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Earth Day: Air Quality in Schools

April 18, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Earth Day: Air Quality in Schools | Support your child's school's green school initiative this Earth Day.

Earth Day 2017 focuses on environmental and climate literacy. The theme calls attention to the importance of educating ourselves and our children on the needs of Earth’s environment and how humans can reduce the negative impact our species has contributed in the past and move forward with the knowledge of how fragile the environment is.

With that knowledge, we can make better choices every day that might seem small—like daily recycling—but lead to a big impact—reducing the size of our landfills. When we raise our kids to be mindful of their environment, they will grow up to be more environmentally conscious than the generation before them and can develop processes and plans to live smarter, more efficiently, and more Earth-friendly for future generations.

The Earth Day Network has organized many projects, from reforestation efforts (reversing the current trend of losing over 15 billion trees each year) to protecting endangered species. One of their projects that directly impacts your children is the Green Schools Campaign.

Why should you support this initiative? The Earth Day Network says,

“With children spending two-thirds of their waking hours inside schools, benefits like pure air quality, healthy lighting, safe outdoor spaces, and high quality cafeteria food aren’t fancy extras—they are essential.”

Think about air quality alone.

The air quality indoors can be up to 100 times worse than outdoors, and roughly 50 percent of classrooms have poor indoor air quality, according to Earth Day Network. Many school classrooms have low ventilation rates, where respiratory illnesses have increased between 50 to 370 percent, according to research provided by Lawrence Berkely Labs. American students miss about 14 millions school days each year due to asthma, according to the Green Education Foundation.

Those statistics are a rallying cry to use this Earth Day as an opportunity to change. You can start by further educating yourself on the Green Schools Campaign.

  • Learn why the initiative is important and how it will impact your child’s health.
  • Start talking to other parents about it.
  • Schedule a meeting with the school principal to start a conversation. Find out what your school is doing to improve air quality and make the school healthier and greener.
  • Introduce yourself to the person leading the initiative at the school and ask how you can help. That might include organizing meetings, fundraising for better building technology, or even educating others on the issue.

These are the first steps to enacting change. Educate yourself, talk to others, and learn what’s already being done. Then think of what else you can do to help current efforts or lead the charge yourself. Change for the future starts with one person. Change for your child’s future starts with you.

Tell us what you learned about your child’s school’s green initiatives in the comments below. Then keep us posted on your progress. Feel free to email us at info@youparent.com for a more direct conversation.

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Fame-seeking on Social Media

March 28, 2017

By Sunny Chico and Jessica Vician

Teenage Fame-seeking on Social Media | As parents of teenagers, social media is always on our minds. It's a communication and social outlet that we didn't have growing up and we must consider it in our parenting strategies.

As parents of teenagers, social media is always on our minds. It's a communication and social outlet that we didn't have growing up and we must consider it in our parenting strategies.

There are many reasons we need to pay attention to our teenagers on social media, and a prominent one is bullying. There have been multiple times when criminals have aired their crimes on Facebook Live, like the recent rape of a 15-year-old girl and a the torture of a special needs 18-year-old man.

What made these people—some of whom are teenagers—want to broadcast it for friends and strangers to see? 

Social and Emotional Development
Social media plays a strong role in teenage social and emotional development.

Unlike television, where you just sit and watch, social media is an active medium. Teens are chatting, sharing, liking, commenting, etc. They're having unsupervised conversations with each other, which can have a lasting effect on their development.

Knowing what teens are doing on social media, we have to ask, "What could motivate these kids to broadcast rape and torture of teenagers?"

Fame
The answer? The need for fame.

I read a great article that talked about teenagers and the value of fame. The researcher noted that in the past 50 years, popular television shows have promoted friendship, family, and community. Think about Friends, Happy Days, and The Cosby Show.

But in the past 10 years, television has changed. Now popular television promotes fame. It's reality TV—American Idol, The Voice, Real Housewives, the Kardashian's. Even Hannah Montana, which your kids might have watched when they were younger, is a normal teenager by day but a pop star by night.

The value of fame is everywhere for our teens, so it's only natural that they seek it in a place that is very public and yet very private—social media.

Internet fame is the most accessible fame that teens have access to. A well-hashtagged Instagram post, a YouTube video or tutorial that goes viral, even a smart, witty tweet might get retweeted by someone famous.

