s it for the day.  Self-Control for Macs lets you set a timer blocking sites for a prescribed amount of time (while you do what you’re supposed to be doing).   Self Control for Study is an Android phone app that does similar things.  Finish is an anti-procrastination app designed by two 16-year-olds.  It would be best to help your older teens learn how to use these tools themselves, so it’s not just another restriction imposed by mom or dad.

Kik App – Is it OK for Kids?

It may be that you already know about Kik, which is a smartphone messaging app, like the old AOL Instant Messenger but for phones, and with the ability to add pictures and video.  I felt hopelessly behind the times when my middle school class today told me in so many words that Facebook is old school, but that Kik, Twitter and Instagram are the latest avenues of communication for teens (at least middle schoolers).  When I got on the internet at home to look up “teens using kik, twitter,” in the first six links that popped up three had the word nudes in the title!  Here are two articles you can look at that discuss Kik:  One, a blog entry by Mcafee, discusses how to manage Kik so that it’s safer.  It also shows what the icon looks like so you can see if it’s on your teen’s phone. The other article on is more skeptical about Kik Messenger, noting that it is rated 17+ in the app store (at least for Iphone, Ipad and ITunes).  The article also talks about how to block the download of apps based on their rating.

Getting Rid of Unwanted Facebook Photos

Aren’t you glad that the stupid things you did as a teen didn’t get chronicled in full “glory” on the internet for all the world to see?  I have to have some compassion for this generation of teens.  One stupid move, and a “friend” captures a picture of some indiscreet moment.  It’s amazing what peer pressure or a dare, or the brain on hormones, can accomplish!  

Perhaps you see an embarrassing Facebook (or Instagram, Flickr, etc.) picture of your teen showing a terrific lapse of judgment.  Or maybe your teen comes to you and tells you there is a compromising or damaging picture of him or her posted on someone’s Facebook.  Your horrified child would do anything to be able to go back in time and undo that moment.  How can you help?  

The truth is, you might not be able to erase that embarrassing picture, but there are things you can do to minimize the damage.  My internet service provider posted a great article on how to combat these unwanted pictures.  For example, the article suggests: “In the [Facebook] privacy settings under How Tags Work, the ‘profile review’ setting allows you to review and approve every tag before it goes on your page. If you don’t approve a tag, the photo will still be live, it just won’t link to your page. You can also exclude some people from seeing the tag.”  As a parent, first we should insist that we be allowed to “friend” our child so we can keep tabs on our child’s online “presence.”  Then, we would do well to read some of the other suggestions in Comcast’s helpful article.