How to be a Savvy Middle School Parent

Middle-School-KidsA milestone transition in a child’s life involves going off from elementary to middle school. Those who have gone through this change with their children learn the experience can be a fun, positive time of growth for a whole family. But it also comes with anxiety, both for parents and their new middle schoolers. Most of that anxiety can be relieved with a little preparation and information about what to expect – and how to manage whatever comes your child’s way.

Middle school is, perhaps, the first time in your child’s life when for all practical purposes mom and dad are not cool and have little credibility. As soon as a child nears puberty, he or she may begin pulling away in an effort to define his or her own identity. This can be difficult for a parent, but it’s a great time of growth for children.

Although a tween may appear to find his or her parents’ advice not helpful, when shared with patience and love, the advice can be planted into a child’s pliable young mind like seeds. In other words, they are listening, and they may take heed, even if it’s so “whatevs” to act like the advice matters.

Part of the thrill of entering middle school for kids – and part of what creates anxiety for parents – are bigger boundaries and likely more connectivity. For example:

6 Tips for Parents of Middle School Students

1.   Encourage Cell Phone Safety. This may be the first time in a child’s life when he or she has a mobile device. A child with a smartphone or other mobile device makes their once small world exponentially bigger. That world can be both good and bad. A smartphone allows parents to reach their kids before and after school to arrange rides and check in. It also allows children to bond with their new friends via social media. Of course, a mobile phone can also be a distraction in school, and it can be dangerous on a walk home. Remind your child not to “cocoon” by crossing intersections and train tracks while wearing headphones and a hoodie and staring at a mobile device screen. Doing so can block out all stimuli, so that even a loud train whistle often can’t be heard. The results of this can be devastating. This mom’s cell phone contract is a MamaBear favorite.

2.   Monitor Social Media.With middle school comes a new level of social media usage. Maybe your child was allowed to experiment with social apps before middle school. Or maybe you are reluctantly allowing your child to use Instagram or Kik for the first time. Social media can be a fun way for kids to stay connected outside of school. Of course, it can also pose dangers in the form of cyberbullies and strangers preying on our children. Protect your child from inappropriate social media behavior by closely monitoring their activity. The MamaBear App can save you some time with social media monitoring to know when he or she makes new friends and is tagged in posts, photos or at locations. The app will also make you aware when inappropriate language or indication of bullying is posted to your child’s profile based on a restricted word list you create.

3.   Keep Tabs on You’re Child’s Device Location. In middle school a child is often given more freedom to roam. After school, he or she may go with a group to the local frozen yogurt shop or a friend’s house. Parents will nonetheless worry about who they’re with and their safety. Some parents choose to worry less by installing an app like the MamaBear Family Safety App to monitor their family’s devices being aware of where he or she is before, during and after school.

4.   Take the Safety Pledge. If you’re worried about your middle schooler’s safety before, during and after school both online and in real life,  a safety pledge from your child may help create a agreement between you. Netsmartz.org is a a good resource.

5.   Download the MamaBear Family Safety App. Middle school today isn’t what it was ten, twenty or thirty years ago. While some things never change (cliques, tricky locker combinations and puppy love), children have a whole new way of connecting and communicating with the world through their mobile devices. MamaBear can help parents feel more secure when transitioning their tweens through this important developmental stage.

6.   Communicate Often. Of course, nothing replaces loving, genuine communication. Talk to your kids every day. Try to eat dinner together and ask about their friends and what goes on at school. Encourage trust and an open lines of communication so that when your kids are in a bind – or when you sense something isn’t going right – they know you are there to help them through whatever challenges they face.

Help protect kids during this transition to middle school with the MamaBear app, available on Android devices here and iPhone devices here.

 

Back to School Safety Tips – Staying Safe Online at Home, at School and Everywhere

back to school tips

A new school year is full of excitement and opportunities for children. New activities and new friendships are forged while a whole new learning adventure begins. Along with the excitement and novelty of a new school year, children with smart phones, tablets and classroom computers can be exposed to threats from online predators and bullies as they are also being exposed to a wide world of information and learning.
Thankfully, there are several precautions a parent can take at the start of a school year to keep children safe while allowing them the freedom to enjoy technology. Taking a few back to school tech safety precautions is every bit as important as buying school supplies and new clothes, meeting teachers and doing all the necessary things to prepare a child for the new school year.