It feels great to have someone—let alone hundreds, thousands, even millions—recognize and appreciate you, what you said, or what you did. And in some cases, just getting noticed is enough—like in the example of the teens and 20-something who broadcast the torture of their 18-year-old peer on Facebook Live.

Those kids were noticed for doing something horrible. But they were noticed, which might be all that mattered to them. For kids who aren't getting enough attention from their parents, often times negative attention is better than no attention at all.

How to help
So how do we prevent our kids from seeking negative attention or seeking fame online?

We don't need to keep them off of social media. After all, when used well, it's a great communication outlet for them and a way to connect outside of school with peers they might not spend time with in school.

But we do need to nurture our kids offline—in real life—to make sure they are receiving the attention, the understanding, the love, and the pride from us that they need so they don't go seeking it online, and especially in a negative way.

Share affection
You can start by showing your kids love. If your daughter plays basketball, go to the games and give her a specific compliment afterward, like, "You did a great job finding teammates who were open and passing to them. I'm really proud of you—you're a great team player."

If your son is on student council, ask about the meetings and if he is on a committee. Compliment him on his leadership skills and being brave enough to speak up to help shape the school.

Even if your kids aren't involved in extracurriculars, compliment them on what you love most about them. Maybe it's their compassion for their peers, or how they help you clean up after dinner. Specific compliments, aside from "I love you," go a long way to help them feel loved and truly noticed.

Our kids learn from us. They learn to speak, smile, even frown from watching us at a young age, and that continues as they get older.

Be respectful
Treat your friends with respect, and avoid talking poorly about others, especially around your kids.

Refrain from engaging in negative posting on your social pages as well, as you want to continue to model positive behavior.

Watch better TV
Watch television shows that promote friends, family, and community—not fame. If you must watch shows that promote fame, watch them together and talk about what the people are doing. If it's The Voice, focus on the talent instead of criticizing. If it's the Kardashian's, focus on their familial bond, or talk about why negative behavior is good for TV but not for real life. 

Talk to the school
If you're worried that your teen is spending too much time on social media, is being a bully online or is being bullied, think about what you can do to help. For example, if your teen is spending too much time on social media, find a school sport or club that your teen would like and encourage them to join. Reroute their need for socialization to offline activities.

If your teen is being bullied, talk to the school about how to address the bullying. Teachers and counselors can help you take action.

It starts with you
Remember, you are your child's first teacher. Just as you taught them how to talk, you can teach them how to find confidence and pride in themselves in the real world. By nurturing their emotional needs, they won't be as likely to hurt others in social settings—whether that's in person or online.

And while everyone seeks a little bit of fame, if you show them your love and pride for them, they might be less likely to seek it online from strangers. All it takes is a little extra love. 

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Fun and Safe Websites for Kids

August 16, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Fun and Safe Websites for Kids | How do we allow our toddlers, our kids under 12, and our teenagers to use the internet for all of its benefits while keeping them away from its dangers? | A laptop sits on a table with the article title, "Fun + Safe Websites for Kids" on the screen.

Your kids are digital natives, which means they have always lived with the internet and digital devices. For those of us who remember the exciting yet frustrating sound of AOL connecting to the phone line, it’s a part of parenting that we don’t have our own stories to model after.

How do we allow our toddlers, our kids under 12, and our teenagers to use the internet for all of its benefits while keeping them away from its dangers?

There are fun and safe websites out there for kids of all ages. When in doubt, I recommend checking Common Sense Media, as they are constantly rating and evaluating various media to give parents the information they need to determine if the TV show, app, or movie is appropriate for their kids.

Toddlers
If you’re going to give your toddlers screen time, limit them to TV cartoons, movies, and apps made for their age range. Most of the apps designed for toddlers focus on learning in a fun way, so try some of these.

Elementary School
For younger elementary school kids (grades K–3), focus on their favorite TV shows and topics they’re interested in. PBS Kids has great options that include cartoons and learning activities for varied interests, including science, engineering, and nature.

For older elementary school kids (grades 4–6), games that reinforce the learning they’re doing in school, like Minecraft, can be great opportunities to keep learning at home. As a parent, you need to enforce playing in moderation and not physically meeting up with people your kids might meet online in the game.

Use game time as a reward for completing homework. You could even use coding games and apps to teach your kids how to code.

Preteens and Teenagers
It’s important to know what apps and sites your teens are on so that you can set guidelines for safe usage. Again, Common Sense Media has a great breakdown of the apps your teens are using now and what you need to know about them.

