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Articles and expert advice to help you guide your child to educational success.
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Social Media Privacy Tips for Teens

April 21, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Older teens (14-17) are more likely to connect with people they have never met. 64% of teens who use Twitter have public accounts. 82% of teens post their birth date. 71% post the name of the city or twon where they live. 71% of teens post their school name.

Social media continues to infiltrate our lives and there are constantly new, popular platforms for teens to use. It’s okay for your teen to be on social media, but you need to make sure he or she is engaging in appropriate behavior and protecting his or her privacy to the general public. Today I’m going to take you through privacy settings for the big three platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

It’s important to establish a policy for your teen on social media. There are two key things you can have your teen do with his or her social media accounts to both protect his or her privacy and ensure you’re seeing every one of your teen’s posts.

Make the account private.

Your teen’s Twitter and Instagram accounts can easily be made private. If the account is private, people will need to send your teen a request to have access to his or her posts or photos and the general public cannot see anything your teen shares.

On Twitter, click the settings icon and select “settings” in the drop-down menu. Then on the left side of the page, click “security and privacy.” Under the “privacy” section, select “protect my tweets.”

On Instagram, click the icon on the far right of the menu bar at the bottom of the app. Then click the “edit your profile” button near the top of the page. Scroll to the bottom of that page and select “posts are private.”

On Facebook, there are certain things you cannot make private, like your profile and cover photo. Make sure your teen selects respectful and appropriate photos for these features. From there, follow these directions with your teen to make the rest of his or her page private to the general public:

  • Once logged in, click the lock icon in the upper right corner of the page.
  • The lock icon will yield a drop-down menu. Click “see more settings.”
  • In this section, you can edit any of the settings to determine who can see posts or pictures your teen posts or is tagged in. You can also edit who can contact your teen through Facebook and who can search for his or her page. Go through each section together to determine who can see what on the page.

Ensure you have access to all posts.

Follow your teen on Twitter and Instagram so that you can see everything he or she posts. Friend your teen on Facebook and set frequent meetings with him or her to review the privacy settings on your teen’s page, making sure that you always have access to see each post.

By taking some time to go through the privacy settings on your teen’s social media platforms, you can ensure that he or she is both protected from the outside world and acting appropriately with friends.

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The Value of a STEM Degree

April 16, 2014

By Kevin Rutter

Kids watch a teacher demonstrate a science experiment.

In recent years, schools have been developing programs around an area of education that has been underserved, can lead to high paying jobs for students, and is vital for the United States to innovate, grow, and prosper. This kind of education puts the focus on careers in science, technology, engineering, and math, and is known as STEM.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that there are over 50 different kinds of STEM occupations like electrical engineer, architect, and chemist. The Occupational Information Network has a complete listing of all occupations in STEM disciplines.

All of these jobs require a strong academic background in math and science, so the government has pushed through additional funding to create programs that develop these skills in students.

Supporting your child in pursuing an educational path focused on STEM can pay off, as there is a high demand for individuals who pursue careers in these disciplines. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that STEM occupations will grow by 17 percent from now until 2018, compared to 9.8 percent for non-STEM occupations. These jobs will also pay between 26 percent and 40 percent more than jobs in other fields. Check with your local school district to find out what STEM programs and activities are available for your child.

Parents and caregivers play an important role in exciting their children about STEM education. How can you pique your child’s interest in science? There are many ways:

  • Read science books and magazines. Magazines like National Geographic Kids have science experiments that kids can try at home, articles about animals, and attractive pictures. You can also check your local library’s science section and help your child find some age-appropriate books.
  • Enrichment programs. Programs that offer the chance to have fun while learning will increase your child’s interest in the subject matter at hand. Look for science-based camps in your city and enroll your child so he or she can make a connection between science, learning, and fun.
  • Science or Modeling Kits. Consider buying your child a science or modeling kit instead of a regular toy. These packages include all the necessary materials and a lot of ideas for your child to experiment at home. Consider buying a telescope, magnifying glass, or microscope to invite your child to explore the world around him or her.

You should never force your child to enroll in something he or she doesn’t like. But it’s always a good idea to expose your child to all kind of experiences when he or she is young, so when the time comes to choose a career, your child will be more confident about his or her abilities and passions.

If you think a liberal arts education is a better fit for your child, read our companion piece on the value of a liberal arts degree.

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Video Games: Build Your Child’s Skills

March 26, 2014

By Amanda Gebhardt

A child sits in front of a television, playing a strategic video game.

