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.”

Wallowing in Cultural Sewage

“Sewage.” That was the word that came to mind after I spent the morning reading about and watching clips of the MTV Music Video awards, which was rated PG-14 but should have been R.  It was American culture at it’s worst, from Lady Gaga exposing her nude rear end, to Miley Cyrus’ lewd “twerking” (a word I had to look up) that even caused Will Smith and his children’s mouths to gape open.  Oh, there was one word MTV bleeped out, “Molly,” referring to a form of ecstasy.  But Miley’s simulated sexual act (I wouldn’t call that “dancing”) with the foam finger prop and up against Robin Thicke was beyond lewd and SHOULD have been censored. The New York Times described Cyrus as “molesting” Thicke.  Comedian Kevin Hart joked, “Miley better get a … pregnancy test after all of that grinding.”

With two tunes currently in ITunes’ Top 5, “Wrecking Ball” and “We Can’t Stop,” Miley is a powerful pop idol, selling a powerful message to YOUR teens.  These lines from Miley’s hit song, “We Can’t Stop” display the values being sold to our kids at every turn, and are worth discussing: 

It’s our party we can do what we want
It’s our party we can say what we want
It’s our party we can love who we want
We can kiss who we want
We can sing what we want

Red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere
Hands in the air like we don’t care
‘Cause we came to have so much fun now
Bet somebody here might get some now

Another one to discuss (sung that night by Robin Thicke while Miley licked his chest and rubbed his crotch, etc.) is “Blurred Lines” which many say seems to give the message that when a woman says “No,” a guy can think (in it’s catchy repeated line) “I know you want it.”

By the way, I blocked MTV in my home.  Yes, there is a place for censorship…when it involves my money, my kids, my values and my home.

PG Rated Nudity?

I was one of those strict parents that blocked MTV on our home’s cable  rather than have my girls inundated with what I considered too much raunchy and course behavior.   Those weren’t our family values.  I also used to think if I just didn’t have R movies on that was a good rule of thumb, but quickly realized I had to read the reviews even  for PG-13 movies.  At least we can trust a PG rating, right?  Now, the Parents Television Council reveals that TV shows with pixilated and blurred nudity (which doesn’t leave much to the imagination) are increasingly being rated as acceptable for children, with 70% of these shows being TV-PG rated.  Says PTC President Tim Winter, “Our findings are also alarming because if this kind of nudity continues to increase – as we believe it will – and the FCC’s proposal to essentially stop enforcing the broadcast indecency law goes into effect, then it’s certain that the networks will continue to push the limits of decency even further.”  

Top Teen Shows to Know About

I spent almost two hours trying to figure out what the top shows are that teens are watching….without success.  If school weren’t out, I could have asked them themselves!

After seeing certain shows pop up a lot, I went to Commonsense Media’s website to read descriptions of the shows.  I can recommend the site for that purpose, but honestly I didn’t agree with their age recommendations for shows.  In my book, certain shows should not be allowed to embed their values in ANY young person’s mind.  I wouldn’t watch some of them as an adult!

Here are 3 shows teens seem to think are hot…and a quote from the website:

Pretty Little Liars – “[Teens] engage in lots of naughty behavior like theft, defying parents’ rules, breaking and entering, and general cattiness.”  “Teen sexuality — including a main character’s homosexuality and a teen’s love affair with her high-school teacher — makes for some intense physical encounters that stop just before the act itself (although it’s referenced later).”

Awkward – “Parents need to know that steamy simulated sex, innuendo, euphemisms (“riding his joystick,” for example), body-related slang (“hooters,” “cooch,” and “p—y”), and strong language (“s–t” and “f–k” are censored; “ass,” “bitch,” and “damn” are audible) are common fare….”  “Teens engage in casual physical encounters (expect to see everything but full-on genital nudity).”  “…snarky meanness from social divas.”

Teen Wolf – “violence is it’s main concern” and “Teen relationships yield mostly mild physical contact.”

Parents…what are YOUR teens watching?  I’d love to see comments here on the shows that make you uncomfortable, and how you handle that in your home.  Do you ban any shows?  Channels?  Discuss shows that you watch together?  Make sure the only TVs are in the family room, rather than your teen’s bedroom?  You might use Commonsense Media’s search box to search the shows that you know are on at your house.  Become informed, Mom and Dad.  And if necessary, put your foot down if you just really don’t want your teen getting their values from certain shows,

Forming Savvy Consumers: Talking Over Ads With Your Teens

The other day, my husband was on a website that caters to those who like to keep up with NASA and the space program (yes, he’s a bit of a space geek).  There, flanking the content, on both sides, were two Hooters babes.  He made sure I knew that he was innocently looking at the space stuff, not the curvy young ladies!  I’ve also noticed how–amazingly–my computer search engine knows what I’m interested in, and gives me targeted ads based on what I’ve recently looked at.