The good news? The most popular sites and apps that teens are using are pretty safe. As with all screen time, it’s important to enforce using it in moderation and after homework is done. And make sure you require these privacy tips on your teen’s social networks.

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Think Before You Share: Protect Your Child’s Privacy on Social Media

August 4, 2015

By Noralba Martinez

Think Before You Share: Protect Your Child’s Privacy on Social Media | When you share photos of your kids on social media, those photos can fall into the wrong hands. Read on for how to protect your family. | A mother and father take selfies with their two kids while on a carnival ride.

This summer, as our kids are having a blast being out of school, we parents are trying to capture every fun moment to treasure it forever. Smartphones have made it easy to snap photos and immediately upload them to social media accounts for all our family and friends to see.

But what if more than just your family and friends are seeing the photos of your kids? How safe are those photos? According to an infographic published by Go-Gulf, over “600,000 Facebook accounts are compromised every day.” How would a social media hack affect your children’s privacy?

My friends and I were talking about how we can protect our children’s innocence as long as we can in the age of social media. One of my friends told me to Google our names. Luckily only one picture popped up of me (the one used for this website), but my friends and their kids were not as lucky—some of their personal and private pictures were on the Internet for everyone to see because they weren’t taking proper precautions.

Use these quick and easy tips to keep your children (and entire family) safe from being overexposed and away from dangerous people like pedophiles and hackers.

  • Keep all social media accounts private. If you feel your accounts are not safe enough, delete the information you don’t want shared or stored and close the accounts.
  • Only share your pictures with family and close friends. Keep in mind that once you post an image on many social media platforms, that company owns the photo and can use it for marketing purposes. Even when sharing with people you trust, only share what you don’t mind others seeing.
  • Change passwords regularly and be creative with them to avoid having your accounts hacked. Don’t use birthdays, anniversaries, or your children or pets’ names, either.
  • Back up photos to your computer or an external hard drive and then remove them from your phone.
  • Always lock your phone, in case someone steals it.

Remember that memories of your children will be around for a long time, even if you don’t post a photo of it on social media. Some of the best ones are preserved in your heart. Cherish the moment—don’t lose it because you are looking for your phone.

To learn more about proper technology use for your kids, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher 3-book set

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Halloween Costumes + Social Media: A Scary Combination

October 30, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Halloween Costumes + Social Media: A Scary Combination | A teenage girl poses for a camera while dressed up for Halloween.

This story was originally published on A Platform For Good, a project of the Family Online Safety Institute that seeks to empower parents to raise engaged kids and good digital citizens.

If you’ve been in a grocery or super store lately, you know that Halloween is right around the corner. While younger kids tend to choose the most popular Halloween costume (think Minecraft this year), teenagers try to be more original. Regardless of the costume your teen chooses, its impact might be stronger after the Halloween party when photos are posted on social media. Help your teen consider both the implications of certain costumes and the importance of a positive digital reputation.

People love taking photos at costume parties. Your teen will likely take selfies and pose for photos and videos with friends that will end up on social media sites like Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine. As long as he or she has an appropriate costume and engages in responsible behavior, those posts should be fine.

But let’s say your teen decides to dress up in an Ebola containment suit costume for Halloween. Maybe he or she intended that costume to be an ironic take on a horrible outbreak, but the general public is already so offended by this particular costume that they are petitioning to remove it from stores. If someone posts a photo of your teen online, how do you think these people will react when they see him or her wearing the costume?

Last year, a woman dressed as a Boston Marathon bombing victim, posting a photo of herself on social media. Not only did her photo go viral, but also she was fired from her job and she and her parents received death threats from strangers who found their information online.

These days, a misguided costume choice isn’t just something your teen could regret for a couple days. Your family could be threatened and your teen’s reputation destroyed. Talk to him or her about costume choices and behavior to prevent digital regret. And while you’re at it, remind your teen of the importance of establishing a positive digital reputation and using privacy settings to his or her advantage. Before heading to the Halloween (or any) party, encourage your teen to consider:

  • Who can see his or her photos and those that friends post
  • What would happen if a teacher or administrator saw these photos
  • What would happen if a college admissions counselor or a boss saw these photos
  • What information your teen should be posting online to project the image he or she wants others to see

If you have never spoken to your teenager about his or her digital reputation before, that’s okay. Halloween is a great opportunity to start that conversation. Let your teen know that you trust his or her judgment, but good behavior on and offline is the best way to avoid digital regret and having his or her reputation damaged from inappropriate photos.

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