Since I first started dating my husband, a life-long gamer, I’ve grown to love video games and respect the art and craft that go into building such complex systems. While not all video games are appropriate for children, there is much to love and learn about age-appropriate games.

If your child has found that love and seems to spend countless hours immersed in one digital world or another, recognize the skills that are being built automatically, and work with your child to apply those skills outside of games. Here are just some of the skills your child learns while playing games:

  • Critical Thinking. Video games are puzzles set inside mazes. In order to make it through each level, you have to think quickly and plan. Those who truly succeed are practicing critical thinking every step of the way.
  • Map Reading Skills. Learning how to navigate where you are and where you want to go is a key social studies skill that most gamers can benefit from strengthening. From radar maps to land maps you can pull up in most role-playing games, maps are key features of the gaming world.
  • Story. Non-gamers may not realize that every game out there has a plot, setting, and characters with distinct motivations. Even multi-player online games almost always have a “story mode” where players can advance through the story line, defeating the bad guys and saving the world (or taking over the world, depending on the game). This narrative ignites the player’s imagination.
  • Teamwork. In most multiplayer and cooperative games, players have specific roles within their teams and must stick to those roles if they want their teams to succeed. Each role is specific and necessary, teaching players valuable lessons.
  • Economics. Most large-scale games have some sort of built-in economy that allows players to earn credits or money in order to buy items that help them perform better. Auction houses inside the games are great places to see supply and demand theories in action. If your child’s game has a strong economic component, you can use it to encourage your child to learn more about basic economics that can help him or her succeed in the game.

If you want to reinforce these skills or even just share something your child loves, the best thing you can do is to pick up a controller and jump into the game yourself. Learn the ins and outs. Get good. Have fun. You’ll be leveling up more than just your character.

If your child loves playing video games, consider teaching them code. Find out more in the companion piece here. 

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Translate Your Child's Video Gaming to Coding Skills

February 25, 2014

By Amanda Gebhardt

Two kids smile as they play video games.

Most of our lives and livelihoods are run on code. Our phones, our computers, our tablets, even our cars all run on code.

As coding becomes the language of the future, experts worry that American school children are not learning to code. Women and girls especially are underrepresented in the technology fields and classes. With today’s emphasis on science and technology and making sure that the U.S. produces the next generation of technological leaders, gaming might just be the hook that reels your child into the tech world.

Over the years, after marrying a gamer and becoming a bit of one myself, I’ve grown to love video games and respect the art and craft that go into building such complex systems. In fact, the pure technological know-how that goes into even the most basic video game says a lot for the dedication and passion of those people who have made careers out of gaming.

If your child loves gaming, help steer that love into technical skills like coding and digital animation. Some of the most frequently used programming languages in game development are C++, C#, Java, and Flash. Other languages in high demand with employers are SQL, C, XML, HTML, JavaScript, Perl, and Python.

There are many free online resources out there where children can learn to code. Here are some of the best sites that can teach you and your child the basics of programming:

  • Code Academy. Code Academy offers after-school programming for children that provides an easy way to learn code through interactive and fun activities. 
  • Khan Academy. The learning site has a computer science division with lessons that can teach you and your child how to use the JavaScript language and the ProcessingJS library to create fun drawings and animations. 
  • Code.org. All ages can watch video tutorials on programming starring Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and other tech superstars, and even play games that will teach them the basics of coding.
  • Grok Learning. It offers, among other things, an introductory course about using Python for people with no programming experience, including high schoolers.

Honestly, I don’t know a lot about coding myself. The Visual Basic class I took in high school taught me about as much coding as my high school Spanish class taught me Spanish (thankfully I learned a bit more Spanish in college). Coders, though, are running the world, and any reason you can find that inspires your child to join their ranks might just be the thing that gets his or her future up and running.

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Ho Ho Ho! Where’s Santa? Find Him Here!

December 24, 2013

By Jessica Vician

Santa tracker

It’s Christmas Eve and Santa is somewhere out there delivering gifts to girls and boys around the world!

While your child is still young, it might be difficult to understand just how big this world truly is. Use the Santa Tracker websites to help show that even at 1:00 pm where you live, Santa is heading down someone’s chimney across the world because it’s nighttime there. This is a great opportunity to teach social studies skills and global awareness, but most importantly, you can use it to inspire a little Christmas magic and wonder.

We like the Official NORAD Santa Tracker and the Google Santa Tracker.

If you have a fun story to share about your child’s experience with the Santa Tracker, tell us in the forum.

Merry Christmas from all of us at YOU Parent, and to all a good night!

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