Back to School Technology Safety Tips

Here are some back to school tips to help keep your children safe during the school year:

  1. Monitor your children’s online and social media behavior. According to an article at Education World, you can do this in a number of ways: by talking to your children, monitoring their apps and by setting up internet usage rules. You can also install the MamaBear Family Safety App on your child’s Apple or Android device to monitor your children’s behavior on Facebook and Instagram, including when they make new friends and are tagged in posts, photos or at locations. Be aware when inappropriate language or indication of bullying is posted to their profile with restricted word alerts. Also, teach your child that if you wouldn’t say something in person, you shouldn’t say it on social.
  2. Set up parental restrictions on their mobile devices. iPhones have a great parental restriction settings to monitor age appropriate content, music, apps and gives parents the opportunity to restrict in-app purchasing, adding apps or deleting apps. On iPhones go to settings/general/restrictions to set them up. On Android devices, a recent update to the operating system allows for some device restrictions for parents. Right now Android 4.3/Jelly Bean is available on Nexus devices but manufactures of other device types are anticipating a roll-out of the new operating system. Until then check Google Play for other apps that help with device restrictions.
  3. Control internet use at home. Place your children’s computer in a public area so they can’t isolate themselves when online. Limit the amount of time to use the Internet, or simply disable WiFi at certain times of the day to restrict his/her internet access. Set rules for mobile devices too. For instance, charge phones overnight in a common area, not in their bedrooms at night. Check up on their browser history on their phones for use of unacceptable content.
  4. Be aware of your child’s computer use at school. Ask questions about what their computer use is in the classroom. Create an open dialog that holds your child – and his/her teachers – accountable. Also, know your child’s school’s internet policy. Be aware of how your school district handles internet safety by visiting the school’s website and/or talking to school faculty and administration. If you have concerns about the policy, consider working to improve the Internet safety standards of the school district.
  5. Pay attention to warning signs. Be aware of whether your child is spending an increased amount of time online or on their phones, is isolating themselves, appears withdrawn or is exhibiting troubled behavior. These could be signs that your child’s safety is threatened. Awareness is one of the best ways to keep your children safe with their mobile devices.

Going back to school is one of the most exciting times of the year for parents and their children. Keep that time fun and special by following these back to school internet safety tips, protecting your child so that she can safely embark on the adventure of a new academic year.

The MamaBear app helps parents around the world to worry less about their children. Download the app today for iPhone devices here and Android devices here.

When Parents Monitor Kids’ Instagram: Too Far, or a Modern Necessity?

monitor kids instagram

We talk about Instagram quite a bit. The photo and now video sharing app is extremely popular and regularly controversial among parental discussions. Even though it’s known as a photo sharing app, the social media platform exemplifies the debate on children’s privacy and need for monitoring services. It’s a safe bet that the new introduction of Instagram Video service will keep the app in the forefront of the family monitoring debate for a while. You may question if monitoring your child’s social media is going too far or a modern necessity? Here’s some information to consider.

Instagram Stats

Instagram averages 100 million active monthly users or more and is the top photo sharing option for teens in the United States. Access to iPod touches, as well as iPhones and iPads and Android devices, have made it accessible to a huge range of teen and young adult users. Current estimates place Instagram at 1000 comments and 8500 likes per second, making the photo sharing app one of the busiest social media networks in the world. Source: http://www.digiday.com/brands/15-stats-brands-should-know-about-instagram/

The flexibility of use and exposure among its users also makes it extremely popular with celebrities increasing it’s likability among our children. The list of celebs who regularly use the app ranges from names like Miley Cyrus to Michelle Obama. In the last year, stars like Rihanna, Justin Timberlake and Justin Beiber have received millions of comments, and hours of real media attention, by posting backstage photos of major events like the concerts and award ceremonies and even personal photos on Instagram.

Kids on Instagram

While Facebook remains popular with adults of all ages, the younger generation of social media users clearly prefers Instagram. Unfortunately through all the fun and connectivity most social media provides, it can also pose a significant risk to unattended kids and teenagers. The most prevalent and often discussed risks are bullying, inappropriate contact with adult content and inappropriate contact with adult users.

The current trend of Instagram beauty pageants encourages teenage girls to post pictures online so the entire Instagram community can rate them. Classmates and thousands of users, including unknown adults, rate these pictures and comment on if the posters are “pretty” or not. It’s a clear example of internet bullying and inappropriate contact with strangers that have no business interacting with a child online.

Even more frightening for many parents is the threat of interaction with strangers that Instagram can present or exposure to photos their kids just aren’t ready to see. Geo-tagging and other photo sharing options lead to some scary realities when it comes to child predators. Our kids may not quite understand how much information they’re actually revealing about themselves with a public Instragram profile and they may not stop to consider that sharing certain things like locations or name of their school with 100 million users isn’t a great idea.

As a modern necessity, MamaBear gives parents the option to monitor their kids’ Instagram and Facebook accounts for worrisome activity giving them an opportunity to discuss and protect their child’s reputation and well being. It saves parents time from scrolling through the fun and innocent photos and presents needed information to parents help keep our kids safe. Using the restricted words feature can inform parents of indications of bullying, hate or inappropriate language. And the follows notification can help parents monitor who their children follow. As always, be sure your children’s account is set to private and keep the conversation going about social media safety. Together we can keep social media the intended fun environment we all enjoy.

Try MamaBear free for Apple devices here and Android devices here.