Our children are bombarded with messages all day long, and need to be taught to be critical thinkers and saavy consumers.  I  found some great questions to talk through WITH our teens when we see an ad on TV, or in a magazine, or on the internet.  Even just a few sessions of doing this can train our kids not to accept every message that comes across their field of vision!  The following is adapted from youth expert Walt Mueller’s CPYU website:

1. What product is this ad selling?
2. What, besides the product, does this ad sell? (ideas, lifestyle, worldview, behaviors, etc.)
3. What’s the bait, hook, and promise?
4. Complete this sentence: “This ad tells me, use________ (the name of the product) and ___________ (the result the ad promises).
5. Does the ad tell the truth? What? How?
6. Does the ad tell a lie(s)? What? How?
7. How does the ad and its messages agree or disagree with my (or our family’s) values and what does that mean for me?

Many Celebrity Searches Lead to Bad Sites

Emma Watson, Selena Gomez, Jessica Biel.  Besides being celebrities, they also share the distinction of being in the top 10 celebrity searches that lead people to dangerous websites.  According to a McAffee report, “Cybercriminals follow the latest trends, often using the names of popular celebrities to lure people to sites that are actually laden with malicious software that are designed to steal passwords and personal information. Anyone looking for the latest videos or files to download could end up with a malware-ridden computer along with the trendy content. This year, searching for a celebrity name with ‘free downloads’ and ‘nude pictures’ as part of the search term resulted in the highest result of risky sites.”

So, it’s time for a little parental instruction so your teens can be careful as they surf the web. If you’ve been wondering why the computer is going so slow lately, this could explain it.  You can clear your computer of malware by downloading free security software.  Since downloads themselves can be malicious, a good way to be sure you find safe software is to go to (LINK HERE) for safe download links.  In fact, the most popular link, at the top right column, is the free security software that our family uses…AVG.

Gaming. Is it Ruining Boys?

An interesting graphic (link here) reveals some startling statistics about boys and gaming, and connects the dots to conclude that gaming may be a contributor to a host of ills among boys, including lower grades, lower SAT scores, and higher dropout rates.  While it’s impossible to say that gaming is a cause of these things, it’s a legitimate concern.

Why the focus on boys?  For one thing, four times as many boys as girls exhibit signs of addiction to gaming. Fifty percent of boys (versus 14% of girls) admit to owning a “Mature” or “Adults Only” game.  In addition, a Stanford study indicates that boys’ brains are more wired to receive rewards from gaming. has a wealth of information for teens and parents (and adult gaming addicts as well), including symptoms of addiction, a list of the most addictive games, and suggestions for treatment.

Teens Empowered

Move over Lady Gaga; hello Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber.  As reported on E! News From London, “According to the IOC, NBC’s ratings for the London Olympics among teenage girls is a whopping 89 percent higher than those for Fox’s smash hit Glee. ‘The younger demographic has come back,’ IOC marketing director Timo Lumme said in a press conference Tuesday. ‘Teenage girl viewership is up 54 percent.'”

In an age when media role models are appallingly scarce (at least good ones), it’s heartening to know that girls have athletes to look up to.  These are strong, fit, girls with character, who also have handled disappointment (in Jordyn’s case) with class and grace, and success (in Gaby’s case) with humility and thankfulness.  I’ll bet, behind each young woman or young man, is a mom and/or dad who encouraged and supported their child to dream, and to achieve.  Let’s remember that even if our son or daughter isn’t destined to be an all-star athlete, we can be their best cheerleaders as they move through adolescence into adulthood, becoming the people we know they can be.

Free showing of documentary, Miss Representation, May 8

A documentary has been getting a lot of buzz, and hits on some very important topics for parents to consider.  Miss Representation is an award-winning film (shown on the Oprah Network last October) that looks at the portrayal of females in media, and how it affects not just girls and women, but boys and men as well.  This important documentary is being shown free to the public at Glenbard West High School Tuesday, May 8 from 6:30-8:30 p.m., followed by a discussion with the film’s director, Jennifer Siebel Newsom.  The film’s website says, “In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. ”  Click HERE to see an 8-minute trailer for the movie, or HERE for a shorter one.  WARNING:  There are some graphic images of partially clad women in these trailers in sexual situations.  If you try to keep your eyes from these kinds of images, you should perhaps NOT watch the trailers or the  movie.   The message in the movie is mixed in with a particular political stance that you may or may not agree with, but the focus on media and its portrayal of women is undeniably powerful and important…and could lead to some good discussion.  I would consider especially taking daughters to this movie.

Virginity: a Renewed Conversation

Pop culture seems to have a renewed obsession with talking about virginity, ranging from incredulity at Tim Tebow’s public commitment to wait until marriage, to a new TV show, Virgin Diaries, devoted to the subject.  In an age when it seems like “everybody’s doing it,” voices are being heard more and more, saying “I’m waiting.”  In fact, recent research indicates that a surprising number of young people have not been sexually active.  “A report issued last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics found from 2006-08, 29 percent of women and 27 percent of men ages 15-24 had had no sexual contact with another person, up from 22 percent in 2002.”  The article I read referencing that statistic has a couple of quotes from unashamed virgins…one of whom is a young man I met when he attended college with my daughter.  Kevin has become a good friend of mine, and I tell his story to students I speak with about the choice to be abstinent.  They need to know there really are  guys who choose to wait…decent guys…the kind of guy a girl would want to marry some day. In the same article, our program, Amplify Youth Development, even gets a mention, with a quote from our program director about her decision to wait until marriage.